I belong to two different photography clubs, both of which have salons (or competitions) each month. Members submit images which are sent to a “judge” who “judges” the images and then gives feedback as well as ratings at the salon. We get to hear what the judge thinks is good or could be improved about the image. Critiques are often based upon the so-called rules of photography. Is the image sharp? Is the composition pleasing? But some judges also take into account emotion, story, and other non-tangible artistic attributes of the images.
At first I was afraid of submitting my images, afraid that my work would be judged negatively. Showing my work to others made me feel as if I was taking off all my clothes in public. It was a very scary experience. I still feel vulnerable sharing my work, but it also feels good to show my work and talk about it.
When I finally started submitting my images for review at photo club, I sometimes found the comments helpful, sometimes not so helpful. It really depended upon the skill and interests of the judge. And it depended upon the images I submitted. I have been surprised and I have to admit gratified when they liked my work, angry when I thought they didn’t get my vision, and appreciative when their feedback taught me something new.
But I’m really beginning to question the whole competition aspect of camera clubs. I much prefer hearing people talk about their photographs themselves and having a group discussion about the photos. I learn best from others who are doing the work, attempting to grow, and continually pressing beyond their current comfort zone.
I love the conversations I have with other photographers about photography at the club meetings and I love the inspiration I’ve gotten to go beyond technique and search to express my own vision and voice in my work. It is in talking with others that I have begun to understand more about vision after struggling with trying to understand what it is, how you find it, and how you express it.
Recently I discovered a new blog and photographer, Cole Thompson. When I read several of his blog posts they resonated deeply with me and I wanted to share links to his work so that you can read his ideas in his own words.
In the first Cole Thompson blog post I read, “Ten Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years,” one of the ten things Cole lists in his 10 things is, “Vision is Everything.” Thompson describes asking the same questions I’ve been wrestling with for the past year or more, “What is Vision? How do you find it? How do you know when you’ve got it?
“Vision was simply the sum total of my life experiences that caused me to see the world in a unique way. When I looked at a scene and saw it a certain way…that was my vision.” — Cole Thompson, Blog post, “Ten Things I’ve Learned in 50 years”
It was wonderful to read what Thompson had to say about vision as it matched up with my own experiences in seeking to understand vision, but his words took me a bit further on the journey of learning to express my own unique vision in my work. I then went on to read a couple of other blog posts he wrote called, How I Found My Vision and A Suggestion for Camera Clubs.
Take a look at his black and white photography on his blog and his photography website. I loved the story of how he made his photograph titled “The Angel Gabriel,” and enjoyed seeing his projects.
Learning about vision and voice…
The thing that I find most interesting is that the more I learn about Vision and Voice as a photographer, the less it seems to be connected to photography or art and the more I realize that it is about developing who I am as a human being. It’s about recognizing and understanding myself, my emotions, and my own point of view. It’s about having the courage to live out loud, letting myself become vulnerable, and expressing myself.
“Interestingly I came to conclude that Vision had little to do with photography or art and had more to do with being a well-adjusted, confident and independent human being. Once I had the confidence to pursue my art on my terms, and define success for myself, I was free to pursue my Vision without fear of rejection or need for acceptance.” — Cole Thompson, Blog post
I suspect that working towards mastery in any creative endeavor teaches us to be who we are as fully as we can be. It’s what we’re here for, to express and develop our own unique voice fully and freely.
It’s about being human.
May you walk in beauty.