I read an article back in 1999 that has stayed with me. The title was “42”. The author (whose name I’ve forgotten) studied the work of multiple well-known photographers and deduced that their best work was created during their 42nd year of life.
It fascinated me. I read it during a frustrating time in my photographic life so it was a convenient truth because it let me off the hook for creating amazing work for the next 16 years. I was 26 at the time. I’m 37 now and I’m nervous because I’ve only got 5 years left to work myself up to my most best photography.
It’s a great concept for people younger than 42. For those of you older the magic photographic age it’s passed you by. Sorry.
Of course this concept is false. Many, many great photographers have produced incredible photographic works beyond the age of 42. Julia Margeret Cameron started at ripe old age of 48 (in 1863) and did her best work through her 50’s. She died at age 59.
The canonical Eugene Atget (prounounced Ahjay) did his finest work in the city of Paris through his 60’s and 70’s with an old, wooden camera onto glass negatives and made Albumen prints (using egg whites and silver nitrate) his methods were 30 years out of date.
The magic age is one excuse in a long list of excuses and rationalizations for a person not to do his/her best at an endeavour. I have a lot of them. One of my favorites is that I don’t have the right lens to do the great photography. The honest truth is that it doesn’t take anything but a plan and the work to do that plan.
But I still reserve the right to blame a bad photograph on my inferior age.