A Personal Credo, April 2017
It is difficult to evaluate the status of contemporary photography apart from the avalanche of "selfies" on social media. I believe that it is natural that photography continues to evolve and change over time. I have found the majority of photography has evolved to a place where I have no interest. This statement isn't intended to dimish the current state of all things digital photography, it is simply my opinion and how I feel.
I have invested a lifetime of attempting to create meaningful photographs. I come from an era that appreciates something that one can hold in their hand, whether it be a photograph or a product that someone has made. We each have our own views on things and since this is my personal credo at this point in time, I thought it was best to share mine. I would love to learn about your thoughts and views on contemporary photography. Please scroll down and leave a comment.
In the modern digital age, I think it is safe to assume millions of photos are taken every day with technology gadgets (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras). I believe the vast majority of these digital photos are never printed or viewed for more than a second or two before the next tidal wave of images flashes on social media. All of it to be forgotten in a matter of moments as the next wave of digital images crash over the bow of our tech gadgets.
I appreciate technology on a lot of levels, however, some things just don't need further improvement in my opinion. Give me any film camera, a roll or sheet of film, some basic darkroom chemicals, and I can create meaningful prints that a person can hold in their hand and appreciate for many generations. The notion that advancement and evolution are intrinsically linked to good is not always true, in my opinion. I feel the majority of contemporary photography that is shared on social media has evolved to a sterile and meaningless place. I am sure everyone doesn't agree with this, and that is okay. Please share your views and comments below.
In 1944, Ansel Adams provided his personal definition of a great photograph in the American Annual of Photography. "I can answer best by showing a great photograph, not by talking or writing about one. However, as word definitions are required more often than not, I would say this: "A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety. And the expression of what one feels should be set forth in terms of simple devotion to the medium--a statement of the utmost clarity and perfection possible under the conditions of creation and production."" Ansel was an insightful man that possessed many gifts to include writing, music, and of course, photography. I wish I could state things so elegantly.
Ansel went on to share that simplicity is a prime requisite in photography. The equipment of Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) and Edward Weston (1886-1958) represented much less in cost and variety than many amateurs could "barely get along with" during that time. This trend has continued in modern times to the point that many amateur photographers spend more on their gear than people do on automobiles. The amount of disposable income that people have in modern times is astounding to me. I don't state this as a negative, simply as an observation.
The photographs of Stieglitz and Weston were made with intelligence and sympathy--not with camera equipment. We need more photographers like these two men. Another photographer that created with her heart and imagination was Julia Margaret-Cameron (1815-1879). I have routinely viewed her prints in various galleries and museums and I always leave there humbled. In her day, Julia was an outsider and made fun of. Today she is recognized as a thought leader and artist that had vision. While I am not a portrait photographer, I deeply appreciate her ability to evoke emotion via her photographs.
These photographers and many others inspire me to be a better photographer and continue to create new work. Handmade darkroom prints are the vehicle that allows me to live out my destiny. Creating photographs with film, paper, natural light and darkroom chemicals allows me to fully express my deepest thoughts and feelings. I feel that I create my best work in the form of platinum prints because of the unique and extraordinary aesthetics associated with this medium.
I need to create in order to thrive. I have been distracted with too many tasks in the last few years. This chapter is closing and I am continuing my movement towards simplification.
The musings of Ansel are indeed inspiring and they ring true to me, even 73 years after he wrote them. I don't believe the prolific adoption of computers and technology has diminished photography, I believe that it has handicapped the vast majority of photographers from creating their best photographs.
I started a journey of simplification a few years ago by selling my suburban home, building a small cabin and darkroom off the grid, and making a conscious effort to consume less and do fewer tasks that were not tied to something meaningful and important. I am ready to continue the process of simplification in my creative pursuits as well.
I am going to do less to create more. I am going to slow down so that I can go fast. I am going to create new work driven by my personal desires, not based on market acceptance or focus groups.
This next chapter in my photographic journey will be simple, thoughtful, passionate, and purposeful. I hope that you will join me.
For the foreseeable future, I am limiting my photography related social media updates and interactions with my photography friends in the Darkroom Underground Public Facebook Group. My most thoughtful darkroom specific technical writings will be limited to the Darkroom Underground publication, my newsletter, and some new premium articles that I am developing. The premium articles are based on extensive research that also includes my analysis and recommendations. All of these choices support my movement towards simplification and elimination of unnecessary items.
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Very powerful and inspiring statement:
"I am going to do less to create more."
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoy this type of content.
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