The first week

Okay. It’s been a week since I started this “one camera, one lens, one month” experiment and I’ve posted seven photographs (not counting Experiment #0) taken with my Panasonic GF1 and a 20mm f/1.7 prime lens.

So what have I learned so far? It might surprise you.

Self Portrait: February 25, 2010

Self Portrait: February 25, 2010

I’ve learned that my respect for professionals—that is, photographers who do this for a living—went up a notch or two. It’s hard to do this every day and still feel like you’ve got something to give—and I’ve only been at it a week! I am balancing a full-time job and family obligations with it, but I think those two activities map pretty well to the business side of photography and the same obligations to family. I work as a designer in the creative services industry, so I know a little about meeting deadlines and exceeding client expectations, but I’m not sure I want to mix that with my photography. I’m still very much on the fence about that.

Another thing I’ve learned? To give myself permission to suck. Most of the photos so far, while good exercises in creativity, are not going to win any awards. But they’re not intended to, are they? They’re meant for me to stretch my brain; to think about photography in a slightly different way and perhaps to open up a path that I’ve never been on before. Allowing myself the freedom not to worry about what others think of these images helps me toss aside rules and guidelines and play. I’ve discovered that you have to be a little selfish about this and ignore everybody else. Forget about what you think will sell or hang in a gallery or be published in a magazine or on a web site (of course, you can do that yourself now, if you want to). Who knows, I might create something that other people like, but that’s not the point now is it? Remember who you are and you’ll discover what you want to say.

I’ve also stepped a little bit outside my photographic comfort zone. This goes along with allowing myself to create some bad photographs—”wrecking some pixels,” to paraphrase Mr. duChemin—but it also makes me better at the craft of photography. If I put myself in situations where the light is unlike anything I’ve photographed before, or I need some fill flash—in other words, where I have to solve a problem—I add to my skill set as a photographer. There is an 800 lb. gorilla in this room, though: people photography. I am naturally reticent to approach people as photographic subjects, but I think if I don’t get past that, I will miss out on some great moments and great images (especially during my upcoming trip to Italy). I plan to work on that over the next week or two of this experiment, so look for some street photography or portraits coming up. (Crap, now I really have to do it.)

In the end, all of these things expand my photographic vocabulary, which is the point of the whole experiment. The more photographic “words” (concepts) I learn—negative space, leading lines, visual weight, etc.—the better I am able to build “paragraphs” and eventually stories to communicate what I’m trying to say. I’m also digging deeper to find out what it is I truly want to say and what I want to photograph, though you might not see that in the images so far. But I’ll get there.

I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who have been checking out the Flickr feed and enduring my Facebook posts about this. Your comments and support have been great. Thanks.

Now, on to week two…

5 Responses to “The first week”

  • Beate Dalbec Says:

    I think your project is a great idea and will definitely bring you photography to a whole new level. I know all about that 800 lb gorilla – i.e. people photography. I have the same issue, which I faced on my recent safari to Kenya. The friendliness of the people really helped me to overcome some of my issues. I think Italy will offer some wonderful opportunities.

  • John Batdorff Says:

    Stuart, I enjoyed reading this. I think granting yourself permission to suck is key. If you don’t take risks and experiment then you never grow. Paralysis of analysis is a killer and I think your project is a wonderful way to force yourself into trying new things.

  • sabrina Says:

    I’ve learnt a couple of things too through your first week, Stuart.

    My respect for you went up 10 notches. I know it’s hard work because I tried to keep up with you. One image a day and I failed. I didn’t even limit myself to one camera or one lens and still I came up short.

    I also have a new definition of “suck”. Every image you’ve shot so far does not fit my former definition of the word.

    I’m looking forward to week 2 and perhaps some people images?

    • Stuart Sipahigil Says:

      Sabrina, you’re too kind. There are certainly plenty of images that suck; I’m just not showing them to you :-)

      However, I am forcing myself to try to get through the ones that suck and keep at a subject until I get one I like. That was also one of the goals of the experiment: to “work” a subject a little more thoroughly.

      I did not get any people images for week 2 as you can tell on Flickr, but I am determined to do so before I’m done. Unfortunately, most of my days this past week were filled with meetings and other work obligations, but I’m gonna get there. I was nearly so desperate for a “people” shot that I almost asked the woman in the drive-thru at lunch one day if I could take her picture! Maybe next time I’ll just do it anyway.

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