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?

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