Could a quote by Irving Penn and Hannibal Lecter have something in common?
"I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it long enough. That's the curse of being a photographer."
"We begin by coveting what we see every day."
Obsession. It is such a negatively charged word. But does it have to be? Is it always negative? I read the Irving Penn quote the other day, and came to think of the scene in Silence of the Lambs when Lecter asks Clarice why she thinks Buffalo Bill does the things he does. Two very different quotes, but touching on the same thing: seeing and obsession. I obsess too, as a photographer. When I shoot still life’s or art for commerce I can spend hours and hours setting up, moving things around, shooting, setting the light, moving things around again, a millimetre to the left, two millimetres backwards. Shooting, checking, moving. There are certain things an image should have: unity, balance, lines, etc but I never think about it consciously. It is just there by default, in my head, and then I tweak and tweak and tweak until it all falls into place. I obsess.
It ain't all bad
And I don’t think it is a bad thing. Sure, it would be different if I killed and skinned people to make myself a human suit, but by being a perfectionist in the work I do, I think obsession is a good thing. It is almost a requirement. If you want to be good at something, they say you should spend at least 10.000 hours practicing it.That is a lot of hours. It is just over 416 days, nonstop. I have probably photographed for that many hours, and I am a perfectionist, and I obsess. But there is always room for improvement, isn't there? That's part of being a perfectionist too.
So excuse me while I obsess a little...