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.
- Double exposure: Leaves and the river in the fall
I never know where I’m going to find creative inspiration next…Sometimes, I see or feel something in other’s people’s images or words. I may experience a sharp flash of insight or a soft sense of recognition that washes over me like a fine mist at the seashore.
Inspiration may come as I look through the viewfinder, or I may not feel it until I see my raw images onscreen. It may abandon me for days…only to return with a shudder of realization or a frisson of enthusiasm.
One thing I know is that human beings are all creative. That’s one characteristic we all share — although how we express it differs radically. Sometimes it is used for ill. Most often, for good.
How we choose to live out our creativity is at once a deeply serious yet profoundly joyous matter. And how we engage creatively with ourselves and with the world deserves some conscious deliberation once in a while…
Since this is a blog about photography…the question becomes how do we talk about what we do as photographers? I don’t mean the “how” — there is an untold number of informative books, articles, videos and courses about that.
I mean the why.
I ask myself why I am so entranced by pointing this boxy black gizmo at patterns of light and shadow and colour out in the world. Freeman Patterson offers one answer that speaks to me. But there are also others who help me understand my own feelings about photography — about creativity, originality and authenticity.
Lately David Duchemin and Kim Manley Ort have added to the depth of this important discussion with utterly thoughtful contributions. Each has just published a heartfelt reflection on the art and craft of photography and why they do what they do that I urge you to read.
I know I love a piece of writing when I find myself copying down several quotes from a short piece. Thank you Kim and David.
Photography, for me, is not so much about self-expression or even expression of the subject, as it is an expression of the connection between the two. Essence meets essence.
Kim Manley Ort
Evolution of a Photographer: Part 1
Evolution of a Photographer: Part 2
Chasing authenticity is like chasing originality. Spend too much time doing it and you’ll lose sight of the thing you were aiming for. Explore. Play. Follow your gut. You’ll know when it’s you and when it’s not.
On authenticity. Again.