Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thought Of The Day: There Is No "Modern Ansel Adams"

Outdoor Photographer magazine has a "how-to" article in which they explain how to be a "modern Ansel Adams"

While the article does give some helpful (yet generic) advice on landscape photography, the concept and the title rubbed me the wrong way.

There is no such thing as a modern Ansel Adams--that is, unless you are talking about Adam's own work toward the end of his amazing career. There will never be another "Ansel Adams" nor should there be.

Some do try, however. There is actually a group of photographers that attempt to recreate Adam's work. They not only visit the same locations, but try to find the same day, same lighting, same weather conditions--all in an effort to copy the master's work.

That is not art. That is cheap imitation.

Each of us have our own unique perspective created by years of unique experiences. No two people are just alike. No two people see things exactly the same way.

If you gave 100 people the exact same camera with the exact same lens and told them to photograph the same thing from the same spot on the same day at the same time, you would still have 100 different photographs--some slightly different, some dramatically different.

Instead of trying to figure out how to be the next Ansel Adams (or any other successful photographer), you should be figuring out how to be the next _____________(insert your name here). You should be developing your own unique style based on your own unique perspective.

You already have a unique perspective--each of us does, that's the easy part--but you have to figure out how to translate that into a photograph. It takes much practice to do so.

Yes, the very best way to become a unique photographer is to make photographs--thousands and thousands and thousands of them. As you do so, you will learn what you like and what you dislike, what works for you and what doesn't, what makes you say "wow" and what doesn't, etc.

If, after finding your unique style, someone should say, "Your photographs remind me of Ansel Adams!" You can politely say thanks (since that is a compliment) and then point out what it is that makes your photographs uniquely your own.

You don't want to be "the modern Ansel Adams" because that means you are a knockoff. You want to be original. You want your own voice heard through your images. You want your photographs to reflect your unique perspective.

Be yourself. Don't try to copy others.

Besides, if Outdoor Photographer magazine holds the key to being a modern Ansel Adams, why aren't their staff photographers known as such?

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