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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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having a little trouble here as a new photographer, sort of a depression of sorts...
Old 12-05-2011   #1
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having a little trouble here as a new photographer, sort of a depression of sorts...

I'll try to explain it the best I can:

Sometimes I see a picture and I reach for the camera and I think, "Well, someone else has shot this better then me so why bother?" This recently happened when I took a photo of a fork, knife, spoon and plate sitting on a local lunch counter. When the picture came back, well, it was a nice little photo. But William Eggleston has already done it. And better, mind you. I went walking around a local suburb looking for photos and they all seemed like Robert Adams photos. I got kinda really bummed out that day and haven't fully recovered.

Now please don't get preachy about the joy is in the process, because, you know I'm having a great time learning. It's funny how little I do know about photography. It makes me laugh, you know. And I'm at an age where I know fame, fortune, woman, parties, gallery shows, publication, etc will never, ever come my way. And with age and life experience I know that that is not what it's about. Please understand I'm not looking for that nor do I want it.

However, I've fallen into a depression and can't get out of it. I feel kinda sad going out shooting.

I don't know, you know...
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Old 12-05-2011   #2
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You're not alone I assure you. It's so easy to to feel that the train has left the station once you get to a certain age ... maybe it has?

Look back on other things/achievements that you are proud of and worry less about the future and how good or otherwise your photography skills may be!

It's one very small part of life!
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Old 12-05-2011   #3
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But you're not Bill Eggleston, right? So make the photos for yourself. There is no need to be original and there is no shame in being inspired by others who have gone before you and made photos of something beautiful which you may want to shoot. It's all only inspiration anyway since we all have our own unique point of view so yours is a perfectly fine and validated point of view to shoot from.
Hopefully you work it out soon. Myself and many other people have been in photo "funk" or a depressive state but I always find inspiration in something simple that I want to show, first to myself in the future, then to others. There's no need to downplay the importance of your contribution to the visual record of the world as we know know it.

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Old 12-05-2011   #4
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For me the pleasure in photography has to do with the unpredictability of it. I'm not sure what a good photograph is, but I'll know it when I see it. I try not to think too much while taking pictures. The images that I think will be interesting often seem contrived once I see them on the screen. The real winners are the ones that I just took, and turned out a certain way for no explainable reason.
Everything in photography has been done. You are recording life, and life repeats itself. It is the subtle variations that you need to be attuned to. That is where the interest is.
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Old 12-05-2011   #5
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keep shooting, this all comes from practice. I didn't get good till I'd been shooting for 12 years! Started as an 8 yr old kid with my dad's 35mm SLR.

Something else: find something that interests you and spend time on a longterm project documenting it. That'll help you develop your own vision and say something no one else has said.
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Old 12-05-2011   #6
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thanks guys.
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Old 12-05-2011   #7
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Find a story to tell. That story - and the views you bring to it - will be intrinsically personal and unique.

For me, that was shooting a series of portraits at Occupy Wallstreet. Instead of shooting more traditional protest or street photos, I consciously decided to walk up to people, as if I could take a photo and photograph whatever they did next after saying yes. I decided early on that the series would be focused on the diversity of the people there.

This was probably the first thought out, intentional series of photos I've taken like this. It was immensely satisfying to go in with a goal and and follow it through. It was also some of the better photography I've done in the last year.
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Old 12-05-2011   #8
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yeah, you're definitely not alone when it comes to the "why bother" feeling... i feel that way myself at times. it comes and goes. i wish i had some advice for you, but i have none. sometimes i go ahead and take the photo anyway and end up photoshopping more "uniqueness" into it, but i'm usually still dissatisfied. perhaps i should borrow some of the advice that others have given you here.
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Old 12-05-2011   #9
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Three years ago I tried to start a local photo club. Only two other guys joined (!), but about a dozen others joined the Flickr online only version (Miyazaki Photo Club).

One of those guys left for a job in Egypt. Now it's just Bill and me, but once a month or so we have fun hanging out in the nearby city, taking photos. Sometimes we have a theme. Sometimes we go somewhere different. Maybe finding a photo buddy is an idea to kickstart something.

Or join a local camera club.
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Old 12-05-2011   #10
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Agree.

The other day, I saw someone's signature with a quote to this effect -- "You cannot have a passion for photography. Photography is a tool to express your passion for something else"

A bit tacky, but its stuck in my head for some reason.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
keep shooting, this all comes from practice. I didn't get good till I'd been shooting for 12 years! Started as an 8 yr old kid with my dad's 35mm SLR.

Something else: find something that interests you and spend time on a longterm project documenting it. That'll help you develop your own vision and say something no one else has said.
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Old 12-05-2011   #11
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Here's my 2 cents.. The trouble with pictures of forks and knives is that those are just things, and that they have no emotional value for you. Instead, take pictures of the people around you and who matter to you. Those are the images that will make you feel better in the long run. And keep in mind; even if they're not perfect when you look at them now, they'll be in a couple of years time. By then it's the image only you have taken, and that those are moments in time that can't be redone by anyone..
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Old 12-05-2011   #12
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whatever you see in the viewfinder that you like is worth pressing the shutter.

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Old 12-05-2011   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anerjee View Post
Agree.

The other day, I saw someone's signature with a quote to this effect -- "You cannot have a passion for photography. Photography is a tool to express your passion for something else"

A bit tacky, but its stuck in my head for some reason.
Very true. For me, it is history. I have more than 2000 books, most of them history books, with a large number of photography and art books mixed in. I'm working on my MA in history, and will be finished next semester. I've been able to use my photography for projects done in some of my classes, to illustrate essays I've written and lectures that I've given.
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Old 12-05-2011   #14
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Wow man... get over yourself and just take the picture.

Then start a blogspot and post your most despicable images.

Don't tell anyone anything !

People will go head over heals for your stuff.
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Old 12-06-2011   #15
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I'd just like to support a couple of people who have already made these points but for me, the essential thing now is -

1. Take photos for what pleases you and don't worry yourself that somebody else might have done it "better". It's not a competition unless you make it one.
2. Select a project to work on. My best ideas have centred around producing a Blurb book on a subject or topic and I now have a number of these, including travel. The smallest has twelve pages. The largest, over 100. Some are colour, some just B&W and I generally try to present them one image per page. If you can envisage the end result - a book you can hold in your hand or show around, it's a much better driver to do something than envisaging ending up with a handful of loose prints, however good they are.
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Old 12-06-2011   #16
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I started to feel that way, I'd do a shoot with a model, have a good concept only to later find out it's been done. One model I worked with told me...

"Jeff, EVERYTHING has already been done, it's about YOUR version, now let's do our take on Helmut Newton's work".

And she was right. Look to others for inspiration, don't be shy about being inspired by someone else's ideas, you'll make it yours!

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Old 12-06-2011   #17
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looks like you have a problem - very good.
you have something you want to tell to people?
something that is making you depressed?
so tell it to us - tell it by photography.
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Old 12-06-2011   #18
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That's like saying that all humans are the same - they all have two arms, two legs, a torso and a head. Better not make another human, because it's been done before!
But each human is different, and each of us has a different way of looking at the world, a different life experience; but even so, we also all share many common threads in our lives - love, happiness, sadness, the death of loved ones, the wonder of seeing something beautiful and wanting to share it.
Don't downplay your own experiences just because others have had similar views. Making art is an intrinsic human quality, some have gifted ability, others learn and mature their vision only after time and practice. Even the gifted ones practice - have you ever seen early work by the great masters of art?
Keep shooting, keep thinking about what is important to you and what makes you stop and wonder, learn from others but don't be a slave to their technique, and you will get better at expressing yourself in your photographs. I want to see the world as YOU see it.
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Old 12-06-2011   #19
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If you see a shot just take it. I had your experience once long ago with Bill Brandt's nudes. I thought that I'd never take a nude shot after I'd seen his. However I did, and still do. They are nothing like his because I am taking them, not him. One can't afford to be over awed by others. Forget 'em and just fire away.
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Old 12-06-2011   #20
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Quote:
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whatever you see in the viewfinder that you like is worth pressing the shutter.
Seconded.

Everyone is racked by self-doubt at times. If they're not, they're probably not much good at whatever they do, because they aren't being critical enough.

As for Eggleston -- well, seriously consider the possibility that you can take a better picture than Eggleston. Not everyone thinks that the sun shines out of his bum.

Cheers,

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Old 12-06-2011   #21
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Quote:
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Agree.

The other day, I saw someone's signature with a quote to this effect -- "You cannot have a passion for photography. Photography is a tool to express your passion for something else"

A bit tacky, but its stuck in my head for some reason.
Best quote on Photography i read in a long time! Thanks for stucking it in mu head too
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Old 12-06-2011   #22
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Look at more photographs. The gallery picks. Simonsawsunlight has a great thread here on photos with internal gestic quotations, now archived but accessible:
http://rangefinderforum.com/forums/p...d.php?&t=98115

I read an article in the one iPad issue of Leicafotografie I have seen on using the golden section to control spaces in a photograph. Try a new lens or an old one. I have had great fun recently learning to use a 21mm. I spent a day last year with my 135mm Tele-Elmar. Quite a challenge, maybe one good shot. That was enough.

Try capturing some nice light. Last year in late autumn I loved the low sun that lit the gravel beneath the trees at work. It wasn't a great composition but the gravel looked so granular and warm and contrasty. I printed it and put it on my pinboard and it was the most commented on photo of the lot.

I have once taken a few shots sure that there was a film in the camera but there wasn't. I have wondered about the photos that will never come out and wonder also about shuffling the cameras and risking taking one out again with no film in it, deliberately. The pain of those missing shots will make you value your effort and vision more.
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Old 12-06-2011   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anerjee View Post

The other day, I saw someone's signature with a quote to this effect -- "You cannot have a passion for photography. Photography is a tool to express your passion for something else"

A bit tacky, but its stuck in my head for some reason.
I dont know about tacky, but it denies the artistic dimension of photography. Looking at RFF's Barnwulf's exteriors and their compositional order might suggest a passion for galvanized iron but it is form and light that are the inspiration. Photography doesn't have to be in the service of something else.
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Old 12-06-2011   #24
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I know the feeling - taking out the camera, and then... no. But it is a threshold that you have to get over, making the photograph, and then another one, even if it feels like isn't the best you've ever made.

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working" - Pablo Picasso

And who knows, looking back at the contact sheet a few weeks later, maybe you'll see something new in it, or giving you a new idea for another photograph.
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Old 12-06-2011   #25
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I'd give up altogether if mimicking Eggleston were the goal ...
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Old 12-06-2011   #26
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Copy / Recreate the shots from a photographer who you like. Once you figured it out start with an other photographer. At one point you will break loose and create your own shots.
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Old 12-06-2011   #27
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Quote:
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Everything in photography has been done. You are recording life, and life repeats itself. It is the subtle variations that you need to be attuned to. That is where the interest is.
Very eloquently put...and I agree.
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Old 12-06-2011   #28
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I dont know about you but I take photos for myself and dont bother whose done it before.
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Old 12-06-2011   #29
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Quote:
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Seconded.

. . .seriously consider the possibility that you can take a better picture than Eggleston. Not everyone thinks that the sun shines out of his bum.

Cheers,

R.
So very, very true!
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Old 12-06-2011   #30
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Let me assure you it has nothing to do with age. I'm in my early 30s and often tempted to think everything's been done and done better, and therefore not worth being done by me. Photography is just something I do for my own enjoyment as a hobby, though, so I'm ultimately not all that bothered by this fact (whether true or perceived). Also, it helps that I mostly shoot Street Photography (with captial S and P ) and my family, both of which provide endless unique moments that no-one but me (or you!) could capture.
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Old 12-06-2011   #31
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Quote:
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I dont know about tacky, but it denies the artistic dimension of photography. Looking at RFF's Barnwulf's exteriors and their compositional order might suggest a passion for galvanized iron but it is form and light that are the inspiration. Photography doesn't have to be in the service of something else.
You miss the point altogether, Richard. Barnwulf's photographs reflect neither a passion for photography nor for galvanized iron. They are about a passion for form and light. Those are his subjects, and those are the things he is passionate about.
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Old 12-06-2011   #32
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That's good. You should feel the way that you do. A lousy photographer wouldn't get it. Painters have exactly the same problems, so being depressed over a valid situation is perfectly OK. In painting, when someone starts painting Picassos and Matisses, the saying is "nothing grows under the shade of a great oak". It's fine to emulate the masters, but at some point we need to move on. Not everyone can.

So, since it's all been done before (and done and done), what I decided was needed was a style, for lack of a better word, that was suitable. I won't say an original style, that may not be possible, but something that says me. Has to be something that I like too. This is doable, and possible.

What I finally came up with is shooting wide open portraits w/ a Leica R 90 lens in bright sun. It gives me the effect, somewhat, that Edward Weston was getting w/ that great head shot of the guy that had just fired the gun. He really blew out the background on that, and had that guy super sharp. The difference is Weston was shooting stopped down, while I shoot wide open. For some reason, and maybe to me only, this type of shooting is a direct influence of Weston's. With that R 90 Summicron wide open, and the right film, the right light, the right subject, and the right printing, I get a "look" that consistently works for me. If I hadn't come up w/ this (more by chance than anything else) I'd probably still be shooting those bell peppers endlessly and never, ever shoot one as well as he did. I wonder how many he failed with before he got his keepers? I'm guessing there were lots.

Anyway, the best fix for that depression is to go shoot some film. Lots of it. Load up the camera, shoot whatever interests you, and shoot 4 or 5 rolls on your walk/outing. Trust me, you'll get something that you like and can build on.

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Old 12-06-2011   #33
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Lots of good advice in this thread. I was in a similar spot a few years back. I just wasn't getting what I wanted out of my photography, from the process to the results. I felt like I had hit a wall.

So I gave myself a project. I asked my friend the baker if I could photograph him making bread, from when he started at 5:30am to when the first bread came out, around 10. It was really fun, and he liked the photographs enough to put a collage of them on his wall. An editor of a local food magazine saw them and asked me to take restaurant photographs for the magazine...so my little attempt to break through my creative wall became a little job. But it did great things for my photography.

I hit a wall when travelling to Copenhagen for work a few years ago. I fell into the usual mode of the tourist in Europe...lots of photos of buildings and none of people. So when I returned I had a project in mind. I had an old polaroid and I walked around asking people if I could take their portrait. I went to Cristiania which is a hippy commune, figuring high people would be easier to approach, and that was true. Met lots of great folks--didn't take a good portrait really, but I made images and met people...it pushed me forward.

The bottom line is that I'm a big believer in projects, in giving yourself a structure and then doing it.

I don't really worry if a photo has been done before. I know it hasn't been done by me. There can be a value in imitating as it can give you insight in how the other artist sees and composes. Hey, Columbus gets credit for discovering a continent where there were already people living, so I think you can get some credit for taking a nice photograph of a fork and a knife.

Craft a project, push your boundaries a bit, rinse and repeat. If the work of the greats hangs over you, stop looking at it. Spend some time thinking about how you don't photograph, and try those things...publish your own work in a zine or book or hold a little exhibition so you can see your photographs communicating to people...

Lots of ways to go forward.
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Old 12-06-2011   #34
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Here's my 2 cents.. The trouble with pictures of forks and knives is that those are just things, and that they have no emotional value for you. Instead, take pictures of the people around you and who matter to you. Those are the images that will make you feel better in the long run. And keep in mind; even if they're not perfect when you look at them now, they'll be in a couple of years time. By then it's the image only you have taken, and that those are moments in time that can't be redone by anyone..
This is it.

In another thread I told about the moment I realised I wanted to shoot anything at anytime: When I was scanning I ran into some shots of my father and my son, on the day my father had a minor heart attack. Trivial shots, until the circumstances suddenly shifted.

Today I took my camera to the funeral of my grandmother. A one-of situation that will never be repeated.

that's the kind of stuff you would want to shoot, those things that can pass all to suddenly!
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Old 12-06-2011   #35
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From the point of view as a working photographer (that would be me) one of the things that is hard is coming to terms that there is always a better photographer than yourself and maybe you are not ever going to be brilliant, just enjoy and do your own thing.
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Old 12-06-2011   #36
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Old 12-06-2011   #37
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To me it sounds like you're trying to take photographs like other successful photographers take them. Stop shooting to imitate what you think and know is good and develop your own individual style. Always ask yourself what differs your work from everyone else. Starting your own specific project may help you in this.
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Old 12-06-2011   #38
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There are an infinite number of striking and important images waiting to be captured. The fact that 10,000,000 or so have already been recorded should not discourage you.

All the best,

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Old 12-06-2011   #39
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Pittsburgh, PA U.S.A.
Age: 42
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Thanks for your frank admission of feelings. We all struggle at times like this - for me I can share that I had a rather amazing revelation a while back in another area of my personal life that has freed me of the same type of depression you're in as it relates to photography. I too often became overwhelmed (especially when sifting through all the work available online) and came to a "what's the point" attitude regarding photography – an attitude that is not very conducive to creativity.

What worked for me, was realizing that my EGO was running the show and needed some serious downsizing, which gratefully (albeit painfully) I received. That big old ego would just not settle for anything less than fame and fortune. This attitude naturally engendered a constant sense of failure, because the ego was writing checks I couldn't cash in reality. So now, rather than needing to be one of the best, I aim to be a good photographer. I simply am now prepared to be ONE OF the photographers, rather than THE photographer. The depression I experienced had a lot to do with not accepting things as they are, and from failing to see how many blessings I have in my life, including the time, peace, money and support to shoot just about anything I so choose! This is a classic example of how much our minds have to do with the images we make. Hope that helps!
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Old 12-06-2011   #40
Hjortsberg
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Join Date: Jan 2011
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again, thanks everyone. It's just a passing moment. Had 'em before and I'll have 'em again.

gonna go take some photos now. glad the site is back up and I especially like looking at the photos on the gallery.
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