Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Discussing Workshop, Ruth Bernhard

The following is from an article in Aperture where photographers discussed their methods for handling workshops. 

A person interested in expressing with a camera should have a wide range of interests; joi de vivre is vital ingredient too. Everything we know, feel, have ever experienced provides the basic elements for our creativity.

One of the first assignments I set for my students involves the question of communication. We begin at the verbal level because photographers, regardless of their ability, are usually more word-minded than visual-minded. Even so, since we are dealing with something which is deeply important to them, few students are able really to be articulate when talking about their own work. This, of course, creates a block when, for example, I may ask a student to tell me why he chose a stairway to photograph. Usually we do not get very far. But in general discussion the group as a whole can analyze the pictures freely, for they feel more detached from the image. But they are not as detached as they believe; at this point they simply are unaware that in talking about photographs they really are talking about themselves.

By this and other exercises I try to bring to the students a fuller awareness that photographic images can reach into dimensions that words cannot touch. As the Haiku poem of Japanese literature, the expressive photograph provides many implications to carry the viewer to poetic imagery. The beginning student, however, finds that before he can reach out to others he must first become acquainted with his own feeling and clarify his relationship with himself. In the process of visual exploration he discovers himself in photographs which cause him to respond.

For most of my students this is a new approach to looking at photographs. All have had some experience with the camera and know at least a little technique, but with this method they soon realize that, although taking a photograph is easy, putting one’s vision into film and into a print is quite a different matter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Photographic Style by Michael Gregory

The following is from an article written by Michael Gregory for Aperture Magazine.

"It is important to understand that the photograph is not merely the recording of that experience, but rather its symbolic equivalent."

"What do we mean by “symbolic equivalent?” The nearest definition, I think, is that which T.S. Eliot provided for poetry: that poetry is the “objective correlative” of an experience which is in itself unveralizable, beyond rational, logical language. The poem, Eliot says, is a kind of formula for the experience which, though it uses language, surpasses it, and enables the poet to communicate the incommunicable."

"The same hold true, I would assert, for photography. How do we know when we are in the presence of a photograph which is symbolic equivalent for an experience—a photograph possessing “style”? We know it by the quality of our response: the depth and intensity and unspeakableness of the emotional reaction we feel within us as we view the photograph.. We can tell, too, by the uniqueness of that response. If we feel what we have never, in just the same way, before, we know we are confronting style. For style can never be cliché: these are the old irreconcilable enemies. If we are viewing, let us say, the photograph of a forlorn child holding a torn and grimy doll and we say, “the poor thing!” we are in the presence of cliché, not style. If, on the other hand, we say nothing and feel a strange and unique admixture of emotions to which the cliché exclamation would be blasphemy, we know that we are in the power of photographic style—the exact equivalent of an indescribable, memorable emotional response."

"I nevertheless conclude that a better definition of photographic style might be something like this: the recorded insight. This is probably no worse, and perhaps a little better, than most of the definitions we have. It nevertheless returns the emphasis where it belongs: out of the camera, away from the object, back into the very eye of the photographer."