The Created Image Conference Review

{This post originally appeared at In Beauty & Chaos on July 17, 2014}

KateDensmore_July2014-4Last week I had the opportunity to attend my first in person photography event, THE CREATED IMAGE CONFERENCE, hosted by DAVID DUCHEMIN and the CRAFT & VISION team in Vancouver, BC, with STEVE SIMON and PIET VAN DEN EYNDE. To say that it was life changing is an understatement. I have been involved in the online photography community for the past 3 years, but actually meeting and discussing photography with people from across the continent in person was an experience that I am so thankful I pursued. Going into the event I was really nervous – there were three world-class photographers presenting information, and I didn’t know any of the other attendees. But from the moment I walked into the room, it was clear that this event was about our mutual love of the craft, and not about who had the most impressive portfolio or the shiniest gear. Our egos weren’t even given a chance to enter the room with us, and while we discussed photography non-stop for 2 ½ days, I never showed anyone my own work or looked at another attendees, which made the whole experience not about our work and abilities, but about our journey.  It was soul filling and inspiring. There were so many lessons I took away from the event, and while I can’t share them all with you in one small blog post, there are a couple big ones I need to get out, and that maybe you need to hear, too.

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The biggest one I took away from the conference was to shoot what you love, and make others care about it as much as you do. As someone whose portfolio mostly consists of images of my children, this is one I needed to hear. It doesn’t matter that they are “just my kids” – they are children and the images I take of them are the ones that I need to create, deeply and passionately and from my heart. What I can improve on, though, is making others care about that work. I want to be creating images that are so universal and human and have such depth of emotion that the fact that they are my children melts away, and they become simply images of childhood or motherhood – photographs of a relationship that is both infinite and ancient. And no matter what it is you photograph – your children, fruit in your kitchen, the streets in your city, landscapes near or far – make me care. Show others how much you care about your subjects.

Show us the universal threads and themes of life, of play, relationships, sadness, laughter, beauty, and love. Your images will be richer and deeper for it

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The other lesson I will hold onto desperately is that perfection is boring. No one identifies with perfection. The human condition is imperfect, and photographs that are authentic and resonate with emotion and love of craft and chasing vision will be far more powerful than any technically perfect image could ever be. This extends to knowing your gear so well that you let it melt into the background and just be present in the moment. David is big on “gear is good, vision is better” – with the caveat that you must know your gear, because of course you need to be able to use it well – but that once you can let it melt into the background and just create images that say what you want them to say, that bring us to that moment that you felt was worth capturing. And that is where the true art of our craft happens.

Let yourself be imperfect. Embrace the moment in your photographs, and be less concerned with the perfection of details. Are you going to want to look back 20 years from now and remember a spotless room that never actually was? Or do you want to remember what it felt like to step on toys in the middle of the night, to see the mess and know without a doubt that a little person shares your home?

It pains me to think of how many of us have thrown away beautiful images because they don’t meet someone else’s definition of perfect. I encourage you to find your own definition of perfection, to define it by perfection of moment rather than perfection of framing.

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The last thing I want to leave you with is to encourage you to expand your sphere of influence. David encourages us to study the masters of photography, and to let other artistic inputs affect our work, and I absolutely agree with that. But I want to push it one step further, and encourage you to step beyond the photography blogs and forums and Facebook pages you regularly visit. I am a notorious homebody, both online and in person, and so this advice is for myself just as much as it is for you. But the biggest reason I choose The Created Image conference over any other was because it was almost completely outside of my current sphere of influence. I wanted to see photography in a new way, to think of it in a different way, and to see work being created that didn’t adhere to the “rules” and standards many of us with similar online influences strive to achieve. And I know that I will be a better photographer for it. Not in the sense that my images will necessarily be “better”, but that I will be better, happier, less constrained. My creativity and muse has been altered and expanded. I’m seeing photography in a new way, and for that I am thankful.

I encourage you to find your own external inputs that are different. Read a book that isn’t about photography. Go berry picking with your family, and make jam together. Listen to music. And expand your photographic education and input to new areas. I think you’ll find yourself happier for it.

Kate DensmoreComment