Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Never talked about artistry before. Honestly it's never interested me. Because I never thought of myself as an artist. I always thought it was pretentious to say,
"Yeah, I'm an ar-tíste"
After all, I'm missing the Mario moustache, the horn-rimmed glasses, the beanie and/or the emaciated physique.
Oh wait, that's a hipster.
In all seriousness I hadn't thought much of artistry because I never felt like I understood what artistry was. Four years into photography however, I finally think I have an idea. And it's not what I thought it would be. I thought it would be responding to some divine calling. Voices in my head. Seeing visions that I would have to magically etherealize into art.
Nope. Turns artistry is just being poor and hungry all the time.
All kidding aside, it's not what I do that defines me as an artist. I could have been an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) investment banker and still have been just as much of an artist. After all, there is a lot of art in structuring those kind of deals. Not at the lower levels but certainly at the elite levels you'd imagine for the guys making 8-figure incomes and flying private. But what I'm getting at is that I'm not an artist because I use a camera. The camera is just a tool. Instead, I'm an artist because I express myself most purely via the images I create.
Simply put, I believe artistry is a pure expression of yourself. Don't laugh because this is a big step for a left-brainer, but I finally realize that my images represent me, my visions, and how I see the world. This is how I express myself most genuinely, passionately, and also most effectively. This is how I define "beauty". This is who I am deep down inside because my images are a straight-shot right to my soul.
So that's why I'm an artist.
And when I think about the "expression", I realize that my artistry is not limited to the final product. Not that my pictures aren't important. They are certainly the most visible aspect to my artistry. But there is a lot artistry in how I interface with people. For example, how I get the models to do what they do in the images. How I communicate with models off the set. How do I get the models to be comfortable being naked before they even meet me for the first time. How I create expectations.
Because there's artistry in artistry. Meta-artistry. The beauty of the process. How I get a vision in my head into the recording medium of my camera. That part of the process which is very difficult to verbalize because it's not particularly logical or even comprehensible. No doubt the models I've shot have been privy to that process as watch me go into what can best be described as "analysis mode". A self-induced state of talking to myself, debating lighting, angles, tools, closing my eyes, walking around the set, and then saying, "Yeah, okay... that".
And that's the part of my artistry that I'm still trying to better understand. The good thing is that at least now I acknowledge its existence. Previously I denied the existence of any inexplicable occurrences in my workflow. But it's this very ethereal, laissez-faire, voodoo magic process drives my process, affecting the decision-making and dictating what I ultimately do.
And through understanding this process I'm able to understand myself better not just as an artist but also as a human being.
That's artistry within artistry.
Learning about who and what I am through the images I create. My strengths and weaknesses. My likes and my dislikes. What I desire to create and how I want to create it. Evolving to see the world outside of my technical perspective and to appreciate the beauty behind all things human. Learning that there is no right or wrong answer and that the answers aren't even important.
And I've forgotten more than I know. Yesterday I was at the studio and looking at the pictures on the walls and I marveled, "I almost don't remember taking these pictures anymore. They seem almost foreign. Like they're not mine." And for the first time I saw these images as a spectator and not as a creator. Appreciating them for what they were. An expression of beauty. An expression of an artist at that point in time. And for the first time, I saw myself the way others see me.
And for a split-second I was at peace. The demons were quiet and everything was okay.
And through meta-artistry I've gained a glimpse into what it's all about. That there can be peace and tranquility in acceptance. That purity in expression can only be achieved through accepting who and what we are. In other words, if I'm trying to compete against another photographer or trying to prove to my family and friends that I can succeed in photography then my work will be "tainted". Tainted by the strife and the challenge of trying to prove myself.
And that's not to say that images created under pressure don't come out well. I often do my best work under scrutiny and pressure. It's just that those results don't reflect me genuinely or purely. The images I create under pressure are vastly different from those created within tranquility. Typically they are less creative and more technical. When I am free of external or self-induced pressures, I see my visions more clearly and I channel them more effectively into my images. There is simply less "noise" in my head. And that translates into a more accurate representation of who I am through my images.
Man that sounds hokey. I think I've forgotten to drink my tiger blood today.
But by adopting that perspective, you free your artistry from nonsense. It no longer has anything to do with "winning and losing". The competition fades away and all you're left with is you and the expression of you. And that can be anything you want it to be. There are no rules. No guidelines. Nothing you can't do. Things become very simple. The inspiration flows from within. And your artistry is no longer compromised by external sources or internally generated dilemmas.
I suppose that's kind of what happens when monks reach nirvana. They separate themselves from the struggle of the human condition. They realize that everything is merely a "vibration". No need for anger, power, fame, etc. Just be.
And that's artistry. Being you. Knowing you. Expressing you.
But the process of understanding yourself. Myself. We're individually on that journey, together. Just don't forget to appreciate the artistry in your work.