Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Value In New And Different

Unfortunately there is a lot of new and different photography out there, displaying only those attributes and missing out on content, composition, tonality, message and most other measures of great photography. I think I rely on this 'crap' work to justify not changing what I do and I'm not sure that's healthy.

Just because something is new and bad, doesn't necessarily mean that it's the newness which makes it bad.

For example:

Huntington Witherill (who's a painter as well as photographer) has been doing some incredible stuff with flowers, initially with painted backgrounds to simple flower arrangements in black and white and more recently colour work with images manipulated in Photoshop in artistic ways. Not everyone may like it, but I doubt many would think it crap.

Ryujie has been embedding flowers in blocks of ice and photographing them and has some absolutely lovely black and white images.

A friend showed me this morning a misty dark image of a dock, fishing boat, canoe and bicycle that was very nice, and I don't think it would have been nearly as nice in either colour or with an ordinary camera.

Billie of billiblog showed a portfolio of holga images from some famous garden in Mexico, black and white, very nicely done, and darned if I can find the link Billie so perhaps you can add it for us.

The most recent Lenswork # 72 has albumen prints and one of three pears, one sliced open, is exquisite.

Truth is, there are a lot of talented photographers out there doing quite different work of very high quality, and frankly it's a lot more interesting to look at than one more spectacular landscape picture taken in the traditional fashion. My friend of this morning's coffee was himself commenting about the sameness of John Sexton's work, no matter that he admires Sexton's work very much. After Quiet Light, Listen To The Trees, and his most recent retrospective, it's like, been there, done that. John Sexton himself tried I think very sucseessfully to break the mold when he did his series on powerhouses and the shuttle and so on, that was a breath of fresh air.

Perhaps those of us who worship at the alter of Saint Ansel and believing in the highest possible standards of print quality, also have to think a little more right brained and creatively and consider the possibilities of other processes and more particularly other styles and subjects.

Ideas for new take two basic forms. We could continue to photograph our traditional subject matter, but in a new way, from a new angle, via a different process, perhaps in different lighting or much closer up or using soft focus lenses or whatever. If your subject matter is landscape, coming up with new is going to be really really hard because just about everything has been tried. Still, keep in mind it may have been done before but was it done as well as you are about to do it? Perhaps 10 million photographers shoot straight landscapes in the world, maybe 10,000 shoot infrared, perhaps 250 of them do it really well. Would you rather be one of 250 competing for publication and fame, or one of 10 million?

Alternatively, you could change subject matter to create new and different. Choosing a subject which is seldom seen almost automatically has potential to create interest in the viewer - we have all seen Ansel's images but most of us haven't a clue about, say, the inside of a flour mill, or the inner workings of machinery, or say what goes on in a busy restaurant kitchen (well, perhaps we don't want to know about some of those).

Sure, many of the ideas will turn out dud, but one might not, and it might just be the idea that makes your name. Now, if only I could come up with some good ideas.

1 comment:

Billie Mercer said...

Thanks for mentioning my work. Here is the link to the Surreal Gardens in Mexico