New Year’s resolution: the details

The Sun Sets on 2015

The Sun Sets on 2015

“… I prefer the unattainable happiness, always near, always elusive …. The moments when the heart really overflows with happiness come when the sense of life is heightened by tension and struggle ….” ~ Giusto Gervasutti

I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions, but I have made a few promises to myself lately:

I will not obsess over pixels. Resolution is not only about the technical resolving power of a lens or emulsion or sensor to define the details of an image; it is most important within the mind of the photographer: the ability to intuit from the scene the underlying mystery and to resolve within the frame elements that might best communicate the numinous.

A tall order, perhaps. But as transitory social trends drive us to ignore the simple beauty in everyday things for the promise of the next best spectacle, more than ever we need to slow down and enjoy the grandeur of the mundane.

I will make more landscape photos — both urban and wild — and I will let myself experiment more with post-processing.

I intend to make new portraits — in the studio and on location. Working with people is a great challenge and ultimately rewarding, if the results reveal something of the subject’s inner personality. Mind you, as master portraitist Richard Avedon said, taking care of surfaces is the most important step in revealing the spirit within (see paragraph 2). After all, photographs are merely two-dimensional representations of the world without some “magic” element to set them apart.

I will travel more, reminding myself that just short excursions, even walks down to the local beach or promenade (as I did yesterday, to record the last moments of 2015) can lead to good images. And if they don’t, so what? I stretched my legs.

I will honour my roots — I’ll shoot more film this year — hopefully to grow in new directions, knowing that to escape the bounds of comfort leads to new ways of seeing. Does that seem counterintuitive? It is not. Mastery begins with repetition and is achieved (or rather practiced) by adaptation.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson

Developing one’s intuition — the creative force that, more than anything else, is likely to see us “be there” at just the right time — is more important than any technical consideration. How do we develop that aptitude? By first opening ourselves to failure, by returning to the elusive and the confounding, by believing in our dream even when it detours through nightmare. Sometimes by starting over.

Just imagine how much failure it took to train the decisive eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

We desire to understand the world by giving names to the things we see,
but these things are only the effects of something subtle.

When we see beyond the desire to use names,
we can sense the nameless cause of these effects ~ Tao Te Ching.

If I do have a firm New Year’s resolution, in terms of photography, it’s just to pursue the “be there” part of the old “f/8 and be there” adage. That will be my focus.

Did you promise yourself something new for for 2016?

3 comments
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  • Kathy - They sound like good resolutions! I like the sounds of more travel – perhaps that can go on my list too.January 2, 2016 – 4:24 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - Yes, Kathy, I think travel can be a good inspiration. Mind you, I might have also said that challenging oneself to see familiar places and things in a new light is also very good practice.January 4, 2016 – 10:01 amReplyCancel

      • kathy - Yes, that can be a challenge and a joy.January 4, 2016 – 9:10 pmReplyCancel

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