We have all been there. We all look at other people’s photography, thinking about how they did it. Some will replicate the look; others will analyze different ways to incorporate it in their own ways. Been there, done that… and that. I think I did it for the right reasons. After all, even prepared food has an image on the packaging, suggesting the presentation the meal should have so if I shoot something similar to what someone else already shot before, shouldn’t it look the same? Maybe but I don’t think it is desirable. I think this is where photography made by individuals separates from the Xerox type made photos.
There are many photographers out there I look up to. Not necessarily the “masters”; that would be too easy. A lot of current photographers have developed their own inspiring styles. Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, Reka Nyari, Miss Aniela, Zack Arias, Chase Jarvis, Julia Arielle Cox, Rian Flynn, Marina Filipovic Marinshe are some of them. I looked at their photos, 1st to look at what they were achieving with their images, then at how they got there. I would keep those 2 folds in mind, driving it deep into my tiny creative brain in hope that one day, while shooting, the stocked information would magically submerge and reflect in my images. Ok, it never happened… I think. Instead, my images developed into a different direction. Once in a while, I can look at a final image and find some parallel with another photographer’s work but most of the time I don’t even think the comparison exercise is worth the effort. At some point I thought it meant I was heading in the wrong direction. The more I think of it the more I believe it is because I am heading on my own path. I wonder if Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, Reka Nyari, Miss Aniela, Zack Arias, Chase Jarvis, Julia Arielle Cox, Rian Flynn or Marina Filipovic Marinshe had the same perception of their work. I don’t have an academic formation in the art of photography. I know I am not the only one out there but it sometimes makes me wonder if I am doing it right or only posing as a photographer.
Over the years, I joined a bunch of forums and discussion groups on photography and the topic always surface. “What makes you a pro?”. Here we go again… I often fit the built of the pro wannabe as described by the don’t-argue-with-me-I-am-the-real-shit dudes. I then sit down, read it and wonder if they might be right. What if all those images, all those shutter releases and gigabytes of data were just a waste of time. I look at my gears and wonder how much would be left to pay off my mortgage if instead of wasting money there I invested cash in the house. I am not active on these discussions; way too depressing and you can’t win against don’t-argue-with-me-I-am-the-real-shit. Instead I look back at my catalog and find a reason to book another shoot. Who cares what don’t-argue-with-m… you know what, let’s call him Bob, it will be easier. Who cares what Bob thinks? I looked at his portfolio. Bob is average. He is probably just dropping on other daring-to-ask-the-question-photographers what got dumped on him when he 1st asked the question himself.
This post is getting depressing…
A few weeks back, I was invited to join a group of photographers to St-Jean-de-Matha. This was a shoot in a place I never went, 2 hours away from my place. I invited Nancy to tag along. I knew working with a familiar model would help. By now I am starting to know Nancy’s angles and she knows my workflow. It might sound silly but we have less “let see what we get if we try this” and better good image ratio than when I work with someone I never worked with. Don’t get me wrong, it is a 2 way thing; sometimes the photographer can’t connect with the model, something it is the opposite way and that reflects in the results. Working with Nancy now, I can easily ask her to take specific poses and she will know it is for the right reasons.
Once we got there, Sylvain and Davis, 2 other photographers I know were waiting for everyone to arrive. We were hiking in the woods so we had to pack light. Automatically I started to look at what everyone was bringing. Were they going to outshot me because they had better and more abundant gears than me? Maybe I forgot something that they thought of. Then Audrey and Kevin arrived; same thing. What’s wrong with me? When I shoot in group, I am normally with Victoria and Vince. I know them, I know their gears, I know their styles, I am in very familiar grounds but now I am shooting with new people. What do they shoot? How do they shoot? Can I shoot like them?
Soon enough, my mind stepped away from that. Who cares if one has a better camera? Who cares if another has a better light system? Does it matter if another has more skills than me? I don’t think so. I am there because I am me, not because I want to be them. If I was doing something wrong, Nancy would not be there either, shooting for the 3rd time with me in a month. I was told a few times by people that they like my style. My style. Why not stick to that instead of being a Xerox machine? I shot in the woods before. I shot in that light before. I shot with Nancy last week. I know what the images are going to look like in my head. Why would I want them to look any different?
I am not sure where that competition mind comes from. I was never a competing person. We were definitely not in a competition mindset either. I have always been confident of what I can deliver on a general basis; why should it be different with photography? I think it was more of a self-induced fear of not being able to pull enough good images for all the troubles we were putting us through and the short amount of time given. In the end, Nancy and I got over 50 individual images, taken in a less than 2 hours timelapse, which includes the walking, setting up and fighting against the heavy wind with a massive reflector. BTW, I have to thank Kevin Gauthier for dropping me a line on Facebook before this shoot when I commented the light quality of one of his photo. If he had not telling me it was shot using only a reflector, I would have left mine in the car again that day. I ended up shooting everything with my reflector only and I loved it.
I would put some of my photos against Bob’s anytime. They are not technically perfect but I believe they have something that not all Bobs of this world can put in their images and it is soul. Next time Bob tries to convince you that you are nothing but a pro wannabe, let him go at it; he has bigger issues than you can imagine. Don’t play his game, play yours.
PS: Bob is not reflecting any actual Bobs, Roberts, Bobbys or any other derivation of the names. If your name is Bob and you feel offended, I meant to call the don’t-argue-with-me-I-am-the-real-shit Pedro.
PPS: To all the Pedros, I really meant Bob.