Botany Bay, Vancouver Island, October 2014.
Thursday, March 05, 2015
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
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Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
Lake Agnes, September, 1989
Pictorialism…."in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of "creating" an image rather than simply recording it." ( wikipedia )
Technicism in photography…."refers to a modern day approach to photography that has a predominant reliance on technology and technical knowledge as primary benefactors to making pictures as a whole. This is associated directly with photographic equipment and accessories including, cameras, lenses, computers and related software etc." ( my own definition )
Straight Photography or Pure Photography.…"is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form." ( wikipedia )
I fully acknowledge that this blog post is about my own ideas and theories that may or may not be relevant, but never the less I humbly present them here as part of my "conversation" series about photography.
Back in the 1930's there was a new style of photography emerging called "straight photography" overriding pictorialism, Of course things are much different today, I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned from these older and former styles of photography involving some of the great photographers of our time. In my mind a lot of photography that I see on around the web including photo sharing is what I call "technicism", where photographers are rely heavily on technique to make beautiful technically perfect photographs. These techniques are often learned and copied by others, thus creating a sense of sameness even though the pictures are produced by individual photographers. Finding one's "vision"is the hard part and I humbly submit that I am earnestly working on that, reading the above definition of straight photography, keeps me challenged! Technique for the most part is not that difficult to learn, even back in 1924 with bulky view cameras, Edward Weston said in his Daybooks that he could teach a 7-year-old how to develop film and print, the mechanics of technique are easy to replicate, I think the art of vision or "seeing" is not and thats what can take a life time to find. So where has vision gone these days? its must be around, and of course there are lots of photographers out there who I think have real vision, its just that in the internet age, with soe many images they just get buried. I'm not saying that straight photography is better than pictorialism, who am I to say that one is better than the other? there are a lot of beautiful styles each kind, some of the work of pictorialist phtographers I really like and I have made work along those lines myself.
When straight photography or pure photography started to gain traction, all the greats that we know and love today, including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others started to create their work in straight photographic style, they even formed a group called the F64 Group. Interestingly quite a number of those photographers including Adams and Weston had photographed in the pictorialist style earlier on in their careers. In 1927 Adams produced a new portfolio featuring his new straight photography style which included his famous image "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome", taken with his view camera using glass plates and a dark red filter. On that hiking trip, he "visualized" the effect of the blackened sky. He later said "I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print".
To me a more straight approach to photography, has taken a back seat to a kind of photographic techicism that seems to dominate so many photo sharing sites. One of the most recent discoveries in photography is the photographs of the late Vivian Maier, who made compelling street photographs in a straight kind of style in the 1950's and 1960's. Her work wasn't about technique, ( although she had very fine technique ), but more importantly, she saw "the thing itself " as Edward Weston liked to say in the subjects that she photographed. People really like her work as do I.
For myself when I take a pictures its a little like directing a play on "stage" ( my subject ), I need my main starring "actor" ( my vision ) and I need my "supporting actors" ( lighting, technique, camera and lens ) and all together in the right balance I hope to produce a great "play" ( my photograph ), and no I'm not about to exit stage left!
One thought to end on, Edward Weston often mentioned "the thing itself". He writes in his Daybooks (p.55), "that the camera should be used for the recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether polished steel or palpitating flesh." So I ask this: are any photographers looking for "the thing itself" these days? or is it all about technique and the latest camera gear? One thing I can say about Edward Weston, for him it was always about "the thing itself" that he loved the most.
For further reading and insight, take a look at Edward Weston's essay called "Photography - Not
Here is a link to my earlier blog post: A Conversation About Landscape Photography