Knowing vs Understanding Choices
I have been working in darkrooms for almost 16 years and with a new found passion and motivation for over 9 years. During that time I have been influenced by many photographers, painters, musicians, writers... all sorts of people. I have gone through periods of emulating the printing style (and negative processing) of various photographers while trying to develop my own way of seeing. This, more than anything else I'd venture, has helped me learn the craft of photography (and the fact that I will never stop learning...)
For some time now I have observed and admired artists who work one "piece" at a time. That is to say that they come to each image, book, song, or painting anew. Yet in my own work I tend to worry about keeping things in line, wanting prints to match in color, texture and tone... considering my years spent experimenting with different styles it is probably needless to say that my body of work is NOT consistent in color, texture or tone.
So, while I've known that my photography does not need to be consistent in such ways and admired those who make individual works... it has still troubled me. Until recently. I'm in the midst of organizing and cataloging my negatives and prints and in so doing have been taking a trip backwards in time. And only through this process have I begun to understand that each new photograph presents its own unique set of challenges. And in order to solve those challenges we are faced with choices. It is what we choose that not only makes our work our own, but also, what makes each piece stand on its own. Limiting my choices for the sake of consistency will only serve to limit the scope and, ultimately, the evolution of my photography.
As I continue to sort through my archives and make decisions about what prints are acceptable and what prints are not, I now base those decisions solely on the merits of the photographs themselves. One at a time.
I also understand that this is personal and that there are those who impose limitations on themselves for artistic purposes. And that only through working within, and often times against, those constraints are they able to thrive.
But for me, there are more than enough limitations built into the process itself to struggle against. This realization has been a long time coming and it is incredibly freeing. I wonder if others here are going through something similar? Or have gone through it already and would care to share their own thoughts?