On Becoming Small


when i was in high school i played in the band.  it was great fun learning to play an instrument and eventually i had what i thought was enough experience to begin basic forms of improvisation.  it was fun and when it was done well while everyone else was playing a piece straight, it sounded great.  but nothing (and i mean nothing) pissed off our band director more than some 16-year old kid who thought he knew better than John Phillips Sousa.  and it was hard at 16 to learn the value of that restraint, but truly, when everyone played what was written and as we were directed the result was stunningly beautiful.  to this day, when i listen to music, i still have a deep seeded respect for the rhythm guitarists, the bass players, and the guy pounding out chords on a piano while the front man wails away.  they’re the anchors that provide the pillars of foundation for a beautiful expression.

recently, when i was shooting with a friend, we were trying to find some beauty within a very creepy space, i saw this small opening low on the wall and knew that the light coming through there was special.  i wanted to convey the space, the light that i saw, and a degree of emotional isolation that would anchor the scene.  when i showed yarrow the preview on the back of the camera she simply said, “i’m so small!” when i assured her that’s exactly what was needed to convey this vision, she sort of agreed and had to trust that i knew what i was doing.

there comes a point as you mature as an artist when the novelty of its creation becomes secondary to executing a vision.  and i see many photographers struggling with this when they begin to explore photography as an expressive medium.  it often comes off as documentary and somewhat matter of fact with a near complete disregard for composition.  there’s often very little expression, emotion, or purpose, for the nude figure in this scene.  one can disregard or even blatantly break compositional rules, but only for the purpose of conveying some higher purpose: emotion, drama, story.

and i struggle with these problems every time i pick up my camera.  every time i am trusted with the beauty of the human figure, i find myself not taking more and more shots.  and ultimately, i come away with so many more pieces that truly move me.  as artists, when we begin to trust ourselves and we tend to have more confidence in our vision and our skills.  this allows us to slow down, work with a more deliberate vision and in the end come away with so much more.

2 thoughts on “On Becoming Small

  1. “every time i am trusted with the beauty of the human figure, i find myself not taking more and more shots.”

    I am guilty of the opposite. I am trying to find that confidence.


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