Sunday, January 23, 2011

When is a Photograph Art?

Originally uploaded by Iguanasan
I was recently asked "When is a Photograph Art?" and it really made me think. What is art? Art, in its raw form, is any work which creates an emotional response in the observer. Someone who cuts hair remarkably well can be called an artist with scissors. A chef who puts together a tasty meal can be called an artist in the kitchen. Even a basketball player can be called an artist on the court. These titles are bestowed upon these people because of the emotional response of the observer of the things they do or create.

A photograph becomes art the moment the photographer presses the shutter button and captures a moment in time. One might ask how this can be since a great painter may spend hours and hours at the easel or a sculptor might spend days in front of his or her clay creating their art. How can the press of a simple button be considered art?

Well, first off, it's not about how long it takes to create the art. The tools of the trade for a painter or a sculptor require a lengthy creation process and while the technology afforded by a photographer allow for a fast and simple capture of the moment, the training of the photographer's eye, the study of composition, colour, lighting all took a lot of time.

Some people create very good art and and others create very poor art, however, it does not make the art any less real or less important to the creator. Whether the art becomes popular or successful depends upon the emotional response created in the observer. If the artist has captured a universal feeling that makes an impression on many who see it then their art will be popular and well regarded.

This brings us back to photography. When the photographer has pressed the shutter button he or she has considered the available light and the form and composition of the subject within the frame. If he or she has done this work well then they may create art which elicits a strong emotional response and be considered a good artist. If they have pressed the shutter button without consideration for these things, they are still an artist, however, their results may not allow them to emotionally connect with the observer.

It is always my hope that with every click of the shutter I have captured and can share a moment to which I was emotionally connected. The decision as to whether I was successful will be up to the viewer. For me, I just feel the need create and share the moments.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Planning vs Spontaneity

I Got It!
Originally uploaded by Iguanasan
I've heard a lot of photographers say that in order for them to improve they had to spend a lot of time planning out each and every detail of their photo shoot before they ever picked up the camera to go shooting. I always thought they were wasting valuable time planning when they could be out shooting.

I mean, what's there to plan? Grab your camera and head out for a walk and shoot whatever interests you. The closest I get to planning is deciding in which direction to walk. It was on one of those walks that I was able to catch the "I Got It!" image you see above. There's no way I could have planned on catching that shot.

Back in December I was talking with some people at my photography club and the subject of the January 1st Polar Bear Dip came up. Wouldn't it be awesome to sit next to Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant Park and get people's facial expressions as they hit the icy water? Sounded like fun but then I sort of forgot about it.

Just after Christmas I decided I wanted to go and shoot the Polar Bear Dip. What time did it start? How long would it take? Where could I sit? All of a sudden, planning seemed like a good idea. A quick search on Google helped me find

By reviewing the information on the site I was able to determine that the dip started at 12:00noon on the first and that people were jumping in the water off of the Government Wharf in Herring Cove. Apparently, my memories of Point Pleasant Park were out of date.

I looked up the location on Google Maps and figured the docks on the other side of the cove would be a great vantage point but just how far from the action would I be? Using Google Maps again, I was able to figure out that it would be about 65 meters distance. I compared this to other shots I had taken at other locations to figure out just how far away that was going to be and I decided I could live with the results I would likely get.

So, I packed up my gear on January 1st and headed down to Herring Cove, found a place to park and rang a doorbell to ask someone if he minded if I sat on his dock to take pictures. He said that as long as I didn't fall in I was welcome to use his dock. I thanked him and headed out back to the dock and ended up sitting next to a fellow from the Canadian Press.

Planning was a good thing! Without it, I would never have gotten the shot below. I'm a little slow but it was then that I realized that like everything else in life, a little moderation is a good thing. Plan some shooting events, go random on others. There's room for both!