June 1, 2015

My Fundamental Philosophy of Photography

When learning a new art one of the first things people often do is look to more experienced artists for inspiration. Part of the learning process involves deconstructing the works of these artists to gain some kind of insight into why they did what they did. Part of this process involves the examination of brush strokes, knife marks, or lighting setups, etc. We look at the artifacts of whatever the tool that the artist used create the work as we try to gain some insight into the process. Part of what we are looking for is technique. The other, and more important part, is the motivation behind the choice of the tool and how it was used.  I think it's a natural part of the learning process. But in some regards it's like throwing a piano over a cliff to learn something about music.

I've been asked many times how I went about making a particular photograph. I'm a pragmatic man and I have a difficult time with unnecessary flourish. I prefer to give simple, sometimes cryptic explanations and let the asker figure out some of the information for themself. I'm a big fan of struggling a little to learn as opposed to having answers readily handed out. I prefer to teach people how to fish rather than simply hand them a fish. My reasoning is that somehow they will value the information a little more and gain a little more if they have to work for it. Also I think that chewing on something for awhile can lead to a more intimate understanding of whatever is being learned. The problem I encounter with this, though, is that sometimes I come across like a jerk when I'm really trying to help. Given this I'd like to outline my very basic philosophy when it comes to how I make photographs. First I'll give the short answer (the one I normally only give) then I'll explain it a little.

I use a black camera because black cameras are the best.

The long version of this is: it doesn't matter what camera or lens you use to make as photograph as long as it's sufficient to do the job you need it to do. That's it. That's all. Nothing else to see here. Move along.

I made that picture by looking through the viewfinder and pushing the button. 

I cannot unwind my clockwork to learn anything about how I keep time. I am incapable of describing how my "eye" works. It just is. It's a telemetry system that resulted of my particular path to becoming a photographer. Though our experiences may overlap some, your path will be different than mine. 

I would set your hair on fire if it would give me the perfect shade of "ouch". 

This is simply: I will do whatever it takes to make whatever image I happen to want to make at the time. It also means holding strong to your artistic convictions during the process. It's also kind of rude. As I've matured as a human and an artist I've softened on this somewhat because I don't want to maliciously and purposely hurt anyone for my own gain. So this one requires some balance. It requires the consent of the parties involved. But still, hold on to your vision as much as you can while you're doing what you need to do. But don't hurt anyone in the process if you can help it.

When I say these things (the three tenants) I probably sound a little cocky. But with most concepts there's a lot of depth but that's fairly densely packaged and it take some work to pull everything apart and make sense of the message. If there's something I can help you understand, I'll do my best to try. But understand that there things I cannot deconstruct. They just are.