I know it should be See Differently, but this is my pun on Apple’s slogan, Think Different. And as artists, we need to see different.
I’ve been told enough times to believe it that my photographs don’t look like others; that I see things others don’t see or that I see differently. One of my goals as an artist is to not just reproduce what other’s are doing. My goal is to make compelling images that don’t look like others, work.
This point of view doesn’t win me many followers. Maybe I’m just not that good, or maybe people want to see what’s familiar to them; probably a little bit of both.
We all know that most people who photograph the landscape are happy to get their version of some iconic shot. How many Mesa Arch, Maroon Bells, Tunnel View photos have we seen? How many lakes with the boat dock in the center leading us in? The new thing seems to be soft focus quasi spiritual black and white images. I’m not putting any of this work down. The original photo of Mesa Arch with the sun illuminating the underside of the arch, I’m sure was fantastic. Ditto for Galen Rowell’s Horsetail Falls photo. The same goes for artists Susan Burnstine and Beth Moon. The trouble is, that every one feels it’s enough for them to do mediocre versions of these photographer’s work.
If you’ve gotten this far, I doubt this is your goal. So, how do we do original artwork? The first is that we must desire to do original work. Then we must get to know ourselves well enough to know what we like and dislike. There’s so much information out there telling us what we’re supposed to like, what’s good photography, and pitfalls that we must avoid, that we often get lost accepting that all of it is true. As artists we must get to know ourselves, what we like and what we want to accomplish. This is not necessarily easy work. There are plenty of days when I scroll through my recent images in Adobe Bridge and I have no clue what I think of them. But eventually I know what I like.
Loving my subject matter is what works for me. When I’m photographing what interests me and what I find beautiful, I get absorbed in what I’m doing, I forget about the rest of the world and I’m just happy. Even if the conditions are bad and I’m feeling frustrated trying to accomplish something, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
So, we had a great time in the field and we’re excited about seeing and working with the images we took. There’s one problem, however. The first thing we’ll notice is that just because we like the subject matter and the photograph is technically competent, it is still not necessarily an interesting photograph.
So, now we need to move from merely technically savvy individuals who document what they find interesting and beautiful to, artists who can take their impression of what they find so compelling about what’s in front of their camera and communicate that in a photograph.
That’s where the real work and real fun is, and I’ll address that in a future blog post.