Three Posts have caught my eye in the last 2 weeks or so and caused me to think about the drivers behind my own photography and why I see what I see. If I were to attempt to summarize those posts in three words then they are in essence about ‘The Seeing Eye’.
The Seeing Eye is the complex concept that lies at the very heart of what causes us to press the shutter button.
What I’ve read has made me want to add my own contribution to this topic: to attempt to offer my own explanation of why I end up taking pictures.
The first post that impressed me was ‘It’s what’s inside that matters’ from Otto Münchow – a blogger whose writing is always insightful and thoughtful and challenges my thinking about Photography. This is such a good post – do read it. It discusses how we all see the world differently. It’s difficult to pick out a single sentence but here is a snatch of it: ‘…nothing is without photographic potentials…I try to expand my own vision; I try to see pictures where I never thought a picture existed’.
The second was a post by CJ Schmit that I first heard about from Toad’s weekly round-up on Light Stalking of posts worth reading (if you haven’t come across Light Stalking you are missing something very impressive). CJ Schmit posted ‘What I see that you do not’. This is another excellent piece of writing along very similar lines to Otto’s. This is the last paragraph from that post: ‘I can’t always explain why things I see hit me just right and make me take the shot but they just do. That is one part of what makes art fun, seeing things that others normally wouldn’t and then showing it to them in a different way’.
The third was from Andy Beel whose blog is one I never miss because it always challenges my photographic thinking. In ‘Bay Of Laig – Eigg’ he writes ‘…successful photographs are made and not just taken. A vision of the possible outcomes is critical for creative success before you press the button. Without that vision possibilities will be lost or not recorded to work on later.’
My thanks to all three authors for allowing me to quote from their posts. Do click the links in the text above and read their posts in full – they are all well worth reading.
There is so much in what these three writers say that rings true for me. And between them they convey an essential fact: that creating an image is a two-part process.
Firstly, Getting the Picture, and secondly, Developing the Image.
If you don’t carry a camera, you don’t get a picture – simple as that. I try always to carry a camera. It’s carried not ‘just in case’, but as a tool of my trade to be used. It signifies a state of mind, that I would go so far as to say amounts to a heightened awareness of my surroundings. Carrying a camera is a statement – I’m image hunting.
The concept of having a Seeing Eye is not something we are born with, nor is it likely to be the impetus that led us into photography.
But if we pursue photography and start to immerse ourselves in the photography of others; viewing images that others create then if we are passionate about our craft I think inevitably we start to look at
their work and ask the question ‘why did that photographer take that image?’ Would I have seen that? And for some of us, probably not all (because our interests are diverse and perhaps specialized), that may lead us to think differently about how we see the world around us and what we find we are attracted to as potential images.
I think my brain has subconsciously become tuned to look for images. I don’t say that to imply I’m somehow clever. It’s just how I operate when I am out and about – I’m reading the world around me as if through a lens.
What do I search for? That’s the million dollar question – it depends.
It may be Line, Shape or Contrast that attracts me. It might be an oddity, something quirky, humourous even. It may be inter-relationships. The play of light and shade. It may be Above, Below, Around, Behind (always look behind you, the light is different).
‘Getting’ the picture is only the beginning as Andy Beel in particular points out. The second part of this process is to ‘develop’ the image within the picture. That may be a very straightforward process when you are on a pre-planned or scouted shoot. Processing may involve just a few minor adjustments: the hard work was in the planning.
But when the pictures you capture are unplanned, chanced upon, or grabbed – the result of the Seeing Eye spotting something in passing – then ideas such as returning when the light is right don’t apply. You get the picture but developing the image may well be harder. I’ll be honest – I don’t always see the ‘image’ within the ‘picture’ when I press the shutter in circumstances like that (but it does make life easier if you can visualize it). Sometimes it’s obvious. But sometimes all I know is that there is something metaphysical going on in my head that draws me in, and because a single frame costs nothing in the digital era, and I may never see that picture again, I press the shutter.
Back home, when I upload the files to my screen and start to go through them, that may be when ideas suggest themselves; when I see something I didn’t see before that I think I can exploit, extract, develop, distil, refine, derive. But there are other days when I have the equivalent of writer’s block and look at a file and can’t make any sense of it.
There’s nothing radical, or new in what I’ve written here. It’s merely an attempt to explain how, increasingly, I find I personally am operating as a photographer. Previously I have described myself as a Landscape Photographer who always carries a camera and therefore finds images in unlikely places. I feel the pendulum is swinging. Maybe I am now an Eclectic Photographer whose outdoor pursuits provide opportunities for Landscape Photography.
I hope that what I write rings a few bells in other people’s minds. The great thing about Photography is that it is an Art Form whose limits are only in the mind of the Photographer and the tools at his/her command. And one of the benefits of the Photoblog community is that I am always learning, being inspired, and challenged by what others write and capture.
Isn’t it great that we all see the world differently? Wouldn’t it be boring if we all took the same old pictures?
This post is populated by three unedited ‘originals’ shot over the course of the last 6 weeks. All taken because I saw ‘something’ that caught my attention. And below are the three final Images I processed from those originals.
The first image was of a massive new development on London’s Oxford Street. Modern Architecture interests me and I was drawn by the textured panels that suggested Fretwork. Back home I set about exploiting the lines and shapes and what suddenly struck me (which I had not consciously seen before) was the interplay of the street lamp and part of the fretwork.
The second image was taken in a store in Milton Keynes looking up between the escalators to the roof-light. Shapes and lines and contrast attracted me to this. Back home I discovered I had not got the precise symmetrical composition I was after (careless of me). But I was determined to derive the image. The symmetry was created, the lights moved, and the composition simplified.
The third image was taken 10 days ago in the Cotswolds. The walls of the grounds of a Manor House were undergoing a massive renovation programme and I stumbled upon this new but boarded up gateway that intrigued me. In this instance I knew the final image would be a B&W conversion but it was only when I got to work that I formulated an approach that would produce an image with a bit of drama and mystery.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. This is a fascinating topic – that goes to the heart of our art. One that Otto, CJ and Andy have set rolling. Thanks guys.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do you ‘see’ images?