The world of photography has changed so much in recent years I sometimes lament over the direction it seems to be taking. The days of large format Black and White film and custom darkroom work seems to be largely forsaken. With less discipline and more wanna be photographers throwing their hat in the ring, the commercial arena is a bit chaotic. The postproduction part of image making seems to be most of what photography is about these days.
The latest DSLRs/lenses and software for post production is the conversation of the day. In my frustration I like to compare the questions often asked of me: “what kind of camera do you use?”, “what lens did you use?”, etc….. to one asking a painter what kind of brush did you use?…. or a writer “which letters do you use most?”. Whatever happened to conversations about composition, lighting, feeling?
I apologize to the truly gifted modern image makers of today for over generalizing, and as not to be too much of an old fuddy-duddy I’ve kept pace with the modern trends and embraced PhotoShop as a verb in modern vocabulary. In fact I too “PhotoShop” much more than I shoot. But I still stand firmly in the notion that great images come from discipline and vision at the point of conception. I still stare blankly when asked what camera I use.
With the economy driving prices down, the newbies are good enough it seems. I’m sure there will be a day when toady middle manages of companies will be shooting their own images in the conference room with their iPhones and getting an “atta-boy” or girl from the boss. Maybe that time is already here.
Last year I entered the international competitions “The Masters Cup of Color Photography” and later that year the “Black and White Spider Awards”. I was very pleased to have received nominations in both. This year, again I was recognized. This time in 2 categories in the Color Awards. Nude and Nature. For me this has been a nice outlet for some ego boost in my quest to continue to be viable in the world of modern commercial photography.
I’ll keep looking for a silver lining in this brave new world.
In this blog, I’m not discussing food photography or even equipment. This is about how and why we make images, and how to help you make them better. Commercial Photography has been, for me, a practical way of earning a living. At its best it is thrilling. At its worst it can be frustrating. It is many times a dance with the client, art director, stylist, and whoever has the opportunity to add to the stew of the final image. One must to be diplomatic and understand that these images have one objective: to attract sales. My initial attraction to photography, however, began many years ago with an obsession with making images for the gratification I derived from the art. For the sake of my sanity I believe it is necessary to return to my roots, and just go out with little more that a camera and “make pictures”.
When I have the rare opportunity, getting away energizes my commercial work and reminds me why I am doing this. Let me say that it isn’t necessary to go far. One should be able to find images anywhere. This time of year I find a particular calling. The rains are less frequent, the sun makes more of an appearance, and the early morning and late afternoon light can caress the land in warmth. In rural Northern California the new grasses cover beer cans and unsightly debris, and wild flowers start to display their colors. These are the signs of rebirth and a spiritual sense of continuum in a sometimes-unstable world.
The real trick is to stop thinking. I recently read an article by Gordon Hutchings “Seeing with the photographic mind”. He eloquently reminded me that many religious rituals are designed to exhaust the mind and body so that our spirituality can present itself. It’s not easy to disconnect from our hectic lives and immerse ourselves into a spirituality that is needed to achieve fine art images. Like going on vacation, sometimes the first three days are spent shedding the thoughts of obligations we’ve left at home. One day you see no images worth photographing; the next day you see them everywhere. So stop thinking. Climb a hill. Explore an old barn. Have yourself a good time.