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Thread: On Technique

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    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    On Technique

    A very good friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Lisl Steiner last night. I was queued up with a couple of hyperlinks, and found this one interview fascinating:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m.../ai_n28648757/

    It seems that many photographers that I admire are disinterested in technique, to a degree that they think the more you know, the worse the results will be. Isn't that interesting in a type of interest that many regard as highly technical?

    "Hell, no. I never learned anything. After thirty-nine years, I am happy to say I have managed not to know too much about photography. I shoot with my guts! Afterwards, I'm always surprised there's even an image there. I just get in a little trance. If what I see in front of me is exciting, it turns out good. These people who are all technicians don't know what it's all about. You can't learn it in a school. Once you start getting intellectual in these things, you're dead."
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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    Thanks for the link, she sounds like a really interesting character. I wonder how much is 'too much' with photography knowledge. So long as you can read a meter and focus, all else is normally fine. I have some friends who are naturally visionary in the arts - drawing, painting, photography, they make great stuff without knowing much at all about stuff. I have a friend who got his BA in photography using an Oly Mju II. His photos are 'technically' awful but look great.
    Steve.

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    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if there is anything that's correct in photography, to be honest with you, except being open minded. There are so many ways to make a print.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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    My Holga reminds me regularly that high-tech is far from required. Of course it also teaches me the limits.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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    This philosophy - "the more you know, the worse the results will be" - has been found valid in many fields. It has even been published in respected journals. Some believe that there is an upward curve in creativity and productivity as we learn, and that this will peak and then begin to decline as we learn more. Some say that with too much knowledge, you begin to outthink yourself. Or, you can put more "knowledge" into a project and less creativity.

    Whatever the reason, I have heard this same theme since the '50s.

    PE

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    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    This philosophy - "the more you know, the worse the results will be" - has been found valid in many fields. It has even been published in respected journals. Some believe that there is an upward curve in creativity and productivity as we learn, and that this will peak and then begin to decline as we learn more. Some say that with too much knowledge, you begin to outthink yourself. Or, you can put more "knowledge" into a project and less creativity.

    Whatever the reason, I have heard this same theme since the '50s.

    PE
    I think there is something to be said for just 'doing'. It's amazing how difficult it is to stay true to that and avoiding all of the distractions.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    This philosophy - "the more you know, the worse the results will be" - has been found valid in many fields. It has even been published in respected journals. Some believe that there is an upward curve in creativity and productivity as we learn, and that this will peak and then begin to decline as we learn more. Some say that with too much knowledge, you begin to outthink yourself. Or, you can put more "knowledge" into a project and less creativity.

    Whatever the reason, I have heard this same theme since the '50s.

    PE

    Ron,

    I think it is invariable true. Once we know too much, the creative process is hindered because we immediately start doubting ourselves and look for answers in the wrong places. What if I used Pyrocat instead of XTOL? Or that paper instead of that paper, or Zone System, BTZS or just sunny 16? Will my images be better if toned? All efforts go into acquiring a deeper knowledge of process, which almost always lead to obsessions that are concentrated in the wrong places. Whether we apply that knowledge judiciously is irrelevant because the damage has already been done, since we no longer concentrate on content but only on what comes after, which most of the time means making up with process for what would just be a simple photograph. I don't think there is necessarily a right or wrong, but it is certainly true that, applied to photojournalism, technique is irrelevant and too much knowledge only leads to decreased creativity.

    Max

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    The photographer Lisette Model once said, "Darling, if you think my prints are bad you should see my negatives."

    When faced with a choice it is better to have a poor photograph of a good subject than a good photograph of a poor subject.

    I have seen far too many prints for sale that are very attractive but are all technique and no substance.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch View Post
    The photographer Lisette Model once said, "Darling, if you think my prints are bad you should see my negatives."

    When faced with a choice it is better to have a poor photograph of a good subject than a good photograph of a poor subject.

    I have seen far too many prints for sale that are very attractive but are all technique and no substance.
    Well said, Gerald. I would say that most landscapes certainly fall into the second category for obvious reasons. With very few exceptions, graciously donated by mother nature, without technique and process, they are usually nothing. I personally would be happy to always have poor photographs of a good subject.

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    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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    Well, I am subject to this failing myself in photography due to my backgrounds in chemistry and photography. That is why I usually end up adding to some of my comments "use what works for you"!

    PE

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