Cycling to work this morning, I found myself stopping from time to time to photograph a scene seen hundreds of times before yet somehow today appearing uniquely fascinating.
I call this effect resonance, and it’s one that has become a major driver in my photography. The picture above, taken with the evening sun shining through these leaves on a tree in my garden, is another that fits that particular bill. Something I look at, often without really seeing, many times transformed into something special and captivating.
I think about issues such as these whenever I find myself, usually by an email, led to a website like Digital Photography School or The Digital Picture. Most often to a short list of photographic tips accompanying the author’s attempt to slyly promote his or her work without really seeming to try or to a review of the latest camera or lens, laden with technical details and beautifully comprehensive.
This is the stuff of modern photography. It’s not really any different to older photography, in truth, except that the articles have migrated from magazines to the web and have proliferated considerably as a consequence.
Once upon a time, I devoured these articles. There was a time when knowing about, if not actually possessing, the latest equipment or following the latest trends in photographic technique seemed important. That was before I became a photographic artist and not simply a learning photographer. Make no mistake, I’m still a learning photographer, but I’m following an individual path now and that’s what sets my current work apart from my past.
Engaging in photographic techniques that fall outside the mainstream helps a lot in this regard. Not so much for the technique itself, but more for the fact that embracing something that very few other people are now doing pulls you right away from that in-crowd and sets you apart. Once you cease to compare and emulate, you become freer to follow a vision. A resonant vision. A vision that does not necessarily have to appeal to others, but one that must appeal to yourself. That’s the only true reason for doing this.
Staying amateur aids this a lot. Learning about the history of photography and its breadth is also very helpful. What seems new is so often revealed to be no more than a reclothing of something done in the past. Like all fashions, photographic fads cycle over and over.
Is anything lost by this approach? Not really. I can do without seemingly unresolvable discussions of the merits of photo gear or photographic technique with my fellow photographers. All I need is a camera and something to photograph.