The Search….

    Dusty Scott….. The Visual Voice

I have been thinking about, searching for and developing my visual voice for quite some time and was reflecting back on this considerable journey of late.

What a trip this has been so far.

Early on one doesn’t even know what this means, even though I had read so much about it, it was seemingly a very obtuse thought process and even today the search for perceived subject clarity continues….

How to begin…..

Well shooting film in the old days in a haphazard manner didn’t seem to develop much in the way of my photographic sensibilities. Mainly a documentary process based on the haze I was immersed in.

The thought was to put together a dark room and develop my own prints but I only ever got to the rudimentary design stage. Just as well as my image taking skills sets were on automatic and no development ever got a foot hold. I read a ton on books about the world of photography but for whatever reason they were just words looking to sink into a brain of mush.

Still I took a camera everywhere and thought I was rockin’.

So I eventually gelled the mush after a number of years, trials and tribulations around the turn of the century.

Slowly getting the cobwebs cleared I was an early adopter of digital imagery. Looking back now I spent a fortune on this early gear but dove into the technology aspects head first.

I had moved to Pittsburgh from Appalachia and went to work at a high tech start-up company. I had previously gained a lot of electrical skills at NCR Corporation testing inbound components. It was here that I experienced the first solid state devices as they slowly replaced magnetic memory etc.

I followed this up with several years in the field as a technician for an oil exploration company and really got a solid grounding in electronics and the budding computer field. My early computers were all analog based devices and keeping these running and fine-tuned on trucks that were pulled up the West Virginia Mountains by two bulldozers was a serious education experience in itself.

This could be a whole other blog in itself.

It was this experience that provided me with the skill sets needed in Pittsburgh. Once I saw that the oil exploration business was waning it was obvious I needed to move on and by chance I did exactly that.

Landing a job as a top level technician at Perq computers systems, a high tech spin off of Carnegie Mellon University, I was immediately overwhelmed trying to understand newly built assemblies that typically had numerous problems.

I initially tried to work with the engineers who designed the three main assemblies that constituted the first Work Station computers ever built. None of the engineers were much help as they were only experienced with working prototypes so these malfunctions were as big a mystery to them as myself.

I dove into the books on each chip on each board very similar to what I had done in the oil field. These were sequencing processors that were the main brains of the architecture and I had to quickly learn to divide and conquer. A “million hours later”; I was on top of this.

I still had a number of devils chasing my soul but was headed towards a mending albeit slowly.

So what happened to your photography you ask?

Well I thought you would need a bit of my background to see how the digital revolution of imagery fit somewhat neatly into my developing environment.

So back to the vision thing….

It was during this hey-day that new technologies were rapidly evolving. I jumped on the band wagon and haven’t looked back since.

It was during this period that there wasn’t a vision of my vision or even a thought of it. I had not progressed anywhere near this thought pattern.

I was busy understanding the new technologies that were unfolding. How much RAM for image storage, disk technology was in its infancy and notoriously unreliable, sensor technology was abysmal, ISO noise was unbearable, and shutter speeds were insanely slow but a bit reasonable if you spent $$ for the better manufacturer’s cameras. Auto Focus wasn’t. Low light photography, especially in performance photography that I migrated towards had its own murkiness to deal with.

Pure luck sometimes was the best you got. Spray and pray was a bit of a mantra. At least with digital you knew quickly that your image sucked immediately afterwards, even on those tiny little itty bitty screens that came with the camera at that time. Often you thought you were nailing it only to get home and find out you sucked again. Even back at the home studio, download times took forever, backups were chancy, printing technology barely existed and was extremely unaffordable for anything on the market and you really had to use a printing service that did volume to get something both reasonable in quality and price. Computers and software to process these images were also very rudimentary. The first IBM models had been introduced and I ended up building a couple machines from available parts on the market. Thought I was cutting edge….

Aw but we started to work on each aspect of this puzzle.

Bit by bit and by slowly understanding each segment and working to get a better grasp on each became a necessity unto itself.

Forget about much of the artistic aspects at this point as most of the knowledge arduously gained tended to drift quickly into the recent past as advancements became never ending, often relegated to the technology dustbin quickly. It slowly became a possibly to use facets of hard-gained knowledge to mentally foster the lineage of this ongoing attrition. However, these gains slowly gathered momentum as some basis for industry consolidation as well as componentized manufacturing solidity. Knowledge gained did not atrophy at such a rapid pace.

Onward and onward we went.

All this while a visual voice still wasn’t much of a factor. Reading tome after tome on art, photography and creativity inferred this. Sometimes confusing the vision with your “style” development. The more one thought of this at the time and tried to force these concepts the more futile it seemed.

It was during this segment of time that other ancillary but related technologies were developing within several industries that intuits some sense of relief.

Bulletin Boards and dial ups were slowly being replaced with networks. Crude initially and sophomoric based on the vendor’s vision and abilities. Cisco slowly started to lead this field as many of the originators were swept up in acquisitions or outright failures.

Novell and Microsoft and IBM Operating Systems were trying to be innovative yet expansive in their offerings. Still precious little in the realm of knowledge-bases. Much content available was just dial-up bulletin board data information conversions and often that was particularly weak content and increasingly outdated.

Download technology, bloated source files and abysmal access and download speeds all got polished over time.

I did, for a time, support systems at CMU, most often at Wean Hall. It was here that I saw the technologies being developed. Their Star computers with graphic interfaces, mouse and tablet interfaces, their wire-wrapped 3 megabit network cards beginning to interface other systems albeit slowly due to the amazingly incompatible array of systems.

DEC, IBM, HP, Wang, NeXt all were beginning their understanding of connectivity along with so many other relevant technological, business and social issues. The nascent personal computers were just toys of us geeks.

The mergers and acquisitions began during this period of industry shakeouts as winners and losers became apparent and with them the beginnings of inter-system compatibility.

Join or die so to speak.

Standards for so many technologies slowly took hold and with them increases in performance and elegance of use, often in design, but not always (form doesn’t always follow function).

A nagging concern now was many companies leading these efforts were beginning to have a concern with backwards compatibility and the ensuing onerous deployments relegating towards bloat again. Often this was more a nuisance as the speed and throughputs using new compression algorithms continued their increases according to Moore’s Law. Larger RAM, higher density, more reliable storage devices, faster larger silicon architectures and much quicker/faster access speeds all morphed along in fits and starts.

The Internet was slowly evolving from government and scientists to the World Wide Web infancy.

Life itself was also evolving in a positive way finally.

All this time I worked to stay abreast of both the computer technology and digital camera developments and happened to be fairly well positioned to maintain a grasp on the forefront of each.

Along with this was my renewed interest in understanding the vision aspects of photography and beginning to use digital cameras while still holding onto my film ones as well. Often the film was developed and along with the negatives I was able to have compact disks produced by the processing/developing company that contained JPEGs of the negatives and slides. Digital camera quality was quite suspect, viewing on CRT monitors always a challenge, editing was limited often to whatever software the camera vendor provided, storage was expensive and risky, backups likewise.

One spent so much time post shutter that developing artistry always seemed out of reach, if thought of at all.

Val and I had always had a deep abiding passion for music. I had in the past photographed many, many musical artists and often had stage or pit access. The results of these captures have been relegated to the dustbin of my life and for one reason or another are gone.

It is finally here in the narrative that I endeavor to begin. Until this point all has been a source of insight for you to better understand this jumping off point that leads us, eventually, to current events.

To be Continued……

February, 2015