This little project is teaching me many things, and one of them is how hard it is to stay true to my own vision and not be swayed by what I think other people will like. Unusually, I had quite a number of images to select from this week and have changed the posted image about four times so far because I can’t make up my mind. Some were ‘safe’ – the kind of thing universally liked but not that interesting – some were dark, both in tone and visually, hinting at darker emotions that are not so immediately appealing. Some I loved myself, but knew that others almost certainly wouldn’t.
I never photograph for anyone other than myself. While I’m using the camera, it’s all about how I’m seeing things and what I’m drawn to. Afterwards, though – afterwards – I begin to see my pictures as other people are likely to. In some ways this is good – it introduces a little bit of objectivity into the proceedings – but it’s also when I start tying myself in knots.
It’s easy to say it shouldn’t matter and of course there’s a lot of truth in this. On the other hand, some of my motivation to continue taking photos lies in sharing them, and I like to feel I’m sharing them with people who enjoy what I do – for the most part, at least. I’ve questioned this need to share more than a few times, and the conclusion I came to is this: I need to share in the same way that if I got a piece of good news or something fantastic happened to me, I would feel a strong urge to phone up a friend and tell them about it. It increases the pleasure for me, and I hope gives them some second-hand pleasure too. It’s not a case of looking for validation – rather, an intention to connect through the medium I most enjoy. So I’m very grateful to anyone who takes the time to look at what I’ve done, and I’d rather not alienate them with too much stuff they won’t like.
Then there’s the business of trying to assess, as objectively as possible, what I’ve produced. I believe that I’m producing better art these days than I did a few years ago – in fact, I believe that I might venture to actually call some of what I do ‘art’ – but self-doubt is never slow to poke its head in. It’s so difficult to judge your own work – it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve looked at something I’ve done and loved it, only to realise later that it was pretty poor stuff.
Other people’s reactions are not really something you can go on here. The more you look at images the more sophisticated and informed your taste becomes, and any one person’s reaction to what I’ve produced is likely to be dependent on where they are on that scale of visual experience. What I’ve resorted to is looking at other people’s work – work that’s gained some recognition – and comparing with my own. Much of the time I can see how far I lag behind them, but on occasion I see people doing the kind of thing I’m doing myself, and even more occasionally I think I might be doing it better.
So I think I prefer the weeks when there isn’t much to choose from. I’ve no idea if I’ve made the best choice here or not, but I’ve been playing with diptychs lately – something I haven’t done for a long time – and this is one of them. I was also playing with my Lensbaby – another thing I haven’t done for a long time – and I liked the way it blurred the background layers of these hanging branches. It’s a quiet image, with perhaps something of a Japanese aesthetic about it.