Our artistic work – or creative work – is a mirror of ourselves. It reflects who we are, our interests, what is important in our lives. Or ought to. Because only when we invest ourselves in our work, will it be a manifestation of who we are, whether in a subtle way or more tangible. If we don’t create with our hearts, the result will be both dreary and uninspired. Without emotional engagement and passion our work is going to reflect exactly that. Even when I am on assignment I try to find some way of getting myself involved no matter how boring the subject or the assignment might be in the first place. I use myself, and I try to find some connection I can personally relate to. When I teach my photographic workshops I try to learn more about each participant’s personal interests so that I can better help her or him with finding a photographic project to shoot during the workshop, a project that she or he can related to.
At best your creative expression becomes an extension of yourself. Just as whatever you say reflects who you are, so it does for all other ways of expressing yourself. And just as with language, the more you know where you stand and who you are, the better you are able to express your opinions. If you are a photographer – but it applies equally to all other means of artistic expressions – you will be able to engage the viewer, only if you are engaged yourself. When your photographs are at best, you are photographing yourself, even when it’s not literally a photo of yourself. I see myself in the way I shoot, why I shoot, how I shoot, what I shoot, and not the least my intentions – what it is I am trying to tell with my photographs. For me to be able to do so, I need to know myself – what I stand for, what I am interested in, what I believe in and what is important in life for me.
Know yourself. That is important in photography, in all kinds of artistic expression as it is in life in general. In his book 25 Lessons I’ve Learned about
Photography Life the photographer Lorenzo Dominguez writes this about knowing yourself: «Every photograph I have taken has clearly been an expression of me and my outlook and love for life—an endeavor which details the idiosyncrasies of my perspective, of the elected nuances of light and shadow which at a moment’s notice pique my senses, of the people and the playful pretenses I delightfully wish to remember, and of all the warm and tender moments in my life, which ultimately have surrendered to a single click of a button.»
He continues: «Be aware that the camera is simply an extension of ourselves, and thus you should take care to have your photos reflect who you are, what you see, and what your life is all about, because ultimately your photos are a visual history of who you are, what you do, and where you’ve been.»
Dominguez suggest a couple of ways in how to find out more about yourself. Since this is about photography and your photos should reflect who you are, what better way to do so than making self-portraits? It might be frightening to capture the real you, but if you go about without considering how others might see you and without preconceived ideas about yourself, you might be surprised what you’ll find. Be honest and try to see yourself as you are. For some it will be easy, but many others, if not most, will shy away. Another way to get to know yourself is seeking out solitude. I know with myself, nothing clears my mind as much as being out in Mother Nature all by myself. I find myself and the real me this way maybe after a period of intense work where I have not had time to just be myself. Successful artists, scientists, gurus, and photographers all know that solitude is the sine qua non of creation, discovery and epiphany. And for some, the means to personal salvation. It’s when I have time for myself the great new ideas come about, when I find solutions to problems I have been struggling with and, maybe most importantly, find peace of mind.
By the way 25 Lessons I’ve Learned about
Photography Life is a book I really recommend if you are interested in the creative process of photography – and yes, life. Lorenzo Dominguez is an author, a writer and an award-winning street photographer. TimeOutNY calls him a «photography sensation» and NY Times Magazine columnist Rob Walker, considers him a «Flickr star.»