I know, I know. Again with Cuba. Well, I still have a lot more to get out of my system. That trip positively affected my mentality and approach toward photography. I felt renewed, rejuvenated and energized - something we all need from time to time, a chance to reset and feel motivated and get the creative juices flowing.
While in Cuba, I met up with our group of photographers who were from all over the country and beyond. All different types of people, with different jobs, some photographers, some hobbyists and lots in between. The first day exploring Havana we got the obligatory touristy shots out of the way. The following day, at our morning meeting we were told that we'd be each presenting a portfolio of our work in Cuba at the end of the week. And presenting it at the Photography Institute with some of Cuba's most renowned photographers in the audience. Wow. So now we all felt a little pressure and some healthy competition. Competition you ask? Yes. We photographers are lone-gunmen. We're soloists carving our niches and forging our paths.
Sure we were there as a group, but the fact of the matter is that we were shooting for ourselves. Or at least I came to realize that I was shooting for me. There is a compulsion to want to shoot for the group. To get shots that dazzle and amaze your peers. But at the end of the day, what really matters is how the images make ME feel. I am my harshest critic. I know when I'm slacking and I know when I can push harder and do better. I won't blow smoke up my own arse because it's wasted energy and let's be honest, who are we fooling.
So... I tasked myself to take this portfolio presentation seriously. And after seeing Raúl Cañtibano's work, I was so moved by his black and whites that I decided to not only process all of my portfolio images in black and white, that I wanted them to have a cohesive look and feel. So rather than a hodgepodge, "best-of", I decided to create what I considered to be a stand-alone body of work.
I'm happy with my Cuba mini-portfolio and feel that tasking myself to shoot this way was a bit of a revelation. That when traveling, the compulsion to just shoot EVERYTHING is there, but the restraint is when you make great photos. That you have to be a bit selfish when shooting. Even in a group, where you want to be considerate and fraternal, you still need to go off on your own in your head and do your thing. Stay true to your self. Focused. I found when I shifted my mentality that way, my work improved. I shot less. And I was more relaxed.
Since Cuba, I take this mentality and apply it to most everything I shoot. Or at least try to. Especially when things are going wrong or the pressure is mounting, I'll remind myself to slow down. Relax. Focus. Shoot..