To begin as a photographer, it is tempting to start out with the “how”. But instead, it is a better idea to start with “why?” What is it about photography that makes it a unique medium separate from painting, sculpture, music, literature? And why would you choose it over the other art forms?
The unique elements of the medium include its immediacy and fidelity. These elements were apparent from the very first photograph: (Links to an external site.)
|The Original Heliograph (The Negative)
|The “Positive” Version
The Worlds First Photograph
by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (Links to an external site.), 1826
Initially, photography was not accepted as an art form because it involved very technical procedures rather than handiwork.
Duane Michals is a NYC artist/photographer known within fine-art circles as a pioneer developer of the contemporary photo essay. He has said, “photographers today have all the know-how, but they have nothing to say; they just regurgitate clichés”.
GET BVS & Big MAC #
The challenge in this class is to prove him wrong!
Given that there are an estimated 1,700,000,000,000 (1.7 TRILLION) (Links to an external site.)photographs taken per year, How do we create work that stands out?
Remember the GET BVS and Big MAC Theories? These theories give us a few goals to aim for in our work:
GET BVS #
Big MAC #
With these goals in mind, let’s learn some strategies to move us toward them.
Objective vs. Subjective Images #
As an artist, it helps to know and identify just what kind of work you are creating. You can begin by learning the difference between Objective and Subjective work. Your Chairs assignment asks for an objective view and a subjective view of the subject you choose to photograph. What is the difference between objective and subjective and is one type of imagery better than another? The answer to the latter is that both views are legitimate and should create dynamic, interesting imagery but they deliver their impact from different perspectives. One identifies the subject clearly without any major surprises while delivering strong visual interest through a careful selection of formal aspects such as quality of light, dramatic camera angles and perspectives, strong composition, lens distortions (wide-angle, telephoto, etc.), selective focus and variations in exposure (dark, light, or normal). This type of image is an Objective View. The other type delivers visual interest jarring your expectations. These images do not clearly identify the subject matter yet provide enough information for the viewer to make reasonable assumptions. Maybe the subject has been located in an unexpected location, maybe the lighting (dark or light) triggers an emotional response that is in opposition to the normal association with this subject, or perhaps there is dramatic cropping in on the subject that makes it difficult to determine exactly what it is though it still holds some familiarity. In other words, subjective images generate questions, questions that create a narrative, and questions that provoke thought.
To sum up:
Objective Images #
Objective images clearly define the subject and glorify their formal identity
Subjective images #
Subjective images obscure the obvious in order to create a new narrative for this subject, a new story.
In the image above, taken from a Blue Shield advertisement, the bride and groom are an example of a subjective image, and the computer keyboard is an objective view. The other two images, (the baby and the man) illustrate that some images can be a little of both. The baby is a more subjective image than objective because the mother’s shoulder blocking half of the baby’s identity delivers more story than identity (story: safe and secure) The man is more objective than subjective; even though half of his face is cropped out of the image, he remains very clearly identifiable. The bride and groom on the other hand are clearly subjective because neither party is really identifiable and it becomes more about the story of celebration and new futures.
Creative Applications: See, Think, Feel
“…and there is nothing new under the sun.”
-Eccle 1:9 #
It can be said that there are no new images. My goal in this course is to guide you through a technical maze that will free you to express ordinary things with extraordinary vision. But it also can be true that through your visual voice we can share familiar things with new insight. It is therefore very important that you invest your time in creating unique interpretations of everything you choose to photograph. What camera angle will help us see your subject in a new way? What level of exposure – normal, lighter than normal (overexposed), darker than normal (underexposed) – will translate the mood you wish to project? Which camera lens will deliver the image with the greatest amount of visual impact? This list of questions will expand considerably as you develop an understanding of the importance of each choice you make before you take the actual photograph.
I am not interested in just SEEING something ordinary through your lens. I am looking forward to seeing familiar things that conjure up new ways of thinking about your subject (provokes new thoughts) and feeling something new about it (new emotional responses).
Here you will find more examples of images that are objective or subjective:
Take these landscape images for example:
The one on the left is clearly identifiable. You can see the trees, mountains, and clouds… it is a “quick read.” The image on the right, however, requires that you mentally fill in the blanks a little more as the frosted glass in front of the lens obscures the details.
Or these images of a chair:
Without knowing in advance, you would have no idea exactly what the subjective image is.
As you can see, neither approach is right or wrong… better or worse. You can make imagery that follows both strategies to the extreme, or lies somewhere in the middle. Take a look at these examples and decide for yourself if they are objective or subjective:
©Jezaira Knight Sanders