Taking or Making Pictures?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Kevin Kehler, May 20, 2010.

  1. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    Philosophic question: generally speaking, I take pictures. I tend to walk through life with a camera, waiting until something catches my eye or causes my brain to itch. I like to then try to discern what it is that made me stop, distill that scene down to its' most basic elements and that is what I take a picture of. This "distilling" can involve filters, use of DOF, choice of film, etc. I see the darkroom as somewhat removed from my picture-taking since while I can try to recreate the image I photographed, I can also reinterpret the idea that I captured in a mirade of ways.

    Lately I have been reading several books, including On Photography by Susan Sontag, several AA technique books written/edited by John Sextant and a book on the photography of Andre Kertsz. One of the ideas that is put forth repeatly is the idea of making pictures, where the emphasis is on control of the image, waiting for the pre-visualized elements to align before firing the shutter.

    So let me ask you, do you take pictures or make pictures? To put another way, do you wait for the decisive moment to occur or do you gather elements in a previsualized way? To be overly simplistic, AA or HCB?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Taking pix. Snapping pix. Shooting pix. Making the exposure. Whatever you want to call it...but I hold the phrase "making photographs" only for when I am talking about printing. It doesn't seem to describe the act of taking pictures very well to me. I prefer to use it for the art of crafting the print.
     
  3. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I'm with 2F/2F. I take photos with my cameras, and I make photos in the darkroom.
     
  4. Vincent Brady

    Vincent Brady Subscriber

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    I consider that I take pictures although I see that expression "make pictures" used a lot nowadays. To me it sounds like a craft whereas I would like to think that I was involve in the pursuit of art. My approach to taking photo's has matured over the years and now I like to think how best I might capture what appeals to me in the picture and even consider how I might present the final image. I like Diane Arbus' expression how pictures seldom turn out exactly as you expect, but usually better or worse than you hoped for.

    Vincent
     
  5. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Ah, isn't that John Sexton the editor of the AA books? :tongue:
    My photographs are made — at the printing stage, and in a literal sense of having captured the essence of the moment, rather than in a snapshot or 'taking' it. Saw an advert in a major retailer for a digital camera that said "this advanced camera will take the best pictures technology is capable of." Right. I see. So now photographers have been rendered superfluous in this game, LOL! :tongue::tongue:
     
  6. dnk512

    dnk512 Member

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    If you put no thought on what you see, just look and snap, then you are taking. If you move your perspective, choose a lens, put thought on the f-stop/speed, frame, or adjust/wait for the elements to re-align you are making a photo. There are many more ways you can affect the shot with your decisions. You need not use all of them. The more creatively you use them, the more 'lucky' your friends will start calling you
     
  7. sublimeone101

    sublimeone101 Member

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    I make pictures. Why "taking" pictures is such common vernacular has interested me for some time. Making images, visualization to print, sets its roots deep into modernist photography and has been an agreeable philosophy from the beginning of my career. Abigail Solomon-Godeau touches on this subject briefly in her article Art, Photography & Postmodernism when discussing Sherrie Levine's appropriations of Edward Weston's Neil images.. Solomon-Godeau states Levine "takes" her images and likens them to "confiscation" to recapitulate her critique on modernist ideologies.

    Modernism/PoMo aside, to previsualize a print is to make. To appropriate is to take.
     
  8. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I think that photography is inherently an act of taking, and that is what makes it unique and special to me. We are not creating images from scratch, as are painters and drawers. We are using light's sculpting of existent things to render our pictures two dimensional. We are using real things, adapting them, arranging them, editing them, and what have you. On top of that, we are doing the entire composition at once, rather than bit by bit, like other arts.
     
  9. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    *******

    Out and abouting, sometimes it is just a question of catching the photograph as one would collect butterflies, since one knows ones darkroom technique intuitively..

    Other times it is a question of photographic seeing. Gathering the material on film; rendering it on a negative, and presenting it on a print.

    To me, making or taking is a false dichotomy.
     
  10. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    Exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping for. I told myself a while ago that to progress in my photography, I needed to go from taking to making. Then, I tried to decide what the difference was. I am beginning to believe/suspect that the difference is as DNK alluded: taking is snapping away and hoping for the best; making is deciding on what I want the picture to say. I also think the "making of a photograph" referring to printing alone vs making as a process is a divide created by language, where making can refer to either a physical activity (the actual act of printing) or an intentional/mental activity (i.e. to make up one's mind). In this way, I agree with John, it is somewhat of a false dichotomy.
     
  11. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    While I agree with those that "take" with a camera, and " make" in the darkroom, I'm not bothered with either term. "Capture", however, really ticks me off for some reason...
     
  12. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    When I'm working right, there is no "I" at all, just a flow. The issue of "taking" vs. "making" disappears, since there is no "taker" or "maker". This may seem pretty weird, but if this doesn't happen, I just stand there wondering what to do. The only way out is to start, and if it's going with me, the process takes over and uses me as its vehicle.

    As for "making" in printing, I've been in the darkroom all my life, and the printing process has become so ingrained in my being that the decisions also proceed along a process trail. That is, unless I'm working in a new medium which requires learning something unfamiliar. I just attended a carbon workshop with Vaughn. Printing with carbon, I suspect, will be "making" for some time, until (I hope) it can become natural for me, as silver printing is for me now.

    The "taking" vs. "making" thing brings up memories from 45 years ago. I was studying with Jack Welpott, who expressed a strong preference for seeing his work as "making" rather than "taking". The idea seemed to be founded upon the notion that "taking" implied OF SOMETHING. That is, "pictures of things" which puts it in the realm of the catalog. Minor White spoke of beginners "collecting images" and, after developing their skills and vision, being more able to allow images to FIND THEM. "Taking" is the essence of collecting. If the image finds the photographer, who is the "maker"?

    Another viewpoint, since I've been thinking about this a lot recently, is the analogy of drawing. When one draws, does one "take" something, or "make" something? It could be said that one "makes" a drawing, but that begs the question of how one does that. One way to see it is that one makes individual marks that together add up to a whole in their completion of a sensible context which may or may not be previsualized. I guess I tend to see it this way. At every point in the process, individual decisions occur which do the same thing.

    Maybe my problem with the question comes down to the term that, so far, no one seems to have questioned: pictures. Pictures are products. My work is process. Products come from it, but are not the point of it. Pictures are incidental to the act. Call me an abstract expressionist if you want. It might sort of fit.
     
  13. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    But definitely more the produced picture.

    But even made pictures rely on things that can be snapped. That's the nature of photography.
     
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  15. nolanr66

    nolanr66 Member

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    Last weekend I would say I make pictures. But then last Tuesday I was in Santa Cruz and I wanted to take some shots of the Droids in the Amgen Tour. Those boys are fast. You shoot quick or forget it.
     
  16. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    When I was shooting all the time for Sunset Mag doing travel stories, the rule for me and I know for some of the others, too, was "every time something moves". Even that was process, or at best a kind of dance. When it was going as I believed was right, there was no distinction between myself and what I was shooting. They move, you move. The process is teamwork. When it gets out of sync, there's trouble. I'd know it instantly, because I'd feel extremely uncomfortable. There were a few times it REALLY didn't work, and I was lucky not to get beat up. If you move, and he doesn't, it might not be ok.

    This is a US west coast thing so if you were shooting in Santa Cruz, you might be eligible for understanding it, but farther away, may not be. At the time, Sunset was different than it is now. Now it is another vapid rag, but at the time, while it wasn't LIFE, it was still one of the last bw photo mags, and it was good. We shot real life, very rarely set shots. The key was rhythm. Match yours with the event. If you surprise anyone, you got a problem. I don't know if all my colleagues worked that way, but I did, and I know some others did. When it went right, it was beautiful, but you had to get up on the right side of the bed, and you had to know how to deal with stage fright.

    I don't shoot that way anymore. I don't even know if I could. I think you have to do it all the time. It's different, now, not so much people, but it is still a dance. So "taking" or "making"? Never occurred to me, even once.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2010
  17. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    Just recently I discussed this with a friend who wanted to make the distinction between "making" and "taking" photos on his web site in Croatia (and in Croatian language).

    Haven't really thought about it (imagine, me being a translator!), but my language (Croatian) and culture does not make such distinction.
    In Croatian we say "to photograph" or in jargon/vernacular "to picture". A "photograph" is often called just "picture" in vernacular, so you usually say: "Let me see that picture" while meaning "that photograph". Or someone in the street says "Why are you picturing me?" - meaning "Why are you taking my photo?". The actual verbs "to take" or "to make" are never used.

    So, "taking" or "making" was never even a thought over here. The distinction was known only to those who studied the philosophical side of photography, reading e.g. Sontag, etc. - definitely a very small minority.

    Perhaps it also reflects in the local photographic practice? Hmmm, might be a nice idea for a photo-philosophical-solciolinguistical essay :smile:
     
  18. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    I make my photos before printing, before pressing the shutter button, I create the image beforehand, especially true, where I'm in a controlled lighting situation posing a subject, etc.

    Exposing, developing, printing etc, everything that comes after is the realisation and materialisation of my creation.

    Or put more simply, the photograph is the physical manifestation of the image I have created.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2010
  19. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

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    When I photograph an event (birthday party, etc.) for the memory (my son blowing out his candles), I’m ‘taking’ a photograph. Center the subject and fire away.

    When I consciously place my son in relation to the cake and compose the shot, then I would be ‘making’ a photograph.

    I think that if we make any decision effecting the final photograph prior to tripping the shutter, we would be ‘making’.

    A lot of the decisions we now make are so in-grained in our thinking that it is second nature. Anytime we pick up a camera (even a dig***l) we frame the shot and ‘check the corners’ before we expose the film. Although minor, they are still decisions made about that photo.

    Mike
     
  20. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I don't think it is a strict either-or issue though.

    When we 'snap' or 'grab' a picture, we do make decisions ourselves that affect the outcome.
    Beginning with the one that we should grab that picture, what that picture we are about to grab is (i.e. what stirs our minds into deciding that we should capture it), and how to frame that grab shot. All of those are our input, not something we stumble across.
    So even grab shots are made to a degree.
     
  21. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    Posted wirelessly..

    Take light for exposure. Make a print.
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i borrow in both cases.
     
  23. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I like that. To me a picture is a relationship between the subject matter and the photographer. Nobody takes or makes, it is there already, waiting for someone to see it.
    The 'taking' is from our own life experience, and interpretation of what's in front of us. What you see, and subsequently what you show via your process, is what charges the photograph to become meaningful.
    To me this is true even with studio photographs that are arranged.
     
  24. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I try to avoid thinking too deeply about it and navel gazing, I just get out and do it.
     
  25. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For starters, I tend not to label what I do, for I think that can contribute to unintended consequences. That said, I'll wade in. It is my belief that intent informs such a thing. If I have a camera and I am simply recording instances in time, using basic correct exposures, intending normal processing and printing, generally by someone else, then I feel like I'm taking pictures. Although I may contribute to the making in various ways-composition-DOF- etc. I am still following a basic "factory" premise. There is nothing to stop these pictures from being art or anything else, and I have taken some very nice pictures, but they tend to be nice in that HCB Decisive Moment kind of way, which is in many ways the strength of not being bogged down by equipment and technical details. Many LF types don't understand this.

    When I shoot deliberately, with at least some pre-visualization, run my exposures for + or - development, and basically tweak every step of the way, dodge, burn, split print and in other ways "author" the print, which generally won't bear much resemblance to a snap of the same thing taken at the same time, then I feel I'm making pictures. Many RF street shooters don't understand this.

    There are degrees in-between.

    The main thing Is I'm just happy to be shooting. As ManRay captioned-

    Equipment: The camera was faithfully used.
     
  26. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Ben, that's definitely my approach as well. When I photograph or print I don't intellectualize at all. I just use my instinct, feel, and do.