2017 was a very busy and intense roller coaster of a year.
Photography is not my main gig and I was heavily focused last year on growing certain aspects of my business to run themselves a bit more independently which should afford me some more free time to do things like run around the world making photographs.
My overall output was far lower than it had been in 2016, but I think that this was largely due to the 3-week European trip I took over the summer of 2016, while we stayed closer to home last year.
I was going to write a big ol’ list of things that I learned about photography in 2017 but I really think that much of what I learned can be boiled down into a brief concept.
It’s like this:
I can easily remember when I was just some guy with a camera. I had a camera. I pointed it at things and I styled myself a “photographer.” But I wasn’t. I was just some dude with a camera. There was a day when I crossed an invisible line, and I didn’t realize it until well after I had crossed it. That line serves to separate “guy with camera” from “photographer.” There is a lot involved in graduating (in my own mind) from the first place into the next place. It has a lot to do with things like maturity, an understanding and appreciation for the craft, and an evolution in the kinds of subject matter I now find interesting, especially compared to the sorts of things I used to capture. I feel that I moved between these two places somewhere around 2014 or so. I’d spent a good 6 years being that guy with a camera.
I have come to realize that there’s yet another place to get to — and a second line to move across. That next imaginary line is one that separates the photographer from the artist and I only became aware of the separation between these states in the past several months.
I was looking through some of Annie Leibovitz’s work, particularly her book Annie Leibovitz Portraits 2005 – 2016 and I noticed that when she does a portrait, it’s iconic. It’s timeless. Evocative, thought-provoking. Remarkable. At the very least worthy of note. Conversely, when I do a portrait, the best thing I can currently say about it is that it’s in focus. It’s usable. Looks great on websites and works for social media avatars.
My portraits are “in focus” and her portraits cause me to pause and reflect. I decided that this delta between her skills and my own was worth a few months of careful consideration. I’m now, for the first time, investing a significant amount of my time and energy into studying those photographers whose work I admire most and my next endeavor for the coming years is to find for myself that next invisible line which marks the place of photographer from the place of artist. It’s all mental space, and it’s entirely subjective. I don’t know where it is but I’ll know when I start to rub up against it.
What a worthy exploration, don’t you think?
Here are some of my favorite images of 2017.
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