Many of the greatest photographers I know (or know of) are also musicians. Ansel Adams was a concert pianist. Tony Sweet is a jazz drummer. Roberto Valenzuela is a classical guitarist. Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame is a serious photographer who founded one of the first fine-art, digital print-making studios using IRIS printers, etc.
I myself have been a life-long musician. My mother was a music teacher and made me take lessons – one hour of music for every hour of football practice. I hated it at the time, but later in life was thankful enough to set my college minor in guitar performance.
Music has always played some part in my photography. I often write the music I use for my slide shows and even occasionally perform it live. I also love editing photos to music and sometimes think musically while trying to see like a photographer. I experience this most often when I make landscape photos, but it can apply to any type of photography.
I think that its indeed possible to hear the light as well as see it. The two disciplines (photography and music) share many traits. As a musician AND a photographer, I am likely to use phrases like: texture, dynamics, pattern, rhythm, repetition, energy, color, tone, shape, form, line, balance, harmony, dissonance, dominance, weight, or perspective.
Those of you familiar with my writings know I constantly talk about telling stories with your camera. Musicians are story-tellers too. The same sort of effortless exchange of ideas, whether they are in the form of a song or a photo, lead us to the eventuality that we can apply things learned in one discipline when practicing another. For example:
I strongly believe its possible that you could learn to become a better photographer by learning to play a musical instrument. Why? How? Its simple. When I am writing, performing, recording or producing music, a different part of me takes over. I don’t think nearly as much as I usually do. Instead – I feel. Thinking less and feeling more is a one-way ticket to amazing things when youre talking about the creative process.
But I also think theres value in the math, the practice, the discipline that goes into becoming a good musician. All of these traits are also valuable in photography. While everyone wants to be a rock star, only a few people take music lessons and the same goes for photography. Simply owning a camera won’t get it done. You have to want it. You have to have something personal to say. You have to want to share it. You have to practice. You have to practice often. You have to get the basics down so well that you don’t even think about them. THEN you get to do that thing that quality musicians AND photographers do – you get to jam. You get to riff on an idea. You get to see where that takes you creatively. You get to see what FEELING a photograph is like rather than thinking an idea to death.
I know this will be out there for some of you. Im fine with that. Im writing this for those of you who are open to exploring other art forms in order to become better photographers. Roll this idea around in your mind for a while and try experimenting with music and how it can become a part of what you do as a photographer. I think you’ll be excited by the results.
Oh and in case you are wondering, while writing this post I have been listening to guitar virtuoso Alex de Grassi, and yes, I think it made the post a little better than it would have been otherwise.