Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Having a good eye

I have always loved photographs - particularly the old black and whites. I think shooting in black and white takes a special skill, lighting is everything and then add the magic that is done in the darkroom. But wait - there isn't a darkroom anymore, there is Photoshop.

When I was a teenager I thought about studying photography but it seemed so very complicated - f-stops, exposures, it seemed like a whole lot of math. And then there was the darkroom where a lot of technical knowledge and skills was needed. It was very intimidating and seemed a bit beyond me. All this digital stuff, still intimidating, still beyond me.

Now anyone and everyone is a photographer. The good ones still have to have the technical knowledge of exposure settings, lens settings and who all knows what else, seems very complicated to me. But even the less good photographers have digital means to "improve" and change a photograph. No one, it seems, actually produces a finished product that hasn't been messed with. Layers, textures, light and color balance, erasing bits and pieces, adding bits and pieces - all done with a click of a computer key instead of it being in the original photo and the adjustments made in the darkroom.

A new trove of Ansel Adams' glass negatives have been authenticated and are going on tour. Some lucky soul bought them at a garage sale and after 10 years has finally received the approval of the art community as to their authenticity. I wonder what he would make of today's photography? Or for that matter Stieglitz, or Beaton or Arbus or even Avedon. Did they "mess" with their photographs? Yes, I'm sure but in a far different way than photos are messed with now.

But still...

The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is the EYE. Some people just have a good eye. They seem to know what will make a good photograph; they know how to frame the shot before they click the shutter. It's a talent you are born with, like every artist.

But still...

Where before someone would use paint to create a picture now people use a digital camera and Photoshop. And that's not to say what they produce is not beautiful or intriguing. I have bought photographs because they touch me in some way. I have a gorgeous one hanging on my wall. It's signed, and is a one-off - the photographer pulled it on to linen paper which gives it a soft dreamy quality and it is in black and white. But it wasn't done with a digital camera.

And my point is -

While many of my blogger friends are very talented photographers, I often wish, when looking at their photos, that I could see what they saw, not what they have improved, adjusted or just generally messed with. Because these people have "THE EYE", that innate talent and ability to see something the rest of us miss; the ability to show us an aspect of something we never noticed.

Then there is imagination - folks who can take a photo of an everyday object and then through computer skills turn it into something completely different - so the photo becomes something that, in days gone by, an artist would have painted. I would almost dub these folks as artists rather than photographers. They take an ordinary photo and turn it into something else entirely. That's where imagination comes into play. They see something the rest of us don't - instead of painting it, they photograph it and then use digital means to turn it into something else.

Not that photography is not an art. It is. Perhaps my favorite art form. I will never pass up a photography exhibit, while I can easily ignore the latest Renoir retrospective.

But where I still marvel at how the heck Carravagio painted light the way he did, now I have to wonder just which Photoshop application someone used.

We now have the digital age of digital art. And in this time of worshiping anything organic I would like to see more "organic" photography.

Photographer friends, I want to see through YOUR eyes, not the eye of the computer. Show me what I missed when we both looked at the same thing.

Tell me a story.

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