personal goals

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jtk, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. jtk

    jtk

    I'm more concerned about my own progress through life and photography than worrying about who's "arrived" as "artist" or "visionary." I don't use labels like that, don't like to see them tossed around lightly.
    So...without labeling, how do I measure my own progress? How do you measure yours? Benchmarks?
    Technical accomplishment is an easy benchmark for me, since I see photography as part of print making (I see files as halfway phenomena, of little significance on their own). I can evaluate printmaking with confidence. I'm not as far along with inkjet as I was with Ektacolor and Ciba ...but I'm advancing. Most of the famous photographers we routinely name were fine printers, at least early in their careers.
    Another benchmark for me involves photographic relationships: for me that has to do with the ability to address relative strangers and ask them to agree to free portraits (for example, I expect shortly to do that with a pair of elder Freudian psychiatrists, just met at a Jungian get-together..I'm not into psychoanalytic ways of thinking or mythos..it was an amusing venue).
    Do you have goals? Benchmarks? If you can't name them, is it fair to say you don't have any? Are you making progress?
     
  2. John,
    At the risk of sounding like George Plimpton, I am always finding new ways to push myself forward. I have attained many personal goals, and when I attain them, doors open that present new challenges.
    Minimalist Fine Art photography is my current passion.
    I love the challenge of having one camera, one lens, minimal computer fidgeting (unretouched photos), and shooting under adverse (low Light) conditions at ASA 200, the slowest avaiable on my camera, and no tripod.
    That forces me to get everything as "right" as possible from jumpstreet.
    Here's a sample, downtown Manhattan, shot past sunset.....
    Bill P.
    00UmN8-181405684.jpg
     
  3. jtk

    jtk

    Beautiful! And what's wrong with emulating Plimpton? He led one hell of a life.
    btw I didn't mean to imply my inkjet print quality is where I want it..
     
  4. So...without labeling, how do I measure my own progress? How do you measure yours? Benchmarks?
    Well, I'm just a hobbyist, but my personal benchmarks are:
    1. I think the shot came out pretty good.
    2. Having people who don't have a reason to keep me happy agreeing that it came out pretty good.
    And really, in any art form you practice, that's all you can hope for.
     
  5. jtk

    jtk

    William, some people, especially "just hobbiests," have benchmarks other than "came out pretty good. "
     
  6. Do you have goals? Benchmarks?​
    Can you better define what you think is a benchmark? I have no idea what that means. My goal is to make photographs that I find interesting to look at. There are always smaller goals such as learning how to make the finest print possible, and testing of papers and finishing techniques; or even things like working on how to photograph spaces between things within the frame and making the spaces as meaningful as the subject(s). But, the absolute hardest is always working to find and then see the photograph uniquely.
    I think photographers need to practice - something that seems like a foreign idea to most - practice seeing, practice making photographs, practice making prints...etc. Musicians practice and rehearse as a group, actors rehearse, but for visual artists it seems that they want every item produced to be a finished piece, appreciated, and declared as being "art."
    I like to work with a group of images that are interesting to me. Make the the best print I can of each. Treat them all individually - then carefully evaluate the result and if the image doesn't work - throw it away. But, the fact that I put the work in; and have made decisions (aesthetic and technical) along the way ultimately helps in refining a personal aesthetic, and the ability to translate that into a finely made, tangible object. With each iteration of the process, you've learned more about yourself, and more about making photographs.
     
  7. jtk

    jtk

    Steve, "benchmark" ... perhaps this answers: set a goal, try to reach that benchmark. For me one will be the ability to take further the portraits I'm working on now, with subjects who are less like myself. For example, I'm close to some Navajo people and am reluctant to test the relationship with photography. I've been making progress with comfortable subjects, hoping to grow to ability with less comfortable subjects.
    Similarly, I'd like to complete a long, coherent project. I've been astounded by several recently, notably Michael Berman's www.516arts.org. Berman's work is nature-oriented and has conceptual elements, mine isn't and doesn't (yet).
    I especially appreciate your observation about practice and "art."
     
  8. I had a goal in 1982 to start a gallery that would show interesting art - no matter what the medium. It lasted until about 1996, and if you search "Ruth Ramberg Gallery" you will find at least three pages of artists who still list the gallery in their resumes. The only rule we had was, "We won't show boring art." We had sculpture, painting, print making, and a lot of photography. The gallery was curated for many years by the person who is now the curator of the Jonson Gallery at UNM. The gallery was free, no admission, and no charge to the artist. We got many artists started with their first show, it's unfortunate we could not continue - but 14 years is still a good run for a small place that did about 10 shows a year. So, I do appreciate what they're trying to do with the 516.
     
  9. jtk

    jtk

    So, Steve, you hit that benchmark. What followed? What's ahead?
    516 is actually hitting their own benchmark I suspect, tho I've not asked. The current show, and the show at the neighboring gallery, are both knockouts though the "conceptual" aspect of some of the work is too wordy even for me. Fine modern high-detail scenic photography, with profound kicks to them, not just "beauty." Do you know 516's former owner, Ray Graham? I live in one of his adobe complexes, made a portrait with Barbara (out-take in my P.N gallery)...he asked for one of himself, vanished before I could get it together. But he's back and all I have to do is knock on the door. Made a portrait of one of his painters, who hated it. If she'd loved it I'd probably have loved it. So now I can't look at it, despite loving it before she responded. What does that say?
     
  10. John Kelly [​IMG] [​IMG] , Oct 19, 2009; 01:08 p.m.
    William, some people, especially "just hobbiests," have benchmarks other than "came out pretty good. "​
    Do you feel that taking a good picture isn't good enough?
     
  11. jtk

    jtk

    William, a "good picture," according to your own standards is plenty good for you. Is that correct? If so, be happy.
    If you're asking about my own standard for my own work, my answer is no: A "good picture" isn't enough.
    I care about goals. For me, setting goals and the struggle toward them are crucial. When I reach goals I set new goals or I become static (dead). When realize I can't reach goals it leads to re-evaluation, changed goals, a good process more than pleasant. That has to do with my understanding of "how to live".
    When I see work by someone who's pursuing goals (a project, for example) I care far more about that work than about "good pictures" made in no particular context. I recently read Avedon's discussion of his life's work. He had photographic goals as a child and he pursued and refined them his whole life. That was a well-lived life.
    Above somewhere I awkwardly sketched two personal photographic goals. They had to do with how and why I photograph more than with the results. But I do care about results:
    My inkjet prints are as "good" as those hung in lesser galleries, but I've seen prints, B&W more than color, that are light years ahead ...I aspire to their quality but have not yet paid the dues.
     
  12. What's ahead?​
    My next goal is to take a photo of a really big pistachio...
    00Unh6-182069584.jpg
     
  13. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Oct 18, 2009; 08:27 p.m.
    Beautiful! And what's wrong with emulating Plimpton? He led one hell of a life.
    Thank you, John.
    Yes, people like George Plimpton got a lot out of life. I'd like to say "It was a helluva ride" on my deathbed, and make it stick. Photography is part of that adventure.
    Bill P.
     
  14. Thanks for asking John ,
    I don't know about my printing abilities but I liked the notion of proficiency brought up in the other thread as a technical goal.
    Now onto the real question about measuring my own progress as a person. I do hope that I am able to progress throughout all my life (as you John have put it otherwise I'd be dead - or let's say temporarily asleep) and that would be the first benchmark. This involves a lot of discovering and learning and also reverting my standpoint and eventually leaving big stretches of the past behind as personal history.
    My second benchmark would easily be if I can connect the first with expression or communication, be it interpersonal relations of any kind and also be it through production of images.
    [​IMG]
    Onto the more contextual goals, I have found (like so many) to have my main interest in expressing what I see in other persons, somehow coming back to the notion of 'stealing the soul with a photograph' or rather seeing a person with my genuine subjectivity. So there is my scale to step up right now, exploring and at certain points chosing which way is the right one for me (and thereby skipping more and more others). I gotta say I know nothing and it's just the beginning of a long journey - or is it numerous round-trips ?
    Thanks for asking,
    Georg
     
  15. Very good question. For most things in life, I try to set goals, and make them s.m.a.r.t. as they so nicely put it in all those horrid management books. But the benchmark, making it measurable in a way, is pretty vital in settings these goals. How else to measure if you lived up to your own expectation?
    For me, in photography, it's the thing blocking setting clear goals. It's not so quantifiable. "A good picture", while important, is as loosely defined as can be. I, personally, cannot regard that a goal, since it may be pure luck getting me there - and as such, I would not see it as an achievement.
    So, while I actively try to get better and develop photographic skills (and a vision), it's hard to say what has been achieved an what not. The only way I can see progress (or lack there of) is staying critical towards my own pictures, old and new. Discover the mistakes I made, the room for improvement, the other options that were there - try to stimulate myself that way. But since it's a bit "after the fact", I would not call it a goal.
    Curious to hear from more how they try to tackle this.
     
  16. jtk

    jtk

    One of those "horrid management" writers sends advice to a website I use for business. It's usually claptrap. Recently, however, he recommended setting goals that have 50% odds of success. If the odds for success are much higher we aren't testing ourselves, so we probably won't grow. If they're much lower we're not being realistic: how can we grow if there's little hope? I know some of what I need to do to improve my photography significantly, but it's not likely that my work will ever hang in the Louvre.
    One good thing about being print-oriented is that it's easy to see (and sometimes quantify) specifics: Is the sky neutral, if that's what I want...or is it 5cc magenta? Is a half stop dark? Is there noise or grain that I don't want? Is it sharp enough for 13X19? Can I see into the shadows as far as I want? Highlight detail?
    If the goal is less tangible (eg more challenging subjects), I can feel myself lying to myself when I'm not on that path. But sometimes something works so well that it's hard to move ahead, I wallow in ease.
    I tell myself that I do want to test myself, and I can't do that without the opportunity to fail. I'm not into personal kumbayah, I don't mind giving myself a hard time. On the other hand...
     
  17. John-
    Every time I shoot, I am looking for certain qualities, per the situation- I guess those are goal oriented things. Sometimes these qualities happen sometimes they don't- but sometimes something unexpectedly better happens. The great scientist Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." A goal I continually strive to meet, yet generally only realize it as it happens (so goes photography) is to capture the unexpected, be ready to pounce on that opportunity that presents itself- be prepared for anything and let yourself change according to the situation. Watch and learn.
    Another goal is restraint. Stick to your idea and follow through. Don't improvise. Have a vision. Execute.
     
  18. John, in fact those horrid management books usually sell pretty decent advice. Just wrapped up in the most ghastly giftpaper ever. So, yeah, that 50% odds idea is pretty good, I think. It's important to balance the challenge versus the motivation that can come from it.
    Martin,
    You make 2 pretty good points; sure being prepared makes the chance of success bigger. To me, it means knowing how my camera works, the weaknesses and strong points of lenses, etc. It was a goal once, though now I'm certainly focussed on other aspects. But I regarded it (and still do) part of the foundation I need.
    Restraint seem to follow from the "preparedness" but I have my doubts on that. No improvising? Means I'd loose some of the best shots. Likewise for a vision - it develops, it's not as-is, and I think you should allow yourself to stray from your vision. As the horrid management books would say: challenge your own paradigmas. Better said: see if your vision is a good one, be open to alternatives and never be rigid in your vision.
    That said, I think you need to be comfortable with technical aspects in photography to shift gears easily. If you ad hoc decide to do something completely different, you need to know how to execute that ad hoc too. Not fiddling around with buttons while the great images pass you by.
     
  19. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    My personal goals are meta-photographic rather than photographic in technical terms, except for the sharp lenses. I don't want to pay too much attention to anyone's opinion other than mine. If I sense I can learn from someone, that's my opinion as much as the choices I make in what to shoot.
    Sharp lenses go against the grain of the typical shots of women. I never want to see women as only polished surfaces.
    I knew I wanted sharpness, but hadn't quite figured out why.
    I also want to not worry about whether photography is art. Individual works have merit by being interesting or pleasurable in a range of ways.
    Photography is a way of exploring -- sometimes nothing more than the property of lenses. I want to explore how I can think with photography.
     
  20. Benchmarks:
    - Am I HAPPY with the photos? Would I be proud to display them in my home? On my website? At an exhibition with my name in big letters?
    - Ratio of keepers to flops in a given shooting situation. Did most of the shots turn out at least okay, or did I shoot a hundred turkeys for every eagle? Even if the shoot/trip didn't turn out as I had anticipated, did I get the most out of the conditions that were available? Was I ready when I needed to be?
    - How much or how little post-processing is necessary (i.e. did I "nail it" at the time of capture, or was I sloppy?). Personal preference: I'd rather be a skilled photographer than a skilled photo EDITOR.
    - Shooting effectively in new or challanging situations (e.g. a new location, changing light, unpredictable subjects, or a sport that I've never photographed before). Did I walk away with printable images or just some expensive "lessons" in what not to do?
    - Did I enjoy the research, the preparation, the travel, the setup, and the time that I spent shooting? Would I be excited to go back and do it all over again one day, or what it an experience that I'd rather not repeat?
    - Am I STILL proud of the photos weeks, months, or years later? I am the ultimate consumer of my work. If someone else doesn't like my photos, I haven't lost anything. But if *I* don't like them, then I've wasted time and energy that I can never recover, and I have nothing to show for my effort.
    When I hit all of these these objectives it feels amazing!
     
  21. Dan- " if *I* don't like them, then I've wasted time and energy that I can never recover, and I have nothing to show for my effort"
    Don't you think that's part of the learning curve? Haven't you learned something from all that time spent- all your effort? True you can never recover that time, but maybe you should take note of more than just your photography, and take in more of the experience.
     

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