In search of clarity

How do you arrive at a decision? Which lens, what kind of light, when to be there, who to speak with, how do you begin, this story or that one, this subject in this form or that one in another form. Muck. Mired in the muck of decision making.

Clarity in the midst of the inevitable chaos of a photographic life is all you need. Of course.

But how do you get there. My feeling is that the more you derive your primary decisions from the bottom layer, the longer you’ll remain in limbo. In other words, if you get mired in the details of a decision, there you’ll stay and it’s probably because you don’t have a clear perception of why you’re photographing whatever you’re photographing. Nor will you grasp the potential of what you can say about what you’re photographing.

I run across this a lot. In my own life, and working with photographers to help them determine which path will bring clarity and the greatest potential to a given project, portfolio, book, gallery show, or tomorrow’s effort.

Here’s how you can get there: Step back, first. Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is the greatest thing you could achieve, what is the highest aspect of whatever it is you’re dealing with that you could address with your photographs? Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you can’t answer these questions, you probably won’t achieve clarity.

Working with a photographer this past week, she was faced with having to decide what types of edits to do for each of five sets of pictures on five different people. It was a complex set of variables - some had better pictures, some had better sound, each person had several aspects that played against the others as a group better but that alone couldn’t be a driving decision, presentation could be online and in print in several different forms and there were other factors.

So we stepped back and talked about the grander aspects of why she was doing the project and let that guide the decisions of how to play out each set of pictures. Clarity came quickly.

It’s a similar dynamic when you find yourself arguing with someone about choosing this photograph over that one. You may like this one, the person you’re arguing with may like that one. Chances are you’ll reach impasse and whoever has the greater authority will force his or her decision on the matter. In such cases, step back from the photographs and talk about what the photograph/s should convey, what is the most critical aspect to which images could speak. Then look at the photographs again, together, and speak to why specifics photo accomplish the higher aspects better than others.

Continue this process of clarity-finding and over time you’ll find that your work grows because you will try to find greater depth and meaning and connectivity with your thoughts and ideas as you explore the world with a camera.

Swan song

Pardon my absence, now let’s get ready for contests