Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Appreciating photographs

This is a theme that I've come back to time and again in my life, and I'll probably return to it regularly on this blog as well.

What makes a photograph appealing to an audience? It's a huge question. But there's one aspect I'd like to quickly cover here: photographic websites where people post pictures and other enthusiasts and photographers comment on them.

I've noticed something. They seem to be in danger of repeating the blinkered view that many amateur camera clubs suffer from. Too many pictures that are just about creating an overwhelming visual impact - highly saturated, oversharpened, simplified compositions, unrealistic colours and images that don't communicate with the soul of the viewer. You open them and go WOW, blink your eyes twice, click onto the next one and forget what you've seen 40 seconds later.

I like images that make you think. That raise questions. That go beyond the obvious and the visual cliche or a characture of a landscape, or any of the other over-manipulated photoshop experiments that one sees.

Everything in a picture should have a reason for being there, but to be really good it, for me, has to touch something deeper in the viewer, and it has to leave an impression as lasting as an archival print.

Given these criteria, I reckon I probably take 2 or 3 good images a year. Next time you look at a web gallery, a simple landscape perhaps, really look and let the image speak to you. It is worth everything and more than something which is overcooked and abuses visual manipulation to give itself unworthy impact. Try to understand what the photogapher is trying to say, rather than letting yourself be wooed by flashy technique, and judge a picture by how successfully it communicates with you when you open yourself up to it rather than pure 'slap in the face' visual pyro-techniques.

Paul Indigo
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