I’m self-conscious and am a worrier. There, I admit it. How many of you have admitted that? Worry is stressful and checking your behavior to make sure you are acting proper is another unneeded stress factor. Forget those things and accept yourself. Accept the influences you deny or passively absorb throughout your life. Influences can't be denied. How many opinions can a person truly say is of their own and not based on consensus? Accept what you do in the now. Eventually, you will come into your own person. This is what I tell myself …when I’m not in an emotional slump.
Everyone has his or her own fears. My fear is that I'll become a copycat. Landscape photography has been explored plenty. One day I’m excited at something I made, the next day I realize someone else did it. Why should I continue doing it? I’m doing it because I love to just as I enjoy portraits. Like any child learning the world they eventually become their own person as an adult. The same applies to the creative process. Embrace openness, as your inner voice will eventually emerge. You are only a copycat out of laziness and fear.
Artists aren’t influenced absolutely by other artists. They are influenced by ways that one’s culture perceives the world. Whenever an artistic movement came about in photography, other photographers across the world did their own take on these movements using their culture as a foundation. I’ve had similar experiences in my short life. I have never lived near an ocean much less read much information on an ocean. I saw plenty of oceans in shows like Baywatch and movies like Jaws. I spent a month next to the ocean like an excited child ready to open presents on his birthday.
I took a photograph of an ocean in Lucia California. I looked up ocean photographers a few months later and found that Hiroshi Sugimoto took a similar photograph that I had taken. My confidence went to zero. Hiroshi is a wonderful photographer and I felt like a wannabe Hiroshi. My peers more familiar with his work would easily disregard my image as passé.
Here is my image:
Here is Hiroshi's. You may recognize it from U2's new album. I never saw this photo before until someone mentioned it to me. Ironically that person wanted to buy my photograph because it reminded them of the cover...
Things like this happen all the time. The best one can do is move on or see if their take on something like oceans is representational of the creator. I approached the ocean as conceived by people that lived by it. I saw it as an endless landscape of water much like I view the plains of North Dakota as an endless, flat landscape of farmland and grassland. With little information on what it is like to live by the water, I related it to my experiences from living in the Greater Plains. Most folks don’t care about such descriptions as artwork can fall into trends and no one wants someone that copies a trend that is already over.
What's the moral of the story if you already missed it? Shoot whatever excites you! If you find you are making images that someone else did, don’t try to be different from them for the sake of being different. Once you become aware of what’s been done, examine such works and see how you can contribute to it with your own take on the world. With a medium such as photography, you are truly observing the world in your own way. Let your eyes and intuition guide you to that next best photograph. Don’t be self-conscious and worry if it has been done. Everything has been done already for hundreds of years. Treat the world like a blender filled with your ideas. Mix them up and have fun with it.
At least that’s what I tell myself…when I’m not in an emotional slump.