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20 - Sole Authorship

We're not the sole author of our photographs.

Who has influenced you?

The "who else is in the room" includes people, of course, and may include events in your life, and so forth.

Use them.

Collaborate with them.

Then, you can kick them out, when necessary.

Otherwise, you may be tripping over something and wondering what's waylaying you.

Composer John Cage, in a conversation with painter, Philip Guston, said:

When you are working everybody is in your studio--your past, your friends, the art world and above all, your own ideas--all are there.

But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one and you are left completely alone.

Then, if you are lucky, you leave.

Paul Strand wrote:

The point I want to make is that there is no such thing as The Way; there is only for each individual, his or her way which in the last analysis, each one must find for himself in photography and in living.

As a matter of fact, your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees.

You may see and be affected by other people's ways, you may even use them to find your own, but will have eventually to free yourself of them.

That is what Nietzsche meant when he said, "I have just read Schopenhauer, now I have to get rid of him."1

Also, don't isolate yourself within photography.

Be influenced by the other arts:

Jazz

Trumpet player Clark Terry, who worked with Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington, summarized his way-of-working as being "imitate, assimilate, innovate."

That's good advice for photographers, too.

Painting

Piet Mondrian charged a surface with his love of boogie-woogie music and the motion of New York City: Broadway Boogie Woogie.

Photographers can do the same with music.

1 From an address delivered at the Clarence White School of Photography in 1923. Originally published in Strand, P. (1923). The art motive in photography. The British Journal of Photography, 70, 612-615. Reprinted in Goldberg, V. (1981). Photography in print: Essays from 1816 to present. New York: Simon and Schuster.