I think we're all (or at least most of us are) in the midst of a search, a hunt. To show something, to say something in what we create. It could be meaning, it could be a certain style, it could be to express ourselves, to be true to who we are (or think we are), and discover how to reflect that. It could be fame or money I guess, but let's ignore those factors for now and assume you want your images to be expressive, meaningful and uniquely yours.
The next level. I’ve talked before about my frustration with the phrase that seems to be so common now in photography teaching. The workshops that claim to take your photography to the next level. Of course it appeals because we all want to learn and progress and do it quickly. We want to be believe that the level someone else has achieved is just one 'upgrade' away, one magical workshop, one piece of advice or equipment or knowledge. To feel like our images can take a significant step forward rather than the gradual evolution that is more likely, or even necessary, at least after the initial learning stages.
I think there’s another key element, a factor to strive for, an elusive element that’s a key ingredient to a great photo.
I think it’s the same with any art form. It’s not technique or skill, although those might be necessary prerequisites. It’s not precision or perfection, definitely not those. It’s impossible to describe, to premeditate. It’s not a process. But it’s caring, putting emotion into the image, it’s connection, it’s feeling. It’s being human and real and imperfect, and showing it.
Sometimes it’s not even just the images. Ruddy Roye doesn’t create the most stunning images purely from a visual perspective (sorry Ruddy), but read his narrative. There’s the soul. He cares, he has a purpose, an opinion, a perspective. He has something to say, not just for the purpose of saying something.
Very different images but I've also long enjoyed the images from Richard 'Koci' Hernandez. Usually on an iPhone, he heavily processes the images, often to create a the look of an old grainy, messy image. But each one offers a feeling, inspires an emotion, a reaction.
There are many more, new and old. Saul Leiter, William Eggleston, August Sander to name a few. Soulful images.
If I have an aim at the moment, it’s to pour more soul into my images. More connection, more feeling. Whatever that means and looks like, which could vary hugely depending on the context. Whether it's forgetting myself sometimes and just being absorbed in the subject, or being more myself and letting that be reflected in the images. Maybe it’s getting more in tune with the type of images I’m meant to be making, with my purpose and voice as a photographer. As ever in art there’s no easy answer, just more questions and more exploration.