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Say Something
The Secret Behind Great Art
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June 2014   Better Pictures   Nikon   Canon    Fuji    LEICA   All Reviews


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Great art has to say something, and that something needs to be interesting.

It doesn't matter if it's a photo, a painting, a sculpture, a novel, a piece of music, a motion picture or any other work of art; it has to have something to say, or by definition, it's meaningless.

Some people get so caught up by whatever mechanics it takes to create a work of art that they all too often completely forget to to say anything. They worry too much about the technical end and completely overlook the far more important part of actually putting something interesting into their work.

In photography, too many people confuse buying cameras and playing with software with photography itself. Creating photographs has no more to do with cameras, lenses and software than drinking beer has to do with metal tanks and brewery equipment. What we use to create something has nothing to do with what that something eventually does or says.

When you create a photograph, it has to have something to say. By "something to say," it has to show us something we haven't seen before, or show us the same thing in a very different way. It has to say something about which people actually care. It has to say something that hasn't been said before. It has to be fresh and new, and has to be relevant. It has to keep us interested.

Too many people go and buy all the gear, and then wonder why great photos don't just pop out even though they've read everything and know they're doing everything right. Sure, they're doing everything technical correctly, but not paid any attention to the far more important art involved. When was the last time you found anyone online who even knew what negative space was — and that's often half of your picture! People need to spend more time in art school and researching how to say things than worrying about gear or technique.

All cameras and lenses work. Every lens is more than sharp enough when used properly. What's more important is to have something interesting to say, and to say it clearly.

It's the same in music: too many people go buy all sorts of instruments and microphones and preamps and software and effects and plug-ins, and wonder why their music turns out so boring. Simple: if they have nothing to say, who cares? It's not about the words, its about the music itself, just like a photograph, it needs to lead us somewhere and show us something, even with our eyes closed. The music can be technically perfect, but if it's got nothing behind it and isn't taking us anywhere, who cares?

Every work has to have a feeling behind it. It has to move us. It's got to have something to say.

It has to be something unique. If it shows us the same thing everyone else does, who cares? One can't copy another work's message. It has to show a new point of view. It can't just try to shock us; it has to be meaningful and different.

Worry about what you're trying to say, and worry less about your camera.

Tell me a story. Make me laugh. Right a wrong. Make me dream. Encourage me to get out and make a difference. Show us how your non-profit helps the world. Show us how your school helps create new leaders.

Show the starry-eyed students of world the proven and incorrigible evils of Socialism. Show people who've never seen this what they need to see. Get their heads out of their coffeeshops and textbooks and show them the many failed attempts where workers shared equally, so eventually no one went to work and everyone lived in naive poverty while the party members lived like kings. Show Americans East Berlin, Romania and Albania back a few decades ago before America's youth grows up to repeat yesterday's sins tomorrow.

Get me excited. Wake me up. Show me your town. Show what's special to you. Show me your point of view — but whatever you do, do something!

Whatever you do, don't just sit there and numb your mind on Facebook and YouBoob; get out and see and make a difference. Everyone is different; what might be commonplace to you isn't to someone who lives on the other side of the world.

Whatever you do, say something. As Ansel Adams observed, there's nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy idea. Today's digital cameras make it trivial to make sharp pictures without any thought or effort whatsoever, actually making it harder to get us to stop and concentrate about saying something worthwhile. Don't forget to FART.


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Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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