"Only 12 notes a man can play..."
Despite the fact that this line ignores a huge tradition of music outside of the rather confining 12-note structure, and despite that it also ignores more than half the planet in terms of gender, the beasties had it mostly right when they penned Shadrach. Because when you think about it, we're all playing from the same set of notes. Yet there are millions of songs.
In other words, everything is a remix. It’s a popular refrain nowadays on the ol’ internet. This concept can be a bit daunting thing to think about when trying to create, in the way being strapped to a board with a wet piece of cloth over your face can make you feel a tad suffocated. When everything is a remix, it can feel like it’s impossible to come up with something new that’s gonna tear the roof off the world. But the flipside is that it’s also freeing. If there isn’t anything truly new ever, then you’re free from that pressure. Now you can use those notes (or pixels, or paints, or words…) to create an expression for the emotion, thought, or idea you want to express. And your expression of the idea will be unique, thanks in part to technique, but largely due to the fact that humans are complex and often f-d up units that can’t help but bring their baggage and perspective to everything they do.
I don’t have to look any farther than the currently raging Tiny Card Challenge (if I use capital letters it makes it a Real Thing), a project that my buddy Erik Hecht and I did last week. Erik and I share a love for nuance, and often end up taking pictures of similar subjects. We’re also camera nerds, and use similar equipment. But that’s where the similarity ends. I’m constantly blown away by how beautiful his images are, and how he brings a feeling of light to what he captures. In his introduction to the challenge he talks about how he future proofs his world and shoots in a way that is flexible for reinterpretations of his images down the line. I'm more of a capture it now, save it in an unfindable place until the hard drive turns to a brick, and then breath a sigh of relief when it's all gone and I can start over, fresh and organized this time. (Yeah right.) Of course, he's a pro that makes his living with his images, and I'm just a guy filling bottles with flammable liquids, stuffing rags into ‘em, lighting them and tossing them as far as I can.
I found a good example of the impact of technique and perspective as part of Erik’s Tiny Card Challenge images. In his collection, there was a beautiful shot of a fine German automobile. I also took a picture of a fine German automobile. Only mine was smashed up in front of a body shop, lonely and awaiting repair. Where Erik's was rendered with smooth, continuous tones, I bashed my imaged even further until there wasn't an undecided midtone left. As I tweaked the image to render what I saw in the subject, it made me smile, much in the way I'm sure Erik's beatific BMW made him smile.
The images are side-by-side below. I think it’s a good example of how similar elements, compositions, and subjects can end up in totally different places when different people get involved. And to me, that's a beautiful thing.