Do You See What I See?
If you’ve been taking photos for any length of time, you have a collection of photos, many of which you think are good (or you wouldn’t be holding onto them in your collection, right?). Have you ever looked at some of your older photos, ones you really liked at the time that you took them? What do you think of them now? Personally, and many people that I talk to share similar experiences, look back on previous work and wonder how I ever thought that was any good. Recently, we were visiting my in-laws in Arizona and we couldn’t help but notice the beautifully framed photos that were prominently displayed. This was a gift we had made to them a number of years ago. My husband and I both winced as we looked at them and simultaneously said We have got to replace those with better ones. My mother-in-law sweetly protested that they were beautiful photos (it’s nice to have a good relationship with your in-laws). My husband and I looked at each other and understood that we would replace those older, not-so-good photos with better ones.
How is it that my idea of what is good changes? I can easily understand that my skill at the craft of photography changes. I thought, though, that I had always understood what was good and was not so pleasing to look at. I know that several years ago, I had taken photos that I did not keep because they were not “good” ones. I know that I viewed images taken by other people and judged some of them as good and others as not so good.
As I consider the question of how my values of things change, I see that this is true in many other areas of my life. The more time that I spend learning about something and learn more about its details, the more information I have to form my opinions with. Those new to wine generally prefer sweet white wines, not liking the dry feel of the tannins found red wines. Repeated exposure to a variety of wines, and acquiring information about wines, assists in the maturation process of the taster. The same is true in photography.
One of the most enjoyable ways of honing my eye as an artist is to regularly view work by other people. Locally, there are always venues for seeing art and engaging with artists. The internet is global and now we can easily view works of art from small villages and big cities that we would never get to visit. I like to bookmark artist sites that inspire me. I study the works on those sites, in books, magazines, and the ones I see in person. What do I like about each work that I see? What did the artist do better than I did, or differently than I do in my work? What do I not like about the piece of art and what might I change in the picture? These are questions I ask myself and questions that make for engaging conversation with others.