June 26th, 2019 … The Tones da Thang

I started playing guitar at 13. Seems my dad played and he also was an amateur photographer. He died when I was 6 so, not many memories but enough for me to find him at the end of my tour. Anyway, I am aware that I followed in his footsteps without really seeing those footsteps. After a short time, I fell in love with the guitar and played all my life. When I got home from Nam, I started to get serious with it because I could hide inside it and keep my thoughts and emotions hidden from my family. I started to get pretty good at blues and loved playing but unfortunately, I didn’t have a voice for singing. That took a toll on me that to this day has affected me. As time passed, I was in many bands and really loved the interaction. We recorded and did gigs and concerts and it was a dream come true. Inside there was a block of ice in me that I couldn’t chip away. On the outside, I appeared happy and content and loved what was happening. Inside, another story had developed.

Tone Is Da Thang

See, your tone is your signature. It’s what makes your soul sing and dance. No 2 people have the same tone. I could hear anyone that had their tone so clearly and loved listening to them. The issue was I never found my tone. Oh, I could hear it inside but whenever I tried to get it out, failure. I bought more effects than I would ever need. I had the sounds that many liked but I did not love it because I knew I didn’t have the tone. I had no signature tone. There was an emptiness in my soul that never was satisfied. Decades passed and still, I was just like everyone else without tone. Empty with all the gear to make it happen but no stamina to pursue it.

My body started developing  Essential tremors and that put an end to my guitar playing. Of course, I’d have a heck of a vibrato but I can’t grip the neck without some pains. My fav guitars hang on the wall and I look at them all the time. That part of my life has passed and it saddens me but I continue to have great memories.

So, what’s this to do with photography? Maybe there’s something like the tone in photos. I don’t mean color tone, but TONE. It’s borrowed from guitar playing. This is not a new question for me but one that seeks an answer for decades. Ding told me long, long ago that he felt I had much raw potential. He was upset to learn that I could not afford to go to any college. So Ding rethought his approach to me and told me, “The most important things you need to learn are, to recognize your successes and recognize your failures”. This, of course, means to, define success and define failure and have a concrete understanding of both.

So the way I define these two polar opposites is by the tone of the photo.  This became a very difficult way to work because I have stripped away the innocence of photography. I had assigned a meaning to the photos that maybe I didn’t fully understand. I felt that when a collector or gallery whatever, bought some photos, they were a success. I guess there were but I quickly realized, I didn’t give a hoot for the financial profits.

Eureka, Ding was right. I have finally started on the path of self-discovery thru my photography.  The tone of the photos was clear as the light on the moon. The key issue with that is, I maybe never made a bad photo and maybe made many good photos but the ones that sing for me are the ones that have the tone I can’t ever hear or find on my guitars. I just see it. So, it becomes more a question of what brings joy to one’s life. Sure, it’s great to make those photos that are just outstanding to one’s self. Perhaps what needs to be learned and practiced is to love what you are doing and not to make things simple or decrease the value of intent but to find the joy with a camera and if you get that great shot, fine if not, at least love what you are doing.

It’s important to strive for personal satisfaction but to only reach for that means if a photo doesn’t make the cut, then you start to live with resentment. You have no right to make photography a passion of resentment. It’s totally unacceptable and can’t be allowed to control any part of you. If resentment and failure plague you and your work, it’s you, not photography that has the issues.

Maybe I’m getting too personal here but truthfully, I don’t know how to be any other way.

Have a blessed day and good light to one and all….♥♥

12 thoughts on “June 26th, 2019 … The Tones da Thang”

  1. Beautiful, resonates so much and I will read many more times to digest the nuggets in what you’ve said. My personal block of ice is my love of music but somewhere I’m missing a “rhythm gene”.

    Extending your analogy of tone to photography rings so true, again, more to read and think about.


    1. Well Bob, I kinda thought you would get this. In fact, I actually had you in mind for a part of it.

      Thanks my friend…. don

  2. That’s a mighty collection you have on that wall, Don. Did not know about this side to your creativity. Do you ever take them down and play a bit no matter the physical issues? I never played any instrument but I can’t stop listening to the riffs of my favs (I guess Jimmy Page first, Mark Knopfler second, Kieth Richards third — sorry, Jimy Hendrix, I don’t know you well enough for some reason; and the above exclude the great bluesmen that started it all…)
    As to tone in photography, yes of course! I call it signature, but we mean the same thing: being able to spot somebody’s images among a thousand, at first sight… It’s what happens when you shoot, shoot, shoot: can’t hide your essential being for too long…

    1. Giovanni, it’s true that tone is signature and signature is tone. It is a valuable experience when someone recognizes our signature and thus our work. Perhaps it’s an easier task for others to spot our work than for us to spot our own. We become a constant for others and become an acceptable source for others. Not so easy to accept that ourselves and also to break the pattern and find a path of synergism within ourselves.

    1. Ya know, with an open mind and heart as yours, the light and the sounds are everlasting…. enjoy my friend.

  3. From time-to-time I get a comment on my photos on Flickr that goes something like this … “I knew it was your photo when I saw the thumbnail.” For me, that is high praise indeed. I shoot everything and anything that feeds my soul so I don’t know what they are seeing … but I’m glad that whatever it is … shows. Maybe it’s my ‘tone?’ Cheers and best wishes from your northern Canadian fan!

  4. Thanks for sharing your images and your soul. Much food for thought. I never played a musical instrument but I certainly love listening to a variety of music. With photography I love looking at the works of others – and, I also love taking photos myself. It is my one creative outlet. Take care out there Don!

    1. Thanks, Dave, maybe one focused creative outlet is enough, I mean if you recognize that, and you do.

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