Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Look for Pictures That Other People Don't Make

I was talking to a friend yesterday who mentioned something that he heard the photographer, Vincent Laforet said.

"Look for pictures that other people don't make."

It's a simple statement, but one that is full of insight.

I was thinking just along these lines when during this past weekend I had some students in my Digital SLR Bootcamp make pictures of a bandshell in the park where I teach the workshop. I encouraged them to not only make photographs from eye level, but to really play around and try different perspectives, focal lengths and compositions. I asked them not to settle for just one or two photographs, but to fully exhaust all the possibilities.

Some of the resulting photographs really surprised me. I saw in their  pictures perspectives and points of view that I had never seen myself, even though it's a location that I have visited countless numbers of times. In their photographs, these students were really revealing to me the limits of my own vision.

I know what makes a good photograph or at least I think I know most of the time. So, when I photograph a scene or a subject, it's easy to compose a shot thinking that this is the definitive interpretation of it. But is that really the only possibility?

I saw photographers taking risks, making choices that they were not sure would work or not, but still committing to making the photograph. Yes, there was a risk that the image might not work, but that didn't deter them from trying it out and seeing what could happen. They weren't editing themselves and judging the picture before they made it. Instead, they practiced photography and played and discovered what worked and what didn't and in several cases, revealed exciting and beautiful surprises.

Ask 10 photographers to photograph a car and likely 9 out of 10 of them will deliver just that. They will make a picture of a car. It results in a photograph that is nothing more than  a document. Then there is the one photographer who makes a photograph not of the car, but the qualities of the car that resonate with him or her. It could be the color, the shapes, the play off light off its surface. These photographers use the camera to create from not only what they see, but what they feel.

It's so easy to compose a photograph by following all the rules. Yes, it can produce a well-composed, well-exposed photograph, but it may not surprise me or anyone else. It may not make me feel anything. It won't reveal the world to me in a different way that's both exciting and liberating.

The best photographers do that and it begins when they make photographs that other people aren't making.

It's about photographing the world that expresses not only how I uniquely see it, but also which reveals my exploration of that world when I make non-traditional choices with the camera. When I am willing to take the risk and do something different, even though there is a possibility that it may not work, is whenI am really living in the spirit of what it means to be a photographer.

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