Vision Is Better

Make It Human.

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“This might end up in crying. If you’re not prepared to cry about it, I’m not sure you’re making art. And if you’re not prepared to dance in anticipation, you’re definitely not making art.” ~ Seth Godin

I don’t imagine there’s much point, this far down the line, in another rant about how photography has become a technocracy, a place where the artifice means more than the art. But is anyone else feeling that all this technical perfection is leaving too little room for the humanity we long for?

People don’t resonate with perfection, because life isn’t like that. “Perfect” photographs get Liked on Facebook. They get “Great capture, Man.” They do not stir the heart. I’d guess it’s one reason that some of us still love film – the possibility of tactility and imperfection, the reminder present in the grain and the register marks, the odd scratch, of the medium itself and the human being who held the camera. It’s something, for all the good that digital photography makes possible, that we’ve lost.

If you want people to listen to your art – your photographs, your writing, your Twitter stream – make it human. Make me care. Mare me laugh. Make me cry. Show me your soul. Pull up your shirt and show me the scars from your heartbreak. Tell me a story. Show me your art and let it move me. Don’t tell me you got a new lens, that your photograph won an obscure award, or that you just sold a print to some dude in Arizona. When our art becomes a quick piece of “look at me” that cost us nothing – no tears, no fear, no blood – then we’re creating noise, not signal. Little bursts of solipsistic cacophony to which we’re becoming more and more deaf. I think we can do more than say “I was here” with our art. And if that’s the thing you want to say, then do it boldly, go all-in and strip every stitch of clothing off, and stand there naked – in soul if not in body – because if you won’t be vulnerable with your art, we’re not interested. We’ve got too much going on in our own lives. We’ve got noise enough around us without bothering to sift through more unless it’s alive.  The only thing that cuts through that noise are the sounds of the human heart.

Vulnerability is painful. More so for those of us who picked up the camera so we’d have something to hide behind. I get that. But if your art is a gift and you want me to listen to it, read it, feel something by looking at it, then you’ve got to embrace vulnerability as part of the pain and the healing of the creative process. There’s so much noise out there. If you want to be heard, you’ve got to touch me. Human to human.

The great challenge of art is not learning to use the tools of our craft, but learning to say something human with them. The second is learning to be OK with the silence until then.

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” ~ St. Augustine

 

Mar 4th

2014

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CategoryPosted in: Life Is Short, Pep Talks, Vision Is Better

Desperate Intention

I told her I had a few things left on my bucket list. She told me my life was a bucket list. I pulled my pen from my pocket, scribbled that down in my dog-eared little notebook. It seemed clever at the time. Like that one time when a friend told me she thought of […]

Jan 30th

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CategoryPosted in: The Craft, Thoughts & Theory, Vision Is Better

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In my last posts I talked about my reactions to working with both my Fuji XE-1 and Leica M, and I mentioned zone focusing. For those for whom the idea of zone focusing is new I wanted to explain it a little. It’s an old technique but it’s simple and reliable. My biggest concern with […]

Jan 8th

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CategoryPosted in: Postcards From..., Travel, Vision Is Better

Postcards from Lalibela

A week ago a group of us landed in Lalibela, Ethiopia about the same time as thousands of orthodox pilgrims were arriving from all over the country. We spent the last week in this high dusty town, walking among the centuries-old churches, all carved from the red rock on which this town sits, and waiting […]

Dec 30th

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CategoryPosted in: Life Is Short, News & Stuff, Travel, Vision Is Better

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Kenya, January 2013. It’s the nature of time to go too quickly. Maybe that’s one of the reasons photography works so well for me: in making time one of our raw materials we pay more attention to it, honouring it down to thousandths of a second, more present, more perceptive. I wish paying more attention […]

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