18 down… only 1,141 to go

I’m not usually a fan of the holidays. It’s such a crush of events to be at and people to give gifts to that the people I care about seem to get lost in the shuffle. Well maybe they don’t get completely lost, but I always feel like I just baaaaaaarely got the presents in time and I just baaaaaaarely arrived at the party on time. I don’t mind buying presents and being at parties, but there are just so damn many of them to get all at once. It’s hard to make it personal some times.

I’m not a religious man, so I’m not even complaining about the commercialization of the holiday or the un-Christmas-ing of Christmas. Frankly I don’t care. Holidays are what you make of them, so if it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s probably more your problem than any outside force.

This is the time of year I just try to find a little peace- in every sense that you can imagine. Literal quiet… inner clarity… a moment to take stock… a desire for no war… catching up with people I care about in a more than passing in the halls kind of way. All of those things. And a little Billy time.

This year I think I managed to find all of those things at one time or another this month. That’s petty good. I usually like to take the time to accomplish a few things and this year I managed to do a little better job than usual. I’m not talking about chores or cleaning or anything like that. But I mean a chance to work on some creative things that have been gnawing at me for the better part of the year or even longer. They are important to me because they make me feel alive. They usually have something to do with my art.

Yes… this entry does have something to do with photography after all.

I finished my website that I began two and a half years ago. I managed to get the postcard assembly line up and running again after a poor showing of only four postcards this year. I began the years long process of actually scanning every one of my negatives. Even if they had been previously scanned. My software and hardware has improved to the point that even though hundred of negatives have already been scanned, they are showing their technological flaws. When I first began scanning negatives, a lot of the images were never quite as good as if I had make traditional darkroom prints. But since most of them were for the web, there were adequate.

Now that my darkroom has been largely replaced by computers and electronic printers and scanners, those early scans are showing their flaws a little more than I’m comfortable with. So what does this mean?

18 down… only 1,141 to go. Actually it’s a little more than that even. That’s how many rolls of film I have exposed in the last 15 years or so. Rolls of film that I have decided to re-scan. More than 1,000. It works out to more than 20,000 images if I try to rough out the exact number by guessing how many 12 exposure rolls of medium format and how many 35 exposure rolls of 35mm I’ve gone through. In fact, 20,000 is probably a low number. It could easily be 30,000, especially if you take into account the thousands of images I’ve made with my digital cameras in the last few years.

It’s quite a body of work.

And it’s remarkable how much of it has never been seen, by me or the kind public that seem to enjoy my exhibitions. It’s been time to give the work the attention it deserves for a long time. Maybe I’ve been waiting for the technology to catch up as much as trying to find time here and there to tackle such a herculean task as properly archiving it all. And during this little holiday crunch I managed to find the convergence of technology and time that I’ve been searching for.

And as always, when I make time for my art, I find wonderful surprises that make my day. This time has been no different. Besides discovering images I never appreciated before, I have found support and recognition from those kind enough to enjoy my art. On the December postcard I asked that anyone who wished to continue receiving my monthly art offerings to please send an email to me and let me know they still want to be on the list. Costs alone in producing the postcards require that I not waste postage, ink and paper. So I simply wanted to make sure I was not mailing cards to people long gone from addresses I had for them.

The early response has been just wonderful and inspiring. Some people have been collecting them since the beginning, causing me to write back to one person that I hoped my work would become famous enough that she could retire on the sale of the “complete Billy Sheahan postcard collection” at Sotheby’s sometime in the not too distant future. I wonder what a complete set of postmarked Helmut Newton postcards would sell for these days… not that he sent out postcards or anything.

So I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Here’s the first postcard that started it all. If you’ve got it, hopefully it will be worth something someday. And maybe it already is. Depends on what your definition of worth is…

The first Billy Sheahan Photography monthly postcard from 1999.

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