Opening the Door


Key: R20120102-085212

I’ve been wrestling with the idea of making vs. taking photographs. Of course many photographers would say that even when they discover a “found” image they are making a photograph, due to all the creative things they are doing with the light, composition, etc. and on afterward into post processing. But I am talking about something much different–the difference between being inspired by a found image vs. coming up with an image in your head and then going out and realizing that–making it happen.

I really struggled with trying to figure out why it was so hard for me to make the latter kind of images. It’s something that I want to work on and develop, and I know that part of that is just putting in the time working that way until it is as comfortable as the other. But part of me was just not satisfied with not understanding the source of the difficulty.

Today I read a post by Brooks Jensen that neatly summarized probably the most important aspect of the problem. It is essentially the difference between photography and painting: in (found) photography you find an image and then you pare it down, element by element, subtracting things until you have the image close to what you “saw” in your head when it caught your eye. In painting you are doing the opposite: adding elements, until the scene is built up into something interesting. In short, it is a fundamentally different way of working. In the end you are exercising the same sorts of decisions and skills at the time of pressing the shutter, but the beginning part is so different that I am just not familiar with starting from that end.

I hope that I have articulated this well enough to get the point across. I know Brook’s post helped me understand at least one of the barriers standing in front of me that I could not see, and now seeing and understanding it, I might be able to make some more progress in getting over that barrier. It’s fair to say that painting lessons or other creative forms of art would probably be a huge help here, but my “art time” is limited. At least I can practice my “brush strokes” photographically.

One thought on “Opening the Door

  1. I would say that the found image would be more analogous to sculpting. Here, you take a raw scene (block of wood, granite, or whatever) and you start to chip away at it, releasing the form within. I think that I like the sculpting approach, but cannot deny that I have wanted, for a long time, to explore painting. I shall have to think about the painting approach to photography. It seems an interesting topic for my mind to chew upon.

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