When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice. – Robert Frank
There are certain “triggers” that evoke strong emotions in me when it comes to my photography and being boring is one of the strongest that I rage against. More often than not, I don’t take a photo simply because it’s been taken a million times before. I may take a photo with my point & shoot just to capture a memory, but it will never see the light of day.
I just returned from Las Vegas where I popped into the Peter Lik gallery. Mr. Lik is a very popular photographer who specializes in very large landscape photos. He reportedly sold a photo for $1Million recently and is obviously a brilliant marketer with galleries in many malls.
What struck me when I went into the gallery were two things: First, they’re very well presented with black walls and good lighting. The biggest thing to strike me though was how incredibly ordinary the photos were. They were of locations that you’ve seen a million times, taken from the same positions that everyone else shoots them from. Technically competent, obviously taken with high-end medium format digital gear and printed VERY large. He cranked up the color saturation on all of them, biased them towards primary colors, and they placed them in the gallery so the complementary colors were next to each other. The presentation worked very well, but it was the subject matter and technique that baffled me with how incredibly ordinary they were. I could buy a post card or search Flickr and find many better photos of the same locations.
I say this not to slam Mr. Lik, he’s obviously making money using that approach, but just to encourage you to look at your photos with a critical eye. What make one photo unique? What will make yours stand out from the rest? Will your photo, as Robert Frank said above, make a viewer want to look at it again and again?
Fight against the boring, easy way. Pause before you hit the shutter button and consider what drew you to the subject in the first place and then try to bring out that essence in your own unique way.
More Monument Valley
I finally finished processing my Holga photos from Monument Valley. You can see them on my site here. A special thanks to Randy at HolgaMods for getting me my custom Holga in time for the trip. I have a new primary camera now as it’s tailored to how I shoot. Randy does a great job with his Holgas!
The shot at the top of this post was taken on HWY 163 between Monument Valley and Mexican Hat UT. It was popularized in the movie Forrest Gump as the point where Tom Hanks finally stopped running. I was thankful that I had a partner to watch for traffic!