“Surfaces in the Street”

When I first came across Siefried Hanson’s “Surfaces in the Street” (1) this week I felt simultaneously fascinated and depressed. The images themselves fascinate me; this is street photography but based primarily on lines and geometric shapes, on surface details and colours. The result is a series of abstract studies which are both aesthetically pleasing (one might even say beautiful) in their arrangement of forms, yet equally intriguing as snippets of real life that I want to interrogate further.

However I was depressed because this is an idea that I have frequently experimented with, and considered taking further (the title image for this post is one of my images for my very first assignment in TAOP). I felt annoyed that someone else has “stolen” my idea, and found myself thinking, not for the first time, that success in photography is more about who you know than what work you produce. This coincided with a few days where I have been tearing myself to shreds thinking of ideas for my first assignment, worried that every idea I have is unoriginal, deals with themes that others have already covered.

Then I stopped myself and realised that what I can learn from Hanson’s work (apart from its technical merits) is that work doesn’t have to be original to be good. There isn’t anything particularly original about his work, but he has taken the time to find and create interesting compositions, and has published a body of work that I find interesting. If I came across something in a similar vein tomorrow by another artist, I would still find that work interesting, perhaps more so by virtue of the comparison.

My first assignment is about beauty and the sublime; two topics that preclude originality both because as ideas they saturate the art world and because by their nature they reflect convention. So my lesson to myself is to stop torturing myself about a lack of “original” ideas and just get on with taking photographs for one of the many ideas currently floating around in my head.

(1) https://www.lensculture.com/articles/siegfried-hansen-surfaces-in-the-street (accessed 18th April 2017)

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