Monday, January 04, 2010

Have an original New Year, or What are you going to do with YOUR blank canvas?

So what are you going to do with YOUR blank canvas?

For the past several years, my first blog post of the new year generally features optimistic anticipation of the 365 days to come and displays the first meaningful photo I've taken for the year. This year, the thing is, I have yet to take my first meaningful photograph (OK, aside from the quickie I set up to illustrate this post).

Not that I haven't toyed around with some shots, but so far, nothing has emerged that I can look at and say, "That's worth sharing with the world." For the most part, I've spent the last couple of weeks with family, enjoying the holidays and only occasionally taking time to think about photography-related stuff. Then I received a piece of mail on Flickr from someone who has been following my photos both there and here asking for some advice, which got me thinking some more.

So here's what I've thought about. Perhaps you can use some of it to inform your own picture taking, or maybe even apply it to other things in your life.

It's OK if you're not original, but do be yourself about it. It's true that there is nothing new under the sun. There are only about three dozen basic story plots, upon which all of the novels, plays and movies of the world are based. Every innovation of humankind has been or will be achieved by applying one of 40 basic principles. Dozens of hit songs over the years have been based, in whole or in part, on the same four-chord progression.

It doesn't matter what you're setting out to do. Most likely, it's already been done, and done remarkably well by someone else. Or maybe a thousand someone elses. So what to do? Go ahead and do it, but make it your own. Theoretically, there is no one just like you, so whatever you do, imbue it with your distinct personality and outlook on life.

The story is told of a budding photographer who is waiting while famed photojournalist James Natchwey, who has covered every major world conflict since 1981, is reviewing his portfolio. Natchwey silently and quickly flips through page after page of the studen't photos, which represent, up until that time, his life's work. When he reaches the last picture, he looks up at the student, who eagerly awaits the master's critique. "I'm afraid," Natchwey intones, "These pictures tell me nothing about you as a person." End of session.

Do your photos provide a glimpse of you as a person? The things you care about? How you feel about your subjects? If you can do that, then you will have accomplished something -- work that is unlike anyone else's.

And that's a good thing.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post! I'm a big proponent of creativity.