I recently heard that Krzysztof Kieślowski’s retired when he felt he had peaked and succeeded. He wanted to avoid the rejection of critics and the inevitable downfall of his career. He believed that like all successful artists, he would eventually have to plummet into failure.
Pleasing the trends as an artist doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would you ever quit out of fear of being disliked? How could you possibly ever know whether your next work would be a failure or a success? Most importantly why would you care? We create because it is a passion, an insatiable desire to express ourselves.
Of course I care what other people think of my work but it’s not the reason I take pictures.
So what triggered this egotistical defensive rant?
In 2015 I was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to shoot a portrait for their collection of a renowned contributor to British film or theatre. This was part of the John Kobal Prize. I was delighted to accept the invitation and photograph the actress Felicity Jones (who you may recognize from all of the Star Wars Rouge press at the moment.) We worked together and aimed to keep it simple, to make something quiet and still. I liked her a lot.
The shoot was great fun but did seem limiting and after getting the film back I didn’t feel the images were a great success. However, Felicity was great company, incredibly patient and any opportunity to play with my 5×4 in a gorgeous location was a treat. I ve included a few from the edit.
Since the press release alongside some lovely compliments I have seen some negative critical comments expressing that the image isn’t particularly striking. Predictably I concentrated on these and at first felt disappointed with myself. I then remembered that without any freedom of opinion or critique I wouldn’t know what people thought or how they felt when seeing my work.
It can be a motivating reminder to improve, to think more carefully before you plan shoots or press the shutter- to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. I am glad people are free to be honest. So thanks for the hate. I don’t need to justify how I feel about my imagery but I do feel the need to reflect on what I can do when it is revealed and then reacted to.
So I will enjoy raising a glass to the fun I had making this image and feel motivated to next time make something better than my last shot.