These are not prescriptions for anyone else- just trying to articulate my own thoughts for my own benefit. Getting the basics down now. Not sure how I'll organize it, but will likely expand upon each principle as time and motivation allow. These are goals as much as anything; I am more successful at reaching some than others. All of this will change (see principle 6).
Principles of photography
1. Care about your photos
2. Take photos
3. Don't take photos
4. Share photos
5. Use a crappy camera
6. Make rules
7. Break rules
8. Capture the frequent but unnoticed
9. Photos of art are not art
10. People & animals are not objects
11. Strive to say something
12. Don't share photos
13. Create bodies of work
-Care about your photos
If I'm not moved by the real world imagery I'm trying to capture in pictures, my photos will be lifeless and bland. Don't worry about what I think I _should_ be photographing or what I want to be able to photograph. Capture imagery of the bits of the world about which I care.
Seems pretty basic, but it's an easy one to miss. If I'm wondering whether to take a picture or not, I should take it. I can always toss the results I don't like. I can't do anything with a picture I didn't take. Plus, the more I do anything, the more adept at it I become.
-Don't take photos
Don't become so preoccupied with capturing the moment that I forget to experience the moment. If I do this, I divorce myself from caring about the imagery I'm trying to capture and it will end up lifeless and flat as a result. Learn to step back and balance capturing with experiencing. And yes, this is in direct contradiction to the previous principle. Still figuring this one out.
I only exist in the sum total of the ways I affect the wide wiggly world around me. Photography is an extension of one way in which I experience life. It's important to give others the opportunity (but not obligation!) to choose to look at my photos. This provides a way to affect the world as well as a more conscious awareness of purpose when taking photos.
-Use a crappy camera
Equipment is the least relevant component in the process of photography. I should use the crappiest, least featured device I can at all times. This will have the effect of training me to make the best use of the limited features available to me. More importantly. it serves as a constant reminder to focus on effect and not process. It's ok to upgrade if, and only if, I am _consistently_ running into limitations of my current device.
Creativity thrives on constraints. Make rules for myself, both permanent (For every five people I photograph, I must have at least a brief conversation with one first) and temporary (Don't photography any straight lines for a week). The process of expressing while working within these constraints is useful as is the awareness of limitations that it makes apparent (straight lines- they're everywhere).
No rule should be immutable, including this one. All rules have exceptions, including this one.
-Capture the frequent, but unnoticed
When preparing to capture imagery, I should plot it along two axis: (Frequent Rare) and (Unnoticed Noticed)
Frequent/Rare is an estimate on how often potential viewers have the opportunity to view a similar image in real life. A shooting star would be rare, a sunset would be frequent. Unnoticed/noticed is an estimate on how likely it is that potential viewers would be conscious of the visual experience were they to encounter it in real life. A small oil stain on the sidewalk would go unnoticed, a naked woman riding a horse on the sidewalk would be noticed. The best opportunity I have to affect the world around me is to find ways to interest people in the mundane things of everyday life that go unnoticed. A picture of a naked woman on a horse may be interesting, but what are the chances others will get a chance to see the same thing? If I can show them how to find oil stains interesting, they'll have a chance to look at a new source of beauty every day.
-Photos of art are not art
Art is often pretty and it's tempting to photograph it as a result. I need to ask myself, would a person looking at this photo get anything out of looking at it above and beyond what they would looking at the piece of art itself. Important corollary: architecture is art.
-People & animals are not objects
I need to be on constant guard against treating people and animals as bits of shape and color in a composition. I should talk to the people I photograph so that I'm aware of them as individuals or failing that, make up a back story narrative in my head. This both keeps me connected to the heart and core of what I'm photographing when photographing people or animals and safeguards against dangerous disconnection.
-Strive to say something
There is worth in "pretty", "aesthetically balanced" or "well composed", but I should these traits in the service of provoking thought. Photographs are an opportunity to affect people, I should take it as often as I am able. Beautiful can be enough sometimes, but beautiful and inviting discussion is better.
-Don't share photos
I should prepare, according to these principles, as many photos for viewing as I can find time to, but I should only share the better ones. Too much volume and people will be less likely to see and appreciate my better work. It's important that I work on many photos, this continues building skills, but I should respect people's time by only sharing (unless asked) the better photographs.
-Create bodies of work.
Cohesive collections of photos will have a larger impact than a hodge-podge of one-offs. I should seek to group and label photos into sets composed of a common theme, aesthetic and visual vocabulary. By organizing them thusly, people will have more of an opportunity to glean subtleties from my photos.
Photo Highlights according to some computer algorithm:
As seen at:
SF Art Institute
The Mitchell Kapor Foundation
News P4 Gävleborg
Chicago Life Magazine
Off Topic Design
A Thousand Hours
The Rest Is Bullshit (Photo blog)
Puckbox (Photo blog)
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- Jed Sullivan
- November 2007
- Oakland, United States
- I am:
- academic technologist/photographer
- Kalology (Work in progress)