A new year is like a blank sheet of paper: wonderful to hold and daunting when you consider its possibilities. I remember buying my school supplies with my mother and I loved to get home and put all that new blue lined three ring punched paper into my shiny new binders and daydream about all the wonderful things I would write on those new pages. I actually did.
A fresh clean unblemished New Year holds the same promise. A new year holds apprehension as well because it stretches out before you and it demands performance. It is a challenge and at the end of the year there comes the judgement: was it a good year, a disappointing year, a year to be remembered, or perhaps, forgotten.
So what are my thoughts about photography as I look out on this new snow white year? They are many and it is difficult to bring them into some kind of order. In the background I will continue to explore Photoshop and all of the sliders and buttons I don’t understand. That is an ongoing process which I pursue with the help of Scott Kelby and Photoshop User. But that’s all very technical. That is like a painter studying paintbrushes: not really what he’s about, is it?
Susan and I will travel this year and of course my camera will be with me. But that too is a given. It does not help me directly in the improvement of my craft or in understanding it better. Yes, it is practice and it is important. But that is practicing the technique, like doing scales in music. Taking a picture does not create art, ever! No, I have to look to the things that I am struggling with to see where I will try to grow and master the art.
This year I have been hugely impressed by people like Paulette Tavormina, Kevin Best, or Bill Gekas. I feel they have captured the feeling I am looking for in my images. So I think this year I will spend time looking at their work and trying to understand what they have done to create it.
In the last several months I have bought some studio lighting and other gear to prepare for my study. I have more stuff to acquire still and I have to find space where I can spread out and work. I have already played with this new equipment a little and already I see that this is not going to be easy! I want to learn how to light a still life or a portrait; not just be able to light up the subject but to really understand how to paint the subject in light. This is the first thing I want to write on the clean white surface of this new year.
My foray onto 500px has taught me a great deal. There are people out there producing wonderful photographs. I see things there I would love to hang in my studio. I have even thought about licensing some of these images so that I can get a hi-res file to work with on my printer. And there is the key: the printer.
I look around in my daily life and I see no photographs on the wall, in homes or galleries or offices. There is photography in the news, in the ads, in the wedding photo albums, but, I see little of it hung as art to enjoy. Photography seems to come to a crunch when it is time to create the work for the public to view. And as I think about the connection between photography and art I realize that the nexus, the place they come together, is in the print and the process of making it.
So the second thing I want to do is spend time with my printer (Epson 9900) and learn to create truly stunning images. But this is not as easy as it seems. Let me see if I can explain what I am feeling on this subject. Here is some homework: go into an art store. I mean one of the higher end stores that offers a range of art papers. Find a sheet of hand laid deckle edged cold pressed 200 to 300 pound watercolor paper. Pick it up. Feel it. Look at the light falling on it and reflecting off that amazing surface. If you don’t find that mesmerizing then you will never understand what I am about. That piece of white paper is, with nothing on it, already a work of art!
Now, imagine that paper with the finest of photographic images containing all of the craft you are able to muster placed in the middle of it. Even writing this I can feel the excitement of holding such an image.
When someone pics up a photograph the first impression they should have is “what a wonderful piece of paper!” They should experience pleasure just holding it. Their next impression should be the immediate reaction to the image; not what it is but the quality of the color, the tone in the greys, the depth of detail. At this stage I have people asking me “What is this? Is it a watercolor, an oil painting, an etching?” I actually get that question. At that point you have them and they have not looked at the subject yet! What the photo is about is almost secondary. Now we are talking about art.
That is the second thing I want to write on my nice blank new year; I want to spend more time with my printer trying papers, experimenting with all the sliders in the printer dialogue, learning my printer craft.
And finally, I want to create a body of finished prints. I have bits and pieces here and there but I want an organized library of actual prints. It will be practice to create and it will be a record of my journey. But, I have noticed that I need to look at a print for several days or even months to truly form my final opinion of it. And so, this collection will be a teaching tool. I will learn from it. And I want to be in a position to “pitch” my work. It is not good enough to say that ” I take good pictures”. In fact, you can never say that. That is for others to say. If you are fortunate enough to receive comments, good or bad, on your prints, it is for you to say “thank you” and be gracious in the face of praise or criticism.
If I was asked right now “what of mine could I suggest for inclusion in a salon?” I would be hard pressed to come up with an answer. I would have to get to work and print up some samples. That is wrong. I should have my work organized and available. And so I intend to rectify that failing.
I think I will finish my “100 images of Italy 2014” and my retrospective images of Queen’s University and create prints based on those two finished collections. So this is number three for my new year.If I can accomplish these three things I will look back on 2015 with great satisfaction! What are your plans?