What Do You Do When You've Solved the Technical Problems & Challenges?
This is something that I've been going through for a few weeks, and I was just wondering what others do when/if it hits them. I've always been fortunate in that I knew how I wanted the photos to look, but I didn't technically know how to do it. Finally I have a particular film that I like and understand, along w/ a developer/paper/enlarger that all work fine for what I'm after. In the beginning it was one mistake after another trying different things out. Now I can consistently get the type of shots that I'm after (and thanks to everyone for their help on this too). So, now what?
As a painter and printer for 50 years, I know everyone in the arts goes through this, but w/ the photography it seems to be different. Photography is so equipment driven. For a drawing, all I need is paper and a burnt stick. The paper is perfect just as it is, until you put that first mark down of course. Then, every mark that comes afterwards is essentially trying to fix the error of that first mark! After a while it comes together right in front of your eyes and balances out, or it doesn't, and you start over. And w/ a one person drawing operation, there is never any doubt who messed up when it doesn't work out. I can't blame the film or the developer.
But w/ photography, where you're so dependent on outside film makers, paper makers, lens and camera makers, filter makers, etc, it seems real different. Lately it feels as if I don't even need to be there. All I need is the right gear, the right light and the right subject matter, and anyone could do it. I'll bet that I could explain what and when to do things to my neighbor (who knows nothing about photography) and once the prints were made you wouldn't know which of us did the work. So, why am I doing this?
One of the ways out of this in the older, traditional arts is to switch mediums. The painter who understands painting can switch over to etching and it's all new again, but w/ B&W photography, and if you want a certain look, your options are seemingly pretty limited.
Last edited by momus; 06-11-2014 at 11:59 AM. Click to view previous post history.
So now you make prints, and continue to improve on your methods, and the prints. It doesn't stop just because you think you have it mastered, because you really haven't mastered anything, merely became somewhat dialed in. There is still so very much more to learn and tweak to develope a style or look to your photography.
BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"
That is, in my opinion, the single most important question I've seen asked here at APUG.
It took me years to figure out just how "equipment driven" photography is. Once I got that my images and my understanding got much better.
I can't wait to see what others have to say on the subject.
I think I remember a quote once from someone famous like Strand "the most important thing to know is where to point the camera".
I'm at that place in my life now as well where I often don't take the camera along because I don't know what I wish to photograph.
IMO, this sounds like there's a need to select a specific project. Without that, aimless wandering will likely continue.
Originally Posted by JMcLaug351
The problem is you're talking about photography as if the end goal is just a visible result. That is only the beginning. What's interesting about photography is that the photograph is only the illusion of a literal description. It's only what the camera saw. The interest is in what the camera does directly. Photographs are very specific, they should be well described, but what is happening is entirely unknown. Photography is interesting specifically because seeing how the photograph looks is a transformation of what you saw when you took the picture. It is different. The interest is not in just figuring out technical issues, that's an aside and I believe not even relevant to the practice of photography itself. Once you understand that what you see, and what the photograph looks like, are two completely different things, that you can never know if the photograph will really be successful or interesting until you make it, then more becomes available for you to try and photograph.
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Not so sure
I am not at all sure that photography suffers from a toxic "equipment driven" syndrome. Steven Speilberg is known to have 144 electricians on the set of one of his uber-action dramas. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin said he used to take a stepladder, bucket of whitewash and a brush, a camera and a camerman and Mabel Norman to the park and make a movie. Take a look at all the crap an oil painter-on-canvas has to gather up. (S)he has to stretch the canvas, mix the paints, keep the brushes clean, watch out for wind and dust blowing. A person making a silkscreen has a whole industrial gizmo and thingamajig needed to make the art.
When I was a nipper (before 1950) I took a Brownie Reflex loaded with Kodak 127 film and got the gul-durndest photo of a steam locomotive puffing and churning. One shutter speed (slow) and one f-stop. Art? What's that when you are barely out of knee pants? Damn good, though. And remember what Kodak used to say, "you push the button, we do the rest." Pretty simple stuff. An oil painting of the locomotice would have been 100 times more work.
Until my photographs regularly sell at Sotheby's for $30,000 a print, I believe I still have some learning to do. Like photographers, many "painters" today are dependent on someone to make their supplies . . . canvas material, gesso, mixed oils, acrylic paints, tempera, brushes, easels, palettes, thinners, varnish, etc; And that list is endless. The process of making an image that is both "tangible and pleasing" is a true art. I actually can't recall the last time I saw a photograph that was really interesting, let alone breathtaking.
A suggestion . . . go to http://www.alternativephotography.com and find a different process from the one that you have been using. You might be surprised where you find yourself six months from now. For example, as for myself, I recently took up making dry-plates to add mileage to my craft. It works.
"All I need is the right gear, the right light and the right subject matter, and anyone could do it". If that statement were true, why are there so few truly great photographs made today? Of course, anybody can pick up a camera and use it. Even a child two years of age. And just about anybody with minimal training can make a photographic print. But, the making of an "aesthetically pleasing photograph" is an art in the craft that is all but lost. I would have to got back to the time of Éduard Steichen to see prints that I truely enjoy. Has anything significant in photography happened since then? Oh yes! Brett Weston came along. :-)
We can never master all the challenges that photography has to offer. We humans just don't live long enough.
Last edited by DannL.; 06-11-2014 at 02:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
5x4, 4x5, Half-Plate, 5x7, 8x10, 6x7cm and 6X4.5cm
The only real difference between photography and say, painting, is that the technology is indirect. With painting you can touch the surface you paint on, judge the density of the pigment and its textural qualities, evaluate the choice of brush or knife, all with direct feedback.
With photography there is a disconnect between the equipment setting, and the image reveal. You have to trust your skills will deliver later. Even with digital systems where the feedback loop is much shorter, it is not quite the same.
But this is just the craft. What you choose to photograph, how you portray it, and how you present it makes for the meaning. Ironically, pure craftmanship is no guarantee of a good effective photograph - just look at the surviving pictures by Robert Capa of the D-Day landings. Not the sharpest or wisest tonal range, but they tell you a lot about being there at that moment.
The nice thing about mastering a skill is that you don't think about it consciously, and you know just how much of that knowledge you need apply to the current problem.
I consider myself technically competent, but I don't believe that my photographs will ever reveal anything seminal about the human condition 8-)
I feel, therefore I photograph.
It is precisely this reason that proves photography is so difficult. Anyone can do it, but how many good photographers are there versus how many photographers overall? It is the more difficult medium. How do you photograph something, and make the photograph more interesting? How do you deal with what you are given? It is incredibly interesting because of this problem alone. Add that photography can happen anywhere, of any subject, and it is even more interesting. It really isn't anything like painting, or drawing, or etching, it is a very special medium. To go beyond the illustration of an idea in a photograph, that's the interesting problem. Photography is a faulty medium for illustration.
Originally Posted by DannL.
i agree, much of photography is equipment driven.
look at photography forums, its all about equipment,
its all about latest acquisition &c ..
how about getting rid of all your fancy cameras, and get a basic camera
one that has no controls, maybe a 4x5 box camera .. and instead of shooting new film
use a different media like paper negatives, or expired film, or hand coat your own glass or paper plates.
using materials that have mutated into something else makes photography more interesting than
using the best film, best camera, best lenses, best developers best enlargers best contact printing papers ..
it keeps it fun because of that bit of randomness and NONcontrol.
ps contact me if you decide want to buy some equipment, ill be happy to sell it to you