I came across this eBook, A Lesser Photographer, by C.J. Chilvers that was shared by a fellow photographer friend through a Chicago Area Photowalks group I’m in. The essence of the eBook is that less is more and while my post will not necessarily speak to that, it got me thinking about some issues I am forever struggling with as a photographer and some that simply reinforced my own beliefs. I could go through each principle he discusses but you can just read the eBook, he covered the “keep it simple” philosophy very well.
What I want to focus on are a couple of his principles that really got me thinking, particularly the ones I struggle with, because there are times that just getting things out there can help me see more clearly…or in this case, keep me working toward a goal.
First and foremost, principle number 5 (out of 10) is titled You Already Know What To Photograph, this is by far my greatest struggle. I am constantly trying to define who I am as an artist. What type of photographer am I? What do I LOVE to photograph? I have such a hard time answering these questions. I feel I’m all over the place. I find an interest in most everything at one time or another…landscapes, cityscapes, macro, black & white, vibrant color, abstract. If you’ve looked at my website or Facebook page, you will see my point.
The only type of photography I’m pretty certain is not for me is Street Photography. I’ve tried, I recently took a class on it, but I cannot get comfortable with this genre. There is something about it that I do not connect with, something about it that seems intrusive. That being said there are some amazing Street photographers out there. At least knowing what I don’t particularly like is a start, right?
However, there is something in me that says I need to define myself and choose a direction to be successful. But what is success to me? What is success for any photographer or artist? Being in a gallery? Making a certain amount of money? Winning contests? Being published? All of the above? And to what extent? I do not know!
Principle number 2, Go Amateur, addresses this issue in some small way. There are two paragraphs that especially speak to me,
Stop buying into the assumption that your goal is to make
money from photography. Your goal is most likely to create
amazing photographs that you love.
Concentrate on making your images remarkable, instead of
marketable. If you photograph what you love to photograph,
without regard for money, you’ll create better images, which could lead to the possibility of money. Just don’t count on the money. ~C.J. Chilvers
I believe this is what I do with my photography. When I go out and shoot the goal is to create images that speak to me. If they speak to another person or many people, fantastic, it makes my day, but it is not my goal. Still, there is this nagging feeling that I need to work towards one direction, one style, one genre. Maybe I need to shoot more to figure that out. I’ve been shooting for over 10 years, though sporadically for many of those, maybe it’s just taking me longer than most? I am in utter awe of photographers that seem to find their niche so early on in their career. How do they know?!
Then there is principle number 1, Artists Thrive on Constraints. Great point! I think this forces one to focus, maybe that’s what I need to do. Choose only one type of lens to shoot with? Only aim for photos in black & white, or focus on principle number 4, Tell a Story. But what story? The questions are never ending! And for some reason I can’t seem to answer them.
I don’t think I’ve done much but reinforce my persistent struggle with direction, I guess my point is to start a conversation, see what you think. Is there anyone else out there that struggles with these very same issues? Do you feel you need a particular style or subject matter as a photographer or artist to be successful? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. And any guidance is welcome!
Just thought I’d share one of my favorite, more recent, shots…
Hmmm, its a challenge with all things, I think. That struggle to decide how you want to focus your craft, spend your time, spend your money, etc. So many options, so little time and resources to do them all. I find myself easily overwhelmed in my quest to "conquer Rome" but I find that it helps to remember that I am fortunate that I have the amount of time, energy, and flexibility to spend the time writing, which for many people (myself included) is largely a hobby. Sure, there are plenty of writing projects that I get paid to do and I am fortunate that I actually enjoy that part of my "job," but the ones that really energize me are the ones that are non-paying projects at this point. I continually have to remind myself that there are several people out there that don't have the luxury of time and resources to spend on their creative hobbies.
I also find it helpful to intentionally (and repeatedly) remind myself that my focus is not set in stone. Pieces that I write today do not define the rest of my writing and I can continue to grow, evolve, fine-tune, etc.
Very good points Christie. I definitely have seen how my photography has changed over the years and I'm sure will continue to change but I still struggle with that one specific direction I feel it needs to have to be successful. I know that direction can change over time, there's just that nagging feeling that I need something specific to focus on. Maybe it's not necessary? Maybe I need to accept that I have many sides to my personality and having different directions and subject matter is okay? Probably something I need to find a way to accept and take advantage of.
I do think it is important to remember, as you mentioned, that I am lucky to have the time to work on my hobby/aspiring career. So many people never get the chance.