Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Bruce Barnbaum, "I have come to recognize a very surprising fact: subject matter ultimately becomes secondary to the artist's seeing, vision, and overall philosophy of life and of photography.  There is a one-to-one equality between the artist and his art. A photographer's way of seeing is a reflection of his entire life's attitude, no matter what the subject matter may be." -- (The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression)

This is something I have felt about photography for some time but was expecting my beliefs to be universal.  I prefer Barnbaum's view which personalized this belief to fit each photographer uniquely.

For me, in my photography,  the most important thing,  above the subject even, is the light. The most compelling subject will not make a good photograph if it isn't lit in a way that enhances the attitude and meaning of the photograph.

What defines your way of seeing photography?

Friday, May 24, 2013

It Looks Just Like a Painting (2)

The things we initially respond to in a painting and a photograph are pretty similar.  Subject matter might be what most people notice first.  Next the color palette or black and white tones, then the composition or style or genre.  All these reactions are fairly immediate and hard to list in a particular order of when they occur, but one more thing we respond to fairly quickly is the artist's or photographer's techniques and level of expertise. 

I think that it's this that James was referring to in his critique of Sargent's "Lady With a Rose."  A painter's abilities with her medium develop slowly over years.  It might be harder to judge an abstract or primitive artist's expertise, but it could probably be appreciated by comparing her early works with those she makes later in a long career. 

The role of lucky accident is much greater in photography than in painting. Just like a novice could beat an old pro at backgammon because of the role of chance, so too a snapshot taken by Uncle Bob on vacation at Lake Arrowhead might hang in a show at MOMA one day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It Looks Just Like A Painting

Among the first Sargents that Henry James ever saw was Lady With A Rose. Of it and the artist he said,  "it offers the slightly 'uncanny' spectacle of a talent which on the threshold of its career has nothing more to learn. It is not simply precisely in the guise of maturity--a phenomenon we very often meet, which deceives us only for an hour; it is the freshness of youth combined with the artistic experience, really felt and assimilated, of generations. .." (The Painter's Eye). Reading this in Ratcliff's book on Sargent it made me wonder what photographers something like this has ever been said of. 

The notion of a photographer maturing, of a critic of James's stature even noticing a young  photographer's work struck me as rare.

What is it that non-photographers look at when they look at a photograph?