Photography, Pt. 2

So, since this blog is so much about pix, let me take a stab at a philosophy of photography.

As a student of art and art history, it seems to me that art changed with the advent of photography. Impressionism gave impressions that photography could not, at least not at the time. Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism represented ideas that artists without photography might not have had. (Of course, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch – a fav – is one of many exceptions that did not attempt to simply depict reality.)

What changed? The fact that any nincompoop with a camera could click an image that would have taken a painter years of training and many hours of work to depict. Portraits and landscapes were now easy, instantaneous, and the technology likely put many talented painters out of work.

So while I admire Ansel Adams, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Margaret Bourke-White, Vivian Maier, and all those National Geographic shutterbugs, should they be considered among the same ranks as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Francisco Goya, Salvadors Rosa and Dali, etc., Picasso, Renoir, etc., and especially Norman Rockwell? Come on, admit it, taking photographs is easy.

Sure, composition is always important and one can do a lot with a knowledge of lenses, apertures, shutter speeds, and gear. Of course timing, subject matter, and choice are key, and photoshopping gives a whole new realm of artistic options. But basically you simply point & click.

There is the eye. The art of seeing, and then the art of capturing what is seen. And a lousy photo album is not necessarily a testament to the lack thereof. But I enjoy it when a photographer shows me something that I haven’t been aware of, especially when I looked but didn’t see. Sometimes it’s the angle, sometimes the framing, sometimes the light. And when those are combined in portraying quotidian subject matter, it can make for an interesting photograph.

Previously in this blog I’ve commented on what tourists in museum take pictures of, and what they don’t. A shot of the folks photographing the Mona Lisa depicts that. (And what does that shot they took home mean to them?) Then there’s the selfie phenomenon. One could be critical or analytical, but there it is. And in this blog there are a bunch of ceiling selfies. (For super-cool ones, google John Marshall’s “Sunset Selfies.”

Anyway, most of my pix are pretty common tourist shots and just serve to document our trip. Occasionally, I’ll pick a weird angle, but often I go for symmetry. I’m also just using an iPhone 6 with no special lenses. (When I graduated from high school my parents gave me a Nikon [in the days of film] and I chose not to get any special lenses, but capture places and experiences simply. OK, I also neither wanted to pay for nor lug around a bunch of equipment, but it became part of my philosophy of photography.)

I do use the features of the iPhone, including adjusting light & color and cropping. In Bardia, I shot rhinos and a tiger through binoculars. It was there I fully realised the value of a telephoto lens. At GSAM, looking at the work of The Archibald Project team, I saw the validity of using such quality equipment with good capabilities. I appreciate technically superior pictures, but for myself, prefer the parameter of keeping it simple.

If there are particular subject matters I go for, they would be patterns and age or decay. I’m particularly drawn to an old brick wall with layers of paint that have worn away, maybe there’s a weed growing out of a crack and remnant of an old poster, or some tasteful tagging, or a person on the side with contemplative look. I’ve taken several that show a juxtaposition of funky old buildings, gordian knots of phone lines, laundry on the lines, cigarette smokin’ balcony posers, and a few other manifestations of patterns, decrepitude, daily life, or quirkiness.

Often I worry that I’m misrepresenting towns or countries because I take shots of trash, squalor, dilapidatedness, and entropy. I’m not drawn to most new buildings, shopping malls, or modern developments. The faded and water damaged walls at the orphanage are some of my personal favourites (but the place is clean and well cared for). Rusty metal, faded paint, patterns of mold, old wood, and combinations thereof I often find beautiful. To me, they represent time, the venerability of age, and the aesthetics of nature having it’s way with the works of mankind. That’s pretty philosophical.

Well, there’s probably more to it than that, but I’ve already written too much. I reckon collections of pix are important in showing a place (not to put too much importance on any one shot), so that may be part of a philosophy. And my last point is about you, the viewer. Just as a writer is having a conversation with the reader, photographers are shining a little light into the eyes of their viewers. So what do you like? What do you see? How do you feel about it…?

One thought on “Photography, Pt. 2

  1. I am touched by your thoughts–I find them beautiful, thoughtful and enriching to me!!! It makes me proud of you and of my wrinkles!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XO

    Like

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