Monday, July 23, 2007

Some advice on being a creative photographer

I recently had the great priviledge of spending time with a few of the world's best selling authors, including Lee Child and Harlan Coben. Many of the things they said struck a cord, an affirmation of the ideas that I've held for a long time. You'll probably recognise these ideas too but just like me I'm sure you won't mind hearing them again.

There are many things which apply across all creative endeavours.

Integrity to your art and vision is everything. You write a book, or in our case take a photograph, because it expresses something essential in yourself. It is your vision, your voice. If you're not true to your vision, your inner voice, you will never achieve your full potential. Do not copy others. It's got to come from inside you. This is true even when we're working for clients, to a brief.

The client has chosen you because of who you are, your vision, the injection of that special something which is uniquely yours.

If you see a band wagon then it is already too late to jump on it. Don't emulate the style that is in fashion. You'll just be following on. You're better off doing your own thing and deliberately going against popular trends and cliches. If what you do is good, then it will be recognised as such, no matter what the current trend. Logically you can't ever set trends if you're always following them.

Harlan Coben said he sees himself as an artisan. He is working at his craft. The moment you see yourself as an 'artist' with airs, you're dead in the water. Any creative worth their salt is a hard worker striving continually to improve their technique and refine the way they express themselves. Harlan said sometimes he feels the muse is with him and he's writing brilliant stuff but mostly it's hard work and just getting each word on the page is like having unbelievable constipation. Now here's the key. He said when he looks back at his writing he can't tell which parts he wrote when his artistic muse was with him and the rest.

For all of us creatives getting the job done requires effort, sweat, sheer hard painstaking work and attention to detail. The force that drives many creatives is a strong fear of failure.

If you think you're just writing or taking pictures for yourself and it doesn't matter what your audience think then you're deluding yourself. Laura Lippman compared the attitude, 'I'm only doing it to please myself', to another self pleasing solo activity. Pretty good comparison.

The truth is you want to please your audience and you're writing or photographing to get a reaction from them, an emotion and give them a fresh insight into the world. This by the way is a far more powerful motivation than money. We all need to earn a living but ultimately the reward we seek is audience approval and the feeling that we've given them something worthwhile which will enrich their lives.

On that note, I hope my few words here have given you something worthwhile. There's certainly no financial gain for me in writing this blog. I just hope that you find it useful and it spurs you on to be true to your vision, to recognise that other creatives share your concerns and experiences and to go out there and do it.


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