Tuesday, September 29, 2015

LEARNING TO SEE - again. PART 4

"I had the notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important."
William Eggleston




Nothing differs from yesterday. Be it another day makes little difference. The same sunrise, the same sky, the same air, the same thoughts. Maybe one more piece of knowledge collected incidentally and stored for later. Tomorrow, maybe. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will always be different.


Meanwhile, I stay with the moment, each one filled with small pieces of yesterday and debris  of today. Dust from the fires, washing from the clothesline, sand from the beach, photographs.








When I look back at yesterday there are few landmarks. Ordinary things that caught my eye. The camera is always within reach. Photographing at arms length to the world, shielding myself from contact or absorbing me into the moment. An observer and participant at the same time.




On reflection, everything seems important. The photograph does that. It isolates not just the moment but the thing, the place, the action, the event, the geography, the thought.


A lifetime of shifting sands, moved by the winds from the east and south; constant reminders that there is somewhere else. The flora and fauna struggles wilfully. The struggle is essential. Without the struggle, all things remain the same. Change requires something to fight against, move with or wait for, Preparedness in the light of the events of yesterday.








The paint peels, the wood decays, the flower wilts, a war rages elsewhere, a lamb is born in a bleak paddock and another dies at the hands of a butcher, a rocket lands on a comet and a child takes its first steps.


How can I have the camera ready for all this? How can I be ready? Why is it essential that we record all this? Does the photograph remind us of what we must be prepared for?

Or is it just that we like to see how the moment, thing, place looks on a photograph?

"Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am)"
René Descartes

Ideo ego COMMEDITOR eam (this is why I photograph it)

Today is another day. The camera is at arms length. All things are as important or less than only by our own relevance. The photograph will equalise all differences.Today I put my mind not to understanding but doing.





"Whether a photo or music or anything else I might do -  it's ultimately all an abstraction of my peculiar experience".


William Eggleston.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

LEARNING TO SEE - again. Part 3

Self portraits have been around for a while. The first photographers were not backward in coming foreword with their own images, permanently and indelibly etched in the new technology.

This was and is nothing new. Artists have been doing it for hundreds of years. Rembrandt certainly did his fair share, having painted over 60 individual portraits of his face.

The significance of a self portrait for the artist and the viewer is unique. As does a moving picture, the sequence shows growth in two ways: that of the artist as a person, a form, an ageing human, and  of the skills he possesses.

Self-portrait 2012


Today we see the proliferation of the Selfie, an Australian term used to describe the quick snap taken mostly by smart phones or point and press cameras, of the camera holder and quickly sent to their friends and relatives for a quick 'like'.

Mother and daughter selfie 2014


Selfies are distinct from portraits in many ways. They have two main purposes: to indicate the status  and  the location of the photographer.
Status seems paramount in the new world. Status can be stated in many forms. What we wear, who we are with, where we are located, how good we look, how foolishly we are behaving, how deviant we wish to be, how game we are all fall into the possibilities of displaying ourselves in an appropriate or inappropriate way to the world.

Nevertheless, Selfies are as important as the new language or the new style. They separate us from the last fad-ridden generation who's bad taste is now replaced with equally or even superlative bad taste. No generation has been without their wantonness to display themselves is a way that distinguishes them from the rest.

The idea of the Selfie may perish in the same manner as the Mullet, paisley and wings on cars but the self- portrait will continue to be used by the photographer for their own reasons.

Heather and friends. Whenever!


Finding a suitable subject for practice can be difficult at the spur of the moment. Not so if you are willing to step in front of the lights and allow the lens to swallow your pride.

Self-portrait 2010


Filling a gap and providing a human element might rely on a passer by. Timing and cooperation are not always that forthcoming. Placing oneself into the scene gives familiarity and personality to the domesticity of the image.

Self-portrait 2013


Capturing a shadow or a reflection is often ignored or avoided by the person with the camera, yet the presence of the form can remind the photographer that they re just as important a part of the real world as any other bystander. They are also vulnerable and open to the marauding lens.

Self-portrait 2015


Photographers have explored the concept of self-portrait as a means of expression. Such photographs are conceptual and often powerful statement on how the photographer sees himself as a part of the whole or independent from the rest.

Self-portrait 2015


Few photographers succeed in completing the philosophical analysis of what they do. The self-portrait can play an important part in developing skills, monitoring growth and reflecting on why it is they do what they do.

We can only propose what a photographer sees when they view themselves in such a way.

LEARNING TO SEE - again. Part 2

Dave 2014


Its not at all surprising that the first flush of photographs were mostly portraits. There is an immense curiosity with the face of other humans. Recognition and familiarity is an important aspect of our willingness to look at other peoples' faces, especially in portraiture. It also seems a suitable way of describing someone, remembering someone or simply showing others what our ancestors looked like.

The portrait certainly has been romanticized, no less in photography. The search for inner meaning has been the focus of many a photographer and critic.

"Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is the one they would like to show to the world... Every so often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe".
Irving Penn

If we remember that our perceptions of people are established through many sources, the portrait is merely an addition to that perception, even if we don't know the person. Our existing knowledge of age, gender, nationality, grooming, fashion, facial expressions and even the way we comb our hair or brush our teeth are reflected in the image as a mirror would.

In addition, as the subject of the photograph, we are somewhat aware of how we might appear to the photographer and the viewer of the photograph.

"Many photographers feel their client is the subject. My client is a woman in Kansas who reads Vogue. I'm trying to intrigue, stimulate, feed her. My responsibility is to the reader. The severe portrait that is not the greatest joy in the world to the subject may be enormously interesting to the reader."

Ken 2010

Many of us will find the honesty of a portrait distasteful, even abhorrent. Others will seek it out and display their finery at every opportunity. At the end of the day, none of this matters to the photographer or viewer, for they will formulate their won opinions and come to their own conclusions as to the nature of the subject.

As an actor might react to a camera under the direction of a script, we can learn to appreciate the value of the portrait in presenting the image we wish to share. The photographer can assist with this if they understand the basics of psychology and vanity. 

"I sometimes find the surface interesting. To say that the mark of a good portrait is whether you get them or get the soul - I don't think this is possible all of the time."

Ultimately, the portrait enables us to know something of the person photographed, even if its merely the form the person represents. But the interaction of the photographer, the photographed and the viewer can only add to this. The portrait is no mystery. There is nothing mysterious about our fascination with other people. In understanding others we hope to gain insight into ourselves.

I'm inclined to thing it's the other way around.


The accordion player  2012

Graham 2013





LEARNING TO SEE - again. Part 1


"The term “Photography” is now so well known, that an explanation of it is
perhaps superfluous; yet, as some persons may still be unacquainted with
the art, even by name, its discovery being still of very recent date, a
few words may be looked for of general explanation."

H. Fox Talbot (1844)




The ability to record a permanent image is almost 200 years old. It seems strangely humbling to know that I have been taking photographs for more than a quarter of its existence and more than 90% of my own life.

Whether it is a mechanical, chemical or digital process, be it art or advertising, or whatever we perceive its purpose is not in dispute. We have learnt to grow with it and embrace it into our lives in one way or another.

"That such imperfections will occur in
a first essay, must indeed be expected.  At present the Art can hardly be
said to have advanced beyond its infancy—at any rate, it is yet in a very
early stage—and its practice is often impeded by doubts and difficulties,
which, with increasing knowledge, will diminish and disappear. "  H.F.T (1844)

Those at the beginning certainly were in awe of the new recordings. The detail provided was achievable by even the least skilled. One need no longer be proficient at drawing. One simply needed to point the camera in the direction of the subject, be still for a moment, and great clarity was theirs to take away and display. How it must have pleased them, excited them, fascinated them, even bewildered them. They did not need to know the science or understand the mechanics or even the aesthetics. The beauty lie in the capacity to do something they could not otherwise do.

Today, we continue to take photographs of objects with that in mind: we can do something that, without the camera, we could not otherwise do. For most of us, it is the detail and richness of the subject and the moment we wish to encompass, record and share, that is paramount in our consciousness.

But photography has developed in many ways over the centuries. Its technical aspects have surpassed the expectations of the early photographers. We have moved from chemical recording and fixing to digital processing. The camera has such high levels of technology, most need no understanding of the processes that the earlier photographers might have used. The convenience and affordability places a camera in the hands of most. The numbers of photographs taken exceeds the imagination of even those who were born into it. The proliferation of photographs has saturated our daily lives. Their influence on our thinking is profound.

Photography is now an integral part of our communication. Photographs accompany, reinforce, explain and even replace the spoken word. They enable us to express ourselves better, differently and abstractly. It is an art form as much as an artisans tool and a witness to who we are and what we do as humans.

But does any of this matter to  any of us? We continue to take pictures. We continue to point and press. A few seek deeper meaning to it all. For the majority we are happy enough to rely on the camera to record what we see so we can reflect and share with others.

I am learning to see once again. I am learning to see the beauty that lies before me and then see how it looks as a photograph.


I do not claim to have perfected an art but to have commenced one, the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain. " H.F.T. (1844)