Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Making Photographs I
The plethora of modern digital cameras has made the taking of photographs so much easier, but the making of a photograph is still as time consuming and as difficult an exercise as it has always been, albeit a very rewarding one. At that point in time when you press the shutter a snap shot is taken what happens before and especially after that action is what makes for the breath taking photograph. The camera takes the snap shot the photographer makes the photograph.
A photograph like a work of art has 2 essential characteristics, it has to have something to say and it should demand attention. The more it has to say and the more profound the statements it has to make are what will push it into the realms of great art. It will engage its viewer in a conversation. How the abstract elements of line, space, form and colour are arranged will give it its wow factor, will make it stand out from the crowd. When these characteristics are both present working together with equal weight then a master piece is born.
So much of the advice on photography is concerned with the nuts and bolts of the craft. It centers around the operation of the camera, the taking of the photograph. Although handy this advice is often film centric with a manual mode of operation in mind and a pleasing snapshot as the desired end result. Today with the digital darkroom at our finger tips, the camera is just the recording device. A large number of inaccuracies recorded in the camera can be corrected with any half way decent editing software. Consequently, the mechanical operations of the camera are often best left to the machine. A photograph can be made with a fully automatic point and shoot with the judicious use of an editing program as long as the photographer's aesthetic sensibilities are turned on.
The most important thing that a photographer or an aspiring photographer can do is become visually literate. Look at the great works of art, if you're lucky enough in the flesh if not in books or on the net and discover what makes them so great. Why is Picasso's Weeping Woman, Van Gogh's The Starry Night, or Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles considered such a great work of art. Look at the work of Irving Penn, William Eggleston or Helmut Newton and see how they communicated their ideas, how they use abstract elements in that communication.
Watch TV with the sound off, how well do the pictures tell the story? Listen to radio drama, what images can you imagine to fit with the dialogue? Look at pictures in magazines, is the explanatory text needed? As you become an active viewer of the visual stimuli that surrounds you so your visual literacy will grow. It will reach a point that your subconscious will throw up the visually interesting aspects of the scenes that surround you. If you can capture them with your camera, you are well on the way to making photographs.