It’s inside you, not on the shelf!


South Beach, Tofino


Art: The expression and application of human skills and imagination.

Art is one of the beautiful things in life not conducive to the need for speed, immediate results and the option to forgo the skills. A great symphony is not better if played faster than the composers original tempo. Great art is talent and that cannot be faked because the absence of skill and imagination is just bad art.

Painting, music and sculpting, the classic forms of art through time, are impervious to short-cuts. To achieve any notable recognition requires dedication, years of practice and a thorough understanding of the medium in which you choose to express yourself. Photography tools have evolved over time and emerged as the medium of choice for the needs of todays generations seeking a form for art.. With the development of digital technology the mystery of film and exposure was gone.  Master photographers and the work they produced continue to stand the test of time and photographers today continue to produce great photographs. Why? A camera is simply the tool a photographer uses to transfer an image from the mind so the audience can view it. Simply put, Leonardo Da Vinci could still have painted Mona Lisa with a different brush, it was just one tool available to him.

It is not as simple a buying the best brushes, paints and canvas to produce great paintings. Expensive equipment will not give you the skills necessary to apply photography’s basic fundamentals, just the tool to apply the skills. Think of the basic photography skills as a guideline for your imagination. If you have comprehension of light, time, perspective and composition as it applies to photography you have skills to apply to the process and camera equipment are the tools to capture it.

It seems these days that those who possess the art of patience and tolerance are constantly tested by those who feel they can skip the learning curve, jump to the last chapter and never understand the book. A generation growing-up not willing to pay dues in the pursuit of a chosen field if they can find a way around it. It requires an effort, and they fail to grasp the reasoning behind a good base of knowledge. The ‘you-tube experts’, who figure they can learn all there is to know in a 2 minute video are abundant.

I had no doubt you have to work your way through the trenches in a chosen field to earn the respect of your peers or the admiration of those who appreciate your medium. Learning from mistakes was part of the process, not an option, in pursuit of a well rounded successful career. Respecting those who have gone before you and looking to them for advice, inspiration and knowledge was apprenticing. There are many things to be learned that are not in any books. If you were lucky enough to find a mentor and listen and watch, you learned little pieces of invaluable information that stayed with you throughout your career. I can look back at the route I had taken and see the value in the complete learning process and the humility of knowing you still can learn more.

Explaining to someone that there is indeed a reason why some succeed in art and some do not becomes an exercise in frustration on the part of the teacher or mentor at times. Anyone can buy an expensive Gibson guitar and learn three chords, but will never be a great musician without understanding music.  Inevitably in order to excel in any given field you have to understand it completely. It is the process that requires a person to look within and see the benefit of starting at the beginning that discourages most from pursuing skilled crafts. As a mentor, to some, I am constantly using my skills of tolerance and patience to advise people the benefits of starting at the beginning of a learning curve. I can take anyone on a photo shoot, show them the subject and provide the opportunity. Knowing where to start mining for the image and which tools will produce the best photographs comes with the experience of knowing your craft.

Photography is a process to me that embodies a mindset that seems to be fading in these times of instant gratification. I still find photography to be a calm slow process, very methodical with a sense of anticipation and excitement around the edges.  Before the advent of digital photography, when the results of your efforts were still unknown until the film was processed, there were less people interested in pursuing photography as a career or as a serious amateur because mistakes were much more costly through the learning curve.

The evolution of photography has given people the opportunity to bypass the costs involved with film, developing and printing that discouraged most. Digital technology has not provided a shortcut to great photography. There are still, and always will be, those who blame the camera for a bad photo. Not willing to accept responsibility and learn from mistakes will never help someone move forward. What the digital evolution has done is open up the once mysterious world of photography to creative, imaginative people and provide a stage for them to express themselves as artists. The difference between the good art and the bad art will be the individuals understanding of the medium beyond the tool, some creativity and a lot of passion.

The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print the performance“. – Ansel Adams


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