Thursday, May 19, 2005

Books: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews Books: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews

I'm reading this book. I would like to read and read and read but find I must stop and digest each essay. The essay titled "Edward Weston" is compelling. Or was it the essay critizing a "biography" of of Paul Strand? There's so much to understand. There's so much to contemplate, really. Not that I necessarily agree with all that is said, but I enjoy the other perspective.

Robert Adam's calls one photographer a "pictorialist" and goes on to talk about the soft lens approach, manipulating a scene by eliminating what is ugly or undesirable. My first question to that is: Is being a pictorialist bad? and then, "Doesn't everyone manipulate the scene to some degree? I mean, as landscape photographers we try to crop out the "junk" in the
view. I think he implied that landscape photography leans toward pictorial inclinations but that the "sharpness" of the images tends to keep it from being considered pictorial. Maybe I misunderstood that. But I don't think so.

And what, exactly, is wrong with being a pictorialist? I have one image that is lovely, used a Pro-Mist #1 on it, and absolutely manipulated my position in relation to the what I was shooting to keep the nearby food tent out of the view. Adam's doesn't direclty imply that it is wrong, but he starts to make a case that it isn't truthful; a point with which I disagree, and even began to feel defensive. Against a book. Jeez.

I elect to not photograph ugliness. Which is not to say that I don't photograph decay and age, also known as History to some. I believe these are two different things. But I don't photograph hunger or homelessness or war. I'm not a street photographer, I don't care to engage in that kind of art. Although, Adam's questions whether that is really Art, or whether it's another flavor of journalism. There is an argument to be made that they are one and the same. For another time.

I think I have more to say about this but these are thoughts have been stewing around in my mind since I began reading "Why People Photograph" a few days ago. I'm half-way through the book and it's one of the best investments I've made in a long time.

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