By Doug Petry
Jason Symington spoke at the Photo Club Wednesday evening to around 50 club members who braved the chilly weather and icy roads and seemed glad that they did. I know I was happy to hear/see Jason’s presentation that he called “Photography and the Ever Attentive Eye”.
“Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Jason teaches a DSLR-101 class and knowing our demographic to be slightly “greyer” decided to tailor his message to us by first filtering it through his younger, less experienced photography students. He explained that they are consumed by the very practical questions of “how was that done? How did that photographer get that image and how can I duplicate it?”
Their reaction to his question of “yes, you can learn to duplicate the image, but why” was like any group of hopeful young artists might be expected to respond. “Because it would be my image!”
But is that enough?
In the beginning, we just want to create something even if it is a derivative of what has gone before, a pale copy of the work of a great artist. But in a room snowed under with gray hair, our response is different and the room seemed to resonate with Jason’s question, why indeed! Or as Jeff put it, “so what?”
Looking through a catalogue of tens of thousands of images it’s hard not to ask yourself that question as an amateur photographer, “yes, I shot all these images, so what! Is anyone ever going to see all of these images?”
Perhaps not, but if you are like me, the image is actually secondary to the process of getting it. Photography is fun! I like wandering around with my camera, just exploring the world while at the same time keeping an eye out for opportunities. There are memories associated with each image that we make, whether it was a vacation, a photo club outing, or you were just driving around with your camera.
The whole process is enjoyable; getting out there, taking the shot, anticipating how amazing it’s going to be and even the processing can be fun (usually not, but it can be!)
All in all, I was encouraged by Jason’s message, which by the way is “why” not “why bother?” We need to ask ourselves as we make images a few questions that spring from that word, “why?” It’s more than the question “why am I taking this picture?” It’s, “what am I bringing to this photograph? What makes this mine? What am I trying to say?”
It made me think beyond the very literal answer “I’m bringing my camera and lenses” even though that can have a huge effect on the images that you make. Sure you bring your camera, but you also bring yourself. The photographers eye that you have painstakingly developed over time blended with your personality, energy level, natural creative ability, etc. etc. all comes together to prompt you to lay on your belly in the wet grass, forgetting all dignity, to get the shot that you want. Or not!
Jason showed us a lot of images by influential photographers and again I was encouraged because it seemed to me that many of the images weren’t particularly good by today’s standards. (Yes, I do remember shooting with film, it was difficult!) On Wednesday night I saw very few images that I would put money on to finish in the top three at a St. Albert Photography Club submissions night.
Well, this one called Madrid 1933 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON is pretty good!
One of Jason’s points was that any of the photographers in the club are capable of going out and shooting similar images to those famous photographs on any given day. Those “decisive moments” that elevate photographs to the level we saw Wednesday happen in all of our lives if we are watching for them (and we have our cameras handy)!
It was interesting to see the famous images, listen to Jason’s commentary and apply it to the overall theme of the night, “why this image, done in this way, how is it yours, what did you bring to it?” Jason is right when he talks about some of the standard images like sunsets being done to death. It’s not enough (for most of us) just to make a record of a nice view, we want others to be blown away with how wonderful/different/creative our images are, kind of like the quote from Robert Frank.
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
Unless we are extraordinarily lucky and sometimes that’s all that separates the snapshot from the amazing, we will get out of our camera exactly what we put into it. Sure the shots are there in some form or other, but if we want more we have to put more in; more time, more thought, (more money!) and more of ourselves.
“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
True, but will they be good ones?
Thanks Jason for coming out and sharing with us your thoughts, it definitely made us think and I’m sure more than a few of us were prompted to pull out the old photography books to review.
You can visit Jason’s website by clicking on the link below.