So What’s Your Point?

For those who know me well, know that I am a huge fan of Prince. Especially in high school and university, I couldn’t get enough. I’d listen to his music continuously, travelling in the car, on a plane, and studying. His music got me through exams, celebrations, and heart break. Back in the infancy of the Internet, I spent a lot of time in the computer lab at my university reading and posting on the bulletin boards about “TAFKAP” or O(+> on (if my memory serves me) “Gopherspace”. It would be very much like a sub on Reddit in today’s Internet landscape; minus the pictures.

What does this have to do with photography?

My interest in Prince led me to purchase the biography “Slave to the Rhythm”. It was finally a window into his secretive life.

Photography…remember?

Okay, okay. The book was published in 1997, which means I probably bought and read it that year. With all of the moving, I’m not sure what has happened to the book, and I read it only once.

But after 23 years, there is still a piece of it that still lives in my head. The very short version (all that I remember) looks like this:

He was at his club in Miami and a fan/patron approached him and said, “I really like your new album.”

Prince’s response: “What’s your point?” and walked away.

That hit me like a tonne of bricks. I started laughing, thinking, “What a Prince thing to say.” But as time wore on, I became conflicted.

I started to question my fandom to Prince, I became a little angry. Here’s a fan that bought Prince’s album and drinking at his club and this is how he treats him. What a donkey.

But then I started to think… “As an artist, at the end of the day, Prince is making his music for himself and really doesn’t care what outsiders think of his work.” Sure he still comes off as a donkey, and could have been a little nicer, but I had huge respect for a person who genuinely didn’t care what others thought of him.

Okay, so he’s an egotistical donkey. I’m still waiting for how this has anything to do with photography.

Well, I still think about it to this day, what he meant when he said “What’s your point?”

I’ll start this section by saying I’m guilty as much as the next person in this matter and that one of the reasons I’m writing this is to help myself to become better.

The third thing I came up with was: Maybe it was in an attempt to start a real dialect about his music. There are some parallels between photography and music: How many times have you heard a song on the radio or TV and said something on the lines of, “Oh, I like this song. Turn it up!” There’s a good chance it’s happened at least a couple of times. Why do you like it? What is it about that song that makes you feel that way? Is it the rhythm? The bass line? The change in key half way through? The tempo changes? The lyrics? If it’s the lyrics, what is it about the lyrics?

Now go look at your Instagram feed or Facebook timeline and scroll through the comments. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

What did you find?

  • Gorgeous
  • Stunning
  • Beautiful
  • Amazing
  • Nice shot
  • All of the above?

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that these people, many who you have never met in your lives, have taken the time in their day to type a reaction to one of your works is pretty remarkable. But with all due respect, what is their point?

Why do they think it’s “Stunning!”? Is it the colours? The texture? The expression on the boy’s face? Is it the deep thought that went into framing the photo the way it was? Or do you appreciate the effort it took for the photographer to get to the location that they did?

Let’s try to get some more dialogue into photography. Let’s try to give more meaning to the photograph. Open up, talk to the photographer. Ask questions, point out what specifically it is that you like about the photo. Don’t be afraid to say something on the lines of “I think there’s too much sky.”

Part of it is Instagram and Facebook, but it’s only a small part. They do make it easy to scroll through hundreds of photos and let you double tap a photo to show that you like it only to continue to scroll through hundreds more, completely forgetting about the photo you just “liked”.

More dialogue needs to start happening. As I said at the beginning, I’m just as guilty. I need to do a better job of saying why I like certain photos. After all, you don’t walk into the Musée d’Orsay, look at Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and say “Amazing” and then simply walk over to Jean-François Millet’s “Des glaneuses” and say “Stunning!” and walk away. You tend to stay for a while and study them.

Which will lead us into the next issue:

Galleries and Exhibitions

Starting Down the Path of Photography

Photography can be anything for everyone. 

It can be art, history, meditation/relaxation, escape, adventure, exploration, enlightenment, sport, or a soap box.  This can be true for both photographer and viewer.  The beauty of photography is that these reasons can be interwoven and mixed with any percentage to make each brick or stone along your path to say what you want it to say, or mean what you want it to mean.  It is your experience, your world, and only yours, which is what makes your path in photography so different.

For some, the path itself may be very similar, or even the same, but the cobblestones are arranged in a different order and/or using any number or other aspects that I didn’t mention, as they venture along their experiences.  My path, as a photographer, started with the historical stone. I love to travel, and I wanted to take photos of the places I had been to show friends and family, and as a keepsake for years down the road to gaze upon and reminisce and daydream.  This stone lead to exploration, the search for more daydreams and places to reminisce about.  This lead to relaxation and escape as I started to find more and more places that allowed me to exhale and say, “ahhhh.”  As I started to get off of the beaten path, I got to see a lot of things that woke me up to how the “real world” is, which lead to my soap box, trying to get more people to see how difficult the world is for many people who are undeservedly suffering.  Which lead me to enlightenment, as I use photography to help me become a better person.  Recognizing how much love and how much people are willing to give regardless of how much or how little they may have for themselves, and how much I want to be like them.  

Within this enlightenment and soap box, I try to maintain the same constant throughout the path: art.  I may not have any one brick that may be exclusively ‘art’ as so many other photographers around the world have, but it is the common thread, the mortar if you will, that holds my bricks together.  But it is also this stimulus that allows, no, forces my path to meander through my experiences.  A straight path from A to B may be the quickest way, but there are so many more interesting stories to experience when the road zigs and zags.  Likewise, the stories are more interesting when there is the artistic element intertwined in each turn. 

It is also the artistic side that allows my style, and yours, to change over time, and even from shoot to shoot.  There are so many different factors that happen in each photograph, that no matter how many times something has been photographed it will always be different than the ones before it.  That is the individuality of each photo and each person. Theses are the things that I hope to explore together with you as we make our treks down our paths, and with a little deeper understanding of my reasons and experiences of my photographic journey.  Together we can learn from each other, and I hope that we can inspire not only ourselves but the people and subjects around us.

To quote the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, “Everyday is a journey, and the journey itself home.” Everyone is at a different point on their paths, some are just starting and others have been on their journey, if you will, for a long, long time.  My hope is that this column will inform without teaching.  By that I mean, I will not for the most part, be going through the numbers, exact shutter speeds, f-stops, and hyper-focal distances.  (I may touch on them from time to time as each story may dictate its necessity.) That is being done everywhere in books, seminars, and online. Mr. Basho also said, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”  When it comes to art, and especially photography in today’s world, this quote is one of the keys for me.  So let’s start down our paths together and seek what the wise sought. 

I also hope that this column can inspire without prejudice.  It shouldn’t matter where each of us is on our paths, they are just that, “OUR” paths.  I hope that those who have been taking photos for years can get the same amount of inspiration as those who are just starting out.  We’re all under the same sun, same moon, and same clouds, and they don’t care if you’re taking a photo with a phone, a DSLR, or a disposable film camera.  The only thing that matters is your own  interaction with your experience and the building of new bricks for your path.  Let’ s welcome these new experiences with open arms and let the art guide us down our paths.