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a new IDEA

There are times when I feel like the “idea well” is about to run dry or the only ideas I have aren’t worthwhile pursuing–you know, lemons. I try not to be too hard on myself when this happens and remain hopeful that what I am thinking or dreaming about will provide an experience to move me forward in my photography.

I don’t know much about the history of art or photography. I began to do more reading and as I did, I found I wanted to discuss the concepts and to ask questions of other artists and photographers. A few weeks ago I visited the National Art Gallery with a friend from work who is a painter and sculptor. We spent the entire time in a radius of about 25 feet and talked about five paintings and one sculpture in total. I had a fabulous time and found myself wishing I could spend every week doing something similar.

That thought has materialized rather quickly into what I call IDEA or Image Discussion for Emerging Artists. The concept is very simple. Bring together a group of photographers on the same journey to discover and use their voice and have a biweekly image discussion. Each time we will select one or two images to discuss but they won’t be our own. Instead we will review iconic–and lessen known–images and talk about their context and why they work, how and why they’ve influenced photography and the world in general, and what they mean for our own work.

Last night, led by Ray Ketcham, we had our first G+ Hangout focusing on Edward Weston’s “Pepper No. 30” and also the image that won the World Press Photo Award for 2012. Two images that seem unlikely candidates for the same conversation but by the end of the evening, we managed to connect several dots. Two keys points were that art and photographs need to be viewed within the context in which they were made and second, that our work can sometimes transcend even our own intention for it.

It was close to two hours before we ended our time together and we all agreed that we would meet again in two weeks time and do this again. I personally think it will be a great way to supplement my learning and improve my understanding. The proof however will be in the pudding as they say, and time will tell if this leads to making deeper, more compelling and memorable images. (Definitely they have to be better than these lemons!)

What do you think of this concept? Is it something you’ve thought about doing? Would it be a group you might like to start up? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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17 Comments

  1. Franz Amador
    February 17, 2012

    I think it’s a great idea. I just think it’s hard to find people to make it work.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      February 18, 2012

      I agree Franz, it isn’t easy to find the right mix of people to have this kind of discussion. When you do though, it’s like magic.

  2. Andrew Graeme Gould
    February 18, 2012

    An excellent idea, as for most of us, photography is a solo activity. All the best with this undertaking!

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      February 18, 2012

      For me photographing is a solo activity, it’s why I don’t photograph anything good while on a photo walk. I have come to believe that community is very important to being an artist/photographer and I’ve been fortunate enough to find a great group to discuss ideas and use as a sounding board. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s worked for me.

  3. Julie
    February 18, 2012

    Sounds to me like a wonderful way to talk about photography, art, life and learn along the way. A step away from how to use your camera and critiquing your own images which is the usual way of doing things.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      February 18, 2012

      Yes Julie! Critiquing my own images all the time feels a bit like navel gazing. By looking at more (much more) successful images, I am getting a good idea of what it will take to improve my own. Looking at mine just doesn’t give me the same feedback.

  4. Brian Miller
    February 19, 2012

    I’ve thought of similar things, though perhaps with a slightly different focus. The challenge for me in this is in comparing one’s own images to the ones being discussed; or in comparing one’s own skills to those of the artist being reviewed. I do, however, really like the idea of finding a good enough community to share in the learning, the growth, the journey. That is a task I’ve set for myself.

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      February 19, 2012

      We don’t compare images or skills, Brian, at least we didn’t in our first conversation and I don’t anticipate that it will go in that direction. It’s most gaining an understanding of what gives these images staying power and how they were viewed at that time and have been viewed over time. For example, the inclusion of what is termed “symbols”. That’s something that I’ve been thinking about for my own long-term projects. The discussion and growing understanding of that concept is helping me figure what what I need to look for when photographing. Does that make sense?

    • Ray K
      February 19, 2012

      Brian
      This group is more about what makes the images important and why they have historic significance. How they relate to the world and the times in which they were made and what makes them iconic. Art history for photography with a little history and art thrown into the mix. Nothing is done in a vacuum and the things that make a work lasting is more complex than the composition, lines and elements.

      ART on the other hand is going to be more about how we fit into this as individuals and how we use our voice to express those universals in the specific.

      For now – IDEA is going to be asking and answering those questions about why some photos matter thru time and others don’t.

    • Ray K
      February 19, 2012

      I forgot to add
      I would encourage everyone who is really serious about their photography as art–or more than just pictures–to explore the history of photography. Explore more than just the composition or craft to understand what makes a photograph last through time. Find someone who knows art history and can tie it all together and then ask every question you can think of. Explore the meanings of images with artists other than photographers and get a broader view of what matters in images.

      Ask lots and lots of questions, ask lots of different disciplines those same questions and listen to the answers to find your own.

    • Ed
      February 20, 2012

      I love this IDEA, and would just like to add a resource to the discussion. I am about halfway through the fall 2011 course of Jeff Curto’s (College of DuPage, IL) History of Photography podcast. I’m a researcher, that’s what I do 😉 But ultimately photography doesn’t just stand on it’s present day legs, there’s a lot in photography and art going back through time that holds it up. I’d encourage you to take a listen: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/history-photography-podcasts/id94009100
      P.S. I love learning more and more about Stieglitz (one of my favourite NYC photographers), the PhotoSecession and what a watershed that actually was!

    • Sabrina
      February 21, 2012

      I have the History of Photography website bookmarked but I need time to go and listen to them! Thanks for the reminder, Ed.

  5. ART and IDEA ‹ rlketcham.com
    February 20, 2012

    […] IDEA group Sabrina wrote about on her blog last week is an off-shoot of the Artist Round Tables (ART) […]

    Reply
  6. jilske
    April 5, 2012

    Just wanted to let you know we did a real-life session here in Sydney last week. Thought of doing this after a WTF workshop a few years ago, but forgot about it – until this reminded me. Thank you again Sabrina!!!

    Reply
    • Sabrina
      April 11, 2012

      That’s great Jilske. Did you discuss your own images or those of other photographers?

    • jilske
      April 13, 2012

      Not our own work no, though someone in the group seemed keen to do so. We’ll see how it goes 🙂

  7. The First 10,000 » Follow Friday
    May 4, 2012

    […] (or just eliminating) the boundaries in collaboration between photographers (read this post, a new IDEA, to see what I mean). In addition to her own site, Sabrina is also an active contributor at Craft […]

    Reply

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