The Past "Photography" the Future "Imagery" Not for ME!

Started Apr 17, 2014 | Questions thread
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Re: The Past "Photography" the Future "Imagery" Not for ME!
In reply to CharlesB58, Apr 20, 2014

CharlesB58 wrote:

Ansel Adams said "You don't take a photograph, you make it".

I enjoy reading what Ansel Adams had to say on the topic even if I don't particularly care for his pictures.  He does a great job of distinguishing between two main purposes for photography, recording places and events on the one hand, and making art on the other.  I have a decided preference for record photography, trying to portray the subject as it is, not the photographer "imprinting" (to use Adams's word) his own vision and feelings onto it.

"I don’t condemn a snapshot for what it is. I do, however, object to people’s making a snapshot and then imposing an aesthetic value on it. It is not immoral or unethical, it’s just rather unreasonable. The same thing goes for many photographs from the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s that people insist on calling art. Those photographs are mostly just records of events and landscape–which are, of course, important in themselves. That does not make them art or imply aesthetic intentions, however. There are a few examples of their work that have another kind of vision in it–or you think you see it. That is a distinction between capturing an inspired moment on film and the shallow qualities of mere scenery. . . Scenery just means the concentration on subject as is, without creative imagination or visualization of the final image. . . I’ll explain it this way: Both William Henry Jackson and Edward Weston photographed the American West extensively. But in my opinion, only Weston’s photographs qualify as art. Jackson, for all his devotion to the subject, was recording the scene. Weston, on the other hand, was actually creating something new. In his work, subject is of secondary importance to the total photograph."

Enjoy how you like to make photos, but leave any implications that your preferred method is inherently superior at the door please.

People like what they like, and Adams had no problem referring to Jackson's work as capturing "the shallow qualities of mere scenery."  He had a different purpose for his own pictures, and didn't mind stating that they were quite unrealistic in terms of the tonal values that actually existed. He said, "A more realistic simple snapshot captures the image but misses everything else." However, he also spoke against pictorialists, "who were working their heads off to make a photograph look like anything but a photograph. In an attempt to be creative, they were retouching and diffusing the images. Hideous stuff!"

I think it's okay to have and state your own opinions about what you do and don't like, and to also allow others to have and enjoy a different opinion on the subject.  For the pictures I take, any deviation from an accurate recording of the scene, within the limits of the medium, lessons rather than enhances the worth of the pictures to me.  I greatly prefer "realistic simple snapshots" over most attempts at creative, artistic photography, but I respect other people's right to hold different ideas on the subject.

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