BE AN ORIGINAL ;
For years there has been a great debate over Bob Dylan. Many people believe he was not very talented but just a copycat musician. He could sit down and listen to anyone and in no time at all play the song and mimic perfectly the performer. In fact they said his whole style is based on Woody Guthrie and he has no original style of his own. I have listened to Woody Guthrie’s music and I have found it to be true. I have come across many artists/photographers/cinematographers over the years and I rarely have found any that weren’t just copying someone else’s style. I grew up in a very musical and artistic household and have been around different kinds of artists for many years so I am speaking first hand. In my early days I was pursuing commercial art as a career. I was pretty good at drawing and in fact in grade one I recalled lately that I could draw like most adults. I drew animals with all the muscles and anatomic structure. When I was in grade 5, I was asked by my teacher to teach art to the higher grades and went from class to class teaching drawing to the senior classes. I honestly didn’t think much of this and in fact only recalled it recently while in prayer. Later I fell in love with photography and pursued that with all my heart. I bought books and magazines and studied many famous photographers from various periods. I discovered I could easily copy or mimic anyone’s style that I liked. It then occurred to me (not sure how) that I had no original style of my own but only that of others. I felt frustrated and found it difficult to find who I really was and left the whole world behind because of it. No more magazines and no more influence I had to find if I was even any good on my own. I got into other lines of work and forgot about photography for years.
Years later I was involved in a Pentecostal church and began faithful attendance. I was little naive about the Pentecostal circles and a friend showed me the way. He said you could spot a Pentecostal Preacher a mile away by the way they slick back their hair adorned with silver suits. He was right! I could see the pattern emerging. Even the congregation was nothing more than paper doll cutouts, following the crowd. There were no originals anywhere. If an original came in they were soon scorned for not following the ‘order’ and either conformed or left.
Recently over the last few years God really spoke to me about being myself and not be influenced by others. The world looks upon Christians and sees nothing more than a cult and they don’t want to be part of it. God made us all differently and it should remain that way. Recently I was waiting for my daughter after school and I saw two young men well dressed headed towards me. They were going from door to door in the neighborhood as I watched. They were obviously Jehovah Witnesses. I could spot them a mile away just like most Christians can be spotted by the world. I was wearing my leather jacket standing by my black motorcycle and they passed right by me without speaking. I laughed inside. Was I too intimidating?
Just then I spotted my daughter coming across the front lawn of the school and wearing (shock) a pink dress. I almost passed out. Here is someone that normally wears black and tight jeans and that’s who she really is. I feared she was influenced by others to conform to religious thinking and follow the cultic order in the church. She told me it was not that but friends at school that dared her and I was much relieved. Don’t get me wrong. If she liked pink dresses I would have no problem with it. It was being someone she is not through religious pressure that scared me. I always tried to teach her to follow her dreams and not someone else’s.
Now many years later and I have discovered that by putting away the books and magazines and the art I loved I became an original. My photography is my own and I am pleased with finding this. I left the commercial photography world behind and just pursued what I really like which is Fine Art photography and I am much happier for it. I have my own style, which is dark, and foreboding and I love it. Its who I am and I am not ashamed of it.
EJ Ouellette (be yourself)