On Photography and Art

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People enjoy photography I think because it is a challenge. If it was easy to produce an exceptional photograph every time you pressed the shutter, no one would be interested in it.

There are mysteries. There are problems to solve. There are unknowns. There is luck and there is error.

But what separates good photographers from poor ones is effort. Good photographers are the ones who are always working. They are the ones who are possessed. They are the ones who go to bed at night thinking about the next image, and thinking about how they need to change themselves to get to where they want to be.

And there is this zen in photography where you just see. You notice things that others don’t. You are often overwhelmed with imagery…with light…with shadows and contrast and colour and form. You are consumed with geometry and finding a poetic order to something without it being any where near perfect.

Yet even with all these things that are enough to drive you mad, a camera in the hand can set you free. It can release you from self awareness. It can unburden you from rule and restraint.

And the mind of an artist is a very strange thing. We think we’re starting to grasp something until we come to terms with knowing nothing. For every question, there is another question. And just like for every thing we think is true, the opposite is often also true.

The ultimate zen though is being free – free from too much thought…free from technology…free from constraint…free from worry about what others may think…and free from needing any acknowledgement that what you’re doing is valid. That’s when art happens.

Be free. And and enjoy the art of the image. That’s all that matters.

 

Happy Shooting,

 

Doug

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The Magic Shoebox

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Most of us who take pictures these days seem quite content to upload our digital images to our laptops, iPads, or smartphones without ever a thought of doing it any other way. We share our photos mostly via the social media sites like flickr, Facebook, and twitter. We get some feedback – a few likes perhaps, then go on to the next pursuit before starting the process all over again. The images are buried deep in some folder on the hard drive lucky to be ever viewed again.

 

In some ways, the digital photography age has hindered our appreciation for the art of the image. We can now mass produce images without much thought or process, and it is getting more rare to see someone who cherishes an image for it’s aesthetic beauty or for it’s artistic value.

 

Art galleries have always been special places. Why? Because we go there with one purpose in mind – to be enlightened. The art is displayed large in print, canvas, acrylic, or metal, and is carefully arranged spatially, then lighted to bring out it’s magic. We stop, we study, we look again. We think about how it makes us feel. We pause, we smile or shake our heads.

 

The point is, images in print, whether they are 5 by 7’s or giant wall hangings,  have a certain magic about them. They become a tangible slice of life that we can relive – a piece of what it means to be human. We can touch them, experience them, share them and talk about them.

 

A print hanging on your living room wall is there for you to experience every day. It becomes a part of the home. It becomes a part of daily life. Because it is there, it affects everyone in the room.

 

In my office, I have a cork board where I pin portraits of people I have photographed. Each time I go in there, I think about the joy those images brought to the person the first time they saw them, and what they will continue to mean to them years from now.

 

That simple scattering of 4 by 6’s on the coffee table, or the shoebox full of old polaroids taken when our kids were little, has more meaning to us than any digital file on a hard drive could ever offer.

 

Embrace the new age of digital photography, but don’t let it rob you of a life enriched through a photograph that you can touch and experience on a daily basis. Try printing a few of your images and putting them somewhere where you’ll actually see them. As a photographer, you will learn from them. As a person, they will bring you joy.

 

 

Happy Shooting,

 

Doug