Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Two Ways Of Life

(I am being cute in the title. Google it if you want to learn a little history of photography)

There are people, lots and lots of them, who are trying to technique, to gear, and to think their way to great photos. They treat it as a rational process. A problem to be solved with methods, tools, and thinking. Ming Thein's recent photo essay on trees is a great example. He's trying really really hard. He's got the gear. He's got the theory. He's even got some ideas. They are essentially rational ideas, ideas that he can express in words and then attempt to execute as-is. I think. I mean, he could be just twitting us, but let's be charitable.

Then there are people, often people who have just picked up the camera, who want to just feel their way to greatness. Perhaps their natural talent and freakishly sensitive depth of feeling will show them the way.

Both, of course, are wrong.

You need, of course, both. I advocate for more-or-less infinite use of thinking and skull-sweat, rational methods to an absurd degree, but even I know that's not the whole answer. It's just something to do while the real answer is in process.

Thinking about things, practicing, looking at pictures, even buying and owning gear, all this can be worthwhile. It creates a fertile ground in which your inspirations can grow. But ultimately, some non-verbal part of you is going to have to grind out something visual you can use. A visual ideas that expresses, here and now, what you want to say. Perhaps your id merely makes as affirmative grunt to some idea you're consciously tried out.

Still, that non verbal part has to get involved, otherwise you're just shooting what you can verbalize, and then, well, why not write an essay? Words are a marvelously efficient way to express verbal things. If you can think your way through to it, then so can someone else. That is, arguably, the entire point of rational processes -- someone else can arrive at the same answer with the same methods.

Rational processes are marvelous for science and engineering, where being able to agree on truth is of some importance. They are arguably anathema to Art, where the point is something about new truths, personal truths, truths which shift and change as you absorb them.

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