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Assignment #77: Vision
Jun 1, 2008, 18:38
Post: #1
Assignment #77: Vision
Be careful when choosing your teacher. If you have real talent you might not need one.
- Misha Gordin

A few months ago we were talking a lot about artistic vision, expression, and creativity. I'd like to go back to some of the best of our thoughts on the matter, and use this assignment to examine the idea of artistic vision. There's no single theme for this assignment, making this the first time the subject is completely the photographer's choice.

What I would like to see from everyone is two photos, one old and one new.

OLD PHOTO: As photographers, we all see the world in different ways. We have favourite subjects, favourite places, and favourite techniques. All of these combine to shape the way we capture the world and turn it into our own unique creation. Call it a creative vision or a personal style: we all have it, are developing it, or are looking for it. For this assignment, I want you to find a favourite photo that best expresses your own vision and shows the direction that you want your photography to grow in. Post it, and tell us what you see about yourself in it.

NEW PHOTO: Once you've identified what you like about your photography and what you want to do as a photographer, it's time to do something about it. Find a way to create a new photograph that's an example of your style or that shows your unique vision. If you're still exploring styles and creating your vision, try to create a photo that embodies the essence of what you want to be. Post it, and tell us what you like about it.

This is a big assignment. It calls for a lot of introspection and thought. It may take more than two photos to get it all in, and it may take more than two weeks to get it all done. There's nothing wrong with that. Remember that assignments never end, so please join in this thread whenever you're ready.

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Jun 2, 2008, 02:52
Post: #2
Assignment #77: Vision
big challenge Mat! (I love challenges)

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Jun 3, 2008, 20:49 (This post was last modified: Jun 3, 2008 20:51 by Halsey.)
Post: #3
Assignment #77: Vision
Ok, I'll go first then.

Actually, "old" is not really old for me, because I only started getting into photography about 3 years ago.
During that time I have taken about 35.000 pics with the 350D and uncounted ones with the previous
Konica-Minolta compact and new 5D, so there are probably some 50.000 pictures to consider.

If you allow, Matthew, I will use 3 instead of 2 pictures to outline the way I developed so far.

First there is this one from Long Island, NY, taken probably about November 2005 with the

[Image: normal_herbstblatt.jpg]

I think seeing this picture was probably the first time I realised how selective the view through a camara can be.

A few months later I discovered how manipulative a process taking a picture can be, so that instead of trying to reflect reality
(which will never be accurate anyway), you can create your own picture with the camera

[Image: 90_IMG_8382horizontal.jpg]

This is one of my favorite pictures, if you ask me about favorites, I will usually think of it first.
What I love about it, besides its color, textures and composition, is the way you can see in it whatever you want.

However, I know a lot of people get irritated about this use of photography.
Furthermore, when I came to China 20 months ago, there was so much new for me to see that was calling for
documentation, interpretation, understanding... so I did a lot of rather journalistic work.
I have to say that NY just did not have that appeal to me, as there is probably nothing unphotographed in a city like NY.
so there I instead I immersed myself into small detail, textures and colors.

Finally now, at this point, both my love for textures, colors and detail as well as my fascination with this country can be seen in my pictures. I did not take a new picture for this assignment, as I am photographing practially on a daily basis anyway.
But you asked me for a recent favorite, I am likely to pic this one

[Image: 14__MG_0793-Edit.jpg]

which I particularly love for its color and textures,
but it also still contains some informational value.
the composition is a bit agressive and I might have tried to pick a slightly different perspective had I had a second chance,
but I still love the picture.

I think that in my recent series about the small world you can also see both, the love for colors and textures, and the
ambition to depict, interpret, express something.

Greetings to all, I am very curious about future contributions to this creative assignment!

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Jun 4, 2008, 18:19
Post: #4
Assignment #77: Vision
Uli, thanks for starting -- and I doubt that I'll be able to find only one single photo, either. Two or three or even four is fine, as long as there's a point and thought put into it. The idea for this assignment isn't just to post a series of past favourites, but to think about what were each doing as photographers and explain it. You've done that very nicely.

I really like #2, but I was surprised to see it as one of your picks. I'm used to seeing your more journalistic photos from China, but your idea about New York being too photographed is fascinating. Now that you've been in China for so long, I'd love to see what you see in New York if you were to visit it again.

Thanks for the time you've taken with this assignment.
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Jun 6, 2008, 06:25
Post: #5
Assignment #77: Vision
Hey Mat,
I look back and it is true, I surprisingly never posted this picture on ST even though it has long been one of my personal favorites.
Possibly I did not post it as I remembered this post where I initally introduced some of my, say, semi abstract pictures in their early stages.
Back then the reaction was generally nono, I think that is why I didn't post things like this again.

Thinking back, that is too bad! And looking at the present, I do actually think we STers have also changed a bit and in some ways become more open minded. I see lots of things posted these days that are less "standard" (in focus, well composed, conveying a message), and generally there is very differentiated critique. I am not meaning to say we are overly friendly and shy to say nono if we think nono, quite the opposite I think ST had been broadening its horizon.
Maybe that is just my impression though, and anyway I am always happy to be around or come back after some absense from this group.

Greetings all, and I encourage more of you to post on this assignment, I think it is a great idea and can make you take a breath and look at your own work. (Mat, maybe they are all sweating and chewing pens and digging through harddrives for what to post here? I like that vision...)

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Jun 6, 2008, 11:28
Post: #6
Assignment #77: Vision
Style is something as Matthew says most of all have but probably we are the last ones to notice it, to be aware of it. At least this is my case.

I have nearly 4 years taking pictures so my story in pictures is not too long... and my only desire then that last till these days is to take beautiful pictures.... I consider my work with photography has developed in three epocas.

I have to get the picture no matter how....
I started this epoca with a P&S camera, and I remember that it was very difficult to get pictures of birds... one day I thought about hanging some apples in the trees with the hope that the birds will come and while busy eating the apple I could take a picture. One day I saw them happily eating the apple and I got me picture... I was so proud of it.

[Image: P1050119birdsandapple.jpg]

I know it was nothing for National Geographic but still I got it. It was the same with landscapes, I looked for the best spots around here, I took many pictures in sunny, foggy, cloudy mornings... I used to go out early in the morning still with my pijamas just with a jacket and jogging trousers to take my pictures.... I could spend days taking pictures to the same flower until it withered... I miss very much this epoca because it was the time of discoveries...

It has to be perfect....
With my first DSLR I thought there was no excuse not to have a perfect picture... Well exposed, well composed, good detail, great colors... So I started my learning how to use my camera and get the best of it. Along with this I started using photoshop and learning to edit my pictures. Both were great for me to get very good images, birds in flight, fish the seaworld, and nice landscapes, my HDR work was very nice. But somehow... this epoca became a bit stressing... you show a good picture and you can't go back to show a simple snap... somehow you think you have to keep the level and I wanted all my pictures to be keepers... and well yes I got then many beautiful pictures...

[Image: 85_IMG_7276-01.jpg]

I post this picture not only because it is one of my favorite pictures but to follow with the same subject to see the difference along these years.

It has to say something...
So one day I thought well, yes, I have already some really nice pictures of birds so... The techique was there so what... I started to see picture with meaning... pictures telling a story, pictures that technically might not be perfect but the messaje was enormous... you could understand the idea, see the intention of the photographer, and I got just fascinated by the idea of my pictures telling something...

This came together with the response of a friend of mine when I asked him what book he would recommend me to learn about colors. He said that photography was about light and forms and that is what I should be working on first before colors. He adviced me to work my pictures in bw... see the light, see the shadows... and this is my actual stage ...

[Image: 81_IMG_5958-Edit-2.jpg]

I like very much the light in this picture... the blue shadow like the morning cold agains the warm morning light... I like the contrast too and the colors. The birdies warming up in the fence, preparing themselves for a sunny day. To me my picture says something.

Looking at the same subject in different epocas I can represent where I am coming from and where I am walking to... and if I am truely honest with you all... I am afraid to develop an artistic vision that my audience rejects... and this has been my great confusion and somehow worriness in the past months... I don't want to go back to flowers for the acceptance, and because I have failed to express myself with my pictures.

At the moment I'm too close the still life photography because it hasn't come easy, and that makes it a challenge, photography somehow has changed from a enjoyable hobby to a serious and conscience activity in my life that I still enjoy.

I can't leave out my photomanipulation work. I like to manipulate some of my pictures and each picture I work with has been a learning experience. This is something I want to continue learning.

Thanks for the assignment Matthew, you made me put in order some loose ideas. Smile

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Jun 6, 2008, 15:47
Post: #7
Assignment #77: Vision
Hey Irma,

you have written up a very clear outline of your development with the right picutres to illustrate it,
hat's off!
It's a characterisitc of yours that I admire, your work always seems to be very organised,
you often present projects of something and you will stick to an idea and improve the project until it is perfect.
For me, my pictures more seem to happen to me. Someone recently asked me,
why I take a picture, and I thought about it and said "actually I think the picture is already there, I am just the one who captures it"
That person thought I gave him a very odd answer, but that is how I feel.
In contrast, I think you have the ability to make you pictures, especially with your still lives!

but then, with all that organisation and creating our own pictures, I understand very well why you say

Irma Wrote:I have to get the picture no matter how....
(...) I miss very much this epoca because it was the time of discoveries...
I sometimes feel like I am already a slave of my own style I acquired, and less often than a couple of years ago does a picture I took really surprise me the way it turns out. so while it is a skill to predict or make your own picture, it takes some of the excitement out of the process.

Irma Wrote:I am afraid to develop an artistic vision that my audience rejects... and this has been my great confusion and somehow worriness in the past months... I don't want to go back to flowers for the acceptance, and because I have failed to express myself with my pictures.
To read this makes me a bit sad. Your artistic vision, well you have it or you don't, and I think it is a wonderful thing if you can say of yourself you have one! It should not be influenced or determined by what you think your audience might think of you, they will accept and love your work if it is genuine and expresses your character and vision. I believe that trying to create art for a certain audience will make your work flat, if you are trying to hide or supress or change part of what you are, any part of your vision, the result will have no meaning.

As you are experimenting with so many different things, from still lives to landscapes to portraits, and birds... I think you can just follow your instinct. Again I believe your art is already in you!

I don't know if I make sense here, maybe it's a bit early for this kind of discussion,
I just hope to often see a happy Irma sharing her exciting experiments with us rather then
finding a confused Irma stressed over how to please her audience.....

Greetings to all!!

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Jun 6, 2008, 17:03
Post: #8
Assignment #77: Vision
Irma, thanks for sharing your chronicle. And your decision to stay with bird photos is great -- I know you've done so much more, and encompass such variety, but being able to see your story so clearly is exceptional.

Uli, I've been chewing on pens and digging through my hard drives, and I've had the advantage of thinking along these lines for a month or two. Really, I think this is two complete assignments: one to articulate the past, and another to create something new.
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Jun 8, 2008, 12:55
Post: #9
Assignment #77: Vision
It's taken me several days of trying to come up with something for this assignment, even though I thought I had it pretty much figured out. When my monthly critique group gets together, there's rarely any question about which photos are mine. Partly it's from my choice of subject, in that my photography is almost exclusively urban and artificial -- so a fawn in a misty farmer's field definitely isn't mine -- but even the occasional photo from my travels outside of the city is usually spotted immediately.

But it took a lot of looking before I started to see what my favourite photos have in common.

The strongest and most consistent element of my photographs is that the world does not continue beyond the edges of the frame. In wide shots, I put a barrier at each side: something will be cropped at the edge, or a table or building will end just at the edge of the frame to contain it within the picture and prevent it from continuing in the viewer's mind. In tighter compositions the frame is what creates the shapes that I'm photographing, whether it's the lines on the side of a garbage truck or cropping the corner of a rhino's mouth into an ironic smile. My world is in the shape of a rectangle.

[Image: 281418633_ntt9Z-L.jpg]

And it's not just my world that's a rectangle, my subjects are often rectangles too. I like straight lines and square corners. The instructor for the photography classes that I took last year often called my photos 'clinical', and didn't usually mean it as a compliment. He'd tell me to relax and have fun, but that's exactly what I was doing - except for the relaxing part. I don't find photography to be a relaxing and stress-reducing activity; I do my best work when I'm a little tense.

I read a lot of technical writing about photography and its tools, and I try to remember Elliot Erwitt's comment: 'After following the crowd for a while, I'd then go 180 degrees in the exact opposite direction.' I try not to let other people's ideas of what a photo should be set my expectations - or limits - for my own photos. When my club goes to a wildlife sanctuary to photograph nesting shore birds, I take a left turn and photograph the barren landfill site instead. And when I go to the zoo, I photograph the bars. I'm happy to be the photographer who misses the point.

[Image: 306154004_kTmeT-L.jpg]

My challenge now is to take my inclination to do things differently and go beyond photographing the relationships of perspective, geometry, and space. I think my zoo series is the start of that, and my challenge for the second half of this assignment will be to create something that expresses an opinion instead of a relationship.
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Jun 9, 2008, 02:31
Post: #10
Assignment #77: Vision
matthew Wrote:...when I go to the zoo, I photograph the bars. I'm happy to be the photographer who misses the point.
And in this way, Matthew doesn't miss the point.
He's different because that's the way he sees the world, and is enough of a happy technician to make his gear work for him instead of against his wishes because he really enjoys that part of the process of creation, too.

On the other hand, Irma shouldn't ever think about her style, or whether she photographs flowers too much.
She does great work because she loves her subject material, no matter what it is.
I think her technical research and experiments have paid great dividends but cause her pain because it makes her think about things too much. Irma should just concentrate on making her chosen subjects look the way she wants them to, using whatever tools she has at the time.

There are no right or wrong ways to approach photography.
Let your love and hate and skill and inspiration and luck and hard work fall where they might in ever-evolving combinations.
Great photography is a journey, not a destination.

Views Of Texas
Loud Nine (my former band)
Matthew's Reviews
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Jun 9, 2008, 22:23
Post: #11
Assignment #77: Vision
Your second pictures makes me think very much about your actual work with your series small world. However I see that you have change a bit your style in this last series, as if your were giving more information?

you commented...

Quote:However, I know a lot of people get irritated about this use of photography.
Was this change in your series Small World intentional?

Also makes me think that after your stay in China and all your journalistic material you come back to a meeting point, but now with the experience you have acquired in that country.

When I think about your pictures, the first thing that comes to me very well cared architecture photography ... very clean and sharp pictures with consistent composition. Very much like your first picture indeed. In some way easy to understand.

When I saw the first time your recent series of the zoo I thought I didn't like it, that is why I didn't make any comment on it, because I thought I had nothing to say, but looking at them again and reading the comments you got in your series. I became interested, and thought I was missing the point.... when I read again "same planet, different worlds" and placed your pictures in this context I understood your approach, and I liked it. I understood why the emphasis in the fences and your series made me think that sometimes I say I don't like it but it is because I don't understand it, and this part when you say...

Quote:and my challenge for the second half of this assignment will be to create something that expresses an opinion instead of a relationship.
confirmed what I thought... I hadn't understood... Matthew I like your series very much... and I find very interesting this new approach in your photography.

I thank very much Uli, Matthew and Keith for your comments about my post. Many thoughts I will keep very close to me always I am sure. Smile

The great thing in this assignment is that it makes you think about your pictures, not as single images but as a whole... about the intention in your photography. It helps a lot to put your ideas in the right place.

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