‘Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. Everything must be dared and tried.’
~ Bill Brandt
Brandt wrote this in response to his feelings about the limitations and conventions that so many photographers adopt within their own work, even those adopted by other important photographers of his own time.
Having just finished the series of entries here on “What If”, one might consider that this quote is one that I consider a truth with regards to photography—or any creative effort, for that matter. And I do, to a point.
As I have noted here before, quoting others isn’t, and shouldn’t be, presented to prove a point but rather as a catalyst for deeper thought and questioning.
So while this quote certainly resonated within me, it immediately made me think about the limitations that I place on my working methods. Early on, I adopted a lot of conventions and limitations and those were also how I viewed the work of others. As my confidence and abilities with the medium improved, which included increasing my awareness of what was possible and thinking about those other possibilities, I found many of those limitations melted away. A part of that “widening” was delving deeper into what others were doing and being blown away by the work that didn’t fit within those limitations. At times, it wasn’t even connecting with what another was doing but a willingness to consider that other way of approaching one’s work.
Today, I still put limitations on what I do but I generally consider these important parts of the process and specific to the project at hand. When they get in the way or prevent me from going where I want to go, then I reevaluate whether they are truly relevant to the work or arbitrary. In such cases, I am most likely going to break through the limitation, create the work and worry about how it fits, or doesn’t, later—it might spawn a new “What If” if done or be lost if abandoned.
The point, really, is that we should always be questioning why we do things the way we do. Our standards and practices have a bearing on who we are as photographers but they also can hold us back from reaching our potential especially when they are arbitrary or applied arbitrarily.
(“Quotes to Ponder” will be a regular feature here. My philosophy about quotes isn’t that they prove any point as they are often taken out of context or they may have been said in response to something we have no way of knowing about. But they generally do embody some sort of opinion or thought that can often be worthwhile pondering. I expect that in many cases, they will be the teaser to a longer discussion of their idea in a later post!)