Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Thoughts on Audience

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We certainly don't get this sort of light show every evening, but we get our share. Still, each one fills me with awe and gratitude.

Meanwhile when I am not gawking at sunsets or sunrises, admiring swooping hawks, or laughing at ground squirrels (so long as they aren't eating my geraniums!), I digest and adjust. Along with settling in physically, I am still very much in a gathering mode—reading, looking, finally taking a few more pictures, and processing more ideas than photos. For one thing, I am chewing on a number of topics that have been much discussed recently by the bloggers that I follow. For example, several whose thinking has long inspired me are talking lately about audience—a topic that has long been fascinating for me.

From the time that I first picked up The Husband's new then, but now defunct Canon A70, I was clear about the attraction of photography. I had no intention of beginning, so late in life, a new career, nor did I imagine that I would burst on the art scene and create a sensation. Primarily making images was a tool for dealing with some old hurts and losses that had barely faded with time. I had no idea how effective making images would be in that healing role, much less what lay ahead on my journey. Ultimately, my still budding relationship with a small parade of cameras has begun to play an ever-increasing part in answering questions about still another me and who that is.

If I begin to fret about whether others will find meaning in my photographs or whether they will approve, I am almost instantly paralyzed. This is an exact parallel to acting (I am convinced that it holds true for any creative endeavor). Indeed, it holds true in the everyday business of relating to other human beings. We all know people who are so busy trying to appear confident, smart, and witty that whoever they may actually be is smothered by the phoniness and the desperate need to be admired. They are so busy trying to please their audience they can't simply be.

It was a struggle with most actors I taught to convince them that during execution it was only by letting go of the need to please that could they could be freed to thrill, delight, and entertain their audience. When we are consumed by the need for approval, that becomes the intention and the focus. Then, there is nothing to be said other than, "Look at me, I desperately want to please. Like me; please, please like me." While any artist must hone the basics of craft, inspiration and creativity do not succumb to commands and needs. Creativity flourishes only when we risk yawns of disinterest, even outright rejection.

Of course, I am keen to improve my skills, so I may make images that better capture what I saw. After all, as so many others have already pointed out, I may end up with an audience of one: me. Since that is the only audience I can be certain will "show up for the show", its the audience I had best connect with.

By the way, I don't see that my claiming I aim first and foremost to be clear in communicating what I saw and doing so in a way that delights me, negates in any way the satisfaction that comes in pleasing others along the way. I know some want to make this an either/or situation. In other words, you are dishonest if you claim to create for yourself, while also making your work public and taking enjoyment from knowing that others take pleasure in it as well. I don't see the conflict. For me, it is a simple fact and quite logical that I take the photos first for me. If I am not happy with them, I have failed in my intention. When the result pleases me, I feel the effort was well spent. Yet, there is an eager embrace of a further bonus, when the work connects with another person. It isn't a required validation, but more of a buzz that comes from having sent out a signal and then getting back a signal from a kindred spirit. It's a little like that satisfaction that comes from "Did you see that?!" "Yes, I saw it too. Wow."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pink Petaled Therapy

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I needed the company of flowers today. Not only that, I needed to stare at them and spend time with a couple of photos of them. Welcome to my therapy session.