We can never capture everything. But seeing at all times, under any circumstances, is entirely up to us. And for this we don’t need the best camera money can buy or the most expensive lens on the market…we just need awareness.
My brain is full of missed shots.
I remember driving through the upper peninsula of Michigan and passing by an abandoned train sitting next to a pond. It would have made for a great photograph. I hesitated, because to pull over and grab the shot would’ve been something, but I was traveling at a good pace and didn’t feel like stopping. That shot haunts me.
There’s a collection of these shots in my brain, and I add new ones all the time. Maybe it’s as LaRoque says: it’s mostly in the seeing. I’ll remember these scenes in the camera of my mind. The important skill is to recognize new opportunities when they come up.
Or I’ll head back to the spot, and take the shot I missed.
A book is an enclosed and encapsulated medium that you can actually come pretty damn close to perfecting. I also tend to think that the book is sometimes more important than the show, as the exhibit is a temporary thing, often hanging for a month or six weeks and then it goes away.
Maybe a couple of thousand people see it?
But a book is something that I always say is on your “permanent record” and it never ever goes away—so you better get it right!
He also highlights the importance of playing around with the physical layout of a photo book:
As far as putting together the books, I spend hundred & hundreds of hours shuffling around my photographs, making dummies, turning pages, and switching them around and all that. To me that is really the only way to do it, to print the pictures out, paste them in a physical blank book dummy, and turn the pages.
For my Artists In Jackson book, I didn’t quite know what the layout was going to look like. So I printed a bunch of horizontal and portrait-shaped squares, taped them to pages, and moved them around to see how the look and flow would go. It was super helpful to see the book take shape, even if only in the abstract.
It also helps to give it to someone you trust, and ask, “What do you think?”
“Value is not held within the [physical] object,” Travis Shaffer writes. “Rather, it is the opportunity to stand before the work which we desire.”
Which is exactly why I’m a small-time collector of the photographs I enjoy. The idea of (a) supporting emerging artists and (b) collecting appealing work is reason enough to spend a little money of not-so-limited prints.
I don’t do it because it’s a potential investment. And I surely don’t do it to be Mr. Art Collector Guy.
Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things…I try hard to produce personal projects fairly regularly, even when I’m busy with actual work. I try to produce and post something usually once or twice a week.
GIF artist Al Boardman talks about personal projects in a way a lot of artists do: It’s important to do the fun stuff and the paid stuff.
The paid stuff keeps the lights on, but the personal stuff keeps you, you.
And it’s usually the personal work that makes people sit up, take notice, and ask if you’re for hire.
Will I ever get over the awkwardness of asking people to take portraits, or for their help in starting a documentary project?
Probably not, which is why I try to do it often.
It’s kind of weird, to go up to someone, or send someone a note, and ask to make their portrait. How well do they know you? How well do they know your work? Do they know you at all?
I like to think it’s flattering to ask someone to take their portrait. It kind of says that I think the person is interesting enough to inquire. It also says that I want to spend a bit of time with the person – to get to know them better.
But I’m also a guy, and sometimes it feels like the bad guy stereotypes come through when I ask someone to join me in making photos.
For documentaries, it’s really weird, because here’s someone who does a cool thing but doesn’t know who I am, or what I’ve done. That was the case with my Albion Anagama documentary. I learned after the project was done that Ken and Anne had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, they were pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
But what if they weren’t?
That’s the risk of making something: you don’t know what the participant will think. You only hope that they’ll be pleased enough to continue a relationship and work with you again.
Getting over the hump of asking in the first place? I have no idea how to solve it. I’m going to keep trying, though, no matter how much discomfort it causes me.
It’s enough to make you think about building that bunker out in the backyard and waiting the whole thing out.
Artists, musicians, religious leaders, and poets will help us try to make sense of it all, over time. In the meantime, there are photographers on the front lines of these terrible events, witnessing first-hand the terrible things that humans do to each other.
As they’re doing that, try to get out and capture something beautiful, while there’s still time. While it’s still there.
If you’re a photographer, do you only check out other photographers’ work? Is there value in digging into architecture, say, or sculpture?
I follow lots of photographers whose work I enjoy. Usually, their work is so different from mine. Lately, I’m trying to follow other artists, too, just to get a broad view of the creative world. Photography is great, but so is music, dance, painting, film.
Artists have a lot to learn from each other.
Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond your own artistic corner of the world.
“Painting has nothing to do with thinking, because in painting thinking is painting. Thinking is language – record-keeping – and has to take place before and after. Einstein did not think when he was calculating: he calculated – producing the next equation in reaction to the one that went before – just as in painting one form is a response to another, and so on.”
– Gerhard Richter
So it goes with making anything, from photographs to ceramics.