Friday, December 26, 2008

Goodbye, 2008.


Goodbye, cruel world
I'm leaving you today
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

Pink Floyd
I can't believe we're on the cusp of a new year; 2008 has flown by so, so quickly. Looking back at the last twelve months, I've come to the realization that I've progressed much farther in this art than I had ever expected. I've been working with the Strobist stuff for a year and a half, soaking up everything I could like a beached sea sponge. But, it wasn't until earlier this year that I really began focusing on photographing people.

And would you believe, before that, I abhorred photographing people. Not because people were uninteresting but because I just sucked at it. I mean, thoroughly sucked at it. I couldn't capture the essence of a person if my life depended on it. Photos would were mired with half-closed eyelids, the cheesy "do you really have to take my picture?" smile, sometimes even the really bad horror photo that people wish had never been captured. It was bad, bad I tell you.

I made a lot of mistakes. This, mind you, was never a bad thing. I've learned from every one of those, no matter how big or small. In fact, one of the problems I see myself experiencing is getting too comfortable in any one style or method. The dark photos, for example. I love dark photos. I love the simplicity and timbre found within. A thief in a pitch black room with only a flashlight and all you get to see is the shape and body I reveal with the beam.

But. Really, that's not enough. I know it. It's a mistake to think that I could spend my time creating a body of work where it, eventually, all looks the same. Robert Heinlein's character Lazaras Long is quoted as saying, "Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect." I'm not looking to make perfect photos, but I do realize I need to keep plugging away at it to continue improving.

In The Secret to Success in Photography, Chase Jarvis talks about two things you need to really make it: be undeniably good and spend 10,000 hours doing it. The second part of this photographic "Pirate's Code" doesn't surprise me. I know artisans and craftsmen who've spent years perfecting their artform and experience. Heck, I've spent years doing the same in my 9-to-5 job. It makes sense. To master something, you need to do it a lot.

But, the first one. Like Chase, it just hit me. "Be undeniably good." It's simple and obvious. Be so good that people won't ignore the work you're doing. This is the hard part of the whole equation: knowing what works for you and getting so comfortable with it that it becomes an extension of you. Second nature. The art of photographing without photographing, if you will. Show it off, but don't beat people over the head with it. I'm getting to the point where more people are noticing what I do. And they're asking if I can do the same for them. It's an odd feeling to be complimented on your photos ... and complimented enough that you begin to believe that they really are good.

It's validating. And the more I'm reassured, the more I've realized my mistakes helped me sculpt an eye for good photography. Not only in my own photos, but in the images taken by other photographers. I know what I like. It's an amazing feeling to look at a photo and to pick out the details that make that image gel for me. Yeah. Validating.

And it's all happened so quickly in this last year. I'm somewhat sad to see 2008 flying towards it's end. But, without question, I am looking forward to what challenges and mistakes I encounter in 2009.

The lovely lady pictured above is Morgan. This is from a recent photoshoot with her in the studio. Looking back over my last year's worth of shoots, this photo is one of the best (if not THE best) portrait I've done to date. Yes. Definitely an exciting year for me.

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