Photographers don't see in black and white nor in color!

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by per_volquartz|1, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. For many years one of the most common questions asked from serious
    fine art photographers is "Do you see in color or black and white"?

    At the risk of being called a heretic I say that photographers
    initially see neither! Instead they see form. Form is line and the
    interaction of line creating tension and emotion. Form is basic. Our
    ancestors wrote simple forms on their cave dwellings. Children
    understand and make simple stick figures. World class Renaissance
    artists used basic line work, combining tension and fluidity of such
    line work to create magnificent compositions.

    I am posting this to hopefully start a debate about what I find
    seriously absent from this forum: the discussion of content and
    composition, how we are attracted to certain subject matter and why we
    are compelled to photograph these images.

    Some very well known photographers have repeatedly stated that you
    cannot teach - or learn composition. Again I disagree (respectfully,
    as several of these photographers are dead and therefore unable to
    defend their opinions).

    Besides hopefully starting a meaningful discussion here the subject
    matter of content and composition will be the main "focus" at the Free
    North Coast Workshop on the Memorial Day Weekend.
    Email me if you wish to participate (although the workshop is getting
    quite full by now!)

    Per Volquartz
  2. Per, I really miss the old "Philosophy of Photography" Forum on the formet Lucinet. Personally I see color, motion, and relationships, not form.
  3. Bill

    Relationships! Exactly! Relationships of shapes (defined by form). Color relationships (again defined by form) Black and white and shades of grey strengthen form; areas of color, subtle or strong, strengthen form; our basic vision is form; after form we decide on black and white (plus shades of grey), or color to "deliver" our message
  4. I agree and would add "light." On those rare occasions when the planets align and I have camera, time, and see form and good's all I can do to combat the "buck fever!" Wish I could go!!
  5. Per, A most interesting presumption. In your view of this matter are these forms archetypal? From your assertion that this is a matter that can be taught, I would take that there exists at some place a basis of knowledge and that this knowledge is transmittable. Are these forms that exist in your frame of reference repeated throughout the world which we experience daily? Do these fall into groupings?
    Would you be so kind as to elaborate on your earlier post? Thanks again for your approach to this matter.
  6. In its purest sense, what I see, and try to capture, first is the quality of light. This latent light is absorbed, reflected, and trasmitted through forms and material characteristics and when combined with previsualization of the final photograph, it is composed in a two dimensional aspect ratio. In actuality, good light doesn't always a good photograph make, because the viewer, myself too sometimes, usually interprets other qualities first like subject matter, composition, techniques and presentation, etc. But it's the most fundamental element in a potentially good photograph. Henry
  7. Speak for yourselves , gentlemen....
    I see upsidedown and reversed : - )
  8. I think that this is the most important statement made on this forum since I joined :"I am posting this to hopefully start a debate about what I find seriously absent from this forum: the discussion of content and composition, how we are attracted to certain subject matter and why we are compelled to photograph these images".
    I am convinced that our best images are identified by the subconcious.We are walking along and suddenly something makes us stop and look carefully at the scene before us. Its a involuntary reaction.
    As a photographer we can now begin to examine the details of the subject. How can we enhance the image so that our feeling will be expressed to others. Is the center of intrest well placed ,are there leading lines which will draw the eye into the frame and towards the center of intrest. Do the principle lines prevent the eye from being lead out of the frame. Do the principle masses in the image contribute to balance. Does the existing light condition contribute to the image or would a different light condition enhance it.
    But the first and most important step is recognition ,composition is really only the analysis which we go through to convey our feelings to others.
  9. Don,

    Many forms are archetypal. They communicate from culture to culture and from time period to time period. This knowledge that we all have, but may not be aware of can be analyzed, dissected, and used as a tool, just like the zone system.
    It is true that we need light to see form; without light there is no photography. It is also true that the quality of the light is important as it can enhance the communication of the forms in the scene we wish to photograph / capture / show - what have you. Light, like form is tangible and can also be analyzed, dissected and used to convey ideas, messages and visions.

    To illustrate my point about form you can look at the Pepper image by Weston.

    Is it the light that creates the feeling of sensuality?
    Is it the shades of grey that create the same?
    No, it is the interaction of line, flowing from form to form that create the sensual rhythm, that is ENHANCED by the use of light and shades of grey.
    Weston's image is a perfect example of how the quality of line delineates form, that is interpreted as sensual (if not erotic).

    There is nothing magic in understanding line and form. For centuries Chinese master artists used the "line of life" (which actually originates from the structure of the human body) to create art with sensual line work. They understood the meaning of basic line form. European masters took advantage of this concept, especially during the Renaissance. Even today, the same basic effective use of line and form is found in work by many artists (painters, sculptors, photographers and performing artists such as dancers).

    For many years photographers struggled with the basic problem of controlling light and exposure. The Zone system was a great step forward in illustrating the concept of controlling values through controlled placement, exposure and development. It is a great tool for any creative artist working in the photographic medium.
    In my opinion the time has come to address composition, shape, form and line in a similar analytical manner, using a tool if you will, to make creative decisions about composition in much the same way we use the zone system.

    I'm getting off my soap box now and will keep quiet until Memorial day! :)
  10. You need eyes and a brain to see. If you have ever argued with a person who is colorblind you will know that what is real is a matter of opinion. You may see form, others may see a particular quality of light. And we will not even go into how memory effects what we see! It is all a matter of attention.

    I read a lot of arguments and watch a lot of people spend lots of money and test and fret with charts and calculators. Yes we need to know what is going on so that we can make intelligent, informed changes in our work. This is the great value of shared questions in the forum! What I don’t read much of is people sharing the experience of shooting , processing etc. and then commenting on how it turned out! I don’t hear people discussing prints! Has there never been a gathering at a museum to see an exhibit? Is there no live forum to show our own prints and learn more from looking at the very objects we make? (I am quite new to the forum.)

    What do I see? I see prints! At least that is what I am thinking of when I take out my gear and do the voodoo. I have a feel for how my prints MAY look. I am often happily surprised by what I did not anticipate too. Why do I choose one direction to point my camera and not another? What do I see that makes my decision? I imagine a photograph and I do what it takes to bring my best guess into being.

    John D Gerndt
  11. John,

    Yes, within this forum there have been and are many occasions to get together, share prints and experiences with one another. If you are on the West Coast participate in one or more of our Free Large Format Workshops. The next one is on the Memorial Day weekend in Northern California. After that we will have a week long Free workshop (come for a day - or stay for the week) in October at Mt. Shasta / Lassen in Northen California.
    Email me at if you are interested!
  12. Hi Per,

    How I wish I was able to come along to one of your workshops! (Are you coming to Western Australia to run one? :)

    I completely agree that composition can be taught. If anyone doubts it, ask them to pull out some of the earliest photos that they ever took (before they read about using a camera) and compare them to their recent shots. I'd be extremely surprised if they couldn't spot an improvement in their own compositions. Improvements indicate that we have learnt from past experience.

    Almost by definition, if one can learn about an element of photography, it can be taught.


  13. I, a lowly small neg man (that did have big neg expectations...once upon a time), would like to say that I don't know what I have until the first test print appears before my eyes (and even then the image changes as I reprint it over time). Before I see that first print I sometimes suspect I've nailed something and there are other times I feel I've failed. But the proof is in the pudding. I consider myself a so-so shooter. I do feel I'm fair in the darkroom though. Could this be a reason I lack pre-vision? Just thought I'd comment and ask how many others are this way?<p> Plus a bloody big gold star to those who fling it all aside as they go through life upside down & reversed...cheers to you.
  14. If I really think about it, I suppose I see in terms of light, first and foremost, and then in terms of shape, depth, and texture. That said, unless I'm having a really difficult time setting up a shot, I prefer not to think about it at all. Composition and finding photographs in general seems to be almost entirely visceral to me. Usually I just see it. And when I see it, it's as much of a gut feeling as anything else. I just *feel* the shot. Maybe it sounds kinda crazy in some respect, but that's really how it seems to happen a lot of the time, particularly when I'm 'in the zone,' so to speak. It wasn't always this way - in a way I suppose I almost had to learn specifically *not* to think about it and just do it. Maybe it's a matter of learning to clear one's mind so what you're actually seeing, in a photographic sense, can come to the surface. Somtimes your mind gets in the way of your brain, thought clouding thought. A lot of the time the image is there floating around in your head, I think, and the challenge is just getting to it. That's how it seems to me at the moment (3:56 AM), anyway.
  15. An interesting post, Per...if you are a heretic, then viva heresy!

    I don't think we can separate photography from our total "selves". I tend to think of the elements of my images in terms of Bach and Brel. Bach,for me, represents qualities typified with large format work--polished technique, counterpoint in composition, balance. Brel, (Jacques Brel, 20th century Belgian singer/songwriter) represents a more immediate, gritty approach. I think of Bach and Brel as intertwined, like Yin and Yang. The best examples which come to mind of Bach are the paintings of Vermeer. Capa's "Death of a Loyalist Soldier" is pure Brel. Gene Smith's work is Brel, supported by Bach. Ansel Adams' Manzanar images are very passionate Brel given much more power by the polish of Bach.

    Can we teach or learn composition? I'm not sure. However, we can certainly develop our awareness of composition. Technical expertise is very important. A well seen/felt image deserves a good presentation. Anything less may distract the viewer. Also, technique frees the photographer. I rarely use a light meter. I know from experience that just off full sunlight im my area is 1/30 at f22 with Tri X. I think that helps in seeing; my mind is not thinking about metering or Zones. Fred Picker often said he taught technique. Part of that "technical" training was insisting on being aware of what was happening in the corners of the groundglass. (Vermeer would have been an outstanding groundglass man.) Fred didn't teach what to put on the groundglass.

    Per, I hope to see more of this kind of posting. Photography definitely has both technical and aesthetic sides. There is value in sharing technical and equipment experiences. There is also value in sharing the non technical, personal facets of our images.
  16. Anyone interested in this question should read the book "Vision and Art, the biology of seeing" by Margarite Livingstone. Here is one link: Of course we (almost) all see in both color and black and white. We see in shades of gray when the light is low and only our eye's rods are sufficiently sensitive. And our eye's cones are responsive to both color and luminance. And it's luminance that translates into the gray scales of black and white photographs (but, you don't see in terms of the Zone System without a lot of learning and practice). We are most sensitive to edge definition (i.e., form) rather than smooth textures. And we are highly sensitive to movement (which may or may not help our photographic vision). Our vision evolved more to find food (color and form) and find prey and avoid predators (movement) than to compose photographs. How learing all the left brain neurobiology of vision translates into the right brain activity of composition is hard to say (another left brain activity). But, photography is all about going back and forth from the right brain activities of composition, etc. and the left brain activities of craftsmanship.
  17. Teach composition.. Maybe, I think that composition has equally important elements that make the phototgraph. Light, form , texture, tones or colors and so on. I am not to sure if that is taught or you are just made aware of these components and have to develop the use of them on your own. I think A good teacher of composition will just make you aware of their own personel approach to composition and tell that. After that you are on your own. I think that the eye and brain need to work through a photograph in a rhythm.
  18. This is by far my favorite kind of post, along with narratives of experiences.

    To me, the composition of lines, forms, shades, etc, doesn't happen without a subject. Where do I point the camera, and why? Once I find the 'thing itself', then the composition takes center stage in my vision.

    Being a 'weekend warrior' with a day job, family, etc, I do the vast majority of my work within a day's drive of my home in central Vermont. There is an immense variety of possible subjects. I prefer to do landscapes, small forms in nature, that sort of thing. Over the years I see a definite tendency to study the same types of things over and over.

    Rocky streams, waterfalls, ice. Stone walls, lone trees. Abandoned houses, teetering barns. Clouds. Churches. I'm drawn to these things for some reason. Then I look for compositions. The quality of the light is definitely a major part of any composition, and actually is quite often the real 'subject'. Usually there is no good composition and/or the light is all wrong. So I just enjoy being there and make the perfect picture in my mind. Once in a while it all comes together and I get it on film.

    Sometimes I feel like I've seen all there is to see around here. I've been doing it for 15 many streams and stone walls can there be? That's when I think about ranging farther afield...out West perhaps. Wide, spectacular landscapes are tough to find here. Everything is closer together, long views are few, wide expanses of sky hard to find, dramatic clouds infrequent. Usually, however, I feel that the actual time spent scouting and shooting is more valuable to me than any images I create. It's the actual doing of it I really love. And that's why I keep finding new ways to see the same types of things.

    A few days I ago I spent an entire day exploring a rocky river, lugging my 4x5 for miles. It's a beautiful place, with big ledges, waterfalls, great twisted roots, all that good stuff. I didn't expose a single negative. Had several setups then decided they weren't worth the film. Banged my camera on a tree (luckily no damage). Had a few other adventures. Got back to my car exhausted, but happy and grateful for the day on the river. There was a time when I would have been pretty frustrated, but I'm older and wiser now, and I know that I will make more images I love, just maybe not today.
  19. Form and no more brother! --- “Naked Symphony” - individual shots taken with 18 and 28mm Carl Zeiss Distagons, prints assembled and reproduced with a 9x12cm camera. (There were no personal computers in the seventies when I took these pictures).
  20. How can you teach what composition is when it is secondary, a tool of the central idea of the photograph? The idea/inspiration being the sole determinator of the construction of the composition. This of course is a very personal thing in practice. Not necessarily a brain/mental thing.
    Why should the composition get first billing over the primary premise/idea of the photo....isnt that a case of the tail wagging the dog?
    I guess if the goal is to produce attractive home accessories/furnishings in the form of photographs then teaching standard composition is a good idea. It gives instructors something to speak about.
    It is obvious that studying the compositions of the great artists is a good idea at a certain point in development.Like learning the scales on the piano.As well as seeing and learning from the techniques and opinions of others.
    But how is a new way of seeing going to evolve without going all the way WITHIN to find YOUR WAY of seeing..... Irregardless of other peoples visual methods.
  21. My approach to form and composition is more like Zen Archery than anything else. While I may not be conscious about what I have done, I recognize the feeling I get when I have taken a good picture. This is immediate, as soon as I press the trigger. If I don't get the "twang" there may still be something usable in the frame, but it is not "complete".

    Then comes processing, printing, forever hunting for the good twang...
  22. Emile,

    It is absolutely true that composition is nothing more than a tool. That is one of the reasons why it can be taught, analyzed and disected.
    When we talk we communicate with sound (and body language).
    When we create something visual, we try to communicate though a visual language. This visual language is universal to some extent. Being aware of this visual language helps you when you wish to convey your idea or inspiration.
    Tools should never interfere with the creation of visual content. Instead they should only be in the back of your mind, ready for retrieval if needed. Finally, tools should never limit an artist or force an artist to create works that are mechanical and automatic. Instead, having a great "tool kit" allows the artist to pick and chose the right tool for the job!
  23. "When we create something visual, we try to communicate though a visual
    language. This visual language is universal to some extent."

    I think that one of the things about photography, as compared to many other forms of visual communication (eg painting, drawing and even, to some extent, film) is that it is an incomplete or even "half" language - which is both it's strength and weakness.

    Weakness, because it is something we are always struggling to overcome, so that our (discontinuous and instant) quote from the reality we see through our lens is a meaningful and expressive one.

    Strength, because it is this very ambiguity, which this incomplete language and discontinuousmoment induces, that gives many photographs their power to engage the viewer.

    I would also add that when photography tries to appropriate the visual language of painting or drawing (or even poetry), it is often when it fails most profoundly. These languages are far from universal. They are also, in many instances quite specific to the form of visual expression. I think it was Barthes who said, about photography, something like - humanity encountering for the first time meassages without a code - that is, photographs supply visual information without a language of their own. I think there is an element of this in most "great" photographs which stop us in a tracks when we first see them, or draw us quietly further and further in. The discontiunity of the photographs instant of creation and the ambiguity of it's meaning.

  24. Is the composition merely a tool? I am not sure although you can learn it - one of the basic classes at art educations. And here it is for photographers: “PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION” by Andreas Feininger - my basic book around 1974 along with other books on photography by Feininger.

    I do not think I approach a subject subconsciously. Rather with a definite aim. I do see differently when I shoot b&w than in color; I need o strong 3-dimensional feel for B&W to shoot, while in color the subject can be flat in a geometrical sense. Strong patches of color will form composition instead.

    With a hand held camera I explore (compose) the subject from different angles before I shoot, a rather limited possibility with a view camera. But I always first inspect the potential scene with a 2-dimensional “screen”. Simply close one eye and look around. Afterwards I usually pass 80% of “great” shots and save the effort. Also previsualize with a Kodak Wratten filter no.90 which approximates the B&W rendition on panchromatic film. Action shots are a different story. No, I do not look at the world around me through 10% segments of a gray scale as the ZONESYSTEMITES claim they do. But I know how and when to compress or expand the tonal scale. Light? Sure there must be light!

    And here are some compositions or forms if you prefer.
    Architecture is easy to compose well. But I use completely different principles to capture scenes which a naked eye is unable to see. Seeing differently, not only in color but in B&W is possible.
  25. we are attracted to certain subject matter and why we are compelled to photograph these images.
    I honestly think that most people who take photos do so because they have been conditioned to think that the thing in front of their lens is the sort of thing one should photograph. This is why grandmothers spoil the atmosphere of baptisms with their underpowered strobes, and this is why ninety percent of photographs on the web depict a cat, a naked woman or a red barn.
    Even conscious photographers fall into this trap. Landscape and nature photographers are the worst, but in all genres people who call themselves photographers have a depressing tendency to follow the herd. However people get their photographic education, there seems to be an overwhelming urge to limit ones gamut to a few canonical ways of depicting a few canonical objects. This is just one of the reasons for the vast, yawning gulf that seperates "Fine Art Photographers" from "Artists who use a camera".
    Creativity can be taught, but at some point the teacher stops being an instructor and starts being a coach or mentor. "Toujours l'audace!" has no doubt been the inspiration for far too many adolescent spewings, but my experience as a teacher and self-taught photographer is that the hardest thing of all is getting the student to trust their own judgement, and to use the judgements of others as a guide, not a yardstick.
    So once people have got enough basic technical information to take blurred shots because they want them to be blurred, any teacher needs to have the humility to put the student's photography into its own context, and not to impose rules of composition or communication derived from other, more familiar and established genres. This can be hard if the student is themselves unable to articulate what they are trying to do - and if they could, they should perhaps take up writing rather than photography - but teaching is a responsibility to the student, not to some canon of approved wisdom.
    Something I do to myself when I hear my inner voice saying "that would make a great photo" is to ask "why?". Why crop to exclude the paved road? Why plonk the pretty girl's face down at the golden mean? Why photograph the clapboard church and not the blockhouse parish hall? Why will my photograph be "better" simply because it is familiar to the viewer.
    For me, the best photographs are like poems or music - they work though allusions and half-remembered references as much as though head on depiction. Like poems and music they often require a background of shared knowledge or experience before they resonate, but like poems or music I occasionally stumble over a new work that breaks every theory I might have about "what I like", and makes me very suspicious of any but the vaguest rules.
    Have a free workshop at Newark Airport. You have nothing to lose but your chains.
  26. Although I believe that at one time humans possessed a primordial cultural memory - call it archetypal - and many less media-influenced cultures probably still demonstrate some degree of archetype within their visual art, I am interested in how, as a culture, we have been 'mediated' away from primordial archetypes.

    Is the visual language we take for granted manufactured and marketted by our inundation within the various media, or is there indeed some basic, underlying visual language, native to the human psyche?

    I recall reading that the early european settlers in Australia attempted to communicate the idea of a railroad track by drawing two lines on paper that receded into the distance. The native population was unable at first to grasp the meaning of the drawing, unable to correlate the composition with visual perspective, perhaps because it had never been defined before within their cultural context. Their drawing of a railroad track was two lines that stayed parallel. They had walked and walked the length of the track, and never found the place where the tracks converged to a point.

    Is our current view of visual language - rules of composition, form, light, shade, color, etc. - a fixed absolute, or is it, too, evolving? Certainly, video production style is informed by fashion and avant garde photography; just look at the various offerings on VH1 and MTV, and how, since the '80's, video style has followed photography.

    Is photography following anything, or is it leading?
  27. Spot on Struan - what a great post

    "For me, the best photographs are like poems or
    music - they
    work though allusions and half-remembered references as
    much as
    though head on depiction. Like poems and music they
    often require a
    background of shared knowledge or experience
    before they resonate, but like
    poems or music I occasionally
    stumble over a new work that breaks every theory
    I might have
    about "what I like", and makes me very suspicious of any but the vaguest rules."

    What Berger calls the "expressive photograph" - an expanded quotation from appearences that can contain its ambiguity and can give reason to it, drawing on all those "allusions and half-remembered references" The length of the quotations measured not in time (1/8th of a second or whatever)but by a greater extension of meaning.

    All the ambiguities, echoes and resonances that are to be found in memory
  28. Great thought Struan .
    I believe that the rules that the masters have learned
    throughtrials and errors must to be learned to make our life
    easier and to exphand our vision .
    However starting from the postulate that everybody is different
    ,from each other , with a unique past and psichology , an artist
    has the duty in his artistic endevour to express his individuality .
    As " artists who use a camera " as Struan says , we have an
    array of different tools in our hands , and i am not speaking of
    hardware , but our human software .
    We have the knowlegdge of the rules of the thirds , we have the
    Zone System , colors relationships, mastery of tilt , shifts ,
    swings etc. .
    We can decide , in order to express our individual sensitivity , to
    choose all of these tools , only one , none at all .....
    We have witnessed in the history of art , that the best artists
    have been the ones who have expressed a view unexplored
    before .
    Leonardo , Michelangelo, Goya , picasso, Daly , Rodin ,
    Giacometti , Klee , Pollock are just a few of them .
    I remember the first time i saw one of the image that Avedon had
    created , where a group of people whre portraied , compressed ,
    some of them at the edges of the frame cropped . ( I think they
    were members of the Wharol's factory ) .
    It was against every compositional tradition , but it worked , it
    worked great !
    Do you want to take pictures of the Half Dome ?
    By any means , please , but put your own vision , give me
    something different , show me a picture tht belongs to you .
    Personally in my work itend to be frustrated by chaothic
    compositions , i like to see very few elements in my images ,
    composition is not necessarily important , but i am looking for a
    certain balance , not a fan of sharpness throughout the image (
    althoughi reserve the right to change my mind ) ,
    But all this comes after , first , when in front of a scene , i have to
    say inside of myself : oh my God !.
  29. Tools are not rules!

    Tools may be chosen by the artist for a specific purpose. Rules may be broken by the artist if he or she choses to do so.

    But you can only use a tool if you know how it works just as you cannot knowingly break a rule unless you are familiar with it!

    Thanks for responding! This is a great thread!
  30. You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. -Mark Twain
  31. " If formal education has any bearing on the arts at all, its purpose is to make critics, not artists. Its usual effect is to cage the spirit in other people's ideas - the ideas of poets and philosophers, which once were splendid insights into the nature of life, but which people who have no insights of their own have hardened into dogmas. It is the spirit we much work with, and not the mind as such'."​
    Robertson Davies, "A mixture of Frailties"
  32. Struan Gray, what a great name for a photographer! My own name means, "to do". I am not busting down the walls for students who would use them to cover themselves up, nor was I taught to stand on their edges so that I could see farther but this is what I attempt. Eventually one has to walk away from a thing to see it whole. One must understand the wall and what it affords. Bravo for you that you should instruct the uninitiated in the wrong way to use a wall (rule).

    I studied human visual perception with James Cutting at Cornell for a littel while. The best of that was being introduced to the works of JJ Gibson. He spent the best part of his life trying to understand how it is that we see and understand the world at all. We definitely have some rules but they operate at many levels and all at once. We haven't time to put things together consciously and you are right we seldom have the words (though I think you are exceptional at it). I believe that the act of photography is best when we are operating in a similar manner but it may never get to that point for many a student. We are not "wired" to understand and internalize the making or viewing of photographs. Photographs as an extension of vision looses its mooring points pretty soon in long scheme of things. For those who love and need those mooring points let them have them. I can do without seeing another nude-on-a-rock myself, but then again, sometimes they surprise me.

    I really enjoy this discussion. Thanks to all. I think more and feel more becasue of the input.
  33. Thanks John, and Tim, and Domenico. "Struan" is a Norse loan
    word in Scots Gaelic. It means "stream", in this case of
    consciousness. Or something.

    I teach Physics, not photography, but there is the same tendency
    to bury oneself in the technical minuteae and investigate only the
    topics that everyone else agrees are important . It's a bad habit,
    but a hard one to shake, and one that is constantly reinforced by
    the hard school of the market.
  34. Photography is a language. Composition is utilized by 'speakers' to more effectively communicate. Form, color, space, etc. are elements of composition.An emphasis on form may be some type of species archetypal resonance, or could be more culturally bound. We in western cultural tradition tend to convert forms, whether of a mountain, human body or even peppers, into icons. Space is an element we too often ignore in photography, but its importance can be seen in other languages. Japanese gardens utilize interaction of space and form to create illusions. Cool Jazz performers recognized importance of musical space - listen to Ahmad Jamal's Poinciana. In photography, we use space to capture the mood of a foggy, misty morning. In landscapes, space may help capture the ambient light or even the sense of place.
  35. So far very interesting and philosophical discussion.

    My own observation of what appeals to me the most in a print has two levels. The first is the image grabs my attention from a distance, ie, from across the room. This requires some larger compositional elements that draw my eye into the image. Once I get up close the second level is to stimulate my eye/brain with smaller compositional elements within the whole. If an image can stimulate me at both far and near, I will not get bored with it, and it can stay on the wall for a long time. Visual brain stimulation at some level is required.

    I must be very graphically oriented. I am not as stimulated by more painterly forms. My eye drifts around and off the image if not compelled by the dynamics of the forms in the image.

    This is to note that people vary a lot on what interests them visually. I liken it to tastes in music. I think we tend to forget that different people have different tastes from our own. I've noticed that in the criticisms on these critique forums.

    When photographing I just do what appeals to me.
  36. Something in this thread has gotten me thinking about the difference between say, an "Ansel Adamsesque" landscape which many many people like and admire, and a "Feiningeresque" abstract which is not well known outside diehard photographers. In this thread it seems that the emphasis has been on "we" meant as "me". "I think", "what I learned", "what I see". And this is exactly what photography, art in general, has given us. The varied catalog of many different styles, genre, that has something for everyone. Too self important photographers put down work "they" deem uninteresting or common. Landscape is the whipping child of photographic discussion group s now. It was pictorialism at one time. The "I think rules subjegate a photographer to a narrow set way of thinking", is short sighted in itself. I have seen too many photographers who in the first hours of their careers knew little of compositional tools and their work showed it. As they became familiar with the "rules" their work became much better. The "rules" allowed them to expand, in a meaningful way, their vision. I see too often the refrain, "break the rules." Why? The rules are nothing more than a framework from which the work can take off and become as expressive as need be. Just to try and break the rules does nothing but put the work into that classification. Just as previsualization does. I see a lot of work where the rules have been broken, and the work suffers. For me, the scene can be about color, or form, or texture or even function. Or about light itself. A group of trees, a bunch of flowers, or an idea in my head. The ideas in my head are what I am concentrating on now. I ran a thread a while back asking if you were a recorder of scenes, or a maker of ideas. Kim Weston is a maker of ideas. Edward Weston was a recorder of scenes. Robert-Parke Harrison is a maker of ideas, while Karsch is a recorder of scenes. Where does this line of reasoning put Feininger? Sommers? Shelby Lee Adams? Bill Brandt? Man-Ray? Bravo? Capa? Do these photographers break the rules? Yet all are much collected, admired, and copied. Of those here, who does new and unique work? Nudes on a rock? Do any of you create and photograph ideas? Who breaks the rules consistently? Who uses the rules but yet makes new, interesting, and nonconventional works?
  37. I think that dichotomy is a false one, and even as a spectrum it is
    a rather limited way of looking at photographers. My favourite
    photographs at present are the ones that look documentary but
    contain more depth for the observant and thinking viewer.
    Doesn't make for neat pins on the map.

    I mentioned landscapes because there are a lot of them about.
    Sure, ninety percent of anything will be crap, but the depressing
    thing about much landscape photography is that it is the same
    crap time after time. Even Yosemite seems to have lost out to
    Fragile Arch, and a single perspective on Fragile Arch at that.
    When did you last see an image taken of the surface of a slot
    canyon? Why the Matterhorn and not Stetind?

    Scrub that last one - the pastries are infinitely better in Zermatt.

    Photography as expressed in the mainstream photographic
    world has become a process of collecting brand names.
    Instead of using your camera to express the things you see and
    how you see them yourself, you use it to validate your position as
    one of the crowd. Nike trainers, Prada handbag, wet leaf on

    Why does it take an 'artist' to show the road at the bottom of El
  38. A P.S. I'm sure that one of the reasons I find landscape
    photography so limited is that the conventional Romantic view of
    landscape simply doesn't resonate with me. I sit at the bottom of
    a mountain that is supposed to make me feel awed, humble,
    frightened and and holy, and I just start thinking how much fun it
    would be to pop up that ridge there and traverse over to that peak
    there, and spend the night on that tottering block there.
    Landscapes are home to me.

    The Tate had what by all accounts was an excellent exhibition
    last year, based on the Hudson School and their inheritors. I
    missed the show, but it generated a lot of interesting comments
    and essays. The teacher's pack on this page is worth a read for
    its insights into the psychology of landsapes:

    When I read it I had to consciously remind myself that this was
    about paintings made 150 years ago, and not photographs
    made last week.
  39. That's one of my points Struan. Landscapes may not resonate with you, but they do with many others. They do with me because like you I love to climb and explore. Not much "street" photography thrills my soul though because I don't live it. People don't interest me as a non social being. I enjoy many PJ efforts but what I see on the net isn't the quality I like. Every genre has it's adherents. I like still life. I like the creation of it. The imagination of the photographer. There are those who like abstract. That is what I like about photography. It has something for everyone. I find little that hasn't been done to death. I find very little that is cutting edge. And I spend hours lookimng through the net and galleries looking for unique images. Every day. I think my viewpoint is as valid as any. I have always wanted to get together a large group from here and discuss questions like this. Per's free workshops are unique and a wonderful place for this type discussion.
  40. And I salute Feininger.

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