Art & Fear

[pullquote align='left'] “You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the part that aren't very good, the parts that aren't yours.”

- Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland[/pullquote]

I just finished reading Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland.  It is a short book jam-packed with insights on common struggles and successes of the artist.  I only wish I had read this book sooner.  In a single sentence, this book summed up my experience after finishing undergrad, “For art students, losing the destination of their work goes by another name: Graduation.”

It was hard after finishing school to keep photographing for myself.  This was also complicated by the fact that digital cameras had not yet taken over and without access to a darkroom...what was I to do?  I did find community darkrooms to work, but these often lacked community (ironically), and without critiques, my work was not evolving.

“You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the part that aren't very good, the parts that aren't yours.”

Eventually I found weddings.  I never would have guessed that I would end up a wedding photographer.  But I have a found a home in weddings.  A place where me and my photography could grow.  Over the last 9 years photographing over 200 weddings, I've gone from a singleton to married with two children, an aging dog, an old farmhouse, and most recently a calico cat. These life changes have inevitably changed my photography work.  I'm much more interested in the emotional transformation that takes place at a wedding.  As a parent, I feel responsible for capturing the fleeting family moments that take on a new meaning in a still image.

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful job and to share so many personal and wonderful moments with my clients...but, as an artist, my growth has slowed.  I have turned to a Master's program to help guide me back toward growth.

[pullquote align='right']“For you, the seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece.  Such imperfections...are your guides – valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgemnetal guides – to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.” - Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland[/pullquote]

I often think of photography as a craft or a trade, which it is, but this is simply one characteristic of the medium.  “With a craft, perfection is possible.”  There are many photographs (especially in the commercial sector) that are "perfect."  I envy many of these examples of perfection and I've studied, trained and practiced to emulate this kind of perfection.  Apparently, the progression is not unique to me. “Yet curiously, the progression of most artists' work over time is a progression from art toward craft.”

[pullquote align='left']“Your job as an artist is to push craft to its limits – without being trapped by it.  The trap is perfection: unless your work continually generates new and unresolved issues, there's no reason for your next work to be any different from the last.  The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them....For you, the artist, craft is a vehicle for expressing your vision.”[/pullquote]

The problem with perfection is it is sometimes too perfect.  So perfect that it is clearly not real.  For me, the veracity of a still image has always been part of the draw.  The fact that a photo came from a real moment is what makes it so special.  Authentically capturing relationships is my vision - relationships between couples, families, eco-systems, etc.  Relationships are everywhere, they are complex, simple, surprising, predictable, funny, scary and just about every other adjective out there.  I enjoy finding new relationships in places I've taken for granted.  In a way, I see noticing these relationships in a nonjudgmental way as a kind of meditation.  My mantra is 'notice what you are noticing.'  Some of the things I notice lead me to my next breakthrough and some of those things are red hearings.  For me, there is no way to know the difference at this point.  I just have to follow my instincts, experiment and sometimes [or even often] fail.