Why I HATE the term "capture" for taking a photo...

Started Apr 21, 2013 | Discussions thread
photoreddi Veteran Member • Posts: 7,843
Re: Why I HATE the term "capture" for taking a photo...

Biggs23 wrote:

Paul Farace wrote:

I would consider someone referring to my images as "captures" as in effect saying, you totally lucked out and accidentally caught those images..

The dictionary would tend to disagree with you. Defined: capture: to take by force or stratagem. In other words, the act of capturing something is purposeful and direct, even involving specific strategy or technique. As such, I think that calling a well made photograph a capture is quite fitting. Conversely, calling a random, accidental, photograph a capture may be far overstating the actual effort taken to create it.

The dictionary disagrees unless it's read too selectively, but we don't know if Paul based his opinion on a dictionary definition. I think probably not, but "Capture" has many definitions and I'm sure that you and most of the people reading this thread are familiar with most or all of them, and a dictionary isn't needed (although it helps) to show that the OP is most incorrect if he thinks that photographic captures imply luck or accident. It's common to say that artists, musicians, film directors, actors are able to "capture" something, whether it's an era, a feeling, a likeness or a faithful representation. Here are some definitions and several quotes from Ed Portis's essay on photography.

to express what someone or something is really like in a way that people can clearly recognize
The film succeeds in capturing the mood of the 1960s.
The artist has captured her perfectly.

to record an event in a film or photograph
The whole incident was captured by a young American photographer.
capture something on film/camera/video:
The idea was to capture on film how the countryside was changing.


to represent or describe something very accurately using words or images:
It would be impossible to capture her beauty in a painting.
to record or take a picture of something using a camera:
A passer-by captured the whole incident on film.


For the decisive difference among types of photography is the type of meaning which photographers attempt or actually capture, and something can be meaningful in more than one way. The meaning of any particular snapshot, for those to whom it has meaning, is straightforward and easy to capture, often requiring only that faces not be obscured. Meaning in art, on the other hand, is typically complex and elusive, and relatively difficult to express. It requires that “significant meaning” be “skillfully encoded,” or as a photographer would say, “captured.”

A work of artistic merit attempts to capture and thereby express an important truth, a truth that may or may not be pleasant but is almost always illusive or ambiguous. In any case, it is never disinterested.

Claims are often made that much of modern art captures emotions rather than anything about the sensual or objective world. But whatever such art captures it cannot be pure emotion because emotions do not normally exist in the abstract; they are substantively contextual.

It is not objectivity that is at issue for straight photography, but rather credibility. What its early proponents derided was the effort to construe images to look as if they were created rather than captured. What they really wanted, knowingly or not, was to be able to say something like: “This existed, you are seeing something real.”

Photographic credibility derives from the fact that, however mediated by lens and sensor, as well as a host of decisions made by the photographer, the image is a captured trace caused by emanated or reflected light. Although the chemistry is different, the root cause of photography is the same as that of seeing. Just as we can see something at present through the use of a mirror, so too can we see something at a past moment through the use of a camera. In both cases we are literally, even if indirectly, seeing the subject.

It is perhaps likely that what we take to be a meaningful relationship captured by a skilled photographer corresponds to the meaning he or she intended to capture. Whether it does or not, however, should make no difference to our interpretation of what we see. In straight photography the artist's motivation is not a dimension of the image. Consequently, even the absence of any artistic aspiration or conscious attention to composition is irrelevant in the assessment of a photographic image. There is nothing particularly shocking in the fact that one of the most notable of early photographers was a boy supposedly unconcerned with questions of art, or that anonymous snapshots can be just as profoundly compelling as work produced by the most famous of photographic artists.


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MOD Biggs23
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MOD Biggs23
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