I am still trying to figure out the kind of photographer I want to be. I’m not talking about my photos, that I’ve worked out. I’m talking about my identity as an artist. Do I want to be the sage, the photographer who speaks of all things related to creativity and living that life? Think of Guy Tal. Or, do I want to speak solely through my photos and embrace the nonverbal? Photography is a visual medium after all. Have you ever noticed that? For those who have been following me the last few years it would seem I’ve chosen the former. I suppose I have, but I’m not certain it’s truly me. I admire the photographers who have taken that role, but is it who I am?
I recently read the book Interviews With Master Photographers, which was published in the mid-1970s. It was fascinating to learn of the differences in philosophies between several extremely talented and accomplished artists. In particular I was struck by Brett Weston’s complete and utter refusal to discuss symbolism and philosophy when it came to his work, repeatedly stating that “I’m just a photographer, I’m not too verbal.” In this way he was the polar opposite of Minor White (also interviewed) and his Zen approach to photography and belief in Equivalence. And yet, Weston’s photographs clearly speak to his own unique vision. Why talk about that which can be so clearly seen? Here were two incredibly talented and unique artists who in certain ways couldn’t be more different. The lesson here obviously is that there is no right or wrong, only what is right for the individual. Which is precisely the point of this piece. Which is right for me? Which is right for you?
The good thing is I know who I am not. I know I have little interest in talking about the technical side of photography. That’s what Youtube is for. The are a million different ways to do this and that, and just as many photographers willing to tell you how. I am grateful for them for I too have benefitted from their knowledge. But, I have nothing new to offer that conversation.
Lately I have found myself growing weary of inspiring quotes and other reflective prose that accompanies many photos on social media. I have been one of the prime offenders. Are we intellectualizing too much, making all this out to be something more than it is? Taking it all so seriously? I still believe that the right text and image combination can elevate the whole to something greater than either of its parts. When it comes to all things creative I believe less is often more. Perhaps it’s simply the cycle of things or mood these days, but I find myself attracted to Brett Weston’s way of thinking. Stop saying so much and let the photograph do the talking.