It has been my privilege to interact with Nicole Gibson periodically over the past few years. I love what she is doing as a photographer and a person which is what led me to ask her to guest blog. You can check out her work at www.nicolegibsonphotography.com and read more about her at Peace Catalyst International.
I was not an art major in college, but I took some art classes and did photography in my free time. I still distinctly remember the day when I showed some (I can now say, admittedly, boring) photos to professor of mine. He looked at me and said something I’ll never forget: “Yeah, you know, these are fine, but I don’t see YOU in these photographs.” It was, of course, harsh to hear at the time, but it was probably the best thing he could have said, because it has pushed me in my work ever since.
A friend recently asked me what the big questions are that I ask myself as a photographer. And two that I’m constantly asking are:
“Does my work accurately reflect me, my point of view, or something I have to say?”
“Does it say something meaningful for others?”
I think those are common questions that artists ask themselves – and helpful ones at that, because they push us to invest more of ourselves and create more meaningful work.
The first is Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and it goes like this: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas, reveals himself.”
The second quote that I have been thinking about lately is from Chris Orwig, Brooks Institute of Photography instructor and photographer. He has this to say: “The best and strongest pictures are those that most strongly reflect who you are.”
I think we as artists know it’s true that the best art is work that has a great deal of the artist in it. I think maybe that’s because when we put our humanity and our own selves into our work, it’s then that we create something others can relate to and resonate with.
Now, let’s be honest and say that creating work that truly communicates us as artists is something we can spend a lifetime working on. It’s definitely a constant journey for me and something that I’m always striving to get better at in my own work. But it is a journey that makes me a better artist and helps me to continue growing. So for those of you who like to have some sort of takeaway, this is it. I’ll give you the question that I often ask myself, and if you so choose, you can ask yourself the same: How much of “you” is in your work?
When others look at your work, will they see “you” in it? May this challenge all of us and push us to create more honest, revealing, and meaningful work, whether we photograph foreign cultures, weddings, or landscapes.