January 21st, 2013, 12:48 AM
What Do Your Photographs Say About You?
From Guy Tal's Blog: The Concept | Guy Tal Photography Journal
Real food for thought before you post an image to the internet!
Guy Tal | January 13, 2013 |
The following essay was originally published in Landscape Photography Magazine.
When teaching photography workshops I always emphasize the importance of starting an image with a concept – the thing that stops you in your tracks and whispers in your ear “there’s something here worth photographing.” A concept has no visual characteristics, and the role of the photographer is to find a way of expressing it through line, form, color and composition. What the concept does have is meaning – a message, an emotion, a statement, a metaphor, or a story. The resulting image is not a picture of something, but, rather, a picture about something.
Regrettably, many photographers never consider the need for an image to have a concept. In fact, it seems that most pursue the opposite approach: they set out in search of aesthetically pleasing subjects and compositions, without considering any ulterior meaning to be expressed through them.
This may be the equivalent of writing a text in beautiful hand-drawn calligraphy, while paying no attention to the actual meaning of the words. In both cases a viewer may be momentarily impressed with the artist’s skill but ultimately find little to hold their attention or enrich their experience beyond it.
When in the field with a group of students, I often ask them to articulate their thoughts about the scene – what they feel about it and what makes them feel that way. It is surprising that while all humans share an understanding of the visual language and are affected by such things as graceful lines, bold color, visual order, etc. few are able to express themselves in it. At an early stage it is worth trying to articulate the concept in actual words. This helps bridge the gap between the spoken language, which most of us are taught to communicate effectively in, and the visual language. This may be the equivalent of learning how to translate simple expressions from your native tongue to one you are not as fluent in. Still, it is worth keeping in mind that, like any language, the visual language also has its own expressions and nuances that may not be expressible in others.
Legendary film director Federico Fellini expressed what, to me, is one of the most profound truths about art when he said that all art is autobiographical. This simple sentence illustrates the gravity and importance of thinking about our images as more than just attractive photographs. Someone who had not yet understood this premise may ask: “is this a good image?” The serious artist, however, knows that a far more important question is: “what does this image say about me?” Do your images say that you are creative? lazy? thoughtful? formulaic? sensitive? an imitator? an artist? unique? generic? When you consider that the image reflects the person who made it, you must also acknowledge that everything that may be said about your image is ultimately said about you. More than that, it means that you have the power to control your artistic legacy. Rather than repeating formulas or producing images devoid of meaning, make sure there’s a concept behind your images – something deliberate you wish for them to express – something of your own making and that represents you – your thoughts, your relationship with the things you photograph, and the meaning you wish your viewers and critics to find in your work.
What do your photographs say about you? More importantly what do you want them to say about you?
As an example I will post links to a couple photographs and you can look at them and ask yourself the two questions: 1) what is the concept behind the photograph and 2) what does it say about the photographer?
Carsten Meier 1
Carsten Meier 2
Essays are due friday! Just kidding!
I recognize that probably nobody puts this much thought into every image but does anybody here consciously try hard to put this level of thought into at least a part of their photographic endeavors? If so what do you want your photography (or a apart of it) to say about you?
January 21st, 2013, 02:16 AM
Been there, commented about that: http://lightmancer.blogspot.co.uk/20...-analysis.html and I didn't invent it. ;) Apparently photos taken by the patient can be used in psychoanalysis to provide an insight into the subject's subcomscious and drivers. Fascinating stuff. I bear it in mind sometimes when I look back at a year's output and consider in hindsight how I was feeling at the time of taking the photo and what was going on in my life.
Sent from another Galaxy
January 21st, 2013, 02:24 AM
To answer your first question probably, lazy. There is always room for improvement.
What would you say your photos say about you Ed?
"Everywhere you look there are photographs, it is up to us photogs to see them."- Gary Ayala
My Snaps are Here: Unsharp At Any Speed
January 21st, 2013, 03:55 AM
I think mine usually say I like people and find them fascinating. And that i love my family. Sometimes they just say that I like taking photos and once in a great while they show I have a sense of humor. And when I can just manage aesthetically pleasing, I'm usually happy enough with that. I don't think most of them are terribly deep. I guess I'm not either. Never claimed to be an artist, though, so maybe my shots don't have to be autobiographical...
Oh wait, I forgot, there really are no rules. Except the ones we elect to follow. The author of that piece has his. I have mine. You have yours.
Last edited by Ray Sachs; January 21st, 2013 at 03:58 AM.
January 21st, 2013, 04:12 AM
"If I could say it in words I wouldn't need to photograph" is often quoted (though I think what he actually said was "If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera."
Either will do for me.
Which is not to say one shouldn't think, of course.
But in the end, when I look at a photograph, I'm not interested in what the photographer thinks. I'm interested in what the photograph does.
My photostream at Flickr.com is here
"We can not shake the illusion of the truthfulness of photography" - William Gedney
January 21st, 2013, 04:39 AM
Wow, this is a bit deep and I'm sure lots could be read into one's photos but probably best not to go there! I went from insisting on razor sharp pictures to actually preferring the softness of the ones I'm doing now. Perhaps that's a desire for the world to be a better place and less hard edged! Ultimately, I want to create a pretty picture and I use whatever subjects are available to me. During the Winter this will obviously tend to me home based. I like making people look good in portraits, that's what I would like if it were me being photographed
January 21st, 2013, 04:44 AM
I think your post is a nice addition to the Landscape Photography Magazine's essay, Bill! It's a bit more specific, whereas ironically, I find LPM essay to be a bit empty, nice thoughts but they fail to really tell me something. Maybe it's just the nature of art that makes it difficult to make advice specific and applicable without becoming formulaic, but those who manage (like your piece does) really make aware of how meaningless a lot of art advice really is. I guess a lot of people may be well capable of making good art, but there's a much more limited number of people capable of talking about art in any meaningful way (by which I mean that their audience really takes home something specific from their discussion of the subject, rather than just some profound-sounding ideas that, when it comes down to it, don't mean anything in and of themselves).
But, on to EasyEd's exercise... the subject of these photos is obviously empty parking lots. The concept behind it... they convey a sense of emptiness, abandonment, and human impact on the environment. The first one (of the pharmacy [are American pharmacies really that large?!?], is a bit overwhelming in its geometrical shapes, the wide expanse of parking lot and the wall of the pharmacy filling the entire horizon making it seem as if the entire world consists of pharmacy parking lot. The one of the small diner feels unfinished due to the digger, portapotty and rubble on the floor and it feels like it's been stamped out of the ground in the middle of nowhere. What I can say about Carsten Meier through these photographs... I think he roams around a lot, and is attracted to sadness a bit; the empty feeling you get when you see some environment that's been built by humans for human use, but doesn't have any people in it. Most of the other shots on that website are of either empty, manmade structures or purely natural scenes. All the people in the Reciprocity series are photographed in a rather deadpan way, as if he was just walking by, saw some people and asked, 'hey can I take your picture? *Snap!* OK thanks, bye!'. There's no attempt at beautification, and no obvious engagement with his subject, but they're not candid shots taken while moving either (judging by the sizes at which these photos are printed and the aspect ratios he uses, I'd say he's using medium format gear which would make quick street photography rather challenging!). All in all I'd say Carsten Meier is a meticulous, rather shy (or at least not particularly outgoing) photographer who likes to observe and appreciates calmness.
 oh totally forgot about the self reflection part. Ehm... tricky. I'm most definitely not a street / candid photographer as I'm too shy; I want to be liked, so if I take people shots I'm probably engaging with them in some way or another. I try to portray people in a way they'd agree with, unless I totally disagree with them. Mostly I shoot landscapes or cityscapes though. I sometimes shoot quirky compositions, often from odd angles, which are some of my favorite shots, but most people seem to skip over them without much thought - my "postcard pictures" are much more popular. With my photos, I generally try to tell some kind of story or show the beauty in something (although those quirky compositions tend to be more abstract or jumbled), and often use wide angle to draw the viewer in.
Last edited by bartjeej; January 21st, 2013 at 05:04 AM.
January 21st, 2013, 05:29 AM
Hey, have you be living in my head ?? I wouldn't have put it differently. I LOVE portraits, because they always have something to say. I was taking a walk in a very bland, snowy and uninteresting patch of country this morning and was desperately seeking something to make an interesting photograph of. To little avail. Then I thought, hey, if there were people here, if I could include some living beings in this environment, it'd immediately would become more interesting. So yes, portraits are my things. And I never tired of shooting my kid. Sometimes I just want to report a pleasing line, or color, or shape. Then I'll grab something funny here and there. I guess overall my photos just show that I'm technically proficient enough with any camera to not botch exposure or framing too badly, and that's a pretty good start. Sometimes I'll get a little artsy, or experiment with something. But ultimately my photos say I'm selfish, because they don't aim at pleasing anyone but myself ;)
Originally Posted by Ray
January 21st, 2013, 06:21 AM
I pretty much agree with barteej's analysis, "the images of some environment that's been built by humans for human use, but doesn't have any people in it." it conveys a feeling of loneliness, emptiness and isolation, and this is reinforced by the images of people in the reciprocity set where the people were just standing in a way that doesn't imply life, they look artificial, and disjointed (sort of looking at egyptian statues when compared to greek sculptures). Looking at it from a different perspective I also see a certain clinical type of morbidity in it which reminds me of the movie I am Legend or something similar to it.
The photos tell me that the photographer feels isolated, lonely and alone. The second to the last image in the Nostrum set definitely says he's got a dark sense of humour.
What does my photographs say about me?? Hmmm......don't quit my day job? I am actually unsure as my images tend to vary depending on what mood I'm in when I shot it, I guess it says I'm moody.
January 21st, 2013, 08:22 AM
They say: aging hypochondriac & eccentric.
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