Today I was listening to a radio show which chronicled some of the works of the great Russian writer and playwright Anton Chekhov. It was fascinating to say the least, to hear scholars, teachers, and interpreters speak of his life, how he fell in love, how he saw the world, and how he really experienced life.
And, I thought it’s always a good thing for photographers to explore other arts like literature, painting, cinema etc. You can only come away from these things a better person – perhaps more worldly, more creative, more passionate, and more grateful for the little things that complete our lives.
I’ve been photographing a different aesthetic lately as you might tell from my Instagram feed. Some would call it “new topographics”, others might prefer “contemporary landscape.” However I’ve been thinking about a certain lesson I learned in photography a long time ago, and how it applies to this style. That is, no one expects perfection in photographs. They simply want the photographer to describe to them the “significance” of the place in a way that is easily understandable. And, you do this in part by learning to embrace all the imperfections in life. Very often, the most beautiful images are the ones that pass along some kind of shared experience to the viewer. And even though in most circumstances you can never really believe anything you see in photographs these days, there is a genuineness in a good photograph that displays life’s flaws. There is I believe, always a way to find a composition based on a beauty and a truth. A good photograph should be poetic, metaphoric, and significant…but yet flawed.
Life is like that it seems, in that we can’t always predict what is going to happen to us. We can’t always control the events that shape our futures. And, in every thing I photograph I see that. The older I get, the more profound this fact becomes.
So my photography tip for this month is this: learn to embrace life’s ambiguities. Appreciate imperfection and loss of control. You will be a much better photographer and a seeker of truth.
“Wide open spaces….”
“People don’t chill or hang out like when I was a kid.”
“The skies are very dark again and again. Flat light.”
“An umbrella is a necessary piece of equipment.”
“Walked 9KM today. Crossed paths with 4 people. Got two decent photographs.”
“I hate wearing boots.”
“Some people walk their dogs. A few walk for exercise. The others just go from point A to point B in cars.”
“Kids don’t play road hockey anymore.”
“Looking for interaction…”
“Smokers…more smokers…a few homeless.”
“Finally sun beams and shadows…loving this!”
“Have to be creative.”
“I enjoy seeing people smile. I love the ones who don’t notice even more.”
“After a year of this, the big city is going to seem like much less effort is required.”
“Fresh, crisp air, and exchanging greetings with strangers…very nice. Stopping to chat…wonderful.”
“Good. The streetlights are still on.”
“No excuses. Never any excuses…”
“I really love this place. It’s difficult, but it has character.”
“Outside the box…trying desperately to forget everything I’ve ever learned.”
“Not much today. Will try again tomorrow.”
“Video games have robbed kids with the opportunity to be in and a part of the world much of the time. Times have sure changed.”
“Walking is good for the soul.”
“Looking for essence…”
“Magic around every corner…”
“A brand new year tomorrow…still learning to see…still learning to see.”
It’s the morning of another day full of wonder. I rise. I have my cup of coffee and share my cheerios with my cat “Eco” as I write an new blog post.
I pack my lunch into a bag, start the car with my remote starter, then gather my shoes and coat.
I open the back door of the car and deposit my laptop, my camera gear, and the plastic bag that holds my lunch. Just as I pull out of the driveway I hear the bag shift in the back. I smirk.
At my place of work I park the car, get out, then open the back door to retrieve my things. My apple falls out onto the ground, and like a well-made plan, silently rolls away into the darkness.
All is well with the world 🙂
From time to time, I like to read quotations about nature or the environment. Some of them are quite profound, and they’ve given me much pleasure and allowed me to re-visit my thoughts if you will…putting them back into proper perspective.
Today I came across a quote by Eric Berne who said, “The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.”
I thought it is quite true that often as adults we tend to over-analyze everything, desperately trying to see more into things than they often demand. And, as we age, we tend to apply labels to things, in an attempt to compartmentalize objects and place them into little boxes our brains can easily deal with for organizational purposes.
This can be true with art and photography as well. I think many photographers, myself included, are guilty of breaking an image down into components or trying to reverse engineer the process that went into making it to such an extent, that we never really “see” the image. And this is all fine if we’re learning about composition or post-processing etc. However, we must never forget that the essence of fine art – photography included, is not to reveal accuracy necessarily, but to make our souls rise above all that we know in our daily lives. Fine art will make us feel. It will produce an emotional response and convey a different kind of truth that perhaps we don’t ever entertain except for those few brief moments while viewing the piece, taking it at pure face value, and simply allowing it to enrich our lives.
Sometimes we need to slow down. We need to stop to smell the roses. We need to see the beauty before us.