Like you I never really shot with themes in mind. In a night course, we had to present a small portfollo on the last class, and it had to have a theme.
After pouring through the prints I thought were reasonable, I realized I have many different prints that can be tied together through common elements.
In the end my portfollio for class had the theme of "leaves". Most of the images were taken over a time frame of a year and a half. I had fallen leaves, leaves under the staires, stuck in ice, covered in frost, floating on water, still on the tree, on a bench, in hand. In a lot of the prints, the leaves were not the main focus.
Check your prints. Just because you don't shoot themes, doesn't mean you can't present one (or two).
Hmm maybe I should have read all the posts before replying. Looks like I'm just repeating others.
What a good suggestion.
I remenber a workshop in Derbyshire and going to Lathkill Dale, the scene of one of John's more famous images. I said it's not my kind of place for images, he said nor me and we had a great conversation
Originally Posted by Andy Tymon
Last edited by Ian Grant; 08-09-2005 at 02:58 AM. Click to view previous post history.
It eludes me too, thank God. Nothing destroys my creativity faster or more surely than the attempt to document a theme.
Originally Posted by peters
Lately I've been photographing at one place, but only because that's where the good photographs come to me. After I have a lot of pictures made there in my body of work, I'll probably find that the evolution of my vision at that place documents it very well. But there's never a consciousness of any theme, only of each individual image on the groundglass.
If I wish to convey a conceptual framework or documentary idea, I'll use words. To create an image of how I uniquely see something, I'll use my camera.
Themes can be frustrating. A gallery owner told a photographer/friend to do a selection on windows, then he would display her work. Maybe he recognized that she already had a theme but needed a push to further explore the theme (also could be he just recognizes what sells in his market area). Commercial photographers frequently face such demands, but for fine-art photographers it can be a frustrating obligation.
I recognize many themes in my work; but for lack of time, or just bad timing, they too often are in abeyance. They weigh on me both in a negative & positive sense. They act as guides but also as reminders of what I haven't accomplished.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
Just photograph whatever you feel like photographing. The themes (which are something different from the subjects) will arise, probably already have arisen, as a function of the work. The worst thing you can do is pick, intellectually, a theme. Then everything else gets missed.
As others have already said, there are no doubt themes already present in your work. Your job regarding these already finished photographs is to find them.
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just ditto to the above.
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
wonderfully put and I went ahead and deleted what I was writting as I saw this michael.
I have a slightly different take on this - exploration of a theme can be a useful and enlightening exercise.
Some time back there was a thread about simplifying - restricting ourselves to a single camera and lens - in order to restore focus to our work. Exploring a particular theme can have a similar effect.
The trick is to approach it as a learning exercise, not a task to accomplish. It is also really important to pick a theme that already is of some interest, so that it doesn't become boring.
After exploring a theme for a reasonable length of time, you can compare and contrast the various results, and learn a lot about what you like, and have an affinity for, and can express photographically.
Originally Posted by peters
I'm a hack, a nobody...so take what I say with a grain of salt. I've attended art schools and I can't (actually, don't want to) photograph in themes either
I'm with Suzanne and Monophoto on this one. If you truly have 100's of good images then your work already contains themes. The instructor at the workshop you went to only saw a smattering of your best images I'm guessing. Did you pick images that related to each other...otherwise known as a theme? If not, the instructor made a valuation of your work while looking through a straw. Sometimes we let people in positions of power make judgments on our work when they don't know the whole story. Weigh those comments and their worth with that in mind.
Try and step back from your images to see the bigger themes; those images that relate to each other through subject matter, or those images of unrelated subject matter that relate because of how you responded to them. Within those bigger themes will be intimate ones. Then you just check your ego at the door and edit out the ones that don't sequence well...even if it's your "best" image.
Sounds like your thinking of putting together a portfolio?
Class room structure has some advantages. I’ve mentioned earlier that I am retired and have gone back to the local Akron (OH) University for their photography courses. Once past Photo 1 & 2 all the advanced courses have one requirement. At the end of the term the student presents a series of twenty, over matted, 11x14 or larger, B&W prints, made from film. Each picture must be a part of a theme. Print quality and contribution to that theme must be consistent.
This is accomplished by the student creating a theme early in the course. The teacher may advise on the difficulties or triteness of one theme verses another, but in six courses I have yet to see a theme rejected, including many on sex and one on slaughter houses. Every two weeks the student puts ten prints up on the board for peer and teacher critique. Early in the course these may be work prints, but later they are as finished as the student can make them. Advice is given and in two weeks improvement is shown.
Last year when the Photography Department was preparing for an accreditation review the main idea stressed was that they prepared students to show work that demonstrated high quality craft in a series of pictures in a theme.
If you pride yourself on being self taught then you simply need to follow this discipline. My feeling is that by doing so you lose the advantage of peer critique, but there are many paths to the same goal.
Are you feeling frustrated because your entire portfolio doesn't look fit together like the exhibitions at art galleries? That seems like an unrealistic expectation.
Originally Posted by peters
If you have hundreds or thousands of good pictures then it shouldn't be a problem to pick out a dozen (or however many) that fit a particular theme . . . perhaps you could recruit someone who's opinions you respect to help you sift through your wealth of pictures. I think that you can create cohesiveness through good editing.