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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why mastering a technique makes us masters of precisely nothing.

I've seen a few cover bands over the years. What is it about music and photography? Many of us photographers also seem to have an affinity for music - in all its wonderful forms. Anyway I'm a pretty big fan of a lot of sixties music and the only chance I will ever have to hear that music played live is to see somebody else playing it. All the greats seem to have been taken by drink, drugs and other excesses way before their time. Janis, Jimi, Jim Morrison.

But I've been able to see some pretty impressive impersonators over the years. Good enough that they really made me believe that I was seeing the real thing. Only I wasn't. And it wasn't because their technique wasn't any good. They all had the guitar licks, the drum beats, the vocals down brilliantly.

So what's the difference? The cover bands didn't write the music. They didn't get the flash of inspiration that created the intro to Foxy Lady. They didn't write 'the scream of the butterfly' after seeing a marquis for a porno movie of the same name! (The Doors in case you missed that reference.)

All the best technique in the world still makes them nothing more than pale imitations, no matter how good their technique may be. And it's the same with our photography. Buying an 85mm f1.8 and travelling overseas doesn't make you Steve McCurry. Buying 50 SB900's doesn't make you Joe McNally. And perfecting some post-processing method don't make you Chase Jarvis.

And that's a good thing. Because there's already one of all those folks in the world. We don't need any more. Just like we only needed one Jimi Hendrix, we only need one of each of us. If we want to be more than photographic cover bands we have to use our technique to create something that only we can. To inspire the world like only originals can.

So practice your off-camera flash to your heart's content. Create an image with 52 layers in Photoshop, all with some funky effect on it. And buy all the 85mm f1.8 lenses you can carry. But then do something magic with them. Wow the world. Amaze us all. And let everybody else follow us.

Oh and you're welcome to imitate this shot above but you're going to need a model as beautiful as this one!

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