From the Inside Out – or Visa Versa?

As any creative beings, be it photographers or any other artists, it’s easy to stir up some emotions when we talk about the personal approach to our own art. For some it’s all based within us, for other it’s all about tuning into the subject itself with the intention of revealing the true matter of the subject. Impressionists would certainly belong to the former group, while postmodernists would more likely be associated with the latter. I myself simply believe we cannot escape ourselves no matter what. We will always impose whatever we are in the art we make, to a lesser or larger degree – as far as I am concerned.

When I announced my posting Me, Myself and I on the Facebook site for Verve Photo – The New Breed of Documentary Photographers, it caused a few comments there. I thought it could be interesting to forward a couple of them with a handful of additional comments by myself. The initial positioning in my original posting was that I believe that the strongest photographs are those which the photographer has engraved with his or her personal vision – in a natural way, without any presumptions. In contrast the photographer Bob Krist, whom I quoted, has stated that «far too many photographers out there are laboring under the false assumption that their personal vision is worth sharing».

As one of the first comment on the Verve Photo – The New Breed of Documentary Photographers Facebook site after my posting, Yves Choquette writes: «We always impose our vision in a way or another, no? If I’m on assignment and shooting a tea party meeting, even if I’m there to report the event to a newspaper, the fact that I think they are just a bunch of retard morons is there inside of me. When I read or hear that a photographer take photos in a complete neutrality that does not make any sense for me except if he’s a robot or google cams. Of course you have to be honest and shooting what is actually happening. But, you accept it or not, something inside of you is driving and influencing your behaviour and this is ok. We are human being after all, no?»

Another comment by David Weiss: «You will always place, add, impose a personal vision. That is what any artist does. No? Yves is correct. Imagery is about how you perceive things and how one (you) makes the magic happen within the 4 bounding lines of the image. No different than a painter – you take into consideration the light, your position, the subject or protagonist (and the protagonist can be you) and you define the language to codify and freely allow the viewer to re-codify your images. Just be!»

I totally agree with both comments. We cannot escape ourselves so to speak. That’s my basic belief. That said, though, I think it’s not enough to just shoot and believe our presence will show up in the pictures by itself, at least not enough if the intention is to make a photograph that reveals your innermost soul. We have to invest ourselves in the creative process; we have to be engaged to make those pictures stand out. If we don’t bring ourselves into the picture, for me it’s like saying you have nothing you want to tell with this picture. If I matters to you, I want to see how it matters, and why it does. By the way you shoot the picture, through the timing, your choice of the light, graphics, and the emotional impact as well as how you have treated it in postproduction. I want to see you personal vision imprinted in the picture, so that it becomes a picture just as much about you – or your vision – as much as about the subject matter. It’s the combination that makes for an interesting picture, something I want to spend time looking at and returning to. And then as a viewer I want to take it any way I want to and reinterpret it to my own liking.

8 thoughts on “From the Inside Out – or Visa Versa?

  1. I like thinking about this and I have to say that I see too many pictures of young photographers who think they have their own style through post processing everything with a blue, red, tint. I believe that it’s the emotion that you have towards your subject that gives you your own vision, not a certain style of post-processing. If you take a boringly beautiful picture of a pretty woman with her mouth half open with a yellowish tint you just use the same cheap methods as the porn industry combined with a similarly cheap way of personalizing your picture. So, I’d say that we can’t help imposing our vision and style, but only as long as we have this vision in the first place …

  2. You are right, your own vision isn’t just a matter of post-production. You don’t put your stamp on a picture solely in Photoshop, but it’s still part of the whole process of expression your vision. I believe you can’t change a picture without a vision in the first place to something brilliant or even worth looking at in post-production – as I read your comment, too. I think as part of the conscious process towards expressing a personal style it helps to think less about vision as of what you want to say with the picture and how you want to say it. By going in yourself you will be able to express your vision, without deliberately enforcing a vision so to speak, be it from the moment the picture was taken or only in post-production.

  3. Can any of you remember the days when polaroid dye transfers (look it up on google) was the “in” thing? It was the all the rage in the late 80’s and within a couple of years it was gone. My point is this, if an image needs to rely on a gimmick then it will not last. Photoshop allows (via post processing) to create images that contain gimmicks – meaning anyone can easily create in PS or any application something similar to the polaroid dye transfer. The images done in this method do not contain a language created by the photographer. The images are created strictly by a certain type of process and not the photographer. Its all graphics and not photography. Its that simple.

    This, unfortunately, is what is fooling many to believe that they have become a photographer… the process and not the creation of a personal vision/language.

    PS if used as a digital darkroom always stays works.

  4. Yes, if an image does rely on a gimmick, it won’t last. But I don’t necessarily believe that dye transfer or the similar process done in Photoshop is in itself a gimmick. If it has no purpose other than making some artsy expression – because it’s cool or whatever, yes, but otherwise if it’s done with a purpose I think this – or any of those added processes – is just another tool in the toolbox for us photographers. I don’t see how it’s not part of the language created by the photographer. What is or what constitutes for being created by the photographer? The pure technical side of photographing is all done for us – by the camera. It’s the camera that produces the tones in the picture, the colours, the contrast and so on. We can always take control later or even force the camera to do some changes in the moment of shooting. But what is the difference then compare to add something in the post-production that could look like dye transfer or any other process for that matter?

  5. ” we cannot escape ourselves no matter what.” i like this, i think it’s true. our visions, our artistic sense show in our arts… your discussions are always full of insights, thanks… cheers! 🙂

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