Has your 'vision' changed?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by KenM, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. KenM

    KenM Member

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    When I first started getting serious about photography a few years ago, I initially focused on the landscape. my introduction to photography came though books and images done by Ansel Adams, and the first workshop I took was in Yosemite. Pretty hard to not want to photograph the landscape when you're exposed to an environment like that.

    I found, however, that my landscape images were lacking. Lacking what, I'm not sure, but they just didn't have the emotional impact. That was suprising to me, even though I'm not a real out-dorsy type of person. I love mother nature, and everything that comes with living in it. Why couldn't I make photographs that pleased me?

    I certainly had the odd good photograph - ones that have not become boring to me, even after a few years. Looking at these photographs gave me no clue as to what I should be doing with my photography. Or so I thought.

    Then two things happened.

    I read somewhere that Weston initially thought that nature was not a photographic subject - you can you make a composition of something that is, simply by it's nature (!), chaotic? Only after many years did he learn how to photograph nature, and learn it well he did.

    I also took another workshop, where I was told that perhaps I should not be making abstract photographs, due to my 'dislike' of mysteries (long story). I didn't like this, so I went out to prove that I can do abstracts, and I succeeded, to some extent.

    During this process of trying to make abstracts, I had an epiphany. While looking at all my recent prints, I came to the realization that I'm more interested in structure than the landscapes. It came as quite a shock, because I never thought of myself as a structure sort of guy. Sure, I liked the odd building, but landscapes were where it was at for me.

    I was wrong. It's structure.

    So, while my journey of self discovery continues, I at least have a few road signs in front of me pointing the way. Landscapes are becoming less important to me, but still part of my cirriculum. Structure is starting to take precedence in my work, and that's fine by me.

    How about everyone else? Has your vision changed since you started photography?
     
  2. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I started out as a newspaper photographer shooting for a number of years for a number of papers. I'm now more into slow, deliberate portraits and the odd scene that strikes my interest. I considered myself quite good at my photojournalism skills, but have discovered that I'm still quite the greenhorn when it comes to expressing myself through my photography. To quit rambling and answer the question... "yes."
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Like Ken I started making landscape photographs, partly because of seeing books by Ansel Adams and a couple of British photographers, John Blakemore and Thomas Joshua Cooper, although Tom is American he has lived in the UK for many years. My second reason for making only landscape photographs was an unwillingness to get involved with people, I enjoyed the loneliness of working alone in the landscape. My first mentor told me to "photograph the light and not the landscape", what a wonderful piece of advice that has proven to be. I carried on for about 15 or so years just photographing the light and enjoyed every minute of it until one day I was making photographs at Burling Gap, the beach in Sussex where Bill Brandt made some of his nude photographs, and I decided that I couldn't do this anymore and packed up my cameras.

    I struggled for two years making no worthwhile progress in my photography and almost gave it up but my wife told me not to be silly and persuaded me to carry on. It was at this point that I completely changed direction and vision for I decided to photograph the coal miners in my home town for the industry was dying in the UK. My father was a miner and my first job on leaving school in the 50's was underground in the mines so I thought photographing a subject with a mining connection was a good idea. I worked for two years in making the documentary of miners relaxing in their allotments with their vegetables, flowers and pigeons and it represented a major change in the direction of my photography. I still make landscape photographs because I still enjoy the solitude but I much prefer to tell stories with my camera.
     
  4. harry

    harry Member

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    Mark me down for a "me too". Being of a pagan bent, landscapes were a natural choice for me, but the more I look at them (any of them, not just mine) the less they do for me. I'm pursuing a self assignment until I figure out where to go next.
     
  5. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    The longer you photograph the better your vision gets and the worse your eyesight gets....

    Ken M - your journey is one we all take. Look up LensWork #47 (current issue). An essay on this exact topic.
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I've gone the other way from Les.

    I started doing utterly boring nature (not landscape) pictures, then started portraits. While I was working on this (model tests for a new agency, since folded (nothing to do with me, I hope)), I realised I was shooting the lighting, not the people. So after a few years hiatus I started taking landscapes and nature the way I'd learned in the controlled studio: Shoot light.

    I'm still shooting light, not nature. My latest project is IR film, it's really interesting to try to guess how the light will look on an IR photo!
     
  7. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Hear hear! I knew about this piece of advice, but it took me a very long time to understand what it meant, simple as it was. It sure made a difference in my photography.

    I think this is where I'm going with my photography - It all comes down to "do you really know what's important to you?" I thought it was the landscape (brainwashed by too many pretty Adams prints?), but I was wrong. It's partly that, but mostly something else. And it sure took a while to fine out what that 'something 'was'.

    Interesting post Les. Thanks.
     
  8. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I always thought that one's vision was not subject dependent--that it didn't really matter if one photographed landscapes or buildings or people. It was how one photographed them that revealed your vision.

    I have always photographed all kinds of subject matter.

    My book, "A Visual Journey", (from my 25-year retrospective at the Eastman House in 1990) traces how my vision changed--from often close-up, bold, "abstract" photographs, to photographs that were "all-over," to, eventually, photographs that were more a fusion of the two--sometimes leaning more one way than the other--and then back again.

    On a shamelessly commercial note, I'll mention that there are 176 reproductions in the book and that the lengthy essay by someone who knows my work well does an excellent job of explaining just how my vision evolved--hence the title of the book. The book ws published by Lodima Press (Paula's and my publishing company) to extremely high quality. It sells for $85. If anyone reading this wants a copy, I'll sell it to you for $75--and waive the shipping (if not overseas), and offer a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied. Contact me off-forum if interested.s

    I make this offer and mention this here because the subject of the book deals exactly with the topic of this discussion (as well as being about me and my work.)

    Michael A. Smith
     
  9. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    It seems that my vision has taken me in the opposite direction of Les: I've gone from telling stories to solitude. When I work with people for portraits they are people I've known for years and have a very strong connection with. This change was also accompanied--maybe caused by--a move back home from one college to another due to medical reasons. These medical reasons keep me sedated much of the time and in pain if I'm not. The people I take portraits of know of my condition and the accompanying ticks and traits and look past them. But in these situations I do not try to suppress them and I just allow me to be myself and they usually follow suit and do the same. If I'm out photographing in a field no one gives a damn if my legs jerk as there isn't anyone out there to care.

    But I figure this is just one stage in my photographic journey. As I'm not even of legal drinking age in the US I still have many years ahead of me in which my vision will change and mold and become "me."
     
  10. KenM

    KenM Member

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    You may be correct. It just may be that I can't see (yet) what I need to see in the landscape to make a strong photograph; structure, on the other hand, makes more sense to me, and I think I'm more able to distill the essence of the scene.

    Perhaps, like Weston, my seeing will continue to get stronger, to the point when I can start seeing the essence in the landscape.

    I'll just have to make sure that I don't abandon that which I find difficult to pursue that which comes easily.

    Wow, that's (unintentionally) deep :shock:

    This thread is turning into a good discussion.
     
  11. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    In my case y "vision" changed because of a change in materials. For many years I printed on silver, and although the prints were ok, I was never happy. To me they lacked something. I then changed to printing in pt/pd and I found that the "look" I was searching was borne out with these materials. I think in my case I always had the particular vision, I just did not have the right medium to express it.
     
  12. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    I've changed my vision in two ways, process and subject matter.

    When I first started I quickly migrated from C41 to E6 and stayed there. The quality of my images was nothing to write home about though. So I looked around for a suitable course. However, the only one I could find had a sizeable amount of darkroom work on the course. This didn't appeal to me at all, and I nearly didn't take the course because of it!

    Three months into the course I went out and bought a complete secondhand darkroom (everything except the walls, floor and ceiling!) from a chap advertising in Loot at a knockdown price. Three years on, I'd rather print than shoot (I'm keen, not necessarily any good, but keen!).

    Subjectwise, I always wanted to take landscape shots. My results have been less than inspiring though. I seem to have more luck with B&W candid people shots and E6 flower macros and have therefore gone in this direction.

    More recently I seem to be returning to my (admittedly shallow!) roots, with images by Tim Rudman and a certain Mr McLean fueling the fire. My images have so far been very conventional in composition, but the more I see other people's work the more I wish to experiment and try new approaches to old subjects.

    Nige recently posted this link http://www.photocritique.net/g/s?zzig4c-p21162059 The weird thing is I wouldn't have bothered taking any of those shots... ...and I like all of them!

    Obviously I have a long way to go... I just wish I'd started sooner!

    Sorry for the long-winded post.

    Regards,

    Frank

    A fate WORSE than a fate worse than death? Sounds pretty bad! - Edmund Blackadder
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    ... The question was... Oh, yeah!! - "Has my vision changed?"
    Of course! I, we all, change, each and every day. There is a part of us... No, that is misleading ... we are integrated beings. Our "being" is affected by the sum total of our experiences. We necessarily, invariably, and infallibly, *perceive* our surroundings slightly differently as we exist.
    We could easily be back to one of the "classic" questions - "What *IS* vision?"

    To me. my "vision" manifests itself as something of a small, still, *silent* voice (sounds strange - but I don't know how else to describe it) that starts things going. I can glance at a girl in a coffee shop and "see" an image of a heavily talcum-powdered girl posed in the mode of the great Greek and Roman stautuary (Yes, Zoltan Glass' work has been the subject of a discussion or two). It is the precursor of concept.

    Did someone here say something like "I'm not `advanced' enough to have a "vision"? Nothing could be further from the truth ... "expertise" has nothing to do with vision ... no more than it has on the interpretation of Rorshack Ink Blots.

    I've found that children have "wonderful" visions ... and we do too ... except ours seem to have been heavily suppressed and repressed by "our peers" - society, convention, art critics, moralists ... all of the "Black Magicians".

    An example: "You painted a *blue* horse??? Toatally unacceptable - horses are not blue. How *could* you ...?"
     
  14. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Ken:

    I'm sure anyone who is interested in photography and admires the work of Ansel Adams, wants to try to emulate him. Making matters worse is the constant bombardment of incredible vistas one sees when living in your hometown of Calgary Alberta. I grew up 80 miles away and the lure of the plains and foothills juxtaposed against the Rocky Mountains was like was a seductive woman beckoning you to her. I'm sure most people don't really know what it is like to live in an area like this and see the daily changes that occur and the opportunities that present themselves. I truly felt guilty not photographing the area while I lived there for 34 years.

    However I loved faces. Not places. I love the landscape of the face not the landscape of the planet.

    My initial ten years as a professional photographer was photographing the usual stuff. Portraits, families, weddings etc. I printed all my own work in color and did very well. It wasn't until I'd sold my business and moved to LA that I was able to distance myself (literally) from my work and see that I was really printing B&W, in color. I printed my color portraits in a contrasty, monotonic style that finally convinced me that I should be printing in black and white.

    So now for the last seven years I have done my work almost exclusively in black and white and it feels like home.

    Michael McBlane
     
  15. steve

    steve Member

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    My observation is people start out making photos of what they "think" they should be making photos of, and not what they really see. So many strive to emulate a favorite photographer who (in their opinion) makes "art" - or at least photos that they wish they could make.

    Some people never go beyond that and always try to emulate or make a photo as good as photographer "xxxxx" - hoping to equal that vision. Until you discover what YOU really see and relate to, you never make original photos reflective of your own personal vision or point of view.

    You have to take chances and do things outside of what you've predetermined to be a type of photo you want to emulate (replicate?). Many people avoid experimentation or making photos of things that don't fall into the genre they've chosen.

    I've purposely forced myself to think up projects or to make photos that challenge my vision or concepts of what is acceptable or makes a good photo. I've done landscapes, altered photos, hand colored work, series, portraits, etc. - and finally have decided that I have the freedom to photograph whatever I see that interests me regardless of subject matter.

    My only self described "failure" is that I have never been able to setup and photograph a still life that is worth the film it was shot on. At least once a year I try to thinkup a still life and photograph it. In 15 years, I have never felt I've done one that is worth looking at.
     
  16. georgep

    georgep Member

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    In my view, “vision” or “seeing” is a function of consciousness and consciousness is always evolving, even despite ourselves. Naturally it follows that seeing will change and evolve as one’s consciousness changes and evolves.

    I started out photographing landscape in large format black and white in 1987. I continue to do so; have never tired of it. But how I see the landscape has changed and (I hope) matured.

    For me the progression has been from seeing the literal object, to seeing the light, to seeing the basic building blocks abstractly (form, line, space, tonal relationships, etc.), to seeing what is “behind” it all. Now I see all the objects and light as manifestations of something I can’t describe, but see evidence for. I guess I would call it a “universal intelligence” of just “life,” or perhaps “life-flow,” regardless of the subject matter. There is this amazing order to what at a casual glance appears as chaos. Something keeps saying to me, “See!”

    By the way, regarding the book mentioned above by Michael A. Smith: I bought that book and two of his wife Paula’s books. I highly recommend these books as “State of the Art.” Be forewarned: you may get discouraged and just want to throw all your prints away! Or you may get inspired as I am. And I haven’t even seen an actual print yet. True Master Artists, these two.

    George
     
  17. mvjim

    mvjim Member

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    Does vision change? - In my 30+ years in the medium I have come to the conclusion that vision rarely changes but that it can evolve if you are working and paying honest attention to the work. By honest attention I mean if you are making images (as has been mentioned) that are basicly repeats of work you have seen, then honestly admit that to yourself, pat yourself on the back for having accomplished it and then move on. Rather than repeating it again and again. Breaking free of this can sometimes be as easy as changing general subject types. (landscape to documentary - as has been mentioned) Or changing equipment (8x10 to Holga or vis versa) Or it might be to stop treating your subject matter as being "sacred" - meaning - thinking that one type of photography is more relevant than another.
    I believe that each of us learns the medium a bit at a time. Be it; composition, light, technique, etc., etc., etc. and we might consciously spend some time on each. The order in which we work on these are different for everyone. In the end what we are attempting to do is learn how to speak through this medium and the more we learn, the more clearly we are able to speak and have our message heard. We are slowly building (in a real way) a visual vocabulary. First we learn the A B C's, then how to put together full words, then to construct sentences, until we finally are able to tell complete stories with our images. At least I know this is how I have come about making the images I do today. But of course this is in retrospect.
     
  18. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  19. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    lol, aggie!
     
  20. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    I did and still do a little of most things with several more dominant interests. Landscapes are more interesting to look at than many things but seem kind of sterile (to me) without people in them. I think people are part of the landscape. Not like the landscape with an unlikely person thown in for scale but images where the person and the landscape are one. The landscape has a message and the person(s) add to that message or the reverse of that. I enjoy looking at people as art - not cliche images that only evoke one kind of passion - but character - The lines in the face and the wrinkles on the hand with a gleem in the eye - in a setting that speaks the same. These are perhaps both the most difficult to assemble but the most profound when done. Les's reverand shot is amazing the way the light draws his face. Aggie's farm has some wonderful and provoking old tools and backdrop. I could see that face in that setting. I hope I will be able to get the right people in the reight settings to create what I see.
     
  21. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Early in this thread, Michael A. Smith offered to sell copies of his book, "A Visual Journey" at a discount to APUG folks. I took him up on his offer, and I'm very glad that I did.
    I had not previously seen any of Michael's photos, other than on his web site. I like them a lot - and the reproduction in the book is excellent. There is a great deal to be learned from seeing the focusing of his vision - and from reading the essay describing his journey through his photo career.
    I've made it through the book once - I'll closely study it for a long time. I'd recommend it to all who are working on their vision.
    j
     
  22. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    For anyone who hasn't dealt with Michael A. Smith let me tell you that he is one of those very helpful people that you don't find these days. I'm a university student and with the deregulation of tuition costs here in Texas I will be paying $500-600 more for the fall semester than I paid for last spring (same number of semester hours, too). I had asked him if he would hold one his books for two weeks at this lower price until I received my paycheck and he agreed. Before this two weeks was up and I was paid I got my tuition bill and had to email him and let him know that I wouldn't be able to afford the book even though I was very interested. He emailed back and Michael's going to let me pay the book off over the next month while I wait for my financial aid to come in (at my university if you register early for your classes you have to pay about 2-3 weeks before your financial aid comes). So I will let you know what I think of the book when it comes, but I'm already very impressed with Michael as a person.
     
  23. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    The book is very fine, but is as a pale shadow of his actual photographs. Ask him if there's a collection near you where you might see some of his work. You just won't believe it.