I enjoy studying the work of master photographers, tonight it was watching video of Joel Meyerowitz a NYC street photographer. He discussed the growth and development of his own photography style with reflections from 60 years behind the camera.
I will copy from my friend Eric Kim as he summarized a striking point Joel made:
"I’m going to go on record here—when I think about my photographs, I understand that my interest all along has not been in identifying a singular thing. But in photographing the relationship between things. The unspoken relationships, the tacit relationship—all of these variables are there if you choose to see in this way. But if you choose to only make objects out of singular things you will end up shooting the arrow into the bull’s-eye all the time, and you will get copies of objects in space.”
Meyerowitz expands on the importance of relationships in his images:
“I didn’t want copies of objects—I wanted the ephemeral connections between unrelated things to vibrate. And if my pictures work at all, at their best—they are suggesting these tenuous relationships. And that fragility is what is so human about them. And I think its what is in the ‘romantic tradition’—it is a form of humanism that says we’re all part of this together. I’m not just a selector of objects.
And there are plenty photographers who are great—but only work in the object-reality frame of reference. They collect things. And I don’t see myself as a collector. That’s how I’m different from others—its not a judgment, but a sense of my own identity. For me the play is always in the potential. It’s like magnetism.”
The point that really hit home for me was the distinction of "collecting" copies of objects vs. photographing the "relationship" between objects. This is me moving from a solid/good/great portraits and snapshot photo style to a more mature view of objects/time/space and maybe even emotions. It is really the relationship vs the object.
Pro tip: I need to think then act on the above. But first maybe reflect as I have never seen this stated so clearly: "collecting" copies of objects vs. photographing the "relationship" between objects.