Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On The Internet

There is a line in Dylan Thomas' poem, "A Child's Christmas in Wales", in a list of gifts:

...and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why

A great deal of the internet will tell you everything about how to take a picture, except, well, if not "why?" then except some other terribly important things.

I see this especially for portraits. We learn where to stick the lights, and how to pose, and more sophisticated resources will copy out stuff on where to stick the lights for fat people versus thin people, how to pose men versus women, and so on. But none of them will tell you how to take a portrait. If you should chance to share your test portraits with other would-be photographers, you'll get a lot of feedback about where you stuck the lights, and how your "skin processing" looks. The closest anyone will come to critiquing the portrait is "she has a great expression".

You see it for landscapes as well. If you want to shoot a landscape you should wait until the Golden Hour, and then nail your camera to a very heavy tripod, and then set your lens to the hyperfocal distance and about f/11 and make sure the horizon is level and and and and and... These are instructions for taking not landscapes but very very specific kinds of landscapes. What if you see the landscape as a sort of post-apocalypse Mad Max dream of hell? I'm pretty sure none of that shit is remotely applicable.

Even commercial stuff like weddings, where the idea is arguably to do this, everything you read directs you toward shooting this wedding so that it is indistinguishable from all other weddings.

Nobody tells you to dig deep and find a concept. Nobody tells you to work with your subjects to find out what they want to say, nobody tells you how to make pictures with any guts at all.

Except, of course, for me. It's kind of my thing.

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