The other day in the Wall Street Journal, there was a great section on the “All Things Digital” conference that took place a while ago. Particularly interesting – and relevant to create types like photographers – was the interview with James Cameron.
Cameron is known for some of the most successful movies of all time: “Avatar,” “Titanic,” “Terminator,” and “Aliens.” In addition to being HUGE box office successes, each of those movies (franchises) is known for their incredible use of technology. Each was at the cutting edge, pushing the boundaries of what technology could do for film-making at the time.
So, it was really interesting to me, to read some of Cameron’s views on technology vs the story. Here’s what he said about the use of 3-D in the movie “Avatar.”
98% of my work as a director is not about the [technology]. It’s choosing the actors, writing the story, designing the world, designing the creatures, the characters, the plants, the color palette, composing the shots, mixing the music.
Film-making is about story-telling, and Cameron is a story-teller. First and foremost, he’s about the story. That’s the art. That’s the reason for making the movie. The technology simply supports the story. When asked about how the distribution of movies is changing – with so many people consuming movies on iPads, iPhones, etc, Cameron says:
..I don’t make movies for iPhones, I make them for the big screen. But the reality is, good narrative, good story, good acting, all of those things scale.
I want to talk about those two quotes for a minute, and offer some insight into how this might effect our lives as photographers.
First, I completely agree that photography is NOT about the technology. Being a photographer isn’t about photoshop, or Lightroom, or actions, or whatever. It’s about light, and composition, and the interaction of subjects and context. Think about that for a minute. Actually – say it out loud. Our craft is about capturing light – and everything that goes into it. It’s about using all of that incredible technology to tell a story.
Second, it’s worth asking, what are you creating your “art” for? Are you creating images for “iPhones,” or are you creating them for the “big screen?” Or, another way of looking at it is, what’s the primary way you intend for your work to be experienced. Does it scale? You might wonder whether it really matters – but I assure you it does. Here’s why.
I create work for the album – for physical prints. That’s my “big screen.” In addition, I’m okay with people viewing images on their iPhone, iPad, or whatever. My goal is to design art that does, in fact, scale. On the other hand, if I simply hand over a disc of images to my clients after a wedding, that’s it. There’s no scale. There’s no “big screen.” There’s nothing else.
Sure, I want people to experience the work I create in many ways. I don’t want to limit the way they consume the story – I want them to choose what works best. But I photograph for the big screen, and I always keep that in mind. I’m shooting for the story – the story that will be told in an album. I’m shooting for that image that a couple will want to display in their home as a 20×30 matted and framed print, or a 30×40 canvas.
It was really encouraging to me, to hear from one of the most successful film-makers – and one of the best innovators in his industry – that the story (the art) is still the reason for creating. Everything else is just scale.
So, how about you? What’s the most important thing for your art – the technology, or the story? Are you shooting for the big screen?
Written by Jason Aten
Jason Aten is a Michigan based wedding photographer. After a career in marketing and sales management for a Fortune 100 company, Jason became relentlessly drawn to the ability to impact people’s lives through photography. So in 2001 he quit his job to start his own photography business. Jason applies his previous marketing and sales experience to his photography business and now takes the time to educate others with his “Starting Out Right” one-day intensives and resource guides. You can find more posts like this on the Starting Out Right blog.