by the skin of my teeth

dog hanging from a stick The stick that Bob the dog is hanging from in this photograph is how I have felt of late about my personal photographic vision. It's real, and it's in my grasp, but i'm clinging to it by the skin of my teeth, all while outside forces are trying rip my teeth out.

Personal vision is just that, personal. Something that comes from within. Creating a personal photographic vision means throwing your soul, guts, motivations, fears and experiences into a blender and funneling that very pure, yet very volatile concoction through the viewfinder of a camera. What is then rendered to film is personal vision.

I think the key to finding that vision is to be entirely true to yourself. I'm sure that's what all of the great photographers throughout history have done. The Avedons, Winogrands and Parr's of the world were unflinchingly true to their own way of fracturing reality into the rectangle of a viewfinder. I can just imagine Winogrand feeling his vision all the way through to the nerve endings of his index finger as he clicked the shutter of his Leica M4. You can see it pulsing through every snapshot of Parr's genius depiction of the everyday. And It courses through the vains of every portrait Avedon made in front of his seamless white backdrop.

It has been a struggle ever since I picked up a camera nine years ago to purify my photographic vision. My goal has been to know right after clicking the shutter, not hours later in the editing room, that I made a Nicholas Benner photograph. I think to many contemporary photographers create their personal vision while sitting in front of a monitor applying photoshop filters, and not standing behind a camera. I'm guilty of this, too. Especially when I am shooting for clients and not working on personal work. Sometimes we need to remember the real tools of the trade. Our eyes and our guts and our instincts and forget about megapixels and frames per second and action scripts.

So as I dangle in the air, trying to inch my way up the stick of personal vision, I realize that I need to attack every image that I make with a fierce honesty and realize that clear vision comes from inside, not out.