I often read artists assert that their best work is yet to be made and if they knew then what they know now, their work would have been better. Maybe photography is a different medium in this respect from others. I’ve never felt that I was waiting for my best work to be created. In fact much of my favorite work and many of my more popular pieces are ones that represent my earlier visions and efforts. That is not to say that I have stopped growing as a photographer and artist, it’s just that I feel much of my growth is lateral. That is, I believe my style has changed over time and will continue to do so as I change in interests, and discoveries, and personality. But, is this work necessarily better than work I’ve already created? Or is it different and new.

Certainly I learn new things about the medium and what I can do with it all the time. In this way my growth is definitely vertical. But again, I’m not sure that knowledge of the medium equates to better images. If that were true, wouldn’t we all be the best photographers who ever lived because we would have more knowledge and experience than any of our predecessors. The fact that we are not necessarily better image makers because of increased knowledge, expereince, and better tools is because photography is still and primarily so – an art form.

This is an image I made some ten years ago and has found it’s way into over 100 homes, an Audubon calendar, and a book project. It’s one of my earlier pieces. Had I made this image last week, I’d be equally pleased with it.



7 thoughts on “If I Only Knew Then …..

  1. Great commentary. I think I would tend to agree about my earlier work. There are some beautiful images in my collection of film – my work today is completely different than it was then though so it would be like comparing apples and oranges.

    Beautiful shot – no wonder it’s been such a successful image for you.

  2. Roberta – Thanks for the compliment. My work is less different now than your own. In many ways, I’m still seeking the same result in my work but I have certainly developed different likings.

    Lana – I appreciate your kind words, thanks for reading.

  3. Interesting stuff to think about. I recently scoured my library of past work, looking for photos that I had forgotten about or overlooked. Many of the photos I found were ones I had saved but had been unhappy with for some reason. What I discovered was that my skills (and the tools I use) had gotten better, and I was finally able to let these “B-list” photos achieve their full potential.

  4. Hey Dan,

    I’m sure I’ve tossed slides that now I wish I could have back. It’s interesting to me as well that some of my older “B-list” images no longer look that way to me solely due to my own change in tastes and perception.

  5. Hey Dan,

    I have found myself looking at older “B-list” slides and seeing them differently for the same reasons you mention. But also so just because my tastes and perceptions have changed over time.

  6. One of the reasons I hesitate to delete images now is I think I may come back upon them another day, perhaps in a different state of mind or attitude, and have a completely different opinion of them.

    I have some images I made long ago that I wouldn’t change a thing today also. But there are also those that I pretend I never shot. 🙂

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