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Wintertime Swamp by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

Everything I write here is part of a journey. Of course, life is a journey, one we cannot escape until we die, so that really goes without saying but the focus of most my recent writing has been an attempt to make sense of personal aesthetic for my own photography.

This has definitely evolved over time. It is most likely that it will continue to evolve, but I can say that it, much as a single celled conglomerate coalesces into multicellular organism, is taking a definite shape and form.

So what, you might ask. I know a lot of photographers and few of them bother to articulate a particular vision. If deep thought is given to their art, it remains veiled. That’s fine – there really is no requirement to explain yourself. But I feel differently. I think it’s very important to have some sort of rationale for what I do, to place it in some sort of context.

But just what is that context?

I used to think that it was dependent on what others thought of my work. I’ve certainly let what others think of my work influence me in the past, be it as shallow as likes and favorites on a web page or as deep as an analysis in the photo critique group. Or whether a work is accepted or rejected into a photo competition, and, if accepted, how well it does in relation to others.

That is still playing out. I have photographs on sites that allow ratings, I have photographs in a competitive show. But last night I skipped a photo critique at my photography club. I will probably skip a lot more. I’m not going for any more competitions either. A show is a different story and I have one scheduled for later this year. I will have control over those entries – and that’s what I want. I can present my work on my own terms.

On my terms. That’s the context I seek. The difficulty, and it is a difficulty, is that my own judgement about what is a worthwhile versus an indifferent photograph is often at odds with prevailing standards. In other words, I like what a lot of people don’t and dislike what a lot of other people love.

Inevitably, this pushes you to the periphery. I suspect I am judged as eccentric, a little odd in my fascinations. He shoots film? He really doesn’t care about image sharpness? He finds cinematography inspirational for still photography? Perhaps most all – he devotes reams of writing to working out some sort of aesthetic? What a weirdo!

Not that anyone has ever called me a weirdo to my face. My photography colleagues are really very considerate people. But I always sense a gulf between my interests and theirs.

That may just be a mark of my personality. I am by nature introspective, analytical and nonconformist. For my art to be true to me, it also has to show something of those qualities. I believe the best of it does.

Once again, I rehash here much of what I have considered in the past. I know I’ll do this again – and again.  For me it’s important to constantly evaluate and reevaluate what I do and in some ways I envy those who are less self-referential and just do things. I can’t do that. On the contrary I regard my introspection as a gift given to me by my rocky depressed early years and a lot of psychotherapy – oh, and it’s truly a gift and make no mistake about that.  I always knew, somehow, that the pain and despair that pinned me down before I really began to live would reveal some elusive dividend in the years to follow and this has turned out to be the case. It’s given me an enormous sense of being able to be different, and different on my own terms.

That’s the trick. Let’s see where it goes.