This isn’t really focused on creativity, but it has enough overlap I felt like it was worth posting.
A refreshing perspective in this realm of negativity we live in:
The post is built around a comment he recieved from a previous comment he made. Read the entire post – it is great.
But I’d like to borrow the text of the actual comment, because I loved what this guy said about why we do this, the growth process. Zack gave his name as ChrisDavid42.
First, my opinion about art vs. commercialism:
Art has always existed at a cross-roads between commerce and human expression. Artists who wish to benefit from their art will always be subject to the aesthetic of those who are willing to commission, or pay, for that work. On the other side of the coin are the artists who reject all control in pursuit of a “pure unadulterated expression of their vision.” I recently read of a photographer from eastern Europe who was discovered in his sixties or seventies. He spent much of his life in poverty and two decades in a mental hospital. I don’t want to be that guy.
I believe a key element of art is the interaction between artist, medium, and subject. Though at times this may not be conveyed successfully to the viewer, an arguably necessary component of “successful” art, the joy of the creation of art, in my mind, is as important as the result.
Zack consistently pushes his listeners and readers to strive for excellence and individual vision in their work, and I agree. And, I have been encouraged by his message. However, I must respond to a couple comments, including the comment about getting a side job rather than producing mediocre work, or as in one of Zack’s repeated quotes “competing with Wal-mart.”
I also take issue with Zack’s comment that an image can be a photograph, but not photography. I agree completely with the sentiment that there is way too much mediocrity in the industry and in the media. I cringe at most of the photos our local paper runs, especially after years of reading Zack’s blog and Strobist and knowing that 5 more minutes of effort could have improved those pictures. And yet, that tolerance for mediocrity is the what will allow me to build a small portrait business and get the experience that you can’t get from blogs, or shooting your kids and neighbors, and pay for the equipment that I can’t pay for out of my household budget.
As a photographer, I find incredible joy from making images of people. I find joy from growing in my craft technically, or, to say it differently, interacting with my camera and equipment. I find great joy from interacting with people and creating a photo with them, not of them. My goal is to someday have the skill that allows my images to show the world “my experience” or “what I see in my subjects.” However, I am still producing mediocre images, because of where I am at technically in my photographic journey. But, my skills are improving, and I am seeing more and more improvement in my images.
I have recently had the opportunity to do two evenings of “event portraits.” Setting up in a corner at a community event and doing a hundred mini-portrait sessions over the course of two hours. The blogs and videos very much informed that experience, but having to shoot successfully under pressure is something that you can only learn from experience.
And I loved every minute of it, every compromise, every success, every time that I had to sacrifice composition to a technical detail, every time I was able to show them a picture that was better than they expected; even the failures when I couldn’t overcome technical difficulties, or connect with my subjects. Every second of that was PHOTOGRAPHY.
Even if it doesn’t translate yet on my website, it was photography. Even if I spend two years competing with Walmart for customers. It was photography because it was a labor of love for the craft; even if the viewer cannot see it. Someday it will be GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY and the viewer will see it. And that is my problem with Zack’s criticism, you can’t always ascertain the process from the product. however, I think we could agree it is a communication failure, the failure on the photographers part to successfully communicate his/her vision.
Perhaps where I take issue is that I perceived an insult to the process, and I see the process as inseparable from the product. (Honestly, what is really tweaking me is that I really identify with the first person you critiqued. One of the first things you read from her e-mail was that she had been doing this for one year. I look at what I was doing after a year and think “wow. I didn’t have the guts to put together a website after a year.”)
Zack commented in earlier critiques that kid sports photography may be boring, but he will buy it because it is his kid. I totally get what he means here, it is like watching a movie where somebody’s dad dies in the first scene, you are emotionally connected to the movie whether it is poorly scripted and produced or not. Same thing with the pictures, you buy them even if they make you cringe. However, I think that the answer is not to berate the photographers for making lifeless images, the answer is to stop buying the images. Vote with your wallet, pay a more envisioned photographer to make images of your kid in his softball uniform. Keep encouraging and educating photographers and the overall level of the industry will rise.
In summary, thanks for taking the time to read my rant. Your critiques are successful because they are thought provoking. I love listening to them. I listened to your critique on Tuesday and have been arguing the ideas in my head all week. I absolutely loved your talk at Photocamp Utah; it inspired me. I will continue to cull my best images for my portfolio, and I will continue to shoot whatever people will pay me to shoot (or let me shoot for free), and i will likely display some of that in my portfolio, if that is what my customers want and are paying me for.
From “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone
“One should not become an artist because he can, but because he must. It is only for those who would be miserable without it.”
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Home again. Long week. Lots of bugs, rained 3 of the 5 nights, scores of pre adolescent boys. A lot of farting and spitting going on.
I took the camera, but not sure I got anything worth bragging about. Took this one with the phone.
It is the meadow outside of the parade ground and lodge. Best example of the overall look of the place. It did have some good parts, like this. Beautiful place.
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K drew this self portrait for me so I will remember her while I’m at camp.
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I’ve finally finished going through my Arches images. I pulled and finished 23 images out of the approx 900 that I took in Arches and Canyon Lands National Parks last month during the John Paul Caponigro Workshop. It was an amazing week end with an inspiring group of people. I left Moab with great memories, fresh, inspiring insights and enough new images to provide months of material to practice my finishing techniques.
This selection represents the strongest images from that weekend. I explored a number of different techniques as I worked through them, applying what I thought worked best for a particular image, a few times just playing around until I came up with something I liked. In the spirit of the blog, this group of images isn’t so much a finished display piece as it is an exploration of possibilities. It shows different techniques hopefully mostly successful.
I’m by no means finished. I want to do some black and whites. I have a motion series I want to pull together. But I also need to get out and shot some new stuff to keep pushing and growing. To keep my eye in practice. And to provide more material based on what I’ve learned from this group.
I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave comments about what you like, or don’t like.
2010 Arches Gallery
< Click film strip to view Gallery >
Next week is Scout Camp. Lots of trees, mountains and Boy Scouts, not much in the way of technology. So I might not be around for a bit. But I’m taking my camera and hopefully I’ll find some time to sneak away and explore a bit.
I’m still working through my Arches images. I’m almost done. I’ve been holding back because I didn’t want to finish and not have anything new to show off. But I decided to prime the pump a little tiny bit.
I bracketed almost everything I shot and I’ve HDR’d most of them. But I did that just to give me a full exposure range – not to ‘HDR’ the final image. I HDR’d the raw images to broaden the range, loaded them back in Lightroom then processed them normally from there.
This image just wasn’t making it for me. It was close, but I wasn’t excited. Then I had an urge – let’s HDR it hard. I’ve never tried it before, so this is my first.
Kind of like it.
I used CS5’s HDR tool.