I’ve not written one of these in a while, so I thought that I’d do one today. This weekend, I attended a workshop by Les Saucier. From it, I gleaned a few nuggets, things that I had already known, but these were great reminders. There’s probably nothing new here, but I hope that some of the new photographers who pass through these virtual doors may find it helpful as they start their photographic journey.
Photography is a craft, not unlike carpentry, for example, except that we are working with light rather than wood. In order to be a great carpenter, it takes years and years of practice. Each ‘finish’ carpenter’s work is recognizable. Not because he set out to make it so, but because he brought his own feeling, spin, life experience to the project. He made it uniquely his. He brought his spirit to it. However, it all started with endless hours of practice, just for the love it. Also, I’m sure, there were lots of competing interests, lots of distractions, but the few that made it, continued on regardless, perhaps not in a straight line, but kept on nonetheless.
However, it is important to step out of the ‘head’ and go into the heart. Art is about emotion, not just technical ability.
One Zen parable I heard about and archer was that the master told him to learn everything that he could about being an archer and when he had mastered that, forget everything! Then, he must become the arrow, the string, the bow. At school, our Grandmaster told us to learn the forms and practice, practice, practice, but eventually we had to forget about the forms and become Kung Fu. Such as it is for photography, practice so much until your camera becomes and extension of your body and you no longer have to even consider how to use that camera, what is an f/stop and a shutter speed, you’ll just be in the flow with it. Become photography, not just a ‘doer’ of photography. Get out of your head!
Vision & Courage – So what is vision? In my opinion, vision is all that you bring to the table. Your particular way of seeing things, combined with the courage to display and share those things AND to continue to follow your own particular vision. During your learning you may hear that your work is unoriginal and perhaps you should shoot this camera or that, use a square format, shoot only urban decay because beauty is not ‘true’ photography or doesn’t show truth. Bullshit! You have to be you and no one else – have the courage to say: I’ve got to be me.
On a personal level, sometimes I slip into that feeling that my work is not original, but thankfully, I come out of that soon because, my work is unique for no one on earth has that amalgam of experiences that make a shot by Paul much different than than a shot by David, or whoever. I am unique.
You may be severely tempted to start comparing your work to that of others. Resist this. The surest way to lose appreciation for yourself, your own spirt, your own unique talents is to start looking outside and comparing yourself to others. There is nothing wrong trying to elevate your work and to even mimic the work of others that you see, but by all means, know that your work, your style, your vision will be your own. Comparison is the surest way to defeat.
I think that this is the most important thing: Find something that you like, that you can go out and photograph over and over and over again. Something that you want to explore, know more about, or just love having in front of your lens. It could be anything. the world is a wide open place with plenty to photograph.
For some, this is the hardest part – put your work out there for all to see. You needn’t be out there to get the ‘good job’ comments, but perhaps you can find a mentor, someone who will help you along, give you tips and techniques to express your vision, not turn you into ‘them’, but help you to discover you.
Well, that’s about it for this ‘installment’. Nothing really new here, but hopefully a bit of encouragement.