To me, the best photograph is unexpected. But a lot in our hobby, from carefully planned workshops, to the very existence of tripods, to photo-journalism, to competition rules, to studios … says otherwise.
It all started with an exquisite piece of writing by Thorsten von Overgaard sent to me by Philippe, which begins with a more eloquent description of the benefits of meandering pedibus with camera in hand, than I can ever hope to pencil down. All illustrated with the talented man’s usual style of photographs, an unhealthy proportion of which belong on gallery walls. Very sweet read.
’til the rip, that is.
Listen to Tavener’s Protecting Veil for an auditory depiction of it. Or imagine your cat jumping on your turntable after 15 minutes of smooth Jazz, as you nod off into bliss, if that’s a better way of conveying the feeling.
Midway through the newsletter, you see, the elated master proceeds to describe how, upon coming to a visually stimulating road junction, he waited for an aptly elegant lady to enter the frame and complete this ultimately parisian scene. None did, though a lovely little (British) car soon offered a very agreeable second best, to allow the craftsman to click and complete his vision-crafting work.
Et tu, Thorsten? Waiting for a cliché to materialize?
I stopped reading, obviously, and headed to the kitchen to pick up a gallon of cookie-dow ice cream in hello kitty pajamas and nurture my sorrow, chickflix style.
You see, my photographic Patron Saint is Serendipity. I don’t believe in fulfilling some preconceived vision. Let alone wait for it.
There’s enough preconception circling my life to fill books: all muslims are terrorists. The French wear berets to buy their morning baguette. Policitians are evil (well, OK, maybe just this one … 😉 ) Boomers killed the planet (best served on Facebook, an ad-sell dinosaur thriving on misinformation, gobbling up more fuel than some countries, brought to life by a 30 year old and held together by post-teens in hoodies) Higher framerates rule. The golden hour on blurred water. Life is that it is.
So, when my eye scans the EVF and my finger inches closer to the trigger, I strive to leave preconceptions well alone.
And it’s impossible, obviously. Every attempt is a miserable failure. Why include garbage in photographs of graffiti, for instance? Simply because I find they add context, texture and depth to the image whereas a tighter crop on the artwork itself would merely be documentary. The mental association is purely in my mind (although the physical juxtaposition was all very real) All we can hope to achieve in interesting photography is place a bit of ourselves in the photographs we put out there and share with the world. That bit of ourselves, of course, is largely made up of preconceptions.
So it’s a Catch-22.
In order to be creative and free of influence, we have to rely purely on our instincts, which are nurtured over time by successive layers of … mental associations and preconceptions. That bites, don’t it? 😉
So I owe the great photographer an apology. One man’s inspiration is the other’s cliché. Motivation for pressing the shutter is deeply personal. Whether we set out to find the unexpected or to recreate the iconic doesn’t matter so long as the result pleases others and inspires them to get our there and shoot as well.
In repentance for being judgmental and imagining that creativity could be totally free of associations, my penance has been to present the photographs in this post in pairs, each representing mental associations. Of colour, of idea, of likeness, of vibe …
The first step to recovery is acceptance, right? 😉
But I will say this: mental associations seem to erode through repetition.
After a long day of walking and photographing based on my mental-associations-fueled-instinct, I find myself more tired and less able to “find” subjects. Instead of those, more abstract and weird scenes appeal to me, such as the one above. It’s as if one layer of the brain no longer has anything to say and goes for a kip while another, less audible and less understandable one, is reluctantly brought to the helm. The photographs it produces are weird to the point that someone who doesn’t know me might wonder whether I’m just starting out and a bit slow-witted 😉 And I imagine those photographs only really appeal to me, but that’s good enough to make them, right?
And maybe that reconciles the two approaches? Maybe one follows the other. More interestingly, maybe each feeds the other, the weird personal stuff bleeding personality into the more iconic and the exhaustion of the iconic freeing the more deeply personal? Maybe, ultimately, the two can function simultaneously, hand in hand?
Speaking of which: where are your photographs? Take a look at the homepage, and you’ll notice half the posts are mine. This is no good. It breeds a monoculture. It forces me to make more photographs and presents the risks of me actually becoming good at it some day. Imagine how unsufferable that could make me.
So, c’mon 🙂 I’m sure you have photographs to show others. Let’s break up the gloom, the once-again rising frontiers and the risk of me writing more silly things on the web. Send in your work, recent or not, and let’s get talking.
In all studies of happiness, the feeling of belonging and community kick the arse of work, money and all the other stuff getting in the way of our true needs, big time. Make us all happy, yerself included, share a post or three 🙂
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