1977 – Confessin’ The Blues

Yesterday, late as always, I read Eric Jeschke’s “Red Skies at Night”, and I commented on his post “Tools That Get In The Way Of Making Great Photographs“.

Eric is planning to change his way of photographing, going from “found” images to “conceptional” images. He said that

I was reminded of a fundamental piece of advice about photography: that you need to take photographs of things or ideas that you are passionate about. If you do that one thing, the technique and all the rest will come along and the photographs will be great. If you are not passionate about the subject, the viewing audience will know it and feel it.

and then he lists kind of a recipe

I think I can sum up my lessons learned in five points, in order of importance, for making this kind of photographs:

  1. Find your subjects (for which you have a passion)
  2. Brainstorm, imagine and visualize your photographs
  3. Write them all down religiously; organize your visions into a plan
  4. Bring your love of photography
  5. Use the tools and skills to make the photograph match the vision

This made me think.

I mean, so many people go conceptional, concentrate on “their subject”, and it’s really almost a requirement for being recognized in the Art world at all to work like that. Why don’t do I?

Mark Hobson regularly raises the topic of consistent bodies of work, and I can vaguely remember having written in a comment that I simply don’t feel like it, don’t have the time for the required strictness, and that this possibly may change some time in the future, only not now. I can also remember that not even I found this entirely convincing, but that I somehow also lacked the time to properly think about it. Instead I just carried on.

Yesterday, while reading Eric’s post it occurred to me though, and here I quote from my own comment:

Basically my images are found images, but so often what seems to be the subject is really only the physical place where I saw what the true subject is: relations of geometric forms, lines, shapes, proportions, colors, balance. Really most of my images are abstract, the subject being some geometric sub-structure. Like the bicycles: it isn’t about bikes at all, it is about lines in three-dimensional space, projected onto the sensor. At least that’s what my composition process currently is, what I look for, how I see photography and what I’m passionate about.

I arrange lines, shapes colors and proportions until I feel balance. The subjects are really not that important to me. One day I may arrive at the same point as you have, but from another direction. And as always, Mark Hobson is already there. But then, he had quite a head start 😀

Today’s image, taken while I rushed to the train, is a good example for what I mean. I was in a hurry, so this is very likely not the best solution that I’m possibly capable of, but the problem clearly was one of balance – and of an angle of view that we all badly under-utilize 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Confessin’ The Blues” from the 1964 Rolling Stones album “12 X 5”. Good year, I can tell ya’ 😉

Hear it on YouTube.

10 thoughts on “1977 – Confessin’ The Blues”

  1. For me this conceptional thing is just an overvaluation of rationality. I’m not wondering about it because in a culture where initiative is more valued than impressibility and action more than experience, where “doing it” seems of value by its own, conception is mainstream even in art. But I really do not believe that thinking your pictures is better than finding them or even better: let them find you. To demand or impose conceptional photography is just an other limitation to ones freedom of expression, ones ability to surprise oneself.

    Long live wonder, long live astonishment!

    1. Well, really, I’d say it’s mightily OK as long as you like to do it, are passionate about it. It’s only that there is more than one way to get passionate 🙂

  2. So often so-called experts insist that we’re not really artists unless — whatever their own focus happens to be – they seem to want everyone else to conform.

    That’s not my way. I shoot anything that I find captures my interest. I have no consistent style – a lot of my images that I like, others consider to be “merely” postcard quality. Well, hey, that’s OK – I happen to like postcards, too – and some photographers make a living shooting postcard scenes.

    I guess that passion means different things to different people. And as far as “having to develop a consistent style” – well, that leaves me out in the cold! So far I’ve found that I seem to have no style – and so in the eyes of some, this makes me “less than” instead of equal to or greater than – Who? Whom?

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever known any artists who made lists. Specially ones that included a point to remind them to bring the love of their craft. Just saying.

  4. I also came to the conclusion recently that I enjoy it more and am more fulfilled when shooting something I’m passionate about – although that’s not to say an external viewer might agree they are ‘better’ images. But I won’t start on the definition of ‘good photography’ here in this comment for your sake 😉

    Anyway I think the thing that this post illustrates perfectly is that people seem to get very hung up on subjects as a very literal category of object – but you’ve shown very well how you can interpret it in a more abstract way. It’s the visual element that you like, rather than the ‘real world’ classification of your subject – and isn’t photography a visual thing after all?

  5. You can be passionate about found subjects (maybe that’s what lets you find them?) as you can if you follow a concept. And it is possible to follow a lifeless concept and to find subjects you think other people will like (and you don’t).
    But. It is very hard to exceed known areas and be really creative if you follow a concept born inside this areas. In this way there is very small space for wonder and astonishment.

  6. I very much like your comment about your bicycle pictures. But abstract is maybe not the right word for it….because you can still see tha natural shapes, forms and lines. As Cartier-Bresson said, I think, it’s all about the geometry. Sadly many people looking at such pictures – be they of bikes or buiidlings or whatever – don’t see beyond the actual subject matter. Even my otherwise photographically-inclined wife says to me sometimes “Why are you taking a picture of that?”, as I take a shot of something whose shape/colour/relationship etc has grabbed my attention.

    1. Of course you’re right and it’s also not as simple in the composition process as I’ve put it. It’s not that I see a triangle and two circles and say, hey, I’m going to photograph those shapes and, btw, what is it, oh, it’s a bicycle!

      It can be that way but mostly it works the other way round. When I’m out on the street, I look for bicycles, not triangles. I look for them because I know that they often make for interesting subjects because of their geometry. While actually taking the image, geometry always plays a role though.

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