Lately, I’ve been pondering my photography and what I want out of photography as art. This is prompted mostly by the ever-expanding Lightroom catalog (it’s just eating away all of my hard drive space). I find myself wasting precious time constantly going back through them, pruning out photos I don’t think are worthy of editing. The more I run into this issue, the more I realize I’m keeping all these photos and I don’t really know why. They’re not particularly outstanding. They have some merit, obviously, or I wouldn’t be keeping them, but they’re not great. So obviously that begs the question (many questions, really): why do I have all these pictures? Why am I keeping them? And why am I taking them in the first place?
I think a lot of that goes back to the expectations I have of my own photography and what I view as other people’s expectations of my photography. I have a lot of photos in my collection that I feel I’ve taken because other people would’ve wanted me to. To explain that a little bit more, for example, I was working on a photo shot in New Orleans–a shot from my balcony, a great city view–so I process the photo, did some Photoshop work and fixed it up really nice. It is for all intents and purposes, a “good photo.” But it’s boring. To me personally, while it may be a good photo technically and perhaps even artistically, it doesn’t do anything for.
So why did I take the shot, first of all. I must’ve seen something in the landscape that made my think, “I should capture this for posterity or whatever.” And that’s great for posting on my personal Facebook or my travel blog to say, “Hey, this is where I was this weekend and here’s the view off my balcony.” Should I have spent so long editing it? Probably not. Second question would be, why am I keeping it in my collection? Most of the picture I post to my personal Facebook are taken from my iPhone. I’ll upload and then delete them. They’ve served their purpose. I’ve posted them, they’re out there, people have seen them and I don’t need to keep them anymore. All they do is take up space now. So the question that I have with a photo like the New Orleans skyline, that I took with my “professional camera” and then spent the time to work on, is why am I keeping if it doesn’t do anything for me, if it’s just a shot that literally anyone else could have taken out their window, fixed it up, and it would’ve looked exactly the same. So why am I keeping it? That’s the question.
I’m not here to take pictures. I’m here to make art. And that’s one of the things I’ve realized over the last few days; I get so frustrated with myself in regards to my own photography and not knowing what to do with it that I just kind of end up not getting anything done. I’ve got folders and folders of pictures that I need edit, but I haven’t because I don’t want to. I don’t see the point. They’re just not interesting to me. And that’s the biggest problem I’m running into right now. Why am I doing this? I think I’ve realized that I take pictures because I feel like I should. I’ve fallen into the habit of making art that I think people will want to see. And that’s horribly depressing to me. Yes, I’ll step outside of my brain every now and then to pursue something because it’s fun and interesting to me, or because I want to try to create something meaningful, but it happens too rarely. I need to change my mindset.
I have two sides to my photography: I take pictures on my travels to show people, “Hey, this is what I’m doing, this is where I’m going,” and that’s fine, but I don’t need to obsess so much over it (especially if I’m not going to use them in a larger piece or art). This goes around to the second reason I take pictures which is to create art, or tell a story, or just do something other than say, “this is where I was last week.” There are a lot of people I follow. I really love Von Wong, mostly for his passion and insane amounts of positive energy. I discovered Brooke Shaden’s work and got to hear her speak at Photoshop World. Along with many others, they inspire me to do more amazing work. I wan to pursue art, not simply photography.
And that’s where I am right now.
The photos that are littered throughout this post are simple experiments with double exposures that I did last weekend. I wouldn’t say they’re particularly good, but I like them. I was having fun, being creative, and trying new things. And that makes me like them even more. The New Orleans skyline photo I talked about earlier? Ultimately, I gave it the treatment it deserved and trashed it. Time to stop wasting time.