The topic of whether the world needs another photo of a beautiful sunset has been discussed and written about ad nauseam. Those of us who want to continue taking and sharing photographs have successfully justified doing so (at least to ourselves), and the alternate camp has defended their right never to view another aspen image. My questions about the proliferation of photographs are slightly more specific and hopefully not redundant.
When does a single photographer reach his or her quota of photographs from a specific location, of a single subject, or on a given day? The questions were prompted when I returned home from a recent outing, stitched together a large image featuring the terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier, and was struck by the similarity it bore to another photograph…of my own. Certainly there are some differences, including the light and the inclusion of the lake; but the time of year, the premise of the image, the format, and the subject are all the same.
Typically, when I take two very similar photos of something, I expect myself (even force myself) to choose one or the other. I suppose my thinking was that one photo must in fact be superior to the other, which would render the latter unfit for presentation. This time around, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to make that choice, and perhaps that is what it all boils down to. As the artist, it is my obligation to decide whether one is enough or that two views are better than one. The result is that I’m freed up with respect to the other to parts of my question as well, and I don’t have to fall into the trap of coming home at the end of a very successful and creative day needing to select a single image from ten I’m pleased with.
But what happens to the sayings of great photographers that implied something to the tune of them only generating one “portfolio quality” image in a month? I honestly don’t know how to answer that because I have no intention of refuting them or limiting myself in that way. Maybe I’ve never in my life taken a photograph good enough to be placed in such a lofty category, but since my photography is driven by a desire to share, I’m unable to be as selective as some other photographers might.
As usual, everyone is quite different, and we can be sure that there is no reason to force ourselves into being similar. When you are drawn for a second time (or third or fourth) to the same subject, don’t resist the urge to create something new from something familiar. When the scope of your travel doesn’t reach out into new parts of the world, don’t be discouraged. If you find yourself experiencing a breakthrough day, please don’t be afraid to embrace all of it, and I for one, will say thank you.