What is photography...to me...

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by snkenai, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    In my advancing age and declining health, I have to ask my self, ...What is photography to me, that I after more than 50 years, I still do it?

    Up front let me say, I've always been a machinery guy. If it has well designed moving parts, I like it, and want to get my hands on it!

    As a child, my mom had a Kodak Brownie "box", with the two "peep" windows, for viewfinders. One for portrait and one for landscape. The fixed "hairpin" shutter was as simple as it gets, but I loved it. ( recently acquired one at a yard sale, and it is on display in my glass fronted cabinet).

    Over the years I had the various cheap 110, 127, and 35mm cameras. gradually buying ever "better" cameras, and eventually best glass that I could afford. My photographic skills gradually improved, but never achieved "pro" status. Yes, I occasionally snagged an outstanding picture, but not consistently. During the later days of film, I threw out at least 90% of each new batch. "Not good enough" to keep. Reading all the photo-magazines kept me dissatisfied. Not until digital, when I could see instantly, whether I had gotten it, did my quality began to improve noticeably. But the element of photography that held me back from achieving "excellent" status as a photographer, was the wrong focus. I was a machinery guy, not an artist. My approach was like the catch and release fisherman. After the first look at the pictures, to see if I had gotten a good one, I put them away, rarely to ever see them again. I still do. I have thousands of analog and digital pictures, that are rarely ever seen by any one.

    The ever chasing of the "best machinery has for over 50 years kept me from ever becoming "one" with my equipment. Yet like addicts everywhere, I am hooked. And, looking back at the first statement of this "confession", I have sold off nearly every thing. Have left one E-p3 and two old MF lenses, with FL36 flash and some adapters etc. And yes, the roving eye can't help but look at the next try, to get the right one. And it will never happen. And so I keep it to minimum requirement, to take the occasional clutch of pictures. When I move on to the next world, I don't want the family to have to deal with dad's "old stuff". No, I'm not planning to "check out" this week.

    I still enjoy this forum as well as Amin's others. I just don't post much.

    If this topic strikes a cord with you, feel free to post your own observations, of, "what is photography for me".

    Happy hunting!
    Steve
     
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  2. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    I understand what you're saying I think. Perhaps we all get carried away and find it hard to see the wood for the trees. My first photography was with a Kodak Instamatic as a kid and when I had my own first baby I bought an Olympus OM10 and wasted reams of film trying to get that perfect one. Since I've been using digital, I have thousands of pictures on my hard drive and only one book from my Santorini holiday that I've ever had printed. Lord knows what will become of them all when I'm gone! I can remember my mother, when she was in her last year of illness, laboriously putting all my baby pictures into an album so that I would have it to look at one day.
     
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  3. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    As I have got older I have moved away from consumerism, I never buy any mags & take any reports with a good pinch of salt.

    I read on line reviews on stuff I'm interested in but never (rarely) am I following it through with a purchase. The more heavily a brand is hyped & trading on past glories the more I am put off.
    This goes across the board not just photography.

    I have always thought that you should try to get the most out of what you have - to learn about its limitations & try and work within them
    In film photography I have always used manual - the simpler the better.
    What I have now learned to look for In digital cameras is ease of use - not interested in Wifi or GPS - or loads of screen menus (useful as they may be) because they require constant use to embed in my memory.
     
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  4. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    Dang, Steve, that sounds a lot like me. :eek: For me, the joy is in the hunt and the striving, in some ways success - the "great capture" - is secondary.
     
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  5. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    In some ways, Steve, I'm like you.

    I have a lot of photographs (digital) which will never see the light of day. I have been doing a sort of weeding process, gradually, and disposing of most of those from my "spray and pray" period, as well as other rubbish. I have no interest in keeping things I shot, just because. Friends and family, sure... not the other stuff. I'm not even a smidge competitive so I'll never print them up for competition which seems to be all the local photography club is really interested in.

    Back in the day, when I was shooting film, I did the odd wedding or band gig, and the negatives from those have already been bequeathed to their subjects. I have a bunch of stuff also which will mean nothing to anyone except me. And I don't really think theres anything wrong with that. When I drop off, someone will throw them out. I have no immediate family to leave them to, and my cousins will likely not care. Thats fine, there is nothing in there which is meaningful. IN the meantime I go through them once in a while and do a bit of woolgathering.

    I never wanted to be "Pro", but went there for a short time in the early 80s by request from those who wanted me to do their events. It wasn't something I sought out, and I wasn't that interested in continuing to do it.

    These days, photography seems to be falling by the wayside, as I (and my car) get older and more decrepit, I find it a real trial to get out of the house and do the thing... so I dont. You'll notice most of my stuff in recent months has been around the yard or near street, with only one or two exceptions, and even those have been in the near neighbourhood. I don't stray far anymore.

    But I still enjoy trying to get something. And I still enjoy the buzz of wanting a new thingy (by the way, wont be getting that Nikon1 lens after all, a 6 week wait has put me off, totally). I think in some ways the enjoyment, even though its more limited than it was even a year ago, is what keeps me going.
     
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  6. lcsolla

    lcsolla SC Regular

    109
    Sep 5, 2011
    Lisbon, Portugal
    Luis Castro e Solla
    Although in the last few days there have been internet rumors about photography contradicting the formation of memories, photography for me is first and foremost something that forces me to notice details which I would not see if I was not trying to take pictures. In other words, it is more about seeing than about the final picture in a disk or a print. The same happens, to an higher degree, if I am drawing. Yet, when I go back to pictures which are twenty years old, I can immediately remember the place and circumstances when I took them, even my mood at that particular day and moment. To others, they probably mean little more than nothing - just a passing interest in one or two who happened to come out better than the rest of the lot.

    Documenting is of course another reason for photographing - and I am glad to have pictures of children who are children no more, of grown-ups who are simply no more. These are probably the ones that may interest a few ones in my family - say the grand-children of the grand-children... In my family we are lucky to have cousins who have lots of nineteenth century family portraits, and twice lucky because most of them have the identification of the people written on their backs. I am trying to force me to identify the people in my pictures, and the date I took them ...
     
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  7. TheRubySusan

    TheRubySusan SC Top Veteran

    646
    Sep 2, 2013
    Henry, IL
    Ruby
    I've been asking myself "Why am I doing this" a lot since this summer. I used to get out in the woods a lot with my first husband, we were both interested in nature, so of course we took pictures. Since his death, it's travel photos with my second husband that I enjoy most, and we only travel a few weeks most years. I'm pushing myself to really learn the camera - I'm not taking to menus like I took to dials in the days of film - and I'm finding I enjoy the process of getting out and taking pictures in my new area more than I like the final pictures. The area itself just doesn't appeal to me like my old haunts did. It's good to hear others say that it's "the hunt" and stopping to "notice details" that draws them to photography. It validates what I'm doing now. Thanks!
     
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  8. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    The huge advantage of digital is the direct feedback. From a pedagogical standpoint, this is an important part of any effective learning process. Oddly, it's the feature many will cite as to why they like film better, i.e., they have to plan their shots more carefully because they can't see a problem and fix it right away.
     
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  9. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Thanks, Stephen, for starting this thread. For me, photography is about the seeing. Although I post lots of pictures of the obvious things in the natural and social world that I love or find interesting, the most important part of it is the help photography gives me in seeing what I otherwise would overlook. Carrying a camera, I am more open to seeing the often overlooked beauties that surround us. Here are a couple of things that were just there when I was walking, some right in front of me, some caught in a lucky moment out of the corner of my eye, but all of which help me to be aware of the amazing forms of things surrounding us, made up of light, shade, and the shapes of actual entities. I come back humbled, not at the awfulness of my pictures (though I have my fair share of stinkers) but by the gift of the things I have encountered -- nothing special in one sense, and yet a revelation of what surrounds us, a kind of epiphany for me, even if, most of the time, not for people looking at the photos I take.

    _SDI0255-Edit-L.

    DSCF7057-Edit-L.

    DSCF7064-Edit-L.
     
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  10. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    Sue, I have a faintly similar feeling to yours... I seldom stray far from home unless absolutely required, and the few times I did try to go further - say, a 20 minutes drive and 30 minute hike - I was so anxiety-ridden that I couldn't enjoy myself and hurried home... having a loved one with health issues (among other responsibilities) can do that to a person. So, these last couple years I've stayed close, and even in the well-familiar yard I find something.

    A couple years ago I allowed the furthest portion of the back yard to get overgrown, and sure enough I saw some different insects and wildflowers, a fox, a coyote, a groundhog... the usual amount of deer came by, but they acted differently in the tall grass than on a mowed lawn. It was fun, if sloppy-looking.

    The year after that was my Great Pentax Sell-off, and shot for 1/2 year with just a Panny LX5. Like with you, it was the enjoyment of the thing, and that means everything. If I lose my enjoyment of picture-taking, I'll cast aside the gear and take up the two-string banjo.
     
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  11. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    During the "Summer of My Photographic Discontent", I noticed these little blue butterflies flitting around the back yard. The were really small, like 1/2 inch across both wings. Blue-to-gray wings with gold-to-orange markings. I went inside and told my sweetie about them... I told her I knew they were her "spirit butterflies", following me around when she couldn't. You see, my sweetie has blue-gray eyes... with delicate gold rings around her pupils.

    [​IMG]

    It meant the world to her when I told her that.
     
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  12. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Very sweet, Chris, and very loving.
     
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  13. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    What a wonderful thing. You're a nice man, Chris.
     
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  14. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Beautiful and delicate picture too :)
     
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  15. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    I very much appreciate the additional comments and stories, added to this thread. I think it helps us know each other better, and become a tighter knit community. Thanks for your input. And the pictures have helped.
     
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  16. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    olli
    "Can’t act, can’t sing, Can dance a little." Apart from not being able to dance at all Fred and I have a lot in common. I also can't play any musical instruments, can't paint or draw, can't make anything with my hands and much else besides. I can write, and used to a lot, but not so much these days. So photography for me is primarily a means of expressing myself creatively in a form that I'm reasonably competent at.
     
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  17. TheRubySusan

    TheRubySusan SC Top Veteran

    646
    Sep 2, 2013
    Henry, IL
    Ruby
    I think this belongs in this thread.

    Someone posted a photo of his grandfather's pocket watch early in the December Doodads. I said to myself, "I should get Granny's watch," and I finally got around to it a few days ago. I posted the face, and then when I posted the cover, I said to myself, "Something's missing," and after thinking about it for a while it occurred to me that the back cover had a ship on it under the bird, while the front cover was blank. Not, you see, while the watch was actually in my hand, but when I looked at the larger than life size photo on Flickr.

    So this morning I got the watch back out before more grey weather moves in and photographed it again. And when I uploaded it to Flickr, I noticed it has THREE ships on it, one pretty fully drawn, the other two only sketched in.

    I have been around this watch as long as I can remember. I have owned it since 1974. I never before noticed those two little ships. It's not going to change the world, but I'm glad I've seen them.

    11458767593_c61cceac36_b.
    Granny's Watch, Back View by rubyj29, on Flickr
     
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  18. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    That's a really nice watch, and piece of family history. And yes, I have found that in certain cases, the camera can discern textures and details, that the naked eye misses.
     
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