Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm not anywhere near "that."

Not yet.
I mean with my images, and my image making capabilities of course. I am not yet anywhere near "that." The truth is, as a photographer I suck. I'm not supposed to be any good right now. The long term vision and ideal is rolling around somewhere in my head. I know I will gravitate in the right direction.

As I watched Zach Arias critique the work of aspiring photographers this evening, I was reminded of an interview I saw about a year ago in which Ira Glass* addressed the enormous gap between an individual's taste and their capabilities. Ira suggests that anyone who sets off down a creative path will most likely have good taste, but will inevitably not yet have the skills and experience required to execute their creative vision.

I think this could be said about anyone who sets out to learn anything new, whether creative or not. Everyone has enough good taste and understanding to recognize that Shane McConkey ripped, or that Sheila Mills knows what to do with duck cumin sausage, but rail sliding an Alaska ridge line on a pair of water skis or publishing a fourth cook book are not things most of us could pull off in the next year.

I looked up the Ira Glass interviews on youtube tonight. He also offers some great insight into the dual requirements of good story telling which he identifies as the anecdote followed by a moment of reflection.

From the first moment I picked up a camera with the intention of consciously creating I have struggled to understand how to execute something meaningful. The fact is, it's difficult to articulate what is in my head, what it is that I'm trying to do with images. I suppose what I'm trying to do is produce engaging images, as Ira said "you don't want to make mediocre stuff." No I don't.

Ira's toolkit for great story telling reminded me of a conversation I had with Glenn Oakley and a creative director while on a shoot this past winter. All three of us agreed that one element of a great image is that the image not be too literal. Great images lead the viewer down a path, but allow the viewer to complete his or her own version of the story based on personal perceptions, conceptions, and ideas. THAT is the whole idea, to ENGAGE the viewer.

While I have juggled and played with these ideas internally, and even verbally articulated them to friends, this is the first time that I have and publicly stated the weakest element of my images and pointed to one of my personal goals, which is to be less literal and more suggestive with the images that I produce. An Alec Soth quote hangs over my desk and stares me down every day, "Photography tells a story. But more often Photography suggests a story." Yeah, "that" is the direction I want to head with my images.

My creative future must lie in the power of suggestion. Oh, and in perseverance, a "F*** you" attitude in the face of failure, the ability to abandon crap then find a good story, and as Ira says to continue to kill it, to be ruthless every day in the pursuit of "that."

*If you live in a cave that blocks the reception of all NPR frequencies and you don't know who Ira Glass is, do yourself a favor and spend a Sunday afternoon with a garden trowel in your hand, and tune the radio tuned to This American Life. I guess it is 2009, you could also just download or podcast the episodes.

Life is Grand!

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