New Year’s Day and the Mummers

2013 mummers

For the last three years, I’ve been going to the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Mummers Parade is part parade, part costume competition and part folk festival.  Mummers clubs in Philadelphia spend months building floats and scenic elements that mesh with their group’s theme.

It’s also a time for the clubs to celebrate.  Which means laughing, drinking in public, cheering and generally having a great time.

For me, the Mummers parade has become a kind of symbolic.  It was the first thing I shot with my 7D way back in 2009.  I strapped on old lenses from my AE-1 and wandered out into the streets, only begging to understand how to use the camera.

mummers jester kid

Ever since, I’ve gone back every year, and have always returned to those original lenses.  It gives me a kind of “back to basics” feeling, to arm myself with the same equipment and situation and see how I perform.

There’s a challenge that we face as documentarians.  I’ve noticed it recently with weddings, but it’s also true of things like the Mummers parade.  When you shoot similar situations over and over, you need to find ways to keep them fresh to yourself as an artist.  You need to continue to be engaged in them, otherwise you’re just phoning it in.

mummers pointing

I like this challenge.  I like the idea that skill, true ability, is born out of repetition.  The talented artist isn’t one who shoot something different every day, it’s the one who shoots the same thing over and over and makes it look new every day.

mummers cig

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