Lately I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating about my photographic vision and artistic consciousness. I feel I’ve reached a distinct turning point in the way I see and photograph and while it’s something that has been working in my subconscious for years, it all clicked over into something more mentally tangible during a visit to southern Utah back in May of 2017.
When I started out on this journey I did so by emulating those that I held in high regard. I saw scenes as a whole and didn’t know how to find my own voice.. or what that even meant. I learned how to be technically proficient with a camera and in post-processing which resulted in immediate gratification. I took a shot, I processed the photo, it looked nice, and that filled me up with little insight as to why it did so. As time went on, I fell into habits of composing scenes and discovered the types of scenes that compelled me to photograph them as well as scenes that didn’t, but I still grasped for answers to the questions ‘What makes my work MINE?’ and “Why do I photograph the things that I do and shy away from the things that I don’t?’.
I honed my landscape and nature photography skills in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It’s an area of immense beauty that lends itself well to wide angle shots: majestic waterfalls, gentle streams, lush forests, and rugged coastline. It’s a place that begs you to fit as much as you can into the frame and, in my opinion, it’s very easy to make a pretty photo here. But at some point that wasn’t enough for me. I became creatively bored with the area and somewhat disconnected from the style of photos I was capturing with most of them sitting untouched on my hard drive. Photographing these scenes became formulaic for me. I’m a very introspective person and my constant quest for the answers to those previous questions caused my consciousness to evolve and discover while I still went through the same motions of creating a photograph. The heart was still there in my photos and the reasons for photographing were still present, but I felt dissatisfied. My vision and habits hadn’t changed or evolved along with my consciousness.
When I went to southern Utah I was photographically overwhelmed with the landscape and felt incredibly out of place. As beautiful as the desert is, it was challenging for me to create a compelling photo while using the tried and true tactics that I was used to using in the Pacific Northwest. The desert can be a messy place. The wide open land felt jumbled and haphazard in my viewfinder. The scenes I captured at first didn’t feel harmonic. I was disappointed with myself and struggled to find a way to connect to the land. It wasn’t until I spent a sunny day relaxing near a river where I started to think differently. I spent the majority of the day shooting out of focus photos in harsh light composing in my viewfinder with shapes and colors. I needed to think smaller there. I needed to look for patterns in tones, colors, and shapes instead of looking at scenes as a whole. I spent the rest of that trip with that in mind and came out with some photos I’m very excited to process and release. Images that are more of a design in concept. Simple compositions using texture, light, tones, and shapes as the central element as opposed to wide open vistas intended to shock and awe. Standing in that river and shooting shimmering leaves against the blue sky and standing grass along the river didn’t necessarily result in me creating portfolio worthy images, but it was a mental breakthrough for me. It put me on a path that I’ve been on since that day and it’s one that has resulted in a lot of experimentation and bad photos, but also a lot of reward that has carried over into my work since then.
As I look back at my releases from this year which, as of today, has only been four photos, I notice that only one had been taken this year… in January. Much of the work I’ve been creating since then is, to me, very different from the rest of my portfolio and when I finally (heh) start to release it, I’m sure that distinction will be apparent. The result is work that is more often nuanced in presentation but is much more in line with my creative vision and consciousness. Instead of heading into locations with a scene in mind or with methodical approaches, I can connect, look deeper, and impulsively respond to the scene and the way it interacts with the light. I finally feel more connected to my work and I’m able to approach my photography in a more intimate way than I have historically and that, to me, feels like a brand new pair of shoes.