a sense of belonging

by julie posted October 1, 2009

People like to analyse, label and group things together. I think it’s a thing that helps us make sense of the hugeness that is the world around us. We also like to find other people that like the stuff we like, and spend time with them, talking about that stuff. The internet makes it even easier to find those people that are also into the obscure stuff we’re into, so it’s almost an expectation these days that whatever you like, you don’t need to like it alone.

I see these groups of people that are into the same stuff, and I interact with them where my interests cross over with theirs. But it feels like I’m only dipping a toe into each group, and I don’t really belong anywhere. I enjoy getting all misty eyed over the odd fast prime lens or high iso full frame sensor with the gear heads, or indulging in some girly pastel split-toned butter smooth bokeh eye candy shots, or trying to get beyond the superficial and talking about the real art behind what we do. But I get bored of the technical, sickened of the sweet and bogged down in the whys and wherefores, and I suppose that’s why I don’t commit completely to any of those groups.

But isn’t that what makes me an individual? The same as having gone through those fashions in processing – the heavy contrast highly saturated, the vignettes, the gaussian glow, the desaturation with heavy shadows, and now we’re into split tone with low contrast and blown highlights – and each one I try on, like an outfit, and as the fashion passes I keep a bit of it that feels right to me. Over time those bits that I’ve kept mix together and make what I think of as my own style of processing, and I suspect that process itself is going to continue to a certain extent, whether I become more settled and try each new thing less, there’s still an evolution of style in there. So why is it that I want to belong to one group, rather than being happy with doing the same thing there?

I suppose it’s got something to do with the fact that when you want to progress in something, you look to someone who is further down the line to give you an idea of where you have to go, what you have to do to get there. I know, nobody is going to be groundbreaking using that approach, but I never set out to be groundbreaking. I always figured I was following in someone’s footsteps. But what happens when those footsteps all diverge in different directions and you want to combine bits of all those paths, to make your own?

I’ve gone through various stages where I’ve had an urge to get my work up on a wall somewhere, and I’m feeling it again. But I’m getting lots of contradictions between the type of work that I do, and what gets hung on walls. For one group it’s too arty, for another it’s too dark, for another it’s too pretty… when the gatekeepers are people who fit neatly into one of the boxes, what happens when you don’t, but you want the same result? Do you have to put on their team shirt to play that game? Do you have to sell your soul and walk the walk and talk the talk for the sake of being allowed in to their realm? I suspect I’m mixing metaphors now, I’m tired. But I think I’m making sense.

But, as per usual, all I have for you is questions, not answers…

4 Responses to a sense of belonging

  1. I cannot tell you how great it is to come here and read your post. You don’t post nearly enough for me, but when you do, it’s usually pretty profound, which I why I keep you in my RSS reader! :-)

    I think that we are social creatures and so naturally tend to categorize and clump things together. Also, as artists, we like to see what thing will cause our creative juices to flow. So, we try some of this, some of that, a little of the other. Our own style may be, perhaps, an amalgam of all that we have seen, or some of what we have seen. Sometimes we come up with our own creative ideas based on … who knows.

    Regarding the wall hangings and which types to hang, I go through those periods as well. I have such a diverse lot of pictures that it’s hard to pick some without having such an eclectic mix on the way that may possibly render it disharmonious. Therefore, I do what I’ve always done, don’t hang any! :-)

    Right now, B&W film is the thing for me. Who knows what it will be tomorrow, or this evening for that matter. All that matters is that I’m having fun. I really don’t know why we think that we need to be pioneers or ground beakers. Is it for the accolades of doing such? See! I have questions, too!

  2. You’ve put your finger on something; we do have a strong need to belong, to be in the comfort of like minded souls. And the internet makes it easy to find those people even though they are geographically and temporally dispersed. And that is a gift that people only a generation ago could dream of.

    I kinda belong to that generation. I grew up watching a TV that had 3 channels and listening to radio even before it was pirate. And amidst the watching or listening of programs that I liked or were plain tedium, occasionally there was something that sparked something in my imagination. And it usually was something I would not have thought I would be interested in. I found that I, a nascent techie, was drawn to art review shows on Radio, usually beamed from across the water.

    When you have no choice, you experience things that you would otherwise never encounter . I wonder whether with all the richness of the web, that we might be letting go of that avenue of growth. Is it possible that there are more people of closed minds than open minds?

    A good while ago I heard a saying something along the lines of : good conditions make good wines, hard conditions make great wines. I’d like to think this was true.

    You have both technical and aesthetic skill across a wide range of work and an amazing eye to boot. You may be reaching that point where there are more people behind you trying to progress to where you are than in front of you.

    Time to show us how you see things; time to be you?

  3. Interesting reading here. Including the responses.

    As far I as I dare to generalise, the creative person is always evolving. And if not, that would show only a tiny lack of creativity.

    The creativity is internal need to express yourself using accessible and controllable techniques and tools. The urgent need to express yourself is the “what”, but there is always the other important part – “how”. How to express your point of view, that could be language, pen and paper, brush and canvas, stone and chisel, camera and print… And it is always required and needed to learn how to use those tools. There are technical basics, how to save your fingers and also how to create basic forms. However there is a little higher level than just technical knowledge.

    And here is the place for inspiration. Inspiration as being influenced by a person, group or “school”. I have used quotations, because it does not have to be every time a school as an institution, but also movement and group of people sharing similar attitude(s), need(s) and also social feature(s), e.g. internet group, flickr group, pub, age group…

    Learning higher levels of technical knowledge of the chosen technique is always influenced by following work of the others. And once we find something what we like, what arises our interest, the brain tricks us to learn why that was done in such way and how that was done. And applying the newly gained knowledge on our own processes leads to our own products. Products, that could be called “inspired”, “copied” or even “stolen”. However to copy some art is very tedious process and most of the time very unsuccessful process. The final result is always our own product that just may carry similar signs.

    And because the creative artists have always their mind open and is absorbing stimulants, they are still developing and evolving. Stagnation means only one thing, but that is not the topic of this post.

    To make it short, the more you learn, the more you are enriching your library of skills and creates the opportunity and availability to use what you have learned for your own purpose, to express yourself, your ideas and your needs.

    (If you are able to translate it to English, please, let me know.)

  4. This is a really interesting post, and I know I’m late to the party. My only comment (which applies to me as well) is to remember that you don’t owe the Internet anything. Belonging to on-line communities is great for the support and feedback, but you should aim to please yourself, not those communities. What matters is your own vision.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *