Friday, September 27, 2013

Frederick H Evans

 Regarding architectual photogaphs but applicable to all subject matter,

"...try for a record of an emotion rather than a piece of topography. Wait till the building makes you feel intensely. ...Try and try again, until you find that your print shall give not only yourself, but others who have not your own intimate knowledge of the original, some measure of the feeling it originally inspired n you." --Fredrick Evans from an article published in Amateur Photography in 1903.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Nature of Photographs, by Stephen Shore

I bought this book when I was doing book reviews for NWHPC but somehow it got put aside. That is a shame. I would not be an easy book to review but it is an excellent book if you like to think about photographs.

Shore examines very succinctly four aspects; The Nature of Photographs, The Physical Level, The Depictive Level and the Mental Level. I want to share the opening of The Depictive Level. 

Photography is inherently an analytic discipline. Where a painter starts with a blank canvas and builds a picture, a photographer starts with the messiness of the world and selects a picture. A photographer standing before houses and streets and people and trees and artifacts of a culture imposes an order on the scene—amplifies the jumble by giving it structure. He or she imposes this order by choosing a vantage point, choosing a frame, choosing a moment of exposure, and by selecting a plane of focus.

That is it. A vantage point, a frame, a moment and a plane of focus. Sounds so simple but how often do we actually discuss any of these elements in talking about photographs? Do we even know how to think about these four elements? Do we know how they affect the image?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Visual Tool Box--50 Lessons for Stronger Photographs

As everyone who knows me knows, I think that after a long, long dry spell in worthwhile photographic literature we now have a half dozen outstanding photographers writing on the art of photography. At the top of that list and only because he is the most prolific  is David duChemin. Not since the days of Minor White and Ralph Hattersley Jr has there been as much written on what photography really is--not a craft but an art. Anyway, I want to keep duChemin writing so I have a tendency to highly recommend what he writes--the latest of which is The Visual Toolbox--Fifty Lessons for Stronger Photographs. It is a 40 page e-book available on the Craft and Vision web site. The price is $20 but if you use the discount code TOOLBOX you can get it for $17 for the next few days. It is worth every penny.

Here's the introduction
If I were to begin a school of photography right now it would send the geeks screaming for the hills . . . or at least avoiding my school in droves. Every student would spend one year with one camera: a fully manual 35 mm camera like the Pentax Spotmatic, or the Canon AE-1. It would have one prime lens and a light meter. Students would be restricted to black and white film only, and they’d be restricted from using anything digital except an iPhone. There’d be no magazines, and no how-to books. Students would spend a year making photographs and talking about them, and would study the work of photographers—past and present—who had something to say and made their mark in some way. They’d study stories, painting, and some art history beyond merely the annals of photographic history. For some people it would be a long, long year.

Craft and Vision

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Maybe Conundrum

NOTE: I wrote this post then had a difficult time deciding where I should post it. I originally intended it for the GW-Images Blog but then decided that it is about what I talk about on the Photovisualize Blog. Tossed a coin and it ended up here.
I often mention to people that one of the things I most enjoy about photography is what it teaches me about me. You would think that at seventy-four I would know a lot more than I would ever want to know—and I probably should but I don’t. Well, there are some things that I know that I wish I didn’t but that’s just me. I do know that I am not the same person I was five years ago or ten or whatever time frame you would care to pick. Even sot in their ways old farts like me change whether we want to or not.

Well, I got into an argument with a poster on Photonet. Nothing unusual about that but I did come out the winner—maybe not in the argument but at least in the end because I had an epiphany. I do enjoy having an epiphany because I know I am about to learn something I didn't know. A newbie asked about lens focal length for shooting portraits. I shared my opinion that focal length is immaterial and some techno geek decided to take me on by explaining that if I would look at my photographs from the diagonal of the image I would possibly change my mind. Yeah, like I’m going to worry about such minutia. I look at my photographs from however far or close I happen to be positioned away. I am not someone that you can suggest should change their mind—I have made it my place to change everyone else. Okay to straighten them out. Yeah, that is pretty much what I told the geek. LOL

However, in the process I was browsing through the ‘portraits’ I call them people pictures that I have posted to Photonet. I realized something that I was not aware of—I am backing off. I often joke that if I am going to take your photograph I want to sit on your lap to do it. I do like working in close to people. I like to get inside comfort zones. I attribute that to the fact that photographers have an easier time relating to photographs than they do to reality and being reclusive, I needed that intimacy, that closeness when I look at my photographs. 

I am not sure that is still the case. The photographs posted are in roughly a chronological order with the newer photographs at the top. Next to each other I have two folders, My Favorite Model, photographs of Janet and Friends, which is as it says photographs of friends. I first noticed it in the photographs of Janet compared to recent photographs of Alcy. The photographs of Janet are much closer—much more intimate. Okay, that can be expected because the relationships are considerably different. But then I noticed that the earlier photographs that I did of Alcy were much closer than the more recent photographs. Nowhere as close as the photographs of Janet but still noticeably closer than the newer ones.

So I started looking at all of my people pictures from bottom to top and they are all getting farther away. I find that interesting. Not exactly sure how to interpret that just now but it something that I will keep an eye on. It is simply not possible that I am becoming more reclusive—had practically maxed out on that years ago. Maybe I don’t need the closeness that I once thought I did. I mean, like I realized that I have not sat on anyone’s lap in a very long time. But I do believe there is a reason I am getting farther away and it is going to be interesting to try to understand why it is. Maybe it is age. Maybe it is preparation. Maybe it is premonition. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with photography. 

I will make this statement. When you move beyond seeing photographs as the object photographed photography becomes really, really interesting. I am not sure you can have an epiphany if you see the photograph as the object photographed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tap Your Inner Strength

The problem with most of us is that we are too soft. We follow popular option and listen to the voices that predetermine what is good or bad. We defer to the experts and neglect to nurture our own talents. We abandon our nascent curiosities, which impedes the growth of many of our best ideas. We forget that being a good photographer doesn't flow from following another's path.

Good photography comes from inner strength and resolve. It comes from your gut. It requires a private tenacity that constantly chants, I will not give up. And it comes from an unquenchable desire, no matter how unlikely, to create something magnificent and maybe even profound. -- Chris Orwig, People Pictures, p. 12