Over the years, as I’ve narrowed my photography, I’ve probably developed a certain look — a photographic style. At least that’s what some of my friends have told me. Often, serious photographers go on a quest, to develop their style. Sort of like a milestone, on their path to photographic enlightenment. But is this a good thing?
If you always do the same thing, are you developing creatively? I think about this from time to time, as I continue to make easy images. Images that increasingly follow set patterns. I don’t think I’m a creative photographer. I tend to use rules that I’ve learned or developed and apply them at prescribed situations. Look carefully and I’m sure you will notice my patterns.
I was forced to throw out my bag of photographic tricks recently, when I joined a photo contest/fund-raiser. I’m not interested in photo contests but I made an exception for a worthy cause. The topic and format were unknown until announced. Black and white, square abstracts. We had 3 days to create our masterpieces.
I rarely shoot abstracts. Repeating patterns and geometric lines of architecture was an obvious choice. Perhaps macros of textures? The structured, crisp spines of an Agave? But these are things that I’ve done before. I wanted to push my creative boundaries, not falling back on my typical patterns.
The contest challenged me. It wasn’t my usual urban landscapes or street photography. No, it would have to be different and it forced my out of my comfort zone. Nothing earth shattering but I’m happy that these look different from my typical work.
I don’t watch TV any more. I head to YouTube, not for cat videos, but education and inspiration. I came upon two videos from “Talks at Google” that couldn’t be more opposite. One was by Art Wolfe and other by Vincent Versace, both professional photographers.
One says the great impressionist painters is his inspiration. The other rejects 17th century composition theory.
One says he only knows how to use 5% of his camera. The other starts by talking, even bragging about gear.
One strives to create something different. The other shoots solid but conventional images.
I wonder if their attitudes and perspective affects their art? Absolutely. Which photographer do you identify with? Perhaps there is a bit of both in all of us. For me, I’m only inspired by one of them.
My older son is 14, a freshman in High School. He’s in the school orchestra and was practicing hard for the last couple for weeks for the yearly musical. He wanted to quit but the director encouraged him to try — they were playing Broadway caliber music which was a challenge for him. I’m glad he stuck with it and he is too. My son just wrapped up 4 performances with the drama class and help put on a first-rate musical. I’m so impressed by their performance.
My son seems to have discovered the joy of the performing artists. By hanging around the drama people, it unlocked an entirely new world for him. He said, the drama students were so much more interesting than the jocks. This is high school — your popularity and position is of the utmost importance. I’m so pleased that my son has moved beyond the common popularity of the sports jocks to the world of the creative people. He needs this. We all do.
As a parent, I want to impart a sense of passion one needs to feel in life. What moves you? What interests you? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? A couple of weeks a go, I linked to an Apple ad. Some people were cynical. I understand completely. Fluffy, feel good videos are so common these days, used as marketing tools. But I was serious. There are so many ways to make a living, but what is your passion? That is the question. That’s something that a middle aged man like me needs to figure out, let alone a teenager like my son.
For me, as I’m within a few months of my 50th birthday, I think about these things. What am I passionate about? How do I express my creativity? I am privileged to work for a great company and do what I like, most of the time. It’s primarily technical in nature. But I’ve recently rekindled the interest I had in my youth. When I was little, I built and designed things, that’s what I loved. As I grew up, I lost that — the practicalities of making a living overshadowed my early interests.
My photography and this blog has change my perspective. I’m creating things photographically, with words and with graphical layout which taps into my primal interests. And it has made all the difference. My day job is all the more interesting because I balance it with my creative outlet. My renewed interests and my son’s creative awakening has enriched us. We live in such a wonderful time where my words and images and yours can reach people around the world. Thank you for sharing your precious time looking at my creative expression. I am truly lucky.
I often wonder and I’ve also been asked,
“Why do you spend so much time on photography and blogging?”
This video from Apple explains why, better than I ever could.
What will your verse be?
Ever notice a lot of crappy, black and white photographs passed off as street photography? Henri Cartier-Bresson wannabes? Yeah, I know I’m not immune. I’ve done my share.
I just came upon Steve McCurry’s blog. Yes, that Steve McCurry of Afghan girl fame. His portraits and street photographs are beyond fantastic. They are in glorious, saturated color. Not timid imitations of the classic “black and white style”.
Beyond the spectacular photography, I like how the blog entries are in themed photo sets. Striking is the sheer breadth of world-wide images. They show humanity. They show the mundane. They show that we are more alike than different.
I have so much to learn.
Go check out his blog. You will be inspired.