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Saturday, 03 December 2011


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I blame the internet.

Thank you for this timely post though, I am having the same issue. All this "learning" is taking away from practicing and experimenting.

Gorgeous images.

Great essay.

"9. Inspiration comes to those who leave space for it to come in. A busy mind usually lacks the space."

Give me a break, having read your excellent treatise, I'd say your mind never stops (you personally Kirk) along with all the other people interested in what it is, that is photography.


Is the act of taking pictures an action or an activity? And when does it become Art rather than expending of nervous energy? Besides the obvious snapshooters, I'm also thinking of photographers like Vivian Maier who died never exhibiting her work. Or a Gary Winogrand with thousands of unprocessed rolls.

I had to read this a couple of times to verify my reaction to this article. I agree with the core principle of it which is to do what makes you happy and to carefully choose the actions which reinforce this.

I think a similar concept what the state you're trying to achieved is called Flow in psychology.


Great article, very thought provoking.

Regards, Pak

The absence of BS in this guy's writing is so refreshing!

Some interesting ideas here Kirk. I particulalrly like the thought of always creating a portrait of a stranger whenever one is out with one's camera - thanks for that inspiration.

Kirk this is so well thought out and expressed that I wonder it is not underpinning most of our work habits from the time we first even think about making art. A gem that I will have to refer to from time to time - when er... I'm not out shooting of course!

Bravo. Ultimate bravo. You're writing about me, as well as you. And lots of us. If this article would fit on a card it would be on my wall. Since it won't I guess I will bookmark it. But it is the perfect size.

Fine piece. A quote from Giacometti that is in the signature of one of the very good photographers on RFF is both germane to and at the same time antithetical to your idea: "I now work only for the sensation I have while working."

Kirk, I've been reading your blog for about two years but never commented (I am part of the silent majority of your readers). Your essay was nothing short of amazing, right on the spot. I am going to bookmark it and will definitely read it again in the future

It is difficult to face my fears and rise above my frailties as a photographer. I am guilty of the "activity" and seemingly endless pursuit of every little bit of information about photography instead of making photographs. Thank you for your mentoring ways and the rules to follow.

Lovely photos, Kirk.

Wow I wish Kirk lived closer to me. I would love to hang out with him as it appears we think very much alike. Great article!

Kirk ... I love you !
Well ... don't get me wrong ...
... but I do :o)

Bang on.

Kirk, you sort of becoming our (your/TOP readers) redeeming conscience.

I can't imagine the taking pictures using the online technology. But since it has been proven by you guys, many would interested.

Refreshing lack of art-speak yet very artistically pertinent.

For most people photography is a collectors hobby, not an artistic one. Forum obsession with tool choice for its own sake is artistically irrelevant.

I have worked in IT for 29 years and my interest in it extends as far as what it can do. I have never understood why people are so obsessed by what it is.

What's most evident to me is that you should give up on all the new gadgets and shoot, exclusively, FILM.

So pretty....

As usual, I will take a (slightly) contrarian stance here. While I basically agree with everything Kirk says, I want to emphasize that each image is and should be part of a journey. An image that is both good, AND from which I learned something about the process of making good images is, for me, better than one that's merely good.

@ Andrew Molitor: are you able to expand on that interesting idea. For example, do "lessons" become apparent only after many months? For me, I think this is certainly the case but i would be interested if that were true for you too.

patrick, I would say that my ideal photograph metes out its lessons over time ;)

Initially I get a "Yeah, that works'. A little later there's more analysis of how I could improve "that"; this happens after I am done shooting, while I am looking at proofs or work prints or similar. This is usually something like "that would work better with a fill placed right there" or "I should have framed this a little more tightly", kind of technical details.

Photographs that I hang or otherwise ensure stay in front of me, I like to *imagine* that I am absorbing lessons from, as well. These lessons, if any, are less technical and more about my own taste, I think. My images, along with all the other images that pass by my eyes, inspire me with new ideas, and new variations of old ideas. These are lessons like 'I think I like darker images now' and 'There's another good image there if I took a long lens and got down on the ground' and 'Have her close her eyes next time we shoot together'.

An image which hangs there and doesn't speak to me in any of these ways over the months and years might be wonderful, but it's taking up space that could be used by a more talkative photograph!

Anyways, none of these things happen if you don't go make some photographs and hang them up in front of your eyes. So, make sure to go and do that!

A lot of the discussion of art seems to point to an attitude of total commitment. Unfortunately, or not, photography is at best my secondary art (I'm a software engineer professionally). So, here I am not really giving total commitment to either one.

I think it's an open question what level of obsession is necessary to being a first-rate artist. Many historical examples certainly would have been hard to live with, and often not very good at all to their families (or else had no family). Clearly it's not incompatible with being good to be totally obsessed. But is it necessary? And how much do your own choices really control in that regard?

At my age, I'm not particularly expecting to be recognized as an important artist anyway.

Kirk has a larger point than this, but I want to reinforce this part of it: the more time I spend researching cameras and lenses, the worse pictures I take.

Very sage advice.

As someone interested in technical things, I find I need to be careful to concentrate on the doughnut (my conception of the image), and not on the hole (the light-tight box).

My tactic is to _use_ the equipment I currently possess, until it acquires a patina of my use. Only then, will I allow myself to purchase further gear.

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