Why people should learn to play and experiment with photography instead of being pressured into learning the ‘rules’ first.
For me, photography is a way of communicating an emotion, a story, a feeling, a snapshot of a moment that you can look back on in years to come and instantly be transported back to that place or time.
I’ve always loved using photography in my work and have never bothered to use an SLR camera. I understand the importance of learning about composition, lighting and other general photography ‘rules’ but most of the time when I try and learn about all the essentials to taking a ‘good’ photograph I am put off and I don’t feel any emotional connection with these ‘professional’-looking images.
Let me explain, however, that it’s not that I don’t appreciate their skill for what they do, I’m just not personally drawn to this type of ‘perfected’ photography. I dislike the notion that to be a ‘good’ picture it must have perfect and considered lighting, be of excellent quality, have an exciting composition and not have any flaws, (i.e blurring, over exposure, light leaks etc.). It just so happens, that I’m actually drawn to the ‘bad’ photographs.
The first time I saw ‘alternative’ photography, I was blown away. It was an emulsion transfer my tutor had shown me in college. It was a magazine photocopy, but it had been transferred on to textured handmade paper and the worn surface and soft colours hypnotised me into an image transferring frenzy where I tried transferring on to every type of surface using as many photographs as I could get my hands on.
I believe that the real skill in a piece of music, art, novel isn’t about the complexities of the subject, but how well you can communicate what you love with the viewer and have the ability to transport them to another place. It took a lot of guts, but I threw away the Photography Rule Book a few months ago and traded it in a cheap, toy camera. The amount of time you can spend learning the theory of photography and using ridiculously complex cameras, you could spend shooting everything you see using a camera that costs less than they handbook and produces photographs that have more ethereal qualities than the most expensive camera in the world.
Argue with me if you want, but I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘professional’ photographer. Yes, people get paid for taking photographs, they may have a degree in photography and have read 50 books on the theory of light & composition but to me, the value isn’t necessarily in the skill, it’s in the way the viewer communicates with the piece. I believe that photography, like art, is subjective to each individual person.
And isn’t art about breaking the rules anyway?
One of my biggest fears is losing my passion for what I do because I am bogged down with the theory and the ‘rules’ of what to do. I never want to lose my passion for experimentation, 99% of the work you produce may not be brilliant, award-winning photography, but there’s always the 1% that is truly genius, original and heart stopping, purely for the reason that you didn’t follow the rules.
Be brave, trust your own knowledge and embrace your inner child, question everything you know and produce work that is truly your own.