Sunday, 17 October 2010

Selecting a Subject.

Near completing all the exercises for Project 1 (I just need to sort out my histogram shots for Ex3) my mind has turned to Assignment 1 and the need to devise a themed assignment.

It seems quite apt that this weekend I read a chapter from "On Being a Photographer: Bill Jay & David Hurn"
(Published by Lenswork Publishing. Third edition 2001) entitled 'Selecting a Subject'.
It makes interesting reading as to how and why we should photograph certain subjects. They start off by discussing what the main principal of taking a photograph is and come up with the statement that "The destination of photography is to reveal what something or somebody looked like, under a particular set of conditions, at a particular moment in time, and to transmit the result to others" (p29)

This statement is true up to a point as we all know and recognise, that given a subject to capture 5 people will produce images that are totaly different; some will be more appealling, more interesting than others. So they ask the question what is it that transforms simple records into photographs of "lasting merit"?

On reading the answer I find myself agreeing with them that the passion a photographer feels about their chosen subject reflects upon how they wish to present it and therefore how they shoot it.

"It comes down to the choice of subject. The photographer must have intense curiosity, not just a passing visual interest, in the theme of the pictures. This curiosity leads to intense examination, reading, talking, research and many many failed attempts over a long period of time." (p29)

A recommended course of action is to put your camera away and view the world without it. Think about what interests you most, write a list, what fascinates you enough that you want to capture it and share it with the world? This is important as the curiosity and fascination you feel for a subject can be communicated through the images you capture. Once you have made some choices the next important things to consider are is it visual? You maybe interested in the centre of the earth but is it possible to photograph it? Is it practical? The subject needs to be continually accessible. Do you know enough about it? If not research it first. Will it be interesting to others? This last question is a difficult balancing act, you may produce stunning images but if the topic is highly specialized you reduce the intended audience, on the otherhand as a photographer you wish to produce images that appeal to you and not pander to the mass market.

List whittled down and a subject chosen, planning ahead is really important, and this links in nicely to workflow. A comment made when reflecting upon the work of others is "many of the best photographers in the world........are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subject and they plan ahead of the actual shooting."(p32) Also it can be important to restrict your topic, preferred lens and discover your own way of working. "The narrower and more clearly defined the subject matter at the start the more quickly identified is 'the direction in which to aim the camera' as Steiner said, and the more pictures are taken." (p32)

So there you have it! Find what you like, research it, go photograph it...simple ;o) I wish that it was :oD. I agree with their summing up that "The best pictures, for me, are those which go straight into the heart and the blood, and take some time to reach the brain," (p36)

This is where getting to grips with the craft of photography is so important, once you have grasped all the technical aspects of producing a technically acceptable image and it becomes second nature, you can relax and let instinct take over, allowing the thought process to take a back seat to the emotional process.

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