Friday, May 04, 2007

Pressure To Produce

At whatever level of skill we have, it seems human nature to think that if only we were a bit better, we'd be able to relax and not worry so much about the quality of our images.

I have bad news for us - it ain't necessarily so!

From my own experience, the better I get, the higher my expectations I have for the work produced. I don't worry so much any more about finding something good to photograph but now when I do, I expect more from the image.

Look at it this way. Having produced pepper # 30, or some of his incredible nudes, do you really think Edward Weston didn't feel pressure to do more than capture a simple landscape, no matter how well done?

Unfortunately, I think the pressures will continue, even if they change somewhat over time. This pressure can be distracting from the process of seeing and I think can be detrimental to our work.

There is, however; a flip side to this pressure - it gets us trying harder, it motivates us to go back out and try again, to be more careful with our compositions and camera positioning, with our observation of all the details that frustrated us with the last image we made. It's this pressure which drives us to improve.

I rather think the one comes with the other, like in so many aspect of life, if we want the good, we have to take the bad with it.


Peter said...

Your entry reminded me of a famous quote about bicycling by Greg LeMond:

"It never gets easier, you just go faster."

I suppose a lot of things are like that, photography included.

Anonymous said...

Do you think you can actually try harder and end up with better work? Sometimes the harder I try, the worse it gets... the things I shoot intuitively are the better ones. But when you reach the limits of your intuition, how can you improve beyond that, consciously? Not technically, but artistically? Do we have a limit to our own artistic abilities?

I suppose the big question that hangs over the whole thing is how you 'measure' how 'good' you are (subjectivity forces me to use the inverted commas!) - I suppose that's where the thinking behind your essay on levels came from...? Is this you gearing up for pt III? ;)

Anonymous said...

When it comes to improve yourself on an artistic level, I think "trying harder" is a bit different than when you try to learn a craft. I too feel that my best shots are the ones that just comes out of nowhere, but that is very much a result of the practice you previously put into it. Luck is distributed very uneven among the population, and it comes as no surprise that those who are the best prepared, also has the most luck (and the best intuition). So what I'm trying to say is that I believe you can improve your artistic skills by practice.

I try to practice these skills in several different ways, like
- I may use different themes to guide my focus
- Maybe start to sing a song, which I keep in my head for the whole shoot and see how the mood in that song affects me.
- Impose artificial, and sometimes strange limitations on how I am allowed to work. Just to see what turns out.

And more as I think of them. The main focus is to force myself to break through some of my own limits. It's like I'm tricking myself over my personal boundaries without knowing it myself (I'm pretty easy to fool). Once you have tried to do something new, it can becomes a part of your reportoir, and will eventually improve your intuition.

I'm not saying my approach is suitable for you. By judging my own results so far, many will probably argue that it is not even suitable for me. But at least I get a feeling of progress in my own work, and that's enough for me.

Since art is all about exploring unknown territory, there can be no final destination. Once the ultimate piece of art is created, it is no longer original, and we should try to create something different. The universe, and human nature, operates in the order of infinite, which means that no matter how much art is created, there are still an infinit number of unique opportunities left for you to find. Comforting, isn't it?

George Barr said...

Part three is now up at Luminous Landscape.

I suspect that trying harder doesn't in fact pay off today, but probably does in the long run.

Perhaps 'trying harder' is a poor choice of words - rather we should be working to eliminate previous errors, whether they be compositional or exposure, focussing or steadiness.

Anonymous said...

As confusing as this may sound, it feels right:

As I've become a better photographer, I've found I do, in fact, work harder but at the same time fine the pictures seem to come easier. I might be as I once heard someone say, "the harder I work, the luckier I get"