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Thread: What is Photography?

  1. #1
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    What is Photography?

    Well I had some thoughts after leaving the workshop and looking back on what i hoped to convey or maybe what I think photography truly is in terms of what is the most important elements. I thought it maybe interesting to number them in the order I think is important. Love to hear what others sit and think about on there journey in photography. To me and my style of thinking my top 5 most important that reflect in my works are.

    1 Subject
    2 Light
    3 Design
    4 Composition
    5 Color or lack of to express it.

    Number 5 took some thought
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: What is Photography?

    there ought to be a category for "technical intent" to cover things like amount of DOF, sharpness or lack of, exposure intent, etc.. many photos shine from being straight, like the arizona series, many benefit from a less traditional method: Jim Collum's IR shots, for example

  3. #3
    ddk
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    Re: What is Photography?

    While I concur with the importance of all your points, I don't think that you can really come up with such a narrow definition Guy. Lets take your no. 1, Subject, I've seen fantastic photographs of the most mundane places and items; places and things that I have no interest in but the image sings. Then there's always content, what is or isn't included in the image can trump all the above. I'm sure that you, yourself have seen or shot images that defy and break all the rules and yet they work extremely well, but so many of those with perfect formulas fail because they're boring and predictable. No need to put limits on oneself, keep the list and your eye fluid and open...
    Last edited by ddk; 22nd June 2009 at 05:17.

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Photography is an abstraction of the world. Screw technical intent, accident and design both sides of the same coin and equally spendable.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Subscriber Member Georg Baumann's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Great thread!

    My take is this,

    1=yep
    2=yep
    3+4=yeppers

    5=yup on the colors or lack of it, and to me most important.... express what and to what audience?

    I have this last one easy with my music. But with photography it is a much bigger challenge in deed, at the moment I intend to think that this shows in context of a variety of work from any given photographer.

    The biggest success to me is when some one looks at my work and expresses a feeling that is similiar to what I felt when I decided to take this picture. Then I know, the attempt to communicate worked.

    The exiting thing about it is that I learned this can happen with pictures where I would never thought this to be possible in the first place. My own lesson I took home from this is that I know everybody sees things through his own eyes, and while this sounds like stating the obvious, it made a difference to me, because I learned that some of my work is liked a lot, which I personally would consider for the shredder, and work that I spend a lot of effor on and thought to be really some of my best, is dismissed.

    Here are four totally different examples of such. None of them I thought to be really good, neither in technical or other ways, in fact i dismissed them all, however, they were perceived by a variety of people from all age groups and different social backgrounds as desirable pictures.

    This feedback from people, makes it all so interesting to me, regardless what they say about it, whether they like my work or not like it, their reactions are most welcome either way.

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    I think Guy's list covers most of it. I would add one vague category of something that might be loosely described as an "emotional response" factor. A quality that's less easy to describe than say sharpness or dynamic range or composition. When that factor is present in an image, there's a visceral response and the sense of a magic moment captured. To me, the really great images (and great photographers) seem to manage it effortlessly.

    And while circumstances nudge the priority of each of the elements on Guy's list into a different position on the priority scale, the one that I find the most interesting most of the time is light. The quality and uniqueness of the light and an apparent success at both seeing it and then capturing it can often provoke that magical emotional response. They say that smell is the strongest trigger of memory. I think that a perception of light can act in a similar fashion, awakening personal and recognizable moments in everyone's memory.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Honestly I almost wanted to put light as number 1. It is what provokes us to actually see something unique or triggers the senses to actually shoot it. My theory and always has been without light we have nothing. BTW i personally put the technical stuff as after the decision to shoot something, more of the how and not the why.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Workshop Member ptomsu's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Tried hard to come up with different ideas, but finally I think Guy's list is pretty much it. Also the order is perfectly correct


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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    I like it, and think it is relevant, though I might use slightly different set:

    1) Light
    2) Composition (To me this infers there is at least one subject you had to place somewhere strategically in the image, so IMO no need to separate "Subject" out to its own item.)
    3) Form
    4) Texture
    5) Tone, meaning the color, contrast and saturation as a unified-whole.

    ???
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  10. #10
    meilicke
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Thinking of the lists, and TRSmith's desire to have a sixth emotional element, makes me wonder which drives the other? Is it the combination of technical aspects such as light and composition that drives the emotion, or is it the ability of the photographer to capture emotionally engaging images, that happen to have certain technical characteristics?

    It reminds me of food. Is it the constituents of the food that make it taste good and healthy? Or the way food is put together as a whole?

    -Scott

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    With out emotion, photography is just reproduction.

    I also like Winogrande's defination, “Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.”

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Honestly I almost wanted to put light as number 1. It is what provokes us to actually see something unique or triggers the senses to actually shoot it. My theory and always has been without light we have nothing. BTW i personally put the technical stuff as after the decision to shoot something, more of the how and not the why.
    Nice Guy, Light gives raise to the emotion we seek to impart. It is all about light both its presence and its absence.

    The rest as my old set theory teacher used to say, "And the rest is just arthimatic."

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Yes, I should edit the above to include something like, "Photography is wrapping all of these elements inside a frame and presented in two dimensions, such that the captured content represents a brief moment in time that can be shared..."
    Jack
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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Yes, I should edit the above to include something like, "Photography is wrapping all of these elements inside a frame and presented in two dimensions, such that the captured content represents a brief moment in time that can be shared..."
    Ah, but we can stumble on that "brief." Is a six month exposure brief?

    Slow Light photography.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnastovall View Post
    Ah, but we can stumble on that "brief." Is a six month exposure brief?

    Slow Light photography.
    It certainly is if you're speaking geologically . Though I concede your point and agree we eliminate "brief."
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: What is Photography?

    most of what has been said applies to straight photography by pretty much straight photographers, but that ain't all there is...
    so how do you include IR photography, like Jim Collum's elegant work? or long night exposures showing star trails or other not obvious to the eye effects, like multiple exposures of moving objects, though intended by the photographer? How about Man-Ray? some of these effects are not really part of the moment in time but are probably part of the pre-visualized image

  17. #17
    meilicke
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Georg, I just love #3. They are all wonderful, but the way you distilled her look to just the essentials has nailed it for me. Light.

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    Senior Member Robert Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    To answer a question with another;

    Ask: who, what, where, when, how and why.
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Maybe we should just paraphase Herman Hupfeld's great lyric and say, "Some times a photograph is just a photograph." Come to think of Gertrude Stein might have said something like that also.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Actually, who really cares -- I mean it's all about the gear anyway, isn't it?


    ,
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    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Gear slut. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

  22. #22
    Super Duper
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Photography is the expression of ones feelings. What made you capture the image in the first place?

    Okay I need to speak solely from a landscape point of view. It's a combination of capturing a moment in time along with a fleeting moment of emotion. It's the capturing of a location some people may never get to visit either through distance or ill health. It's also about the prevision of history.

    I believe as a landscape photographer I have a debt to repay by capturing the landscape in all its glory, warts and all. Look at how much change has happened in just our lifespan to the glaciers in Glacier National Park? It's conceivable that in a very short period we may have to rename the park.

    Everyone is right about light, color, composition but why not build off of it and add painting with pixels?

    I've had people actually stand in front of an image in our gallery and weep because it evoke an emotion in them that had been bottled up.

    I guess for me photography is sharing.

    Once more just my 2˘ worth

    Don

    By the way a very good question!
    Don Libby
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    Super Duper
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    Re: What is Photography?

    The gear also has a lot to do with it

    Don
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    Re: What is Photography?

    I am much more of a minimalist on this. For me, it boils down to one of two things: Artistic Intent or Editorial Intent. Both contain many of the elements mentioned, but they are only tools to capture, enhance, define, suggest, or reveal what the intent is.

    LJ

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    Subscriber Member Georg Baumann's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by meilicke View Post
    Georg, I just love #3. They are all wonderful, but the way you distilled her look to just the essentials has nailed it for me. Light.
    Thank you Meilicke. Distilled sounds about right. I remember I had a trial copy of Tiffen DFX when I did that and ran a variety of filters on smart objects until I got to that stage, only I do not remember what filter etc. Really should have safed that process. LOL

    Which reminds me, I really liked Tiffen DFX a lot, had it on PC last year before I got my Mac. May be I should buy them, if memory serves they were really top notch stuff.

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    Subscriber Member Streetshooter's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by LJL View Post
    I am much more of a minimalist on this. For me, it boils down to one of two things: Artistic Intent or Editorial Intent. Both contain many of the elements mentioned, but they are only tools to capture, enhance, define, suggest, or reveal what the intent is.

    LJ
    Ditto....it's not all there is....but in the end, it's all that matters.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by LJL View Post
    I am much more of a minimalist on this. For me, it boils down to one of two things: Artistic Intent or Editorial Intent. Both contain many of the elements mentioned, but they are only tools to capture, enhance, define, suggest, or reveal what the intent is.

    LJ
    I agree. If there's no intent, or message, it may still be a photograph, but it probably isn't mine. Still, Guy's original list is important, since it defines the technical quality of the photo, and establishes how well the message is conveyed.

    But what it all boils down to of course, is an excuse to buy more gear

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    I just upgraded the quality of my gear. I got a Holga 135HDC....

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


  29. #29
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnastovall View Post
    I just upgraded the quality of my gear. I got a Holga 135HDC....
    John,
    From some of the shots I have seen from the Holga, it can still do the job for both Artistic and Editorial intent.

    LJ

  30. #30
    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: What is Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnastovall View Post
    I just upgraded the quality of my gear. I got a Holga 135HDC....
    That was an upgrade from Canon, was it? Makes sense to me

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