Gateway Drug of Choice

RearViewInBlue, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

One of the things I love about photography is that photography is often a “Gateway Drug” for many of the arts. What I mean by that is that, for a lot of people, they maybe start doing some photography and then move onto explore other media and grow to express themselves many different ways artistically.

Photography is relatively easily accessible for most folks. There is common thinking out there that, “all you need is a camera!” While that may (or may not!) be true (you also probably need somewhat of a good “eye” for it) a lot of people are not afraid to pick-up a camera. Yes, there’s an expense involved and, yes, some folks maybe cannot afford a camera but, for most of the lot of us, the price of a camera (even if only an older, used, beat-up one) is within reach. You can do a lot with an older beat-up camera even. As a photographer, we don’t need the latest in camera gear to express ourselves and, heck, even a starter type camera can do the trick for most folks.

So, it’s easy to get a camera, and it’s easy for most folks to imagine themselves out taking pictures. Most people can easily “stretch” themselves to see things photographically. Flowers, for example, or old cars. Family relatives, pretty settings. Things like going out to the beach, sunsets and animals all make for easy subject matter. It’s easy for the beginner to pick-up the camera and pretty quickly start to imagine taking all kinds of pictures. Some other arts, such as maybe printmaking or music almost put off beginners with the technique involved. Many would-be artists maybe tried their hand at something like music or dance and felt they couldn’t “cut it” in the arts and then sort of go back into photography at a later time, as they mature. There are many photographers, in fact, who don’t pick up a camera until later on in life. That’s fine, that’s one of the great things about the medium. You can join in the fun whenever you feel like it!

For many photographers though the fun does not stop there. I’ve seen many photographers who start with photography and then sort of dabble in other arts, like painting, music or whatever. It’s certainly true that photography can teach you a lot about creativity, about vision, about voice (I’m talking photographic or artistic voice here, not pure singing voice, though it might even help with that too.) You can use that “starter” camera to learn a lot about composition. What makes a photograph interesting? What makes it worth looking at? Why did I take it? How could I have taken it differently? All of these questions help form an artistic vision that can transcend media should the artist happen to want to cross over and work with something else. There are a lot of photographers who one day wake up and realize they can draw or sing or write music or cook or….fill in the blank! The possibilities are endless when you have been living a creative life and fostering the kind of creative vision that comes with being an artist. (Yes, in case I have to spell it out for you, photographers are artists too.)

Photography can also be a great tool for those working in another medium. It can help them hone their artistic skills. I’m never surprised to find out that people like Graham Nash (from Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young) is an avoid photographer. So too is Kenny Rodgers (he not only “Knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em” but he knows how to expose ’em too, I guess!) Neko Case’s photos look just like you’d expect them too-she’s a quirky offbeat type of musical artistic, very creative, funky, and original, one of a kind in ever way with a haunting quality about her work. Her Polaroids? Surprise! They can be described with exactly the same words. David Burn from the Talking Heads? Yup, same deal. His artistic vision extends not only to his music but to his images. And looking at these images, images from people who you know already from another field, brings about a fresh new perspective into their artistry. You can see more of the “person” more of the hand in the art when you get to see an artist work in more than one media.

I sometimes even wish some of my favorite artists would take up photography. I could, for example, imagine Adam Levine from Maroon 5 taking images that looked a bit like Austin’s own Leon Alesi with a slight twist. (Couldn’t you?)

At the end of the day, art is a lot about taste. There’s what you like, what you don’t like, and everything else is pretty much in the middle. That’s fine, that’s what we expect with the arts but, using photography to explore that, to help refine that artistic taste, is really something special. It should not be reserved only for the few and it’s great that we all can try it. I think it’s great that photography can be used by beginners as a sort of stepping stone into discovering their own (personal) artistic vision, especially when the arts have been sort of “cut off” for so many people, either because of circumstance, financial reasons, or whatever. Many people simply feel they aren’t “cut out” to be artists, that they just don’t have talent to do it and photography can help bridge that gap. The photographer Craig Tanner talks a lot about what he calls “the myth of talent” and it’s true-there’s an artist inside each and every one of us. I’m always happy when I get to witness the camera help bring that artist out.

Photography can be an end game but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be a gateway into self discovery and a reconnection with (or discovery of!) that inner artistic voice. It’s true what they say, if you want to find your vision, find your voice, find yourself, then maybe find your camera first. (Remember: friends don’t let friends run around *without* a camera!)

Until next time…

1 Comment

  1. Great Grandma Lin
    October 13, 2012 / 3:24 am

    Interesting, i find my voice with writing…but love photography also.

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