Thursday, 10 September 2015

Are you a Photographic Sucker?

Photographic suckers produce boring images.

They do that by being suckered into QUANTITY rather than QUALTY  images.

A few weeks back I noticed a slick advertising campaign 'Twenty new photography competitions every month'. And another 'hundreds of photography competitions for you to enter'. You can enter just about anything from the 'Sunsets' comp to the 'Men with just one leg' to the 'Budgerigars sitting on french poodles' competition!

Let's get one thing very clear here. Such competitions are there to make money for the organisers and for them to sell you additional products and services. They may tell you they are there for you to expand your creativity in photography. There 'pulling your leg'.  Other competitions will promise you world-wide exposure or even being exhibited in a famous art gallery. Alas, read the fine print - you may find that the exposure is restricted to being on a temporary website loosely named after a famous art gallery. More 'sucker' bait.

Less sinister than the multi-entry competitions is the explosion of on-line photographic groups. Fortunately, they are not designed to take your money but they are designed to lure you into producing more, lower quality images. How? Very simply. You join the 'closed' group, feel special and feel obliged to contribute. Even when you have virtually nothing to contribute. These groups are classic examples of 'activity traps'. They make you feel good, they make the organisers feel good, but they do very little to injecting creativite stem cells into your lacklustre system.

These groups are de facto thieves - they are not stealing your money but they are stealing your time - your own 'coin of life'. There will be the 'Film Photographers Group' who do little more than photograph other cameras, the 'Creative Photographer's group who tend to  stifle creativity and the provincial 'East Wyalkatchem North Noggergerrin Photography Club' with 3 members. For heaven's sake - why don't the members of the EWNNPC just meet up, have a few beers and shoot a few sheep and kangaroos in the end paddock.

One secret to avoiding boring photography and to take a truly creative path is to develop a personal project. A pathway that belongs to you and you alone.

Recently I attended a seminar where the presenter said he devised a project where he would photograph his 4 year old daughter every day for 365 days. I squirmed in my seat  and thought 'How bloody boring!'. The presenter than said 'I'm going to show you those 365 photos in 3minutes'. 'Oh no, what a mess' I thought. Where is the fire escape, quick!

I was blown away with his presentation - it was powerful, an insight into the changing moods of the photographer on a 24 hour cycle and the variability of his daughter's response. It was a truly stunning presentation and unifying, creative project. The presenter then topped it off by showing us postcards of his best dozen shots in black and white. No fire escape required.

Another way is to produce a book with a  theme - maybe a destination (not Syria at the moment), a passion (food or wine are good places to start), a cause (medical or otherwise), a hobby. Allow youself the best part of a year if you want to do this really well. (Tip: Every single time you click the shutter think of three commercial applications for that image).

I've always been fascinated by people. And I have always lived close by Indian Ocean and the Swan River. I devised a project to photograph people and water. People in water, on water, under water, at sunset, sundown, middle of the day, middle of the night.  I photographed them reading books underwater, taking photos in the water with non-waterproof cameras, pushing weights in the water, clad and unclad. Some avoided sharks in the water,others were swamped by passing ferries No-one complained. I called for volunteers and had so many that I had to restrict numbers. They froze in winter and burnt in summer. One thing was for sure - we all had fun and produced some memorable images. More than twenty of these images now hang on the walls of the subjects as memorable keepsakes.

Join me alongside the Swan River and dip your toes into my Creativity Pool with a UWA Extension Photography Workshop. I'll even throw in lunch (not in the water! Click HERE for details.
PS I'll also show you how to shoot images sharper than a surgeon's scalpel.

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