Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning to See III

I've spent some time telling people to look at photographs. This is still good advice. A novelist might read 1000 novels for every one written, a poet might read a 1000 poems. A plumber looks a lot of plumbing before installing a system. A naval architect in training is admonished to go to the boat show and look at a lot of boats, years before the first finished design comes off the board.

Now I am suggesting that you look at the world, but with a photographic eye. Leave the camera at home, it'll get in the way as you fuss with dials and buttons and timing. Just look at the world, and think about what would make a good photograph. The aim here is to get past the that's a cool thing or ooo I want to capture that and proceed to that would make a good photograph.

Throw imaginary frames around things, or hold up your hands and make a rectangle with your fingers so everyone knows you're an Artist. Most cool things stop being cool when you put them down in a two dimensional rectangle, it turns out.

Think about the objects that you see and their relationship to one another. Do they appear larger or smaller? Does one obscure the other? Are there contrasting textures, or repeated shapes? What is the balance like in your imaginary frame? How would all this change if you were lower down or higher up? How would it change if you moved left, right, or all the way around to the back?

Look at people. Watch the human interactions, look at the body language. What are they looking at? Are there instants in these human interactions that are interesting, versus other instants that are not? When she buys a cup of coffee, what is the instant in the transaction that most perfectly clarifies expresses the moment?

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