Anytime I mention that I am a photographer, there is an inevitable question: what sort of photography do you do?
That is a more difficult question than it may seem. The opportunities for photographic endeavors and career directions are almost limitless. From fashion photography to news photography, to specialists in food, portraits, weddings, sports, wildlife, commercial products, industrial devices and more . . . the list goes on.
And then, there is also the fine art of photography.
I recently had an opportunity to exhibit an image - one image - at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville, California. The curator of the exhibit was kind enough to take a look at my website, and make a suggestion as to which image I should include. His choice surprised me. It would certainly not have been my first pick.
So when I went to the gallery to deliver the image, I brought along a couple of others as well, just in case. But his opinion did not change, and he generously took some time to talk with me about photography in general, and fine art photography in particular.
My own photography is largely editorial in style. He had no quibble with that, but for his gallery, he said he was looking for something more. Images that make one wonder, images that stretch and engage the mind. It isn't enough, he felt, to portray a subject. In that case, the viewer observes, takes in, and then moves on. Fine art photography should stimulate a deeper level of thinking.
We often say that successful images tell a story. Perhaps another way of looking at it is that fine art images lead the viewer into an element of a story, but leave him poised with his own thoughts of how that story may unfold.
Everyone knows, of course, that some of the photography we view today as fine art was originally more editorial in nature. The amazing photography of Dorthea Lange was originally commissioned by the US Government to document the lives of migrant workers in the 1930's. Today, we look at those images and see something far deeper than "documentation". We see the immense character of people struggling to survive in the most difficult of times.
Even the work of the great Ansel Adams may be fairly viewed as the documentation of wonderful places. But he accomplished this in a way that takes the thoughtul viewer beyond those places, and into another realm of wonder.
My conversation with the curator has left me thinking about my own photography in a new way. I like an editorial style of photography, and that will continue to be an important emphasis in my photographic identity. But I am thinking more about the art of my work, looking at images in a new way. I realize I would like to create images will do more than impress the viewer with beauty, accuracy, a slap of emotion or the thrill of recognition.
Instead, I am thinking it would be wonderful to create images that will leave the viewer with his or own thoughts - thoughts that could go in directions I never imagined or intended, and create an experience that lasts far beyond the few seconds any image may hold a person's attention.