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  1. #21
    blansky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions, all are of value to me. Blanksy, hdeyong and markbarendt hit it home especially.

    This isn't necessarily about making 'good art', but just finding a comfortable area (mental and physical) to work in, that keeps us charged and motivated.
    It's probably about simply being honest with myself too. As has been suggested about looking at the work of others (which I think is important), in the end, it's true that you have no idea where it came from - internally. You can perhaps only ever 'take' from the surface of other work.

    A break to just experience/see and a change of scene are what I need. What Mark says about fresh subject matter makes a lot of sense, but I still wonder how so many of our revered photographers worked in a single location for years and years on end, producing such animated and spirited work. HOW does it remain fresh to them, really? I need to know this. Robert Adams and Denver, Colorado for instance - one of the happiest couplings in photographic history. This is a common theme with the great photographers of course, which can't be ignored - breathtaking work produced in otherwise banal places. I just feel like I'm punishing myself when I do it in my area. But it feels like an important challenge - one that I can't let go of; "if I can make good pictures here, I can anywhere, but if I can't, I'll produce shit wherever I go."

    What would really help me is getting inside another photographers head, someone who works within the same square mileage producing great work. I'd ask them how they remain, without being nagged constantly by that thought of "what if?" about another place. Which comes back to Mark's point about needing foreign subject matter and new experiences - does this just mean you're flighty? Short attention span? Isn't singular focus integral to producing meaningful work? The idea of giving up on my fine art fantasy and trying to get into travel photography is increasingly appealing to me, for the reasons you suggested. Maybe some of us just fundamentally aren't cut out for art photography, which in the current art world climate, requires a certain monotony to have any success. I'll say that some success is important to me at this moment in my life, for my age, but also the fact that I'm consumed by photography - it needs to be substantiated. I actually studied music, but have abandoned this pursuit completely for photography.

    I'm very aware of how self-absorbed this thread is, don't get me wrong, but I truly hope it will be of value to others facing similar existential crisis with photography.
    I very much appreciate your thoughts and time.
    Actually what you really have to do is set your mind free. Then it will take you to the right place. Mentors and self learning are all well and good but you sound like you are at the place where you need to let it all go.

    Like an athlete, you train and train and when it's time for the game, you stop thinking and just play. Because if you are thinking while you're playing you'll suck.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    What would really help me is getting inside another photographers head, someone who works within the same square mileage producing great work. I'd ask them how they remain, without being nagged constantly by that thought of "what if?"
    I obviously can't know whether or not my work is "great", but I've been working within a few square miles (often less) for years and it isn't getting old. Tice's work inspired me to stop trying to ignore what was around me, the things that I wanted to photograph, and to focus on a place I know well. I suppose it's what I wanted to do all along, but was too stuck trying to make great photographs. Now I make pictures that are honest and unique to me in both content and style. That happened naturally once I resolved to go with my instincts and trust my own seeing. It is not work that will ever have a wide appeal, but I honestly don't care about that anymore.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    Actually what you really have to do is set your mind free. Then it will take you to the right place. Mentors and self learning are all well and good but you sound like you are at the place where you need to let it all go.

    Like an athlete, you train and train and when it's time for the game, you stop thinking and just play. Because if you are thinking while you're playing you'll suck.
    This is extremely good advice.

    “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”

    Francis Bacon

  4. #24
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    I was at a workshop this last Wednesday offered by my local photo club. The workshop presenter was Kathleen Hinkel, a young (from my perspective) commercial photographer based in Vancouver who pays the bills with a variety of commercial work, but whose first love is street photography.

    She was excellent as a presenter, her energy and enthusiasm and talent were obvious and her presentation was remarkably medium neutral - based on her words and my look at her website I believe while she now shoots digital, she at least misses shooting film.

    What struck me was one of her suggestions. When she heads out either on a specific project, or with the intention of wandering the streets for photo opportunities, she likes to "prime" her energies by first quickly looking through a variety of photo sites or publications which she finds interesting or inspiring.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    Actually what you really have to do is set your mind free. Then it will take you to the right place. Mentors and self learning are all well and good but you sound like you are at the place where you need to let it all go.

    Like an athlete, you train and train and when it's time for the game, you stop thinking and just play. Because if you are thinking while you're playing you'll suck.
    Thanks for your wise words. That analogy will stick in my head.
    'Cows are very fond of being photographed, and, unlike architecture, don't move.' - Oscar Wilde

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    Actually what you really have to do is set your mind free. Then it will take you to the right place.
    This is well put. You're over-thinking the process. I'd like to think it's normal, as I've experienced it, too.

    I've never been to where you live, but I find it hard to believe there isn't subject matter for you. Sometimes, when our surroundings are too familiar, they become banal. We stop noticing, especially when we're out with a camera, looking for images. When it has happened to me, I spent about a week going out for about an hour a day, looking for photos, but without a camera. Soon enough, I was finding things I wanted to record. It may be worth a try.

  7. #27
    Ken Nadvornick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eddie View Post
    When it has happened to me, I spent about a week going out for about an hour a day, looking for photos, but without a camera.
    Easily the best, most practical and usable advice yet. More often than many wish to admit, the biggest obstacle to seeing clearly is that damned camera they are lugging around. Leave it behind. And with it all of the unavoidable expectations that it must be used right then and there. The camera should be one of the last steps in the process. Not the first.

    The seeing part is supposed to come before the recording part.

    Ken
    "Hate is an adolescent term used to stop discussion with people you disagree with. You can do better than that."
    —'blanksy', December 13, 2013

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Nadvornick View Post
    More often than many wish to admit, the biggest obstacle to seeing clearly is that damned camera they are lugging around.
    Ken
    That was the biggest lesson I learned when I did it. No worries about formats, lenses, film, exposure, etc. Just seeing. I was freed from the "if I only had brought xxx lens, or xxx film" When you're unencumbered by equipment, you can visualize any image you want. In fact, while doing it, I "took" ULF photos, with a petzval, neither of which I own...

    It's something I now do fairly regularly. At the end of May, I'll spend close to a month on a small Caribbean island (8 sq. miles) that I've been visiting for over 25 years. I know it well, and could probably find some of my old tripod holes. Still, for the first few days, the cameras will stay in the villa. I'll just walk around, drive around, sit around... I'll have a little note pad, and I'll make notes about locations- usually regarding a time of day I want to return.
    As an aside, for me there's another positive result to this endeavor. I find that when I'm out to make images, my visual sense is so honed in that I often don't notice the other senses. Without the camera, sounds, smells, etc. are much more evident.

  9. #29
    blansky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Nadvornick View Post
    Easily the best, most practical and usable advice yet. More often than many wish to admit, the biggest obstacle to seeing clearly is that damned camera they are lugging around. Leave it behind. And with it all of the unavoidable expectations that it must be used right then and there. The camera should be one of the last steps in the process. Not the first.

    The seeing part is supposed to come before the recording part.

    Ken
    I think a lot of photographers go out looking for the "big picture". And they miss all the little ones.

    Freeman Pattersons book on Learning to See is great in teaching people to see things that aren't the Big picture. His concept of shooting a roll of film before getting out of bed in the morning teaches seeing shapes and light patterns and learning to see " common things in an uncommon manner".
    ( note, this does not mean shooting pictures of your dick)

    Also what helps some people is just using a 35mm camera while doing this. Leave the large format thing at home.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  10. #30
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    Keeping things as simple as possible also helps. Same format, lens, developer, etc. Photography can employ so many variables that it stops people seeing the wood for the trees. The prime importance is not the settings on the camera, or the multitude of chemical variations of production thereafter, but what you see through the viewfinder.

    “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”

    Francis Bacon

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