Here's a question that might be worth asking ourselves; Am I making photographs or am I just taking them? My photographic hero Sam Abell discusses this in his book " The Life of a Photograph", we not only see examples of his superb work, but also read some of his philosophy in relation to photography. He says "As a photographer my intent is to bring the world under my aesthetic control". Once we go out onto the street then chaos rules and that task seems close to impossible, different if we are on a client shoot, there we can control it to a certain extent. Sam Abell though has a method which enables him to "make" a photograph.
Of course we still "take" photographs, as far as I can see it's often unavoidable. For the most part it's because we are walking along or in a situation where there seems no alternative than to quickly click or the moment has gone. Some examples from my Bath session this week. My opening shot above is good one to start with, I'd ordered my coffee and whilst waiting put my head out to see if there was anywhere to sit in the tiny courtyard. I called it "Coffee-Bar".
On my way for a coffee I saw a couple kissing; Click -
Leaving the cafe a girl looking for a light for her cigarette; Click -
In the reflection of her sunglasses you can see my legs (complete with motorbike trousers and boots) walking past also looking for light!
A Sightseeing Bus, whereby the lady on the top deck thinks I'm one of the sights to see; Click - Hold it, put your sunglasses on, this one is in colour
Sam Abell tells us to "compose and wait" and it's the best advice any photographer could be offered, his father gave it to him in fact. In the examples above it is evident that in those kind of situations you just press the shutter release, you "take" the shot and I suppose if you want something candid then generally that is the method. The next shot is somewhere in between. I composed and waited, not for long, 30 seconds or so. Anymore and they'd all be staring at me wondering what I was up to. I wanted a gesture; Click -
Okay, not much of a gesture, but before that they were sat like statues. I must reiterate that the photos posted on this blog are generally used to illustrate my point, I'm not saying that they're actually any good. It's fairly clear though though that there is a need to "make" photographs. So with that in mind I headed for a spot I knew. Here's a shot of the location which is close to the Roman Baths -
Although it's close to a main attraction not many people come up and down this street. Alright, I've just remembered this shot of some tourists using it, this time the view is in the opposite direction -
That's fairly rare to see as many people. I postioned myself on the shady side of the street, composed and waited. That may not have been the ideal spot, but that was my decision. What was I after though, I had a nice frame which included those columns in the light, but needed people. My original idea was some kind of a tableaux with a person in between each pillar. I would have still been there two days later I imagine waiting for that to happen, maybe not, we'll never know. I got these to begin with -
Nothing to write home about or to include in a blog for that matter! So I waited and I waited. Now, don't build yourself up for some out of this world photo coming up, because I can assure you that it isn't. Something did happen eventually though -
Well, at least it's more than just people walking along past some columns. I hope that I've proven a point to myself and taken on board Sam Abell's advice. It is something I've been aware of for a very long time, but never put it into real practice. Note to Self; Waiting for a minute or two doesn't count. Invariably though something happens and you've "made" a photo, by influencing or manipulating your surroundings, thinking about how you might frame the scene, being patient and not rushing the shot, you have in effect put some order into the chaos. A couple of shots to finish with that were selected by the editors of Leica Fotografie International (LFI) recently. The first is from a previous blogpost which you may have already seen -
and the second one from last month. Both photographs were recognised as good shots because, and I believe this, I "made" them rather than "took" them. -
I knew this place (Quiet Street), I saw the girl sitting with her head in her hands and waited, mostly for some other actors to enter the scene. I'm certain that Mr Abell would not be overly impressed. In his book he shows two views of certain well known shots of his. Take a look at his photograph of "Branding and Castration" at a ranch in Montana. If you don't know that photo then you really should, it's the complete shot in my opinion, the layering is incredible. If you haven't seen it here's a link to his website where a very short slideshow, click to the fifth shot and you'll see the cowboy image and what I mean. Actually have a look at the other photos too, they're quite brilliant. Back to his book where the other view of this shot was essentially some cowboys stood around in a field, not very good at all (you'll have to take my word for it, or buy the book). I suggest that one he "took" and the other he "made". As a side note, the presentation of those images is far superior in print than online, just saying.
As usual I would be delighted to read any comments and my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read my blog.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with a Summicron 35mm lens fitted.