Wayne Hinshaw: In search of myself

Published 2:42 am Monday, November 17, 2014

Always searching for a better understanding of myself and the photography that I undertake, I have recently been studying the work of Duane Michals and Alex Cretey. Actually, they are not alike at all, so it makes a wonderful contrast to plug myself into their way of thinking.

Michals is an American-born 81-year-old photographer who describes himself as being “self taught in photography,” much like myself. He says, “I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photography. The magic is in seeing people in new ways.”

Some photographers search for a “style” or way of doing their work. Some are content in establishing “their approach” to a subject and never vary from that approach.  Maybe they make some changes to their style, but they pretty much stick with the same approach over and over during their careers.

Michals is not one of these photographers. He has always pushed himself to never go with any approach over and over again. He has always looked for new forms and approaches. He said, “My pictures are more about questions, not about answers.” He likes to enter “text” into his photos. He likes to incorporate emotions and philosophies into his photos. He uses photos as his thought process sometimes more than a visual process. He defines himself as a “short story writer” more than a photographer. Don’t miss my point here. He uses the camera, through photos, to “write the short stories.”

Alex Cretey is a French photographer involved with fine arts photos and editorial work. He takes simple, straightforward photos. Writer Christian Caujolle said of Cretey, “We recognize — or think we recognize— everything in these photographs: situations, landscapes, people, who could be neighbors, friends, even family members. Nothing spectacular, but a gentle strangeness, attention paid to tiny details, moments suspended in time …”

His images are pleasant and peaceful with many details included, whether it be a landscape, the interior of a home, a child sitting in the garden or his wife and child on the beach under an umbrella. Such works are so simple and realistic, we can easily ignore the pictorial magic contained in each image.

Well, I am neither of these photographers. But in studying their work and their philosophies in approaching a subject,  I hope to be a little like both men. I like to think that I capture the simplest straight forwardphotos full of detail like Cretey.

Yet, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into a repeatable style in my work.

I have many readers tell me they can always tell my photos at first glance. It sounds like I have a repeatable style so I would not be like Michals. It is hard not to develop a style that works for me after years of photography.

I like to think that my photos ask questions of the subject but provide some of the answers. I do think that on each assignment my photos do, very much, tell a short story in photos. Editors have told me that they can take my photo cutlines and place them end to end and they make a copy block or short story. That pleases me.

Maybe I am like Michals in this way. Like Michals, I, too, like for you to see my emotions and philosophies in my photos when you look deeply at the content.

Maybe I have said enough on the subject. I like to challenge myself sometimes and not be too comfortable in the “pleasure zone” of my work. I need to push out of that area of comfort in my work, to create new work.