Welcome to Year 3 of Who We Become. Our first year, A Play on Light, was dedicated to the study of light and year two, Framed, focused on composition. This year, as we move beyond the technicals, we will be continuing our self-education and growth as a collective by focusing on the idea of art and artistry. As photographic artists, how do we continue to develop our craft and make work that motivates us and inspires us to keep going? What, to us, makes better art?
While we will be linked by common topics and posting as a group, this journey is partially an individual one, subject to different interpretations and personal goals. However, we remain joined by a common desire to find direction and meaning in our work, and to shoot with intention. We will be trying out new things and giving ourselves permission to fail – and to fail publicly. Even if we don’t find any concrete answers, we believe the exploration itself will be worthwhile.
Our Artistry project will run for 52 weeks, and will be divided up into several sub-topics. For our initial post, we each reflected on our body of work and have selected images that represent our photographic comfort zone, those that we feel most comfortable shooting right now. These images may be favorites or may be on the cutting room floor, but are images that each photographer feels she can capture easily. When we are in our “zone,” all the elements come together in a seamless and intuitive way and the shot happens almost in spite of ourselves.
Comfortable is a wonderful word, evoking feelings of safety and security, and even of confidence and skill. However, if something is comfortable, it is unlikely to be challenging. When we discussed what situations took us out of our comfort zone (shooting strangers and using flash, for example), our conversation took a much deeper turn. We started to examine what intimidates us and look more closely at our more intimate fears – fears of others’ expectations, of how our work will be received on a broader level, of not achieving our vision, of being boring and/or unoriginal, of creating work that is pretty but lacks emotion, of putting our hearts into something and having it rejected – feeling as if we have nothing to say with our photography or that we are failing to convey the things we want to say.
But what is the value of our fear and our discomfort? Is it a motivating factor for growth or something to avoid? The fear of not doing something well is a big driver to improve and try new things but if some of our favorite images are ones we feel comfortable taking, then is it enough to simply love what you do and be content?
We see this exercise as the first step in removing any barriers that could prevent us from exploring what we are capable of as artists. Some of the barriers are fear-based. Fear of making and publicly showing poor work is a real one that could easily stop us in our tracks before we even start. Fear of showing more of ourselves to the world is another. We hope that by identifying those fears and getting them out in the open, we will be able to actively work with them, leading to new discoveries about ourselves and our art.