Talent for Photography

Food for Thought

It was Julie’s birthday at Reception Bar in LES. She is a photographer, but she didn’t know she was one until later in life. She studied music in college. I don’t put much stock in artistic talent, but I’ve come across some people in my life whose talent was so glaring that I had to question my skepticism about supernatural phenomena.

What makes Julie’s talent so glaring is that her photographs do not rely on technical competence or on any rational criteria of beauty. Competence is something we can all acquire as long as we put enough effort into it. What we generally mean by “talent” is something we cannot acquire through effort. So, in order to see someone’s raw talent, we need to remove competence, but in most cases, they are so intertwined that it is not practically possible.

Talented photographers discriminate what they see, but they do not censor it. That is the paper-thin barrier most photographers cannot break. Censorship has rational criteria. For instance, you might discard photos that are out of focus or underexposed. Censorship, although it’s a rational force, is a largely unconscious process, which is what makes it hard to break that barrier. Most of the time, we don’t know we are censoring using rational criteria because it’s so automatic.

Painting is easier in that you have some time to catch yourself censoring. With photography, you don’t have that luxury of time. In most cases, censorship beats your artistic intuition. It’s a game of how to prevent censorship from getting in between the beautiful moment and the camera sensor.

Personally, I’ve already accepted my defeat. My censorship is so powerful that the artist within me has no chance. Every detail of my photo can be explained, and there is nothing beyond it. Given the same explanations, countless others can reproduce the same photos.

In today’s politically correct climate, this is a controversial statement, but artists, in order to defeat their censorship, have to be irresponsible, because it’s the superego that forces us to be responsible and censors our behavior.