Taking a quick look at the results, I have to say, I can't believe these images are my own work. The works are full of detail and show (to me) incredible resolution. They also have a quality of light that I never thought I'd ever achieve (see a prior blog entry on this very topic).
Looking at my work from a somewhat removed third person point of view is rather educational. I realize that I work differently than many of my friends and colleagues. This came after an email exchange with Pete Gomena, current President of the Portland Photographer's Forum (PPF). He p0inted out something that I hadn't fully considered nor appreciated before.
In very broad generalizations, I feel that there are two approaches used by photographers in making their images. The first are "found" image makers and the second are "idea" image makers. In "f0und" image making, a person wanders the world looking for something that attracts their eye. *Snap* goes the shutter and, with luck, a person has a pleasing image. When I follow DP Review, Fred Miranda, and many of the camera manufacturer's "expert" advice posts I see that a great many people work in this manner. Wander the world. Look for something interesting.
For "idea" image makers, it seems like we start from something we read or saw or felt. Then we work to re-create the reading, seeing, or feeling in the form of an image. I count myself as one of these kinds of image makers. I feel I can't make a decent landscape image, but, after looking at the prints for the upcoming show, I'm not half bad at taking ideas and transforming them into images.
It's a strange feeling to realize this about myself. I worked for years to follow in Saint Ansel's and Brother Weston's footsteps. The path to enlightenment lay in the world of cameras, lenses, and image making processes (careful film selection, film exposure and development, and printmaking). Or so I believed.
Perhaps seven years ago a huge shift in how I worked took place. I rented a studio from Ray Bidegain for a year or two and started to work with models. For me, to work with models, I needed an idea. Somewhere to begin. Otherwise all I would be left with was a model, perhaps attractively attired, standing in from of a viewer like a stiff sack of potatoes.
Over the next several years I read a lot of books by Terry Pratchett, a few by Niel Gaiman, Susanna Clarke and Ian Banks, and remembered how it felt to read Jules Verne. It was natural for me to then seek out scenes and settings that reminded me of what I read. It took time for me to work the lighting to the point where the images expressed the depth and perspective of what I saw in "my mind's eye" (hmmm... that's almost like St Ansel's "pre-visualization", only turned on it's head in oh so many ways...).
This morning I read a few threads on DP Review and Fred Miranda that reminded me of where I started, oh, forty some years ago. Folks yammering on about equipment and lenses and what's best and what's junk. It's almost as if they need to yackity-yack so they can avoid having to make an image they could be judged against. Then I considered my prints. These are sharper in all dimensions, particularly in the execution of ideas, than anything I ever made from an 8x10inch silver gelatine contact print.
At this point, the camera equipment nearly does not matter. For me, it is the development of ideas that matter most. All the rest doesn't really matter. Nearly. I would like to show my work in Paris, France. But that still has nothing to do with camera equipment, now does it?