I believe we look at our own photography differently than we do the work of others. Often times we are harder on ourselves. How we view the images of other people, and how we view our own, is a murky (muddy?) and sometimes confusing journey. It is not clear unless we take a long look at the photos, the location, and most of all the experience.
I know that in some cases the images of mine that have enjoyed the most success, are not my favorites. My favorites are rarely popular. Let’s take three subjects.
My favorite bird photos among those I have made, are rarely spectacular action pictures in the conventional sense. They are also often not those of a unique or rare species. I tend to like close-ups of birds preening or other such simple activities. That may be because I was there in real life (unlike the viewer), looking through a camera that was filled mostly with bird. I could see the detail when I clicked the shutter. I felt like I was directly inside the world of this bird. When someone else views those same pictures, it may be just another bird close-up. Of an uninteresting species at that. In other words the picture is a part of me, but not so with the viewer of the photo.
While I have surely loved the time I’ve spent making grand landscapes at spectacular locations, it is often the small and intimate landscapes (among my images) that mean the most to me. I think that some of the same reasons as I gave for my bird favorites apply here. I also believe that the fact I was working in a less overwhelming location, meant that the place and the resulting image, were more like a close friend and less like an untouchable superstar. I might be in awe of that superstar, but that simpler spot is more of a friend.
When I view my own abstract pictures I prefer images that let you know what the actual subject was. When I view abstracts from other photographers, I usually don’t have such a rule. I believe that is because with my own images I knew what the subject really was. I saw the subject, and the vision that became my final image developed from a real object/place etc.. I want everyone who sees that picture, to experience both the subject and my vision. When I view an abstract from another photographer, I react only to what I can see in front of me. I accept or reject it purely on the feeling I get from the photo. I have no feeling about a scene that I did not experience.
I don’t know if it is necessary to understand why we view different images the way we do. I do think it can be helpful to those photographers who want to sell their work, and to some workshop leaders and seminar providers, who seek to provoke thought about how we look at photos.
When you think about it, developing a clear view through a muddy world, is sort of what photographers are all about.
The Green-eyed Monster
One aspect of life I’ve never truly understood is jealousy. I guess that’s because I’m a common sense sort of guy and jealousy makes no sense to me. If somebody is good at something that I am not good at, will I be better at it if that other person doesn’t perform? Is that person doing what he/she does to be mean to me? I doubt it.
When a variety of issues meant I wouldn’t travel anymore, I did not feel animosity or jealousy towards my friends who continued to travel and make pictures. That would be patently silly. I in fact was happy for them. Now I no longer travel or make pictures. I follow (on Facebook) many of the world’s finest photographers. They travel and they make pictures. I share their images and sometimes their travels on this blog. In fact, I celebrate what they do.
When I was of school age, I was decent at every sport I tried, but there was always those that were better. Some were a lot better. So What?
I love cars and I understand (the older ones) them. I was capable of working on them and did so in my youth. One thing was perfectly clear to me. I would never really be a great mechanic. I did and still do admire those who are great auto mechanics.
There are certainly a lot of people in this world with more money and more fame than me. I say, more power to them. If I believe that the money and fame are in fact their personal idol, I feel sorry for them. If they are successful, and humble and generous, they have my admiration. Either way their success has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t make me less of a person, but it doesn’t make me better either. If I have tried and failed at things, and I have, that doesn’t make me a failure, but just the same it is I who failed, and any responsibility for that lies with me.
Watch out for that green-eyed monster.
Thanks and y’all come back, Wayne
Couldn’t agree more Wayne, thanks for the incentive to reflect.
Thank you Gary! I appreciate your support and your comments!