Why do you create? Who are you trying to please? If you have an image that you love, but the public does not, how does this affect your opinion?
Several blogs ago I had related this story about Edward Weston as recounted by Ansel Adams:
“After dinner, Albert (Bender) asked Edward to show his prints. They were the first work of such serious quality I had ever seen, but surprisingly I did not immediately understand or even like them; I thought them hard and mannered. Edward never gave the impression that he expected anyone to like his work. His prints were what they were. He gave no explanations; in creating them his obligation to the viewer was completed.”
We all would like our work to be appreciated, but do we sometimes depend too much on the opinions of others? Do we sometimes define our work or even ourselves as artists by what “they” think?
When you focus on producing work that others might like, your work will lack power and confidence. You can never please others, because there are just too many “others” out there and their tastes are fickle. Only when you follow your own creative compass can you be strong, confident and truly creative.
So choose to please yourself, because when it comes to your art, your opinion is the only one that really matters.
P.S. I chose the above image, Urban Starfish, specifically for this topic. It’s an image that I really like, but rarely do others appreciate it.
Are you a photographic grazer? You know, someone who shoots here a little and there a little, and has an album of “greatest hit” images but doesn’t have a cohesive group of images?
I understand, I used to be a “grazer” too. I hated focusing on one subject and enjoyed looking around for something that would catch my attention. The image above, “Skeleton,” was created during my grazing period. It’s a nice image (one of my favorites) but it has no companion pieces and it’s not a part of a collection. It’s a stand alone image.
I grazed for several years until something happened.
I proudly assembled my “greatest hits” and sent them off to Lenswork. While polite, Brooks Jensen’s response was basically: “Hey! Didn’t you read the submissions guidelines? Pick ONE image and send me 15-25 on that subject.”
That kick in the butt was what I needed, and I think I was ready. I then picked “Grain Silos” to focus on, and worked on that project for several months. Instead of getting bored like I thought I would, I became obsessed and really enjoyed myself. This resulted in my first “portfolio” that I purposely set out to create.
I enjoyed that process so much that I went on to create other portfolios:
- Ceiling Lamps
- The Ghosts of Auschwitz and Birkenau
- Ukrainians, With Eyes Shut
- Linnie: A Portrait of Breast Cancer
- The Oregon Coast
- The Lone Man (in progress)
- Harbinger (in progress)
I’m currently starting a new project that I’m very excited about entitled “Surprise!” (don’t ask me what it’s about, I won’t tell!)
Now for those of you who also resist picking a subject and focusing on it, again I do understand. It may be that you’re not ready yet, I think you have to satisfy that “grazing” desire by indulging in it for a while.
But it might be that you are ready, but haven’t found the right subject that really excites you. I believe you must be completely passionate about a subject before you can have have fun with it and do a great job. If you don’t feel that way, I’d suggest you choose another subject.
It’s very satisfying to create a “cohesive body of work,” it’s also addicting!
“Rocks and Mist” is another one of my long exposure shots. The image was captured late one night on the rocky shore of La Jolla Cove in San Diego. I was standing on the eroded lava rock about 10 feet from a precipice that fell off to the ocean. The waves would come up and go over my feet as I stood there for the 30 second exposure.
The effect of the waves going in an out over the 30 seconds gives the misty, foggy effect. The only illumination were the distant lights and stars. I was using a 16mm lens and so there is a distorted almost fish-eye effect, which is not really noticeable since the viewer does not know what the scene really looks like.
This was shot in 2005 and I recently returned to the same spot and was very surprised at how small this rocky area really is. The wide angle lens added much to the look and feel of the image.
Water and long exposures are a great combination. A very long exposure can smooth out water for a very simple and clean look. Sometimes a shorter exposure can give form and shape to the water and then there is the misty look as in the above image. Using a digital camera allows you to experiment and get right before you leave. I love digital!
I continue to add new images to my “Ceiling Lamps” portfolio. I went out for 2 days and visited every business I could find. In general, I found that the small business and the ultra modern office buildings had the best ceiling lamps.
I also found that working in a small town is much easier than in the city. I spent one day in Denver and was told “no” as often as I was allowed to photograph the ceiling lamp. The larger and more corporate the business, the more likely the No!
The image above was taken in the entry way of a new Asian Restaurant in Fort Collins.
I’ll be updating the portfolio in a couple of weeks and will show it in the next newsletter.
View the existing Ceiling Lamp Portfolio