PERSONAL WORK // ITS LIKE COOKING
I'm going to talk about past work and how it relates to your current vision and journey. I will go into letting your work "marinate" and what that means to me and how I have looked at my approach. My examples will be series from a few years ago and current series I have begun or look to delve deeper into. Sarcasm everywhere. I'll get all "spiritual", "artsy", on you but know that I openly laugh at people that speak that way. Take it all with a grain of salt. You might get "it" you might not. No worries, I'm just farting ideas late in the night. Because I think one of the most pressing things to keep in your thoughts as photographers and artists is to not take yourself too seriously and at the same time being about your work fully.
I was cleaning and sorting out old hard drives when I ran across a project I had done for a photography class awhile back. It was a self portrait one. At the time I shot it I wasn't too impressed or happy with what I had come up with. But looking back on this series I found things that I liked about it. I thought back to what my original idea was and had I accomplished it? No. But looking back on past work is very important to photographers and artist alike. Hell it is good for everyone to take a step back and look at prior accomplishments as well as failures. But it is also important to keep in mind that the journey to a place of clarity is always happening. It never stops.
Think of work that is personal to you as a ribeye steak. (Sorry to all the vegetarians out there) How do you go about preparing a beautiful juicy ribeye steak? Well first off you've got to run down to your local butcher and pick only the choice meat out. 1. This is formation and organizing of ideas. Once you've talked to the butcher and peered over the goods you settle on a fine slab of meat. You then go about thinking of what will compliment the steak as a meal and get those items before taking it back to your one bedroom apartment and plopping that steak in the freezer. 2. This is the commitment to going fully into your work for the time being. You then choose a night ripe enough to feast on the meal you had previously thought out. 3. This is moment of acting on your idea. So this is where we get to the prime (excuse the pun) point of this post. What do you do before all else in preparing the steak for dinner? You tenderize and marinate that toughened meat up. 4. This is where our ideas are made reality. We make work all the time. We go gun ho getting our cameras out and shoot, shoot, shooting away. Acting on ideas, having so much ambition but then the final product rolls around and... we're disappointed. Why? We approached it with fury. We studied all the handbooks. We shot it technically correct. We composed, composed, composed. We watched every light tutorial, we had every person working on it doing what they were supposed to do. We then show it to all our friends, colleagues, relatives and peers for approval and yes we do receive it. Yet we look at it with some unfilled half smile.
You see what we did is we didn't or haven't yet let our work marinate.When working with work that is more personal to myself. I at first didn't approach it this way. I was Joe Shmo photographer. Hey look at me! DSLR! Nikon over Canon! No one else is a photographer but me! Here's my work isn't it awesome?! I hadn't yet found out the importance of letting my work marinate. (Among other things.) I now have to take a step back from my work and look at it. Not happy with it? I used to throw it away, but now, I save it. I then come back to it. See what is successful in it. See what isn't. But all while keeping in mind that it is step #4 on to making my meal. Ideas need time to marinate, they need to be acted upon yes, but they need proper time to soak and become softened. Not tough and hard to figure out. Not a puzzle. But something that is smooth and can be put together easily.
Here are two self portraits that I found deep within the caves of my old hard drive. When I found them, I wasn't disgusted with them like I was when I gave up on editing them and wanting to reshoot. I wasn't nit picking over all the details of, digital noise, blown highlights, blacks not strong enough there, white balance all funky, not sharp here or there, etc. etc. Instead I looked at them and remembered the idea I had when I took them. I saw how I tried to accomplish that. I began to put the pieces together in how I could approach it again. It had marinated!
A few words on self portraits. It has become the biggest trend among all people in this now digitalized age. The word "selfie" is actually now in the Webster's English Dictionary. But the interesting thing that I have always had with self images in photography is: we chose what we want others to see. We create people we think we are. We create people we think we aren't. We portray these images out into the world knowing people will judge but also I think seeking acceptance. So I think a selfie here and again is healthy. It lets you look at yourself, lets you be honest or dishonest as to who you are portraying out into the word. Just keep that in mind.