You don't mention what format you shoot, but I think the large formats can be very restrictive for many people. It is a rare photographer who can compose ULF with the skill of a Kenro Izu; most ULF shooters, I think, "why bother?"
Medium format and smaller can be very liberating, allowing you a lot more room just to play and see the world without every frame having to be a masterpiece. Changing formats can have an extremely refreshing effect on your vision.
Medium format. I've seriously felt recently that 35mm would better suit my sensibilities, as I'm starting to favour a more fluid compositional style. MF is a strange one in a way (the limbo format?) in that, with 35mm, you think of shooting from the hip, LF; meticulous compositions. I've found it difficult to get a handle on where exactly between the two MF sits comfortably, in approaching composition. Since moving to 67, it's almost as if I'm pretending to shoot LF. The viewfinder becomes restrictive in this mindset - it's aggravating when elements aren't quite kissing for example, or details that seemed inconsequential in the viewfinder become distracting when you see the negative. I've come to the conclusion that it's a fools errand to be too fastidious about composition with MF. Balance is perhaps more critical.
Originally Posted by ParkerSmithPhoto
But anyway, I've come to understand, somewhat late in the game, that the most important thing with any deep investigation in photography is your concerns outside of it.
I've made a decision to get into a better mental place, and probably geographical, before carrying on with any intention, because I'll probably end up with psychosis. :sideways:
I've found this, which is a very helpful read for anyone really, about subject matter:
What a relief! I'm having enough problems already. :blink:
Originally Posted by blansky
Batwister, thanks for starting this thread. There's a lot of advice in it that I need to heed, also.
I switched from writing to photography and I just don't feel it in the same way at all. I'm not making any connections whatsoever. I went from a very intimate, very raw medium to one that feels sterile by comparison. So, yes, any help in getting my head out of the way and my heart into the game is appreciated tremendously.
I think whether you find your subject or not, you are doing exactly what you should be doing: struggling to find your subject! The issues of different formats, and carrying a notebook, and going w/out your camera, etc. are just exercises in an attempt to find one thing: the thing you care enough about to photograph it (for now anyway).
The talk about freeing the mind and focusing on what's important to you is right on point, I think. You might just step back and consider what's important to you as a person (not as a photographer), make a list of the first 3 or 10 or 50 things that you really care about, and then find one that's accessible AND that is visual. And then go make 10 to 25 excellent photos of it. This is the basic advice from "On Being A Photographer" by Hurn and Jay. Great book, you might get it and read the section on "Finding your Subject." I think it will help in your process.
But I hope you'll consider that, as an artist or as a photographer whatever you call yourself, you're exactly where you should be: working through what you want to show with your camera. The failed experiments are necessary steps in that process. Like printing, the garbage can is your friend. Same is true of shooting: chuck everything except what truly moves you. Sooner or later you'll find it. Then lose it. Then find it again?
I feel like I will always be in the process of discovering what I care about visually and photographically, and that when a photographer stops asking that question, his or her work slows down and maybe croaks.
That may be the best and most practical book on the creative process of photography (not the technical) I've ever read. Each time I come back to it there is some new insight.
Originally Posted by jglass
Batwiser, put "On Being A Photographer" at the top of your reading list!
One problem we all share is that we tend to look for technical solutions for creative problems. That is, when things are tough creatively, we start looking at new cameras, films, developers, etc. Obviously there are certain things you can do with a view camera that can't be done with 35mm (imagine Robert Polidori trying to do his work with 35mm), but I hope you see my point.
i think a problem a lot of people have is they over think EVERYTHING ...
whether they are a photographer who is engrossed in reading photography books
and going to photography exhibitions and buying and looking at critique of said work
and read and reading a lot into everything, or trying 50 different papers and films and cameras
and getting engrossed in looking for the silver bullet to make "perfect negatives and prints"
instead ... don't look at photo books, don't read critiques don't go to exhibits of photography
but look at other artwork instead ( painting, sculpture architecture &c ) and let your mind drift.
instead of putting yourself in a box, and a small one at that ...
just take photographs of what you want without thinking about how it fits into the big puzzle of your life
or the larger puzzle of the photography world or indexed art world &c ... don't let that stuff even enter the equation.
once you start taking photographs, lots of them, then sort them out to make a project of what you want .. and THEN continue
with what you want to shoot. you shouldn't have to force yourself .. it should just flow like honey off of a dipper,
Or maybe there's a simpler answer like not everyone is an artist. Sobering. Maybe a little harsh. But that's the way it is.
That would be me. In many respects my biggest artistic challenge is getting my brain out of the way and feeling stuff.
Originally Posted by jnanian
Do you feel like that about the place in general, or only wrt photography? It seems to me that, given a place to which you have an emotional connection, there should be something there that can be explored in photography (or any given medium)---but it's hard to create with raw material that doesn't light you up in any respect.
Originally Posted by batwister
If you really do find the place soulless, it might be a worthwhile exercise to do a little mini-project about that alienation---the equivalent of the old writing trick of writing about writer's block. Or, conversely, assume the point of view of someone who *does* love the place passionately, and take that perspective out into the field and produce that hypothetical person's photographic love letter to the Midlands. (To me, both of those efforts seem like they could usefully take some inspiration from the New Topographics.)
There's an interesting book called _A Soprano On Her Head_, intended primarily for musicians but of interest to practitioners of almost anything, that's largely about avoiding the trap of too much thinking. It might be worth a look from your position.
Personally I'd tend to disagree. Not everyone has the native skills to be a *superb* artist, but I think everybody has some inner life that can be expressed artistically. It might not be groundbreaking, or of interest to anyone but the artist and perhaps their nearest and dearest, but that doesn't make their stuff not "art", whatever "art" means anyway.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974