Upon Reflection

imageReflection, Woodbury, Connecticut © Steven Willard

It’s the end of the year and I’ve been looking back. I’ve been looking back at a lot of things in my life, but what is pertinent to me here is this blog.

It seems reasonable to me, that if one takes seriously an interest in self expression, then ever so often it is worthwhile to stop and have a look at whether that expression is successful, and whether there is growth or not.

One of my issues in the past has been thinking of myself as an artist. I have had no difficulty thinking of myself as a photographer, even though I have only rarely earned anything from it. I have been happy thinking of myself as a sort of journeyman photographer; more than a novice, but not a master at a craft. Thinking of myself as a photographer was/is inarguable; I take pictures. But the jump from photographer to artist has called for a leap of faith, and faith by it’s nature, by definition, means believing something without tangible proof.

But lately, in the last year specifically, I have felt a change. A change in my modus if you will. While out making photographs, I have become more relaxed, and more spontaneous. I’ll still use a tripod, for instance, but not as often, and I’m more likely to make an exposure on a whim. My methods have loosened up and so have my images. In the past I would have been very concerned about technical quality, sometimes to the point that I would forgo a photograph if I didn’t think I could have it sharp and properly exposed. While I still admire those qualities, I am no longer such a slave to them, and I think my photography is better as a result. Part of this change I credit to using my iPad and Nik Snapseed. While I think that Snapseed is a technical marvel, using it is not technical at all. It is very intuitive, almost organic, and the process goes quicker than Photoshop. I still use Photoshop, but not for everything; it’s a tool after all, and not all tasks require the same tool. (The same should be said for iPads and Snapseed of course.)

My takeaway from all this is that I have been liberated. I’m working more from my heart, my gut if you will, than from my brain. (Here is where someone is going to mistakenly infer that I think artists don’t use their brains, not true. What I think is that I’ve begun to let my heart lead my brain rather than the other way around.) It’s late at my age to come round to this point, but better late than never right? So finally, after all these years, I have come to think that just maybe I am becoming an artist after all.

Thanks for being tolerant while I ramble, and thanks for taking the time to visit the blog now and then. I’ll be sixty-eight December 31st. Do me a favor and wish me a Happy Birthday as you ring out the old year. You don’t have to comment here, just think it; I’ll get the message. Happy New Year to you all!

Panasonic Lumix G3 with 20mm f1.7 lens processed in Nik Snapseed® in my iPad Air.

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4 comments on “Upon Reflection

  1. Hmmm…..interesting ramble, Steven. What differentiates an artist with a camera from a photographer? The heart over the brain?

    For me if pushed, I might say that it’s a picture *about something rather than *of something.

    Then again, it may also be an attitude that you have about images where the visual qualities are given equal weight to the content…..sometimes more.

    For sure, my own approach has changed and I’m less happy with what comes out of the camera and am more and more tempted to edit, modify and alter that reality. Ansel Adams clearly believed that images are *made, rather than simply *taken, and I’d go along with that.

    Some of my photography….probably a good deal of it….. is down to good fortune, but I’m a strong believer in getting into the *zone. Looking at The Greats of photography/painting, and going out with a purpose, and then developing a feel for *standing here, rather than *standing over there.

    So for me it’s down to having a gut feeling, having a sense if intent, and developing an editorial approach that *makes an image.

    Hmm…..that was difficult….thanks for helping me to clarify my own thoughts.
    Regards
    John

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  2. Thank you John for your thoughtful comment. One thing I think has happened is that as photography has become ever more tech driven we have fewer photographers speaking about the non-tech side of the art/craft. We used to have people like Adams, Weston, White and Stieglitz, among others, who were comfortable writing about photography as Art and what that means. Today most of the talk is about which camera has the most dynamic range or some such stuff. While I understand that those quantifiable statistics are easier to talk about, they don’t answer the question; how do I make images that express what I feel in ways people can relate to? How do I elevate my images from simply good photographs to something more? That is much harder to define and talk about and explains why so few do, but it is all the more important because of all that.

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  3. Mike says:

    Great piece (and photograph) Steven,

    Always enjoy your images, they are captured with thought and heart which is why I like them. The words you write provide even greater life to them and a glimpse of the man behind the lens. Glad you are sharing your work, it is inspirational.

    And happy birthday, I wish you the best.

    Mike

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