“12 Significant photographs in one year is a pretty good crop” – Ansel Adams
It never fails, as we get close to the end of one year, everyone starts digging out their “best of” lists and blogs of images. I’ve done it a couple of times and at times even enjoy looking back at a year. Nothing wrong with that.
However, a few weeks ago I came across the Ansel Adams quote above. That made me stop and think. After all, we see a lot of great photographs throughout the year…a ton of them in reality, but the word significant ups the ante. Isn’t that what a lot of us are going for? How often do we get excited about an image and feel that it’s “great”, but what might make it “significant”?
I’m not going to try and answer that in full. I don’t believe I can speak for others, I can only speak for me – and that is exactly what I will be setting out to do over the coming months. It might get really messy and that’s ok. If I try to structure it and plan it – the words will never be written. It might even tick a few people off – that’s ok too. Maybe somewhere down the road someone far more organized than me will make some sense of the words and images.
Images can be significant for a variety of reasons. For me, if an image grabs you and sticks with you…I mean really sticks with you, then it’s significant. Images can be immensely beautiful, they can be perfectly executed and they can be perfectly styled. That may or may not lead to a significant image. I see soulless examples of the above every day. Somehow something else happens in some of these images…and then they haunt us. We don’t forget them.
I think what the Ansel Adams quote really brings to light is how easy it has become to over share and over deliver. If the body of work from a session is really that diverse and unique and you’re looking show the full range, then sure, it makes sense to a point. How often instead are we showing a plethora of less than stellar images? Too often and too much.
My goal for the foreseeable future is to tell stories, unscripted as much as possible too. For me, I think when that territory is entered, you stand the biggest chance of coming across the elusive significant image. I intend on pushing myself pretty hard, and who knows, by me pointing out weak points and pushing, maybe someone else will push their work too and not just settle for good or great anymore.
For myself, I feel like 2013 was an excellent year. I think there were some significant images in there. I’m not going to try and count them or come up with a list. I will probably tell some of their stories and I will also take a look at the process…most likely in small bits and pieces. In the meantime, 2014 is shaping up to have it’s own fair share of unique and hopefully significant images be produced as I explore some new directions and let go even more still.
The past couple years have seen some remarkable changes in how I approach photography, and has seen a distilling down of my principles in my approach and whatever my “style” is. Rather than try and come to any conclusions, or teach in a thought out manner, I think we will just go for a ride and see what happens.
Lyon, France 1998