Home » A Photographer to Know » Finding Our Creative Voice

Finding Our Creative Voice

One of the issues that I often find with those who are trying to find their own creative voice is the inherent need—or maybe desire—to please others. I don’t think anyone is totally immune to this, especially at the beginning of their creative journey, although some may have different ways of dealing with it than just complying.

Now, possibly, I should have made this into one of my “A Photographer to Know” threads as I certainly hope you will take the opportunity to view the work of the artist who inspired me to write about this topic . But I felt that there was a more important issue that she addressed in a lecture I found of hers and will present below with a strong urge that you take the hour or so to listen to—LISTEN being the most important thing even if the work doesn’t strike you. But let me digress a moment.

It was a couple of weekends ago that my wife and I visited Houston and, as we normally do, visited several different art museums. There were several stunning exhibits to be seen. Many of these were photographic but those certainly were not all that we visited. I often find inspiration in other art forms and how what has been done there—even seemingly insignificant things—might help clarify or move my work forward. Even revisiting the same work is never the same, hopefully, as I have grown since my last encounter and will be able to see/experience new things—of course, this can be incremental and nearly missed or much more concrete and enlightening in some cases.

One of those shows we saw (for the first time) was on the Painter/Photographer Marilyn Minter entitled: “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty” at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The first video found in this link will give a good overview of the work and what issues it deals with.

Most of the work was very large and it was nearly impossible to distinguish the photographs from the paintings unless you got very close to them as they were so incredibly detailed–and yet often largely out-of-focus or blurred. This was particularly incredible to me, a non-painter, as to how she could create so many “layers” of imagery that were of varying detail and color—something very easy with photography. The work might not be everyone’s thing but I think it shows how photography can be pushed in many directions (she creates many of her paintings from photo montages put together in Photoshop but they keep an organic feel to them).

I entered the exhibit with a sense of reservation from the appearance of some initial work. While I try to be open, I admit that I have my biases and what I was seeing was hitting against some of those in the wrong way. Fortunately, I am aware of these things and recognize them as “my issues” immediately, which then allows me to bypass them in ways I may not have been able in years past. By the time we finished—which included several complete viewings of the entire show, I was left in awe of what she had done.

This result alone would have been enough impetus for a “Photographer to Know” thread but my interest in learning more allowed me to find a wonderful video lecture she had given to some graduate art students. Now, while I want you to know about her work and what she has done, there were so many wonderful things said and put on the table about art and the pursuit of our own voice there that I felt that the importance of hearing those rose above my interest in your knowing just her work—which you will be exposed to in the video.

Warning: Before you jump into the video below or maybe even visit Marilyn’s website (the links above are not an issue), understand that while most of her work is very sensual and not overtly sexual, there is a series of what she even refers to as her “pornographic” images—they are paintings. It is very short in reference to the overall video content. So linking to the video below may not be safe for viewing at work or may not be something you want to experience. I can’t make that judgment for you but I do think the video has some very important perspectives on the creative process and the struggles to find our own voice.

In my last post here, “My Photograph Sucks!” I had linked to this lecture as another source of the idea that a successful image is not something that just happens with every click of the shutter or painting stroke, but is the result of many other tries that don’t work out as well, those things that were essentially our sketches or steps to a successful image—we generally only see an artist’s best work.

But maybe the overall value in this video is that it is one of the best I have ever seen that chronicles so many of the issues that can prevent us from actually finding our own true voice as artists. She addresses so many of the blocks and obstacles to actually finding and then pursuing OUR voice and where and how that can open even more avenues beyond our current view of things.

Regardless of what you feel about her work the important message there is just to be willing to do those things you feel you want and need to do without regard to what others think or how others respond. We need to find OUR voice, not the group voice. Whether you like her work or not, she is doing what she wants which has resulted in high-end museum and gallery shows, high-profile fashion and celebrity photo shoots because her work is so unique–much the same as with Sarah Moon–not because she is doing the expected. She found HER voice!

Here is the link to the lecture:

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