Excerpt from forthcoming title Different Not Better
Different -- Not Better
How to look at your work critically with optimism and understanding.
Gregory Punshon MBA
How to look at, and think about, our work without reference to the arbitrary and often negative rules of others. Understand that our photographic work is a form of artistic expression, and that the work of others is not better than ours, but is different to ours. It does not matter what kind of camera you use, digital, film or phone is immaterial.
I know a lot of photographers. Some of them stopped photographing. Some of them stopped enjoying it. I wanted to know why. I found that motivation is the key to photographing. If we lack confidence, we lack motivation. If we lack motivation, we won't photograph. Our motivation and confidence are changed by recognition, respect and criticism. A book sprang from my research into the reasons why this happens, what impacts on motivation and confidence, and most importantly, how to stay motivated to photograph.
In 400 or so books I found only a few on how to think about our photographic work artistically, and very few understandable books that try to help us deal with criticism. I see myself as an artist that uses a camera, rather than a photographer. The photographs are my objective, not mastery of the camera mechanism. I wrote this book for the "artist photographer" and those with a creative spirit.
I wrote the book to give people the courage to photograph their way with confidence.
Different is unrelated to Better or Worse
“Different, Not Better”, is predicated on one assumption. Your work is good. Before you throw your hands up in the air, hear me out. We each have a perspective on life unique to us; it came to us through our experience, our observations and life, seen through the lens of our upbringing and family. This gives us each a unique perspective.
You are reading this magazine. This shows you have passion and a personal perspective.
What you see and what I see are different. We may both look at a man sweeping a floor, and we will agree that there is a man sweeping a floor, but from there our views begin to differ. I may wonder about the man's age and how he found himself behind a broom today. You may wonder why he is using a broom, or about the need for sweeping, or where they keep the broom. And from there the differences continue, I focusing on the story of the man, you on the story of the environment. The narrative in our minds is very different. We may not have these thoughts in the front of our brains, and so we may be unaware of them. This does not mean they are not there, helping us decide what is interesting, what to photograph and how to photograph it. Our brains are what I call categorising engines. We put things in boxes in our minds; it's how we cope with the amount of information we process; and we each have unique combinations of boxes; we each see things differently.
We all view images in different ways and my vision might be very different to yours, but that is the beauty of a visual world -- we can all interpret a picture in different ways and find our own way of seeing.
David Tipling – A bird photographer's diary : the stories behind the pictures
#hashtags are an interesting demonstration of this. As an activity, find an interesting image online and make some keywords (hashtags) for it, then compare it to the tags made by other people. Most of the obvious ones will be similar, but there will be some surprises in there that show what is important to other people. You may agree with their tags in retrospect, but they were not sufficiently important for them to be in the front of your mind.
Our unique perspective is interesting and valuable to others because we have a lot in common with every other person on the planet; and enough differences to be interesting. We each can use the other's perspective to help us look at the world. This has strong ties to survival. We want to know stories – why we should not eat the blue berries. We learn others' stories using many languages including: speech, song, tactile examination, body language and visual communication. It is this last element that is most important to us as artists; we speak to others visually.
They are many creative people like us with their own views on creativity. I discovered we are not alone in our struggle to be creative and develop our unique style.
We need to know ourselves before we can look at and think about our work clearly.
When we understand ourselves, we can understand criticism, and how we feel about it, and why.
Understanding criticism help us grow, and helps to defend our creative spark from bad criticism.
When we know how to use criticism, we can build our confidence. Not to pretend or "fake it till you make it", but to be ourselves and to grow as artists and practitioners of our craft.
Confidence leads to motivation. Understanding the impacts on us of Recognition, Critique and Confidence removes stumbling blocks and restrictions from us.
When we have motivation, we can determine what matters to us, not what others tell us is important – we can separate our emerging style from technical matters.
Many (most) photography books are all about mastering technique, the camera, the equipment, photoshop, etc. Other things are far more important to develop our style.
Our personal style will generate recognition for our work.
Desiring recognition is normal. Understanding why it is normal helps us accept it in ourselves. Understanding our desire for recognition helps us realise why we need to understand criticism and the effect it has on us and our work.
Read more at www.gregorypunshon.com
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