A thread on a Model / Photography forum was once started over some comments made by myself
and another photographer. Its something many new, established, young, and old
photographers or even hobbyists in this field should read to give some food
for thought and a little perspective. I paraphrased it below.
Post by Mr. Chip Morton of California (slightly modified
Recently there was a post that took a brief, but related, detour. Two notable
and established veterans. Mr. Xxxxx and Mr. Eastwood had an info exchange on
file archiving and management. It was scary and made Mr. Xxxxx shiver in fear
at the thought.
At one point, Mr. Eastwood remarked “And all I want to do is get back to
the days where I just took a camera and ran out with a girl and shot some stuff
at the park or local college campus and did not know what I was doing or that
I was not suppose to be doing it there let alone without 14 lights and 3 people
to hold them.”
This made me pause for a long time. I think that most of us got into photography
because we were attracted to the magic, this amazing thing that records what
and how we see, and then we can show it to others. Hopefully that phase lasts
forever where we jump up and down showing someone a new image screaming like
a little kid in a sandbox. Like the little kid in a sandbox, everything is perfect;
nothing was ever done “the wrong way. It was ALWAYS perfectly the way it should
be. I don’t think any of us thought “Yeah! I can’t wait for the day that I burn
through 5 TB’s a month and struggle to stay on top of copyright law!”
There’s no doubt that the successful photographers that have managed to
grow their business to several employees and dollar numbers I can’t imagine
must feel the grind sometimes. But how has all that growth changed how they
shoot? Are the same subjects still fascinating? Is the simple magic of fresh
vision jaded by time, business pressures and keeping up with the Jones’s? Is
what was once interesting no longer so, not through the natural evolution of
life experience but through the unnatural production of vision, like the way
a musician might stand too close to the amps for too long and become a touch
hard of hearing?
I do not want to comment on this yet, I would rather see where it goes from
others perspectives, but I would like to point out and clarify what was meant
in from where those sentiments came.
I have not lost the excitement or vision of shooting, I have built (right or
wrong, mental or real) a self imposed prison of sorts. I want to shoot like
always, but before I found someone and asked she said yes and we went and shot
something nice, we liked it many others did as well, and all was good. Today
I look at those and realize they were not my best but that’s not really important
here. Today I see someone and I ask to shoot and they see my work and immediately
there is an expectation of something. I do not want to say quality because that
is in the eye of the beholder, but rather just an expectation. I now am limited
(self imposed perhaps or actually likely) to deliver within that expectation,
so I cannot do just anything, instead I do what I know will work and work well,
for it should not just be as good as my previous work, but it should somehow
have improved upon it. So I am limited and I do what I know and maybe try a
little variation here and there, but I do not just run free like I once did
before I knew a better way, before the girl expected a certain result, before
those around me expect something with a certain quality and character that is
associated with me or my so called style.
Best example I have to explain what I mean, I one saw a great spread in a European
mag, I knew I was one of the first to have it here so it was not seen yet, in
it were some shots totally not my style, grainy, slight motion blur, B&W over
contrasted and not well retouched, not badly retouched, but imperfections were
left in. I took the spread and sent it over to my rep, while on the phone he
opened the e-mail and started telling me how great these were and asked “where
did I see them?” to which I quickly replied “Oh I shot it this weekend….”
to which he immediately said “ohhh what happened?” I said “what do you mean?”
Already anticipating this response as it would quite possibly have been my own,
his explanation is it did not meet the usual standard and he figured something
was bothering me. The same images he was praising a moment ago, he even went
so far as to point out things I did not do in post that should have been done
(as per MY norm) and mentioned what made me use film or that over done grain
effect. After a few seconds I said its not mine in my typical sarcastic NY tone
to which he immediately laughed saying oh you had me going there, glad to hear
your OK (obviously afraid that a money maker may have been washed up overnight
on him) so I said hey they were from the new Italian vogue and mentioned the
very famous shooter to which they were again a delight to view! wonderful and
full of flair………. at least to him, I no longer found them as enjoyable
as I once thought them to be.
But those of you who get that will get it, those who don’t maybe someone else
can explain it, I am sadly tired of doing so not because of the explanation
but because of the thought I harbor that even though it is my own limitation
and I am aware of it I also know I will not likely overcome it even with another
telling me I should, even if I tell them they should, tell me, I should.
I have even gone so far as to set up another name to use with pictures that
I did take but are not images I would have used rather they were rejects from
a shoot, only to perhaps be free of that insane “Expectation” I have most likely
self imposed and feel fearful to fall short of.
I have yet to ever actually go through with it. I figure it will backfire because
once I show up they will likely know its me or somehow it will get connected
and so what would be the point? so I don’t bother. Maybe one day I will be in
Fiji and shoot a native that has no expectation of anything. Or maybe I will
be in NY and just stop caring…. Hopefully it will be of what others may think
and not of taking a picture I like.
OK…. so I typed a bit more than planned, but I still did not type my answer
to the original post but rather added some additional information which lead
partly to the statement above. I should be sleeping.
That seems far more melancholy than it was actually meant, I am not depressed
over this, its more like frustration with my own limits and an inability or
unwillingness to just “get over it” that frustrates me. Partially because I
do not really consider myself an artist, more a commercial realist who happens
to currently have a talent to produce images that enough people feel are valuable
enough to pay enough for to make me very comfortable and busy. I see real artists
and wish I had some of what they have, and I see real artists, and am thankful
I don’t have some of what they have, some are really tortured souls.
I am a Capitalist! and if the business changed and said my style should with
it, I would, for now its OK and I happen to be very lucky that I get to do something
I typically enjoy and get paid well for it. Its hard to complain (well not for
a New Yorker) but I know its hard to have sympathy for anyone who does what
I do and gets paid! I sure wouldn’t
Follow up Poster comment by another poster:
P.S. I’m not nearly as high-up the ladder as people seem to think I am. But
I can see where the next level of photography would drive me, and so I’ve been
pondering a lot of the issues mentioned above.
At times it is possible to establish a style that allows for anything to go,
usually it requires a rich someone who is related or a special someone who you
have befriended that is in a position to make it be in VOGUE so to speak. I
would probably envy those that can have a style that allows for them to do whatever
without a care in the world.
I do not however, believe that just cause they are famous everything they do
is some amazing piece of art! sometimes it crap! just many are afraid to say,
and actually saying it should not diminish the fact that the same person can
again create great art, society should be more confident in themselves to say
what they feel instead of say what they think they should feel because of who
or what they are saying it about may represent.
A piece of crap placed in a world renowned museum will most likely gather some
amazing acknowledgments from those who would harshly critique an unknown. Thus
we have ART!
Just make sure your not dependent on the industry when you make a stand against
one who has many friends in high places.