This Week in Photography – Learning to See
This week we’re going to take a look at something more conceptual, particularly with respect to composition, exposure and how these relate to “ seeing” in a photographic way.Looking and Analysing
In his 48 lectures on Art History, Bill Kloss refers to what he calls, “Looking” when it comes to viewing any work of Art. According to him, Looking consist of five elements. These are: Subject; Interpretation; Style; Context; and Emotion. It takes time to look in a considered and critical way at a work or Art.
Like any creative expression aimed at some audience, photographs are also subject, at some point, to being looked at, analysed and evaluated in a critical, considered way. The feedback from this is what we call “Criticism” or “A Critique.” This considered, external or self-driven evaluation is the minimum, essential feedback, necessary for improving one’s work.
Working backward through the above list will lead us to this week’s focus. Emotion is basically how we feel about an image. Context is the circumstance around the moment of the image, the greater unspoken dialogue that helps to define the image’s place. Style is the means in which the image is rendered. This can vary from gallery prints to digital scrapbooks and the method of viewing the image. This is intimately tied into the Interpretation, which could involve simple documentation of the subject through to highly complex post processing techniques, not only at the image level but also at the print/displaying level. Lastly, we come to Subject. Images with readily identifiable subjects tend to engage us more than something abstract requiring a conceptualised tangential leap of intellectual faith. The process of identifying and arranging the subject in an image frame is called Composition.
At the end of last week we started to look at Shape, Colour, Texture, and Pattern. Now we’re going to tie these to some loftier, underlying concepts and culturally charged aesthetics. These are, Symmetry, Truthfulness, Balance, and Tension.
Symmetry is probably the number one element at the heart of what we consider to be appealing and attractive.
Truthfulness is a difficult concept, and highly charged. Photography seems to the one medium where people seem to feel that images need to be “true to life” and not manipulated in any ‘devious’ manner in post processing.
If you’re aiming at photo documentation then this is an important aesthetic. If you are intending an ‘artistic’ interpretation of the subject then the degree of reality may actually be a variable and creative element such as in multiple exposures and montages, by way of example. Balance is more about the degree to which colours, shapes, textures, patterns, fore, mid & background element interact with each other and the principle subject. The degree to which the balance of an image moves away from an harmonious juxtaposition of elements is the visual or dynamic tension present. This tension can at times be crucial for communicating and stimulating emotive responses to a particular image.
:- This week we will be focusing on understanding how light influences the way we see. Exposure control is critical to defining patterns, shadows and colour within an image.
:- To gain an in-depth understanding on how to control exposure you might want to take a look at The Zone System.
I know that there’s a lot of reading here, but that’s ok. Take your time to look over each of the links provided. Browse them first for a brief overview. Play with your camera and keep coming back to them to gain greater insight.
As I mentioned at the start these are concepts that will shape and form the foundation of your thinking as you approach any subject with a photographic intent. This is an ongoing, always learning, process that you will keep coming back to time and time again.
Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.
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