Everyone has to begin somewhere, usually with mastering the camera manual: the definitions of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and focal length and how combinations of these elements contribute to the look of the final image. Without a clear as day understanding of your equipment and its limitations (which only comes from personal testing and experience gained over time) there is no way you can pick and chose the most suited tool for the job, in some instances helping you get away with murder by applying DIY makeshift solutions when the inevitable day comes that you forget the key piece of gear for your shoot. All great photographers have one thing in common, they are great innovators and brilliant problem solvers. Thinking outside of the box to troubleshoot and figure out ways to breath life into every shot, while working under pressure at various locations having unique quirks, is a not so much a skill as a necessity.
I was looking back over my work flicking through my portfolio and personal print collections and it felt like I started seeing for the first time, it hit me straight in the face. Like most, my focus has been on the technical, and it is easy to see how ones images improve technically with time: exposure, framing, camera settings and attention to detail during the post production phase are all dead obvious key indicators of technical ability. But all this has come at a cost! My focus on the technical has left the majority of my creations empty, lifeless and flat. Even though the technical elements align to produce a visually pleasing result there is little substance. Like a missing sausage in a hot dog, that one key ingredient without which everything is a little tasteless, bland and ultimately boring. We all aim to produce show stopping images, yet rarely succeed.
Consider facebook, google+, flickr or one of the many other social media or currently popular photo sharing sites . These sites have millions upon millions of images for our viewing pleasure, endless content growing day by day, yet how often do you make your way through the image stream clicking ,next.... next.... next.... with no remorse. The images popping up on screen can be considered for the most part technically accurate (with the occasional exception of course) and undoubtedly took someone hours to produce. So why is it these visually pleasing images do not stop you dead in your tracks?
Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to be demeaning and belittle the work the world is producing. There is some stunning imagery created everyday which continues to blow my mind. But still I cannot help but ask, what element is the majority missing? Technically most of us can produce the goods, I see it in not only in my own work but also in most what is shoved down our throats day to day. This question kept me up for most of the night....
The captures I identify with violently resonate but are not necessarily the most visually pleasing and yet somehow, they all have a voice. A voice which cries out for attention, much like the sound of a lens hitting the pavement and your stomach sinking to your knees as small glass shards explode over your shoe. A voice so profound it is not politely asking for attention, rather demanding it! Since I am only just grasping this concept I am struggling to put my epiphany into words. It is not something you see until you really open your eyes. I fear some will remain blind to it for ever. As for me, I will continue analysing the 'how' and 'why'. After all, you can only grow as a creative. But for now I am enjoying the feeling of clarity after being blinded by advertising and marketing departments who are busy persuading and over emphasising technical quality. I am slowly becoming more in tune to the voice which transcends the technical and am already noticing an improvement in my images.