The evolution of tastes & photography

Warning: if you are not in the process of trying to find your artistic self, you might find this post boring. It's not a tutorial, a funny post or a guide of some kind. It's a reflection on evolution of personal tastes in art after watching Jaws 2 in bed (really, that's the end? just like that?).

Wyatt Neumann. What I now consider a great picture.

Still here? Ok. Well I am quite certain you've faced similar evolutions in your life: 

As a kid you only liked French fries, chicken and whatever was super sweet or much expected. You preferred milk to dark chocolate, and being forced to finish your vegetables was among those things that made life suck along with brushing your teeth and visiting that weird uncle. Then you grew up, and those things that felt bitter, tasteless, the same one that grossed you up as a kid started tasting good. 20 years later you prefer asparagus to potato waffles, you like dark chocolate, black coffee. You even have your tequila shots with salt and lemon :) 

An other one: who among you found jazz, classical music or technical progressive metal bands boring as hell. All you liked was a simple binary beat, a catchy melody and a few provocative words because well...gotta show the system you're unique ! Yeah, I did use to think that too. Then one day you're 30, and your fiancĂ©e forces you into a ballet or jazz festival. First you think of begging your way out but since you forgot your 2 years anniversary last week, you're gonna suck this one up. And Oh surprise! you actually find that subtile, pleasant, moving. You start searching the web, borrowing CDs, and as time goes by you develop a more sophisticated sense of "music listening", you hear the bass guitar, you catch more details, value more subtile effects. Then you go back to your teenage years CDs and past the nostalgia, it now sounds...childish. 

You evolve in your appreciation of art, weither you produce or consume art. I also do believe that in both cases, challenging yourself leads to a faster evolution. 

The main challenge for me is to be able to connect an sensation, a impression of what I want to achieve, with the actual end result. It like having that knowledge of how it should feel in the end, but not being able to get it out. Like those dreams when someone talks to you but you can't hear the words. If you don't see what I mean, the rest doesn't concern you. 

Making that connection takes time. It's a painful process. It first takes, in the case of photography, being in control of the tools. How can you connect an inner artistic desire to the final piece if you can't control the intermediary (i.e. the camera)? For this I recommend shooting full manual film. Because it's too expensive to afford screwing up.

When discovered studio lightning. Boring, everyone can do. 
Then I realized photographers like naked ladies. Boring.
Then, you need to get read of every catchy temptation. When I started shooting, a bit of bokeh, a halo of light, and yeeehaaa great picture! Then I started pushing contrast way too much, shooting fences in black and white and I was pretty happy with myself. Yeah, right. The best solution is overdose. Like the first time you ate tons of candy or chocolate to the point that it got you sick. Shoot that crap if you must, do those bad editing, make the mistakes and then, be hard on yourself. It's like a sauna that gets bad influences out of your brain. 

Then shoot what you haven't shot, or if you have, analyse your previous images, try to make it better every time. Even if it means redoing it over and over again with one little detail changed.

Off course the usual diptych period. Less boring but we all overdo it: matching images is a tricky exercise.

First revelation: medium format film. Started exposing better, using every element to compose my image. Better, but still girls in romantic poses.
Try to keep only your 15 best shots. Do the exercise, really. What will come out of that? You'll first pick the 3 obvious ones. Then you'll think "hum...but the next 12 are not that obvious, so really, I only have 3 photographs I'm truly happy with". And it's a good thing, you'r setting expectations to the next level.

You can only evolve properly if you listen to critics. Find critics who matured already, so that you don't have retarded comment from angry internet people. Critics from great photographers will come hard, but hell they will be useful.  Only look at the best of the best, the ultimate images from the greatest and dare to admit the gap between you and them. 

As long as you look into Flickr for comparison, you'll feel great with any picture properly framed and exposed.  No offense FlickR users, I've seen great stuff there too, but admit it: finding raw talent on Flickr it's like searching for a needle in a barn, you gotta stop uploading your entire memory cards.

Shoot tons. Be drastically self critical, get inspired by the best.

Finally, via a mix of mastering the tool (property of film, exposure,) and maturing skills (composition, etc.), I was able of pulling good images that did not include an attractive person of the opposite gender:

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