Where I grew up in New Jersey and from where I am living now, going to the beach involved driving south down US-1, then south down US-9, then south down NJ-34 and finally south down NJ-35 till we got to Belmar; hence the expression, “Down the Shore”.
On this Labor Day Monday in 2009, we were down the shore visiting with my longtime friend Fred who was in from the West Coast for his niece’s wedding. When we were teenagers, Fred knew the location of every pin ball machine along the Jersey coast from Newark down to Long Beach Island. He also pretty much knew the name of every arcade owner, and at one time or another probably owned and rebuilt one of each of the pin ball machines that we played on during our high school summer vacations. Those were good times, as my dermatologist and I oft recollect during my annual visits to repair the damage done in the name of teenage vanity.
If anyone has been following this blog regularly (other than Fred), they will have noticed that I have not been posting regularly; actually, not once during the last four weeks. I’ve been taking pictures, but have not felt that my photos are saying anything worth writing about and have been taking a break to try to figure out why. I need to come to some sense of comfort about where my artistic and image making skills are at the moment, where I’d like them to be heading and what do I have to do to get them there.
I’ve been reading what the good photographers whom I follow say about their work and their approach to creativity. I’ve been studying and visiting the images that move me and trying to understand what it is about them that does so. I’ve taken a bunch of tutorial sessions and workshops with some of the best practitioners of their respective crafts. All of this has provided a wealth of knowledge, insight and technical expertise on a wide range of subjects in a good variety of locations.
The primary take-away from all this is that the photographers whose work I admire all ‘make’ photographs. Whether they are satisfying a client’s needs, executing an idea from their own creativity or expressing their vision of what they experience in the world around them, each is doing more than ‘taking’ a photograph. They are applying all of their creative and technical skills to capture the fickle attention of a viewer and, in some sense, force that viewer to see what it is that caught their attention or sparked their imagination or otherwise needed to be said. And that they enjoy doing this, regardless of any concept of ‘success’.
This is simple to say, but it poses several real challenges to beginning photographers: to discover what it is one wants to say, to understand how best to envision that statement, to learn how to make an image that expresses that vision cleanly and concisely and to do so for the sole purpose of one’s own pleasure. I believe that the level of success in accomplishing these four goals will be reflected in the success of the photograph as an example of the photographer’s abilities.
It is these challenges that I take upon myself and the progress along that endeavor will be chronicled here.
A brief list of recent great books by inspiring photographers and writers-
Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision
10 Ways to Improve Your Craft, None of them Involve Buying Gear
10 More Ways to Improve…
Drawing the Eye, Creating Stronger Images Through Visual Mass
Visual Poetry, A Creative Guide for Making Engaging Digital Photographs
Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style
Learning to See Creatively, Design Color & Composition in Photography
The Photographer’s Eye, Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos