For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.
I’m running out of ways to creatively say some version of “print yer damn work!” But seriously, print yer damn work. Live with it. Study it. Hold it in your hands. Give it away. Experience the joy of seeing it matted and framed and hung on walls.
I often find that David Duchemin has something to say in his blog posts and writings that serves as a friendly kick in the pants.
Like Duchemin, I think there’s great merit in getting our images off our hard drives and into some kind of tangible form. I’ve been making photobooks for a few years now and experimenting with many different brands and formats.
For me, this is a great way to print my work and see how various images look together. I find grouping the images in books keeps them more organized than making small individual prints. I now have an interesting collection of books that records my progress in photography and helps me follow my interests and obsessions over time.
I just finished my latest photo book and this time I included some favourite quotes as well. The software I used allows you to print proofs of the pages, so I put them together in a bit of a digital slide show.
But there’s nothing like holding the actual book in your hands. I look forward to receiving it in a few weeks.
Recently, I also started having my images printed, matted and framed. It took me forever to figure out which ones to select and how to display them. Finally, I settled on a set of black and whites from my New York series. I’m such a big fan of black and white prints and these complement some of the other prints I own that have been done by other photographers. I also thought long and hard about which ones would “spark joy” and maintain my interest over time. I found a wonderful printer in Toronto and had them printed on white rag paper.
I was so pleased with these that I’ve since printed a few more. I’m on my way to creating a gallery wall.
What about you? How do you enjoy your photography in tangible form?
I tell my students that photographs can be reduced to light, lines, and moments. Everything else is derivative.The more I study photographs from the past century — the incredibly short lifespan of our art so far — the more convinced I am that everything’s been photographed, that our challenge now is to manipulate light, lines, and moments in the frame in a way that expresses our unique view of those so oft-photographed subjects.
I often find myself resonating with the writings of photographer David Duchemin in his books and on his blog, but this quote in particular really hit home.
Don’t you find yourself thinking sometimes that everything has been photographed — and way better than you can do it — so what’s the point exactly?
Well, as Duchemin says, it has. So I find it incredibly helpful to think in terms of light, lines and moments when I have my camera with me and we’re meditating together on what we see.
It is a rare, rare thing when they all come together — light, lines and the moment — but once in a blue moon they might — and you have yourself an image that speaks louder than any words.
This image is one of those for me. When I was photographing at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, a young woman busker in a medieval-type dress with a tousle-haired toddler pulling at her skirts moved into the archway facing the staircase to start singing.
She had the voice of an angel. I think she was singing Gregorian chant because the words were not intelligible to me, but that didn’t matter. It was a moment when time stopped. I raised my camera to my eye and clicked.
This image, which is now framed on my wall, brings it all back every time I raise my eyes to look at it.
I often find myself deeply moved by the writings of photographers I admire, as well as their photography. I copied this quote from Kim Manley Ort, photographer, teacher, writer and fellow explorer, when I read it, and I wanted to share it with others, who I think will also appreciate it.
There is a flowering tree not far from our boat (a Hong Kong orchid, I am told) with a lovely fragrance. I love trees in general and I find myself returning to this one often. At certain times, the light falls on the flowers in a way that is irresistible.
So today I spent some time with the flowers, trying to capture a range of their gestures (placement of petals and stamens etc.) and experimenting to see how their colour changed depending on where the light fell on them.
I love listening to Jay Maisel talk about photography. He has forgotten more than I will probably ever know. The funny thing is that he speaks in such straightforward terms and makes it sound so easy, and when you look at his images, you can be fooled into thinking they are simple to make — that is, until you try to replicate one! He has some wonderful videos on You Tube (Google them!) and of course, his new book Light, Gesture, Colour is just excellent.
Many people snap away at flowers and are quite pleased with the results. I envy them. In my experience it’s not easy to take a good picture of a flower — at least one that satisfies me. The ratio of bad to good is quite high. Is that just me, or do you find that too?
Here are some of my favourite quotes from Jay Maisel. They inspire me to keep going and keep trying…
“We have always wanted to find the ‘it-ness’ of anything we shoot. We want to get as deep into the subject as we can.”
“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings, and the implications of all that you look at …”
“What you’re shooting at doesn’t matter, the real question is: ‘Does it give you joy?’”
“Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.” (That is oh so true!)
“The drama of light exists not only in what is in the light, but also in what is left dark. If the light is everywhere, the drama is gone.”
“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.”
But then, on the other hand…
“Remember that most people (those who are not photographers) don’t even see the things that you missed. Many don’t even look. Ergo, you are way ahead of the game.”
THANK YOU to all my readers…
I wish I could thank each and every one of you for your kind, thoughtful and insightful comments on this post. They made my day!
It looks like the weather is shaping up for us to leave to cross to the Bahamas on our sailboat very soon. So I need to turn my attention to other things right now and will probably be without Internet access for a bit.
I hope to see you on the other side!