Anyone else but me…

One of the best songs, that I’ve heard in a long time, about modern society, is Hokus Pick’s Anybody Else But Me and it’s pure genius. It’s a satirical look at people wanting to be anyone else but themselves and it’s awesome, not just because they’re Canadian; sorry America, we got this one because you’ve got your teams on the Stanley Cup way too many times. We’re so focused on being famous or at least someone of noteworthiness, that we lose our uniqueness in the process. In photography, as in life, that means copying someone else’s vision, techniques, methods & beliefs blindly.

While I’ve read a lot & learnt how some really gifted professionals work through their craft, their photographs, and the way they make them, are uniquely theirs…Or at least they really should be. Forever a tinkerer, I’m going to be tinkering with the methods & ways I tweak my photographs and I’ll learn along the way, not just through my mistakes, but I’ll learn from the professionals as well; they’ve written many a book about their craft, so it’s a no-brainer using the knowledge they have to impart to help myself to grow as well. When it comes to life, we’re not out to imitate, but to grow as the Creator’s meant us to grow; we’re meant to look upwards, not downwards or horizontally…We’re not called to copy one another, but to imitate the perfect example the Creator was for us. Sometimes we’re given a feeling/impulse of what we’re supposed to do, sometimes it’s in our daily readings, and sometimes it’s in how we’re working that we’re given guidance.

Photography, compared to every other art, is so much younger than the others, but why is it that imitation is seen as flattery & striving for meaning not as important? I mean, come on, we’re not all drones or Borg here. There’s just so much out there to photograph, so that doesn’t mean we’ve got to copy others’ photographs or even their methods, but just learn from them…The same goes for life itself. It’s all in how we try not to be anybody else but ourselves…In the way we’re supposed to be.

Working with voice…

Seeing what’s out there in terms of nature photography can often be humbling, especially when in the presences of the masters like Ansel Adams & company. Too many times we get caught up thinking that we can’t compare to them because of their sheer talent and, to be completely honest, we really can’t because we can’t be them…We can only be ourselves, or we lose our originality and/or what makes us unique & different. I’m not focusing in on uniqueness here, but on using our own voice; when we want to say something with our shots, we should be using our own voice. There’s nothing wrong with using influences from others, but blending it with our own voice is where the tricky bit is; in my opinion, it should be about 30% outside influence and 70% us if not 10% outside influence & 90% us.

I’m far from consistent in this and I more than have trouble with this, speaking through my photographs, but there’s always going to be a struggle, and that, in effect, is what makes it worth it…It’s the journey, not the destination, in this case, because if we’ve made it already, then there’s nowhere left to go, nowhere to grow. The issue that constantly bugs me is that I used to have a really hard time seeing things in the smallest of worlds, but now it’s the big picture; I’m constantly trying to find a balance between the two, being able to use a mid-range focal length like 50mm on a full-frame camera. Balance between the two, while allowing my voice to speak through, is the hardest part for me, especially when that voice is trying to speak on the beauty of nature; I struggle with it because it’s so easy for my mind to wander, even though I’m nowhere near hyperactive, just prone to a lack of concentration.

Just listening to The Script song Hall of Fame makes me wonder if I’m on the right road, but I’m okay with that because it encourages me to work at it, striving to be better every time. It’s not the story of the boxer, in the song’s music video, that gets me, but the ballerina, and that’s because she’s neglected and pushed aside because she’s an outsider with a hearing issue. She finds herself when she calms down her mind, steadying herself; now I don’t have a hearing problem, but it speaks volumes when that kind of struggle has yields far beyond what the world expects of her. Find your voice and stick with it, learning to grow along the way…and seek constructive help along the way, be it in books or in mentors.

Dealing with fruitcakes…

Everyone loves a good fruitcake…or hates it even if it is good. But I’m not going to dwell on that kind of fruitcake, the edible kind; I was thinking of the kind that’s a gear nut and always sticks to the rules when it comes to photography. They come in with advice that sounds a lot like a marketing ploy to buy the latest gear and live & die by the so-called ‘rules of composition’ that can restrict creativity; we’ve all been there, done that. Dealing with them is another problem because it can often lead to people completely forgetting who they are and just following the crowd, loosing uniqueness along the way.

Uniqueness is something that we take for granted sometimes because we think that because we’re a physically separate person, we’re unique. It’s more so, in the arts, about being different from the crowd, standing out and having something different, however slight or great, to say to the world around us. The typical way of things being done is like the old Relient K song, Wit’s All Been Done Before, lyric: “Yeah we do something to death/Then we dig it up just to do it some more.” We tend to just repeat something because it works and not really think it over (something I’m readily guilty of at times), but uniqueness is putting something new out there or putting it out there with a new perspective. Getting back to the idea of dealing with fruitcakes, they tend to say to stick with what’s safe on what we do, imposing their set of rules, taking uniqueness out of the image; use them as guidelines, not set-in-stone rules/laws.

So, how do we end up dealing with these critics/fruitcakes? The one thing for me that sticks out is that, like I’ve probably said before, is that if the criticism isn’t constructive and doesn’t offer anything that is at least of some help, then we know that it’s probably not really good to follow it too closely. Uniqueness should be tops, under vision, and it’s sometimes better not to get too defensive that we end up missing constructive criticism and growth usually won’t happen as easily as if we didn’t miss the helpful criticism to begin with.