The past few evenings I’ve been sorting out my personal issues with photography. I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck in a creative rut. I view things the same way, capture the same way and finally edit them the same way. This is great for some fields of photography but that no longer applies to me. A number of years back, I owned and operated an art reproduction company. Capturing original artwork requires shooting under very controlled conditions. Everything is precisely calibrated and tuned: camera, lighting, monitors, printers, room lighting, wall color… the list goes on. There is little room for intuition and creativity in that kind of work. You have to be able to repeat every step reliably, every single time you do it. I got very adept at this and produced beautiful limited edition paintings for many artists. I’m glad to have learned all that I did but, at the same time, it’s upsetting to look at myself now still see the effect it’s had on my personal creative freedom. When I shoot, I’m still focused on all the objective things. When I get my RAW files into edit, I’m back to using measurement tools to determine corrections to tone and white balance. All of these things are good to understand and apply but if your not careful, they can also put you a rut that can be very difficult to get out of; a prison for your creativity with its doors slammed shut on any notion of exploration or a wandering attitude about this art form.
Tonight, I went back to a photo I shot last year in Colorado and set about editing it in a way I typically would not. I still like the original version but to me, this new one has so much more drama to it. Is it realistic? Is it how it actually looked at the time I shot it? NO! Black points and white points measured and adjusted accordingly? NO! Do I like the resulting image? Does it draw me in and beg me to stay a while longer? YES, it does! And I guess that’s all that matters. You may not like it, and that’s fine, but I made this for me – for my enjoyment. Maybe if I start to shoot and edit with that concept in the forefront of my mind, I can finally pull myself out of this rut and start making some authentic Tom photos.