Thursday, January 9, 2014

Visionary: What to Photograph

As a technical device, a camera can be used to record anything. Cameras are hung on towers and in corners for security purposes, attached to microscopes and telescopes, and left in the woods to track animal movements. Technically, any use of a “camera” to record a moment is “photography,” since “photography” simply means a “writing made by light.”

For our purposes, we don't use the term photography so broadly. Instead, we believe that the technical advantages of modern cameras lend themselves best to the documentary observation of life. We take our perspective from Auguste Rodin:
As for me, seeker after truth and student of life as I am . . . I take from life the movements I observe, but it is not I who impose them. 
I obey Nature in everything, and I never pretend to command her. My only ambition is to be servilely faithful to her. 
I grant you that the artist does not see Nature as she appears to the vulgar, because his emotion reveals to him the hidden truths beneath appearances. But, after all, the only principle in Art is to copy what you see. Dealers in aesthetics to the contrary, every other method is fatal. There is no recipe for improving nature. 
 The only thing is to see.
Oh, doubtless a mediocre man copying nature will never produce a work of art; because he really looks without seeing, and though he may have noted each detail minutely, the result will be flat and without character. But the profession of artist is not meant for the mediocre, and to them the best counsels will never succeed in giving talent. 
The artist, on the contrary, sees; that is to say, that his eye, grafted on his heart, reads deeply into the bosom of Nature. 
That is why the artist has only to trust to his eyes.
Art, Rodin and Gsell, at 30-34.

Accordingly, this course is for photographers who want to capture moments—not create them. If you want to shoot studio work, then you should study set design before you study photography. This course is directed toward those photographers who wish to develop their ability to observe and record life as it unfolds in a way which allows them to express their own creative interests, and at the same time enhance the lives of both their subjects and their audience. Striving to be a better photographer reflects your appreciation of the important responsibility you have. 

Our watchphrase for being the ideal observer is: be not involved. Accordingly, while the insights developed here will help any photographer further the craft, our intention is to help refine and speed up the observational process required for documentary photography. These skills are more applicable to photojournalism, street photography, travel photography, and other rapidly unfolding and changing environments, than they are applicable to studio work, or any work where the photographer is involved in the placement of the subjects.