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?
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."
Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!
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.
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.
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.
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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!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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.
Originally Posted by Les McLean
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'.
Originally Posted by Les McLean
Interesting post Les. Thanks.
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
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."
Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!
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.
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
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.