I have big plans for my photography in 2011, and I look forward to their deliberate and careful execution. I might enjoy living life on the edge and taking unexpected detours, but I don't believe in shoddy half-assed effort. Hope is not a strategy. Sweat is the fuel that dreams are made of.
I recently read the following portion in the book "Fast Track Photographer" by Dane Sanders:
"When a [person] is looking for a photographer, [they] will commonly say something like 'photography is really important to me.' For the vast majority of [people], what that means is remembering the day well is important to them and they see photography as the vehicle for making that happen. Remembering the day well through photographs means they want those images to elicit feelings they want to have experienced or actually did experience on their special day. If the images are bad, of course, this will get in the way of the [person] experiencing those feelings. But this is important to remember: the images do not have to be museum pieces either. The important thing is that they fulfill the function for which they are designed. That is they work for the [client], not for you.
Think of it like a song that brings back a flood of feelings. A $10,000 sound system isn't required to bring those feelings back. The sound just needs to be good enough. And, since most people don't have a trained ear, even if it were on a great stereo, the experience wouldn't be much richer.
[Most people] know the difference between good photography and bad photography. But very few people know the difference between good photography and great photography. So if your focus is more on being a brilliant photo artist than being a vehicle for feelings, you'll need to do more refocusing."
While I understand the sentiments behind the above passage, I strongly disagree with them. The notion of "good enough" based on the lowest common denominator really doesn't sit well with me. I believe there is honor in honing one's craft even if most people will not be able to appreciate the finer details and innate effort involved. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a focus on being (or trying to become) a brilliant photo artist. As it is implicit in the above paragraphs, I also don't see that the ongoing debate between form vs. function has to result in a mutually exclusive choice. Why not choose form and function?
Ironically, I also think Sanders is far too generous in his assessment of the general population's eye for photography. There is plenty of ample evidence (available for all to see on the web in the form of portfolios and comments) that most people in fact cannot tell the difference between good and bad photography. If the people want Philadelphia rolls, let them eat Philadelphia rolls. I just don't want to be the person peddling them. However, I strongly believe palates and an "eye" for photography can be developed.
Don't get me wrong. I realize this might come off as snooty photographer speak, but that is not my intention at all. I am far from where I want to be but see the path to where I want to go. I think there are too many shortcuts in life, none of them leading to true excellence. With a medium like photography, those shortcuts can appear much more enticing, because most would never know you are taking them. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with a Philadelphia roll, there is definitely a much better Japanese dining experience to be had.
I don't know if I will ever reach my full potential, but I will always strive to be the best photographer that I can be. I am probably the harshest critic of my work (despite the fact that photographers love cutting down the work of other photographers), and I hope to never lose my hunger for improvement.
Cheers, 2010. Bring it, 2011.
Here are some of my favorite images from 2010. It was a good year. It was a fun year. I will miss it.
Photographing my 92 year old grandmother is a memory I will always cherish.
[Portrait of an Artist]
I experimented a lot with a lifestyle look this year. Here my young nephew is busy eating snow in the middle of a photoshoot. To me, being a kid in the winter means ample opportunities to eat snow. If you haven't tried it as a kid, I would highly urge you to at least try it as an adult. Nothing says childhood and winter to me like eating snow. Peeing in the snow is a close second.
The following 4 images are from a wedding I was a second-shooter for. The day of this gig, I returned from a weekend bachelor party trip in Chicago. I was exhausted and wondered how I would shoot in such a tired mental state. Somehow I just let loose and got some of my best images that day. However, I would not recommend this approach nor attempt it on my own again, but hey, life happens. After having met Joe Buissink in Vegas, I must have channeled some of his energy. = )
I let the shutter drag at about 1/30. Usually this would create too much motion blur, but because of my external light source, the subjects were captured the way I wanted them to be.
Can you spot Barry Obama with his hand up? = )
There is something I love about trees, especially for engagement sessions. And much like each relationship, no two trees are exactly alike.
No single event of 2010 shook my world as much as the birth of my son. Capturing images of my child was an emotional and amazing exercise in photography. I look forward to documenting the rest of his life.
As my son lay bundled up in bed the morning after his birth, I couldn't help but marvel at how tiny this new fantastic little creature in my life was. Some might find it odd, but I loved incorporating an apple into this picture. His head really was not much bigger than that. And that is always how I will remember those early moments of peace.
The pink wrinkled fingers of my baby boy reminded me of the stitches on a baseball. Not sure why my mind is wired the way it is, but my hands have no choice but to follow and execute my vision.
I didn't think I would enjoy child photography, but there is something about it that is extremely rewarding. It is a bit frustrating since the subject is unable to follow directions, but the end result is always so precious. I also love the creative challenge of using available light and finding clean backdrops to create a studio look outside of the studio. I knew shooting off my flashes would not fly with my wife, so I made do and learned a ton in the process.
[Play That Funky Music White Boy]
That really was the song this guy was singing when I captured this moment. I love coming up with captions for photos, but sometimes they just attach themselves.
There were so many gigs and so many images, and I am certain I am forgetting a bunch of special ones. Forgive me. It is my head and not my heart.
I bid thee adieu, 2010.