Literature influencing your photography

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by coigach, Sep 16, 2007.

  1. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Hello all,

    Thought it would be interesting to ask a question about the relationship between literature and your photography. I've always been very influenced by writing in my approach to photography, perhaps more than anything else.

    The following books and witers have helped me consider my approach to my landscape photography, particularly because they build up 'layers' of perception about specific places over a lifetime. All of these writers have a very particular geographic context, and over the course of a lifetime their work has added to the meanings of the places they write and care about.

    -‘The Poems of Norman MacCaig’
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poems-Norma...0630351?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189884799&sr=1-2

    -‘Aotromachd – Lightness and other poems’ by Meg Bateman
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lightness-O...0630351?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189884616&sr=1-8

    -‘Connemmara – Listening to the Wind’ by Tim Robinson
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Connemara-L...0630351?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189883930&sr=1-1

    Anybody else have any books / writers that have influenced their photography?

    Cheers,
    Gavin
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi gavin:

    i have always been a big fan of ee cummings and dr seus.
    they both had a way with presenting images, imagined or otherwise ...

    :smile:

    john
     
  3. davetravis

    davetravis Member

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    Hi Gavin,
    For me one was what Elliot Porter did in Glen Canyon, before they damned it up to create Lake Powell.
    A colorful pristine river refuge in "red rock country" was transformed into a vast swimming pool for boaters, and of course, golf courses in Phoenix.
    I've captured a few images there, but always wished I could have experienced it before the change, and the way he saw it.
    DT
     
  4. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Good thread. One of the most significant for me is 'A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful', Edmund Burke (Pub Routledge & Regan Paul, London 1958, orig published by Burke 1757).
    Still find inspiration in it.
     
  5. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Not true literature. Like many photographers my influences are other photography books. For example: Landscape Within By David Ward is one of my current favorites.

    Check out his blog
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    I once did a series of images inspired by an English Renaissance play, "Gallathea", by John Lyly, a contemporary of Shakespeare's, and Her Majesty's court playwright. The story of Gallathea is a bit too convoluted to retell here, but it had to do with issues of intentional and accidental blurring of gender, gender roles, and attraction. I've also done a series based on greek mythology, which I've posted here to the gallery. I'm heavily inspired by classical and Renaissance art and literature - Greek and Roman mythology, the Tarot cards, paintings by the Italian masters (DaVinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio).
     
  7. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Books on the history & ecology of an area I'm photographing help me to look for patterns in the otherwise chaotic clutter. For Florida, first person accounts such as William Bartram's Travels, or ecological studies such as Marjory Douglas Everglades-River of Grass.

    As far as inspiration, books by Robert Adams & John Szarkowski stimulate my visual thinking; while those by Sontag, John Berger & others challenge my motivations. I don't seem to have time for novels anymore (degree in literature ;-( even though they can be helpful in understanding an area.
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    A red covered book I found in the library at my junior high school. The book was no larger that 4" x 5" and was about a guy named George who wanted to take better photographs. It would show a dull snapshot of a relative with a tree branch coming out of the head. Then it would show a photograph with the position changed so that the tree did not come out of the head and the camera moved in to crop the photograph. It went on to discuss backgrounds, cropping before taking the photograph, lining up the viewfinder so the photo was not tilted, basic composing, use of diagonals, having a moving bike rider coming at an angle toward the photographer rather than from the side, ...

    It would give an example of a bad snapshot and several greatly improved photographs. Even the "dreaded ducks in a line" of everyone at Virginia beach, followed by the same people in different bathing suits in a different order at Ocean City. This was followed by much better arrangements of the two groups.

    In less then 100 pages I learned a lot about composition and photography. Too bad I cannot remember the name of the book.

    Steve
     
  9. Wyno

    Wyno Member

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    I think Eliot Porter's On Walden Pond with excerpts from Thoreau's poetry had a big influence on me.
    Mike
     
  10. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  11. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Oooo yes. A favourite novel I've read many times...:D Love the fact it's difficult to pin down. It has a restless kind of beauty that pulls you in - if I could achieve this in any of my photographs I'd be a very happy man...
     
  12. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Wm. Blake, R.W. Emerson, H.D. Thoreau, Currently the Oxford Book of English Verse which I found just recently, it covers 1250 to 1900 and is a first edition. I have a collection of first editions. I would put Robert Burns at the top of the list, anyone heard "Auld Lang Syne"? I had a grandfather from Scotland. Know any McCumber's?
     
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Franz Kafka, Mervyn Peake, Herman Hesse, Homer, Kipling, Rachel Carson, Yi fu Tuan, John Berger, Barrie Trinder . . . . . To name afew.

    Ian
     
  14. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Some interesting choices so far.

    Can folk be a bit more specific about how these books have influenced their photography though?

    Cheers,
    Gavin
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2007
  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Barrie Trinder - "The Making of the Industrial Landscape" (Britain) - I'm an Industrial Archaeologist as well as a Photographer and predominantly shoot industrial landscapes.

    Yi fu Tuan - "Topophilia", & "Space and Place" -A Chines Geographer who specialises in Topography and the use of land, connections between physical environment and human beings.

    John Berger - "Ways of Seeing", & "Another Way of Telling", also "And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos" ways of looking at and approaching images.

    Rachel Carson - "Silent Spring" Environmental issues.

    Franz Kafka - Stories which invert the obvious.

    Homer - "The Illyad" & "The Odyssey" a lasting influence and curiosity to explore the past

    Hesse, Peake, Kipling more general infuences.

    Ian
     
  16. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    For a long time I wanted to be the photographic equivalent of literary travellers like Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby, Jonathan Raban or (minus the huge green ticks on my gonads) Redmond O'Hanlon.

    These days I tend to draw inspiration from literary style rather than subject. A relatively recent discovery was W. S. Sebald, particularly "The Rings of Saturn". I love the way he uses slow accumulation of detail to form a whole, his inclusive and unsentimental tastes, and the combination of a contemplative pace with acute observation.

    Another writer who has meant a lot to my photography is the botanist Oliver Rackham. He inspired me to try and learn how to read the structure of the landscape and how it relates to history, and that of the people who lived there. I have reached that age when the sight of a hawthorn growing on an iron age embankment is somehow tremendously reassuring. A patch of bluebells in an open field induces a sense of loss. A redwood surrounded by upstart ashes and alders is a sign of hope.

    I have also recently been reading a lot of classic physics. Original research papers by Maxwell, Rayleigh, and Helmholtz, as well as my well-thumbed copies of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. I don't expect many APUGers to rush to their library and join me, but there are strong arguments there for an informed botanising: for traversing the world with my eyes open and my intellect engaged. For not allowing other people to set the agenda of my interests.
     
  17. catem

    catem Member

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    Literature had always been a central interest and part of my life, and in so much as it has influenced me and made me what I am, (I suppose? though what comes first?) then it has influenced my photography. I can't think of one single work of literature that has directly influenced my pictures though. Sometimes after taking certain photos, and especially when reading what some authors have to say about their own creative process, then I draw connections.
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    I wish I would be focused enough in my work to have influences to identify, especially literary ones. After all, I am about to have the grade of MA in literature...

    I could more readily cite pictorial influences, but that's obvious. What has perhaps structured my thinking would be poets: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine. Those three have a strong sense of the concise image, strong impression, and the ability to sidestep predictable ways of writing.

    For a while I was writing a lot of poetry, and did the local readings scene, but my interest eventually waned. Still, what I kept from doing that was the necessity to listen to your brain when it worked in ways you don't immediately understand. I try to recreate that inner feeling when I photograph, and try to connect between what I see and what's working below the surface.
     
  19. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    To see a world in a grain of sand...

    Me too....though Annie Dillard (Teaching A Stone To Talk & Pilgrim At Tinker Creek), Aldo Leopold (A Sand Country Almanac), Peter Matthiesen (The Tree Where man was Born, Snow Leopard) ,William Blake, Basho,the Romantic poets,and many others have certainly inspired me (landscape was and remains my favourite subject)...anyone with a sense of wonder really.
     
  20. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

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    My photography (and my writing) have been mostly influenced by writers who impart a richness and strangeness on the world that runs far deeper than what's literally there.

    A good example is a short story called The Adulterous Woman by Albert Camus (found in Exile and the Kingdom) where a woman who is completely stifled by boredom runs out and stands under the night sky in the desert, just giving herself this moment of life as the sky almost comes alive for her. It's almost like it takes place beneath Van Gogh's stars -- they're dynamic.

    Other examples for me include the haunting, funny, and strange works by Haruki Murakami (especially A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle), Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow), Hesse (Steppenwolf), Borges (Babel's Library), and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

    A different theme that influences me are writers who are able to convey the darkness and intensity of people, and in some cases the unusual connections that people have. Among these are Dostoyevsky (everything he's ever written), Yukio Mishima (especially the Sea of Fertility -- perhaps the greatest thing I've ever read), Mesa Selimovic (Death and the Dervish), and James Joyce (Ulysses).

    These influence my photography because I walk out there into the world trying to look through it. I force myself to look past what I can easily see, and think of what I can't see that looms there. It's like I'm looking for myself in a scene, not looking for the scene itself. I'm less concerned with literal truth than I am with a scene's evocative power, and how I can bring that out.

    But with few exceptions, I can't say that literature directly and unambiguously guides my hand. It's more accurate to say that it gives me a feeling, a perspective, and a vision that I translate to my own craft.

    I can imagine, though, that if I were more of a street photographer, Naguib Mahfouz would make me want to evoke the back alleys in Cairo, or Dostoyevsky would make me want to evoke the squalor in the St. Petersburg Haymarket. But their influence is not so literal on me -- which is what makes them great (and makes me very suggestible).
     
  21. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Can folk be a bit more specific about how these books have influenced their photography though?

    Reading leads me out of the work-a-day world and into a frame of mind that leads to creativity.

    http://www.anniedillard.com/curriculum-vitae.html

    Annie Dillard won the Pulitzer for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when I was finishing my BS at Western, it was a fantastic time were creativity appeared to have no limits.
     
  22. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Sounds like a Bob Dylan lyric in there somewhere! In terms of stirring the creative juices I've probably been more influenced by music than literature. Almost finished reading John Berger's recent "Hold everything dear: Despatches on survival and resistance". Nothing like an unapologetic, 80-year old Marxist to make me contemplate what is really dear to me?