©2006-Zave Smith Photography
Advertising photography is a floating world carried by the latest trends in cultural, politics and fashion. To survive on this river you need to know when to let the currents of popular culture carry you and when to set sail in a stream of ones own creation.
Around every two years or so I find myself becoming grumpy and bored by the work that I am doing and I realize it is time to change. It would be easy to open the latest Workbook or Vogue and copy the style of the day, but what fun is that? Though I might use these resources to inspire, I ultimately look in two places for inspiration. One place is inside my heart and the other are the new work prints that start to cover my walls.
These days I find myself trying to find the right balance between realism and fiction. I am not interested in creating fantasy worlds where every man is built like a tank, every woman is a perfect “0” and everybody is smiling. What is interesting about that? I am more intrigued by questions than answers. I am looking for the fiction that helps us understand the multi dimensional reality of being human.
One of the biggest differences between yesterday and tomorrow’s work is intent. Where yesterday I would look for an idea, tomorrow I am looking for a feeling. Yesterday I would want to photograph an activity; tomorrow I want to photograph possibilities. Yesterday I photographed from the outside in; tomorrow I wish to photograph from the inside out.
These new images seem to often take a long time to gestate. While before I would spend a day or two putting together an image now I find myself spending days just finding the right location. This new location often inspires me to rethink the whole concept of the shot. Then I start the whole process again by casting. This method is time consuming, but intriguing, thought provoking and fun. It requires not being married to the original idea but allowing a dialogue to develop between the visual elements and myself.
Not all of tomorrows work is born under such labor. Occasionally images seem to fall into my lap. For each shot that took weeks of thinking and rethinking, there are shots that just happen. A new talent comes to the studio, we talk, we play, all the pieces fit and a visual metaphor is born.
It is hard at times to reconcile these two different methods of creating. Julia Cameron, in her wonderful book, “The Artist Way”, talks about keeping ourselves open to our visions. I feel that my best work happens when I let go of my preconceived notions and allow myself to react to what is happening in the viewfinder. What seems to work best on assignment is making sure that all the needed elements are there and then letting the work, the talent and the ideas flow. This at times it can feel like closing yours eyes and stepping off into the abyss. Creating is an act of faith, but he beats being bored and grumpy.