I was recently having a conversation with someone who is wanting to improve their photography skills and the act of the conversation started a train of thought for me. I do generally find that when I talk or teach about a topic , in this case photography, it is actually quite beneficial for me as well. Trying to teach a subject, or even just share my knowledge, makes me think about my knowledge, views and methods and it sharpens my understanding of my own photography. And I hope that with greater understanding comes greater satisfaction. So, the act of sharing to help someone else in turn helps me.
When I was first starting out to grow and develop my photographic skills, I felt a bit lost as I searched for the artistic side of photography. I asked myself questions like “what is my voice?” “am I an artist?” “how do I develop my vision”. At the time I felt like these were important questions and I couldn’t answer them. Even today after many years of practicing my craft, I’m not sure that I have any good answers to those questions and frankly I’m much less worried about answering them. Partly because what I would call “my vision/voice” is constantly changing and partly because I have grown to realize those are not important questions for me.
Voice and Vision are things that are ethereal, not something to be captured and bottled and replicated in a technical manner. As a photographer, aspiring to “have a vision” or “have a style” shouldn’t be the goal that we are shooting for. Being satisfied with your work, enjoying the journey, satiating your creative needs……those are some things I think are goals of the photographic pursuit.
But I digress from the reason for the post. As I was talking to this person about the creative aspects of photography (not technical), a little more clarity came to me about how I could define or explain the artistic part of photography for myself (I think we all might have different definitions) which might help me see a little clearer about my own artistry/vision/voice/experience/skill/etc.
The way I was able to explain my views of creativity/artistry in photographs centered around the things we as photographers can control. Amazing light or scenery are given to us and thus beyond our control in the artistic sense. Just because it’s an amazing sunset image, doesn’t mean it’s an artistic image. It’s what we do with the scene and the available light that, in my opinion, is the creative/artistic expression that we can make for ourselves. Put even more simply, its the composition we choose that is that creative expression.
What I feel might be at the crux of the composition that truly defines photographic artistry are…..1) which elements you choose to include in your composition. 2) How those elements are arranged in the scene through the lens. 3) The relationship of the elements to each other and 4) how you choose to have the light interact with the elements in the scene.
Each one of those can have profound effect on the composition and perhaps the artistry involved. How we choose to “construct” the scene through our lens is where the art is, it’s partly where our “voice/vision” is and is where I happen to get the majority of my satisfaction as a photographer.
Each one of those points can be the subject of many words trying to describe them and why they are important in creating an artistic photograph or one that tells a compelling story. I’ll leave that for another day though.
I’ll leave you with the thought that once you’ve mastered the technical aspects of photography, what remains is the art and the art is the composition.