If photography were difficult in the true sense – that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. –Ansel Adams
It is not surprising in this day and age so many flock to places that have been glorified by various media sources. These places are known for being wild, historic, cultural, adventurous, sparsely populated, over populated, or simply have a great view of a wonderful landscape. Ease of travel has certainly opened up the World to us. It is not uncommon for many to travel thousands of miles each year to experience these unique areas. I have yet to be convinced this is a good thing when it comes to creativity, art, or personal expression. And as Ansel puts it, often leads to creative disaster. I have experienced this first hand, and seem to be constantly reminding myself, just because I can make a photograph does not mean that I should.
When it comes to travel photography I participate in the same manner I participate in wildlife photography, opportunistically. That is to say, if i am present and the opportunity presents itself I am more than happy to enjoy the moment and celebrate with a possible photograph. I do not actively seek the travel methodology or mindset. To venture to far off lands is exciting without question. For most these are short lived trips, possible done a few times in a lifetime. Total time spent learning about, understanding, and allowing a place to impact ones well being is short. Many times very short. I would much rather know a place well, very well. There is a connection that takes place between us and our surroundings. This connection requires at minimum, time and requires much more than opportunistic visits. Days, weeks, months, or possibly calling it home is when opportunity becomes reality allowing for personal connection. Photographs, to be of significance must live in this personal connection space.
I always find it somewhat odd to the point of narcissistic when I read articles, posts, or notifications, about the great “photography” trip that a person has planned. Highlighted with the locations, possibly an itinerary, planned sights, objects, or places that are on the “hit list” or in hopes of experiencing. A very social way of sharing ones daily life. Not inherently bad, just somewhat boisterous. What seems to accompany these planned ventures many times is the ubiquitous “gear list”. Photo gear listed like a grocery list of must haves, want to have, and can haves. Cameras, lenses, memory cards, memory card readers, tripods, filters, extra batteries, bags, more bags, cables, cleaning supplies, weather gear, and on and on and on…
I honestly do not understand the sharing of possible gear that one wishes to take on a trip. It is always a large number of items that they must somehow, through shear will power whittle down to a manageable amount to travel with. And ultimately will always end up wanting (think they need) a piece of gear they did not bring. If I wanted to make a trip as impersonal or as un-photographically successful as possible this seems to be what my approach would be. Yet many find this a necessary step in what they insist is a photographic travel plan.
We each have our own way of doing things without doubt. What works for one person may not come close to working for the next. But when we challenge our creative endeavors with unnecessary distraction this seems to be moving in the wrong direction regardless of how one approaches any adventure. It leaves me to wonder if the purpose of these gear conundrums is truly for the sake of photography or an attempt to place importance on things other than photography. Namely, motivations.
I would categories such examples of these gear conundrums as a simpletons approach. Not only to creativity, but life in general. Shallow observations of self satisfaction with little or no regard to personal significance, essence of spirit, or compassionate understanding, that should be foremost in meaningful work. Then again, it is always possible meaningful work is not the intent. Many simply want to get the most bang for their buck. There is nothing wrong with that approach. Unless photography is the bang you are looking for. Then the dilemma of the gear grocery list seems to be much more of a distraction than helpful approach.
Many approach photography as a gear first activity, hobby, even profession. For them it is about the right gear, the needed gear, the variety of gear, even the newest gear. Consumerism exists in every nook and cranny of society today. Even with the temptations all around we still have a choice in what we deem important when it comes to our creative work.
My hope is for photography to completely separated from gear. As other forms of creative art are separate from tools used in their creation. One does not wonder what brushed Michelangelo used when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or what chisel he used when sculpting Pietà. Why then do many feel the need to make clear the equipment they use when creating a photograph. My only thought would be, they have little intent on creating any photographs. They simply want to take lots of pictures, or use cool tools.
The world of full of pictures. To the point of extreme excess. These are for the most part personal memories of places experienced. A fine thing to have. Memories are important. They help to shape, mold, and form our thoughts, emotions, even our personalities. You may feel the need for many more pictures in your life. A sort of verification of a life experienced. But are the pictures the verification? Or, are they simply tokens that are used as a reminder of life experiences? Will you enjoy them for what they are or for the gear you used when creating them? One things seems apparent. Photographs are important, gear is not.
“Never forget that all the great photographs in history were made with more primitive camera equipment than you currently own.” – Brooks Jensen
Late Wiinters View | ©Brad Mangas
Art & Fear
What Photography Has Taught Me
In March I was contacted by Ed Wedman co-founder of Exhibitions Without Walls, an international organization that offers photographers and digital artists the chance to grow and develop professionally. Ed was inquiring if I would be interested in doing an interview for an upcoming edition of their online publication. I have participated in a couple of low key interviews of local interest but thought this may be an opportunity to expand my voice to a greater audience.
When I started to answer the questions posed to me I knew I wanted and needed to be as upfront and honest as possible. This took not only some soul searching, but reflection as well as a look forward for what may lie ahead. I enjoyed the process.
Thank you Ed, I appreciate the opportunity.
You can read the interview here: Exhibitions Without Walls – Interview with Brad Mangas
“I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.” ~Robert Henri
Contours | ©Brad Mangas
Every so often I find myself contemplating the wrong ideas, motivations, and goals. This is nothing new. Looking back over the years and possibly even my life I can recognize these moments. The difference now seems to be I catch myself in the act before a good deal of time has went by and lost for all eternity.
The wrong ideas I am referring to are those that center around some outside force or distraction. This typically begins with questioning the what, how, when, and why of the photographic creation process, not for myself but for others. This seems like a harmless and logical direction for an artist and creation motivated person to pursue. Producing art or going about business with others wants and needs in mind that is. To put it bluntly, this is devastatingly destructive. Just the opposite of what I need to do to feed the inner workings of the process that is responsible for what I chose to do. To be more clear, it is not the questions themselves that are destructive but the motivation in asking them. Specifically, the concern of what others need, want, or think. It’s hard to put this in a way that does not seem completely off putting or self centered. Maybe that is the uncomfortable part, the part that others will not understand. But then, it is this concern or more appropriately the lack of (not for) concern of others that is the issue here. Yes that seems cold and heartless if you take it the wrong way. I can only think of explaining this as; If I am anything I must be honest with myself. Only then will I be honest with the world I live in. There is no cruel or heartless intent. It is very difficult to get this across to others. I try but mostly fail. I believe it has always been this way and will forever be a struggle.
The last couple weeks I have gotten caught in a trap. A trap that is not comfortable. Distractions to what feeds my process. And without a doubt centers around outside forces. Most notably, what others think or expect. I have attributed this to the holiday season. The ginormous onslaught of sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy. I have participated in this but now realize I must be very cautious of how and why. My participation has been on the end of the selling. It seems somewhat odd to speak negatively about selling work when that is the only thing that provides monetary support. It is also the “only” thing it provides. No creative support, honestly it stifles the whole creative process. No personal or emotional support, I come out feeling like a sleazy door to door vacuum cleaner salesman. What is the purpose? Only to eat and have a roof over ones head I guess. That and it is necessary for a life that provides the ability to create. At least the eating part does. The inner workings of this creative life can be as devastating as they are rewarding.
It comes down to this. What is it worth? What is anything that is life altering worth? Most don’t have the desire to face hardships in the pursuit of living more abundantly. You risk failing with each attempt. Most believe failing is failure. It is not. To not try again after failing will most certainly end in failure. The solution may not be easy but the pursuit will forever be rewarding and the alternative forever final.
“The artist never entirely knows — We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark” ~Agnes de Mille
“The Flint Hills and prairies have been my home my entire life. I have never felt alone standing by myself surrounded by miles and miles of open lands and nature. There seems to be the ultimate in freedom when holding a camera in such a place with complete control of what and when to take a photograph.”
That is a quote from my “Artist/Personal Statement” page. It holds more truth about how I look at life than could be written in hundreds of pages. It seems to be without question those who understand such things are a fleeting minority. It may not even be their fault or of their own making.
For someone who does not partake in the watching of television much I have become astutely aware of the bombardment of advertising and what I consider their modus operandi. It seems to have nothing to do with beneficial information and everything to do with more, bigger, faster, bolder, greater, greatest, most extreme, most noticeable, most popular, most outgoing… more bling. This has escalated to the point that if I have chosen to watch a particular program on network television I have no choice but to at minimum mute every commercial. A funny thing happens when one does this. Many times you have no idea what product the commercial is even about until possibly the very last few seconds. More interestingly, this may be taking place with society at the same blistering rate. The more fluff that is put on a person the less we understand that person. The less we want to understand. They become distracting and uninteresting. To bring notice to oneself can be akin to misdirecting. As the magician misdirects the eye to the more noticeable activity the less noticeable hand tells the truth.
It seems almost wrong to mention something so unimportant as television but, these things do not stop with broadcast television. They can be witnessed throughout ones day in almost any social setting. Attention grabbing being practiced, exploited and targeted. For some time you have been able to pay to get more “likes” on social media. Pay to get more likes. Just saying that seems absurd. Of course the point isn’t to be liked more it is to then target more accurately that which you want to thrust upon the, do I dare say victim? I am sure the advertiser would rather say potential customer.
In a life of creating art and the associated need to market art for the sole purpose of putting food on the table and a roof over ones head there comes a time when the artist must play the advertiser, marketer, and salesperson. How they choose to approach these things must be in step with how they choose to live. One can not be separated from the other. When the artist hat comes off and the marketers hat goes on it goes on the same person only the hat has changed.
It would be so convenient for the artist to be able to trade their art for the necessities of life. That being said, the artist understands their art is the necessity of their life. Food, water, shelter are only those things that allow the artist to continue producing that which is necessary for their life to be, “their life”.
© Brad Mangas
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. -Henry David Thoreau
I feel somewhat obligated by need, desire, or just an old fashion urge to follow up on my previous post. I would encourage if you have not yet read it to please do so here: What Photography Has Taught Me.
Yesterday while listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe to I heard it said; “If you have not experienced pain you can not create art.” At first that struck me as odd and noninclusive. Noninclusive in the sense that, what if you have lived a very troubled free life? Does that preclude you from being able to make art? Almost as soon as I thought of it that way I realized, we all are human and that alone means we have experienced pain in one form or another. I would venture to say we all have experienced pain many times in our lives. I am not talking about physical pain or bodily injuries but, the pain that comes with living. Grief, Disappointments, loneliness, heartache. (more…)