Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
Birmingham, Alabama, 2006. Wedding.
While recently reading Brian Ulrich's blog, I was turned on to the story of Gary Stochl; a street photographer who actively took photographs around Chicago for 40 years without showing them to anyone, not even his parents. After this significant amount of time, he finally decided that he needed to share his work with the world. It wasn't long before people started to take notice and compare him to some of the legends of photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and Robert Frank.
The story of his eventual critical success put a smile on my face, but that's not what ultimately interests me. I find myself imagining what it would be like to keep all those photos private for such a long time. I can only conclude that after a certain number of years it would become excruciating. For whatever reason the idea of art without an audience causes me real discomfort.
It leads me to think about how different this man's story is from the story of many photobloggers who share all kinds of photos with each other, often very indiscriminately. For many people it's just natural to be social, to throw ideas out into the world and see what happens. I wonder what makes a person like this decide against sharing his creations for so long. In a New York Times article Stochl attempts to answer this question by saying, "I suppose I had been uncertain as to whether the work would be warmly received."
Can that be the whole answer? A simple fear of rejection? Can four decades of creative solitude be explained away this easily? I'm sure there's a lot more insight that he could offer into why he chose to live his life the way he has.