INITIAL THOUGHTS – MAY 2014

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David Gardner   OCA 513007

THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY

 INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE COURSE

It has been a busy couple of weeks getting to grips with the course and what it will entail. What is immediately clear is that it will be a welcome challenge in terms of understanding, organisation and time management and also that the work involved is ‘as long as a piece of string’ depending on the depth I want / need to go into it. Receiving the course work stimulated a number of thought processes, questions and fears as well as excitement and anticipation some of which, briefly are as follows.

  1. What is my motivation for doing the course?

Whilst I have a clear wish to learn and develop a new skill, to tap into my creative side and to use photography as a means of nurturing a closer relationship with the world around me, I am aware that there is also an underlying and strong desire to achieve something noteworthy that   I can be recognised for and that will generate a source of income. This immediately triggers a sense of competition and a need to prove myself and be better than anyone else. Whereas the first aims are positive and desirable, the latter seems to feed into my ego and a need to prove myself which risks taking away some of the pleasure of the course and the practice of   the art. I am already aware that I am comparing my photographs unfavourably with those of others and that this is leading me to have negative thoughts. These are long standing issues for me which I will need to work on. It would be helpful for me to adopt a sense of play and experimentation and to develop a range of personal styles rather than get too serious and competitive.

  1. What constitute good photographs and how will I know when I am creating them?

One of the questions that has been highlighted for me from the outset is – just what makes a good photograph? Looking at many of the photographs included in the course notes, I found myself wondering what made many of them stand out for people as good photographs. Many of them did not stand out for me as being anything special and I would not have been very pleased to have taken them. I hope that as I progress through the course I will find out and I will appreciate them more. As it stands at the moment, there are a lot of things that make a photograph stand out for me such as startling colour and / or design, attractive light, unusual or shocking content, telling a story or capturing a special moment. It is clear that the appreciation of photographs can be a very subjective matter for most people and what stands out for one does not necessarily do so for another.

So ……….what do I like? I like the clarity, contrast, scale and grandeur of the work of Ansel Adams(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansel Adams), the dramatic action work of Robert Capa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Capa) and the spontaneous and quirky feel to the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Cartier-Bresson).   I am also inspired by many of the National Geographic and other wildlife, travel and war/ action photographers whose work is in the public eye and I would love to aspire to their level of skill and photo-journalistic achievements.  I will comment more on these in a later Blog.

How will I know when I have begun to take good photographs? I will hopefully get feedback from others who will suddenly start taking an interest in my work. I might even start getting some commissions and sales in time. More importantly in many ways, on a personal level I will get that warm, bubbly glow inside whenever I look at them and the sense of solid confidence that I am making progress and doing something worthwhile.

  1. What sort of photographs would I most like to take?

I want my photographs of wildlife, people, locations and objects to interest, attract, inspire and teach those who see them. I want to try to capture the essence of my subjects, not just their features but also their souls, not just their portraits but also their lives and what makes them special to me. Mostly I know that I will fall short of this vision, but it is my long term goal to work towards creating images that tell stories and influence perception.

In practice, this will mean capturing subjects:- in off guard moments, in action, in their environments, and in magical light. A wildlife painter whose work I have long admired for his ability to capture special images and inspire wonder in nature is Robert Bateman(http://robertbateman.ca/ ) and I will be pleased to capture something of his vision in my images. I will be exploring the work of wildlife and travel photographers throughout the course to see what I can learn from others in terms of techniques and images that really work.

  1. The Challenges.

The world is full of a bewildering array of photographers and photographs. We are surrounded by images all the time and can get blasé about them even though the quality of those images is often breath taking and the skill required to take them is considerable.  The range of ‘essential’ photographic equipment and accessories is also mind boggling nowadays and although it is an exciting time to be taking photographs, it is also a confusing and challenging one. Many (most?) images are now the subject of post-download processing and enhancement through        increasingly complex photo-editing software such that it is hard to know what relation the final image has to the original.

A modern day photographer has to find a path that works for him / her. Working to please oneself is a great way to operate but it does not pay the bills or enable one to upgrade one’s gear! Earning an income from photography puts one in competition with all those other highly skilled professionals with eye-wateringly expensive kit and business drive and it can also mean that one is led into areas of work that do not speak to one’s soul. It is all a balance and a juggling act, but it seems to me that the secret is – if one enjoys it, do it and make it work; if one doesn’t enjoy it, find something else to do. I enjoy it and will try to make it work!!

———-     o0o     ———-

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