6/25: Image edited this morning with a judicious square crop.
Anyone who practices a craft goes through a period wherein they feel they've lost their mojo. The magic touch that is part of their unique style. Nothing that used to work seems to work anymore and the artist goes through a period of loss that calls into question their skills, their vision and their very reason to keep going. I know, I've been there. And more than once.
I've been working with digital cameras for more than a decade but I was never able to duplicate the look I got when I was shooting portraits on black and white film back in the 1990's. I've been bouncing from camera system to camera system hoping that I'd find a camera that would do the magic for me.
Recently I started shooting portraits with a Hasselblad film camera and black and white film. I kept thinking I was closing in on the old feel I used to have but at best they were glancing blows, resonance of memory imposed on technique. But yesterday I think I got my mojo back. An old friend came into town and I set up the kind of light I used to use when I photographer her nearly twenty years ago. A big, soft light used in as close as I could. A black panel to the opposite side to keep the spill light from bouncing around the room and ruining the integrity of my wonderful deep shadows.
My model was intuitive. She seemed to sense what I was looking for, filling the missing pieces in the puzzle I had scattered in front of me. I work in an almost detached and automatic way, adjusting the light, adjusting the pose and adjusting the give and take.
When the session was over and we said, "goodbye" I sat down and started looking through the files. I ran them through as much post processing as I needed to get them back to the state that was almost automatically achieved in the days of big film (if you considered hours in a darkroom to be "automatic"). And when the file looked back at me from my monitor I knew that I could keep doing portraits. A mental block had been lifted. I showed myself (dragged kicking and screaming) that I could do what I wanted to do with digital cameras. I hadn't lost my chops, rather I'd submerged them in the subconscious resistance to change.
To paraphrase Frank Costanza in the Jerry Seinfeld Show, "I'm back, baby!"