I once knew a man whose heart was big and open
Said he could see the beauty in us all.
I once knew a man whose heart was big and open
Said he could see the beauty in us all.
So “Who is your favourite photographer?” Historically that answer shifted quite a bit for me, depending on the day or the mood or which books I had recently flipped through. It was a complicated question to answer. But then I simplified it and changed the answer to “myself”. It came in a moment of inspiration, really. And without disrespect to the many incredible photographers out there, my favourite really ought to be myself. Sure, maybe this answer is implied in the question, as in “Who (besides yourself) is your favourite photographer?” But if so, I think it might have become so implied that many of us don’t even consider it as a possible answer. Have you ever considered yourself as your favourite photographer? And why shouldn’t you be? I would argue that many of the struggles that photographers go through internally stems from them not thinking highly enough of their own work. Learn to love your photography for if you do, you will do it longer, harder, and more frequently. And if you do those things, success will come naturally. But still I think many struggle with the concept of liking their work, or being their favourite photographer.
Being your own favourite photographer is not arrogant. Arrogance is when you think you are a better photographer than others. Or a more important photographer. Being your favourite photographer doesn’t have to involve thinking you are better than another, it just has to mean you like your own work the best. Since favouring is a matter of opinion and personal taste, shouldn’t your own work match your own personal taste the best?
Being your own favourite photographer doesn’t mean you necessarily think your work is good, it just means you like it the best.
Maybe your work is good and you like it the best, or maybe you know it isn’t terribly good but you still love it anyway. Separate the enjoyment of your work from the evaluation of how good it is or isn’t. Then you can focus on enjoying your photography and worry less about how good it is or is not. Because if you focus on enjoying it, you will tend to approach it in ways that cause it to get better.
This may be easier said than done, and to do that you will have to make a conscious effort. It will take work. But it starts with little steps.
Start by thinking of yourself as your own favourite photographer.
Just try it.
My Attempt at visualising “each sees his own side but no other”.
If you’re an artist, the darkness is always more interesting than the light… I always wanted to base my work in the dark side of things, and then find my way. You have to earn the light.
Everybody Wants To Be Amazing
Sometimes I photograph a thing. Sometimes it is a place. Sometimes I am trying to catch a sense or a feeling. Sometimes I craft the image afterward to better represent the memory of one of the above. And this is a short list, whose length is very much filled by things we cannot actually ever see. Sometimes I think we can imagine them. And sometimes we can sense them in other ways. But usually we’ll never know what we missed.
I’ve got a few thoughts kicking around my head today but I am going to try to keep it tied down to just one or two. Recognition… or fame… or acclaim, or whathaveyou.
I admit that I have often struggled with the recognition that my photography earns me. In one way I have the opposite challenge of many, where they struggle when they don’t get enough recognition I often struggle with the notion that nearly any recognition is too much attention. It seems a weird thing, I know, and I have often pondered on it. I think it comes from a couple of reasons. The first is that recognition isn’t my goal. It is not what I am after when I put my images in front of an audience, so when that is what I get in return it feels inappropriate somehow. I do appreciate the giving of recognition. I honestly appreciate someone caring enough to pass on a compliment or to offer praise, I realise where that is coming from and I think that is a good thing. But I guess I put my images out there in the world not to earn that or collect it. It is if random passers-by on the street stopped and offered you money. Sure, it’s cool, but it would also make you feel weird.
So why put my photography out in front of an audience then, if not for that recognition? I think I like doing it because I like the community of photographers, and what we are collectively capable of, and I want to do my part in making that collective bigger and better. I like putting my work out there, with my written thoughts, because I know it is capable of inspiring or motivating or enlightening, and that the ripples caused by those things will lead to the making of brilliant photos by others. I like enabling and encouraging and watching those I know grow and succeed and reach new heights. That is a cool thing.
But here is where a sort of weird stream of thought might start to sound even more strange. In a certain way, the recognition for the pictures is hard for me to comprehend because to a large degree I don’t care about the pictures I make. I do, a little. But not a lot. And here is what I mean by that.
Draw a line representing a journey. At one end, the beginning, you sitting at home with the cameras tucked away. Photography is not near at hand and it is just an abstract idea of something to do. As you move along this line you progress from that beginning point to being out looking, to finding, to creating, to returning home, to developing the film and seeing the negs for the first time, to scanning them, to printing them, maybe to publishing them at the very opposite end of that line. Now, different photographers will put their emphasis point at different spots on this line. I know some who would place it at the publication spot. Everything they do is toward the goal of having the work published or displayed in a gallery or similar. Some would place there point of emphasis at the print stage. They make the prints and they are happy. I know some whose point would even fall far to the left, much closer to the beginning. What they love is the planning, even if the execution never fully materialises. My point is somewhere between the looking and the creation. That is the peak of my hill, so to speak. My best moment of photography is that grey zone between searching and finding. The farther away from that spot I move, the less excited I am. I have noticed this about myself for a while now. I love seeing my negs developed and while I enjoy seeing the initial proof prints or scans quite a bit, it is not quite as exciting as the first glimpse of developed film. I am moderate good about getting my choice images scanned, but I wouldn’t say it excites me. I’ll do a somewhat decent job of editing, but my interest is really waning at this point. I only print when I am about to change my home display. I have sometimes remarked that I am a photographer who just happens to make pictures. Or that my favourite part is the process versus the results. All this I think is circling this notion that the most important part for me is somewhere well before a physical artefact ever gets made and is even earlier than the creation of the image itself.
What spurred these thoughts? Well, my mind is often tumbling something around regarding my photography. I like to think about it. Not as a problem to be solved, I don’t ever want to fix it, it might only make it worse. But I do enjoy the mental engagement, so I ponder when I can.
If I was going to offer a moral to this story, and caution to any who would be brave enough to accept such from this writing, it would be to realise that it is ok for you to choose any point on that spectrum/line/journey/process as what is most important to you, but let it be your choice and not a choice you are adopting from the beliefs of those around you. If the images are important to you, great. If it is making prints, great. If it is publication, great. If it is sketching and daydreaming ideas to turn into photos, great. If it is collecting the gear that you swear you will use… someday, great. There is no wrong answer here for you other than any answer that is not your own, but rather adopted from somewhere else. That is all I think I have right now. I’m sure you’ll hear more from me soon enough.
Over the past couple of years, my appreciation for the simplicity with which the world is rendered by black and white film has grown. I have exposed many a roll of b&w over the years, but more often I find myself appreciating how much quieter black and white is. Sure, the scenes can still be dramatic, but there can sometimes be a brashness to colour that I don’t seem to find as much in black and white film. It makes for a simpler, quieter world…. at least how I use it. And I guess that is the chicken meeting the egg. Is the world really that much softer of personality in black and white, or do I see and record such a world when I am in a black and white film mentality? Am I finding what I seek, or seeking what I find?
There is something to be said about how a film or a lens or a camera influences and feeds how you think, look and photograph. The technical qualities of a specific camera, or roll of black and white film aside, it is important to be aware of the mental process that is engaged when using a certain piece of equipment.
Is the world simpler and quieter in black and white, or do I make it thus because I was in a mood to go looking for it and chose the right equipment to pursue that? Yes and yes and sometimes no.