Lessons From Other Genres
Way back in the 1990’s I took the plunge and attended a workshop. Not just any workshop, I had this thing in my head that I was going to take a workshop that had nothing to do with commercial photography. After looking through the Woodstock Photographic workshop catalog I settled on one. Unfortunately I had no idea they were impossible to get into if you didn’t sign up and get accepted within the first week that enrollment opened up, March or something like that. Cutting to the chase, I being the determined tenacious being that I am, got the catalog for the next workshop season - sent my project prints in - and got one of the 10 spots in Keith Carter’s workshop. Now this was a foreign land for me. I had a great time even though I was apprehensive and felt like the odd ball in a group of artsy fartsies. I learned a lot - nothing that I expected to learn which made it even more enlightening. If I could do it over I would not have held back and been so conservative with the project that I took with me, more on that some other time. One of the things that was introduced in the workshop that I really didn’t pay much attention to, sort of a yea yea yea, I get it, let’s move on kind of thing was Keith mentioning numerous times how he is inspired by work in other completely different genres. He was not talking about landscape versus portraits. He was talking about genres not photographic, in fact not even graphic. His thing was poetry.
Back then I took this quite literally and he may have meant it literally as well - maybe not. You know read a story or a poem and get inspired by the theme, the feeling, the setting, et al. Then incorporate that into your work. For some reason that whole cross genre thing stuck in my head even though I didn’t seem to get any of those literal inspirations or ideas for whatever reason. Having that rattling around in my head that long caused me to observe some parallels and lessons as well as some inspiration from other genres that were anything but literal over the years. Rephrasing that a little, having that concept rattling around led me to be conscious of parallels, lessons, and inspiration that I was learning from writers, poets, and other artists, that somehow some way were creeping into what I was doing and how I was evolving photographically. Consequently I started subconsciously and then consciously looking for inspiration and parallels in work that I admired. Most often in literature. Just one example that crossed my mind today as I was pondering how an author that is so qualified, so educated, so - writing a book on careful reading could have missed something so obvious in an writer’s work that she was referencing. The writer being referenced happened to be one of my favorites of all time. Hemingway, master of subtext, simple language, and strait forward presentation, magically conveying meaning without explicit words even being on the page. The lessons that one can learn from Hemingway about the importance of framing, control of perspective, and composition, what needs to be there, and more importantly what does not, are endless. Sometimes what you don’t include is far more powerful than what you do.
Just an idea for you to ponder. Thoughts?
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