I think everyone must experience the same thing. When you go to a place for the first time there are the obvious photographs that you have to take. With time however, either in the span of a single shoot or several shoots digging deeper to find the images that are truly a unique expression of our voice is surely what we should be striving for.
I have photographed intensively at the same location for at least a year now. I keep surprising myself in that I can generate new images when I give myself the chance. Returning to the same place in different weather, different times of day, different times of year more or less guarantees that you’ll have photographs that are different from one another even if they contain the same recognizable elements.
What I’m finding is that returning to the same place time and time again, I have to get out of the way to make new photographs. I have to drop the preconceived notions of what I’m going to find and of what I’m going to shoot. When I let these all go and be open to what’s there and what catches my interest then I’m able to make something different to the time before and the time before that.
For me being open and receptive can be touch to attain some days others I’m there almost immediately. It means slowing down. It means take time to wander around and look to get a sense of the place before getting out the camera. And then spending time with the camera off the tripod exploring options before locking into any one thing.
I suspect that the process will be different for everyone but the goal should be to slow down sufficiently so that you really see the options available. I’d be interested in hearing how you go beyond the obvious.
It struck me over the weekend that the path to realizing our vision, whether that’s on the computer monitor or on paper for the old school folks, is circular. I’ve been mulling over technical skills and aesthetic choices over the last couple of weeks resulting in the postings last week regarding conversion to black and white and also getting a better understanding of our sense of aesthetics. The final image to me then is a result of combining these with creativity. Simply put:
I often feel that many of the initial photographs in a series are the result of happy accidents, either in the field when I just try something for the sake of it or when I’m back in front of the computer when again I play the game of ‘what happens if I do ….’. Taking that experience and then repeating it in different circumstances and situations then allows me to build that series. Whether it’s playing around with toy camera effects, shooting in black and white, or shooting long exposures all have been informed by what’s gone before. Having a better sense of the possibilities, particularly for post-processing of my images, means that I am ever more aware of possibilities for my photography.
I thought that it would be interesting to share here a pair of exercises that I did recently and one that I have continued with that is intended to help connect you with your story, your voice and your aesthetic.
As I mentioned previously we all see the world in a unique way and as a result we all have a different and interesting story to tell. One of the difficulties is owning that and being true to what you have to say.
Many of us haven’t spent the time to explicitly say – these are the things that attract me, these are the things that repel me, these are the things that I find energizing, these are the things that I find draining, these are the places that I feel most comfortable and in these places I feel uncomfortable. Exercise 1 – go do that! Carry a notebook around with you and make notes about where you are and why you’re responding in a particular way.
If that is the first exercise then the second is to acknowledge what photographers produce work that attracts and which produce work that repels you. Broaden that to include other visual artists, to designers – furniture etc., Then ask the question why they appeal or repel? Finally how is this aesthetic captured in your work.
Taking time to do these relatively simple exercises has helped shape my thinking about what I photograph and why. I suspect it may for you too.