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The Reflective Photographer: getting all facets in focus - the visual and the gear.

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by BBW, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Originally this was to be a "group" down in a different part of the forum, but it's been decided that it will be more active up here. Don asked me to move everyone's posts up here so that's why this initial thread is under my name, but it isreally Don AKA Streetshooter who has started this discussion going.

    So here is where we are so far, but I know we're going to end up somewhere else. So, please add your thoughts and reactions to the thread.


    Streetshooter - 04-07-2011, 06:51 AM
    Streetshooter - 04-07-2011, 07:13 AM
    BBW - 04-07-2011, 09:08 AM
    Djarum - 04-07-2011, 10:43 AM
    Country Parson - 04-07-2011, 10:10 PM
    Streetshooter - 04-08-2011, 01:05 PM
    Streetshooter - 04-08-2011, 01:05 PM
    Streetshooter - 04-08-2011, 01:05 PM
    Streetshooter - 04-08-2011, 09:55 PM
    Country Parson - 04-09-2011, 08:44 AM
    Country Parson - 04-09-2011, 08:45 AM
    Djarum - 04-09-2011
    pdh - 04-09-2011, 04:16 PM
    pdh - 04-09-2011, 04:16 -04.17 PM
     
  2. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    EasyEd - Yesterday, 10:30 - 10:35 PM
    Country Parson - Today, 10:55 AM
    Streetshooter - Today, 07:13 - 07:14PM PM
     
  3. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    SS

    I think I understand. There are times where I am really connected to a scene. When I am connected my images usually turn out pretty good. Other times I feel like I should take pictures of a scene and do but they aren't usually all that good. I think I need to do a better job of trying to connect.
     
  4. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    DJ, That's exactly it. The fact that you are aware of this means that you will be able to connect more in the future....
     
  5. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    SS,

    I really think the problem is that there are many things in this world that I find trivial and very uninteresting. I see photos of those same things and they are really good and I like them. I'm starting to wonder if there is a difference in this sort of connection. The connection of our everyday life and the environement around us, or the connection in which we take pictures.

    Something I suppose I need to ponder on.
     
  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    I think that is a good example of how a camera sees things differently to how we would normally see them. With familiarity you can begin to visualise what 17mm @ f5.6 (etc.) looks like before you raise the camera. What doesn't automatically appeal to my eye might appeal to my perception of what the camera sees, and vice versa.
     
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  7. EasyEd

    EasyEd SC Regular

    143
    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey All,

    SS yes Evans wrote those words long ago - 40 odd actually but I think his point completely valid even today - from a documentary photographer's perspective art is useless as art is never a document however art can assume a documentary style - this is what Evans did - artistic photography in a documentary style thus achieving both his artistic goals and the utilitarian goals of the FSA - which had very clearly defined intent(s) - basically to provide photography to support FDRs New Deal. The FSA photographers as a whole had purpose and intent and even photographic scripts to follow yet they still produced art. How? Simple - they were passionate and connected with their work which provided the means (including scripts) for them to express the art they were capable of through their compositional skills. Dorothea Lange wrote "Art is a by-product of an act of total attention."

    My point is that you need to go out the door armed with passion and intent and scripts in mind which contribute to your intent and then learn to see those scripts in the world you are trying to photograph within. This I think is some of what Dorothea Lange may have mean't when she said the camera is an instrument that teaches you to see without a camera. My challenge is identifying and retaining in my mind enough scripts consistent with my intent so that I can learn to see and compose them. To me your passion and intent says why you go out the door with a camera in hand, scripts are the photographic concepts (photographic whats if you will) that contribute to your intent and composition pulls it all together when you click the shutter.

    You can have all the passion and intent in the world but without scripts (what(s) to photograph) and compositional skills you will be frustrated. Composition can be learned - the elements are fairly well known, identifying scripts or all the whats to photograph or elements to include in a photograph that contribute to your purpose (intent) in even being a photographer can be tough depending on what or how well you actually know and can articulate what your purpose (intent) in being a photographer is. To simply go out the door with a bunch of feelings doesn't work.

    This to me is what Djarum expressed - he didn't realize how common objects that he saw as uninteresting when skillfully photographed could contribute to his passion and intent for photography. In other words how do you recognize the potential scripts that contribute to your passion and intent. Largely my dilema as well.

    -Ed-
     
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  8. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    618
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    For me, photography serves three purposes:

    1. The capture of my life as it unfolds. Everything from the sublime to the prosaic, considered photos to snapshots, I take them. Photography is a part of the overall recording of my life, and I also take video and audio recordings. I have maintained extensive journals for a very large proportion of my life. Hence, my handle of 'Archiver'.

    2. The creation of beauty and the continual movement towards some kind of aesthetic or artistic expression. And the more I gain technical skills, the easier it is for me to capture what I want, in the same way that a writer with full command of language communicates the way they desire, and a musician with technical skill is further capable of greater expression. For me, skill in photography is not just about mastery of gear and technique, but of being able to see, both in the moment and by previsualization. If I see the moment when it unfolds, I can catch it. If I see the moment inside and then create it, then I can catch it as well.

    3. A set of skills that help me make money. I have come from shooting compact cameras for fun to shooting DSLR's and large sensor compacts for jobs that include architecture, landscapes, products and portraiture. The greater skill I have, the more I am able to create a product that suits my client, the greater the number of clients I can serve, and the more I can get paid.

    There is a fourth purpose that photography serves for me, something that permeates all three aforementioned things: I love photography. I love gear, I love learning about cameras and composition, about technique and timing. Photography is FUN! I practically live for this.

    Currently, my favourite photographers are the classic Magnum photogs like HCB, Capa, Andre Kertesz, Elliott Erwitt, and more modern photographers like Mary Ellen Mark and Daido Moriyama. I also like photographers of the prosaic like Stephen Shore, Jeff Brouws and Seiichi Furuya. I prefer more natural looks to overdone studio productions, although I certainly admire the skills of Helmut Newton and Avedon. My own photography bears little resemblance to that of my idols, but I love them all the same.
     
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  9. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus SC Top Veteran

    578
    Jul 6, 2010
    While working to a brief (or script) can have its advantages, the scenario you put forward would make me feel shackled, and incapable of the freedom I so enjoy and relish. Going out the door with just a bunch of feelings DOES work for me, and being contantly restricted to set of pre-established directives would make me want to give up photography, quite frankly.

    While I can understand that some would benefit from this focus and purpose for others it does not. It denies the ability of the photographer to respond to the world around them in an instinctive way, and to my mind creates a kind of "tunnel vision".

    When learning, the concept of the brief or project can be a useful one, as it focuses on specific techniques and encourages, hopefully, a different way of seeing. But eventually surely the aim is to enable flexibility, creativity and the ability to observe and record those fleeting moments. Did Cartier-Bresson go out the door thinking I must get a shot of a man jumping over a puddle, or a man with a moustache looking through a hole in a tent? Or did he go out the door with a slightly less proscriptive attitude.

    Photographers can work with a set of values certainly and these values can have a profound influence on their work. Sebastian Salgado uses his camera to make a point and to make us aware of the conditions in which our fellow human beings live. Ansel Adams on the other hand was bringing largely unknown areas of natual beauty to peoples attention and was influential in the creation of agencies that helped protect these areas.

    However, having a set of values, while often contributing to our choice of subject matter, should allow for the widest set of possibiities. Personally, I often respect the person who changes his mind over the person who adheres to a strict set of beliefs without wavering. As photographers we must surely learn to be observers first. To see the whole picture and not just what we want to see.

    Certainly much of professional photography requires an ability to be flexible, creative and instinctive. Even the best organised and resourced shoots have the possibility of disaster and many times I've been in situations where the intended shot list has been torn up and the whole thing has had to be improvised from scratch.

    To me its the difference between sitting down in a concert hall to play from a score and getting together in an after hours club to jam. Neither approach guarantees a quality end product and there are many who can do one and not the other. But to me both are valid, and both are capable of producing an inspirational final product.

    Obviously to be able to "improvise" in a photographic sense takes a certain amount of confidence only possible after a certain amount of practice and experience. While I appreciate the usefulness of working to a "script" my view is at some time you have to take the training wheels off and give it a go. You may get a few bruises at first but eventually you'll get the hang of it and feel able to work on your own.
     
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  10. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Working to a script sounds too constrictive to me. I prefer to be more opportunistic in my approach. Often my only intent when carrying a camera is to take pictures.
     
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  11. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    I'm finding it so interesting to read everyone's views and insights - thank you! For myself, I think it is all much more subliminal and intuitive. I'll write a little more down the line when I have time.
     
  12. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    I'm not quite sure that is exactly it, either. I understand that our mind/eyes see one thing, and then when we put the camera up to take a picture, it sees something else. After reading what I wrote, I don't think I was as clear as I like to be. For example, I enjoy looking at street photos. However, I really don't care much for street photography. I know some folks go out on the street to take the pictures. This is something they specifically go out and do. In general, I don't feel all that comfortable doing it, especially those that capture people in a specific moment. I was down in Birmingham, AL in the five points district. Lots of bars, cafes, restaraunts, and shops. There were people walking around doing their thing. I don't feel connected to them, and I don't feel compelled to take photos of them.

    I however do enjoy walking around and taking pictures, say at a park or even on the street. However, my goals aren't per-se street photography. Some photos may end up that way, some may be of other styles and genres as well. However, I do enjoy taking pictures of waterfalls and nature. I love taking pictures of architecture and interior spaces(Some of the recent one's I posted, for example). However, I don't particular enjoy looking at these sorts of other photos from other individuals. I'm sure some would say the same for my photos. "Oh, ok, just another waterfall". I have no problem with that. Taking photos of waterfalls or nature, if I'm inspired by it, is theraputic for me. As I mentioned earlier in the group forum however, is I'd like to take better pictures of the journey. Not so much just for documentary sake, but to make them more interesting.

    Jason
     
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  13. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    I completly agree.

    In general, my view of the requirements of professional photography, or should I say, the demands of professional photography, are very different than those of us just running around with cameras. I would imagine(keep in mind I have no real idea here, just my perspective) that for one to be successful in the business, one has to be extremely flexible because the requirements always change. As a professional engineer, the same goes in my line of work.
     
  14. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Do you think that it is to do with the mystique of something with which we are not familiar or experienced at? I think I tend to find that as I become more proficient at a task (not necessarily photography related) I have less need to constantly refer to the work of others to measure my own performance. Conversely, I am more likely to seek out the work of others to help understand subjects that I am not familar with.
     
  15. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I reckon that that is precisely the time I need to make the effort to look at the work of more competent others ...
     
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Well, I didn't mean there was no need, just less need. It's always educational to keep track of your contemporaries but sometimes too much external influence can be a bad thing.
     
  17. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Photography/me

    Not wishing to get too bogged down here, I want to photograph things in order to make a picture that pleases me and hopefully other people! I want to use my camera to draw and paint a picture if you like. I want to tweak an image until the image looks good to my eye, whatever that image may be. I can't draw or paint but I love colour. I find that being able to create a picture using a camera and Lightroom satisfies that creative urge in me. Of course I want to photograph the things that are dear to me, my daughters, my father in law and even the cat but also, in doing this and creating an image that isn't just a straight out of camera offering, I'm leaving them a little piece of my soul :smile: Whilst this might sound a little fey, I believe in what I'm trying to do and this in turn spurs me on. I love looking at other people's images just as I would love looking at art work hung in a gallery. I don't know yet if I'm creating my own style, I really need to look back over the past year to see if I've developed at all but I'm hopeful. I never have a fixed agenda about what I'm going to photograph, I just like to see what presents itself.
     
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  18. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Beautifully expressed, Christina and not fey at all.
     
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  19. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    wasn't being oppositional, Nic, but just expressing what I know of my own limitations!
     
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  20. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    Well, maybe. For me though, its again, about being connected. I can see that in good street photography, or any photography for that matter that I feel is good, that the photographer is connected to the moment or scene. I just don't feel compelled to be connected when there is opporotunity to do street photography.
     
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