Recently I was out making some images with my digital camera. While my initial foray into photography was on the photojournalism side I eventually made the shift to fine art photography. Moving from the quick decisive moment image making photojournalism requires, with many frames to choose from for the final print, the fine art side of things was much slower, more contemplative, in nature.
The reason for my shift to the fine art side was from viewing the works of artists like Adams and Weston. The sharp focus of the image and the subject matter was more in keeping with my developing vision. On my first workshop with Owens Valley Workshops back in the 80’s, John Sexton pointed out I was making images that were more in keeping with using a view camera as opposed to the 35mm.
Thus I made the transition from 35mm to a 4×5 view camera. This required a different type of approach to the subject matter. I literally had to slow down as the view camera was not made for fast moving subject matter. Yes I am aware the speed graphic was used extensively back in the day as the press camera of choice to capture the news and sports events of the time. But this was different as I had a camera on a tripod and almost always had an exposure that was a second or more.
As my familiarity with the view camera and its movements became second nature, I was able to become less involved with thinking about the movements and adjustments I needed to make to the camera, and more in tune with what I was seeing and feeling. And this allowed me to become more aware of my surroundings and the potential image on the ground glass.
This required me to become more in tune with my surroundings and to take my time in camera placement, composition on the ground glass, adjusting as needed, and in a sense becoming aware more in tune with my surroundings. And in slowing down I was able to feel what had moved me to make the image and then record the image based why I was drawn and then compelled to make the image.
So what does this have to do with my recent use of the digital camera? I have found on occasion, the digital camera can be a distraction from truly hearing what drew me to making the photograph in the first place. It became easy to just fire away and have a slew of images to choose from, that more often than not did not reflect what I had seen or felt when I attacked the scene in a machine gun manner of shooting.
Once I started approaching the subject with my digital camera in the same way I had with the view camera I found I had returned to the roots of why I love photography and was able to make images more in tune with my personal vision. Slowing down and listening to what I was seeing and feeling, making adjustments to the camera in the same way I did with the view camera helped me to get back to the art of making meaningful images
I would like to leave you with this thought from John Sexton. His wonderful insight into creating images has always been a guide when I start to stray from my own art making.
It is light that reveals, light that obscures, light that communicates. It is light I “listen” to. I feel quiet, yet intense energy in the natural elements of our habitat. As sense of magic prevails. A sense of mystery. It is a time for contemplation, for listening, a time for making photographs.