the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

Posts tagged “Perception




CALL IT THE WEAR AND TEAR OF A LIFETIME: call it a loss of faith: call it wisdom, if you prefer. Whatever the cause, I can no longer pray as I so easily and fervently did as a child. Maybe I should be considered “lost”, although I actually feel freed. Maybe I should be pitied, although I sometimes feel I should be envied. Suffice it to say that no building, no symbol, no text gives me that once-natural feeling of connection and community in the same way that a camera does.

The ways that  I engage the world with a camera acts, in some ways, as my version of a prayer. In contrast to the petty entreaties that Junior Me sent heavenward in search of my various wants or desires, I find that learning to see the broad miracle that is existence, and trying to fix impressions of that onto various media….that is praying. Not a request for anything from a person, and not as a mere ritual or habit, but still a potentially sacred act.

Photography has become my way of saying thank you to everything, or nobody, in a language that mere verses and scriptures can no longer express. When I take seemingly disparate conditions or elements and cohere them into an image, that’s about as close to the act of creation as I am liable to get. Is the picture an offering, a sacrifice? Actually, it can be that, plus a lot more.

Prayer is thought to be about humility, of realizing that your arms are too short to box with the universe and trying to get said universe to stretch its own arms toward you, to meet you halfway. Photography, or really any art, is an attempt to get those two sets of arms linked. When it works, it produces in me a larger “answer” than anything else to the question, “what’s it all about?” Prayer, for the younger me, was about helping myself feel less alone, to tap into something broader and deeper than myself. And when I celebrate the vast variety of life, then try to share those secrets out with the larger world…well, if that isn’t holy, then I have no idea what is.



Your memory tells you that this space is more like a "library" than a "drug store", unless you live in a much nicer neighborhood than mine.

Your memory tells you that this space is more like a “library” than a “drug store”, unless you live in a much nicer neighborhood than mine.


THERE IS AN OLD ADVERTISING MAXIM that the first person to introduce a product to market becomes the “face” of all versions of that product forever, no matter who else enters as a competitor. Under this thinking, all soda generically becomes a Coke; all facial tissues are Kleenexes: and no matter who made your office copier, you use it to make…Xeroxes. The first way we encounter something often becomes the way we “see” it, maybe forever.

Photography is shorthand for what takes much longer to explain verbally, and sometimes the first way we visually present something “sticks” in our head, becoming the default image that “means” that thing. Architecture seems to send that signal with certain businesses, certainly. When I give you Doric columns and gargoyles, you are a lot likelier to think courthouse than doghouse. If I show you panes of reflective glass, large open spaces and stark light fixtures, you might sift through your memory for art gallery sooner than you would for hardware store. It’s just the mind’s convenient filing system for quickly identifying previous files, and it can be a great tool for your photography as well.

As a shooter, you can sell the idea of a type of space based on what your viewer expects it to look like, and that could mean that you shoot an understated or even tightly composed, partial view of it, secure in the knowledge that people’s collective memory will provide any missing data. Being sensitive to what the universally accepted icons of a thing are means you can abbreviate or abstract its presentation without worrying about losing impact.

Photography can be at its most effective when you can say more and more with less and less. You just have to know how much to pare away and still preserve the perception.