Sunday, August 14, 2011
Finding Your Way
Wicked Dark wrote a blog post about isolating yourself to one or two types of photography and its relationship to selecting a major in university. Her thesis, triggered by a Google+ post that I started, was that by limiting yourself to one particular type or style of photography you can learn a lot more about that particular type or style and therefore improve a lot more from lessons learned through practice. Go read her post for the details as she explains it much better than I.
Now, add to those thoughts, the conversation I've been having with some of the members of one of the Delete Me Uncensored groups on Flickr as a result of my previous blog post. The general thesis of these group members, and I won't assume it is their only idea for improvement, is that in order to improve your photography you must work hard to take great pictures, put them on Flickr and line them up in front of a firing line for the less than perfect ones to be shot down. In this way you will learn which ones are good and which ones are not so good. This, I suspect is expected to help you improve through process of elimination.
Still others will point you to WhatsHisName's training videos, or ThatOne's photography school, online forum, photography club, etc, etc.
Today I was reminded of something my old karate sensei often said, "there are many roads to the top of the mountain but the view from the top is the same." I'm reasonably sure that he did not originate the quote, however, it's one that has stuck with me over the years and since I associate it with him I'll attribute it to him.
Like photography, there are many ways to teach karate. You can select a single kata (or form) and practice it over and over until you have mastered it and then move on to the next kata or you can learn a number of different kata and practice all of them until you master all of them. Learning more than one at a time may make things very confusing but at the same time a move in one may help you understand a similar move in another.
And this brings us back to photography. While I believe Wicked Dark's thesis has a lot of merit as it will help you get very good at one particular type or style of photography, I also believe that everyone has to find their own photographic path. In my case, I really enjoy photographing nature such as birds, squirrels, and flowers. I also love to do street photography, portrait work, and landscapes. I don't think I could give up any of them to pursue interest in any one specific area.
I'm also not sure that I want to hang my photos on the wall for people to throw darts at them in the DMU groups on Flickr. I said I'd never be back again but something keeps drawing me in...and it appears as though I'll give it another try.
The path I take up the mountain may be circuitous but it is my photographic path and after all it's not so much about reaching the top as it is about the journey. I hope this post helps you find your path.
Labels: journey, karate, path, photography
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I have to say that I agree with this as well. But you said it much better then I could.
Thank you, Teresa.
For me, I found that getting away from Flickr has tremendously improved my images. There's nothing inherently wrong with Flickr or other image sharing networks, but the reality is that one can lose the critical eye in the midst of the love fest that is flickr. Almost everyone's stream is filled with "great capture!", "What a shot!", "wonderful moment" - all good and friendly, but by this standard, everyone on flickr is a master photographer.
I started looking at it from a much higher standard (flickr being very low on the scale) and started critically examining my images and their place in a body of work. Started posting the ones I felt had merit in critique groups, and slowly started to realize that my work needed to improve significantly if I even wanted to be considered in the top 30% of photographers - most of which are not on flickr anyways.
We all have our ways of improving, but for me it was, and still is, a much more critical way of looking at my images and being mindful of a body of work.
When you start comparing your work to the highest standard, and then realize how far you have to go to even approach it - that's when your work starts improving. I spend hours looking at Magnum photographs and hope that one day I can create an image that's a tenth as good.
The "flickr love fest" syndrome is a dangerous one, indeed. The focus these days seems to be on gimmicks, whereas the master works are straight forward life, regardless of the type of photography they're creating.
It's also interesting to note that many great photographers didn't consider themselves "street" or "landscape" photographers, but simply Photographers. Garry Winnogrand has a famous quote about being a "zoo photographer" because he took some images at the zoo. He's being sarcastic, but it influenced a whole generation of photographers to think broadly.
For me photography is something that just happens. I have my camera with me all the time, and hope that I can see something in a way that is unique and can be translated to others via an image.
This, of course, can be anything.
Great comments. Thanks for sharing!
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