"I think that in any art the most important thing is to find out who you are and do what you want. And not what people want to hear from you. Look for your own handwriting and meaning in photographs. And for this -- look for yourself." - Dmitry Ksenofontov
The quote above comes from someone I follow on Instagram. I saw it for the first time a couple of months ago and it immediately stood out and resonated with me. I took a screenshot, and looking through my phone this morning, ran across it again and thought I'd write a little post today.
I think about the notion that Dmitry describes often. Especially now in 2017, where social media and the idea of appearances mean so much. Who is the moral authority and official spokesperson for what counts as art and what doesn't, what is good art and what is bad? Art, like most other things in life, is so subjective. And sure there are standards, there are rules, there are technicalities that we have accepted and succumb to as artists. I know I do. But art is so personal, that it can mean one thing for one person and a completely different thing for someone else. Who determines how it is objectively good or bad?
Music for example -- there are countless songs that I think I'd otherwise dismiss were it not for the emotional context in which I encountered them. They take me back to a specific time and place in my life that I look back at with such fondness, that they instantly become a favorite, or a top-played on my iPod. But what if it had been another song I listened to when I was looking at the sunset with my friends on the last day of summer break? What if that same song reminds another person of their ex and they can't stand it? Who has the final say in what determines "good music"? No one does. Because it's all subjective, it's all personal. This is why I don't shit on people who like music I absolutely can't stand. I don't know what it means to them, I don't know the context in which they listen to it, I don't know their story. Let's just all jam out to our own shit, and keep the snobbery to a minimum.
Apologies for the rant, but it applies to photography as well, which is the whole point of this post. I've been taking my film photography really seriously lately and I'm still an amateur at best. For some reason, there is a certain amount of pressure (perceived or otherwise) to take certain pictures, to have a certain style, to edit in a certain way, etc. And that quote from Dmitry just validated everything I've always thought to be true. No one can say if my photographs are good or bad. I'm my own worst critic anyway, and regardless, there's an emotional context to them that only I'll ever be able to understand. Which is why I'm just focused on snapping as much as I can right now. I'll always have my certain aesthetic (which may even change over time), and as long as I find myself in every photograph, I'll be ok.
So whatever it is that you do, just find your voice and stay true to yourself.
Song of the day: In Chains - The War on Drugs