I recently finished a great class on the “Photographic Tools for Travel Photography” at the International Center of Photography in New York City. I teach all my classes as a building process, where I pile ever growing amounts of information, responsibility and autonomy on the students as the workshop goes on. The end of that process, which is also the end of the class, is when I circle back through all the lessons of the class, to explore exactly what is the most difficult thing about making a good photograph. Read More
Every photographer has series of problems they have to solve. The most basic problem is how to get the subject in front of the camera onto the chip, film or paper. Another example of such a problem is what gear a traveling professional will take on the road and how will they carry that. In this podcast I take you inside my camera bag to show you how I solve that particular problem. Read More
I just finished a great book on photography. It had no pictures. It didn’t have a whole lot of instruction or technology either. I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts about it when I picked it up, but I thought I’d give it a try. I should have known better, since the publisher also produced one of my favorite photography books. After reading it, I had a new perspective on photography and I also realized it was the kind of book I wish I had written. What book was it? Read on! Read More
What goes around comes around. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything old is new again. I have been rolling those cliché’s around in my head as I have been using a couple new lenses. The most interesting part of the process is how these lenses have taken me far back to my beginnings in photography. Yes, I use the latest in digital imaging gear, but I occasionally go back into the history of the medium to find technologies that make images look the way I want. The funniest part of putting this blog together was learning how a technology that I grew up with as a photographer has been relegated, by many photographers, to the status of a historical anomaly. Read More
Whenever I buy (or advise a photographer about) a piece of gear, I always use the same criteria. I simply ask, “Does it solve the problem?” I used to only apply that test to cameras or lenses. Increasingly, I use it when considering other camera related gear such as tripods and flash cards. I have been using it often recently because entrepreneurs are increasingly coming up with novel solutions to problems that I once thought were not “solvable.” A classic example of this is camera straps. Read More
I am finishing up teaching a workshop in street photography at the Maine Media Workshops this week. As I have for the last decade or so, I am enjoying the students and the community that come together at the workshops. The place has an incredible energy and sharing that can only be experienced in person. In the spirit of that, I am blogging in response to a student’s recent question. Read More
I read a lot about photography every day. (Duh!) I encounter hundreds of links, varying from idiotic Viagra ads to Nigerian bank scams to interesting photography sites. Though I am pretty good at knowing what not to look at, and waste time clicking on, I default to the idea that it is better to look than it is to risk missing something of value. This blog entry explores recent links where I have clicked through and I have been rewarded for my efforts. Read More
If all goes well, this will be the last blog entry prompted by the discoveries that I made during my recent spring-cleaning. As I was reviewing, editing and purging old documents, files and papers, I had a few more flashes of wisdom worthy of one last blog entry. Those insights reminded me of the value of my having studied the history of photography in college. Although I make my living as a commercial photographer, that education, focused on the liberal arts, rather than on a specific skill, continues to serve me well, thirty-odd years later. Read More
I am just back from Greece where I was teaching and photographing. During my photography workshop, there were also two painting workshops run by the same organization. The “photographers” ate and drank along with the “painters,” which made for some laugh-filled meals. There also was a subtle but interesting competition/ divergence going on between the various media.
The organization running the classes in Greece is Toscana Americana Workshops, which you can find at: http://toscanaamericana.com/. Patrick and Angela, who run it, strive to create an environment that is conducive to creative growth and also a pleasant experience in terms of food, wine and accommodations.
A lot of workshop organizers strive to do this in general, but the mixing of media is not so common. One of my other favorite workshops, which also mixes media, is the Art Workshops in Guatemala. They can be found at: http://www.artguat.org/
The similarities between painters and photographers initially caught my attention. Practitioners of both of the media in Greece started with what they saw and both clearly enjoyed being outside, feasting visually on what it is they were recording. Both groups are very involved in their tools. (Photographers obviously so, but also painters also in terms of their brushes, palettes, sitting stools, paints, etc.)
One of the first divergences involved time. We photographers tended to start early and work late to get the best light. Though the painters appreciated the idea of good light in the abstract and seem to incorporate it in their work, they were not the kind of early risers that the photographers were.
The painters I encountered in the Greece (and in the Guatemala) workshop(s) often used photography as a way to record what they would later make into a painting. For them, the photograph is merely a starting point for something that will be heavily interpreted and modified as it goes through their mind’s eye. They would easily take one piece of a scene they encountered (and/or photographed) and merge that with other elements they had seen (and/or photographed.)
Though it was not common within my class, that same strategy is increasingly the way that many photographers are viewing their photographs. The explosion in the use of photo-shop is accepted as blurring the line between the painters and the photographers.
But the funny thing is that the majority of painters have not felt much of an interest in moving towards the photographer’s approach to image making, while the photographers have long been drawn towards the painters. To me, this seems ironic because when photography was first widely publicized, a famed 19th century painter, Paul Delaroche, is widely quoted as having said “from today, painting is dead!”
My interest in the idea of an image being about what is seen rather than what is interpreted, may come from that fact that unlike most photographers, I am NOT a former painter. I have no background in painting or really any other art. I was hooked on photography in high school and fell in love with the history of photography in college. So for me, photography has always stood on its own and I never saw it as a tool for another media or as a stepping-stone to another kind of expression. That is not a judgment but rather an observation of my tastes and an explanation of where they come from.
I looked at some of the work that I saw from the painters in the collective group when we shared work the final night. What I saw was interesting and often evocative. Equally importantly, it was clearly something I could not have done if my life depended on it. One painter had a journal/sketchbook that was simply breathtaking. The only redemption came when the photographers showed their work and it was equally apparent that they had done things that most of the painters clearly could not have done if their lives depended on it.
There was indeed both a bit of competition between the media and also quite a bit of divergence. I think both groups were better of for having spent time around the other in Greece. Speaking of Greece, I have posted new galleries of my student’s work from Greece, for viewing and commenting. You can see those starting at: http://thewellspoint.com/gallery/ and then scroll down to Santorini, Greece and click on the names of the various photographers.
When mid April rolls around, many things seem to happen all at once. Tax day is the most obvious one. For many photographers in the chilly North East, April is the time to start venturing outside again to photograph regularly. For me, mid-April also means I can start riding my motorcycle after the long winter hiatus. I was out riding recently and I ended up thinking about the similarities (and differences) between the folks outside enjoying their cameras and enjoying their motorcycles. Read More