Enlightenment, Mastery, Growth, Punishment

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bjorke, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    A couple of recent threads have got me thinking about these issues -- specifically in terms of the motivations for my own photography. My mind has been repeatedly looping over the issues of desire for certainty versus uncertainty, such as in "correct" exposure and such versus finding new, ever-more-perceptive pictures. Brooding on questions about significance of the enterprise and an interest in my own growth not only as a photographer, but: through observation of the world (and other people's photos, perhaps), growth as a person. Pondering about how each person has a different balance of these desires, a balance that underlies the work and guides every decision (photographically -- but otherwise too).

    Most important to me just now have been questions about growth, about self-assessment against where I was a year ago, five years, twenty. In which ways have I gotten better, in which ways have I slipped instead? Do the course of my improvements align with my aspirations, with my circumstance, my personality? How does this manifest itself in the pictures? Is a predictable outcome more important, or a well-received one, or a personal sense of resonance regardless of external acceptance? Can these feelings be focused toward action? Which parts are ends, which ones beginnings? Are the best pictures ahead or behind, and why? How can I steer that?

    Okay, it's late at night, I may be rambling -- but do others find themselves similarly plagued?

    In what ways do you feel you are a better (or different) photographer than you were one year ago (or ten)? Is it deliberate, conscious, or just what happens subconsciously? How do you feel about the change, if any?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    God - I've been through so many different experiences and changes since I started out! I hit the ground running REALLY hard when I was 17 or so. In my own introspection - I think, I became far more self-conscious and concerned with fashionable 'formatting' and subject matter while in art school. Then I studied architecture for a bunch of years - and I think that gave me a kind of insane discipline - and took away the fear of really examining things - to not be afraid of reworking a subject and keeping it true to it's intent. I think, only now, am I at a point that I can return to the simplicity and naïvete of the time when I was just starting out. But maybe in an informed, PERHAPS more sophisticated way (then again - maybe it's just an illusion/fantasy). I think I'm the better off for it. But time will tell.

    I don't see how you can be human and not ask yourself questions like those.
     
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Quite. But as I get older I find that I'm getting (slightly) better at not worrying about things and a lot better at avoiding Zone-style obsessiveness.

    For the former, Churchill reputedly said in his old age, "I have had a lot of trouble in my life, most of which never happened."

    For the latter, I see how many obsessives make great pictures, and I see how many ignoramuses make great pictures, and the balance seems surprisingly often to be on the side of the ignoramuses. This is because they take pictures rather than worrying about (or indeed knowing the meaning of) acutance or Zone placement.

    As a result I can't bring myself to believe in searching for more precision than is needed (and indeed on occasion, in more precision than actually exists).

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  4. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Let me think ... in no more than three words?

    It will take a few more.

    "Better"... I have *no* idea. I have been struggling with the concepts of rank - "Poor, so-so, good, better, best, outstanding ... whoo-hoo!!" for years. I still have *no* clue. I'm no closer to resolving that than when I first started.

    "Different"... Yes, ... and No. I hear that all the cells that make up our bodies "wear out" and are eventually replaced. Physically, that would leave us all with "different" bodies. Aesthetically ... somewhere between "yes" and "no". I think we are all products of our experiences - some having more effect on us than others. In some ways/ degrees I have changed - in other ways, I have not.
    A separate question, really ... my WORK has changed - definitely.

    "Deliberate"... In some areas, yes. I've certainly deliberately tried "different" things. Aesthetically... no. I think that by FAR, the changes have been subconscious.

    Now - where was I? Oh, yeah ... "How do I feel about the change?"
    OK, I guess. Certainly better than if there was no change at all.
    Am I satisfied with my progress? Not really.
    Do I wish I had done more? Yes, definitely.

    I still love doing photography/ art. Feels a LOT better than NOT doing.

    Over the years, I thnk I have learned one major lesson - NOT to "brood" about things I cannot control.
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    In the context of my having returned to "serious" photography about 12 years ago after 20 years of "retirement" doing essentially just snapshots, what has happened to me in the past year is that I came to the end of a period of using 4x5" for everything and realized that my 35mm work had more spontaneity and energy, which is really my priority right now rather than the ultimate in technical perfection.
     
  6. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Have at it, David!! Good luck. Good to hear.
     
  7. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    I have greater understanding and control of the science of photography(chemistry, metering Etc...) than I did a few years ago. This has given me greater freedom in creating art in that I don't need to think about the technical end like I did.
     
  8. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    At one time I wanted to set the world on fire.

    Now I'm just careful that I don't set myself on fire.

    I think a lot of introspection is a result of eruptions in our lives that have nothing to do with photography. It concerns age, family or lack of it, health, and love interests.

    I hit plateaus all the time in photography. But at this point I just ride them out and remain open to what smacks me in the face as inspiration in the future.

    I quit overthinking. Perhaps its shows. But I don't care.


    Michael
     
  9. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    My experience has been somewhat similar. I returned to photography about two years ago after almost 20 years of snapshot only type shooting. Prior to that I had been involved at a professional level primarily in commercial (product) and portrait work. In the first six months after my return I amassed quite a selection of cameras in the three formats that most interested me (4x5",120 and 35mm). I was under the impression that I could just take up where I had left off. Perhaps this would be true for someone else but in my case I found that photography is NOT like riding a bicycle. The results were humbling. After two or three disappointing experiences I realized that I would be better served assuming that I knew very little of value and proceed from that point. This attitude has produced (in my opinion) much better results. I think my projects through more completely and try to assume nothing.

    I know what I want. Now I am rediscovering the means to produce that which I desire. Of late I have been working primarily in the 6x4.5 format with occasional use of my 35mm cameras as well. The 4x5" has not seen much use of late. It is probably my favorite format but I feel I must do quite a bit more "grunt" work before I am ready to use the format to its full potential.
     
  10. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Photography happens 1/60th of a second at a time so we don't have to be THAT neurotic. But we do have to keep making pictures. And if we are making pictures of what we care about, that solves a lot of the 'growth thing'. But then it boils down to living a life we want. Even a conceptual, intellectual, ironic, or symbolic form, photography just documents the life we lead.
     
  11. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I'm at a similar place. When I started photography, I shot 35mm exclusively for a couple of years. Then I switched to 4x5 for about ten years. Over that time, I became much more technically knowlegdable about photography, and I was using much more expensive equipment. Recently, though, I've gone through my entire collection, and my conclusion is that I like my earlier pictures better, with a couple of exceptions.
     
  12. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I'm lucky. I'm called to photograph the landscape I live in and love, and the things humans build which the environment is absorbing through decay. The images aren't intended to contain complex layers of ever deepening meaning...they're just records of things and places which amazed me or which moved me to document them in time.

    I've come to realize that it's not my place to understand everything about the way I work, or where that work is heading. My job is to be alert and receptive to those images which make me see in a new way, and to follow where I'm led. Sometimes it leads to dead ends, sometimes it opens doors to new ways of seeing or new techniques.

    Another thing I've decided is that a photographers work cannot be truly understood until they're dead and gone and their entire lifes work can be seen as a whole. How can you know where you are on your path, or where that path leads when you're somewhere in the middle of it? If you do manufacture a path, are you being true to yourself as an artist? To decide where you're heading means you'll probably ignore those little urges that call you to discover things unseen. I prefer not to over analyse it.

    I take the images - it's up to others to figure out what those images mean to them through the layers of their own life experience.

    ...or something like that :rolleyes: sheesh, it's too early for this!

    Murray
     
  13. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Like others I am picking up the camera now to make images after a very long period of casual snapshots.

    My last twenty years has been a photographic technical rollercoaster and now I finally feel comfortable to use a camera purely for the joy that I recieve.
    I feel like I am at college again with a camera and only thinking of ideas to persue. The very big difference from them *well two, I am much fatter* is that I have the photographic technique thing nailed completely to the point that I only think of the image when using a camera.

    This is a very good space to be in , and I am photographing now projects that 8 years ago I was not ready to do.
     
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  15. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    What's evolved for me is 'seeing'. In fact, I have to put figurative blinders on when driving for a purpose (like commuting) to keep my eyes on the road, and not on putting imaginary rectangles and squares around about 80% of everything I see. My wife, a painter, has shown me so much about what 'works' that I'm excited and exhausted just keeping my eyes open all day :wink: As to technical matters, I've learned enough to get my prints made well enough to satisfy myself for the time being. I'd love to have the time and funds to get some solid coaching, but that will perhaps come some other day.

    In a sense, I guess I'm one of Roger's "ignoramuses". I spend very little time thinking, worrying, perseverating or otherwise obsessing over technical minutia, and even less on equipment. I just really love making pictures.
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have hit plateaus several times in the over twenty years that I have been photographing. Each of those plateaus had to do with discovering something new and thereto undiscovered about myself.

    About four months ago, I made a conscious commitment to make 5 new exposures per day. I shoot 4X5 most of the time. A little 8X10 and very little medium format. Since I did that, I have found myself seeing in new ways. I think that seeing is the foundation of everyone's photography.

    Are these images that have meaning? Do they please anyone? I can't speak for others but they feel good to me and that is all that counts.
     
  17. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    My photography probably (because I am not sure I am the best judge) reflects influences on my life, rather than the other way around. What I was doing in my mid-teens, in my 20's, 30's and now post-40 seems to have been reflected in what camera format I was using and my subject choice. Moving from the UK to California at the end of the last century (!) made a big difference.

    While I suppose some people have a nice linear development, I think I tend to go back and forth, with (I hope) some net progress.
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Amen to all that.

    Possibly even Hallelujah!

    R.
     
  19. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Oooooh yes. Normally at a time of momentous change. Such as just at present as it happens.
    I've always made a habit to 'take stock' of where I'm at from time to time. The funny thing is, the more control I try to put over the photography, the further away from my own expression it tends to head. Talking about photography for 'myself' not commercial. When I'm inspired to photograph by my own experiences or current events or interests, it feels like the real thing. If I'm ever inspired into action by someone elses photography, it's like a quick fix, left unsatisfying.
    I do like new experiences and chase them. Having my photography keep up with that is important to me. At varying times it feels behind.
    Damned uncomfortable.
    I use that as a gauge. The more uncomfortable, the bigger the change that's going on probably. And likely the bigger the change in direction that's going to result.
    Probably rambling too. Not sure now if that was what you were asking.
     
  20. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    I thought it was the result of having a brain and a heart and a conscience (NOT trying to suggest you don't Michael). I don't think there's anything wrong with it, nor do I think that one should be afraid of asking oneself 'difficult' questions. There are clearly different cultures with respect to this sort of thing. i.e. - seeing indecision as 'weakness', etc... it seems to me that especially if one is in a 'creative' endeavour - that one is particularly prone to asking oneself those kinds of questions.

    I am CONSTANTLY doubting myself with respect to photography. It doesn't mean I'm questioning my abilities - in fact my confidence level with the medium verges on extreme arrogance (LOL) - but I AM constantly questioning decisions. It's SO important, I think - to even question your entire approach - and ask yourself "what am I trying to say?" "could I make the same photograph more powerfully with very different subject matter?" "what is it that I'm actually doing?" "Does changing the lighting, or the film, or the framing or whatever reinforce or take away from what I'm trying to say?". These are just a FEW of the many questions.
     
  21. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    There's always Julia Cameron for the answers Kevin. :tongue:
     
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  22. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I don't know if I am a better photographer then I was a few years ago, but I know I enjoy it much more. I reached a point of release awhile back where I don't care if someone is going to like what I photograph, or does not understand it or tells me it looks like so and so's work or that has been done a thousand times before.

    That does not mean I do not appreciate and take to heart criticism and suggestions for improvement. I just don't stress over technicalities and getting approval. I think the best images are made by photographers who let go of all the peripheral junk and concentrate simply on seeing. Finding the image is 99%. If the idea is good it will find its way into a print. Yes the technical is important, but should be a small part of the process.
     
  23. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    To all the above YES, Except for Mastery and Punishment. Why punish yourself? Photography is supposed to be fun. Master? Not every shot is a masterpiece.

    I remember Michael Smith saying somthing to the effect of .....if you see somthing you want to photograph, go ahead and take the picture - after all, how do you know how its going to look anyway unless you photograph it? If you 'know' what its going to look like before you take the picture, why take it? this combined with some of Paula's ideas on seeing makes it more fun for me. Fear should not enter the equation.
     
  24. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    Ditto...

    In fact, I'm still happy to see a recognizable image on the paper when I pull it from the developer... :smile:

    Seeing photos, or the possibility of one, or a subject/scene that I'd like to spend time with, is where I think that I've developed the most. My neck cranes around alot looking for the potentional in almost every place I go.

    I'm sure I've gotten better, (at least compared to where I used to be) but can't really quantify it. As time has progressed I've learned more about what I don't know rather than what new skills I've mastered (OK...I haven't really mastered anything...). For instance, based on trial and error, I've learned that I need/want to spend more time learning principles of interior/studio lighting. I've started to notice that my available light shots are gradually (very gradually) improving and that I'm avoiding interior flash photos in favor of hi speed film available light shots.

    I treat my photography like my golf game (which I'm equally skilled at...) I try to learn enough to keep myself playing a bit better without dwelling on too much technicality. I know that this limits my progress, but I worry that if I get too hung up on technical improvement, I'll no longer have fun. And after all, that's why I'm playing to begin with...
     
  25. mtbbrian

    mtbbrian Member

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    I have recently gotten a little enlightenment about my photography.
    A few weeks ago I was at the Maine Photography Workshops, and found how two things that weren't so appearent to me prior to going.
    Before I thought of myself as a photographer, in that I make photographs that are meaningful and are good. Now though I find that photography is so much more than that, photography is an act of life for me now. It is something that is very much engrained in my existance and being.
    I also learned that a lot of the photographs I make are often about the things going on in my life, sort of a way of gaining an understanding of these things, especially the personal relationships, in my life.
    Good thread!
    Brian
     
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  26. davetravis

    davetravis Member

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    Going back through my stuff, I find 1994 was probably my "best year." I seem to have had major "sight seeings" that year, that I've not improved on since, in any major way, only infusing different subject matter onto exsisting themes. While the inspirations still flow, the energy to hike at 12,000 feet appears to be wanning...I'm starting to pay closer attention to the vegetable leaves growing in my garden...the "punishment" of weather, bugs, more weather, more bugs, is finally starting to make me ask, "wouldn't I rather be a people photographer?"