Last year I published a post entitled Old “new” photographs: A lifetime of editing where I looked at the entire journey of photography as a series of creative choices. Each choice involves editing. So, photography is all about editing. It’s the moment you choose, the focus you choose, the camera and lens you choose, and obviously, the subject you choose. And what you choose will change over time (or not!).
I always encouraged my students to be somewhat capricious and not give too much thought to the process of taking photographs. “When your mouth drops open, click the shutter.” This offers a way to by-pass the inner critic and just get the eye seeing. Maybe it’s a right brain process, who knows? But, there’s still editing going on. It’s just more a function of the intuitive than the analytical.
I think this is one reason why photography, or any art form, is a way of knowing oneself. I’ve gotten to know myself better by looking at my own work than by trying to figure myself out otherwise! (oy vey!)
Some photographers, like myself, are called to experiment in different ways at different chapters of their lives, which can result in a highly diverse body of work. Yet generally there’s a thread that weaves through all your work, no matter how different the subject matter.And, that’s your personal photographic signature. (I’ve written more about that in my post Up close and personal: consistency and innovation in our work).
How we edit our work places an emphasis on certain aspects of our vision that we’re particularly “hot” on at that point in our lives… and sometimes leaves behind some precious jewels that we can only see later.
My website was recently up-dated thanks to our web guru, David Brabyn. John and Judith had been building a file of newly discovered imagery from our process of re-looking at old contact sheets and slightly newer color slides. Some of them didn’t fit yet into the categories already in place on the website, so we added a “Recently Discovered” section, which will include my reminiscences about some of the photographs. We will up-date it regularly, so please stop by!
Being young or being old, life is always new. So at 84 my vision is still new to me. What I’m loving now is looking back on a lifetime of work and seeing the boy evolve into a man. Sometimes I look at my early work and appreciate that young guy anew because I love what he saw and how he saw it! This dialogue between the younger and older in me has brought me a greater appreciation for that visual narrative called “my life!”
Whatever your creative pursuits are, I recommend going back from time to time. Read the poem you wrote long ago and hear it again for the first time. It might mean something totally different to you now just as the photograph you took when you were younger reveals some riches you never saw before. Ah, the benefits of age (…and consider about the alternatives!).