We had friends around for dinner on Saturday night. After a wine or two the suggestion of Karaoke came up. Confession: by 'came up' I actually mean 'I suggested it'. We have a game for our Playstation called Singstar which is a bit like an intelligent karaoke. Not only does it play the music and show the words and the video, but it also shows bars on the screen to tell you how high or low you need to sing. If you hit the right notes then you get points for your efforts, and there's a traffic light system telling you if you're singing really well (green), or you're pretty awful (red).
In our household at least there are two approaches to Singstar. You can keep your composure, talk, even whisper, carefully oscillating your voice to hit the notes. This approach tends to work quite well.
The second approach is to jump around like a rock star (or idiot as my wife says), eyes closed, fist in the air, singing the words that come into your head in the way that you remember the song. This approach tends to feature the "you're a bit rubbish, please step away from the microphone" red light quite often.
But what they hey, I go for the second approach every time!
Y'see, the first approach may get you a better score but it's a pretty boring way of singing a song. You just sit on the sofa, quietly vocalising the words, the score pops up and you move onto the next one. Rinse and repeat.
Approach 2 is a physical workout, it makes people laugh (me most of all), and occasionally (very occasionally I might add) I knock one out the park and I get a good score too! Nobody remembers the songs sung really well quietly from the sofa. They do remember the time that the eejit jumped around on the sofa whilst murdering "I Want to Break Free" with a pair of football socks tied around his head (true story).
This made me think about how we approach our photography. Again there are at least two approaches:
- The first chases technical perfection in the making of the image. It has to hit all the right notes. It follows the rules. Fitting in is more important than personal expression. It's popular on social media. It gets loads of likes and comments and Explores. The score pops up. Success. It's time to move on to the next hit.
- You photograph what you want to photograph, how you want to photograph. You have an idea in your head and you have an urge to go with it. You can't be sure how it will turn out, but it's what you want to do. You don't care what notes you're hitting, but they sound right to your own ear. The image (performance) means more to you than the popularism (score).
Approach 2 is the honest approach, just being yourself. You blast out the tune how you want to and everything else is what it is. When the mic/camera's in your hand and you close your eyes to the world it's just you and the song/photograph. You don't care about anything else. It probably won't sound like the original, but it won't be a poor imitation either.
Ultimately the score at the end of the song doesn't mean anything. Imagine if your eulogy read, "over his lifetime he was featured on Flickr's Explore over 1000 times, he collected over one hundred thousand Facebook faves and comments and was retweeted a million times". Ugh.
I wouldn't want to suggest technical perfection isn't important, or that making work other people care about isn't important, because they are. But with an honest approach they are just part of the process, and a byproduct of that process, rather than being its purpose. The most important thing is to make the photographs that you want to make regardless of what fellow camera club members, Flickr commenters or tweeters tell you.
You may not yet know what photographs it is that you want - need - to make. But the wonder of photography is that if you keep trying to sing with your own voice rather than over worrying about what others think, your true voice will reveal itself over time. It truly is about the journey and it's an ongoing process of self discovery. Better to enjoy that by jumping around rather than quietly imitating whilst sitting on the sofa I think. Go and grab that mic. And the football socks!