“To learn how I see, is something that cannot be taught, but must be learned. It is too easy to be the photographer that is expected rather than the artist within.”
– Brooks Jensen
[This is the same apple from my last post, just a few days later. In these cold winter days, the birds have made good use of the last few apples hanging on the bare trees. I was struck by the heart-shape created in the fruit.]
I’m reading one of my Christmas presents, Letting Go of the Camera: Essays on Photography and the Creative Life by Brooks Jensen, a favorite writer of mine on the subject of photography. The point he is making in this quote from one of his essays is one I ponder often.
We have all been taught in various ways what to shoot and how to shoot it. The work of other photographers implicitly describes this to us and we intentionally or subconsciously do as they do. We take workshops and read books where we’re taught how to be a photographer. People have expectations of us when they hear we are a “photographer”. They picture scenic landscapes, beautiful flowers or perhaps portraits of kids. They (and we) often provide neat boxes within which the work should fit.
The best other photographers can do through their work is to show us how they see. And I love this about art, it’s ability to tell us something intimate about someone else. Not all photographers reveal this through their work, but the best ones do.
Yet somehow, through the process of making our own work, taking our own photographs, we must learn how we see. And this doesn’t mean figuring out how to take the pictures that fit within the neat boxes others associate with “photography”. It means understanding more about ourselves, a process that is fueled as much by life’s experiences as it is by experiences in a workshop.
As we develop this understanding and learn to convey it in our work, we can hope to be one of those artists who, through their work, shares their own personal vision with others.