Fencepost in IR
San Diego County, California
Tonight, the San Diego Photo Club was treated to an engaging presentation by Cole Thompson, a black and white photographer whose work I've enjoyed for a few years now. A while back Cole posted an essay about Photographic Celibacy. If you're a photographer it's a worthwhile read, if not, well, thanks for being here and I'll try to keep it interesting.
The key component of this approach is that Cole would no longer look at other peoples' photography. Thus, his vision would not be influenced by the work of others. This has proven controversial as you may imagine. Why wouldn't you look at the work of Ansel Adams, Michael Kenna, Weston, Atget, Cartier-Bresson? It's like saying I won't look at Rembrandt or Van Gogh for fear of being influenced. Cole has his reasons and for him they're valid and obviously worked as his imagery is remarkable.
Consider this, I make a pretty good Huevos Rancheros...damn good actually. Yet, whenever we have breakfast at a Mexican or Southwest restaurant I'll order theirs just to see a) is mine better and b) if theirs is better can I improve mine by taking something they do and
incorporate steal it.
I do this to improve my own work, to find new ways to garner more flavor, more texture, perhaps better colors or presentation. Someone out there is making better Huevos Rancheros than me. Someone out there is at the top of their game and I want to see how they got there, wouldn't you? Now, keep in mind I don't want to make THEIR Huevos Rancheros, I want to make mine better.
From listening to Cole tonight I imagine that he'd respond that that's fine for you if you're not overly influenced by others' work. He feels he is and needs to protect his vision. Completely understandable.
Yet, if I'm in a position to advance further along my path of Huevos Rancheros godhood I'll taste what others have to offer. Should I eventually reach that state I won't bother with what other chefs are doing. But I'll still order their Huevos Rancheros, because I like Huevos Rancheros.