I'm not sure who it was that said that success was 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration, but it sounds like poor hygiene, even if the math is right. When I stated in my last blog that I try to see at lest 100 photos every day, I created a minor stir. How is that possible, I was asked, and for heaven's sake ... why? It's pretty simple, actually. Perspiration comes with the territory. What I'm after is that elusive 2%.
When I was coming of age in photography, the Group f64 ethos of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and others was starting to give way to a post-modern vibe, which I never came to fully embrace. Or fully understand, for that matter, but I'm old school and a little thick. The iconic image of the era, stuck forever in my mind, is Weston's famous photograph of a bell pepper: simple, straightforward, infinitely complex. By trying to reproduce it ourselves, mere novitiates, we learned a lot about photography -- lighting, posing, darkroom technique, printing -- and sometimes, something about ourselves. It was always more than just a pepper. Art as rorschach.
Visit any great art museum in any city and what will you find? Students, canvases on easels or pen & paper on a lap, trying for all their might to copy the great masters. Their aim isn't forgery, of course, but to practice the techniques and style that so captivates them that they may, in turn, be better artists themselves. It's always been thus; great teachers encourage it, as did mine. The student who fails to surpass his master, Michelangelo himself once said, fails his master.
So here I am looking at 100 pictures a day, mostly (but not exclusively) photographs and mostly (but not exclusively) anything but peppers. The interwebs make this a pretty easy deal. 500px, ViewBug, google searches for modern trends in portraits or award-winning landscapes are just starting points. I'm surrounded by books and a ton of magazines, too -- most are predictably tech-centric, but others (like Black & White Magazine) -- are gems. And of course my friends, acquaintances, and fellow trolls on Facebook and Instagram are constantly mined for inspiration, as well as real brick-and-mortar galleries and museums. Nothing beats a beautiful, original photographic print in all its authentic glory.
And that's about all I know, but I'm still something of a hack. I'm happily working on it, and that's why I'm maybe just a wee bit obsessed with looking at all the photos I possibly can in this lifetime (no telling what I may be content with in the next) and making a few of my own. Photography is funny thing to be obsessed with. The more pictures we take, the more we need still to explore: in the studio, on the streets, in our heads. The 2% greases the skids.
The rest just makes me sweat.