Last week, my friend and former photography professor, Darren Clark, nominated me to participate in a Facebook hashtag "campaign," #challengeonnaturephotography, where, for seven days, you post a nature or landscape photograph with that hashtag, and then nominate someone else to participate. As I've done so, I've had the opportunity to think back on my college education, and what I've been doing with myself photographically since then. Here are some lessons learned and thoughts I've had, in no particular order, over the past seven days (all the images I shared on Facebook are included at the end of this post):
- I've lost the ability to really speak about photography as art. Not completely, but I've lost a lot of that ability. I want it back.
- I need to come up with a new photographic project. Or two. Or five. No matter the quantity, I just need something to to keep me motivated. I guess setting some deadlines might help too.
- When I decided not to pursue an M.F.A. after all, I lost focus (no pun intended) and motivation to just create art. I still photographed when I went on trips and went backpacking (sometimes), but I devolved into making photographs that were little more than just "pretty pictures of pretty places." They were, to me, a little empty. Not completely, because I never really photographed anything at any point in my photographic education or life afterwards that I didn't feel some emotional connection to, and felt a desire to express that connection through the photograph. But that's where any profundity in my photographs made in the last four or five years stops. Without an overarching purpose (see the previous point) behind my photographs, I feel there isn't lasting impact.
- Since I did lose focus and motivation to create, I've felt like I'd turned my back on my education, and the friends that I made along the way. I felt like I betrayed them in some way. Within the last three or four weeks, I've felt the need to fix all of that. Participating in this hashtag thing has helped to light the fire of motivation.
- I went out with Gina Saturday evening west of Logan specifically to photograph. In the long run, I'm not sure how successful the photographs all are, but getting out helped get the creative juices flowing again. And the outing revealed how out of practice I am with working a camera: I forgot to focus the lens on the first photograph I made!
- Along with the loss of the ability to talk about my work, my eyes have lost some refinement in composing, and attention to areas of the photograph that need work (dodging, or burning, or overall color balance, or contrast). I also want that back. Probably more than the ability to talk.
- I need to work on consistency—consistency in color balance, contrast in both black and white and color photographs—which I think has always been a problem for me.
- I've always echoed the sentiment of Elliott Erwitt who said "The whole point of taking pictures is so you don't have to explain things in words." Early in my photographic education I felt in agreement with the statement that the more one felt they had to say about their art, the least successful it was. Now, I don't agree. I believe there is always some room to talk about the art one creates. Maybe a better way of thinking is that the image should be strong enough to stand on its own, and not require an explanation. Maybe that has been Erwitt's point all along, and I've just missed it...
Anyway, on with the images.