Archive for June, 2010

29
Jun
10

Shared Assumptions

“Comedy is 90% shared experience, 5% imagination and 5% timing.” I was having a chat with a comedian friend of mine about his creative process. I thought this was an interesting and somewhat universal point. Without some necessary amount of common ground, any communication would be futile, or at least severely hampered.
Immediately I found myself trying to find the parallels, the truth of this statement, in photography. While it can at times express exceedingly complicated ideas and emotions, photography is a relatively simple form of communication. No complex set of characters, whose combination in different orders and amounts have assigned meanings. No rules of grammar. No phonmes, pitched or otherwise, to give an indication of the author’s intentions. Only the information contained within a frame, or a series of frames, to convey the creator’s vision.
Photography is a simple form of communication because it is based, primarily, on the shared experience of being human. Humans create photographs for other humans to experience. Be that as it may, it would seem, then, that communication in photographs it based largely on common themes and common assumptions, more than common experiences.
Take, for instance, this picture:
(lovers on the beach in PV)
The common theme, the common assumption, is that there is a romantic relationship between the two people. To be honest, I never met them; so I can neither confirm, nor deny.
(The Conversation – all 7)
In the above group of photos “The Conversation”, the story is more or less clear. One is left to guess the actual subject, but how the conversation played out seems pretty obvious. (Truth be told, this is actually from a series of about 20 photos, but displayed out of chronological order to create this “story”). Void of little more information than the shadows, we have made assumptions about the relationship between the two people, and assigned some kind of meaning to each of the gestures and postures in each image.
Taking it a step further, I suppose all communication is a form of assumption. But in the case of a photograph, often the author is not present to clarify its meaning. Maybe the question really is, if the viewer finds meaning in an image, does it matter it is the same as the author’s intention?
Sean

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02
Jun
10

Thinking on (and off) My Feet

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There’s an old entertainment line (attributed to W.C. Fields) about never working with kids or animals. They always steal the show. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to go out and take pictures of a couple of my friends and their kids. I had been out with them before, but didn’t get as many shots of the happy couple alone and we’d have liked. So we tried again, taking the whole family downtown this time. The kids weren’t too keen on group shots, but when let loose… well, it was difficult to focus on the adults.
Kids are difficult to photograph. Ask anyone who has tried to make portraits of children and they will tell you, kids don’t stay still for long. The challenge is in keeping up with them… and keeping them happy – nobody wants a portrait of their child crying.

In order to keep their son occupied for a few moments (and allow me to get in a few shots of the parents alone), they handed him their P&S camera and asked him to take some pictures as well. (I didn’t get to see his results, but I understand they turned out well; we may have a prodigy on our hands.)

Taking a page out of… well lots of places, really – the concept being that to make a better picture of things smaller than the average adult human (things we tend to look at from a downward angle, like animals or children), it is better to get down to eye level or lower with the subject. I decided to lie down on the side of this hill and see if I could get the kids to come close enough and stand still long enough for me to get an interesting portrait. Of course, they had no interest in helping me on this task, but their daughter did allow me this action shot as she tumbled down the hill.

For my portrait work, I find myself most often reaching for my fast prime lenses. I can’t give many real, tangible reasons for this. I guess it just feels right to me. But for working with young children and families with young children, there are some very real advantages to using a zoom lens. Then you can let the kids play, and just try and keep up.

Sean




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