Being yourself – no gurus
Paul Butzi today commented on his intent not to renew his subscription to Lenswork – http://photomusings.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/the-brooks-jensen-effect/ – noting that one of the effects of Lenswork was to lead young or ambitious photographer to seek to emulate the style of work found therein in order to get their work included. There is a widespread application of this pressure to conform throughout photography, whether propagated by magazines, fora or camera clubs – which has a very clear and obvious parallel in other areas of life… Some magazines are so full of articles on how to make money with photography that you start to feel inadequate if you don’t! Fora demand absolute sharpness and fully detailed shadows – you feel like a second class citizen because you like a shot taken without a tripod that you didn’t labour for hours on in photoshop. I once met a man who had submitted the most beautiful platinum-palladium print into a club competiton only to have it dismissed by the judge because of a slightly blown highlight… he explained that this was because he only had a 5 by 4 camera and had produced the print from an enlarged neg which wasn’t quite a good as the original… he was going to buy a 10 by 8 camera so that his contact prints would be big enough for the comps. The end result seems to me to be difficulty in having confidence in what we see and wish to make pictures of and a focus on techniques or technical quality at the expense of seeing or the expression of our vision. Fundamentally a lack of confidence in ourself and a consequent inability to make technique a servant in expressing our vision (which is not meant to sound as grand as it does!).
I don’t really know how to fix this – I love looking at other peoples work and find it a great inspiration – but I have found it much easier since stopping buying magazines and limiting my forum activities to places where discussion and criticism of pictures takes place as a constructive dialogue about a picture rather than a simple (often misplaced) one way critique.