I got to the Hokusai show at NGV on a rainy Friday afternoon and the collection of work did not disappoint. Viewing the great wave off Kanagawa, I could understand what Van Gogh meant when he said;
these waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it”
The fishermen and their boats are dwarfed by this almost tsunami like force of water bearing down on them. It’s not something you get to appreciate until you see the original up close, as so many re interpretations of this iconic image leave them out.
It also made me think about the two other artisans involved and that relationship. To produce the woodblock prints, Hokusai’s illustrations were stuck to wooden blocks that were then carved into the different colour separations for printing. The final work shows their skills as much as the artists.
In a photographic context, Annie Leibovitz or Albert Watson work with teams who create sets, do costumes, makeup, lighting and post production. That’s important to consider when you try setting your goals to match their output but don’t have access to that team. It’s easy to be disheartened if you get sucked into comparisons.
Don’t view that lack of resources just as a limitation, rather it’s an opportunity to learn those aspects and having a hands on understanding of what those people do will develop your understanding of what is possible. It’s also an opportunity to seek out people in those fields for creative collaboration.
It’s also good to look at the work produced without the cadre of assistants and see that the fundamentals of what makes a good image are still present. No amount of additional people will save you from trying to work on a bad idea and subsequently producing a bad image.