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Wisdom from the Masters: Norman Kent

Wisdom from the Masters: Norman Kent | Blue Skies Mag i67: July 2015 | blueskiesmag.com
Written by Norman Kent

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Originally printed in issue #67 (July 2015) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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It’s real easy to just have fun and go shoot pictures; the real issue is what happens to them next. My motivation for photography has always been to share. To share the beauty I see. To share how in love I am with skydiving, how in love I am with the environment, how in love I am with the world. From the very first time I decided to shoot, my motivation was thinking, “Wow, this is beautiful and I would love the world to see it.” And that has never changed.

When you have a passion about sharing and you actually embrace that as part of your photography then you can become passionate about the methods for sharing. And that’s one of the key things: Become passionate about the whole process, not only about the photography. Because after all, if you shoot the photography and it goes nowhere, it’s almost like you didn’t shoot it. If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, did it make a sound?

We live in community, especially now with this huge social media revolution. You may be creating great photography but it really doesn’t exist until it exists in community. And I don’t mean just quickly uploading everything to Facebook, which is convenient but opens a whole other can of worms in terms of quality and it’s not always a positive outcome. How you distribute your work and how it is perceived is of most importance.

You get more when you have a goal than when you just make what you’re doing the goal.

Flying is a clear example for me. I’m not the best flyer in the world. Yet I still am an in-demand photographer so somehow my flying is enough to get me where I want to be on skydives, especially ones that change directions and go fast and so forth. However, when I’m training I’m horrible; it’s like I’m thinking, “Okay do this position to achieve that and try this move, etc.” and it’s horrible. When I’m great is when I’m not thinking flying—when flying is just a way to get there so I can do my photography. All I’m thinking is capturing images and my body takes me where I need to go. The same thing goes for the photography. If you focus on expression, the photography itself becomes easy.

What do you want to do that photography is a tool for?

If all you want is great pictures, what do you want those pictures for? If you have a desire to express something, whether it’s beauty or love, anger, whatever it is, then the photography becomes a tool and it’s not as important. It takes a lighter side and it becomes easier to learn.

What do you stand for in life?

Why do you want to do photography? If your answer is, I just wanna get a job so I can jump a lot but I don’t really care about photography, then it will be hard to excel in the way that we’re talking about here as far as what makes unique photography stand out. What makes unique photography stand out is the unique content of your motives, your motivations and what you stand for. These emotions become part of the image and are felt by the viewers.

What makes unique photography stand out is the unique content of your motives, your motivations and what you stand for. These emotions become part of the image and are felt by the viewers.

For me, I want my photography to signify creativity, love, courage, beauty—powerful things—and that’s what I want my images to convey. I try to get beauty independent of what’s happening in front of the camera. The formation may go bad but if I capture a beautiful picture of it going bad, to me it was beautifully executed—a group of people went out and attempted this beautiful thing and maybe it didn’t happen exactly as they planned or hoped, but it was still a beautiful execution of an attempt. It is “being.”

What can you get back from photography?

Imagine, for instance, you’re trying to convey a message of the beauty of the sport and you go up and you see an environment that’s changing. You notice how the clouds are changing, how they fit into the kind of skydiving you’re doing, what the group is doing and you make creative decisions and then you all of a sudden you come back with a great image. Even if it seems like luck, because I thrive on luck. I’ve been lucky for more than forty years. When you do that, it’s not the photography that you got; you got a chance to live this experience in your life. People search for these experiences their whole lives. So to actually get up there and see this and go after it and capture a, b, or c—whether it was what you planned to capture or something else, you had an experience of various emotions in a special state of mind. That “trying to get something,” whether you got it or not, and this whole thing made you in that space and time the person you are now by experiencing it. Isn’t that what we’re all after? What do you want out of life? If that doesn’t give you a buzz, I don’t know what will.

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