Different Is Not My Goal

2015-1-1 Ahu Tahai 2d

When I photograph, I do not seek to create images that are “different” from everyone else’s, I don’t calculate how to create unique images and I don’t research what others are doing and then react.

Different is not my goal.

Instead, my objective is to produce work that comes from my Vision and that is honest and original to me.

2015-1-1 Moai at Rano Raraku No 2 - Final 2-20-2015 1000

My work is all that I focus on and have control over. As my mother used to say: what others are doing is none of your business!

When I went to Easter Island the only photographs that I had ever seen were the 1950’s documentary images contained in Thor Heyerdahl’s book “Aku Aku.” I never looked at anyone else’s images for two reasons; first I didn’t want to subconsciously copy someone else and secondly I didn’t want to consciously try to be different from someone else.

My goal, as much as it was humanly possible, was to work in a creative vacuum. I wanted to see the Moai through my Vision and find my own Passion.  

2015-1-1 Moai Sitting for Portrait No 7 - Final 3-5-2015 1000

Are my Easter Island images unique? I may never know the answer to that as long as I practice Photographic Celibacy and do not look at other photographer’s work.

And to tell you the truth, I don’t want to know. I love my images and am content with the knowledge that they were created honestly through my Vision.

Cole


14 Responses to “Different Is Not My Goal”

  • Wolfgang T. Says:

    Hi Cole,

    I totally agree with your mother 😉
    Focusing on and following our own vision, needs and likes is in my opinion the highest form of art.

  • Ron Hewit Says:

    Hi Cole, fascinating idea, to try to work in a creative vacuum is so hard to do in such a visual world. And it poses the question: will two photographers create similar work despite having no contact. Why did the ancient Egyptians and South American cultures both build pyramids despite the fact they were thousands of miles apart?
    Anyway, I prefer to immerse myself in others’ work, to seek out images on the Internet and in magazines and books. To turn the idea on is head, at least that way I can discover the things that I hate!
    Best wishes

  • Scott Thomas Says:

    This is really a thought-provoking post, Cole – thank you.

    The “other side of the coin” from your recent post about imitation, this post opens up the idea of conscious “difference.”

    Having realized, as you have said about your photography, that in trying to learn techniques of photographers I admired, I was also creating nothing that was truly “mine,” I moved to “trying” to be different. That produces images that are rarely of enduring interest.

    Not worrying about what others have done, led to producing my own images. Then, making photographs even of iconic locations, may result in similarities to work of others, or not, but if it is your own work, it is much more satisfying.

  • Bill Motley Says:

    Cole,
    As always a great post. I’d like to pose a different perspective regarding seeing the work of others. Being relatively new to photography one of my greatest challenges is “seeing” an image that might make a good photograph. Sometimes I’ll make a photograph and the results I see on the camera’s screen are stunningly different (for the better) than what I actually observed. To a newby this can be frustrating. Why didn’t I see that before I triggered the shutter? Like you, I seek my own “vision” but sometimes I need glasses. Those glasses come in the form of being with other photographers in the field whose work I admire. My goal is to learn what caught their eye in a particular scene or how did they process in their mind what they felt the final image might look like. The goal is not to copy them but to learn from them. As I hone my “seeing” skills over time I’m more able to pursue my personal vision. I hope this makes sense.

  • Donald Withers Says:

    Great and honest post as usual Cole. Your are the first photos that I have seen of Easter Island and I have to say that not only are they wonderful to look at, they make me want to visit there to see them in person. Don’t know if that will ever happened,but its fun to think about.

    Thanks for sharing your vision with us….

  • Ron Blanchard Says:

    Interesting post. Love the images-have seen pics of Easter Island before but not as unique and thought provoking. I have always observed others pics but agree they should not influence my visions. Thank you for your comments.

  • Misha Says:

    Thoughtful and interesting post as always. I’ve seen a number of Easter Island photographs from a number of photographers, both past and contempory, and it’s interesting to observe your interpretation versus theirs having knowledge of your approach. Obviously I won’t elaborate:-). Just out of curiosity, have you been accused of trying to be different?

  • Patrick Says:

    My idea is not so much to be different as to not be the same. Are those two different things? I think so. I see so many pictures of the iconic locations in the American SW that I feel no desire to go get my own version. Instead I like to try and find less photographed locations.

  • Allan Culver Says:

    I will just say that your photographs of the Maori have far more feeling than any others I have seen of the Maori. Your photographs gave them life. And I will scrub my mouth out with soap for saying the word d…..ent.

  • Nina Says:

    i couldn’t agree more, Cole. At the end of the day, it’s really all about what’s inside.

  • Sherry Snyder Says:

    Thought – If we all practiced Photographic Celibacy none of us would be able to be engaged by your compelling images. Seems to me that would be a loss for all of us.

  • Steve L Says:

    I think those images are unique.
    But, probably not for long!!

    (Better to be copied, though, than to be the copier!)

  • Russ Says:

    I think it depends on the individual. I find looking at others work inspires me to go and find something of my own. Seeing something unexpected reminds me there are always new photo opportunities when I feel at a dead end.
    When it comes to being original, sometimes I think we actually have to give ourselves permission to be different, shake off the fear of non-acceptance.

  • Roger Says:

    Scott Thomas and Bill Motley spoke perfectly for me. I have experienced this in the same way they have and maybe am a bit further behind, having only decided in the last year or two, thanks in no small part to your wonderful blog, that being “different” should not be the goal. Being “different” was my goal and still creeps into my shooting from time to time. As Bill points out it is a learning process but my sense is that you did not follow the path that Bill describes which I think is the way most of us have evolved photographically. Your “march to a different drummer” gene is a huge part of your genius and results in these incredible images.

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