This is a little different from my usual Friday Foto posts. I think this is the most important thing to remember if you’re doing photography or any other art. I don’t usually ask you to read my posts; I’m very happy if you just look at the pictures. But this one is worth reading to the end, I’m sure you’ll think so!
In nature and landscape photography, I sometimes think about the way that others perceive things. I want to know if it’s very similar to the way I see. I’m sure there are differences, based on each person’s upbringing and experiences, but I really don’t have a good handle on what those differences may be. I suspect the similarities are more important and fundamental, but I’m not sure about that.
I think about this comparison with regard to all sorts of aspects of photography. For example, what about composition and choice of subject? I know what I like, but what pleases your eye?
I boil composition down to one basic concept. I shoot what looks cool to me, and compose it (in the right light) in a way that shows it at its best, or defines it best. Other than making sure I don’t include a bunch of extraneous stuff that doesn’t support the image, I don’t arrange things just so. I don’t follow this or that rule, at least in a deliberate way. Very simple.
But inherent in that is an assumption. I need to believe that other people (the viewers of my images) actually share my idea of what looks cool. Or they are convinced once they see the way I’ve pictured it. Otherwise I would never share any images. I conveniently ignore the very real possibility that what looks cool to me may look quite ordinary and unremarkable to others.
I remember once reading an interview with Dustin Hoffman, the actor. He was asked about, early in his career, how he handled critics and even being jeered by stage audiences. Of course his acting is very natural and believable, in my opinion. But he gave a very interesting answer. He said that early on he came to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to worry about what anyone thought. Pretty standard response, right?
But then he said something much more interesting. He simply believed that whatever he did on stage or in front of the camera, a lot of people would enjoy it and connect with it. He was so sure of that, it allowed him to relax and practice his art without worry. And, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, he ended up being exactly right. A great number of people have enjoyed what he does.
That made me think about photography, and really everything I do. There’s no sense trying to convince yourself that what others think doesn’t matter to you. That’s a lie. Everybody cares about what others think. We’re social creatures who evolved to care about our interactions with other primates in our group. The key is to be confident that what you’re doing (in this case to express yourself through photography) will appeal to other people. That frees you up to pour your heart into it.
Of course some will not like (some of) what you produce. Some folks are jealous so they’ll never admit to liking it. Some will over-analyze and pick it apart. But those are a small minority. They always have been and always will be the minority. The great majority will connect with your art, but only if you practice it honestly. If you don’t pander, if you follow your own interests and personal style, and if you put yourself wholly into it, others will like what you’re doing. Simple as that!
Hope you like the pictures, which are from my recent return home to Oregon. Have a great weekend everyone!