Sunday, April 09, 2006

On being an outsider

I have always been an outsider. In school I was not a macho sportsman, I was not clever enough to be a nerd and I was not contented to follow the main body of students. I was and still am a person carrying in me a world of dreams. I just wanted to be like Ged, the wizard hero in Ursula K. Leguin's Wizard of Earthsea. It is one of the earliest books I remember reading. Ged was a powerful wizard. But because he dabbled in magic that he is not supposed to, he releases a shadow into the world that threatens to destroy him. Through a huge struggle he finally overcomes this shadow. Ged is not an action hero. He is a person who was born with some talent and trained to become the greatest wizard in earthsea.

I guess that I have always wanted to be extremely capable, not in an obvious showy way. I just want to train to make sure that I fully realize the potential of the talent I have. I want to be able to scale the mountains that I set my eyes.

There is a part of me that has always hated extreme competition. This applied to sports, chess and even student rankings in school. This is why I have always preferred activities like dance, rollerblading and kite flying.

Along the same lines, I don't think that the mountains that I want to climb ever put me up against the main stream of people. Not that I do not face competition, but in something like photography, the competition is not really head to head. At least not the way I chart my path.

What do I mean? I mean that I am not in photography to be able to shoot what the bulk of commercial photographers shoot. I have a storehouse of personal experiences, tastes and ideas. I will let all that non-photography stuff in my life help me create a unique photographic viewpoint and style.

As always I am outsider. There are so many commercial photographers who follow the trends and make copies of other people's work. I was told by a commercial photographer when I was starting out that I should know lighting so that if an art director gave me someone else's work, I would be able to recreate the lighting exactly. That just went against my grain. I want people to hire me because they like my lighting or the way I shoot. I do not want to be a jack of all trades, I want to be the best Ngiap Heng I can be. I can only be a second class ...... (put the name of any great photographer you like here).

So I do my own projects. I choose what I want to learn and with whom. I take what I need and leave what I do not. I let people influence me if it helps me along my way. I am a stubborn ass if someone wants to bring me on another path or a detour.

Which brings me here. I have an interesting hodgepodge of work. I have yet to develop a coherent style. This is my weakest point right now. Still I think that people have already begun to appreciate the fact that I am my own photographer. Clients that hire me realize that I can give them something other photographers cannot. I need to create that distinctive vision.

It has been a long lonely preparation and journey to the base of my mountain. Now begins the climb upwards! If I did not need to do my work in the commercial sector, I would have preferred to climb this mountain isolated from the public eye. Still, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am not doing anything illegal or immoral. I am just scaling a photographic mountain, hoping to see into magical horizons.


Anonymous said...

Best Wishes to you!
I really enjoy your writing!

pfong said...

It's Spider bunny! Too cool.

Anonymous said...

Well, unlike other competitive sport, you can't exactly quantify art. In sports, you can always say, "I'm faster than you" or "I can jump higher and further than you".

Whereas art, how do you say, "My art is better than your art"?

Of course, in art there is always a place for criticism and judgement of the work; a place where you can explain why it is "better" or "worse" (within context). It's not always as simple as "I like it / I hate it", although you certainly can if you choose. There is a place for producing art within an understanding of taste, cultural relevance, and historical context, and thus judging it from that perspective. And even so, it's no necessary as clear as a sprinter who reaches the end of the track before everyone does.

Nontheless, that being said, art cannot be competitive. I think it is only competition for the artist himself to constantly evolve, grow and mature. You are in a sense, competing against your old self, your previous work -
and even so; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


Heng said...

That is what I like about my pursuits. I am just go up against myself most of the time. :) And it is cool when things go well. But you are right, there are times when things go downhill as well.