The worth of an artwork? Whether it survives or dies.
I will make a work more lasting than bronze. – Horace
Of course you cannot predict how long your work will last. But these are some practical thoughts and ideas:
Study the past masters
Study the ancient masters of art, and ask yourself — “Why has their artwork lasted until now?” Was it because of their superior marketing and PR? Or was the work itself phenomenal? Or because they were lucky? Or a bit of all?
Generally speaking, the artworks which last seen super-human; that it wasn’t humanly possible for a single individual to create this thing.
For example, it is incredible to think that Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel and carved the Pieta— by himself!
What makes great photography?
With photography, it seems that generally speaking — photographs of people last the longest.
For example, street photographs, documentary photos, reportage and news photos — photos that involve human beings.
Do projects last?
Some projects last —
For example, “In the American West” by Richard Avedon— because the concept was simple: portraits of people all around America against a simple background, with enigmatic people.
Generally when we remember projects, it is because the title and the project concept was simple and the photographs within the project were powerful.
When I think about my projects, I think one of the projects that have stood the test of time is my suits project. Why? My thoughts:
- Simple title and concept (Suits, obviously pictures of men in suit and ties)
- Intense pictures — shot close, often with flash, with strong emotions (hand gestures, stressed body language)
- Consistent aesthetic: Shot on Kodak Porta 400 film, 35mm lens, film Leica.
- Stringent editing: Only strong images. This is a simple idea: make every picture in your photograph as a “standalone” picture (if you saw the photograph outside of the project, it would still be a strong single image), and make the pictures fit within the theme or idea of the project.
Time is a ruthless hammer which destroys that which isn’t strong enough.
If you desire to make immortal photos, make them strong enough, robust enough to be able to withstand the blows of lady time’s merciless hammer.
Make photos more lasting than bronze
To sum up,
- Be exacting in your own standards in your photographs. Don’t have pity on your weaker photos; let them die.
- Don’t stop pursuing your project; it is like digging for oil — you must keep drilling deeper into the ocean, to find that liquid gold.
- Keep it simple, consistent, and strong. Don’t complicate it or make it unnecessarily fancy.