Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Bummer, I know.
You've heard the advice from so many sources. Yes, you are unique, and yes, the world of art wants to see your point of view and the way you look at the world around you. You have a unique seat in this world and that viewpoint is the only original element that you are ever able to provide to the world.
If the above paragraph makes little sense, feel free to watch this video, it should make it clearer to you.
You cannot do original work per se, in the sense that there is no such subject that you are going to discover yourself that has never been done in the past, or won't be done in the future. There is no nude, no landscape, no portrait, no nothing that no else hasn't tried or won't try to do in the world. Therefore, all you have to do is be yourself, be totally honest with your work, so that it is the absolute reflection of your thoughts and obsessions. The clearer we observers are able to look inside your soul, the more original your work will be, simply because there is no one like you, never has been and never will be.
That actually is a valid statement. This is what artists should strive to do. The question here is that if this is enough. Is it enough for the world of art to see inside one's soul, only for the sake of originality? Will this add something to the history of art? Will it provide with the benefits that art is supposed to provide for our civilisation and enhance our cultural heritage?
As you may have read in my personal artist's statement ( found here ), I state that:
" Photography, just as any other form of art, becomes meaningful when it is able to propose a different approach to life and slightly shift the course of humanity for the better. "
So let's talk about that for a moment. The keyword here is "meaningful". We cannot settle with the fact that a work of art is original. The art we produce must have its place among the art of the world. It should provide a new paragraph in the book of world's cultural heritage.
In that sense, the creator is burdened with a heavier mission than to just produce original work by being truthful and communicate his/hers inner thoughts and obsessions. If this is all what artists ever did, then we would have been creating art for the sake of art. Art would have never been considered as the cornerstone of our civilisation, as it now is by everyone.
Our thoughts and our obsessions, when structured, become arguments. Our arguments are what we essentially try to communicate to the world. The means that we choose to do that is our art. Therefore where other creators can communicate more sufficiently through writing, others do so through painting, sculpting or photographing among others. Creators choose their art, because they feel they can better communicate through this specific means. In that sense, a photographer cannot explain his argument in writing or by speaking about his photographs. If he did, he should have been a novelist, or a poet instead.
These arguments therefore become our main elements of our work. Nevertheless, no matter how well we are able to communicate our arguments through the work we produce, this by itself is not enough for the receiver. We need to CONVINCE about the validity of our arguments.
Furthermore, these arguments must be interesting enough and at the same time present a truth, or even better a concern that the receiver has never thought about. Essentially, the receiver must not only be presented with a new concern or a new truth that opposes his/hers current beliefs and values, but be convinced about their validity.
Let's make this easier by using an example.
Suppose I want to communicate to you the fact that I think you are a very smart person. I can use several arguments about how well you do in your life, about your achievements, education, love life and so on and so forth.
That wouldn't be too difficult, would it now? Most people usually take themselves as a smart individual and me trying to convince you about it would be a fairly easy job to do. My arguments would be passing through much easier and would make it much easier for you to take them as valid.
But what an impact is this going to have on you? You'd probably think that I am a nice guy that thinks you are smart. Duh? Of course you are smart, you knew that already.
So what did you gain with this conversation? Nothing. You have been presented with a sugary truth that didn't change you as a person, just made you feel better for a few moments and then probably forgot about it.
That would be the analogy of art for the sake of art.
Let's go the other way now and suppose I wanted to communicate to you that I think you are an idiot. Well, that is now interesting. And difficult.
You do not want to hear about it, after all you are a smart guy, correct?
But what if I had such compelling arguments and was somehow able to convince you that indeed, I may be right and you might be in fact, an idiot?
Now, that is interesting. You thought all along you were smart, but now you start doubting yourself and think that maybe I am right and you are an idiot.
Even better, you might even want to prove me wrong and start wondering on how to work on your newly discovered flaws and become a smarter version of yourself.
Now that is something useful. That is something that would change your life for the better.
This is the artist changing your life.
Problem is, that as a photographer, you are somewhat unable to put your arguments into words, you have to put them in images. So what can you do?
The answer here takes us back to square one.
I do not intend to screw your mind too much, but the actual answer here is again to be true to yourself and strive to out your obsessions and thoughts through your work.
Am I crazy? Then what was all this article all about?
Well, no, I keep saying to myself I am not too crazy.
We may be back to square one, but with a small difference. We are back to square one, but with some new knowledge in our bag.
Think about that. Our arguments, come from our thoughts and obsessions, so essentially they come from who we actually are.
Therefore the only way to change our arguments, making them stronger and so valid that not too many people can oppose to them, no matter how new to them they might be, is to change ourself.
Our self improvement, self cultivation, changes the way we think, changes who we are.
There is no reason to communicate what you have to say, with any form of art, if you have nothing to say.
When you do, you go back to square one and, out with it.
But you are not actually at square one.
You are at a new, parallel square one.