What If?

It’s all too easy for anyone today to hang a photo exhibition and call themselves an artist. But that title, available to anyone who commits to hard work, has to be earned.

Your commitment to your voice is what makes the difference, giving your imagination the space it needs to dream.

To say “what if?”

It lets your ideas flow more freely without as much self-criticism or fear.

That my friends, is the sole reason to pursue landscape photography. Maybe not at first, maybe not for years, but eventually that has to be the reason. Because if it isn’t, you will fail to connect to your viewers in a way that matters.

You must be invested in your work, totally and fully. That can only happen when you photograph for yourself. It took me many years to realize that, not only as a photographer, but as a musician. Your work has to be about you, not what others think of you.

To me, landscape photography is about self-exploration. The more I photograph a place, the more I discover about that place and about myself.

It’s humbling, but so important for your voice, and your long term creative happiness.

“The human imagination is infinitely powerful and profound. it allows each person to bring to their work of art something that is unique to him or her.” John Loori

Seth Godin on Creativity and What Matters

Photographer and entrepreneur Chase Jarvis interviews big thinker and author Seth Godin in his video series “30 Days of Genius.” This is a great conversation about many things I think about often, but in particular pay careful attention to Seth’s definition of art, and what it means to be an artist.

Another point which he emphasizes quite directly is that getting caught up in specific techniques, methodologies, and formulas is  really not that useful. Everyone wants the shortcuts, but what makes the difference is that you work consistently, always focused on work that “might not work.” That means you’re putting yourself out there on a limb where failure is ever present, instead of playing it safe with what’s expected.

The whole discussion is fascinating with many insights for anyone who aspires to be more creative, especially photographers. Listen and think deeply about what really matters.

What matters? “The simplest answer is would they miss you if you were gone…Anything worth doing is worth doing because you changed someone else.” – Seth Godin

B&H Optic 2016: Essentials of Creative Composition in Landscape Photography-Video

Creative composition is a topic I’m really passionate about, and I was honored and grateful to have been invited to speak about it at the B&H Optic 2016 Conference a few weeks ago. Here’s the video recording of my presentation – enjoy. Also, be sure to check out the other videos from the amazing list of speakers at the conference, including Michael Kenna and John Paul Caponigro.

Feel free to leave your feedback or questions below!

Watch on youtube

The Best Way To Be Original

During my recent presentation at the B&H Photo Optic 2016 conference, I spoke briefly about the role of originality in composition. While they are deeply related, I think there are many difficult creative obstacles that can arise if originality becomes your sole focus.

Artists throughout the ages have always had to consider originality and how to somehow embody that in their own work. Yet here we are in a creative field that has existed for over 180 years, and I recently heard that more images are made every day than were made in the first 75 years of photography’s existence.

People have been making lots of photographs for a long time. Making uniquely original images will be incredibly difficult if not impossible depending on how much time you can devote to being in the field. It’s also an easy way to add lots of pressure to an activity that by definition necessitates open mindedness, and an absence of self-criticism and judgement.

Working with that kind of pressure, consciously or subconsciously, is a sure way to inhibit creativity and motivation.

If you study great artists from the past and how they made their work, you’ll learn they weren’t much different from you and I when they got started, and many struggled all their lives with the same voices of fear, insecurity, and doubt we all have. They all traveled the same path that we find ourselves on, and there are no shortcuts.

My experiences in music and photography have taught me that the most important thing to strive for is not originality, but authenticity and sincerity. Originality is a moving target that is elusive and comes from a sustained creative habit that values consistent work. Sure, being original is one of arts highest achievements, but we are equally moved by the authentic voice.

We resonate with those things that we relate to, that move us emotionally. That may or may not be original, but we can feel when an artist is being themselves, in the most vulnerable way.

Don’t try to be original simply to be different. That doesn’t respect or honor your intent or your voice. The tools are there for a purpose – to allow you to say what you want to say effectively and clearly. The end result is what matters, and if convention is what works best for your purposes, then so be it – there is nothing wrong with that.

“Just say what you want to say then, and say it with all of your heart. Share whatever you are driven to share. If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, The Big Magic

What we need in my opinion, are people more willing to commit to their personal vision, instead of popularity metrics or Flickr likes.

Authenticity is key to that. It provides the path that leads to your own voice, and that is something that will be original because there is only one of you, just as there is only one of me. Take advantage of of your uniqueness and show us what really moves you. That is the only originality you need.