“If only there were a longer time between epiphany and epitaph” David Glaser
After years, literally years, of searching, struggling, studying and agonizing I finally have a clear vision of my photography. I can clearly see the final prints, the content, the style, everything.
I’m not sharing that to brag, but to share the process and emotional side of that endeavor. When I say agony I mean it. This was one of the most emotionally taxing events in my life, and one of the most drawn out. I’m 50 now and have been taking photos since I was 7 or 8. I’ve studied photography and art, tried to figure out “how they do it”, spoken to many photographers I admire and more.
I know that many photographers are going through the same thing. It’s important to note though that both the process and the end result are unique to you. Please read that last sentence again as it’s the key to all of this. Some people need a mentor, some people need to work in solitude, some need to travel, some need to stay close to home, etc. Everyone has a different method of learning.
The common factor though is a strong desire…strike that, it’s more than a desire – it’s an obsession to find the answer. It’s a passion within you so strong that you can’t not seek it out.
Here’s the advice I can share:
- Study. Art, light, photography, life, your topic.
- Reflect. This isn’t something that happens overnight. Ponder on it.
- Try. Experiment with all sorts of things. Push your boundaries.
- Play. This should be fun, remember?
- Don’t just shoot thousands of photographs – that’s just half of the equation. After you shoot, “debrief” yourself. What worked, what didn’t? Ask yourself why you liked a particular photo, and then go deeper into that one aspect. It may uncover a passion, a technique, a subject that may inspire you.
I know I’ll get questions about my own epiphany and what it entails. Honestly, it doesn’t matter because it’s unique to me and not applicable to anyone else. I can tell you that it’s 100% film (analogue) based throughout the pipeline – from capture through to optical printing in the darkroom. No computers involved at all at any point. If I post them on my site it will be because they’re scanned prints rather than negatives.
Why did I choose this path? One simple reason:
It makes me happy.
It will give me the prints that I want to hang on my walls, allow me to work in a process that I enjoy, and it feeds my soul. Yes, it will entail me getting a few more pieces of gear to realize this vision, including a darkroom setup at home rather than renting time at a shared darkroom now. I’ll also tell you that it’s not (gasp!) toy camera based. Not that I don’t love them, but because I can’t implement my vision with them. And to be clear, I have absolutely nothing against digital. It can yield fantastic quality and can be a wonderful tool for many photographers. It’s just not something I enjoy as much as shooting with film.
I hope all of that makes sense. It’s such a personal and esoteric subject that it’s often difficult to give specific advice.
Now comes the hard part: Frantically trying to get to the subjects I want to photograph and refine the technique before this epiphany turns into an epitaph.