I came across the following remark this morning on Thomas Fitzgerald’s photography blog:
“I have spent a lot of time lately shooting for my blog – so that I have something to use for a specific writing topic, and not necessarily for the subject of the images.”
That last idea – that a photographer would take pictures ‘for the subject of the images’ –struck me as odd. Do we take photographs because we’re interested in the subject or is it because we’re interested in the picture?
Consider for example Weston’s famous photograph of a pepper:
EdwardWeston Pepper No. 30, 1930
Did Weston take this picture because he was really interested in peppers, or because of how he thought the picture might look? (This is related to Winogrand’s answer when asked on the street “Are you getting good pictures Mr Winogrand?”, to which he replied “I don’t know: I haven’t seen them yet”.)
I’m sure Edward Weston enjoyed a tasty pepper as much as the next person; but I doubt that that was why he took photographs of them.
So, do we take photographs because we’re interested in the subject, or because we’re interested in how the photograph might look?
Ambiguity, tricks of perspective or intriguing placement of objects are all commonly at work in good street photography and will all have been taken because of what they look like photographed. In that sense I suppose many of our competition pictures are intended to convey something other than what the subject actually is. We frequently don’t even name the subject in the title.
After all, in street photography subjects often arise by chance so our interest is very often in the photograph rather than the object photographed – which (as Winogrand reminds us) are not the same thing.
We are warned as novices not to enter family pictures and the like into competitions as our personal interest will very likely have overwhelmed our judgement of the worth of the image.
Club Competition Judge:
Well Mr. Weston it’s a pepper alright, I can just about recognise it as such but you’ve lost an essential characteristic of a pepper, wouldn’t it have been better in colour? Red, green, yellow, orange? Such a wide choice. A monochrome conversion doesn’t suit it at all; all that shade and shadow.
It’s not even a very good example either – wrinkled and twisted as it is – did the super market not have a better example?
Sorry to be so critical, food should be photographed in colour, in brighter conditions and using perfect specimens thus making it more appetising to the viewer/consumer.
I may have misjudged your intentions, of course, but a good try anyway. 11/20.