Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Nature of Photographs

I have just read this book by Stephen Shore, a quick read, but a very revealing one, and one that helps illuminate this course well.
The author talks about the various levels of photography, ranging from the physical level to mental modelling and gives a few photographs; some famous, some less so, to show each level. There are a minimal number of words and he mainly uses the images to explain the concepts.
In the depictive level he states that photography analyses the world to make images in contrast with the artist who starts with a blank canvas. He describes  flatness, frame, time and focus as being the four areas that the photographer controls to ‘impose an order on the scene – simplifies the jumble by giving it structure’ (Stephen Shore, 2007, The Nature of Photography, p37).
The mental level reminds one that that what you see is interpreted by the brain, and that this interpretation is going to partially depend on previous experience, this may, for example, alter your understanding of the picture so that it might appear very flat or have great depth.
The mental modelling concept shows that photographers will have preconceived ideas of their images that might either be very restrictive, or very fluid, and that this will clearly alter the types of photographs they take. By being aware of this, and thinking about all the previous levels of image taking one can expand both ones awareness of the world and ‘accommodate new perceptions to …………. turn a piece of paper into a seductive illusion or a moment of truth and beauty.’ (Stephen Shore, 2007,The Nature of Photography, p122).
Reading, and re-reading this short book makes me think more about the how and why of taking photographs, it is far too easy to just shoot and hope. By the end of these courses I should have learned to monitor my thought processes enough and to improve my instinctive decisions.

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