new directions, new ideas
After a few years of focusing on cameras, shooting styles, and the aesthetics of photography, I’m beginning to get bored. It’s not enough anymore for me to achieve a certain style or look or to craft a technically good photograph. For the last two years my photography has consisted of setting up shoots with models and trying to take the best pictures I could. Somtimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t and I learnt a lot along the way. But, I started asking myself if I could explain what I was doing and why. And the answers that came really didn’t satisfy me. I wasn’t trying to tell a story or to document a group or a place or a concept. I’d just been taking pictures. And as beautiful as they were, pictures of models are like pictures of flowers or landscapes. Individually the photos and their subjects are capable of great beauty, but taken together they don’t add up to anymore than the sum of their parts. At least mine didn’t. The images I posted from a shoot six months ago were forgotten a week later. I’ve been putting my effort into something that I could be proud of, but it didn’t inspire me on an intellectual and emotional level. There was no feeling that the work I had put into my photography was building toward something bigger.
Before I go on, I just want to say that I am, without a doubt, proud of the work I’ve done over the last few years and I’m grateful for everyone that has worked with me in my photography. I’m not trying to diminish anything that we made during that time. Please don’t take away from this that I’m saying that kind of photography isn’t good enough or serious enough. I’m not saying that at all. I’m merely trying to say that if I’m going to keep at it, and I definitely want to, then I need to move in a new direction.
Photography is a pursuit that takes money, time and effort. And like anything we pursue there has to be good reason why we do so. And there are good reasons why I am drawn to photography, the trouble is I haven’t taken the time to understand them and articulate them. I’ve barely scratched the surface in my understanding of what I’m doing, what I’m trying to accomplish, and why I choose image making as the medium to accomplish it. Over the years I’ve dabbled in all sorts of creative pursuits. Drawing, writing and now photography. Why do I have that creative urge? What does it say about me? What does it say about my relationship to the world around me? I’ve never taken the time to answer those questions and if photography is going to be the means by which I phrase them, then I must eventually move past the phase where my main focus is what kind of camera I should buy, what kind of post-processing should I employ, what kind of lighting, backdrop, wardrobe will really make this image pop. That is like a writer discussing what paper and pen to use, or, since this is the 21st century, which electronic device. You might prefer to write on a iPad, but that choice doesn’t mean a damn to the end result of what you write. In the same manner, shooting with instant film or 8x10 postive paper or a medium format film camera might be choices you make based on personal preference or aesthetic choice, but if the image you create with them doesn’t add to an idea or a story that you are trying to relate with your work, then it’s just another way to create an image.
And that is where I am now in my quest to understand what I’m doing. A single pretty picture doesn’t do it for me anymore. I want to focus on a deeper level of what my images mean to me and what I hope they might mean to those who view them. Going foward I’m going to start working on photographic projects that take months or more to complete. I’m going to define a project idea, explore it, see if it resonates, and then see if I can cull and edit a selection of photos that tell a story or play with an idea. The idea is to see if I can make a collection of photos be more than the just a handful of pretty pictures. This is something that documentary and fine-art photographers do all the time, so I’m not breaking any new ground here. I’m just searching for that epiphany, that moment of clarity, that makes me feel connected to my photography.