My thoughts on picture-making have shifted greatly over the last 12 months or so. School taught me to think about picture-making as a means to communicate some greater truth about your subject and relate to greater social issues. Coming home and working in a environment that is about picture making in another way, a way born solely out of aesthetic has made me re-evaluate what it means to pick up a camera. I work among those* who’s main purpose in making pictures is to make them fit into a mold of what pictures are “supposed” to be. It’s rare that I see a picture come through the lab that isn’t a take on some other example of what good photography is suppose to be. Macro shots of flowers, pseudo fashion shots, moody pictures of architectural and industrial decay, highly edited wedding shots are all common in my workplace and it’s hard, sometimes, to not roll my eyes while adding two points of density and hitting enter to move on to the next order.
And it’s not that either camp is particularly bad (although I do have trouble letting go of the high-art/important notions I learned in school, as in I try not to scoff at fluffy pictures of flowers and babies), but both camps have their place and merit.
Personally, I struggle with both of them. The high art camp takes things too seriously and thinks too much; the suppose-to camp doesn’t think enough. I’d like to straddle the line between the two, making photos that are highly pleasing to the eyeball (trying to, at least) and making photos that are compelling to think about. Though, making work at all is challenge for me lately.
The camera I shot with in North Carolina was a beast of a high end DSLR that was as satisfying to shoot with as a Hasselblad.** The body substantial and the lens crisp, the photos I took there are gorgeous but without much brains. I chalk this up to the novelty of the camera and the lens, because it’s hard for the novelty of a 14mm lens to wear off. I’d like to be able to reconcile this at a later date and blend the two ideas together.
I have also been more concerned with documenting my experience of life, no matter how minuscule. More than anything, pictures of my friends, family, and the beauty I see in the mundane details of living seem much more important and precedent than discussing some universal truth through photographs. I think that I am getting back to the reasons I picked up a camera and fell in love with picture-making in the first place.
*Though I am not saying they are bad at what they do, because they aren’t. I just can’t do photography that way. Also, most of them are making money from their work and I am not. In fact, none of my work has been even seen all that much with exception of here and my website.
** Film cameras. Sigh.