The Bathtub Chronicles, Growth, and a B&W Obsession
February 17, 2016
I post a lot of personal photos.
I'm sure many photographers who are trying to get their work off the ground say this is a no-no after a certain point, but I really don't care.
Speaking of not caring, I have to get something out of my brain.
There are rules to photography that the experts say make "the best photographs." The rule of thirds, no blown highlights, minimal crushed blacks, no chopped limbs, and perfect focus are just a few. A few. Of hundreds. Then there's the art to acheiving the perect skin tone, the exact white balance, the leveled horizon, leading lines, and so many more that I'm sure I don't even know of.
Believe me when I say when a photographer is taking your photo, your face is one of MANY things they are focusing on. Is that hair in her face? Crap, I'm too overexposed. AH clouds! Must adjust shutter speed! Shade! Must adjust shutter speed/ISO! That angle is not working. Is his jacket falling funny? They are blending in too much with that tall grass. That angle is amazing! Let's find another amazing one! Can't shoot from this side, the sun's too harsh. Can't shoot from this side, the shadow's too harsh. BUG. ON. BABY'S. FACE! Baby closed his eyes. Dad closed his eyes. Mom closed her eyes. Mom's hand is in her hair. We don't have enough of this person. Those houses are showing up in the background, let's move. That road is showing up in the background, let's move. Those powerlines/poles/people/cars/etc are showing up in the background, let's move. But all of this part is my jive. I feel like I'm dancing with my camera.
It's amazing how, when you begin to learn a craft, you realize so many things about yourself. I have become so enlightened and aware of so many insecurities and also so many things I love about myself, I began perfecting my skills because I knew I had it in me. I knew I could make these photographs that were in my head. I see momemts and life so beautifully, and I knew I could transfer that into a photo. I've never been "artsy" as far as a coloring pen and paper go. I kid you not, my drawing abilities don't surpass the stick person and squiggly trees (my stick dinosaurs are top notch). I have never had a vision for transforming my ideas into sketches or paintings. Those skills never advanced past the first grade anyhow. Writing, however, I could write for days. I don't have a great ability to express myself through spoken words, but I can convey every feeling and thought through writing. Most of the time (like now) I just sit down with a blink of an idea, and it just flows out of me. I don't linger on an idea for very long, nor take my time writing it. I just go with it. Plus, it's such a vulnerable feeling to have people seeing your thoughts, so it's something I've never felt as an outlet.
But I knew I had a vision. There has always been something inside me that could see moments in a way that I felt "artists" see them. I feel deeply and see things deeply. I have always been able to stop a moment in my mind and see nothing else (it's really terrible for driving.) My entire memory is snapshots. Even when studying in school, I learned things from taking a mental photo. I could remember the strangest, most absurd facts in large quantities so easily (Anthropology class master!) but processes were harder. You can't click a mental snapshot of 30 minute calculus equation.
Which brings me back to the "rules of photography." I got my camera four years ago while pregnant with Charlie without much of any real intention. I knew I wanted better-than-point-and-shoot photos of my kids and knew I wanted to learn how to use a "real" camera, but that was as far as my thought process had made it. Now that I've got my sleeves rolled up, neck-high in learning my craft, I'm pushing aside those rules in the "Proper Composition" and "The Don'ts of Photography!" articles.
I know when a person hires a photographer, they're searching for a certain look. Many times that look is the "smile!," "everyone eyes open, smiles big!," and "Kids come sit here and smile!"
Did you notice the common denominator there?
Smile. Speficially the forced smile.
Don't get me wrong. I do take these photos for people because a balance and mixture is important.
But they're not my favorite. They actually make me feel somewhat like a factory worker. They're unique in the fact that the PEOPLE in them are unique, but they're mundane to me after a few of them. I don't feel very much when I take or edit those photos (Ok, if they have some awesome sun in them, then I'm interested.) My entire focus has shifted to emotions. Real life mess. I rarely ever ask my boys to smile for a photo. I know Grandma wants that photo of everyone smiling for the camera, but my heart is in it's happy place when I capture true connection. A happy laugh-smile instead of a "head tilted this way, chin up, smile big! Not that big!" forced smile.
My "perfectly composed" photos are becoming boring to me. My editing style is transforming into moody, rich, deep blacks, white whites, contrasty ART. I felt strange thinking of my work as "art" for a while, but now I feel it. I'm taking this and running with it.
I'm pushing myself and challenging myself to try new techniques, new edits, new styles, etc. I feel like I'm finding ME.
So here's my take-away from all of this:
I don't care about rules. I have my own set of "rules" that I like to follow for my own images (straight horizons/lines I'm looking at you), but a lot I've tried to follow and hate it. I like blowing out my highlights in those window shots. I like crushing my blacks. I love pushing that contrast. I like underexposing or overexposing given the mood/situation. I like focusing on a specific area, which means limbs and heads get chopped. I like shooting warm (I love you, Kelvin). I love taking that lens off my camera and freelensing to my heart's content. That out of focus depth, with that small focal area interest point makes my photos feel like true memories to me. I even, GASP, don't sharpen my photos! The horror.
I'm sure I'll look back at these words later and see that some of those things have completely changed or many might stay the same, so I'm glad I have it written down to come back to- to see how I've grown.
It's empowering to push off that worry of what others think of your work- even when it's not completely gone. I've found such amazing groups dedicated to breaking rules, pushing limits, etc. I'm only scratching the surface right now. I tell you, it is so easy to compare yourself to other talent. I do it all.the.time. I have so much to learn and so far to grow.
But I'm finding me. I'm finding MY shooting style, MY editing style, and what makes me tick. I finally feel like I've reached that point where I'm loving my own work.