Friday, November 28, 2008

Throw yourself off a cliff.

Throw yourself off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, I mean. Photography is a language. Think about what you want to use it to talk about. What are you interested in? What questions do you want to ask? Then, go for it, and throw yourself into talking about that topic, using photography. Make a body of work about that.

-- Jonas Bendiksen
Wear Good Shoes: Advice to young photographers

Cheesecake Housewife by you.I haven't been working with the camera all that much this month. Traveling for work, attending a few conferences, the holidays. Life in general conspiring against me in odd and annoying moments, really. This has gotten me fairly introspective about what I'm trying to accomplish with my photos and ... the best answer I can come up with is "I don't know." Since I haven't been able to shoot, I've been spending my free time looking at other photographers bodies of work.

I was talking to a friend, Morgan, the other night about this (specifically about pin-up photography) and how I was having a hard time coming up with something unique and not rehash things that others have already done. Her response struck me. "But it's already been done by many of the photographers in the 50's." And, well, I guess that's kind of true. In a sense, photography has been around long enough to have the aggregate body of work cover nearly everything. But ...

... then I read Bendiksen's quote. "Throw yourself off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, I mean." And it got me thinking. Does it really matter if we repeat themes through history? As each generation grabs a hold of an idea, they have the opportunity to put their own thematic twist on it. Take pin-up photography. It's been around since the late 19th and early 20th cenury, yet it wasn't really branded as "pin-up" until the 1940's. As you look through the decades of work, the only constant, really, is the ravishing woman. Each decade brings a new style to it, a new photographic look. Today, we often see the tattooed woman prominently displayed in 1950's style and attire. Sort of a mix of the prim and proper house wife with the gaining social acceptability of a prominently inked women that has arisen over the last few decades. It's the modern touch on an age-old concept.

Each time a photographer engages the shutter, he makes a leap of faith trusting that his eye or imagination has rendered faithfully (or not) the physical beauty of the moment (or not). Sometimes a lucky mistake shines through. Sometimes a disastrous sequence of crap flows through the lens in a photographic replay of Robin Williams saying, "What my tongue doth say, my words, like feces, fall upon the ground." Abrupt and worthless.

So where does this lead me? I don't necessarily care if it has been done before or if it appears to rehash something yet again. I've been looking around for that photographic precipice to leap from.

I have a hard time coming up with ideas that I want to fulfill photographically. A lot of this comes from my normal in-the-moment stance on life, the universe, and everything. I tend to not plan a lot and just roll with things as the run me over. You know, that sounds worse than it really is. I like picking directions and see where I lead myself.

If I'm out and about, I look and shoot. This is both good and bad because I find that I'm picking out interesting things but I can't explain why they images are interesting. Looking at what I've been doing, I'm starting to see that the missing ingredient is that I haven't been asking questions of myself. Why is this interesting? What is really going on here? You know, things like that.

I haven't been able to build that language bridge between what I'm doing, what I want, what I see, and what I experience. To say it's a struggle would be an understatement. I need to put in my head and get it straight.

As Bill Cosby says, "If you're not careful, you might learn something."

The photo above is of the infamous Red and her wonderful cheesecake hotness. Hey, I figured if I was talking about pin-ups, I had to show off, right? Right. Glad you see it my way.

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