Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What is Photography? By Preston Capes

My method of photography has always been driven by strong pre-visualisation, coupled with the use of large format transparency and monochrome film often means the choices made before capture are ‘baked in’ to the final image.

A photograph is a singular event, a slice of time presented though the eyes of the photographer.
Where people get confused is when images are post processed; how that relates to ‘the photographers eye’ those choices made in the final presentation of a negative or file are sometimes muddied by the increased options open to them; the subsequent lack of direction often leading to playing with an image in an editor until it looks good.

If we consider the long history of photography we find post processing manipulation were quite common. Early photographers were hampered by using blue only sensitive plates; making it difficult to record clouds so they would often add them in later.
The methods they used were to correct deficiencies in their materials rather than doing it for the sake of it, and the disappearance of ‘cloud plates’ from the market after the invention of Panchromatic film proves that.

But isn’t B&W itself a form of manipulation? Mono images must be a pre-visual decision, an obvious point being in the days of film you needed to pick a B&W film to give a mono end result.
This too has been muddied by being able to decide in post, I have often heard ‘do you think this shot would be better in mono?” The photographer needed to make a decision before the exposure, tones in the image might not suit a monochrome conversion.

We seem to have a group of people who are deeply confused by the changes that have been brought about by a massive degree of control in post processing. Those very changes have moved the singularity of the photographic event into a realm where some final images have become derivative artworks of several individual events.

The singular is often diluted in this way, producing a lack of direction because of a set of wider choices, working without prevision means accidental brilliance is the only way to record that instant of time– which failing that will have to be created in post.

Those issues are not to be confused with tthe artists who wish to mix different images and make fantastic images from many captures some of which look wonderful as finished artworks; to those people the final image aesthetic is all that counts and pretty much justifies images that have no real world existence.

These people aren’t photographers though, more digital artists who just use a camera. Many artists have made such images but the final artwork is a fantastical invention; the genesis of the work might be photographic but it is art and not a photograph.
That doesn't make me a purist, just that the digital artists are skilled in their own discipline which is wholly separate from the singular event which is a photograph.

I have read an article where an artist (who calls himself a photographer) describes himself as a 'data gatherer' who assembles his data in  order to make computer generated composites to for a single work–I struggle to see how that is a photograph, I would call it collage.

That is not to say there is no right or wrong in the creation of an image that you find pleasing, putting the pyramids in Antarctica or making composites of a scene from several taken at different times of the day to light your landscape from more angles are not photography because they represent the impossible.

For me the photograph is a singular event.

—Preston Capes July 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photographers that inspire: Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan was one of the great photographers of the twentieth century. His images were diverse in subject but showed a very developed sense of relationships of objects within the frame, angles people (normally his wife and child) added for scale and shapes both colour and tone.

It is exceptionally hard to show a body of his work in a blog post, so if you like these images seek out one of the many excellent books.

As a body of work Harry's is astounding, from the simple shapes and almost graphic quality of his monochromes to the complex colour double exposures.