THOUGHTS ON PHOTOGRAPHY.
mentioned before, I have a proven capacity for putting words together
in a way which can mean something other to the reader than was my
intention. It is a safe assumption that any derogatory comments, or
mickey taking, are intended against me and nobody else.
Photography is basically an individual occupation. Many photographers
have an aversion to taking pictures in the company of other photographers.
Is this because we do not want anyone else to "steal" what
we have seen, or, even worse, to produce a better image of it than
we have? Is it because we do not want comment on the way we obtain
our images, or, for others to see just how much film it takes to get
one good image? Personally, I think that the company of others far
outweighs any of the above. I also find it as pleasurable to share
with others what one has seen at the time of taking the picture, as
it is to show the resulting print. It is unusual for two, or three,
serious (that sounds pompous, it is not meant to) photographers, to
be interested in photographing exactly the same thing, in exactly
the same way. Having said this, there are many occasions when the
need for privacy prevails. For instance, if the mood takes me to stand
in a mountain stream for a couple of hours, just looking & assimilating
the emotional rapport with what is in view, I would much rather be
alone, with no interruption to this process. There have been times
when, having done this & spent time setting up a shot, some total
stranger will stand at ones shoulder & photograph the same thing.
This could be irritating, but it should not be, they have as much
right as anyone else to take that picture and if theirs turns out
better, for whatever reason, then the best of luck to
them. I believe that, without the emotional involvement, it is highly
unlikely to be better.
Why do we take photographs? There are probably nearly as many answers
to this as there are photographers. Do we take them for our own pleasure,
or is it to show them to others. If it is the latter, do we adjust
what we are presenting in a manner to accord with our conception of
what will be of interest to the prospective viewers. If we do this,
are we not corrupting our own style of photography? Either an image
is of interest to the viewer, or, it is not. In the former case analysis
is totally irrelevant & will not change anything. It would only
be of benefit in a teaching environment & even then its benefit
is questionable as it encourages the following of a particular style
in place of forming ones own style. In the latter case its only benefit
is in the alleged "improvement" of an image. The result
of this is an image, which conforms to the viewpoint of the analyser
and probably destroys utterly the photographers original concept.
It can still be beneficial to have others comments on ones images,
mainly because having created an image, the photographer is too close
to it to see it objectively, whereas others will be able to. Any image
can be improved, the question is, where do you stop? You should certainly
stop when you are satisfied & not when somebody else is.
What are we to think about image pre-visualisation? Does it really
matter ? Surely if the end result is an image which gives satisfaction;
impact; or, whatever, it is totally irrelevant whether the image required
a period of time to visualise & obtain, or, whether it was a pure
"snap-shot" (the hyphen is deliberate). Explanation of an
image, whether by its creator or a critic, would appear to be pointless.
An image may be intended to portray a story, an emotion, or myriad
other things. On the other hand, it can be an image for its own sake,
with no "message". If it is the former & the viewer
fails to understand, or misunderstands the "message", for
that particular viewer, the image has failed in its purpose. In both
cases, if the viewer interprets the image in a way, which the photographer
did not intend, this is the viewers prerogative & the photographer
can do little about it. We must all have taken photographs which portrayed
something to somebody which we did not intend & may even be horrified
by, but none of us is qualified to analyse an image to ascertain every
single way in which it can be "seen", & would not want
to do so anyway. What I am trying to say is that, an infinite number
of viewers will obtain an infinite number of impressions from an image.
If the photographer retains satisfaction with the image, over a period
of time, it has succeeded.
come to photography fairly well on in life and suddenly discovered
clouds in all their glory, whilst I regret the lost time, I feel that
it was of advantage to me in some ways. Being pretty well set in my
ways & thoughts, I was less prone to pick up others style of doing
things. Also being aware, that nothing is new & that anything
we photograph will have been done by somebody before, probably better,
I deliberately avoided buying, or looking at books by other photographers.
My reasons for this were that, I wanted to formulate my own way of
seeing things & not be influenced by others, also
that I did not want to look at something I wanted to photograph and
recognise in it an image by someone else. If I did, I would then not
take it & would lose the pleasure involved in doing so. There
was one exception to this, it was a book of Henri Cartier Bressons
images. Having seen some of his work & recognised in it my feelings
for urban photography, I realised that he was so masterful that anything
I did which was similar, would not be plagiarism, but merely an obeisance
to a superior photographer.
recently, a friend having seen what I was trying to achieve with my
Snowdonia images, lent me a 20 year old book by John Blakemore, which
is filled with that type of image. Interestingly I did not feel threatened
(that is the wrong word, but probably describes the feeling as well
as any other) by these images, instead, when I looked at his sea-shore
pictures I immediately wanted to get my camera & go to the sea-shore
to get my own images of it. I think that this is probably because
I have had time to become happy with a style of my own and although
this style mimics in some way that of another, I am secure in the
knowledge that it is my own & I have not copied someone elses.
There is a tendency to think that, if one buys the latest, all-singing,
all dancing, multi-functional, plastic or metal box that the Japanese
or Germans care to offer us, it will improve our photography. IT WILL
NOT. The only benefit from spending more money on equipment is to
enhance ones versatility, that is to allow you a greater degree of
choice in how & where you can take photographs. Spending more
money on lenses only gives you an option of a wider aperture to use
& better quality glass enabling better enlargements. None of this
makes you a better photographer. It is easy for me to say this because
I was lucky enough to be able to buy the expensive equipment, but
it is still true.
It is obvious from this that the purchase of expensive equipment,
whilst desirable from other aspects,
even if it is only to assist one in being a poser, has no effect on
what one is going to photograph, or in how one is going to present
the final image. What one photographs comes from the head & the
heart, it does not come from the equipment one uses to grab that moment
in time on film. Most of my expensive Canon equipment has now gone
& by choice I use a large format camera made in the 50s
with lenses dating back to the 30s, all of which helps me to
get emotionally involved with & part of what I am trying to record
on film. Where this is impractical, I use a 35mm Leica, which was
surprisingly easy to get used to. The reason for choosing a Leica
to replace the Canon, was that the German glass gives me a negative
of similar consistency to those from the 5x4. My relatively
expensive enlarger has long gone & I now use a condenser enlarger
which was last made in 1951 which I cannot get parts for, so I use
negative holders of a different make & stop light leakage with
parcel tape and cardboard. I also have a cold cathode enlarger of
indeterminate age, for my 5x4 negatives. I do have quite
good lenses for these, which is the only thing that matters. Apart
from the enlarger lenses, all of this was bought second-hand. If I
had the money, I would probably buy a better condenser
enlarger, not because it would produce better prints, it would not,
but it would probably be easier to use.
A fair degree of "self-satisfaction", or, "arrogance",
or, whatever you like to call it, is necessary to enable one to display
ones images, particularly to other photographers. Having done so,
arrogance is replaced by a feeling of nervous anticipation as to what
comments may be made. Whether comments are favourable, or, otherwise,
the end result is similar. Praise simply confirms the photographers
own opinion & restores the arrogance. Criticism is ignored, on
the basis that the critic does not understand the image, therefore
again arrogance is restored. No comment at all is the worst possible
thing, as it leaves one in limbo, with no base from which to restore
self-satisfaction. Fortunately it soon comes back, or, we would just
stop taking photographs.
we choose to exhibit our work to others, I am led, somewhat tongue
in cheek, to question our motives in doing so.
Is it:- (a) To act as interesting wallpaper; (b) To astound others
with our brilliance; (c) to provide something to interest others,
(d) to watch anxiously from the far side of the room, waiting for
the crowd to gather round & admire it, or (e) to obtain the approval
all of the above has some relevance, I prefer to see it as a means
of sharing a moment of time which gave pleasure, by presenting ones
interpretation of that moment, in the hope of sharing the pleasure
with others. Assuming that commercial considerations are not involved,
the prime requirement of any image is that it gives pleasure to its
creator. If it gives pleasure to others, that is a bonus, not a requirement.
Having said that, most of us want others to see & admire our work.
There can be little that gives greater satisfaction than the approval
of our images by our peers. Art, Analysis, etc; have no relevance
whatsoever to this.
comments would be appreciated