Photography is my passion and it is one of the main things I think about on a consistent basis. My mind is always racing with images and ideas. It never stops. I'm a photographer & artist for life.
Back in late 2006 when I started to dive back into photography head first I was determined to learn as much as could as fast as I could and with as little amount of gear as possible. I've always lived by the philosophy to do as much as you can with what you have. The gear is not what makes the photography. For example, you wouldn't assume that a chef's food is great because of the pots & pans they used! Same difference. The equipment is as only as good as the person using it.
Lately I've been a little disappointed with a lot of the work I've been seeing coming out of photographers & models. A lot of it is trends, recycled work, and nothing awe-inspiring at all. I think a lot of it is the times that we live in these days. With budget SLR cameras getting cheaper & cheaper these days just means more & more people thinking they can become a "professional" photographer just by buying nice gear. So it makes it harder & harder for photographers to stand out amongst the market being flooded with hipsters & wannabe photographers just because they want to be apart of the scene. All that comes with recycled garbage that they play off as something new. In my opinion there are too many people trying so hard to be different that the work produced is either ridiculous, lacks emotion, or is just an exact copy of something else. The truth is these are the ones who will not last because they have missed what truly makes a great photograph. It's the small things that mean the most. That is what makes a photo timeless. All the rest will be forgotten and never looked at again on down the road.
Up until the end of last year I've been using only one camera, one lens & one flash since 2007. Now I just have a newer (not latest) camera model, 2 lenses, & one flash. People have been surprised that I used a Canon 20D for so long and that I don't have any lighting gear. It's all about knowing the equipment you do have and using it to it's fullest capabilities. Exposure & composition are two words that every photographer should know and be able to execute. Those are just the basics and everything else comes after that. And it doesn't matter what you shoot with either. There have been a couple of photographers over the last year proving this point as well. For example, Lee Morris of www.fstoppers.com did an experiment last year where he did a photoshoot with an iPhone 3GS as his camera. Granted he still had studio lights, makeup & hair, & a photo retoucher but his point was that you didn't need an expensive camera to create a great photo. He posted these photos on Flickr without describing how he took them. Everyone was commenting on how awesome they were and that they thought it was his best work. He found it quite hilarious. Later he posted this video describing how they were shot at the dismay of the fans of the photos.
The iPhone Fashion Shoot - Lee Morris Shoots With The 3GS Fstoppers from FStoppers on Vimeo.
Then just a couple of weeks ago Jeremy Cowart went back to Haiti with Hope International for the one year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake disaster. And in between the work he was doing instead of shooting with a DSLR which can intimidate people and draw a scene he quickly became interested in the possibilities of using his iPhone 4 shooting and documenting his surroundings in a respectful way. He also completely used apps on the iPhone to edit the photos. You can view the work he created with such simple equipment here: Jeremy Cowart Haiti iPhone. I think you'll agree that most people would never know that these were taken with a mobile phone.
The truth is I think technology has made people more likely to forget about what's really important and take things for granted. I mean the photography greats that we cherish from the past did not have tons of equipment. They had a single camera, barely any lighting at all besides natural and just a good eye. And don't forget about the final post processing work that was also done to the photos in the darkroom. I have the upmost respect for the traditional photographers of yesteryear. The photography was about capturing that moment in time with how you saw it through the use of emotion and light. There was no gimmicks, faux environments, crazy unnatural poses, unusual attire, or ridiculous hair & makeup involved. It was about portraying the people, what they saw, felt, and their experiences in the truest form possible. These are the photos that will always be remembered.
Maybe I'm an old soul at heart and don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with experimentation because I do it myself. Experimenting makes you a better artist by exploring all avenues. But the point is don't make that experimentation your complete portfolio either. Most of the time a great portrait can conquer all.
To quote my friend Mike Ashcraft again, "No amount of art direction or creative pandering can ever top the power and greatness found in the simplicity of a great portrait."
To make a long story short, in my opinion more photographers need to get back to the basics, learn what is most important, forget the gear and just shoot! And I'm talking about the ones who are really into photography because they love the art and not because they're trying to become famous or be in the scene. Those are the photographers who will not die a photographer.