Thursday, March 24, 2016

Photography is easy, photography is difficult

A good example of a bad photograph!

Making photographs is deceptively easy. That's what makes it so difficult. After all anybody can do it and everybody is. The truth is to make a good photograph, one that works, is incredibly hard. This probably has a something to do with seductive pull of making the pictures, After all there is nothing quite like the pleasure of being in the world, looking at it and shooting. This can be somewhat aimless, with no direction home.

For me, I need to know what I'm shooting for. What's the idea? With a good idea in mind I think you can make better pictures. My ideas are abstract intangible creatures, I don't photograph coal miners, or water towers. A recent book-work of mine was titled NOT FOOD OR SEX. As soon as I came up with that title I could look at a picture and know immediately if it fitted the idea. This meant I could go into my archive and find images that worked and I could shoot with that idea as an objective. This doesn't rule our shooting intuitively, Winogrand's maxim, that he shot so see what things looked like on film (read pixels) still holds.

In March 2012 I made a blog post, Some Thought on Editing and Sequencing, you can go to it HERE.  Jörg Colberg, founder and editor of the well known and influential blog Conscientious wrote to me... he made the point that whatever you do, wherever you want to head with your work you need good photographs. So obvious, so true.  

Well, first of all you have to have good photos to make a good photobook. Without good photos, it's an uphill struggle (some books don't need good photos, but they rely on a great concept). And then the concept of the book just has to work. There's a lot of gimmicky work out there, where people are trying too hard to be cool. So making a really good book is very hard, much harder than most people think. And people don't realize that the only thing that will make books stand out is the quality of the whole package, not your elaborate shrink-wrap or whatever you come up with. So yeah, substance it is.

Then this morning I read the following quote from American writer Jim Harrison - “You have to follow the affections of your heart, and the truth of your imagination. Otherwise, you will feel badly.”

Not a bad starting point. Go well... go out and make photographs, good photographs...

Post Script: A reader reminded me of Paul Graham's 2009 piece, of the same name -  Photography is Easy, Photography is Difficult - you can read that on ASX HERE.

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