As I go about my day looking at social media such as Google + and Facebook, I am struck by the sheer amount of great landscape photography that the digital revolution has produced.
As I look at these photos day after day, they have become mundane and previously
striking locations have all melded into background noise
as I quickly scroll to see what is next. Very few of these photos make me stop and linger and look at the composition or ponder how it was produced.
This is the state of our photographs, today. We consume so much via the internet on our selected photographic interests that
we become mundane as photographers.
This past week I have been reading a book by Brooks Jensen named Letting Go of the Camera. As the editor of Lenswork Magazine, he has written many essays over the years, but one of the many that caught my attention is called Image & Idea.
The following paragraph struck a chord within me, that was hard to dismiss. I highlighted it and come back to it several times during the week.
This simple paragraph held a truth, that had bothered me
somewhat unknowingly for the past several years.
Instead, I became an ARAT photographer – a term a friend uses (somewhat disparagingly) for “Another Rock, Another Tree.” The question is: Who cares that I’ve made another photograph of a compositionally interesting rock, tree, riverbed, sand dune, or (you fill in the blank). Like so many photographers I know, after pursuing these kind of images for years, I eventually had to look back and assess the results. Years of productive energy had generated a body of work that was nothing more than Another Rock, Another Tree. Boring photographs done so much better by so many others so many times before me. This is not to say there is inherently anything wrong with photographing rocks and trees. Rocks and trees are not the problem, nor is landscape photography in general. The problem lies not with the subject material but with the content. To put it bluntly, the problem lies with the photographer.
– Brooks Jensen
As I dissected my own work, I saw the photographs that Brooks talked about. The photos were good compositionally, but honestly they were boring. He was right, it was not the rocks or trees fault, it was the way I was seeing myself as a photographer.
I had become lazy, looking for the easy sunset,
chasing the raging waterfall, looking for the perfect tree to place in the foreground. It was for the most part all photographs without emotion or context.
My mind twirled, thinking what is the next step?
Should I just scrap what I was doing and put away my camera for awhile?
Should I take down my photographs and websites, until I could put meaning back into my photography?