Looking Back

I always go back and forth on reprocessing old photos I have taken; time spent revisiting old work is time spent not making something new. However, how many times have you looked back through old photos and discovered something you previously overlooked? Looking back also reminds me of things I tried that didn’t work out, but also things that turned out better than I thought they would.

Or in this case, I can apply what I know about processing now to a photo I really like, but never liked the way it was presented. I don’t spend a lot time going through old photos, but maybe I should.

Expectations

I went on a trip with work this past week. My idea was to make a series capturing the feeling of living out of a hotel room. My original intent was to make a diptych similar to what you would get out of a 1/2 frame 35mm, but I only got as far as one photo. Having only one photo, I almost cropped to 1×1 but in the end decided to leave it in 4×3 because that is how it was composed. On one hand I am disappointed, I know what I saw in my head that I wanted to capture but I did not do it. On the other hand I am satisfied with what I did with the time available to me.

Different

If you are judging art, then you are missing the point.

I can’t remember where I read this, but it really helped me to understand some things about art, and to change the way I view it.

I value constructive criticism because I want to be a better photographer. But I am not sure there is a lot of value in comments like “it’s too light/dark/yellow”. What are you supposed to say to that? “Uh, thanks?”

Modern art is baffling to me. I stand in the gallery looking at what seems like graph paper painted onto canvas, and think “I don’t get it”.

Once I decided there is nothing “to get” I discovered how much I can learn from other artists, even art that is not photography, just by looking at what they have made.

Waiting

If you are a perfectionist like me, you are waiting for everything to come together, all at once, and in good order. But the light is never just right, there are too many people in the way, I don’t know how to run a blog, I’m afraid I will be embarrassed. If you are like me, you suffer from ‘paralysis of analysis’ and can never get started.

I came across an article by Matt Mullenweg  a couple months ago; it’s what really pushed me over the edge to actually publishing my photography and taking this seriously (again). My current goal is to post a recent photo once a week. It’s a lot of work, but what I keep coming back to is the idea that I have to post something; it doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what I want, it just has to be there.

This way I learn from my mistakes. The other way I don’t make mistakes because I don’t do anything. “If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.” So I guess it’s okay to be embarrassed.

Emotion!

How do you distinguish between a photo that is good, and one you have an emotional attachment to? When you take a picture there is a feeling, or a thought, an idea you are trying to capture. Or a story you are trying to tell. When it’s time to sort your pictures, how do you set aside “how you felt at the time” so you can make an objective decision? Maybe you felt a certain way when you captured the image, or maybe someone or something in the photo is important to you. Is it necessary to make the distinction? Does it matter how “good” a photo is if it has meaning to you? Or is something lost when you have to explain a photo, shouldn’t a photo explain itself?

Blending In

Sometimes we try too hard. I think that is because we think we have something to prove. Or maybe it is that we are insecure in our ability to create. Instead of trying to do something great, do something simple. If you lack inspiration, grab your camera and take a picture of anything. And, while it is important to see the subject from different angles, it is surprising how often your first take is the one that makes the most sense.

Joy Ride

Since Ray Bradbury passed away last week, I have been thinking more about his work. He is one of my favorite authors; my favorite story of his is The Highway from The Illustrated Man. The imagery in that story is so vivid, I see Hernando in his field every time Bradbury comes to mind.

Today I came across a lecture he gave back in 2001. I couldn’t help but think how much his advice on writing could be applied to photography. His point about “writing with joy” especially resonated with me. I had to put photography aside in the past because it became too much like work.

I also like what he said about using “word association” to counter writers block. It is discouraging when you want to make something but you feel like you can’t. Over the past few weeks I have been going along with his advice of “just [take a picture of] any old thing  that comes into your head”. It helps the creativity to flow, and I am often surprised at what turns out to be an interesting photo.

Apprehension

Some of the greatest strengths of digital photography are also some of the greatest weaknesses. Shooting digital is essentially free once you have the initial cost of the camera out of the way. Shooting film there is additional cost involved. Shooting film you have to wait to see how it turned out. Shooting digital you have instant feedback. It seems that shooting digital will help you learn quickly because you have quick feedback, but that is not the case. When there is cost involved, be it time or money, you are more intentional. When you have to wait to see, you will make sure that you do it right. Do you want to create better photos? Slow down. After all, who wants to sort through 400 photos after a day trip to the zoo? Think about what you are going to do before you press the shutter. Be intentional, you will spend less time wondering how it will turn out.