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As a professional photographer, and as an artist, my creative growth has always been something that I have been passionate about. I never wanted to get comfortable with my work. I always dreaded the thought of continuing on a straight creative path and becoming stagnant. If my work didn’t evolve and change, what was the point? Of course, since this is my career and my source of income to provide for my family, that was an important element, and I’ve always felt extremely blessed to be able to do something that I absolutely love for a living. But, if I stopped growing creatively I would stop loving it. Then it would become just a job.
Obsession with Photography
Since I began my career as a professional photographer, I have been obsessed with perfecting my art. Especially my wedding photography. I wanted to create images so unique, that people couldn’t get them anywhere else. Now, none of us are reinventing the wheel. We stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us, and those that presently inspire us. But, if I could incorporate a little bit of “me” into my work, then there could be a possibility of creating a personal style that only I could provide. That has always been extremely important to me.
It’s taken a LONG TIME to reach a point to where I could even begin to feel confident that I am coming close to my goal. Hundreds of weddings and hundreds of portrait sessions. Many, many events. I’ve reached a level of technical expertise that I can forget that part and focus on the organic. That sounds a little TOO metaphysical but I believe that that is a huge part of developing as an artist. Reaching a point where you think less about how to do something, and just “do”.
Changing Photographic Tools
I believe that the only people who care about what photographic tools that I use are other photographers, generally. But they do affect my approach. And I recently discovered that they also affect my creative growth. Just when I reached, what I felt, was a level of technical proficiency, as I mentioned, I decided to completely change tools. Switching from DSLR to a mirrorless camera system (entirely new technology that would require another blog post to sufficiently explain). There are many reasons for the switch, which would be (and probably will be) an entire blog post on it’s own. But switching systems has made me feel like a beginner again. The struggle to master the tool so that I can let that indescribable, organic thing happen. Working to figure out the limits of the photographic tools that I use so that I can fulfill the vision of each image that I create. A totally different place than where I was a year ago but one that I’ve experienced before. The challenges of learning that gives us a creative edge.
As soon as we become comfortable as artists, we lose that edge. Resting on what works, we stop growing. I could have continued on the path that I was on and been just fine. But I felt stagnant, even though my work was at the same level. I didn’t feel like I was growing. I felt that I had hit a plateau and was struggling to get beyond it. There were a lot of reasons for this. A lot of the photographic print competitions that I was involved in was one reason. They undoubtedly made me a better photographer but by wanting to succeed in them, I was conforming to a set of requirements. I realized that this was killing my growth. Producing award winning photography that satisfied a list of requirements but did nothing in my quest for growth. By no longer participating and simply changing my tools, all of this changed. That edgy tension has returned and made me unsure of myself as an artist. I’m no longer conforming to structured and stifling required elements of any organization and pursuing what I feel is superior. And I feel that this is a fantastic thing.
I liken it to an overgrown forest. The only way to ensure that a forest stays healthy is to make sure that it doesn’t get overgrown. One way that nature takes care of this is by creating fires. It’s commonly known that a forest becomes more healthy after overgrowth is cleared, usually burned away by a forest fire. That is why many responsible forest management systems consist of controlled burns. I feel that the only way for my creativity to stay healthy was to burn everything away (figuratively). A controlled burn. Something as simple as changing photo systems set a fire to the overgrowth that had developed and created, anew, the fertile ground of creativity that I’ve been chasing my whole career. Starting over has pushed me onward.
I’ve definitely felt that my work has cleared the plateau that I felt that I’ve been on. Continuing to grow and get better will allow me to provide one of a kind style for my clients. And that is, really, my ultimate goal as a professional photographer.