Lately I’ve taken to being a little more creative with my post processing. I’ve done so in the past but now it seems I’m following that inclination a little more frequently. In photography there are perhaps a couple of schools of thought, straight shooters who seek to preserve a moment in as realistic a manner as possible. This is an important part of preserving artifacts of our world and society, which is appreciated by many of us including future generations. And then there is pictorialism, which is concerned with creating images about feelings and uses a wide variety of tools to convey a vision. You can read more about here in this L’Oeil article by Andy Romanoff.
As I see it there is a pattern here that photography has with other endeavors. There are usually two schools of thought in just about everything we do. Classical and Jazz, clinical and holistic, …the list goes on. It’s how we are built.
This speaks to the concept of duality. Simply put, duality is an idea that all things are comprised of two contrasting sides, polar compliments, yin and yang. Together they comprise a whole, greater than the sum of the parts. To be greater than the sum of the parts is like saying one plus one equals three. This is not logical nor reasonable, yet I think there is an intrinsic truth that we all might recognize. Think of a family, together the mother, father, children, aunts and uncles form something greater than the individuals alone. And so this is the case with photography, straight shooters and pictorialist all swimming around in the same ocean, each with an effect on the other. Which side we lean towards is a matter of preference.
Lately I’m leaning towards the pictorialism. I’m also a straight shooter, however more and more I’ll go to lengths when shooting and in post processing to manipulate images to convey a vision in my mind. The result is a combination of what was there when I snapped the shutter button and an idea I have in my head. I am now beginning to synthesize the duality of scene and idea so they become something greater that the sum of the two. I believe this might be more akin to music composition, painting or even sculpting. I take something from my environment and fashion it in an interpretation way. The result is reflective of the world as well as feelings and images I have in my mind.
Seeing with my mind’s eye
As a practicing pictorialist I get to be creative. Emphasis on the words “I get to be”. Believe it or not, I didn’t realize that I was allowed to be creative. No one was standing over me with a gun and I didn’t sign a straight shooters contract when I bought my camera, but for one reason or another I somehow felt bound by the rules of the straight shooters club. Oddly, I never even realized it until now. I’m not denigrating straight shooters, I’m one of them and you may be too. We would never have photos of sports or wildlife or National Geographic without straight shooters. One is not better than the other.
Lets face it, most of us live in a complicated stressful world and we do our best to get by. Between the demands of paying the bills and figuring out what to have for dinner there may not be a lot of creativity going on. We do what we have to do to get by. However we are dualistic by nature and along with the day to day, we are also creative. Only most of us don’t know it because we are preoccupied with only one side of life. However, if we are fortunate enough to discover our own creativity, if we honor and nourish it, if we encourage it, it will grow. I’m understating this to keep on track, but this is a really important thing.
We need more play-time
Remember recess in grade school? If I think back, I might have done something like run from the monkey bars to the oak tree; only I (and my classmates) pretended to be in the Olympics. We saw the stadium, we could hear the crowd, we felt the excitement and we ran until we crossed the finish line and the stands went CRAZY!!! And then the bell rang and we went back to class. Of course we were talking about it until the teacher scolded us to be quiet. That was fun because it was play and we lost track of time.
I think it’s important to have fun, to lose track of time and play again. Lately I’m giving myself a bit of permission to play so that my imagination has a greater role in the outcome of my photography. On the one hand I look for compositions. That can be serious business, fully engaging the disciplines and rules I’ve learned about the craft. On the other hand, I’m allowing myself to imagine the way I wish the scene looked. If I didn’t consciously allow myself that latitude I wouldn’t even consider anything other than the scene in front of me when I take the shot.
If you’re a hardcore straight shooter, you’re probably thinking I’ve left the reservation and perhaps might be one sandwich short of a picnic basket. I’m okay with that. But just to be clear, I can separate the “real world” with my imaginary world very well. I do it everyday and am well practiced because I’ve done it most of my life, …possibly to my own detriment. Well bubba, the fat lady just sung. I’m opting out; I choose to be a pictorialist. But to be perfectly honest, I’m doing it for me. Not because I’m self-absorbed, rather because I believe it makes me a better person all around. More than the sum of my parts.
So there you have it, I have made a conscious decision to follow my creative tendencies because, …well its fun. Nothing wrong with a little fun, eh? And its the kind of fun that naturally integrates some of the dualities in my life. And that, my friends, has subtle yet profound influence on who I am as a person and how I live my life. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.