Monday, October 7, 2013

Photography, Art, and a Different Way Of Thinking

I've had some discussions recently with some other photographers about a bit of a different subject.  It centered around these particular images.




These images have been  popular ones for me, and while that is all well and good, I don't post images on the internet to get accolades or to see how many people favorite them, +1 them or anything like that.  I love photography.  It is one of the creative outlets that I have that I feel I have had any success in.  I share the images in the hopes that they will reach someone, make them feel something - or at the very least see if they can share in what I saw at the time.  Given back and helping others learn is something I feel I need to do.

I have to admit that early on, we as photographers often fall prey to many a pitfall.  We get suckered into thinking we have to buy the biggest, best gear because of the marketing hype, when we really should evaluate and buy the gear we need to help make getting the images we want easier.  We get caught up in pixel peeping and thinking that if a certain lens doesn't look tack sharp at 100% magnification then the resulting images from it will all be crap.  Not true.  Photographers from the past have captured iconic images with lesser gear and without auto focus.  It's about the captured moment in time and does it have the capability of expressing the situation to your viewer without you even including a description in writing to go with it.

Along those lines, let us think about the hat image above.  For me, I was going for "did I transport you back in time" to a place where clothing was custom made and not "off the rack".  Is that what you saw?  Did you appreciate the image for the story it told, the mood it set?  Or did you look at the exposure, the shadow and highlight detail, the post processing and the sharpness?  Did you wonder if that was straight out of camera with a bit filter applied to give it the Ambrotype look?

While all those different ways of looking at the picture are valid ways of looking at it, if the first thing you did was look at the technical and think shutter speed, f stop, ISO - I invite you to stop doing that and start looking at the image as a story.  Look at it as if you know nothing at all about the process of creating a photograph and view it as art.  See it as a means to convey a story or emotion....do you "feel" anything from it?  

Only then can you truly appreciate the image.  All the technical stuff is easy and mostly trivial.  If you understand the basics of photography, it is pretty easy to dissect the images technical merits.

Bottom line is - when looking at your images or someone else's for that matter, it is all too easy as a photographer to get caught up in the technicalities of the image creation and then you lose sight of the feeling, meaning, depth of the story it is trying to tell you.

My other point I'd like to make is this:

Your photography is your art, make it however you want it to be.

I've often got flack from people regarding some of my post processing techniques.  Mind you, I do experiment quite heavily in camera and in post processing for my personal projects.  As an artist, we should have that freedom to do so.  What we consider cliche'd, overdone, garrish, and over baked may be the trend of the future.  An artistic process from the past may come back in vogue.  You just never know.

We all have our right to our opinion.  If you see something and you don't like it - that is OK....just like it is OK for someone else TO like.  Both sides need to respect their counterparts opinion.  Be respectful, voice your objection constructively - but refrain from personally attacking the creator of the work because they chose a different way of thinking.

Again, using the example image above - I've had 1 or 2 people nitpick, criticize and personally attack me about the processing methods used on this image.  Go figure.....some people have nothing better to do with their time.  I don't let that get to me, and don't let it get to you either if you find yourself in that same situation.  If you choose to engage in a discussion with those kinds of people, I recommend the following approach:

1)  Be respectful and argue your case.   Stick with the facts and don't get personal, even if they do.  If someone gets personal in their debate, 99% of the time its because they really have no good argument or defense so they try and pull you into a mud slinging match.  Its not worth it to go there.

2)  Know when to bow out.  If you've made your case and no more need be said, don't endlessly engage in back and forth just for the sake of it.  Be the bigger person and walk away.  That might also be something you consider before even engaging in #1 above.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Andrew.. I totally concur with the essence of this post.. While I was reading the top portion I felt that you were talking about me :-). Over time, I had lost my innocense of enjoying photography as an art and have been thinking about the technicalities while seeing a picture. You are right! we miss out a lot if we continue in that mode.

    Thanks for all your effort in spreading the knowledge of this art! I learn a lot from you.

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    1. Thank you Sajeev. That is what we strive to do. :D

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