Some Photographic Lessons Learned - Part II

March 26, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Part II

Given that composition, use of space and light are important concepts, it can easily be argued that theatre is more related to photography than most other forms of art. The use and constraints of space and light are obvious in theatre.

It is probably better to use the term ‘making photos’ rather than ‘take them’.  Take is what most phone users do, a million times every day. Making a photo involves making choices.  In addition to the subject matter, there is a conscious decision about the angle, selection of focal length, depth of field, light and shadows, and what to include or exclude among the most important ingredients.

Becoming a better photographer is often the outcome of having a good mentor and teacher which are key elements in most studies and growth processes.   A former opera singer was one of my outstanding teachers. He was also one of the best at the art of bookbinding.  For 4 years, I was lucky to have that teacher for drawing, lino-cutting, bookbinding, art history, and even the compulsory music course.  The additional benefit of having such a multi-disciplinary artist and outstanding teacher is his ability to link various aspects and give a far more extensive multi-dimensional view of art.  In school, we visited a multitude of graphic art exhibitions, but also painting exhibitions. A large retrospective exhibition by Salvator Dali is anchored in my memory. More importantly, with school we attended also concerts, movies, and theatre.  Background information was always provided and interesting exchanges following the event added further insights.

In the school I attended, a typography teacher was also a freelance photographer for one of the largest newspapers.  His encouragement and some helpful tips and providing critique upon seeing one of my first portraits were incredibly positive. It saw me quickly experimenting and making photos (and writing) for a local newspaper.  Having an outlet to share my photos was like mana!

The great advantage of the multi-disciplinary approach in my school applies to art academies, in that one can pick ideas from one discipline and translate it on many occasions to photography.  Exploring master portrait artists by Ruben, via Rembrandt, Vermeer, Holbein, van Gogh, Renoir, and even Picasso will allow one to familiarize with good portraits.

Looking at the great landscape painters and those making drawings will allow us to get a better understanding. Although painters always have the advantage to render their subjects selective. The use of space and light is always there. Dramatic skies are far more interesting than the blue variety enjoyed by most holiday guests. Enhancing a dramatic sky was the first know manipulation of a photo in post productions… some 170 years ago!

In the 20th Century section of  The National Gallery in Washington DC hangs a very fine painting by Edward Steichen, the great Luxembourg-born photographer, it is in many ways like some of his photos with a wink to cubism, but also very unlike his photos. Steichen curated at the height of the Cold War ‘The Family of Man' exhibition, now on permanent display in Clervaux, Luxembourg.   Georgia O’Keeffe and George Stieglitz inspired each other in many ways. Steichen's main interests when photographing were light, a dose of mysticism, and an open story, which the viewer was invited to fill in.

 


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