I have this new notion of photography:
What if we saw photography as a tool of empowerment, instead of just making photos?
I call this notion ‘power photography’.
Power is good
I don’t know anyone who thinks power is a bad thing (either that, or they’re lying to themselves).
People will often dislike “abuse of power” — but all of us want more power in our lives.
We want more power over how to live our lives, we want more (physical) power to be active in our everyday lives, and we want more feelings of self-confidence to do what we truly desire to do in our lives.
Is photography making you feel more powerful?
For myself, photography is empowering. I feel more powerful with the camera! I feel more bold and confident with the camera when I am interacting with other people (shooting street portraits or street photography), I feel more adventurous with a camera (travel photography), and photography empowers my eyes to notice more beauty in the ordinary and mundane (photography trains our eyes; trains our ‘visual acuity‘).
Does looking at your own photos give you more vigor, energy, life, and power?
A simple question:
When you look at your own photos, how do they make you feel?
Does looking at your photos give you more power, hope, and joy in life? Or does your photos make you feel more depressed?
I hope looking at your own photos empowers you. If not, I don’t think photography is worth it.
Why do we like art?
I generally think that the best artwork is the artwork which gives us more feelings of power.
I think the best art gives us strength, confidence, and inspires us to move and create our own artwork!
For example, when I look at the work of Piet Mondrian; I love his bold, simple, and powerful compositions. Looking at his artwork inspires me to create more of my own artwork.
Look at other photographers who inspire you to shoot more!
I generally think when you’re looking for inspiration in photography, this is my tip:
Look at the photos of other masters of photography whose work inspires you to shoot more!
Looking at the work of another photographer should never discourage or depress you. Sometimes we might look at the work of another photographer and think:
“Wow, their photos are 100x better than mine. No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to make photos as good as them.”
Furthermore, we should seek to become BETTER than the past masters of photography! Also, we should never be slaves to the past masters of photographers — we must ‘kill our masters‘ in order for us to create our own new ideals in photography.
How to make more powerful photos
My definition of a powerful photo:
When I look at the photo, does it make me feel more powerful and more optimistic in life?
Of course, only you should define what you consider a ‘strong’ or ‘powerful’ photo. You should make photos to stimulate and empower yourself; don’t worry what others might think of your photos.
Process your photos in an aesthetic that feels powerful, impactful, and strong to you.
For example with black and white photography, I like bold post-processing (crush the blacks, extreme high contrast).
For color, I also like to do extreme post-processing. I play around with my post-processing in a style which looks good to my eyes: insanely high saturated colors which stimulate me!
Create an empowering aesthetic for yourself, not a depressing aesthetic.
How to become a more powerful photographer
It all comes down to practice.
I got the notion of ‘power photography’ from ‘power lifting’ (a specific type of weightlifting which focuses on a ‘one repetition maximum’ styled lift).
I don’t really believe in ‘biological limits’. I am an “ectomorph” Asian (thin wrists, small hands, small shoulders), yet I can squat 300 pounds, deadlift 435 pounds, and do 105 pound dumbbell press (at a bodyweight of 170, height 5 foot 10).
How did I get stronger? Time (I’ve been training for the last 10 years), practice (I go to the gym everyday), and pushing my limits (always trying to add 5 pounds every week to my maximum weights).
Is photography empowering you, or disempowering you?
Photography should empower you, otherwise it is not worth pursuing.
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