A brief exchange during a passing conversation a few days ago got me thinking. Someone said something about how lucky I was to make a living as an artist. I immediately corrected them; while immensely thankful for my career, a job where I get to wake up every day and make images, I felt obligated to point out that most of the time I am not, in fact, an artist at all.
At best, assignment photographers are craftsmen, not artists, solving other people’s problems and putting other people’s ideas into effect in the most timely and cost-effective way possible; to think otherwise is delusional. Read more…
The truth is no portrait of substance has people smiling. Look at the history of painting, Rembrandt, Titian, Goya, Velasquez, Sargent, Vermeer, DaVinci, etc., the subjects gaze to the viewer is neutral at best, neither inviting nor forbidding. It is there for the viewer to see and feel.
Smiling is like much of American popular culture, superficial and misleading. It is part of our vernacular, but it should be expunged in photographs.
You can find some famous portrait paintings made throughout history here. Virtually all of them support this argument.
Philosopher and Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost gave this short talk recently on the photography of renowned American street photographer Garry Winogrand, specifically focused on Winogrand’s famous quote in which he says,
I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.
Unless you’re a philosopher, this may be the most confusing photography talk you’ve ever heard. See if you can wrap your mind around what Bogost is saying…
Here’s an uber-inspiring video in which National Geographic photographer Sam Abell discusses the difference between “taking” and “making” photographs through his experience of shooting one particular photograph for a story on painter Charles M. Russell. He explains that taking an image is shooting a photo as a reaction, without any preparation, while making a photograph is a process.
Abell spent one-and-a-half years hunting for and making the perfect photograph of bison skulls, and shot 25,000 frames for the 8 photographs that appeared in the story. Now that’s commitment.
The debate regarding what makes a photograph “truthful” or not is probably as old as the art of photography itself. By sheer coincidence, there were a couple interesting articles published today on this issue, and written from two different points-of-view. Read more…
“The Cameraman” is a cartoon retelling of a true story involving a bunch of first-graders and a camera craze that swept across the playground. It illustrates how being behind a camera can rob you of your humanity… even if the camera isn’t real.
A great way to learn and become inspired is to look at great photographs. Even better is listening to experts discuss those images as you’re looking at them. The above video shows National Geographic editors picking their favorite photographs from their ongoing Your Shot contest and discussing why they feel the photo is so great.
The great pictures just stop time. They capture something that did not continue. It just was then, and that was the perfect moment. It wasn’t the moment before. It wasn’t the moment after. It was that moment.
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