Ansel Adams on Art & Life

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

– Ansel Adams

To Paraphrase:

You don’t make art with just
8″x10″ / 5″x4″ / old polaroid cameras
acrylics / oils
canvas / wall
12u x 104hp modular synthesizers
Ableton Live
Pure Data
Lowden guitars

You bring to the act of creation your biography, all the things you love, all the things you detest, your gifts and your shadows.


Work I’ve Been Admiring

Kudos and respect to the following photographers for catching my eye this past month or two.

Morgan Silk

Robert Wilson

Spencer Murphy

Andy Lo Pò

Jon Enoch

Ian Winstanley

Work and Personality

Individual personality plays an enormous role in the path your creative work takes. In fact I’ll be bold and state that personality defines the path your creative work takes. For example, the work of Garry Winogrand is completely different work to that of Erwin Olaf. Winogrand states that When I’m photographing I see life. That’s what I deal with, whereas for Olaf his work is concerned with the creation of his own fantasy worlds.  Two very different approaches to photographic work.

So, what does this mean for you and why am I writing about it?

Well, if personality defines the creative path you take, then it’s difficult to take that creative path if you do not know what path your personality is most attuned to. A lot of people work this out simply by experimenting with different types of work and following their intuition. But for others it’s not so easy: fear of becoming “trapped” doing only one kind of work, fear of failure, fear that your path won’t pay the bills, etc. To have some tools to help you negotiate your path can be a real help. One of the most insightful tools I’ve come across is Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, based on the work of Carl Jung.

When I first came across Myers-Briggs it was a revelation, it gave me a language to understand why I made the decisions I did, why my energy ran out oin certain situations and boomed in other situations. Since then Myers-Briggs has regularly given me insights into how I function best and how I can function better in less than ideal situations. I now consider this essential life knowledge. As Nadav Kander has said, “Making Pictures is exploring ones own life, understanding yourself more and more, which is what’s exciting.”

For those wishing to investigate further I’d highly recommend the following resources.

Personality Junkie

16 Personalities

Personality Page


Ordinary Beauty

Atmosphere is what charges the ordinary and the banal with beauty.

– Bill Brandt

Visual Integrity

The photography world is absolutely flooded with products and information promising short cuts that will miraculously turn you into Annie Liebovitz / Martin Parr / Gregory Crewdson. 99.9% of the information about photography on the internet seems to be about technology (which lens is .001% better?) or photographic technique. Now, having the right tools for the job is important. Not many wildlife photographers get by with a wide angle lens on a 5″x4″ camera. And technique is important too. Having all the gear but not knowing how to use it to achieve the desired artistic outcome isn’t going to help.

But there’s something more important than equipment and technique, something which equipment and technique are supposed to be subservient to and dependent upon. That something is personal vision – the ability to refine the way you see until it becomes uniquely and distinctly your vision.

This blog isn’t going to be getting into equipment or technique too much, everything you could ever wish to know about both already exists within easy access of most people.

This video is a talk by Selina Maitreya on developing your unique personal vision. I highly recommend her book How to Succeed in Commercial Photography: Insights from a Leading Consultant (US), here for UK.

For a lesson in visual integrity, take a look at the Instagram page of portrait photographer Martin Schoeller. Even his avatar is in the same style! 🙂

It’s important to take bad pictures…

It’s important to take bad pictures. It’s the bad ones that have to do with what you’ve never done before. They can make you recognise something you hadn’t seen in a way that will make you recognise it when you see it again.

– Diane Arbus

On Ignorance and Preconceptions

The best way to go into an unknown territory is to go in ignorant, ignorant as possible, with your mind wide open, as wide open as possible and not having to meet anyone else’s requirements but your own.

– Dorothea Lange