The title of course is stolen. Or at least inspired by the excellent blog “A Lesser Photographer” by CJ Chilvers. I came to this blog via Twitter this morning and reading it helped me to get a perspective on a few things that I’ve been doing in my photography and a few things I’ve been thinking about recently. I do recommend you to read it if anything in this post resonates even slightly.
I’ve been experimenting with old fashioned on camera filters recently and have realised that there is a learning curve associated with them, much more so than in post production. I’m coming at this from an angle of being very comfortable with my ability to learn software. I’ve been doing it for years and it comes very easily. There is a pleasing characteristic of software that encourages me to experiment – try it and if it doesn’t work, throw it away. However it is fundamentally different to the learning process associated with mechanical techniques.
The more mechanical business of learning to manipulate equipment and establishing those intuitive links between thinking and doing is at the same time, more difficult and more satisfying. The photographs I have been taking have become less complicated as I’ve subconsciously thrown out all the clutter in order to make evaluative judgements on my learning of a technique. In fact I have created a constraint for myself in order to focus my learning. I dont pretend to be a minimalist, but I am attracted to a style that throws so much back at the creativity of the photographer.
And I’ve been thinking about technology. I love the way technology makes it so easy to experiment. But I remember when the World Wide Web was just beginning to make its presence felt, somebody observed that its no longer necessary to know something, just to know where to find the answers you need. And to a point I agree with that. There’s a difference between Knowledge and Information and I think something similar is going on with software that purports to facilitate creativity. It is incredibly easy to use and because of that, creativity is in fact being diminished. If you don’t believe me check out Instagram and even 500px. Reams of photographs that look exactly the same because the process of applying a so called creative filter is reduced to the click of a button.
I think technology can be a distraction. The possibilities are endless, but I feel like I’ve fed the technology demon enough. Time to reduce the options and focus.
So I’ve had a kind of epiphany. I’m not going to stop buying or writing about technology, but I am going to focus rather more on what I think matters. Because it’s that that makes me unique. And its what you think matters that makes you unique. When I was at film school, my tutor gave me the single most valuable piece of advice anyone has ever given me. “You don’t need to copy other directors, stop trying to create a style and let your own style come through. Because in the end, it will and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” Imitation has its place – after all the old masters had their apprentices, many of whom went on to become old masters themselves, but it is what it is, imitation, a means to an end, a polishing of a technique. Its important to acknowledge this I think in order to step off the merry go round and start on the important stuff. Pictures.