I’m sorry, as cool as your out-of-focus, Hipstawhatever iPhone looks, it isn’t creative.
I don’t know how more bluntly to put it, but the proliferation of imagery lately is slowly sucking the creativity out of photography. In fact, it has become more formulaic than anything else. I’m just as guilty. Just scroll down and see my last post. I find a wall with some random graffiti cover-up and a splash of paint and I nearly wet myself. It’s refreshing. Therapeutic. Completely worthless and self-absorbed. I have come to a realization that I am contributing to the decline of photography with every click of my camera.
You are too.
This rant (blogged about by Scott Strazzante here) was brought to you by an aphotoaday post by myself over a photo posted by a young, developing photographer. He gets an unfair amount of attention and criticism, but I think it is only because he is everything that is right and wrong about photography today.
Iphone images, vignetting, tilting, out-of-focus accidents turned Flickr “works of art,” Kodachrome throwbacks, Polaroid snaps of random crap…it all just reeks of what Ashton Kutcher would see as art. It’s not that I dislike Kutcher, he’s just low-hanging fruit for those ridiculous camera commercials. While I’m at it, Dear Flickr and Tumblr, there’s an “e” in those words.
I’m only 33, but seeing the photo made me feel old. It was a simple black-and-white, vignetted, completely out-of-focus photo of birds flying and a building. The photo itself reminded me of something that I peeled off a fixer stained floor in my high school darkroom. That’s how I felt, and I wrote it. A day later I feel guilty, years older than I am and wondering why. I looked in the mirror and felt like, well it’s not the photo so much as it is me. I need a change. Visually.
We’ve all turned back the clock visually 20 years.
Creativity is on life-support. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone has Photoshop. My mom has a better resolution camera than a lot of newspaper staffs.
So how do we fix it? And by “we,” I mean the self-proclaimed “Professional Photographer.” How do you grab your work by the proverbials and start making images that matter, that inspire, that are truly creative? God I hate lists, but SEO and Twitter loves them. Here are 10 things to get your creativity back:
- First of all, you use that little thing in your head called a brain. You think. You pause. You come up with an idea and execute. An essay. A story. Something besides just motor-driving your way through an assignment and going with what looks the most “Luceo-y.” (You know I love you, Luceo – rockstars). Come up with a new way of seeing and a new way of delivering your voice.
- Stop carrying your camera with you everywhere. This goes against everything that I preach, but that wacky 5D photo of that lady at the bar is about as re-sellable as a carrot at fat camp.
- Put that Holga, Lomo, and Diana camera in a shoebox and set it on fire. Seriously. I have all of them. They sit on my shelf and gather dust. Disclaimer: not my fault if you actually do it and burn down your house. See #1.
- Stop shooting so much. There is no reason to come back with 2000 images from anything. Try shooting an assignment in under 36 frames. Harder than it sounds, right? Well do it. I promise you the result will be amazing. You learn to see, compose, and wait.
- Find a new client. I don’t mean another newspaper or magazine. Find a business, writer, or artist. Someone you would never have even thought of working for and collaborate on a project.
- Everyone always says buy a new lens around this point in a Top 10 list. I say go the other way and shoot with one lens for an entire month, but you have to make it a lens you never use. Break out that 50mm f/1.4 and shoot with it all month. Yes, at sports, slacker. You might be surprised by the results.
- Turn off your lights. And if you don’t use lights, turn them on.
- Buy a moleskin notebook, put it by your bed. Write down everything that comes into your head at the middle of the night. In the morning, you might have some crazy new ideas to pursue.
- Ask opinions, then do the exact opposite.
- Take the long way home. Throw a dart at the map and travel there – even if it is just a map of your town. Change your scenery. Get off the computer. Stop reading Alec Soth’s blog. Something.
Get off my lawn.