Monday, May 19, 2008

What is Originality?

I was reading the most recent issue of LenWork, no. 76 and they have the most interesting discussion about originality so I thought I would post a response on my blog here.

I agree there aren't many subjects that are original in photography at least something that has not been seen before. What I find interesting for example is if I photograph a pepper similar to one of Edward Weston's pepper series, and I am the only one who sees the final image, its an original image to me, I get the joy and satisfaction from making the initial photograph, the creative process and the follow through work of making the print whether that be from digital or film, I can admire the print and say "I made that ".

Now I believe art should be shared with a wider audience than just myself, so if I take the same print and show it to ten other people, perhaps my friends and family and they like what I have done then I have just shared my work with others which makes me happy, ( hopefully they will not be familiar with Weston's pepper photographs! ) if I did a good job they might even find the image interesting and say they have never seen anything like that before.

While casting my net in search of a little bit bigger audience I might post the picture on my website or blog and and some people might look at it and still find it interesting, but the chances are that a number of people will have seen Weston's pepper pictures and will likely think its just the "same old same old", possibly not wanting to come back to my blog or website again.

Now that I am feeling really encouraged with my pepper photograph I might contemplate submitting my image to a magazine for publication, upon arriving on the publisher or editor's desk he or she might look at my pepper image and say "we've seen that before" and it would probably not get published because it would not be of an original nature.

I think must be difficult for publishers these days, how does one find something that is original and something that readers will find interesting? ( plus keeping your readership ) , after all pretty well everything has been photographed under the sun in terms of original subject matter has been done. I wonder if this does not play into what a photographer looks for in a image when out photographing, if one is looking to get their photographs published in a magazine or book that is.

This must be one of the challenges of sharing art on a broader scale , which includes the internet where new images are posted by untold numbers every few minutes around the world, now if you can be content with an audience of one ( yourself ) then pretty well anything goes as far as original subject matter goes, but if you are looking for wider audience to show you work to, ( which we all hope to have ) then your vision may very well have to change to accommodate the expectations of those viewers from the bigger audience.

Posted with these words is an image I shot with my Nikon P50 point and shoot camera, I did make some images with y 4 x 5 view camera but those might have to wait a while.


Robert Koopmans said...

You make some interesting observations.

I think Edward Weston made original pictures of peppers because he saw something beautiful in them; he looked at peppers in ways no others have.

I think we need to pursue the things that capture our soul and engage our spirit and creativity, and let what flows from that flow. If it's "art" that follows, then great. If others find that art, and appreciate the uniqueness of it somehow, even better.

If not — if the things we fret, shoot, develop and print never rise to greater glory — so be it. We still contribute to the greater good, but answering that thing inside that makes us want to create; fulfillment that inevitably makes us richer for the achievement of it.

Did Edward Weston shoot peppers for others, or himself? In that question is an answer, I think, IMHO.

By the way, nice pepper photo!! :)

Mark said...

Maybe you should try carrots? :-)

I have often thought similar things about photo editors and publishers since they see so much come across their desks.

Similar to the sound of a tree falling in a forest.... I wonder how many photographers THINK they have an original idea and are just not told by an editor it has been done before.

lolly said...

Well, I like your shot, gary! It's original to me because of how you saw it. I've never seen the Weston pepper series, but that would make no difference to me; it's how YOU saw it that makes it original to ME.

Look forward to the 4x5 versions too; would like to see the differences, if there are any! :o0