A cynic once said – only a few years after photography had been invented – that every picture that could be taken already had been. I suppose that on some very fundamental and unimaginative level there might be some validity to the statement. Rocks are rocks, trees are trees, the human form is the human form. But if it were really true, photography – and art in general – would have gone extinct long ago. If pictures were that duplicative or even that derivative, most creative people would quickly lose interest in making art. I know that I certainly would not be motivated to get up before dawn, or in the middle of the night, or go out in the rain or cold or sometimes into potentially dangerous places to make pictures.
Sometimes I see something so compelling or so beautiful that it just needs to be photographed as it is. But often it is more – or less – than the thing itself; the rock or the mountain, the tree or the forest. What interests me are the details, the nuances that others might not notice. How light and shadow sculpt the subject. The effect of time of day, of season of the year, how the atmosphere changes the subject. It is seeing something in a new or different way. It is eliminating distracting elements, sometimes just capturing lines or shapes or form. Occasionally it is finding a way to create an abstraction of something familiar in the hope of causing the viewer to think about what he or she is seeing.
I think that ten creative photographers could be asked to make a photograph of the same thing and would produce ten unique photographs. I also think that one creative photographer could photograph the same subject at ten different times and also produce ten unique photographs. That is my aspiration as a photographer: to find my own pictures; to express myself a little differently than others. It is what drew me to photography. It is what compels me to learn everything that I can about photography, and what drives me to continue improving my craft and my vision.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. -- Martha Graham
Photograph courtesy of my friend and fellow Iceland traveler, John Sheets