Ryan’s Field Notes #25 – New Year, New…errr Old Me

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Wow, 2021…we made it to here. 
That’s awesome (I think). 
I hope you all are doing good and looking forward to overcoming whatever comes your way this unpredictable year.

Starting off this new year I am peeling back a little bit of the layers of part of what has shaped me as the photographer I am today.
Images…they are everywhere.
It doesn’t matter where you look, we are a visual people.
Some images hardly register to us as we go through life, and then there are others that make us stop in our tracks.
They evoke maybe a memory, an emotion.
The powerful image might make you take stock of the direction of your life, or cause you to want tacos for dinner tonight.
It could cause memories from years long gone by to come flooding back, or invoke curiosity for something you never considered in life.

Early on in my journey of photography I realized that I didn’t want to just document what I saw going on around me.
I wanted what I captured to be something more than just noise in the busy world in which we live.
How to do that? It is a difficult question.
One that I struggled with for many years. I knew my technical proficiency in photography was improving but all that meant was that I was capturing sharp well exposed boring photographs. Like many others.

One day during my journey of photography education, an assignment one of my mentors gave to a group of his students, was to give your self a mantra, a theme, a mission statement of sorts that would help to define your photography.
It was a terribly tough assignment for me.
I had never thought deep enough to consider that one simple line could help me in my photographic decisions in life.
I thought long and hard. I had paragraphs, I had single words, I had sentences put together…and none of them captured anything real to me.
They were all the words of others, they were what other people thought photography should be.
They were not the words of what the journey was going to be for me.

During this assignment I had to also capture a photograph that would help to show the mantra I had come up with.
These many years later (around 9 years ago) I don’t recall what the image was that I eventually created for the assignment but I do remember vividly the struggle and then a moment of clarity as I worked through the photo shoot one day.
Working around the still life that I was working on (I do remember it was a still life), I tried various angles and looks.
I was struggling being happy with the results. Nothing was clicking as they say.
Taking a deep breath as I looked over my lighting and positioning of my subjects, I looked back through the view finder and the thought came floating into my mind, “Be a poet”. Holding that thought I found a calm place in my mind and an angle that told a simple but profound story of the subject matter came into my consciousness.
Taking the shot I realized I had found my mantra. Be a poet. It wasn’t lengthy, it wasn’t necessarily profound.
But it was what I wanted to do through my photography.
I then had to understand within myself what being a poet meant to me.
The definition wasn’t someone that could put words together in a rhyme…no, to me a poet was somebody that had the ability to take something simple and make it profound, while still having the ability to take something complicated and make it simply beautiful; through story.
A story or a poem doesn’t have to be long to capture emotion.
I realized that it was emotion that I was trying to capture in a still image.
Emotion to me doesn’t mean just happy, sad etc.
To me it is those little things that connect you.
When photographing, as an example, a piece of apple pie for a baker’s brochure, I still want to find a way to capture emotion.
Is an apple pie emotional, not really.
Is the nostalgia of Grandma’s extra flaky pie crust and the memories of the whipped topping melting in your mouth emotional…yes, yes it is.
So in my image that flaky crust has to be lit just right, that whipped topping has to beg to be tasted.
Or as in the following image, the memories of that time spent in the kitchen with Grandma or Mom, in anticipation of the tasty pie have to be captured.
I found that when I can channel these types of thoughts in my image making process in most situations I can find an image that tells me to “Be a Poet” and is able to simply but profoundly connect to the emotion.
Now I’m not going to lie, do I feel like I tap into that “poet” every-time I shoot, nope.
That’s one of the challenges of being human.
I do like to feel though that at least trying to find that poet in me gets me further along in the image making process than I would be if I didn’t.
There are times during a shoot that I am struggling with, I will find myself silently saying “be a poet” as I look through the view finder and begin to find the story within my subject.
I hope to over this next year and next decade of my photographic career to continue to be a poet with my imagery.
I hope to create images that will cause people to pause and reflect.
When possible I want an entire story to be able unfold in your mind through a single image or set of images.
Will this be a simple thing, absolutely not.
Will it cause me some frustration, absolutely.
Will it be worth it…I believe it will.
I truly must thank those of you who have watched and prodded me along my journey.
Those who check in on my work from time to time and my amazing clients.
You don’t know how much each of you mean to me.
Thank you.
This year will be a very challenging but interesting year not only for me but I’m sure for most of you.
I believe that if we put forth the effort even when it is terribly difficult we will come out on the other side with a big smile on our face and an amazing story to tell.
Needing to change up your wall art?  Check out my Art Prints here.
What new things are you looking forward to in this new year? 

I’m looking forward to working with more new clients this year.
Drop me an email if you have a project that you think I can help you with.

See you next week.
Ryan McGehee

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