Staying authentic and finding your voice amidst the screaming

So a colleague of mine phoned me yesterday. After some idle chit chat about this and that, she told me that she’s looked at my work and one can see that I come from a medical background. I asked her what she meant, and she said that you can see that I am always in control. Apparently, according to her, I need to let go and that in order for me to be successful, I need to bring an edge to my work. While still digesting this, she told me that my stock work probably doesn’t sell that well, due to the lack of an “edge”.

Like all artists, I’m precious about my work and was stung. Firstly, because my stock sells just fine, thank you very much. I am fortunate in that it is lucrative enough for me, to only work in that branch of professional photography, but that is not really the point now. I always try and take whatever criticism that comes my way, get over the initial negative reaction, and see if there is any truth to it that I can use to become better at what I do.

So I look at my colleague’s portfolio and my own. And after agonizing for the better part of an evening, I came to a few conclusions that might be helpful to others.

 

Being in control is not a bad thing. It is called being a pro

Yes, to say that I lean towards the very extreme of the control spectrum, is an understatement. I like to control and manage EVERYTHING. Not just in my art, but in life. It is an inherent trait, not something I just do in photography. I’m not saying that the more laid back photographers are not as professional, you can be as chilled as you want, just leave me in peace to control everything I can (and rage about the things I can’t). I do not pose my models, but I do guide them. I give them enough information of what I want from them, to allow them to do their job. I control the lighting, because I have a vision if the result, so I need it to be correct.

I do no believe in just showing up, everyone having a blast, standing there like a zombie and clicking the shutter, hoping for that one serendipitous amazing image. I make images, I don’t take them. I have a vision, and controlling all aspects of my shoot allows me to meet my own expectations. That is how I roll. Deal with it. Michaelangelo was a notorious control freak, and the Sistine Chapel turned out just fine.

 

Respect for the science does not make me less of an artist.

Yes, I am the pedantic photographer looking at magazines going WTF if an editorial was poorly shot. Great concepts do not mean great images. I believe a successful image has to be pin sharp. The highlights not blown nor the shadows clipped. The skin tone needs to be correct and so on. I agonize over the lighting design to achieve this. I use my histogram when utilizing natural light. I understand the science of my craft.

I am not talking about purposefully ignoring that in order to achieve an aesthetic goal. I am saying you need to be able to understand your craft and do it correctly, even for when you ignore it for artistic purposes. Too many photographers out there are putting out soft images, blurred, incorrectly lit and poorly composed.

Having a vision of what I want to create, cerebrally approaching it, and executing it with a tight hold on all the creative parties involved, does not make me less of an artist. It means I have the gift of using my logic to achieve my creative ideas.

My art teacher always reminded us that Picasso was able to draw perfectly photorealisticly at age twelve. His understanding of his art made him capable of coming up with something radical like cubism.

 

Your own aesthetic values are important

I respect the female form, but I like to utilize it in an elegant and feminine manner. That does not make me boring. If the current ideology is basically exploitation and deconstruction, that’s fine, I don’t want any part of it.

I like pretty pictures, beautiful models, attention to details and dreamy lighting. That is not a flaw. That is my taste, and I will continue to shoot that, even if the current idea is to make everyone look like an overexposed heroine addict with dirty hair and some or other perverse tendency.

 

The zeitgeist is not important

There is an interesting duality in photography currently. Among most of the photographic community, shocking, disturbing and honestly, poorly executed images, are all the rage. When I look at perfume ads, I see well lit, feminine and aesthetically pleasing images. So what do you do to stay relevant?

The answer, in my opinion, is exactly what you want. If you continue to conform to what is currently considered ‘edgy’, you will never find your own voice and develop a personal style.

 

So there you have my own personal rant on the subject. So yes, I like to be in control, will not let go, and am completely fine with my work lacking a so-called ‘edge’. My images are technically well executed, making me a good photographer, and I like the aesthetics of it, making me a good artist. Hopefully, other photographers can relate!

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