August 11, 2009

When I was younger, the ultimate compliment someone could give me would be to say: “Your images remind me of Ansel Adams’ work.”  He was my childhood hero and I would dream of being “the next Ansel Adams.”

But then one day it hit me; there already was an Ansel Adams and nobody would ever do Ansel better than Ansel.  And was that really the extent of my ambitions and the apogee of my dreams, to copy someone else’s work?  I suddenly realized that I needed to create work that was uniquely mine.

But how?  There isn’t a subject that hasn’t been photographed many times before, so how could I create unique work?

While it is true that most everything has been photographed, it has not been photographed through my eyes.  We each have a unique vision buried inside and we must learn how to bring it out and develop it.

I am certainly not there yet, but I recognize what I must do to reach my goal.  It is this desire to see things uniquely that has led me to the controversial practice of not looking at other photographer’s work.  When I see a tree, I do not want visions of another photographer’s work flashing about in my head so that my creation simply becomes an imitation or extension of their work.

If possible, I would like to see that tree as if for the very first time, like a blind person might see it after an operation gives them sight for the very first time.  Of course this is not completely possible, but I do try to keep my mind clear of other images as much as possible.

When I photographed people on the street of Ukraine, that certainly was not a unique idea, but I hope that having people close their eyes was a unique approach.  Photographing ceiling lamps was not an original idea either, but I hope the viewpoint was.

I believe that we each have the capacity to be original, that we each have a unique vision that can be developed.  For some, like myself, it was buried deep and I didn’t even know that it was there.  Others are lucky to have this talent lying near the surface.

Cole