Can photographic "vision" be taught?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by frank, Jun 25, 2003.

  1. frank

    frank Member

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    It is my belief that once a certain level of technical competence has been reached, the development of one's own photographic vision is a personal journey that no one else can direct. A teacher can only reinforce the traditional "rules" of composition or influence a learner towards their own (the teacher's) vision or "eye" and therefore away from developing the student's own unique style. The only thing anyone can do is be supportive and encouraging.

    After a given number of years of practice, a photographer with no teaching or training will likely be more successful at realizing their own personal potential than a photographer who is being directed by a teacher for the same number of years. The best a student can do is to imitate their teacher. A teacher cannot teach someone else what their (the student's) unique vision is.

    Comments?

    Frank
     
  2. roy

    roy Member

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    IMO you either have it or you don't. If you do have it, you will see the pictures irrespective of the rules of composition and what are rules for ? To be broken of course !
    That is what makes it easier for some than others to produce great images. You can learn a lot however by looking at others' images. I do not consider myself to have it and I am continually amazed at how simply found some images are.
     
  3. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Frank,
    You raise an interesting question. I think that it is important to clarify the distinction between vision and composition. Many people confuse these two terms and often use them interchangeably.

    Compositional rules can be taught to a certain point. However that point is limited to what we know about composition now. Hopefully we, as an evolving species, are continually unfolding and in that unfolding we are learning and relearning anew.

    Now on to the matter of vision. No I don't believe that vision can be taught because that is a personal matter. That, I think, is where a lot of photographers get "hung up". It is due to the confusion that exists between the terms vision and composition that many photographers emulate those who have went before in the belief that they are making "good" photographs.

    Sadly, while those photographs may be technically sound, they are often utterly empty of any emotional content. Therefore, I think that the matter of vision is up to the photographer to discover for oneself. That can only be determined through self searching, listening to the inner self...being "true to oneself" in the end. This, for the really "good" photographers, many times involves a period of struggle. This is true of all artists in my opinion.
     
  4. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I disagree.

    I firmly believe that *all* of us have that vision - it is part of our "human-ness".. It manifests itself in "what we like and dislike"; what fascinates us - what entrances, enraptures.

    To me, it is not something that can be taught - or has to be taught - it is THERE!

    We CAN help it along ... the keys here are displaying the freedom inherent in all of us ... and to a great extent, removing the mummy-wraps of convention and what we are "supposed" to like - the superimpostion of other's visions to dominate - and necessarily corrupt - ours.

    Then we can put our visions to use. Difficult? Not really ... It is far easier to do that than struggling to conform.

    Man's (and women's ) "innards" are *beautiful* - that *vision* is what separates us from the beasts of the jungle.
     
  5. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Vision cannot be taught, it can be learned.

    For the photographer it is a matter learning the science of photography and applying it to peel away the layers of infulance that has been taught.

    Remember the story of Michangelo... When asked how he could carve such beautiful angles from a block of marble, he replied ...simple, just us a hammer and chesil and chip away at everything that's not an angle.

    Just keep chipping and your vision will come forth. Your hammer and chisels are the laws of optics, chemistry, math and, oh yes, time and temperature.
     
  6. roy

    roy Member

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  7. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    Good teaching leads to enjoyment which in its turn will lead to your own style or vision.


    Hans
     
  8. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    [quote="Bruce (Camclicker)"
    Remember the story of Michangelo... When asked how he could carve such beautiful angles from a block of marble, he replied ...simple, just us a hammer and chesil and chip away at everything that's not an angle.....[/quote]

    My favorite Michealangelo quote was in reply to the question, "What is art?"

    His reply - as a sculptor - was, "If you can roll it down a hill without anything breaking off - it is art."
     
  9. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I agree with Don and most others. Vision is something you have or don't have. It cannot be taught. It can be learned however, as a function of your life experiences. (I see Bruce already said that--I didn't realize it.)

    What can be taught is "seeing photographically." I have successfully taught that hundreds of times.

    That is not the same thing as "composition," about which, by the way, there are no rules. None at all. No rules to follow, no rules to break.

    Weston said, "Composition is the strongest way of seeing." That has nothing to do with rules.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  10. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Yes! Vision is simply a summery of experiances. A willingness to re-think, re-draw, re-do then respond on a new day. We all have a switch in our brains that with a little training and discipline though unpredictable is accessable. I've known people who have spent a lifetime learning their craft then never giving themselves the freedom to use it. I don't know if it's fear or laziness not to persue the seed of idea thru it's germination to the fruit. Calling it vision does not give credit to the foundational work and experiance that goes into an idea. This work towards the vision may take months even years that culminates with the push of a button, but because of that work our brain is unbconsciously guiding us to the moment. The believe in some "Vision" is the way people justified things they did'nt understand during the middle ages. Today we Know that we all have the faculties and the tecknology to accomplish our concepts (visions) so every night look for the switch inside your brain and turn it on before you sleep.
     
  11. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    photographic vision does not exist. This ability is nothing more than being able to find beauty in the common things and that is only acquired by practice. I bet most of the great phtographers have shot thousands of rolls and sheets to arrive at a particular style. Even then not all of their photographs are memorable, there are only a few keepers in a life time. The basics can be taught and then is up to the photographer to grow, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
     
  12. Tim Budd

    Tim Budd Member

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    Friedlander has repeatedly said in interviews that a lot of his images and contact sheets are a load of junk and that he may just find one that he thinks is good and prints. He always gets asked the sort of "what is your secret"? question. He usually just laughs, saying that there is no secret.
     
  13. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    $595.00 and an open mind for Michael's and Paula's workshop. Biggest bargain out there. No MFA program will improve your photography more.
     
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  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    We are running the risk of becoming *mired down* in semantic duelling.

    I consider "Vision" to be that element of photography - and all the other "art" disciplines- that area that cannot be explained using logic and reason.

    Technique - the use of the associated "tools" (oh, go ahead - include the so-called "rules" of composition) *CAN* most certainly be taught, and learned .
    To me the technique is important - and well worth the effort to learn ...but it is secondary to the "Vision" - that unexplained - and unexplainable - essence that links our being to the work.

    Why did I take that photograph, -- and this is grinding fine -- that *particular* image, given the choice of the infinite number that pass in front of the lens every second? What was the mechanism inside of my psyche that caused me to trigger the shutter at that particuar instant? Why did I choose that specific subject? - And why do I choose to work in a certain "area" ... landscapes, or nudes, or cute little kittens...?

    More than that ... Why does one image fascinate me --- try to explain "fascination" - and why does one image "work" for me, and not another? I can't even begin to define "work" in this context.

    To all that, I can only answer, "I don't really know" - and quite some time ago I accepted the idea that I would never really know. Trying to slavishly hold to the scientific ideal - that, "It doesn't exist if it cannot be explained", was a crushing burden that only served to sap my strength.

    We had a *wonderful* artist in the Cape Ann area, here ... named Helen Van Wyk. She taught art - oil painting - and I never missed any of her shows televised on PBS. One of her favorite sayings was, "The `Doing" is not all that hard ... we can all, with enough effort, learn the techniques - the `doing". The `What to Do' -- That is the hard part."
     
  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Hmm. I don't know ... I, and I know others (mostly children) who constantly find beauty everywhere - and I don't think either of us have every practiced - at least not consciously.
     
  17. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I'm always amazed with what my 7 year old daughter does when I turn her loose with a Hasselblad, which she can't even focus. If I can learn to see like she and her sister (who's 9) do, I'll rule.
     
  18. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    I alway thought I was a much better photographer until I learned how. The freedom that children have when they don't know the rules they just play. I agree, Just imagine if we as adults could retain the rules of focus and exposure then step back to 7 or 9 years old and "just play". Course my wife thinks I act like 10 year old anyway so maybe i'm halfway their.
     
  19. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Ah yes, I have heard of this children are great and so free. The truth is there is a lot of parental pride, and they are shooting from below 5 feet, try it, your pictures might look like your kids.

    WHat I am talking about is creating a negative and a print which will wow people...not one where they say ah thats nice...
    I have seen these children pictures...and to tell the truth they were not good...but wanted to keep the parent as friend so I never said so..:D
     
  20. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    I just put a picture my 9year old neice shot of her sister one day when I gave her my camera, my only sugestion to her was to try and keep the horizon line straight. I love this so I used it as a concept for a job later that year.

    It's in the no-gallery
     
  21. marcello.brussard

    marcello.brussard Member

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    Ok I'm grabbing my courage, the few word of english I know and try an give my contribution on this topic.
    Often when talking about photography the word vision comes around, it is used as if the ability of taking good photos was a gift. Something like a blessing. I've been thinking the same line for a long time and I've been about to quit taking photos. I have to admit it: I am not blessed or gifted. But I believe I have something to say, emotions to rappresent, to record, to exchange with others. That's why I keep shooting, experimenting and learning. Sometimes it appens I manage to express what I have in mind to say. It takes a great effort, often it is frustrating, but I feel it is worth it.
    Ciao,
    Marcello
     
  22. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    It is a gift. Life itself is a gift. Either is is part of the human being, and they are inseperable.
    The delusion is that some of us - the "Elite Ones" have - "The Gift" and the other others do not. That, in my opinion is nothing more than a poisonous lie .. and a delusion.
    Vision is there - inside - for all of us. What we have to do is shut off the internal conversation - the negative lies - and set our vision - and ourselves - free.
    Simple to say - difficult to do.

    You are not ....? You realize you "have something to say - emotions to represent, to record, to exchange with others" ...? That realization is a great part of the "gift"... The most important part.

    You are not sucessful - ALL the time? What about it, gang? Who among us IS successful ALL the time?
     
  23. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Of course no one is successful all the time, but when one learns to see photographically one can be successfull pretty close to it. Of his work while on his Guggenheim fellowship Weston wrote," From the two years' work I have destroyed few nagtaives because I thought my seeing was inadequate." Charis told me that Edward destroyed fewer than a dozen due to inadequate seeing.

    Except for negatives that have problems caused by technical difficulties--fogged film due to leaky bellows or bad holders, camera movement during exposure due to wind or other, faulty focus or bad lens, Paula and I finish practically all of our photographs. Once someone knows how to see photographically it is not difficult to do the same.

    The one exception is with portraits, where expression is as important as placement. With portraits the percentage is much lower.
     
  24. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    ?

    Very well said...that is what I was trying to say about the confusion that exists between the ability to compose (composition) and vision. Vision, in my opinion, is exactly what Ed has said here. I also think that vision needs to be realized, to be uncovered, if you will (as others have said). I think that many of us also have confusion in regard to what we are trying to accomplish through the practice of our photography. What is it that we are attempting to show and say? Who are we showing and saying it to? Are we trying to make only "pretty" images? Is photography only about beauty? Are we truly in touch with our innermost beings? Is not photography equally about learning about ourselves as it is in depicting to others?

    I think that there is a point at which the critique of photographs (others and our own) and this topic blend. Because it becomes very much a self revelation involved in the process of self realization.
     
  25. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Everyone has "something to say" with their photographs. Those who are so emotionally deadened that they have nothing to say are unlikely to be picking up a camera. The problem with making successful photgraphs is never with the emotional aspects, it is with the ability to see photogaphically so that all parts of the photograph cohere into a unified whole. Once one learns to do that, one's vision can reveal itself. And once a photographer reaches a mature stage in his or her visual journey, that vision will be different for each one, for we are all unique entities.
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I do not wish to be contentious here - but I think there is a distincton between "vision" and "seeing". I understand "seeing" in this sense as "pre-visalization", where there is a mental image of what the scene will look like in the future photograph - when printed in black and white, on grade 2 paper, developed in Dektol ... etc.
    That is an improtant "key" to efficiency in photography - and efficiency is a "good thing"... Nearly a necessity if one is working with Large Format or producing Platinum prints .. unless, of course, one is in the same financial realm as Croesus.

    To me, though, that is a technique - and can be learned. "Vision" is something else.

    It is certainly possible to produce technially *excellent* photographs that are nearly devoid of emotion, and a sense of - not necessarily conscious communication - more like "connection" and rapport with a fellow human being.

    One is certainly free to choose their "path"... my choice is the "Induced Emotional" one. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be a highly efficient way.