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Ok, it's pretty common knowledge that I'm impressionable. I've had to deal with bouncing around from one style to another in all three of my professions (to this point), being pulled and twisted like a piece of turkish taffy.
As a jazz drummer/ composer, for years I would try to emulate giants in the profession until I got to the point where I realized that it was time to stop emulating and time to start developing my own musical voice. At that point, I stopped studying what others were doing, not forever, but for years to give my own musical point of view the space needed to develop and to crystallize.
I became a student of magic as the drummer on the Harry Blackstone national tour, where I had the privilege to play on the first HBO special from the Seattle Opera House and played for the show during it's run on Broadway. I became a student of close up magic, which is more slight of hand and technique rather than relying on props. After years of studying with Harry, and my most influential mentor, the great Cy Keller, I began to use the numerous techniques that I acquired, re-inventing and re-adapting moves that I had learned to create my own routines.
As a photographer, I had the privilege to work with and learn from my generation's greatest landscape/ nature photographers: John Shaw, Pat Ohara, Galen Rowell, Rod Planck, John Netherton, Larry West, and more than I can recall, as an instructor with the seminal workshop company, The Great American Photography Workshops. And like many of us, whenever I saw great photography of any genre, I began to chase it, wanting to emulate what captured my imagination. And, as with the other careers, I got tired of chasing the visions of others. Although, I wasn't sure what my style was, I knew that it was time to create space, as uninfluenced as possible by others, to let whatever style I had develop in an unaffected manner. After all, it's difficult, if not impossible, to focus when your focus is in a perpetual state of flux.
The question that we all ask ourselves at one time or another is, "What kind of photographer am I?" Granted that most of us photograph myriad subject material, the main question is, "What is our essence?" What common thread, permeates all of our photography. In other words, what common, recognizable thread runs through our landscape, wildlife, flower, abstract, cityscape, people, infrared, macro, etal. photography? It's obviously not the wide variation of subject material, so it has to be how we approach the subject material, how we place elements in the frame, and basically, how we see and present our vision to the world.
An example of recognizable style is the great Freeman Patterson. Being familiar with Freeman's work long before I took a workshop with him, I could easily discern a "Freeman" image. Regardless of the subject matter, every image had the same emotional pull, the same "feel." I remember thinking, "how the hell does he do that?" I also remember thinking that it was a process, and in order to get to that place, if even possible, I would have to be more concerned about the feeling of the image, more than the content. So, at that moment, the odyssey began...
I can't speak for everyone, but for me, after a certain point in my development, it was essential to turn off the external stimuli and venture forward on my own. After all, as with any creative endeavor, development of one's style is a function of dedication, consistency, constant immersion, exposure, and the passage of time.
For me, a common thread between the three aforementioned disciplines is the need to communicate emotionally with others. The need to go beyond the surface; the need to engender an emotional response from me as well as from the viewer. As with all things, it's ultimately not about the thing, but about the response or, to be more precise, the emotional impact. And as I look back, that always has been my goal, my common thread, regardless of the pursuit.
Two quotes are always at the tip of my thoughts during any creative process:
Keeping these two tenets in mind has gotten me beyond the mere output and more into the feeling communicated in whatever discipline I'm pursuing at the time.
So, that's pretty much it, just another random thought.
Thanks for taking the time and we'll see ya online!
p.s. Keep an eye out for our year-end Visual Artistry Newsletter, coming soon!
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