I need to give you some background on this special guest post...
One of the finest presentations on creativity I've ever heard was with Arthur Rainville many years ago at a program in Boston. As I watched and listened, I found myself taking notes about ideas that Arthur was sparking all along the way.
One of the reasons I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in photography, is the privilege of being able to hang out with people like Arthur. Well, it's a new year and I'm very excited to be working with Tamron and was delighted to see Arthur on their list of iconic artists. So, I did the obvious, checked in with Arthur to see what he wanted to write about.
Arthur sent me the guest post below and this was the first line of his email..."OK.... I wrote most of this at 3am so I'm actually afraid to look at it in the morning light...." And that's the best example of what I love about him. Passion doesn't punch a time clock! At 3:00 am he had an idea and just went to work on it.
So, as you read the attached, think of it as being a little like that movie years ago that took us inside the head of John Malkovich. Arthur's going to take us inside his head with thoughts on creativity and dealing with some of today's biggest challenges, making your work different from the other guy!
A big thanks to Arthur's insomnia and Tamron USA for their amazing and continued support of education!
A paradigm shift of evolving tastes and traumas is leaving many a photographer shaking and quaking, searching for the latest and greatest. Creating ‘With-It’ Photography and growing your business in an ever-changing world of consumerism, is today’s biggest challenge.
Our stage is set -
- Defining and then Marketing a ‘need’ for professional photography in a "cellphonography" world. The McDonald’s Syndrome of ‘good enough’ is our potent nemesis.
- Being not only better…but also different than our competitors.
Our solution is twofold -
- Amazing photography, in style and product that sets us apart, makes us ‘desirable’ and then
- Effectively translating our message to an often-jaded world.
Yes it’s a daunting task. this re-invention thing but there are steps.
We are all aware of the need to get more, fresh ‘know-how’ into our head – we can never have too much information to work with. Technology of this day and age is truly our friend – a worldwide open door via on-line learning. But personally I don’t think anything can compare to the in-your-face experience – sitting in a live lecture or demonstration or better still – in a hands-on class with a passionate instructor.
You've got to be able to recognize and act on the spark. It's that spirit-moving spark received that will propel us to create our next masterpiece, be it in our work or our business.
It all starts with…Inspiration, new ideas that will challenge us to make work with a fresh face, unique from our competition, that will make clients take notice. Where do we look? Well it always works to look outside our own world.
The innovative artist Pablo Picasso once wrote; “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” …not literally of course, but the spirit of the idea.
If you’re a portrait/wedding photographer look to the world of fashion or ‘lifestyle’ magazines… heck your customers are already there. Just reading photo mags doesn’t make you any different than the next guy. Go ahead, be brave, spend the money and buy a ‘Euro’ version of Vogue - you can be cutting edge too.
We can get the idea from another place, but ultimately we have to make magic ourselves. What is step one?
- Color outside your lines! That crazy Picasso guy also wrote; “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” This used to be fun. Take the stress out of it and Play…Play for Pay. You have to let go of your self-imposed constraints of …I’ve always done it that way…. My clients want it that way…. My peers want it that way… and play in Joy! You may not make a Picasso first time out but give it a chance… the new you is on the horizon.
A successful jump-starter we often use in class is photographing to a word. Try a little over-the-top…MELODRAMA.
Substitute the word...Exaggerate, and you have yourself, MELODRAMA, or as the 19th-century French would say.... mélodrame! Let me offer you an example:
A hero (always the fearless one), heroine (the love of the hero, usually the one that the hero saves), villain (usually lusts for the heroine too) and villain's sidekick (typically gets in the way of the Villain).... ya, nothing so simple as ‘hey baby...let’s go do this thing.’
Melodrama’s essence lies in a few obvious but not so simple characteristics:
- In the standards of our historic ‘professional photography posing 101,’ the rule of – If it bends, bend it...not only applies, but requires us to Melodramatically kick it up to the max. When you arch a subject’s back – bend it some more. When you turn the subject’s head away, with eyes wantonly looking back, drop a subject’s chin scrape the ground...get the picture?
- One of the great tricks employed by Creatives through the centuries is to add uniqueness by virtue of a far-from-reality scenario. Everyone from painters to playwrights has called upon everything from tales of mythology to fantasy.
- In the end, inducing into the pose and expression a sense of desperate...Wanting...seems to add just the amount of desire...you remember desire don’t you...to your image to make it a winner in the eyes of the subject or the recipient, be he cad or prince.
Now you have a cool new look, you need to turn it into a cool new product. Yes your lab and suppliers are trying to help… but their offerings are being marketed to all the other photographers too. Find a novel way to show your imagery for your clients. Everything that’s old is new again… Try a spin on the ‘Six Days of Lovings.’ Embracing technology – your customer has you electronically send another part of the story you’ve created to their recipient each day for a week – a new portrait every day to wake and say Heh – I love you. On the sixth day they get to open the framed, matted, complete composite…ya, let the lovin’ begin. If you make it special… they will still need you, appreciate you and pay!
In the end I always come back to the prime focus of what we do for each and every subject that crosses our path – we share a spirit and preserve a memory. “A picture is of someone but a portrait is about someone.” Anyone can take a picture and record, but only a Portraitist can make a Portrait and reveal. The best days of our profession, your best days are waiting… it’s 3 AM.