Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Rule of Thirds

Okay, for the next two hundred and fifty pages or so I am going to explain why camera club photographers are so hung up on the Rule of Thirds—I generally preface that as the asinine rule of thirds. 

Let me start by saying that if you think there is something special about the rule of thirds that is okay. There is nothing wrong with that. But it would be best if you avoided reading the rest of my comments. I simply have a different way of seeing photography.

Actually it will not require two hundred and fifty pages, only one paragraph of one sentence: 

Photography is hard.

It is very hard. The easier cameras become to use the harder photography becomes. To move beyond a picture taker who does point and shoot [which incidentally does not require using a point and shoot camera—an expensive DSLR will work just fine for point and shoot] requires learning not only camera technique and post processing; it requires understanding the visual language of photography and being able to use that language. 

Because it is hard some people look for short cuts like the rules about thirds, rules about subject placement, rules about the horizon line, rules about color, depth of field, sharpness—a lot of very simplistic formulas for creating simplistic, mediocre and boring photographs. These people are not photographers—they are rule bound picture takers. I would go so far as to say they never see photographs. They don’t look to see photographs; they look to see rules or infractions of rules. Some people never understand what a disservice they are doing to their creative energies, abilities when they become embroiled in these rules. Some will never ever get past them. They will be destined to lifetimes of imitating the clichés that have been done millions of times before. Nothing, absolutely nothing that adheres to rules comes any place near being art—never has, never will.

There is purpose in these rules with the following caveat: for beginners. They do help the beginning photographer who is so overwhelmed with all that has to be learned. It is baby talk to be set aside as the photographer becomes more knowledgeable.  No one should be doomed to baby talk their entire lives yet photographers seem very willing to give themselves up to nothing less. I used to refer to these rules as the conventional wisdoms I have decided they are really the conventional impediments. They stand in your way of ever realizing what photography is, of ever discovering your personal vision.

As long as you look at only photographs produced by camera clubbers or on the Internet forums you will never understand that is not photography—it is very imitative, very formulated mediocre picture taking. If that upsets you or makes you mad; that’s too bad. No, it’s sad. If I am stepping on toes you have a choice, look to a different source for your photographic inspiration—inside yourself, to the history of photography, to the work that led up to today’s photography, to writers that talk about the meanings of technique rather than how to achieve techniques. 

I started this group for those that want more from their photography. It is a waste of the time to argue with those that think there is something special in the rule of thirds.

Learning to See, David DuChemin

The following is from the current issue of Photograph, A quarterly magazine for creative photographers:   

The very idea that seeing is an art to be learned appeals to me, for one of the great gifts of the camera is that it teaches us to see the world around us in new ways, and the more we spend time with this silent tutor, the more we see, if we’re willing to be taught. How, then, do we learn to see? I’ve read plenty to suggest we can’t learn this at all, that you either have an artistic eye or you do not. I don’t buy it. True, we all see differently, and some see the world in a way so perpendicular compared to most of us that we call them geniuses. It’s equally true that some people will never see much differently than they do now, but I think that says more about their willingness to learn than it does about whether a change in seeing can be learned.

How do you feel about the way you see? What do you do that you feel helps you see better? Do you believe that ‘seeing’ is a innate talent or can a person learn to see. 

Photography is available as download as ebook from Craft and Vision. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Duane Michals

The best part of us is not what we see, it's what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at . . .. We're not our eyeballs, we're our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they're totally wrong . . .. That's why I consider most photographs extremely boring--just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It's just boring. But that whole arena of one's experience--grief, loneliness--how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It's all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don't have to go anywhere. - Duane Michals  

If you look at a photograph, and you think, 'My isn't that a beautiful photograph,' and you go on to the next one, or 'Isn't that nice light?' so what? I mean what does it do to you or what's the real value in the long run? What do you walk away from it with? I mean, I'd much rather show you a photograph that makes demands on you, that you might become involved in on your own terms or be perplexed by. -  Duane Michals  

And in not learning the rules, I was free. I always say, you're either defined by the medium or you redefine the medium in terms of your needs. - Duane Michals 

The only thing we know for sure is what we experience. If you look at a photograph of somebody crying, you register grief. But in fact, you don't know what people are experiencing at all. You're always protecting your version of what that emotion is. What is known is only what I know. The only truth I know is my own experience. I don't know what it means to be black. I don't know what it means to be a woman. I don't know what it means to be Cartier-Bresson. So I have to define my work in terms of my own truth. That's what the journey is all about, if you are to use your own instincts. The great wonder is that we each have our own validity, our own mysteries. It's the sharing of those gifts that makes artists artists. - Duane Michals

My gift to you is that I am different. - Duane Michals - in an interview with Anne Tucker

I am an expressionist and by that I mean that I'm not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs. – Duane Michals

 Duane Michals bio on Wikipedia