What age do photographers produce their best work?
Recently started reading Alec Soth's Little Brown Mushroom blog and this question is something I've thought about quite a bit recently.
Personally, I think the lack of stamina that comes with age has little to do with it - particularly thinking of Paul Strand, whose later work, for me, is his best.
Not mentioned much on the blog, but how productive we are at any given age surely has a great deal to do with external influences - the people you come into contact with, how inspired you are by your environment, MONEY! Living a life of uninhibited experience might be the most important factor in producing great creative work. Four walls in a one horse town don't stay inspiring for long.
I've decided to substitute 'influential' for 'best', since there are plenty of photographers working on the fringes, producing great work - and by that, I don't mean the guy you know from the local gallery, but photographers with status, who seem to have little impact on other photographers. Thomas Joshua Cooper is one of my favorite oddities, in that I've never seen any real reference to or imitation of his work. Same with John Blakemore - who incidentally, produced his most notable pictures on his kitchen table in his later years. You can tell by now, I'm trying to keep some of the older guys here a little hopeful!
Thinking of my own demographic, Stephen Shore produced a lot of his work for Uncommon Places at 26. Lewis Baltz started his Prototype Works at 24. The funny one Soth mentions is Lartigue, who hit his peak at 11.
I'm planning on creating my best work starting in my '50's -- I kind of have to.....!
It's for photographers as for everybody else. Experience improves with time, energy diminishes.
Somewhere the two lines cross and the diminishing returns from diminishing energy outweighs the increased experience.
Verdi wrote Falstaff, probably his masterpiece, when he was 80, in 1893.
Years later he accepted to work on the libretto Tosca, but after a while he gave it back because he couldn't work profitably any more. The libretto was proposed to Puccini who, as widely known, accepted
Il Gran Capitano, Prince Eugene of Savoy, fought his last battle at 72. With less than 30.000 men he brilliantly kept at bay a French army strong of 90.000. Age is an illusion of the mind.
The most productive period is before a person dies. After death, people don't do so much.
"I'll be mellow when I'm dead,
I'll be mellow when I'm dead,
I'll be mellooooowwww....
When I'm dead!"
-- Weird Al Yankovic
I don't think age should be even considered with regards to art. Latigue produced some of his best images in his teens, others were much older. I do know that any one over 50 is not eligable to enter for the Turner Prize. Why? What would Turner have made of this rule?
Originally Posted by batwister
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
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I think somewhere in their 40s and 50s, varying a great deal depending on stamina, luck with health, and an ability to keep it fresh and exciting. Experience of course matters a great deal.
"Make good art!"
- Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
Nearly every photographer I've discovered over the last few years happened to be in their 40s. In the UK, this might be due to a certain lag - British acknowledgement of photography. Regardless of whether they're natives, American or 'immigrants', add ten years pending recognition?
It really depends on what type of artistic person you are. You can create your best work in your youth, or you can create your best work within a few years of your death. David Galenson did a lot of research on this topic, albeit in the world of painting, (later he investigated music and poetry). He plotted painter's ages and when they did their best work. He determined "best" work based on auction prices and how many times a particular painting was shown in art history text books. The two ends of his spectrum were "conceptualists," artists that peaked early and "experimentalists," artists that peaked later in life. Google is your friend if you want to learn more about this concept.
I'm in my seventies and still waiting.
Well I'm closing in on 50 and in my third year of photography. I've been into film photography for around six months. I'm hoping my peak is ahead of me.