Monday, 5 January 2009

Enough to become good

Park and ride, The Hague, January 2009

After talking about what might constitute a notion of "good" in photography, I want to talk about how much diversity enables us to reach that goal.

As it is the beginning of the year, many are reflecting on the past 12 months and looking afresh to the future. Three threads came together nicely for me. First Tim Atherton talks about the things he'd like to see & do this year, Gordon McGregor has a good post on stages of photography a part of which are expanded nicely by Paul Butzi.

I don't do resolutions and all that turn of the year regeneration stuff, but these posts did put one thing in my mind which might well change my behaviour in the medium term. That thought is the idea of having just enough diversity and variation to provide the interest to keep developing yet not spreading ones view too far for lack of focus. True, focussed effort produces development but, as Paul points out, too much repetition can lead to boredom and a trailing off of effort - our skills plateau through ennui. Experience is not synonymous with wisdom. This is true in life in general.

Photographically, then, one should have enough interests to keep things fresh and interesting. Keeping up active interest almost inevitably leads to improvement, showing an active interest suggest a willingness to learn, and so we do. Long-term attention to single topics may produce comprehensive coverage but it won't necessarily get any better over time. If you've already reached a mastery level, then I'm sure that is just fine. Otherwise it's ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Taking on too many ideas at once, however, leads to spreading oneself too thinly. Not enough attention to any area can lead to a lack of development, thence the boredom.

It for each individual to decide what constitutes enough variety to strike the balance between interest and focus. Some have greater capacity or time to be able to take on more than others. Others may wish to develop further, faster in a particular area. There are no genera, and don't let any commentator or teacher persuade you otherwise.

Of course, in all these discussions, there is an inherent assumption that one wishes to improve at all. If you're happy where you are, that's fine. I would like to think that the greater majority of us (in the narrow sense of those interested in this kind of discussion) always want a bit more than we have.

As to my own behaviour - just this weekend I decided to keep it simpler. Return to a similar style rather than trying another way of picturing the world. I was playing around with ideas on various lens & style ideas before I decide to head out of the door with a well tried camera set-up, looking for familiar types of subject. It was a more satisfying outing as a result.

And for something completely different - something I found, while doing searches for this post. Isn't the interweb a wonderful place?!

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