Cole Thompson and the practice of photographic celibacy

Peterhof by Cole Thompson

Cole Thompson makes lovely black and white photographs. Since I’m mystically attracted to trees, I’m including some thumbnails of his tree photos, but if you like them you should go look at his whole site.

Two Trees in Lifting Fog by Cole ThompsonHe also has a blog where he writes many interesting and useful things about creating art, for instance:

I recently taught a workshop on Vision and was discussing my practice of Photographic Celibacy. I explained that the reason I do not look at other photographer’s work is that I don’t want my Vision to be tainted by the vision and images of others. And while that is completely true, there is another reason that I am embarrassed to admit: when I look at other people’s work, I doubt my abilities and get discouraged.

When I see all the many wonderful images out there, I feel mine are inferior by comparison. When I see the great images from locations that I have photographed, I am disappointed that I did not see them. I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of great photographers out there and think: there’s no room left for me. I feel inadequate when I see so many original ideas…that I did not think of. 


I need to remember that art is not a competition.  When I create from my vision there are no losers, only winners.


Cold and Alone by Cole ThompsonI’m occassionally embarrassed by precisely the same feelings about songs. Sometimes I’ll get a recording of a songwriter I admire (here’s to you, John Lilly!) and then it will sit around for a long time before I listen to it. Partly it’s envy (the competition) and partly it’s something else: wanting to draw from what’s in me and feeling that too much exposure to the music of others gets in the way of that.  I sometimes say that after so many decades of being input-only, I’m becoming output-only, an exaggeration, but not a falsehood.




Moon and Clouds by Cole Thompson

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