These days, I am reading a book on the history of mathematics. Mathematics is a fascinating subject, and one of my regrets, is that I had a lousy professor in my first year of engineering. He almost completely killed my interest in the subject for years.
Anyway, I read about Andrew Wiles. He is the gent who solved Fermat’s Last Theorem, and it was about 350 years between the writing of the theorem and the solving of it. Popular myth, it seems, had portrayed both as solitary geniuses, however, a closer reading of their history reveals that they were in active touch with many mathematicians. The author then says that mathematics, and mathematical study, is a very social exercise, with mathematicians often sharing ideas with each other.
He contrasts this with, for instance, literature, which he believes is a more solitary exercise.
Ideas, however, tend to migrate. In the 6th century AD, Indian mathematicians developed the numbering system that we use today. It was in the 7th century that the Arabs started to come to India, and they imbibed this system, which travelled with them to Europe. The Hindu numerals, or Hindu-Arabic numerals, as they were later called, became the world’s numbering system.
You may ask, what does this have to do with photography?
Is photography a solitary or collaborative pursuit?
I do go out with people, on occasion, to shoot. There are times, when we need assistants. However, for me, I like to shoot (especially when I am working on my private projects) alone. It allows me to be who I am. I choose my times, my conversations (with people on the street), my schedules, my angles, my food, and my readings.
However, when I look at the works of other people, they inspire me. Laura Macky, for instance, put me onto luminosity masks. I look at the portraits of John Smith, and I love them. I follow many photographers on 500px and Facebook, and they inspire me. I learn from their styles and techniques.
I watch videos, I read books, and I keep learning and adapting my style.
The development of my style, my technique, my skill is then not just a solitary exercise. It depends on the input that I receive from photographers across the world.
Is photography then, a solitary pursuit? Or a collaborative one, sometimes passive, and other times active?
My photographic vision, and the development of this journey, is mine and mine alone. Yet, to feed it, I need inputs and feedback and ideas from people across the world.
What is your take on this?