As part of the journey to become a better (& more creative) photographer, I’ve studied the works of many of the greats that have defined generational moments with their pictures. One of these brilliant photographers is Saul Leiter.
Saul was known for capturing intimate, ethereal moments in everyday life. He shot street scenes in New York City with longer lenses like the 90mm (or even longer), which goes against the journalistic standard of the 35mm. A good amount of street photography is shot between 28 and 50mm.
Still… isn’t that art? Going against the standard, I mean.
I don’t think Saul cared much about what was standard.
I believe he was searching for moments that had grit or soul. He just happened to tell those stories better with longer lenses. As I settle into my own art-making path, I tend to find the compression of longer lenses fits my eye better.
Saul was a lifelong student of many kinds of art. He tinkered. He tried. He explored. There were created photos and paintings and paint on photos over his life.
The end goal of a specific photograph (& art) is to leave the viewer “feeling something.” Saul believed that “a photographer’s gift to the viewer is sometimes beauty in the overlooked ordinary.”
This statement itself is beautiful.
It takes a creative set of minds willing to slow down and look again to see what might be different to find beauty in the overlooked ordinary.
Creativity drives progress, and progress often requires a village to be realized in our large, complex industry.
Simple answers that could make a significant impact are overlooked all the time.
For starters, uncovering healthcare’s problems isn’t that big of a deal. Many of the issues discussed today are the same ones that existed 10, 20 or 30 years ago. This feeling of environmental sameness makes it easy to stop seeing answers that are right up front.
It can be tedious work to tread over the same headline issues each year. This can put an executive’s mind in a rut.
Saul worked hard on finding interesting things in the normalcy of life. Even though the place may be the same, the environmental factors are different each time a photographer visits.
This is true for the executive hearing about the same stuff for years. In reality, there will be a time when a familiar environment becomes more favorable for seeing something different. It takes having a mindset that 99 trips to the same place might produce similar results; but, there’s always that one time when the forces align differently.
The key when carrying a camera is to show up ready to see and to confidently act as the world opportunistically unfolds. I spend a lot of time helping executives embrace that serendipity is a core ingredient to success.
Every industry that has changed is usually driven by stories of new thinkers seeing novel ways to solve an existing problem. In many cases, the incumbents glossed over the same trends. They talked about similar solutions. But, they didn’t act on what they saw because of the new style they might have to craft.
In photography speak, these incumbents opted not to take the shot because the output might not fit. They let someone else do it and claim the newfound art.
Established photographers (and artists) go through the same incumbent issues once they’ve established a brand. It’s hardest to create the next thing when expectations are already linked to an established style. But… the best artists and companies figure out how to keep creating.
We’re in an industry optimized to finance providers & services & devices & drug makers who then take up the order of keeping folks healthy. As we keep turning toward serving people on their unique healthcare pathways, I think we’ll keep finding more beauty sitting in the ordinary.
The question becomes, “What will be done with what we see?”