Ever look at a magazine cover and you are immediately awestruck but after the third review the photo has lost its impact. But then, there are some photographs you see in some magazines or calendars which are always able to spur your emotions no matter how many times you see it? That is a timeless photograph.
We have seen many examples of these photographs. Dorothea Lange gave us “Migrant Mother”; Ansel Adams gave us “Moonrise, Hernandez, Mexico”; Garry Winogrand gave us some visually amazing photographs, some if which were untitled. Despite the fact that these photos were taken long ago, these photos have a quality which continues to make them worthy of admiration and review. What is this quality/qualities that make these images enduring?
Is it the monochromatic tone, the composition, the quality of light, the fresh point of view? Perhaps it is all of the above. Certainly the photographer’s excelled at those areas and in many more and provided us with a new way of seeing things. A vision which has endured for decades without fading.
In spite of the flood of photographs I see being produced by amateur and professional alike, few tend to have that timeless quality of the masters. My argument here is not that the photograph needs to be black and white or made with a medium format camera or made everyday. But, I think more photographers need to think a little more of what they are shooting when they look through the viewfinder in making a photograph which fits their vision.
I have recently discovered the WordPress app for the iPhone/iPod and realized that my location no longer dictates where
I blog. I don’t have to lug around my laptop nor do I have to look specifically for an internet ready location equipped with desktop. Instead, armed with my iPod and the deviously clever but persistently buggy wordpress app, I will be able to share ideas related to photography while on location.
It is certainly convenient and gives me an opportunity to blog when it is needed the most, when I am inspired.
Last year, I spent about 3 months studying the styles and techniques of various other photographers whose work I came across online. My objective was to enrich my knowledge of photography, and in so doing develop my own style. What I achieved was further from my goal than I would have desired.
In the three months of learning on how to improve things like tonality in my black and white photographs and developing a better understanding of my editing software, my photography prints improved – visually. Indeed they were more eye catching and stunning but slowly I noticed that my photography did not look anything like what I had started off with. These improvements on my photography did more than improve they radically changed it to the point it was unrecognisable. Sure, they had this great magazine appeal but I didn’t feel the deep, emotional, timeless connection to them any more. My photographs were no longer my own. Instead, they were those of the authors who had mastered those techniques I had picked up along the way. I had become a human photocopier. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it is bad to learn the styles of other photographers; I am saying it is bad when you don’t move past that and make elements of the style your own – i.e. change it so that the photograph expresses your vision.
After going through that funk for three months I saw an anime series where one of the characters was an artist. Whenever she did a piece she went almost into a trance. She was in her own zone – “Listening to the beat of her own drum.” Suddenly, I realized what I had forgotten. I had completely pushed a side the very essence of my style of photography. I had forgotten to listen to that little voice inside of me that drew me to a scene.
So here is a little tip for the New Year’s resolution. March to the beat of your own drum.