The business changes but the joy of it seems to remain. Why photography is not "dead" yet.

A trucker trying to figure out where to park in a tight, urban shopping center.

I think humans crave simplicity. Photographs are one of the most efficient ways to tell a story quickly. Instead of endless paragraphs of description and discussions about how to use things, or do a certain process, a photograph or two makes quick work of communication.

Add a good, brisk caption to the photo and you've got a story ready to transmit to someone else's brain. 

But an endless parade of very similar images gets stale quick. When we want to stand out from the crowd it's incumbent upon us to come to the commercial world with a different point of view. That's how new work shows its value. It breaks through the clutter of copycat work.

I have a small index card on my bulletin board. It's Apple's branding message. It just says, "Think Different." 

I read posts every day that seem filled with anguish. The photographers writing them opine that all the subject matter in the world has been photographed a thousand or a million times. There's nothing original left to shoot. Which is like saying billions of people have fallen in love with other people so we there's nothing new there...

I laugh. Seems like there are only a handful of musical notes and yet songwriters have been using the same notes to make beautiful songs for thousands of years. And they do so, with great relish, even today. And each new artist comes with a new point of view. A new voice.

There are so many books published every year no one could possibly read them all. But they still get published. And the new stories reach new audiences. The stories, at their core, reprise but handful of subjects and narratives honed over centuries but every writer brings their own individual voice to their project. And we crave hearing the stories told in new ways. And we buy new books.

Great songs keep getting made. Great books keep being written. The Muses continue to show up at the sides of artists who are intent on making their own, unique voices heard and their work seen. Inspiration continues to flow. Each generation has its "golden age."

The utility and purpose of an image isn't meant only to satisfy an inquiry into the technical process of photography rather it's meant to be a message from one human to one or more other humans who are all  unique because they exist at a point in time that's never existed before and they draw from references that continue to morph as quickly as a virus. Both the artist and the audiences alive today, right now, are unique.

When we talk about the trillions of other photographs that exist we have to understand that the vast majority are tiny messages from one human to another. In many cases the audience is just the creator. But for dedicated artists every encounter with images is a brand new day. One that's never existed before. And if the artist can resist the desire to copy what everyone else sees then they are creating a message with a certain, albeit, temporary power to rise above the clutter. Even if only for a second or two. But it's the communication and the uniqueness that give a great image wings. 

The photo above is just a truck. I was walking along and it looked interesting to my audience = me. I snapped a photo. I'm sharing the photo. No one else will ever see a truck in exactly the same way. That doesn't make the image great. But it does make it different. And the fact that it was different and pleasing to me is all I can ask for in the moment. 

If we can remove the unnecessary drama from our adult lives we can simplify our existence. A simple existence means more time to look, experience, and curate the fun things we come across. Life should be like a good, happy walk through a vibrant downtown. Made even better with a camera in one's hands.


Gato said...

A photographer friend of mine used to say: "I know it's all been done before, but I haven't done it yet."

Anonymous said...

So true...!

Jon Maxim said...

Thanks Kirk. I needed this. I have been in a bit of a funk (photography-wise) lately and was at that "It's all been done before" place. Thanks for reminding me that, when I make the effort to get going, I sometimes come up with stuff that really makes me feel good.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Jon, I don't know about everyone else but at this point in my life I'm doing photography because I like it. No other reason necessary. Embrace the fun of it.

Mitch said...

"there are only a handful of musical notes and yet songwriters have been using the same notes to make beautiful songs for thousands of years"


Funny, the sun comes up just about over --there-- every day, shines on things, then goes down right over there. Like clockwork. But people keep making new and different images despite this regular and unchanging appearance of light then dark.

It's interesting for me to watch a younger visual artist do commercial video work. It's even more fun to see him explore so many still cameras and lenses and shoot film. At this second I don't want to return to that tech. But regardless of the results, watching the enthusiasm and the eye he has is telling of the interest and excitement that, at the core, fuels what we do. And reminds me that as my years advance, what I can offer to a client (or can draw from as my directing force) is intent.