and solving problems
Photographing shadows cast by venetian blinds is one of my photographic obsessions. For many photographers direct sunlight and the strong shadows are the enemy and are consequently to be avoided. To others of us though, they represent an interesting problem that requires that we at least attempt to work towards a solution.
The best photographs are solutions to problems. These solutions can only come about when the photographer steps away from conventional wisdom, when he or she starts to find their own solutions rather than repeating the work of others.
This requires the photographer to see the world, to really see it. Artists understand this concept, photographers struggle with it. This is because to draw well the artist has to see well, to see things as if for the first time, otherwise the result is a mess at best or a Disneyfication at worst. There is simply no faking it.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photographer who was probably most famous for his writings on how the decisive moment concept applies to photography. He did a lot of other stuff as well including being a defining figure in the related fields of photojournalism, street and candid photography. So, the man was no slouch yet he always regarded drawing as being superior to photography. He referred to photography as ‘Instant drawing’ and this wasn’t meant as a compliment. In his later years he returned exclusively to painting, only shooting the occasional private portrait.
A photographer and (probably) reluctant educator called Garry Winograd understood this. While his peers were teaching f-stops and darkroom techniques Winograd was teaching what were billed as photography courses but were really course about seeing. From what I can gather some students really took to this approach while others hated it. I cannot recall having read anything where he is quoted as discussing technical matters but his thoughts on composition and the philosophy of photography are ubiquitous and it must be said, often contradictory.
Paul Strand, who was instrumental in dragging photography out of the nineteenth century pictorial era and into the twentieth century and modernity was another who regarded photography as a problem solving device. Again, his background was initially painting and drawing.
Drawing is problem solving, there is no way to get around it. If you don’t problem solve you don’t draw. It really is that simple. Point a camera at an interesting object in something less than awful light and the end result may not be great but it probably won’t be horrible.
THEORY: "Class Time with Garry Winogrand" (1974 – 1976)
Black & White World: A workshop with Garry Winograd
Henri Cartier-Bresson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The two Winograd pieces are best read together.