I listened to Craig Tanner’s podcast on Finding the Heart of Your Work. I’m impressed that Craig saw the original article as a challenge, and was able to see this dark time of questioning as a smaller phase in a larger creative process. I’ve had a lot of teachers in many different disciplines throughout my life, but nobody has been able to succinctly communicate the idea that we can acknowledge the darkness, find some learning there, and proceed with a plan to move on. I’m working on it.
I like Craig’s idea of a “purpose statement” rather than an artist statement for photography. The world doesn’t need any more “I’ve always loved to photograph. My father gave me an Instamatic when I was 5 years old….” clichés. But a purpose statement — that sounds useful.
Craig talks about acknowledging our frustration with the gap between how our pictures look now and how we’d like them to be, and using a purpose statement to stay on track. I want to clarify that I’m not worried about making better photographs. That’s not the gap for me right now.
Craig’s discussion of pushing your limits, shooting beyond comprehension, kicking the fear of failure to the curb — this is what I was talking about in my original post. Ninety miles an hour in the dark with no hands on the wheel until you catch the glimmer of the next stop out of the corner of your eye, grab the wheel, push it up to a hundred and head towards the light.
Tuning in to these glimmers, writing them down, and creating the time and space to explore them is what will keep fueling the engine. I’m doing that with gusto. I’m also pouring a lot of stimulating music, film, and art into the tank. The car is running great. The gap is existential. The question is “what is the purpose of the drive?”
And yes, sometimes we need to spit shine the car and take it to the show and hope that people think it’s pretty. There is certainly some learning we can do at the show, but that’s really just a pit stop on a much bigger trip.
So back to the idea of a purpose statement. How many of you can clearly and concisely explain the purpose of your photographs? Two sentences maximum. No biographical information. This is not an artist statement. What do you want to communicate with your photographs and to whom? It’s a tough question. I’d love to hear your answers.