Man, I am starting to sound like my parents, but this concept is very important on many levels. It seems like the world is losing some of the basic instructional tools that were handed down from past generations. I am not sure if it is because those older generations are no longer alive or if it is because they have given up. Thrown up their arms in disgust because we (the younger generations) are messing everything up on such a catastrophic level.
I know for a fact, if I did not respect my elders as a kid, there was a spanking in my very near future, and not some sissy timeout where you get to reflect on singing some pot smoking version of Kumbayah. You were getting beat and you weren’t going to forget it. So in a way I blindly followed my parents advice here. Now, I follow that advice when it comes to my business as well.
As many of you know by now I am friends and work with Art Wolfe. He is my elder by 20 years. Actually he is most nature photographer’s elder–at least from an inspiration standpoint. I respect him more than I will ever let him know (don’t want to give him too big of an ego) on both a personal and professional level. He has taught me a lot. And continues to do so to this day. For all of these reasons I give him the respect he has earned and deserves. I shoot with him almost weekly and when we are out there shooting side by side, I maintain that respect.
Since I have photographed with Art for over 5 years now, I can almost identify his compositions before he sets them up. I know at this point, that they are his and only his. If for some reason we stumble upon a subject at the same time we both can agree to take the similar shot (usually after a bit of money exchange), but never without first agreeing. And this is where I am beginning to see a lack of respect amongst photographers. Does it really benefit you to copy another photographers work? I know the copyright laws can’t be enforced by a location, but does having the same composition as a master benefit you? Does it make you cool? Are you growing as a creative by being a mimic? Or filling a void in your soul? The answer is no to all of the above. So why even bother?
Discovering the world on a photographic level should be yours and yours alone. Go to these amazing natural places, even the most popular “icon” locations not to copy, but to further your creative vision. Grow your mind, body, and soul. Yes the iconic image is the reason for most of our preserved lands, but those places hold so much more. Utilize those places, take advantage of them, but respect the elders’ images. Leave the Adams’, the Wolfe’s, and the Neill’s, compositions. They have been done. Over. And over. And over again. Try something new. Your work will benefit from it, I promise. And to leave you with another thought from my parents,”Do anything, even if it is wrong.” This will inevitably lead to something better, stronger, and more powerful than even Darth Vader could have imagined.
Oh, before I forget, can you guess where the image in this post was taken? It is a very popular spot in the seventh most popular park in the United States. And the winner gets…respect.