Photography, poetry and crossing disciplines

I stumbled across a great quote recently. It is about poets, but I immediately thought how it applies to photographers. Following on my last entry, about the importance of practice, I got to thinking about how a lot of things cross the lines that appear to divide different mediums, but really are common to most all of them.
The quote was from T.S Eliot and it goes:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
So lets change the medium:

“Immature photographers imitate; mature photographers steal; bad photographers deface what they take, and good photographers make it into something better, or at least something different.”

The revised quote rings true to me, probably because my college studies in photography focused on the history of the medium rather than on the craft. In my current classes, I tell students that the best way to become a better photographer, besides photographing and getting critical feedback, is to look at great photographs. My point is that if you look at enough photographs you will start to appreciate the way your eye moves through an image. This is equally true for painting or any other imaging art.

Eventually, all of those images you look at “pile up on the mental hard drive in your brain.” So when you are actually out photographing, you subconsciously steal, for example, an approach to light from one image, a strategy for framing from another image and a way to position yourself from yet another. In an ideal world, you synthesize those three pieces into something all your own. To paraphrase T.S Eliot “ you make it into something better, or at least something different.”

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