A degree of restraint is what’s required, I feel.
This week I bought a copy of Will Steacy’s ‘Photographs not taken’, which promises to be an interesting account of images that photographers chose not to take.
Like music where the space between the notes is just as important as the notes, the space between taking images is just as important as the making of an image.
With so much image proliferation happening right now, I have a wonder if what we’re doing is polluting our visual existence with too much sensory overload?
I know for myself, I need space between shooting because in the quiet moments, when images aren’t being created, I can reflect, consider and simply enjoy what is around me – I have to live in the moment just as much as I may feel I wish to document it.
An image should exist because it has a reason. In the film Amadeus, the King says to Motzart that he didn’t care for his opera because ‘it has too many notes’, while Motzart responds with ‘but I used as many notes as it required’. Our own work should be similar – we should create what we need to create to tell our story, and no more. Having a sense of restraint is a quality rather than a hinderance to our own development as photographers, so long as we’re in control of it and can moderate it.
But I often wonder if what I’m doing is going down a path of less creativity. As beginners, we tend to photograph everything, and anything. As our craft develops, we start to become more aware of what we’re doing, and inevitably more selective. We focus more on certain things and discard others. I feel that sometimes I restrict myself too much; I have built up a lot of experience of what I feel does not work, so I don’t shoot it – which in itself is limiting as I may find new opportunities if I did.
As time goes by, I become more and more restrictive – the number of images is reduced down and down, while I seek something that is really worth telling.
But as much as this is a process of pushing myself forward, aiming to create more finely-tuned, stylistic work, I’m not entirely sure of where it’s heading. Maybe all that will happen is that I will create less and less, until ultimately, I create nothing at all?
I degree of balance is required.
We need to monitor ourselves and our behaviour, know when we are simply shooting too much garbage – and it is garbage, because it’s produced with less consideration and less thought behind it (and we know it too – don’t we?), and know when we are not shooting enough because we’re putting up barriers that stop us from being creative at all.
I think Will Steacy’s book is about this, but much more too. I think it’s really an interesting view on what made photographers – and she interviews plenty – decide not to shoot something. It isn’t always down to ‘because I didn’t like it’. There are more reasons to this I’m sure.
But I think for me, it’s a chance to reflect on my own motivations and to question why I choose not to make images.
I’ll let you know what I think of Will Steacy’s book once I’m finished with it, but if you’d like to buy a copy, it’s pretty inexpensive at just £11.25 from Beyond Words