I’ve been reading a lot this week about photography, and how we improve. Practice is obviously the answer, but it is always?
When you go to a concert, you hear the singer, the pianist – you see paintings in a gallery, the prints on a wall. To get this good, the artist must practice every day – to get out of form before a concert is unheard of (well maybe not always! but you get the idea)… So when you look at images, you are seeing the end result of weeks, and maybe years of work, and practice.
I know it’s nearly impossible to get out and shoot every day, but what other ways are there to keep your finger on the button? I think that talking about image making, talking about photography generally is practice – as is looking at other people’s work – visiting galleries – sharing images. Even looking at images on Instagram, Facebook or even Google, is practice. Every time you look at someone elses work, you are honing your own skills, mostly indirectly.
So, how do you practice with your camera ? Well, there are a number of ways – you COULD just walk out the house and shoot anything and everything you see. Is that practice, or just shooting for the sake of it? Or, you could go on a workshop, and immerse yourself in the photographic life for a week, absorb, and create… that seems good to me… or you could set yourself a project!
A strategy is needed, and I think that the best way of learning, of moving on, is by ‘finishing’ things; and by finish, I mean print, or otherwise share your work with the wider world. I prefer the former. A book, a print to hang in your home, a set of images to a theme. This makes it harder to do, but also offers a challenge to the photographer.
On the other hand, by sharing your images online, you leave yourself open to critique by others. I’m intrigued by photographers (and I use the term loosely), who post images on Social Media, but who won’t accept that sometimes, not everyone will like them. I like to ask people why they took an image, or why they processed it in the way they did. The answers vary, but on ocassion, they take great offence that I had even the temerity to ask. Why is this?
Back to projects.
As I said in a previous blog post, I used to be a one image producer. I didn’t do projects, or even panels of three. It was one shot, or nothing. Since I became a member of the Linconshire Image Makers though, my whole ideal and attitude changed. It’s taken months of talk, and work, (and nagging), but finally I’m seeing not only the results of the discipline, but I think my whole attitude to photography and art has seen a dynamic shift, and because I’m questioning my own work, I’m starting to question other people’s work too.
Within the group, it’s simple. This is what we meet up for – we look at each others work, and work of the major photographers, and ask why this, why that, why this image, and not that one. Outside the group, well, as I said, it’s not so easy.
I’m considering a Social Media blackout for a month or so – I need to get my head around where I want to go with my imagery, and I need to plan a strategy to get me through the winter, and maybe well into next year. My website needs an overhaul (it’s long overdue), and I want to allow myself time to experiment more. I’ve run through the multiple exposure sets, and I won’t stop doing these – they give me immense pleasure, but I want to also run a set of images on a ‘what if’ basis…. What if I shot everything out of focus? What if I did everything with a dutch tilt? (a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle), What if I photographed…………… (fill in the blank as you desire). Maybe just 6 images – maybe a project of just one image, maybe 15 or 20. What if I set myself a project to complete 100 prints in a twelve month period? (that might not happen)……. but what if it did….?
As someone said to me only today – “it’s only a photo”….. and when I questioned why denegrate it to “only a photo”…… I was met with silence….. and there the matter rested.