Capturing an Essence of Who We Really Are?

A question has recently arisen about getting to the essence of who we are as artists.  I have recently been reading a book about a man, in love with photography from age 10, who went to a photography workshop with the photographer Minor White in the 60’s.  He was posed with the question of photographing his essence, not to photograph his personality, but to go deeper into the core of his being, to “Photograph who you really are.”  He couldn’t grasp the concept of finding himself or even recognizing himself but then has an epiphany that clearly defines his vision and changes the course of his life.  The book is called “The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life” written by John Daido Loori and it is a completely different approach to discovering who we are as creative souls.

In a sense this year of exploration has become my own epiphany and I feel more in touch with myself then ever.  I began to think about myself and examine my own creative process.  Do I really photograph who I am?  I think so.  Though I use others as my subjects the true essence of what I feel is expressed through the overall feel of my images.  Mr. Loori, a skeptic at the time, talks about going into the forest, questioning the nonsensical meaning of White’s idealism, and discovers a place where he releases that doubt and comes into touch, through a trance like state, with the subject.  The subject then  does not become the object of the image, but his feeling to the connection to the subject, becoming the vision of the image.  I began to realize this is the state I often enter when I begin to work with my naked male subjects.  All inhibitions evaporate, I have set the stage and defined the parameters, communicated to get to core of my subjects perceptions of themselves so that the moment is ripe to just touch the essence of what I feel in that moment.  The shoot then becomes a history of every experience I have ever had and how it relates to this person in this moment, to really explore who we are in this moment.  So many people comment on my images as having a quality they cannot describe or put their finger on to define.  It’s not really something that can be copied or emulated, but organically comes out of what unfolds before me.  I do not have a formula for lighting and it is not consistently the same from shoot to shoot.  It is tailored to the specific subject and the vision of how I see them when we first meet.  Yet everyone says my style is highly recognizable so there must be some consistency to it.  Even when some models posted images we had shot, to their social networking profiles without my name associated with the images, others began to recognize the images as ones I had taken.  I do remember when I first began photography questioning what makes an image recognizable to a certain artist and how I could for would define my own unique style.  I realize now after years of photographing and looking back that it just naturally evolved without me really having to work at or affect the outcome.  It is the essence of who I have become.

Most of my life has been defined by my sensual/sexual nature, seduction, being seduced and of course my love and fascination of the male figure, both clothed and exposed.  Much of my life was very sexual, but as I have grown older, the sexual allure that once motivated me seems to have vanished.  I am no longer concerned with the physical side of my sexuality but am most intrigued with the spiritual essence of what remains.  I don’t see my images as sexual at all.  I had a young photographer just out of journalism school approach me the other day wanting to intern with a studio photographer.  I sent him a link the new site and told him what I was doing.  His response was a scoff at the idea of working with nude people as means to learning studio technique as he rejected what I take for granted as natural.