Anyone who fails to understand Photography,
will be one of the illiterates of the future
Much of my reading time has been about the technical bits of image making. Tech is easy, it’s logical, it can be learnt in customary manner and isn’t foreign. Want to achieve a particular look? Just place a light there, measure the ambient light and twist knob B. Take picture, adjust this slider in Lightroom and yeah, we get a nice picture. There will always be new technique to learn, new skills to hone. But because it can be learnt, because it can be practiced and even easily written about in blogs…..it’s not much of a challenge. But there are things I find really challenging….and that is consistently taking an image with a story, a message, an idea. Photography can record a visual, or it can record an idea or concept. Maybe I’m over simplifying, but I call the former visual documentation, the latter art.
BBC Six Part Series
Technical vs Art Rating: 100% Art
It’s not a silly name, just a bit cliché. But wow, what a fantastic six part series made by the BBC about, well…the genius of photography. This comprehensive series puts into light the artistry of taking images, and the mystery of interpreting pictures. There are things I don’t get….yet… like Joel Meyerowitz’s interpretation of Eugene Atget’s “Notre Dame”: something ‘yummy’ and ‘delicious’ – I’m sure Atget was just testing his new camera and snapped a picture of a tree in front of Notre Dame. Now the image is worth millions, but hey, that’s art!
However the series does show a glimpse into the indisputable genius of the art of image making, and begins with it’s most powerful statement: in 1928 Andre Kertesz took this series of images, the final one is entitled ‘Meudon’. The first photographs Andre took are about as unremarkable as the place itself, but something about them must have caught his eye, as he came back. The final images, the famous ones, Andre managed to change something ordinary, into something extraordinary.
“Photography always transforms what it describes, that’s the art of photography – to control that transformation” – uncredited quote.
It’s just this understanding of how to control the transformation, how to plan for telling a story which intrigues me the most. Whilst this series doesn’t provide you with an answer in the traditional sense, like you’d expect from an instruction manual or textbook, it does undeniably prove (to me at least) that there is logic to art, even if there’s unpredictable and chaotic reasons why certain images evoke more emotions.
Technical vs Art Rating: 101% Art
I stumbled upon this amazing magazine from the Czech Republic (I think originally) but now is run by volunteers in Croatia, USA, Canada and Germany. Photographic works seem to be from all the world (recently), and particularly from east europe. And let’s remember that some of the world best creative art comes from east europe!
There is a certain fluff factor with some of the work chosen to be featured, and a slight focus on non-erotic nudity. However aside from this, which may just be my subjective prejudice, there are no creative limits in the works exhibited in this collection. Non at all, intact some images have been jaw-droppers for me, and that’s a good thing!
What can you expect to take out of reading these magazines? A full frontal, in-your-face, sometimes confrontational look at creative photography. There are no guides on portraiture or journalistic technique, no fluff on landscape or HDR, just images which make one realise there are no limits, at least with some props and costumes.
Within the Frame – Journey of Photographic Vision
Technical vs Art Rating: 20% Science 80% Art
David deChemin is a travel photographer who I think excels most with his affinity towards people and cultures. Throughout the book are his images which I think are wonderful, and to a degree bring out the wanderlust is most readers. David explains some of the technical aspects of each shot, but what distinguishes the text and the writer, is the in in depth look at how David interacted with the very people he was photographic, before, during and after the fact.
I find taking candid photos abroad easier than back home. Perhaps it’s because as a tourist it is almost expected we wield a camera and therefore we feel less conscious of the fact. But some of this is ‘guerilla’ photography, taking images without implied or expressed permission, and indeed I’m sure some of the time we do deliberately in indirectly take ‘guerilla’ pictures of people, we cause some sort of offence and increase cultural barriers.
In ‘Within the Frame’ David details how to approach people, engage them, make them feel that photography isn’t evil. And all that without speaking more than two or three words of the same language.