originated in Greek terminology, meaning 'writing / painting with light', suggests to be interpreted as an expressive and creative act. Instead of seeing photography as means for thoughtless snap-shots, mere documentation or as a vehicle to convey sociopolitical messages, I try to point the viewer towards the original, artistic mandate of photography … the challenge and recognition of pure design … where not content but light, shape, texture ... is the message.
As in all visual arts, in photography it is equally essential to distinguish between the natural design we observe and the personal design we create. I see photography as a creative process much like painting or sculpture. Not only is taking pictures … or better: 'Making Photo-Graphs' … biased and constructed via mind and tool, but so is viewing and our perception of photographs and everything around us.
Photo-Graphs are an expression of what the photographer sees and imagines. They are an individual's perception … an individual’s reality and view of the world. This applies to the photographer as well as to the viewer. As a result, one could say that the camera's lens is equally pointed towards our surroundings as inside our psyche. It illuminates the observer as well as the observed.
Since its invention photography has been associated with the recording of reality and has become the norm for the way things appear real to society. In a painting it is often automatically assumed that the scene depicted is not as it appeared in reality ... that the artist has included his own feelings, way of seeing and expression. On the other hand, in viewing a photograph we mistakenly tend to believe that it is the truth ... that it is a factual document of something that existed in the exact form in which it was recorded. This attitude represents the unfortunate, but commonly held believe that the camera gives us a picture of the world as we would see it without the camera … that the camera simply duplicates what the eye sees...
... nothing could be further from the truth!
All photography starts with seeing, followed by the challenge to transform the observed into personal expression and emotion. I think a photographer needs even more imagination than a painter. The painter can invent things, but in photography everything is so ordinary and 'real' to start with. It takes a lot of imagination to break free from reality. The painter starts with an empty canvas … the photographer starts with a full one, facing the challenge to envision and reveal the essential, to exclude clutter and to discard the inessential.
Despite all the technology-hype and advantages of the digital age, the most important part of photography … and for that matter of all visual arts … is still the ‘Art of Seeing' … the recognition of the elements in visual design, freeing the subject matter from its identity, ignoring the object and its name and label. What counts is our imagination and creative vision, experimentation and the breaking of rules. It is about overcoming stagnate, conservative thinking, the willingness to let go of convenient strategies that worked for us in the past and the acceptance of making mistakes. It's about the ability to hear notes and their ingenious constellations … pitch and rhythm, melody and harmony ... instead of silly words. It's the ability to see blobs of paint and brush strokes, to see shape, texture, line ... instead of sunflowers. It’s about seeing triangles instead of trees ... ovals instead of faces … squares instead of houses. That's how the artist sees things.
The challenge is not to master the functions of the camera, but to transform the observed into a personal interpretation. Photography is not about capturing a scene, but about expressing yourself... by shaping and altering the scene through your imagination. It’s about opening a window into a different world, a world shaped by emotions rather than by logic. Here reality has little or no relevance.
As Ansel Adams rightfully stated:
“The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it”
Photography, especially in the digital age with its technological convenience and superiority, can be the easiest medium to be confident in. But, on the contrary, it can be the hardest medium to have personal vision, because we are constantly reminded of … and held back … by the demon of reality.
Photography is unique in being both … real and abstract … simultaneously. No matter how surreal or non-representational the results may be, it always started from something that actually existed. Yet resist the urge to ask 'what is it?' … resist the label. Instead, let your eyes roam over shapes, lines, textures and their arrangements … responding emotional, not logical. It can be the means of discovering the world around us … with new eyes … and perhaps ... discovering ourselves.