Thursday, December 13, 2007

What I don't miss II

Following on the steps of the first post on this idea, found here, photography and photographers are different but in many ways similar. For one, most photographers aren't so academic to make their profession and work appear to be more than what it is, just better snapshots the rest of us can produce.

But there are two other types that are worth the discussion over Guiness at a tavern. Note I say "over" and not "with." The first are the "gearheads" and the second, the "artists."

We all know the gearheads. They know the best equipment, ask about yours, expound on theirs, and seemingly forever talk about it. And they generally talk about their images in respect to the equipment, you know, "I took this with..." They're great to ask question, but only for the first minute or so of the answer, the rest is stuff they like to show they know more than you.

And my response is usually to turn the volume down and listen for the higlights. You can't argue with them, especially folks like me who only want or like to know enough about it to get through life. I like to understand the logic and idea, and only the details when it interests me, which isn't all that oftten. But the gearheads like to let you know that, and I quickly get tired of them.

For example, when I bought my Canon 5D, I spent the first afternoon reading the user manual and going through the menus. To understand all the functions and capabilities, but mostly to set it up where I knew to use it instinctively. But the forums for Canon cameras and especially the 5D are full of gearheads who talk it to death about the littliest thing with it.

I'm not saying it's not important, it is import to know the camera, but realistically to simplify to where you don't think when you use it. This is what Galen Rowell did. He went through a new camera to set it up where just a few control, usually 2 or 3, took care of 95+% of the photography he wanted to do. This way he could go and shoot and know the results would be good.

His point was that the equipment was only as good as the photographer using it at the time, and if they spend more time playing with the camera than taking photos, they're in trouble. The only exception is large format photography where it works on both levels. Technical knowledge is essential, as Ansel Adams showed, and well as patience to make sure everything is right for the image.

In large format photography, it's all about the photographer. The camera doesn't have an on/off switch. It's all about your knowledge, experience, vision, imagination and so on. You are entirely in control and without both the technicial and artistic knowledge, you won't do well or produce good images.

Then there are the photography as art folks. You know the ones who like to make everything important. There is one field that is an exception, to a point. Fine Art photography. Fine art photography is all about producing images that are the best technically and aethestically. If you can't stand in front of one of these prints for a longtime seeing, learning, exploring. then it's not there.

But outside of that, does photography really have to be about importance and value? That's what they argue, it's relavant to the whole of society and culture, and the world. Ok, but really?

I know I treat this as tongue-in-cheek, and I know it's important, as we know the power it can provide the world. But I just don't see it in the academic sense where you analyze it for every nook and cranny of relavance to art. It's never been my interest, even going through graduate school about geography and had to sit through the lectures on the history and philosophy of geography.

You see, I take the view that, it's the basic one sentence definition of it. "Geography is what geographers do." Geography and history are the two oldest academic endeavors, simply place and time, and everything else relates to them. And to that you can add the history of visual communications. Before written language and continuing into today, visual images are the foundation of communications.

What else does writing do besides provide real or imaginary scenes in your mind? Photography has complimented and supplemented writing with images. If you want to make it important in the study of anything, fine, go for it. And I know it's important to learn and understand the history of photography and photographers. The place and time of photography.

I'm just not for overdoing it to make it high brow art. Some photographers have tried and some still try to make photography on par with other endeavors of art, like painting sculpture, writing, etc. Ok, be my guest. But for me, I'll take my camera thank you and go out into the world to take pictures.

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