Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The photographer as artist

The idea of this post has been swirling around in my head since the first week of March when I began this challenge, and I believe I now have the time and words to express my thoughts and ideas.

But first, I wanted to thank all of you for stopping by my blog every day for my photos. I love your kind comments, and it means a lot to me that people other than myself care about this little project of mine.

Some of my photos are well conceived before I even pick up my camera. I know exactly what I want to shoot, and I can see the edited photo in my head already. "Lapidary" is a good example of this particular process. I saw a close up shot of the engraved words on a stone bench with a blurred out building in the background. Originally, I wanted to use a bench with the word "Keck" on it only to find two people using this bench for it's intended purpose. The change of benches was actually, to me, what made the shot. I had a less interesting and more direct word, but I had this wonderfully colored column in the background. Perfect.

Other times, and I would say most of the time, I have little to no idea what I will be shooting that day. I simply start wandering with my camera in search of inspiration. Sometimes, I find my shot out of the blue. I know it's the shot. And I take it. I simply cannot wait to get if off my camera, edit it, and post it. That is how "Worn out" happened. I had spent some time photographing (or trying to photograph) a particular set of archways and left a bit unsatisfied. With the lens cap on and the camera switched off, I walked back to my office. And then I saw this shot, perfectly set up. I quickly snapped a few shots before the unknown man sitting by the statue moved and was thrilled with my capture.

And then, sometimes, I don't find that shot. And I turn off my camera a bit dejected, knowing I probably have an okay shot, but nothing thrilling. (Do I have to post something brilliant everyday?) And then, as I pull up the photos that night, I'm rewarded by an unexpectedly thrilling shot. "Marble Veins" was taken at the end of my shoot that day and was completely random. I took little thought, snapped only one photo, and walked away. I was completely surprised when I viewed this one photo on my screen. A little light, contrast, and saturation enhancement, and I was staring, just starting at what I think is an incredible photograph. (Did I take that?)

That night, I thought back to the moment I took that one shot. What was I thinking about? What was my intention when I pressed down the shutter release? What was I trying to or hoping to say with this photo? Being completely honest with myself, I wasn't thinking much at all. I saw the marble protrusion, it was about at my eye level, and I thought to myself, "This could be a cool depth of field shot." Click. Why then did this seemingly random shot speak to me with an intensity that I was overcome with? Why did I feel such a strong connection to this shot?

First, I thought of this piece of hand worked marble on this building that's nearly a century old. I thought about the person who probably spent hours shaping and forming these organic, beautiful shapes out of this incredibly hard material. Then my mind wandered back to Italy and my love of art. I remembered seeing Michelangelo's David in Florence and the life altering experience that was. I went back to my journal and re-read the page long entry that began with me walking into the museum and ended 20 minutes later when I finally walked away from the David. Of all of the cliché great art I've been privileged to see in person, Michelangelo's David not only lived up to every ounce of hype, but also blew my mind and left a deep, emotional impact in my heart. The thought of this artist carving this majestic and huge sculpture out of a large chunk of marble with a black vein running through the middle of it is incomprehensible to me. I have nothing but awe and admiration for his work.

As you enter the Academia in Florence, the hallway is lined with Michelangelo's unfinished "prisoner" sculptures. They begin almost unrecognizable; you can see the subtle workmanship of the piece of marble, the vaguely rounded shapes. The next set of sculptures are obviously worked, and you can see a "prisoner" seemingly fighting his way out of the marble, begging to be fully formed as the David so beautiful is. The next sets are more and more complete, and then the hall ends with the David. It's breathtaking.

How does this relate to my photograph? I asked myself the same thing as my mind ran with thoughts of Michelangelo. And I realized that while I cannot sculpt as he did, or paint as Botticelli did, or sketch as Rembrandt, I can and do draw mountains of inspiration from their work. And, if I'm privileged enough, photograph it. Capturing the work of this sculpter who spent hours and maybe days nearly a century ago to mold this marble into intricate shapes is all I can do create art. A photograph as art.

That is my hope for the next 11 months. To create art through my photography that's meaningful to me, the artist, and allows you, the viewer, to see my world as I see it. To see a moment as I saw it. An artist behind the lens is all I hope to become.

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