Monday, March 06, 2006

The Great Idea

I will be attending a portfolio review soon, and I've been working on my new body of work for the past several months. The only problem, it seemed, was just coming up with an appropriate body of work for an event of this magnitude. This review session will involve some fairly large names in the fine art photography world. It might just be the pressure, but I was not anywhere near a complete portfolio a few months ago. I didn't even have a real theme, but it seems one has emerged in the time I spent trying to come up with one. It's not the most satisfying idea I've ever had, but the imagery is what matters most to me, not some great idea necessarily.

See, that's what has always been my problem. I want to think big. I always feel like I have to come up with some novel concept to really "make it", even though it's not entirely my goal. But the reasonable side of me says that I should just stick with the best work I can produce and perhaps something significant will come out of that.

I have a mentor that tells me that I haven't really found my voice yet. And I agree with that assessment, thankfully, because otherwise I wouldn't have a thing to look forward to. He insists that I must loosen up, and while I hear those words and understand them, something still isn't clicking.

It comes through in my darkroom work, and he's pointed this out. I've always tried to be very meticulous about printing, writing down every variable so future prints can be achieved as simply as possible. I realize different conditions on different days can net a completely dissimilar result to that which I was trying to mimic, but I look at it as a way of getting in the ballpark. The problem with this way of thinking is simply that it is very rigid. He always says, "It's just zen... a zen way of printing", which has always frustrated me. I watch him get in there and print with very little accuracy (in terms of time, mostly) and come out with a beautiful print every time. I might just not be as comfortable with the equipment as I once thought, but I think it goes beyond that. It's a problem of just trusting my instincts.

But I'll tell you, my next body of work doesn't have a theme yet, and that's ok. I plan to use a camera which so simplifies the process of taking pictures that I won't be able to have the control I feel like I rely on too much. It's not a Holga or anything... I can at least be more precise than that, but I will have to trust my instincts much more just to get by.

I had a teacher that once told me (after I admitted my lack of big ideas) that she felt ideas were the easy part. It was coming up with the time and logistics that were challenging. I would normally say I envy her, but I'm starting to realize we all have certain strengths, and getting past my own obstacles should make me a better photographer than I might be otherwise.

What's your biggest challenge... the great idea? ...the execution?