Rules You Should Break #1: Kill Your Darlings

February 24, 2011

Just to warn you – this series might turn into a long one. All rules could, and should, be breaked. Not just for the sake of breaking them, but for the sake of the fun it creates and how it all suddenly starts to breathe. And new rules will probably appear resulting from old ones getting broken… feel free to break the new ones as well.

The case with a darling is that you fall deeply in love with it. It’s often love at first sight, even. For some reason which might be hard to grasp. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, so you’re deeply impressed with your own abilities and want to let everybody see this sacred object of yours. The silly thing is that the subjectivity might get out of hand at this point. The feedback you start receiving might not reflect your own fascination and you might even get introduced to the rule which you already read up in the title.

Here, the striking advice from many will be to simply dump it. Don’t include it. Forget about it. Work on something new and comletely different. That’s a fairly easy solution. Easy solutions aren’t always the best ones. Not very often, in fact.

Below is a photograph I had a deep fascination for, but which I somehow felt there was more potential to.

It was taken last year through the peeping hole of the apartment where I’m currently residing. Today I decided to redo it before going out for a walk in the snow. To my complete amazement I suddenly heard one of the neighbours going down the stairs, and there was the answer: The picture needed a person. A mysterious man. I got two of him, this one being the second:

Redo your darlings!

So you can get new… darlings…

 

I would love to hear how you deal with your darlings in the comments section.

Follow: Facebook | RSS | Twitter

The Luxury of Small Prints on Walls

February 17, 2011

Ålgård - 2010

There was a time when I worked in the dark: I had an unclear overview of what I was working on. I did look through new work at a regular basis, fine-tune the best ones, gather them into selected folders and judge them from time to time. But there was one simple, yet huge, mistake going on; it was all a digital process.

Then, one day at college David Bowen, one of my teachers at that time, let us in on a life changing experience. He started pushing us to get small prints (6″x4″s) of all of our best work, bring them to school and spread them all over tables, walls or even floors. For sure one of my biggest eye openers.

‘Life changing’?

It’s one of those things you won’t fully understand before you’ve actually tried it. But I can tell you that it’s easier to quicker spot the best ones. It almost seems as though the smaller pictures get, the easier judging the overall quality gets. If they have clear lines, you’ll notice. If they need to be cropped, dodged or burned, you’ll notice. If one doesn’t quite fit in with the rest, although you really wanted it to, you’ll force yourself to take it away. If you need to set up a specific order for a series/project, it’s easy. If you want to show your work for suggestions and critique, they’re perfect for it and easy to bring.

And so on.

Well, you won’t notice it all straight away. You need to be patient, look at them and play around with them on a regular basis. Find a wall at your working place or at home you can stick them on, or even better; a magnetic board or a fridge (like in the kitchen where I’m writing this), so you can use small magnets to easily stick them up with. By always having them available in your surroundings they’ll catch your eyes everytime you’re coming into the room and automatically force you to look and consider. Even it’s just for 15 seconds – it will help, they’ll be on your mind.

If you do feel you’re missing an overview of your best work, then I’d say this would be a really good time to get some prints and see what that might lead to.


It would be wonderful to hear about your experiences and thoughts on small prints below in the comments section.

Follow: Facebook | RSS | Twitter

What Is Inspiration Exactly?

November 30, 2010

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ~Jack London

Here’s my attempt to boil down what inspiration really is, how we can benefit from it in our creative work and why it shouldn’t be confused with ‘motivation’.

A definition of inspiration: Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

A definiton of motivation: Motivation is the energizer of behavior and mother of all action.

So, there’s a striking difference between the two, motivation is the mother of all action and inspiration relates to stimulation and emotions, and I must add; it’s also related to our experiences. Simply put: What we choose to do with our inspiration depends on our amount of motivation.

This article too has its inspiration from somewhere, more precisely a statement by Chuck Close at Reader’s Digest concerning the importance of ‘work’ as opposed to the importance of ‘inspiration’. My immidiate reaction while reading it was: Why should we only limit ourselves to one of them?

The fact is that we definitely shouldn’t. If we really do want our results to look inspired, then ideally we shouldn’t

  • work without having the amount of inspiration we need for producing creative results
  • be inspired without transferring that amount of inspiration into results

Just keep in mind that we don’t need inspiration in order to perform ‘easy’ tasks which are simply systematical processes, like organize archives, do research, schedule work needed to be done, answer e-mails and so on. That’s where motivation is the only requirement.

I agreed with Close’s main idea, which was the fact that we shouldn’t sit around and wait for something to just happen out of the blue. Sure, sometimes good ideas can come while relaxing with music, viewing art at exhibitions or reading at cafés, but for something to happen we obviously need to write down or sketch the ideas before we lose them, and it’s also crucial to plan when and how we intend to put the ideas into action.

It is my humble opinion that inspiration is needed in order to create some kickass ideas. It’s not the work in itself that usually produces ideas, but the experiences we had before we digged into the work. You’ve maybe felt some sparks of the so-called ‘creative ecstasy’ from time to time, making your mind feel tickling. That’s the stimulation. If you get that feeling while working, you’re on a very good path. Just remember not to stop while you’re ‘in there’.

 

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~Pablo Picasso

Interview with Helge Skodvin

November 23, 2010

Meet Helge Skodvin.

Skodvin is a Norwegian photographer. When searching for photographs he prefers driving around with his large format (4×5) camera available. He can enjoy driving for a whole day and only take two exposures, simply because of the beauty of the slow process and in the same way; the slowness, and the magic, of the darkroom procedures when he returns from his journeys. Among his highlights I mention the Grand Prize in the international Polaroid contest in 2003 and the exhibition at Fotografiens Hus in Oslo two years ago.

B Can you recall a specific day when you set yourself a goal to become a photographer or was it more of a slow process where you realised, bit by bit, what you wanted to do?

H It was a slow process I guess, but I recall the day when I decided to quit my day job and leave that behind. I was working as a carpenter, and on this day I was working on rebuilding a site that had been totally destroyed by fire. I almost like said to myself “no way, that´s it”. And I shut down the machines and went home. And from then it has only been photography.

B What drew you towards photography?

H The magic of the red lamp and the drakroom. The intense smell of fix. Ah, it doesent get any better than that.

B You’ve lived in Oslo, London and currently in Bergen, but in your photographs I can sense there is a focus on small communities and also a longing for deserted places, empty roads and dark landscapes. Do you think by living in big cities you are more visually drawn to smaller places?

H That´s hard to tell. I guess I just like it more. Not as a daily life, but as photographs.

B Would you say it’s more difficult to find something visually appealing in urban enviroments?

H Not at all. It´s just different settings. I have never thought about that it is a diversion between those two.

B You’ve said earlier that you’re fascinated of the transition between culture and nature. Can you explain this further?

H I really like the feeling of something man-made in nature. A road, powerlines, a roadside lamppost. Nature as pure nature I don´t find interesting in photography at all. When I go hiking og cross-skiing yes, but in images no.

B Do you think your personal work benefits from the commercial work, and in case, in which way? Does your clients often let you use your artistic freedom?

H Some clients do, but I am more than happy to photograph commercial work. It´s different pleasure. I love to work.

B What is your favourite photography book?

H “Uncommon places” by Stepen Shore.

All photographs by Helge Skodvin.

Distracting elements: Watermarks

November 11, 2010

I’m beginning to think fear is the basic root of all activity on this planet, so I guess there’s no way the world of photography could be without it either. Resulting in: Watermarks.

“But it’s a copyright statement.”
“It’s an additional marketing tool.”

Truths with slight modifications. First of all, it’s basically a protection disguised as a copyright statement. Second, your name will most likely be used in the same context as your photograph is presented in. Your name is already mentioned and visible to the viewers, shouldn’t be necessary to repeat it. Conclusion is, watermarking is about you doing everything in your power to prevent someone stealing it by adding an element that will be hard to remove… and hard to ignore.

There’s too much watermarking.

Watermarking is an extremely popular trend, both among amateurs and professionals. One of the biggest photographic co-operatives, Magnum Photos, watermarks all of the pictures on their site. And not only one watermark on each photo, no, five! But you know, they’re Magnum, they already have a huge amount of credibility, and won’t lose that credibility from those they need it from by watermarking. As all photographers know, it will never look as good on a screen as on a good quality print; I can easily read that simple message into the Magnum-watermarks. They want to protect the work they’re presenting, even though they’re doing it by adding distracting elements (as they well know), but prints and books is what it’s all about anyways.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not particularly blaming Magnum, because as we’ve seen they have their reasons and they don’t have much to lose by doing it. But I am blaming the whole society of fearful watermarkers.

What is this trend actually leading to?
Why is watermarking a problem?

It is my honest assumption that watermarks in themselves creates a common illusion that non-watermarked photographs are free for everybody to take and use. At least this counts for people who doesn’t have the general knowledge about copyrighted material. The result is that watermarked photographs seems copyrighted and non-watermarked doesn’t to the general audience who doesn’t care to do the essential research. It all actually ends up with watermarkers making the life tougher for those who aren’t watermarking.

As I’ve already hinted at, looking at a watermarked photograph is close to looking at a tagged building. It’s usually not a pretty sight. It doesn’t look clean and it certainly wasn’t the architect’s intention, because he wanted it clean. Exactly like most photographers like it. That’s why they went close and narrowed their subject down and that’s why they removed distracting elements in the first place. What a paradox then, to add a distracting element right before presenting the result to their web-audience!

Instead of helping digging the grave, here’s what you should do.

  • First of all, you should keep in mind that you own your photographs from the very split second you created them. And unless you have given or will give the copyright over to someone else, people aren’t allowed to use them for their own benefit without your agreement, no matter what.
  • Make sure simple copyright statements or name credits are included somewhere close to all of your published photographs.
  • Include copyright statement in the metadata. You probably have the option to do this in your DSLR, and software like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Bridge comes in handy if you want to quickly add information into multiple files.
  • You could always try to hunt down potentially stolen work with TinEye.

More reading: Stuckincustoms.com – “Why I Don’t Use Watermarks”