What Is Your Practice?

Feb 20, 2016 / Photography

I started photographing about 12 years ago, and that was at the same time that discovered 101cookbooks. I wanted to be a food photographer then, and I was in love with this food blog by San Francisco photographer, Heidi Swanson. Along the way, she published a couple of cookbooks (which I own), won a lot of awards, opened an online store, Quitokeeto. But at the very core of her work is always 101cookbooks.

She posted an article over a year ago about maintaining a long-term blog. She’s been posting for over a dozen years now, and it is so inspiring how she has done this. I re-read the post recently, as I’m figuring out how I can stick with a consistent blogging schedule.

There are a lot of gems of advice in that article. In reading it, there is one word that I’ve never forgotten. I read this article over a year ago so it made an impression on me!

The word is äóìpractice.äóù

Heidi Swanson says of her site:

Here’s how I approach this site, and have for a long time. I think of it as my practice. It’s something I’m committed to, and look forward to being committed to for years to come. Contributing something new each week helps me develop in areas that I find important creatively - cooking, writing, taking photographs - and the only way I’m able to grow is through experience, experimentation, and regular practice.

I’ve heard this from other artists as well, although the term that is used is “artistic practice.” The first time I heard this phrase, it sounded exclusive and arrogant. I now realize that was just my insecurity and ambivalence (at becoming an artist). Lawyers have their “law practice,” accountants have their “accounting practice,” so why can’t artists have their “artistic practice?” I’m more comfortable in using that phrase these days.

So what is my current artistic practice?

Well, I’m a photographic artist whose entire artistic practice is focused on figuring out how to tell a plot-driven story using only pictures. How can the three-act structure of Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution (found in novels, movies, comic books, and graphic novels), be applied to fine art photography—without resorting to dialogue, text, or sound effects? It’s an interesting question that I want to solve.

What about you, what is your “practice?”

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