I've been a fan of Jay-Z's art since his album Reasonable Doubt was released in the mid 90s. Since then, his music and style has evolved, but as he revealed in his amazing book Decoded, becoming an artist started long before that album...actually in his childhood years. He started writing around 9 years old and it made me think of first really engaging in photography at 12 years old. Though he is a decade older than I am (and much much richer) I can relate to that thirst for art at a young age. Even before photography, I was painting at 5 years old and had my work featured in child exhibits at a few prestigious museums.
One thing interesting about the short video below is that Jay-Z mentions that he learned technique first and then later became consumed with the story. This relates to photography because it is very true that photographers must learn technique. It's important to know how we're going to be able to tell the stories because if we cannot effectively use our tools to do so, the message can become convoluted through error and poor execution. However, the stories themselves--the people, scenes and emotions are what truly matter.
What's also interesting is how Jay-Z mentioned how the art is often a cry for help or attention. Though most people have not had his specific upbringing or specific pain, many artists can relate to how the raw the emotion inside of us is conveyed in our stories...our art. I thought this was a great point. Also, I included his book Decoded in my list of 7 interesting books for photographers to read, a post I shared at the end of 2010.
It should never be a gear vs. vision battle. Both are relevant. At the same time, I've talked to photographers who've been photographing for years, yet their minds are totally engulfed by gear yet no vision. It makes sense in the early stages, just as Jay-Z mentions that his early days were about technique before they were about story. However, it doesn't make sense to me to have years under one's belt and still argue about gear but never think of emotion, substance, style, personality, vision and story. Some of these same photographers like to argue about gear and brands. I won't anymore. I completely disengage from such a conversation. Peace out. Sadly, this makes me think of a photographer I've seen around town and we've had five conversations so far. Five. Not once has he asked to see my work or offer to show his. He talks about gear as if ownership and price are the only things that matter to photography. Honestly, I try to duck him if I am out in town now because I'm not interested in discussing gear every time I see an artist. When I meet up with one of my closest friends who is a novelist, we never discuss the fact that she writes on an iBook but wants a MacBook next year. Why? We discuss her novel that will be released soon.
It's really a bigger picture out there (pun intended, ha)...a beautiful and real picture. Photography is more than technique, though technique is a part of the foundation.