Photography as communication

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Donald Miller

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O.K., I have a question for all of you. Since this forum is composed of great intellectual depth, I will be interested in the answers that you advance.

In your view, what does your photography serve to communicate, to whom do you wish to communicate, what visual objects do you utilize to communicate your message, and what is the benefit of the message that you propose to communicate?

I will begin in saying that, to me, my photography is a means whereby I can communicate the view that I have of life, to all who are willing to observe, I use readily available natural scenes in a symbolic way, and the benefit that I most strive to accomplish is to benefit others in expanding their view beyond what is commonly accepted as life.

Thanks to all who participate, I will learn a lot from you.
 

bmac

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I just like taking pretty pictures
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Jim Chinn

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I don't consciously go out and try to make a statement with my photographs. Sometimes a theme may emerge from a series of images that the viewer may recognize or I may recognize it and then purposely persue it further. Most of my work is of more detailed landscapes both natural and urban. I shoot a lot of derelict and abandoned items and it wasn't until a couple of years passed that I began to understand that I had an interest in the constant conflict between what man creates and nature reducing it over time to dust.

Sometimes I just see something that tugs at me to photograph it. I don't know why, but I have a strong need to record it on film. I guess I try to communicate my sense of beauty to the viewer. If I were to put up a statement at a gallery about my work it would go somethin like this:

"Here are images of something or some place or someone I think posesses a kind of beauty. I want to share it with you. My definition of beauty may be different then yours. I hope through my vision and skill I have created something that will allow you to stop and consider and appreciate my idea of beauty and I hope you will walk away with a more open awareness of the world all around you."

But the real truth for most of us, (at least for me), all though maybe not everyone wants to admit it is what Garry Winnogard said, (I hope he is the right guy) "I photograph things to see waht they look like as photographs".
 

David Hall

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I think it's remarkably simple, and individually pretty complex.

I think we photograph what we see. And we all go through the world, camera in hand or not, seeing some things and not other things. Some men see blondes more than redheads. Joel Witkin sees fascination in the mechanics and form of human parts. Ansel Adams saw more linearly and symmedtrically, which kind of goes with seeing photography as much of a science as it is an art.

Aggie is having a hard time seeing how a rangefinder camera works at the moment, so I'd bet her photographs of one at the moment would be pretty elementary. But I'll bet there's a patch of someone's yard where she walks every day in her foggy Bay Area that she sees extremely well, and from it she could produce photographs of things that rest of us would swear were not there.

A few years ago I was in a bit of a depression, and all of my portraits looked a little sadder and a little more hopeless. It's because of what I was seeing...recognizing, probably...at the instant I pushed the shutter. I wonder what AA was going through during that period in which he printed everything dark? He said it was a reflection of how he saw the world in those years.

So what we communicate is what we have the ability to see clearly enough to turn around and show, whether we are doing so consciously or not.

dgh
 
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Good points.

When I take a picture, I just hope to capture some essence of the moment that really says something about the subject. Now, in reality I am sure it also says something about me.


And of course each picture says something different to each viewer. Below is a good example of this. This picture doesn't seem to resonate much with single males, but every woman who has seen it who has either had kids or worked with kids just loves this picture.
 
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Opps....

Here it is.
 
OP
OP

Donald Miller

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A beautiful image. I commend you for seeing it. Yes, I can see where single individuals would not relate to that nearly as well as those in relationships. Certainly mothers would relate to it most closely. But I think that the matter of relationship is clearly addressed in your image.
 
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Thanks.

What is interesting is that this is not the whole image.

In the full frame version, you can see a male hand coming into the frame. When people see that image (which isn't as good a crop), they tend to have different feelings about it. It goes from a frazzled mother with a child on her own, to a frazzled mother with child about to get "help".

What is REALLY interesting is what actually happened.

The subjects are my fiancee's cousin's wife and their baby. Her cousin and his wife were with us on a daytrip to York. We stopped at a cafe for lucnh...I mean tea...(forgot where I was).

This shot is not of someone who is frazzled, but simply of the mother turning her head to talk to someone off frame. The baby was not really crying, but sort of gurgling and making faces. It just happened that I caught the moment. I was in fact going for an image of her and the child in a more peaceful pose. The lighting was super for this image with the child being almost spotlit be the sun.

In the end, there turned out to be numerous interpertations of that moment. Each depending on what is shown and where you were.

We have frazzled mother on her own.
We have frazzled mother getting help.
We have someone turning their head to talk while holding a baby.

This is the kind of thing I love about photography. The images don't say just one thing. They say many things. And you can often get them to say something just by changing the viewpoint a bit. Plus the viewer brings their own interpertation with them of the image.

Very fun stuff.
 

SteveGangi

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I can't say I am consciously or deliberately trying to say something. Some pictures are just to capture a moment for future memories of good times. Some seemed to be somehow interesting, humorous or pleasing, or I just thought it would look nice. Maybe the subconscious message would be "here is how things should/could be". Maybe I am just saying this is what I like, and so this is me. Who knows? Too often, if a person starts with I HAVE A MESSAGE, he/she tends to go over the top and beat people on the head with it.
 

David Hall

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Jdef,

I have found something very interesting for myself when making portraits of family and loved ones. It comes from all the times I have looked at old pictures and thought or asked "when was this from?" or "Yikes, how old was I here?"

I state the age as the title of the pictures. "Chuck at 40". "Maddy at 12". It's weird, and maybe only for me, but the title actually adds something to the photograph. It's like the age kind of reverberates around in your head at the same time that you are looking at the person's expression, features, and eyes.

Just a thought.
 
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Steve - Exactly. I think you made my point better than I did.

I shoot because it interests me, then I worry about the message. And even that is usually secondary. In the image I posted, it wasn't until I was playing with the cropping that I realized what I had. It was sort of like "Hey, cool, she looks really frazzled and emotional. That is neat." (o.k. neat for ME....
smile.gif
).

I find that images with a "Message" tend to be over the top. If I let the message happen, I get a better image.

Here is an example.

In this image, I was simply shooting a mother and daughter at a protest rally against the war. I liked the aspect of two generations at the rally. I shot about 3 frames of them just standing there. Then the mother raised her hand and I got this image. Now, I KNEW this was an emotional image when it happened. But it simply HAPPENED. It just occured. I did not try and orchestrate the image at all. Had I done so, I don't think it would of worked at all.
 

brYan

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I try to make photographs that please me, and lately that has been quite a challenge. I'm not at all concerned about the viewer, except myself as the final viewer, nor do I try to impart any kind of message.

My focus is on the light.

I try to think of the "LIGHT" as the viewer of my images. If I think the "LIGHT" is pleased with the light in the image, then maybe I have a keeper.
 

SteveGangi

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Often The LIGHT is all there is and all you need. I took a series of photos of a door. Just a dark, old, weathered door with a lighter area where it was patched and an old fashioned cast iron latch, the sort of thing most people would never notice or care about. I made the prints, and then looked at them... really looked. Not to beat my own drum, but they were good... very good. The grain of the wood, the texture, the detail, it was all there. No message, no agenda. A friend came to visit, and out of all the pictures on the wall, she said "I want that one". It was that old door. It was the Light.
 

chrisl

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Great photos Robert! Very sharp, contrasty and very interesting moments captured. Funny, I've never gotten over being afraid to shoot people so casually. Fine with family and friends though. Very good work.

For me, I too just want to capture an image and share it. Interpretation is theirs. And hopefully, it's a halfway decent shot technically as to not distract.lol As long as it's inviting to the viewer in the end and they enjoy it, I'm happy.
 
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Thanks Chris. One thing that helped was the large amount of OTHER photogs there!
 

blansky

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I photograph people because they fascinate me.

Portraits, to make them look great, and to stop time. So they and other people can look at then down the road and to see them as they were.

Photojournalism, to make a statement, either their statement or mine.

I rarely do scenics but I love to look at old pictures of places that are no longer there or have changed considerably.

I think I have a melancholy approach to photography, and perhaps to life. I think I'm trying to stop time.
 

Ed Sukach

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I heard this the other day:

First person (Actually a Lawyer in a non-legal role): "I've tried, but I just can't understand Art."

Photographer: "That's the trouble. Art is irrational - and you are trying to rationalize it. Too many people are trying to come up with a coherent "formula" for an irrational activity. Just relax and `Feel' it."

I agree. Comments?
 
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