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“…a wonderful story.”

Sunday 27 December 2009

This is Part Two of a blog I started yesterday (It is the final image…that counts) based on a quote by Tom Millea (p13 of Photo Technique magazine):

It is the final image standing alone that counts.
How we go there is simply a wonderful story.
— Tom Millea, Photographic Artist

It’s his second sentence that opens the way for all the photographic techno-literature that we spend many pleasurable hours reading. Unfortunately, that means excruciatingly little of the photographic literature deals with the final image. It’s all about “how we go there”. Yet, both are part of “the journey”.

This is not a bad thing entirely. For many “it’s the journey that counts, not the final destination” and photographers seem to have taken this thought to an extreme with respect to equipment. Is there another art form out there that has as many websites, blogs and magazines dedicated to pixel peeping? No, although those making crafts may come close. And, certainly, as hobbyists, our fishing friends, computer geeks car enthusiasts and gamers have perhaps as much, if not more written about equipment than photographers. To be fair, though, I think it speaks to photography’s popularity as a hobby – a popularity that seems to be growing with digital photography. It may be more like fishing or golf than”art” (however one wishes to define it), but it is popular and with every new photographer there is a learning curve that needs to be met.

Let’s face it, talking about the journey (equipment and mechanical/chemical processes) sells ad space. There is a carrot for talking about equipment ad infinitum; there is no similar carrot for discussions of technique. I’ve even noticed that there is very little discussion of photographic approach, method or “seeing”. Equipment aside, much of the “technique” discussions revolve around pushing buttons (for the digital camera user), film and paper combinations, ink and paper combinations, darkroom chemistry combinations, etc. These, too, are helpful discussions for those learning the craft and all of us are always learning.

But where’s the discussion of approach, vision, mindset, creative process and, beyond publication and earning money, motivation?It’s an area of discussion that is far more nebulous. In lacking the concrete it is far more difficult for that average person to “get into” and it doesn’t sell equipment. But from my perspective, that’s where I would like to see the discussion of photography go.

In this latest issue, Photo Technique has done an admirable job of continuing this discussion with a few quite different portfolios. However, another magazine photographers should be looking at is LensWork. It is devoted entirely to looking at images and learning about the motivation behind those images. And, the photographs are all reproduced in beautiful duotone black-and-white.

It is this part of the journey that we, as photographers, need to explore further. Why do we photograph? What is it that catches our eye and captivates our imagination? What motivates us to point the camera in one direction and not another; to portray our subject with wideangle rather than telephoto? Stay tuned…

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