Michael M -
"I started taking pictures when I was 23 and opened a portrait studio when I was 25. I had to learn very quickly and copy to be able to eat or at least to stay in business. For me a "style" really didn't emerge until 25 years later. I, like 95% of portrait photographers, was doing the exact same work as most successful portrait people were doing in every city in North America and probably the Western World. We attend the same seminars, conventions, and read the same trade magazines. We were interchangeable. The Stepford Photographers. Once I decided to work alone, out of my home, with virtually no overhead, I could relax and let my "style" emerge."

You know, that got me thinking too. While I'm happy with the path I've followed thus far, I sometimes realize the difficulties one can encounter by doing the opposite of what you've done. You see, after having explored photography on my own, and deciding that my goals are purely artistic, and realizing the ideas that I want to express artistically (though, yes, I'm sure these ideas will inevitably evolve), I would now find it virtually impossible to work with photography in any commercial sense. I was offered work as a commercial photographer, shooting portraits, architecture, etc. And I considered, and even went to speak with the man interested in hiring me. But one look around the reception area, and the photographs hanging on the walls, and I realized I'd be utterly miserable working there! Now that I've formed these ideals, I couldn't possibly work against them. So, I would love to be involved in photography as a 'career' (ie making money), but my only option would likely be professional darkroom work. I couldn't photograph what other people told me or expected me to. I just couldn't do it. And art rarely becomes a 'career' for anybody. I do have a family to feed. I'll be lucky if I ever get a gallery show in all of my life, and even more so if I actually sell anything! So, I'll continue working a menial job (in my case, usually office/clerical work) and exploring my art on the side. Still can be depressing if I let it get to me, but I try to avoid that. lol.

But as far as traps go, there are plenty to fall into, apparently.

Good point on the jazz. I think you're quite correct. Again, I can see this in my husband. He might be called to a local studio by somebody who has heard him play to record on a hip-hop tune, or reggae/ska... once they even wanted him for techno. I'm always surprised at his enthusiasm. 'Don't you hate that sort of stuff?' I say. But he's unperturbed. And I'm sure you've hit the nail on the head. Whether or not he's working in the genre he prefers, he's still working, creating music, 'getting together' with other musicians. I suppose if I was invited to a painting party, I'd be thrilled to go, even if I can't paint. I could just fling paint randomly at the canvas. Oh, wait, that's been done already, hasn't it?

Dr. Bob -

Thanks for the support and encouragement. It's appreciated. Whether or not I will succeed... I suppose that depends on the definition. Become recognized at least nationally as an artist? Well... my chances are probably slight. But if I create work that pleases me, and am at least able to share it with a small number of people who appreciate and understand it, then I may still have succeeded when all is said and done. But I won't know for quite awhile now, I think.

If you mean offensive and objectionable as in great art that nonetheless is controversial and eye-opening, possibly upsetting, well, that is unlikely to offend me. But I admit to being offended and generally appalled when I see some of the work people are passing off as 'art' these days. And more so when the critics start gushing over some of this crap. But, hey, it'll always be that way, won't it? Best I can do is try to avoid practicing such disgusting deception, or perhaps it's simply ignorance and stupidity. Gosh, don't get me started! *taking deep breath*

Regarding 'the work of the masters', I'm still not convinced. I just don't feel the need to study study study. I observe what is around me and ponder everything, and for me I feel it is enough. I don't know how best to describe my philosophy, really. I've become familiar with rules over the years simply by perusing user sites like this one, reading articles I come across, and occasional technical photography texts, observing the work of others, generally average people posting to websites such as this, sometimes people who are long established (Jan Saudek, again, one of my favorites), and I have learned bits and pieces here and there of the work of 'the masters' and their techniques. But I'm still just doing what I do as it comes to me. Of course the desire to work with traditional photography was inspired in me by other people and other photography. Of course the desire to take it further with pinholes, plastic cameras, medium format, alternative processes, etc, was inspired in me by other people and other art. But I didn't go searching for it. It found me of it's own accord and I feel things will continue to work in that way.

If I do ever find the time and money and opportunity to attend art school (I'd love to go to the Art Institute of Boston one day), I realize that studying the history of photography will be important and required. But I plan to take it all with a grain of salt. I refuse to let people influence me so strongly that I should feel inclined to do what they've done or what they tell me I should do. Some have even suggested that attending an art school would be a very bad idea for me. Professors who only want to see work that they deem is 'art', students who critique based on their own preconcieved notions, those inevitable people who refuse to believe that not everything deemed by the big critics as great isn't neccessarily so, etc, etc. But I believe I can persevere. My desire is to search and find those people whose minds are open, to gain access to opportunities, equipment, techniques that would be otherwise near impossible for me to find on my own, to be part of a community, even if I don't agree with everybody. In life, it is so.

I am satisfying myself, as much so as I possibly can, and you're right, it is all that matters.

Jeremy said; "I agree that it is always much more fun to photograph when there is not a pre-conceived notion of what to photograph. If there is, then I feel some undisclosed pressure to make that picture work and this weighs down the whole experience."

This is very much a part of the core of my ideals. I battle with it, and try to fight it off. Trying to keep my mind open and clear...

Ole said; "I find that photos I have taken when consciously thinking of composition are invariably dull. But every once in a while I'm surprised to find elements of classic composition in pictures I have taken just because I liked what I saw. And those are the pictures worth taking!"

Again, exactly. I just responded to a pm from somebody else on the site regarding this. He said "By shooting exactally what you need with the final product in mind printing is fast and easy", and I responded to it;
"My approach is definitely different than yours. I tend to be less 'conscious' of what I'm recording when I press the shutter. I find that when I try to create a scene deliberately and then shoot it, it always seems stiff and contrived. For me it always works out best when I just shoot what I 'feel' and then do the most creative work afterward, exploring alternative techniques to create from my 'fleeting moments captured on film' a final work that expresses something moving or thoughtful. I guess mine is a path of discovery after pressing the shutter, whereas you've followed your path long before pressing the shutter. I admire your ability to do so; I am entirely incapable of it. But I imagine it's rewarding and fun either way."

"The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do."
I realize that I cannot entirely disassociate my own personal experiences from the work I create, but I try, in order to make art that can be universally understood and appreciated. I agree with this statement completely.

Ed -
Your defense of my position is much appreciated. You're absolutely correct in your translation of my original post. As I think I probably made clear when I mentioned my belief that Adams was a master craftsman much more so than an artist, I feel the same way about technical details. If it works on an emotional level, the technicalities are utterly unimportant.

Um... what's Dmax? :roll: lol

"And just what is it that makes you so sure that YOU have it right"
Indeed. I hadn't read your response yet when I posted my last, but I could have quoted you rather than saying; "In this world, we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs. You needn't agree with me, nor I you. But surely you don't presume to know who's on 'base' and who isn't. Did you really fail to see the irony of your statement?" We indeed think alike. And attempting to avoid making such assumptions myself is another part of my big silly philosophy.

Oh and a big LOL @ your ' critic's conversation'. It happens way too often! Hey, don't get me started, I said.

Gosh, I did it again. I can't believe people even attempt to slog through my long-winded responses. Probably most people don't! lol.