EVER ASK WHY?
Personal introspection, thinking about who you are and why you are that way, has a bad name in America, it’s like “gazing at your belly button”. In other words American culture is outer directed and tends towards the practical. People should not waste time thinking about themselves, do something useful. But then, can you answer the question of why you like this and not that? Do you know why you enjoy taking pictures of some subjects and others don’t interest you. That is a part of you just as much as anything is, yet you take it for granted and give it little thought.
I am inclined to be a thoughtful person as I am curious about how things work and want to understand how to do interesting things. But like most others, I have not been particularly introspective. At least not until a dozen years ago when health risks told me to stop running like a headless chicken to every trade show and event with hordes of people. About the same time the digital darkroom became the focus of much of my activity and writing. And I had at the time 40 years of collected film images. so why not learn as much as I could by scanning and editing what was in my image library? And how can you not help but think about the images you are working with, the open doors to a lot of memories. And although I have been eclectic about how I photograph avoiding any fad or style, I have also been selective about subjects and how to make then look good in a photograph.
We are all the result of our own history in which we learn we like and enjoy some things and not others. Going back to long before I became interested in doing photography I realize it was an influence in my early years. I grew up in a small city in the middle of a Canadian prairie as flat as a billiard table, in many ways a plain and dreary atmosphere with little in it from the world outside that was pleasant, it was the middle of the 2nd World War. But the movies I went to on Saturday afternoon and the magazines I saw from America, Life and Time and many more waiting in a dentist’s office or at the barbershop provided a picture of that world outside beyond the wheat-fields of the endless prairie. Many pictures and to me the most attractive we would call glamorous in their simple dramatic style.
Some might say oh, that’s why you ended up in Hollywood, but they would be mistaken. That journey was caused circumstantially and unintended in its destination. My family moved me out of Canada with them to Oregon after the War, and my move to southern California was set by the fact that’s where the two photography schools I wanted to attend were located. I stayed there after school because there was opportunity and it was the location of a new wife’s family home.
Yes a photographer’s artistic taste is the result of personal history and what one likes and does not like, but circumstance plays a large role too. Some have questioned why I photograph so many pretty women, not always hiding the question was a bit snide. But Los Angeles is a particularly ugly city with few photogenic features, but the one natural resource is a constantly fresh set of pretty women who migrate there in hope of fame and fortune. I also like to photograph flowers as they have similar attractive attributes to pretty women. So visually and photographically I am a bit of a romantic, and that may have some influence too on the fact I like to travel by car and find many subjects to capture on the road.
Finally looking back I have to acknowledge once I became seriously interested in photography in 1952 what others photographed well caught my notice. It was the height of the magazine photography period and Richard Avedon and Irving Penn among others played a part in what I liked and disliked in photography. Even my interest in jazz music through his powerful and dramatic record covers earned Pete Turner my appreciation as a photographer. And there have been many more, some who I have gotten to know personally, and also appreciate their vision and photographic skill and talent. We are all a mix of many different influences, some we like that encourage us and others we don’t and we shun. Even if you have never done so, it is well worth thinking about, why we are the photographers we are.