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A mission to see photographically

In my blog advocating a mission or project orientated approach to photography I mentioned that taking this approach would change the way you see the world.

It may sound surprising but photography happens in the mind rather than being a mechanical matter of picking up a camera and pointing the lens at the subject. Throughout the process of creating an image, from having the first concept through to visualising the image, then dealing with the technical capture and finally through to post capture processing and output in print – your emotions, intellect and even personality play a role in determining the final result.

Beyond that a photographer's true merit is not judged by a single work. We all have good images, poorer images and if we are lucky one or two great images. The photographer's legacy is a body of work. Does it consist of saccharine, disparate images or does it delve into a subject and communicate the great truths of nature or life? Does the body of work resonate with the audience? Does it evoke an emotion, spark curiosity or stimulate thought.

Photographers working on a project, on a mission, will delve ever more deeply into the visual reality of their subject. Metaphorically speaking they will break their subject apart into fragments and then reunite these different fragments or aspects into a new and interesting image. You can't do that by walking around and happy snapping everything that catches your eye. If you'll pardon the pun, you need to be focused mentally and you need to be seeing photographically.

The more you observe your subject the more you will see and the more you will have to show your audience. There's a difference between looking at something and photographic seeing, which is using the mind to actively seek a way to use photography to convey or communicate something photographically.

Working on a photographic project facilitates the process of photographic seeing. It will change your photography from looking and capturing a pretty image to actually seeing and communicating your vision.

I hope this article stimulates some thought.

I've got lots of interesting ideas for blogs. My next one will probably be on why an image in print is the ultimate end product of the photographic process and the best way to judge a picture, and for that matter a photographer's ability.

Cheers for now,



Ade Mcfade said…
Reading this "now" makes perfect sense Paul. As do the vast majority of your blogs these days - but I read something very similar to this back in 2004 when I got my 300D, my first ever SLR, never mind DSLR.

I basically bought all the photo books on Amazon and read them religiously on the bus to work. When I saw these "seeing" type comments, I really did think it was "arty bo***cks" talk and had no real place in my little world of photography...

But like so many aspects of the skill, it creeps up on you without you noticing. I never walk around Leeds looking for shots, but I see them all the time.
John Simmons said…
Interesting Paul. Me I am in love with the projected image, the vibrancy of the colours and the way you darken the surrounding area to draw attraction. It gives it a magical feel because you change your surrouding environment to view it. A sense of occasion, the anticipation of preparation, like the child at Christmas.

To return to your topic, should you think of size also? I never thought about this till I read an article on Luminous Landscapes and for him the print size had to be thought of with the subject. The size you printed can have as much an impact as the printing process or choice of lens. If you blow it larger than life do you alter the viewer’s perception? Can a small detailed print force the viewer to come closer and force more intimacy with the image?
Paul Indigo said…
John, I totally agree that the size you intend the image to be seen at is an important consideration. I take this into account when working on a project. Thanks for your comment.

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