The idea of inhabiting a prison we cannot see, one that we have sneakily built around ourselves, to be chained by invisible constraints (as an artist at least) is a fascinating little topic to dwell upon. Day by day, year by year we grow and as we do we develop patterns, we learn what is “correct”… we become ourselves and that self develops a stable definition. But what if that definition is really a trap. Take for example the common question that photographers, myself included, have wrestled with: what is my style? As beginners it often feels like this is something that must be answered. How can we be any good if we don’t have a definitive style, a sense of exactly who or what we are? But what if in defining who we are we also inadvertently define who we aren’t, or won’t be? Often I am impressed by the work of carefree photographers. What they lack in experience or accumulated technical knowledge they more than make up for in one particular area. I don’t know what to call this other than they don’t yet know what they aren’t supposed to do, so they do everything. They don’t yet know who they are supposed to be as a photographer, so they try many things.
Having rules can be a great way to learn but at some point if that structure is clung on too tightly it easily becomes a cage and demonstrate this by posing questions such as; can every image in the world conform to rule of thirds? Of course not. So if all you know is that rule, think of all you will not be capable of knowing. Or should every image have odd number of elements? Should every image be colour?
I think the notion I am talking about is an interesting one to consider and wrestle with, or at least be aware of. It is not a question of depth versus breadth. And that is because, even if you are in favour of depth and focus, within that depth there are still certain constraints upon your creativity… certain blind spots that you are not capable of seeing. And it is really hard to identify something you cannot see. Like a missing tooth, after time we become so use to the gaps in our vision we don’t even see them.
What to do about this? I’m not entirely sure. I keep being fascinated by trying to be aware of the stuff that I am not aware of. I try to worry at the gaps in my vision and not become accustomed to them. I try to not let myself become too comfortable. Comfortable may be enjoyable but it is also anathema to creativity. And I endeavour to try something new constantly, be it new films or new cameras or new lenses, like this Daguerreotype Achromat Artlens.
And that is why I have been running around with this thing of recent. It isn’t because I have any particular images in mind I want to create, but rather it is because I want to explore and try to approach things a bit different than I would normally be inclined to do. Of course, my own internal devil’s advocate would say that experimentation and exploration are my normal tendencies so how is that really pushing any boundaries…