I first discovered what artists expression was about 2 years ago. I saw a drawing by my 4 year old nephew Colton... the drawing was not amazing by any technical means, but it was amazing in how much Colton had expressed about who he was through the drawing. Things that he couldn't say verbally were suddenly being expressed through his drawing. And this is when it clicked for me, this is what artistic expression is. This is what art is all about; expressing to the world who we are, what we think about and believe in. I wondered why it took me so long to come this understanding of something that had been in front of me for so long, something that I had actually made a career of.
I think one of the reasons for my ignorance is that art for the most part is extremely subtle. You have to look deep into a piece to see the creator. Social media by contrast is loud an direct. It's instant gratification and doesn't require depth on the part of the viewer. And think this contributed to why I had only seen art as what is being depicted and not who is telling the story.
After this realization, I began applying this way of thinking to my photography. Could I tell a lot about the photographer through a photo? Is photography about capturing a moment or are we projecting ourselves into a moment? Sure, we are capturing a moment in the most basic way, but we choose what to photograph, focus on, light, retouch, etc. We even tell the subject who to be by projecting ourselves onto them... and it shows!
If you are awkward, you are going to make your subject feel awkward. I tested this new approach to art once when I was at a party. I found that a woman I met, her sister-in-law was a photographer. I asked her to show me her work, but not to say anything about her. After seeing these moody photos of people looking away from the camera, capturing a very soft, calm feel in each image, I came to a conjecture. I turned to the woman and said, "Your sister-in-law is extremely introverted. She is shy and introspective. She would much rather observe a conversation than take part in it. I would even bet that at the end of the a night, instead of saying 'goodnight' to everyone, she slips off without anyone noticing."
She was shocked at the accuracy of what I had described. I then turned to my own work. I asked myself, "Why do I create what I create? Who am I?". I spent months shaping a deep core to base my reason for artistic expression and came up with this: I photograph people because I believe that people were created in the image of God... which means everyone has value. It's a value given irrespective of status, money, sex, religious belief, etc. I photograph people because I want to show their inherent value to the world. I don't only shoot celebrities; I love photographing people I see on the street. I love photographing weddings. I simply love capturing who people are.
Other things I discovered about myself is that I am super optimistic, very upbeat and essentially a kid at heart. I'm naturally drawn to nostalgia and irony. I love Charlie Chaplin and Norman Rockwell for example, two of my biggest inspirations. I'm scrappy as a problem solver and thrive on what is unique in the moment. I strive to see things from an original and unique point of view. I also appreciate corny, tacky things like "dad jokes" and "cat paraphernalia". All of these things are at my core and thus they come out when I create, regardless of my awareness of that fact or not. It's simply who I am.
Knowing that, I can highlight this when it's time to create something since art is expressing to the world who you are. It's my go to when I'm in a creative slump on a shoot. Maybe you are thinking, "I'm not creative...so how does this apply to me?" Everyone...everyone has a message that they are conveying to the world. Maybe you are a crazy driver and cut people off. You are saying that either you are in an emergency or are selfish and entitled. Maybe you take time to speak with the cashier when you check out at the store. Your are expressing a desire to connect with others. You don't have to take photos, sketch, sculpt or dance to express yourself. We do it everyday. So the point is to understand what we believe on a fundamental level so we can be aware of the art that we create.
Summary of images: These images emphasize my thoughts on artistic expression. I photographed JR Bourne in a speck shoot we did together. His only request was that we do the shoot at the beach. I hate the beach! Sand gets everywhere, it's hot, salt gets stuck to your skin and feels nasty... I hate the beach! So I projected my feelings of the beach onto him. I also enjoy irony so I mixed the feeling of awkward irony by making him wear a suit at the beach. The lighting is reflective of who I am in that what you see is what you get. The colors are bright and poppy to represent my optimistic and upbeat nature. Going along with my TEDx Talk... photos really do reflect a lot about the artist.