philosophy

Observation and Investigation for Documentary Photography

If the intention behind a photograph is to produce something photographic, weighted by aesthetic merit, or artistic expression, then it is your observation via the camera that you are most likely going to share in that image.

No Photography is Wasteful If It’s Part of the Growing Process

Failing to succeed doesn't mean failing to progress. I think for many of us the last few pandemic years have spotlighted this sentiment, especially as when it comes to photography “success” is already such a broad and nebulous concept.

Seeing Versus Shooting as a Photographer

The photographer Dorothea Lange once famously said “A camera is a device that teaches you to see without a camera.” I always loved this quotation. Once you get good at shooting, you start to see the world like a photographer — you notice things, you notice light, you look slower, you take pictures in your mind. The camera saves them, but even without one, you see differently.

Synecdoche: The Essence of Photography

I was struggling through Caesar in 10th grade Latin class when I first heard the term “synecdoche” (although the term is from the Greek) — it’s a figure of speech where a part of something is used to represent the whole. Today, familiar synecdoche include “threads” to mean clothing, as in “dig these new threads I’m wearing.” Or “boots on the ground” when talking about soldiers. Or “she got a cool set of wheels” to mean a new car.

The Fundamental Building Blocks of Interesting Photos

My particular interest in photography aims for hitting certain notes in the image, regardless of content. So whether I’m shooting landscapes or my garden, friends at a party, or my kids on vacation, I’d say the approach is consistent.

The Tenets of Neo-Modernism, A Way to Look at Creative Photography

After decades of studying the classic works of photography, I’ve determined there is a historic and philosophical bifurcation in the works created. For convenience, I classify all works as falling into one of two camps, and the group I’m personally drawn to — and one that I find most applicable in discussing current photographic creativity — is what I call “neo-modernism.”

Should Black and White Imply the ‘Age’ of a Photograph?

In many art practices, a new method or process does not usually automatically override the old one. You can still use berries and charcoal to paint a cave wall, paint on a canvas, or put pencil to paper. These do not become irrelevant just because a Wacom tablet can be used to make a digital illustration or a VR for a 3D painting.

Photo Books Are the Cure for the Instagram Disease

Photographer and educator Ted Forbes from the Art of Photography YouTube Channel has published a nine-minute video on the subject of photo books, and how he believes that while they contain art, are also art themselves and are a cure for what many might see as the disease that is Instagram.

Havana Dancer: Photography and Moments of Love

The light in the gutted movie theater is muted and I immediately begin to consider which camera to use, what ISO I can get away with, what is my fastest lens. The dancers we have come to photograph are changing into costume somewhere in the back of the building that serves as their rehearsal hall.

Regarding Photographs: And In Conclusion…

This is the end of my essay series on how we see and think about photographs. While I could certainly ramble on more or less forever, this is a good place to stop.

Regarding Photographs: On the Ethics of Photography II

In the previous essay I set aside a category of ethical issues around photographs. Specifically, the issues that arise from the very existence of the photo, rather than from the meaning of it. Issues around consent, and around extraction (who gets paid.)

Regarding Photographs: On the Ethics of Photography I

In the ongoing spirit of applying my new(?) model of thinking about photographs to old questions, let’s take a pass through “ethics” to see if anything interesting shows up.

Regarding Photographs: On the Truth of a Photo

I’ve been writing for a while now on this single idea: that photographs transport you, in a sense, to the scene of the photograph; that you therefore react to photographs as if you were there, viscerally; that you react specifically by imagining the world around the photo; and finally that this imaginative reaction, this meaning you make, is of central importance in understanding a photograph.

Regarding Photographs: Photo Criticism — An Example

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you might be starting to wonder if the author here even owns a camera, and if so, whether he can work it at all. I can! I really do, and I can! I mean, kinda, anyways.

Regarding Photographs: Photo Criticism

The previous essays in this series have tried to develop some ideas about what happens when people look at photos. The realism, that mass of realistic detail, causes (I claim) a visceral reaction: we feel, we react, we think, a little as if we were transported by the photograph into the scene itself.

Matter Deconstructed: The Observer Effect and Photography

Photographs are omnipresent in our daily lives. From social media and advertising to family photos hanging on your wall. Images are used for identification and as evidence, as well as informing us at a cultural level about who we are.

Regarding Photographs: Reading Photos II

In the previous essay, I introduced a couple of imaginary photographs. The first, an old woman celebrating her birthday with family and friends; the second a photograph of a man seated in a chair, attentive to something out of frame.

Regarding Photographs: Reading Photos I

This is the third essay in this series, and it begins a smaller sequence of notes running over the ways we as viewers make sense of pictures. We spend, I think, too much time thinking about what happens before and during the making of a picture, but not enough on what happens when someone actually looks at it. For most of us, for most pictures, surely this is the most interesting time?

Regarding Photographs: On Consent

In the previous essay, I made an argument that photographs (and things that are like photographs) metaphorically transport us into the scene of the photo. We react, body and mind, a little bit as if we were actually present.