Have an opinion people!

Going through my photographic journey I’ve slowly started to notice this very negative fact… at first it was a vague thought on the back of my mind, but then slowly I started to see it more and more clearly (I am talking about the world of photography enthusiasts and also professional photogrpahers) – too many people don’t have their own opinion.

Let me explain. I found famous photographers, who also have blogs, in which they showcase their work and write about photography related issues. And then there’s the comments section – and in those comments I almost never see anything other than compliments. “Oh what a great article!”, “Wow, what a nice photograph!”, “You are absolutely right”… but when I read that article or look at that photo I am thinking to myself – well this stuff is worse than average… nice photo but nothing special… but if I write in the comments that this photo is not that good and also why I think that, and I always do it politely, in response I receive replies from other readers that I don’t understand the work, and I don’t see the author’s vision… I am sorry but this is bullshit. Those people don’t have their own opinion and they go with everybody elses judgement, who in turn think that if this photographer is popular then his works MUST be good.People tend not to think by themselves. After a while I stopped writing such comments because I saw that instead of contributing to the discussion I am just stirring the air.

Just recently I was searching for an interesting photography podcast to listen to while driving, and I found a podcast with very promising name “Art of photography”, but after listening to four or five episodes I couldn’t bear it anymore – all the guy talked about was film cameras and related technical stuff – reviewed some old film cameras, explained something about how to project light on a fork and onto light-sensitive paper to get an image of a fork, and even how to make film negative out of digital image (!!!). So this guy probably thinks that “Art of photography” is shooting with film…

Another very popular guy rants about how gear is not important, and how the vision is… and then I look at his photographs that he presents on his blog, which are mostly landscapes and I don’t see the vision… the thing that scares me is that those guys have their following, and people look at their work and want to be like them, while there’s not much to look up to. Yes, I know, in the world of photography everybody knows those guys, and nobody knows me, so they must be right and I must be wrong, but in my defense I have to say that before judging work of others I am thinking, by myself, listening to my inner voice, trying not to be swept by the opinions of others.

There are photographers who I look up to. Surprisingly most of them are not too famous. I visit their websites and blogs and listen to what they have to say and learn from them, but most importantly I am always trying to THINK and FEEL everything by myself. And this is what I wish for everybody who wants to get somewhere in photography – think for yourself, don’t let others do the thinking for you.

 

P.S. One of the websites that constantly presents great photographs is 1x.com. Just one thing to have in mind – they offer hosting service, and if you pay an annual fee you can have your own gallery on their website, where you can put whatever photos you like. When visiting the website you might accidentally end up in one of such galleries – those photos are not going through their tough selection process and hence their photographic value (the term I thought of myself! 🙂 ) varies.

How Ideas Come To Life

Thinking of it, maybe I should’ve titled this post “story of an idea” because I will be talking about creation of one particular image. But I eventually I decided on the current title because the way this creation emerged from the depths of my imagination is one of the most common ways.

A few weeks ago I had a photo session with Ira, in which my primary goal was to try some new lighting techniques that I thought of. In that shoot I decided to focus on close up portraits (chest line and up). I experimented with different backgrounds and asked Ira to put on a few different shirts.

At first nothing was working for me. The lighting was bad, and I didn’t get any interesting results… but then again, I didn’t start this shoot with a specific idea in mind – it’s like that phrase from Alice in wonderland:

– In which direction should I go?

– It depends on where do you want to arrive

But I felt inspired that day and just kept on shooting and trying to get some nice shots. At one point Ira suggested adding an accessory – a piece of white semi transparent white fabric that she had, and I agreed to try it – it is a good idea to listen to your model, especially when you are out of ideas 🙂

Trying different variations we came up with this photograph:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I liked it, but quite frankly it lacks an idea behind it. I looked at this photo and thought “nice photo! but what am I trying to tell with it?”. And I couldn’t find an answer. So I forgot about this photo for a while and focused on other tasks.

After a while (a few days have passed since the shoot), when I was watching a Phlearn Pro photoshop tutorial (which by the way was magnificent!), suddenly an idea emerged in my mind. I remembered this photo of a spider’s web that I took:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And it suddenly got layered, in my mind, onto that photo of Ira holding white fabric, as if she was holding the web itself. I rushed into photoshop to try it, to see how it looks in reality. It was nice but still something was missing… what was it? The spider of course. So I searched the net for images of spiders and chose the one I liked the most. Then I brought it as a layer into my working file, and converted the spider to be pure black.

Now I needed to find a meaningful placement for the spider. I tried different variations before I came up with the final result, which you can see below. I call this image “The Way Up” :

The Way Up...

Click on the photo to enlarge.

By describing my creative process on one particular image I wanted to show one of the many ways creative ideas come to life – they are not always pre-conceived, and sometimes, as it was in this case, they develop step by step over time, graduating slowly towards the end result.

What do you think about the final image? Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are always appreciated!

Photography As Form Of Art – Free PDF Download

Everyone following my blog must’ve noticed that lately I am getting into more serious study of photography as form of artistic expression. In Photopathway it all started with my post “Wisdom Of Photography” where I wrote about my exploration of an old book about art of photography. Next came the post “About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours”  , in which I tell about wonderful Czech photography magazine “Revue Fotografie” from the 1960s. In that post I also presented my translation of one of the articles I liked the most in that magazine.

In this post I continue in the same direction but with a slightly different approach – I created a photo album (in PDF file) containing most of the photographs from the 3/1961 issue of “Revue Fotografie”, which I would like to share with as many aspiring photographers as possible by making this PDF file available for free download.

In the photo album I also wrote a foreword article outlining my reasons for creating it. Let me share parts of the foreword here, and make sure you download the album by clicking on the banners above or below.

“… I strongly believe that in order to advance in photographic vision and skills, one has to learn from the masters. Not to copy their work, but to understand what actually good photography is. Looking at good photographs one can begin to understand what do the words ‘photographic vision’ mean, and also to learn how to powerfully express thoughts, feelings, and emotions through a photograph.
Nowadays, one of the most serious problems lying on the path of any aspiring photographer, is the enormous amount of mediocre photographs presented everywhere, making it hard, especially for the beginner, to distinguish between real works of art and a ‘nice wrapping without the stuffing’.
So what am I presenting in this photographic album?
To explain that, first I have to tell you about a photographic magazine “revue Photographie” that was published four times a year in Czechoslovakia between 1950s and 1990s in several languages. Don’t  even try to compare it to most of currently published photography magazines, which are filled with advertisement and “shoot like a pro” articles!
In its early years “revue Photographie” was considered one of the (if not THE) best photo magazines in the world. Founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine during 1950s and 1960s was Václav Jírů, a very talented photographer himself, whose photographs are now being displayed in museums and sold on auctions.
Václav Jírů selected and approved most of the photographs, making the magazine a true work of art. In today’s terms it would be comparable to 1x.com. Of course photographs weren’t the only asset of the revue. The articles too were very educational and informative, dealing not only with questions of photographic techniques but also with more important issues such as:
                                                      – Photography as form of art
                                                      – Moral obligations of the photographer
                                                      – Place of photography among other art forms
and many more.
Even during the time it was published, “revue Photographie” was very sought after, and not easy to acquire, not to say about nowadays.
I got very lucky to lay my hands on one of the issues. It is the third issue of the year 1961, published in Russian. I happen to know Russian so I had an enormous pleasure reading it. One of the articles was simply too good to not share it, so I translated it to English and you will find it on the next page. The photographs, on the other hand, don’t require my translation, and are there for everybody to look at, learn, and appreciate.
In this photographic album I arranged most of the photos from the 3/1961 issue of the revue. I hope that many aspiring photographers will get to see this album, enjoy, and learn from the photographs presented in it.
I will continue my search for other issues of “revue Photographie”, translate its best articles, and put up its photos here, on the pages of my blog… “

Feel free to share this album with anyone who you think can benefit from it, and I would appreciate any feedback regarding this album in the comments section below this post or to my email – greg at photopathway dot com.

 

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

In one of my recent articles titled “Wisdom Of Photography” I shared with you, my readers, some of the interesting thoughts about photography that I found in an old photography book. After finishing that book, I continued my search after interesting old photography related material, and I found a magnificent Czech magazine named “Revue Fotografie”, which was published four times a year in the middle of the 20th century (approximately from 1960s to 1990s). This magazine was widely considered to be one of the best photo magazines in the world at the time. It was also translated from Czech to some other languages including German, and Russian. The specific issue that I found was Russian edition of third magazine in 1961.
I can’t even begin to describe how much I was impressed with the articles and photographs presented in this magazine! But as always, I want to share some of the wisdom I learned from it. I am aware of the fact that my blog becomes more and more serious, but after all – it is my path in photography, and it is what it is.
From the magazine, I particularly liked one article. I translated it to English and sharing it here. While reading it, please have in mind that it was written in Czecho-Slovakia in its “Communism” period. I tried to omit as much as possible the parts which are not relevant to our times, but most of the article is as relevant to photography now as it was back then. Along with the translation I am also including a few of the photographs from the pages of the magazine.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Carel Gibner - 'An Area'

Carel Gibner – ‘An Area’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Written by Tamara Shevchenko, translated by Greg Brave

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

One of the most gratifying things in our work as editors of the “revue Fotografie” are the letters from our readers, and whole stacks of them! In these letters many photographers share with us their plans and views on photography. Often they write about their lives, and are being very demanding, as only sincere friends can be, towards the work of our magazine. The sincerity and friendliness of our addressees pleases our editorial staff, and countless praises awakens the desire to devote ourselves even more to our work.

Often, however, warm, friendly, and sincere letters are accompanied by poor, indistinctive, similar to hundreds other, photographs. One couldn’t help not to think about it. Why it is so? Why in such a wealth of different destinies, characters, and points of view, people who pick up cameras, try to reproduce overused themes or to emulate the masterpieces instead of revealing their own true selves?

Here we will not touch on the subject of talent and lack of it. In any case I don’t think the question of talent should be only regarded as a “gift of God”.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Secret'

L.Fischer, Austria – “Secret”. Click on the photo to enlarge.

As we all know, Leonardo da Vinci was the first to develop laws of perspective for painting. And since then young artists don’t need to wait for “divine intervention” in order to rediscover these laws as they can all be learned from Leonardo. The cultural heritage of humanity is freely available to everybody. Therefore, looking through hundreds of photos, again and again I wonder if the inexpressiveness, impersonal nature, and similarity of them is in reality a hypocrisy and insincerity of the photographer towards himself?
Such an amateur photographer, having read on the front page of our magazine the words “review of artistic photography” immediately decides: “let’s send them photos of trees, water, sunset, or cloudy skies”… and our editorial office receives hundreds of photos of trees, water, sunsets etc. as if these subjects are the true discovery and revelation to the people.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Curiosity'

L.Fischer, Austria ‘Curiosity’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Art arose from the desire of the artist to tell about himself. After all, even when artist speaks about his surroundings, or events that he witnessed, he in fact tells us about himself, about things seen through his own eyes. And magnificent art, which survived its creators, was created by the artist’s ability to see things so originally and so deeply, as nobody saw ever before him.

If a person does not want to talk about himself, he is silent. But if a person is not silent, if he picks up a camera and tries to use photography as an art form because he feels that its means of expression fit him the most of all other forms of art, such person should not be afraid to create his own artistic statement. It is the right and the privilege of any human being of our modern times – to find and acknowledge the meaning of his own life, express it, and strive to live the life of significance, brightness, and excitement, to find one’s self.

A.Zybin - 'In Art Gallery'

A.Zybin – ‘In Art Gallery’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Of course, one should still photograph trees, waves, and sunsets, but the photographer must be an artist, a person who can see the landscape in his own original way. We are surrounded by a huge variety of things, creatures, and destinies, but we ignore them, hiding behind the undeniable beauty of the generally recognised subjects. In our photographs we avoid expressing the controversial, the unresolved issues within and around us.

We often comfort our self-esteem with the dream of our existence in true art by imitating famous photographs thinking that by doing that we can’t go wrong.

Equally wrong is the way of those who constantly increase the color saturation of their photographs (this can be understood not only directly, but also metaphorically – Greg’s note). This is an evidence to one’s inability to appreciate the beauty of life, to prefer real life’s beauty to the artificial one.

Leopold Fischer - "In a Storm"

Leopold Fischer – ‘In А Storm’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Our editorial office received one curious objection from one of our readers, condemning the photo of patterns created by foam on water, and other such photos in our magazine, which the reader personally didn’t like. From his letter I understood that many years of age separate this person from his childhood, and apparently also from the fresh, lively, and direct perception of the things around him. Childhood memories, though naive, are very profound. In childhood one sees things, so to say, up close (like in macro – Greg’s note). A small blade of grass is visible down to its root, a crack in the pavement is scary because it is deep and unexplored, thick walls of old buildings – what a fertile ground for imagination! These were just a few examples of course.

Yaroslav Parcovsky - 'Time Walks The Earth'

Yaroslav Parcovsky – ‘Time Walks The Earth’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Over time a person learns to evade the puddles, not to climb up on every obstacle on his way, not to drag a stick along the fence. And learning manners is generally a good thing. But how many interesting things start to slip away from our attention as we grow up! In true artists many recognize soul of a child. Maybe this “childishness” actually is a profound understanding of things around us, the ability to see them “up close”.

Miroslav Yodas - 'Construction'

Miroslav Yodas – ‘Construction’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Therefore isn’t it better to be more curious of things surrounding us, which may even sometimes irritate one’s “untrained” perception, and not condemn them unconditionally just because they are perceived as something not usually shown in photographs?

Yuri Gantman - 'In The Morning's Silence'

Yuri Gantman – ‘In The Morning’s Silence’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Wisdom Of Photography

My fellow readers, I am glad to meet you here on my blog and in this article in particular! I have to warn you though – the article that you are going to read is by far the most serious and in-depth piece of text I’ve ever written in this blog. So if you don’t feel like going deep into some photography related subjects, feel free to browse my other articles, which are “lighter” and have nice photos to go with the text.

These days I’m reading a book named “The Poetry of Photography”. It is a book by two russian authors Mikhalkovich and Stigneev published in 1989. It talks about different aspects of photography as form of Art, comparing it to pictorial art, and trying to explain various definitions found in photography such as various genres in photography, composition, use and qualities of space in photographs and much much more.
I have to say that I’m really learning so much from it, but it is also very demanding, meaning that I have to think hard about the material presented in the book in order to fully take it in.
While reading, I write down aside the key sentences and concepts offered in the book and continue to think about them. In this article I would like to share some of these concepts. I really tried to translate them from Russian as precise as I could, and I will also provide more explanation for each saying.
Take a deep breath and let’s begin.

1. “Picture is a visual statement. Every statement possesses in itself three kinds of relations. Firstly it relates to the “speaker” (the one who makes the statement), secondly it relates to the depicted subject, and finally it relates to the ones who take it in.”

Basically it means that when you take a photo, first of all it means something to you, since you have a certain idea as to why you took this photo the way it is. Then this photo shows something, a portrait, landscape, still life, as if to say that when you take the photo you see a certain scene (object, person) through your own “filter” of consciousness, but the photo still shows a piece of reality which has a quality of its own. And thirdly this photograph looks “differently” to the viewer because he looks at it through his own “filter”.

To me this is a really profound thought, and having this in mind when photographing helps me to create more meaningful photographs.

2. “The impact of the photograph, the impression of it, lies not within the photograph itself, but within us, the viewers.”

This is a kind of elaboration to a third part of the previous saying. While seeming pretty straight forward, I find it to be deeply profound. You can also look at it this way – the same exact photograph can be very meaningful to one person, while being completely indifferent to another. I think that the best photographs out there are very meaningful to large groups of people.

3. This one is a saying by Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966, a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist). I tried to translate it as precisely as I could:

“Taking in the material “frozen” and presented by the photograph, the viewer sometimes “hears” the tiny voice of true reality – the “whisper of existence”.”

Here, I think, Kracauer tried to put into words what we feel when we look at a certain photograph and think “This is it! I can feel this! I understand what this photograph is telling me”. Such a photograph can be considered a successful one as it does a good job of depicting a certain piece of reality.

4. Continuing with Kracauer’s sayings:

“And while the reproducing quality of photography has grown to be very accurate, this accuracy itself will not allow the viewer to hear the “whisper of existence”. For this, photograph needs to have figurativeness.”

Basically Kracauer says here that simply snapping a photo of what you see is not enough for the photograph to be expressive, to be “good”. This is still true in our times when photographs are sharp, crisp, with precise colours. You, as a photographer, still have to put in thought and effort when creating a photograph, so it will make an impact on the viewers.

5. “If the subject retains its uniqueness, e.g. the full spectrum of its qualities, when presented in a photograph, then it equals to the real thing.”

This is also a deep thought. I’ll elaborate on it a little. When you take, for example, still life photo. Let’s say a flower in a vase, you have endless possibilities as to how you do it. The lighting, the angle, the background, the vase – everything can be altered. Depending on how you do it you can either create totally “indifferent” photo of just “a flower in a vase”, which won’t reveal any qualities of your subject, and it won’t matter which kind of flower it is, and what vase you used. But you can also create a photo that will vividly present the qualities of this particular flower, which can be accentuated by your choice of lighting (colour, angle etc.), by your choice of vase, and the background. You can add additional elements to the photo to further increase the impact, such as fallen petals. When the viewer looks at such expressive photo, he perceives it as THIS flower, “the real thing”, and not merely an illustration of flower.

I encourage you to think about these sayings and relate them to your photographic experience as it will help you in your PhotoPathway.

As always your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are highly appreciated!