I’ve always been a follower of Seth Godin and follow his blog just about every day. Yesterday I noticed a short post he wrote called “Of course it’s been done before”. While it didn’t mention photography, it got me thinking about how it related. But specifically for landscape photography. Sure, it could be said for many other areas, but I think it makes the most sense for landscape photos. Here’s a portion of what he wrote:
Just about every successful initiative and project starts from a place of replication. The chances of being fundamentally out of the box over the top OMG original are close to being zero. A better question to ask is, “have you ever done this before?” Or perhaps, “are the people you are seeking to serve going to be bored by this?”
Originality is local. The internet destroys, at some level, the idea of local, so sure, if we look hard enough we’ll find that turn of a phrase or that unique concept or that app, somewhere else.
Speaking to his first question “have you ever done this before?”. I often hear from people who don’t want to go shoot a place that’s been shot before. Or when they see yet another photo of a popular location and comment that anyone can take that photo and it’s been done many times before. For me, I’ve always felt like, sure I know it’s been shot before, but not by me. And it hasn’t been post processed by me, etc…
Going to his second question above, “are the people you are seeking to serve going to be bored by this?”. For me, a great example of this is Multnomah Falls just outside of Portland, OR. Photographers I know in Portland won’t even look when they drive by Multnomah, even though it’s one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. But as a visitor years ago, I’d never seen or heard of it before, so I went and shot it.
That photo hangs on my wall in the living room of my house and it’s BY FAR, the most commented on photo I have hanging. People who visit my home (my audience) love it. They have no idea where it is, and that it’s just off the highway and anyone can photograph it. They have no idea how lucky I got that day, because it was raining pretty bad and there were barely any visitors to clutter the photo like there usually are.
Remember, the definition of photography is:
the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (as film or an optical sensor)
Nowhere in that definition does it say that the photo has to be an absolutely original photo that no one else has taken before. Now, I know some people set out to take original photos of locations people haven’t seen before. And part of me loves to do that too. To bring an unseen place to the forefront and share it with people. That’s totally cool and I’m all for it. And if you’re one of those people (which I kinda am), all I’d say is to consider this post next time you see a photo of frequently photographed spot, and know that for that photographer, the idea of being there and making their own photo of that place is also a huge part of the photo experience.
Have a good one!