Sunday, June 17, 2007

Practising In Your Own Patch

We've had a lively dialogue about the value of exercises, particularly exercises that take you away from your normal area of photography. The particular excersize was mentioned by Ed, from Freeman Patterson's Photography And The Art Of Seeing.

Not to rehash the argument but here's something to think about.

If you set up an exercise within your own area of experience - say you decide to shoot a series of 'different' landscapes at a location you have found fertile before. Here are some limitations and problems with that exercise (which isn't to say you shouldn't do it, just that you should strongly consider moving outside your expertize to practice.

1) Working within your own area, you already have such a strong idea of what works so that seeing anything new is problematic. The tendency is to keep shooting in the same style that has worked for you in the past.

2) Since you are photographing in your own area - it's hard to tell yourself it's just an exercise and the images won't be used to pad your portfolio - you tend to treat the effort too seriously and again limit your creativity. This isn't a problem in the bathroom since you have no intention of showing them to anyone.

3) If exercises are fun, you are more likely to do them. Hauling out my 1Ds2 and tripod to experiment in the bathroom is too much like work. Using my FZ50 on the other hand is painless and fun. That the images aren't recorded with my best camera doesn't really matter.

4) In such an odd location as a bathroom, it's unlikely you have a lot of preconceived idea of what to do or even what to photograph - everything is fresh and new. It's a blank slate. Were the exercise to shoot portraits in a studio, even though you are a landscape photographer, you likely have a pretty good idea of what portraits are meant to look like. Not in a bus, not in a bathroom. Ever seen a picture of the water swirling down the toilet bowl? Didn't think so - but it might make an interesting abstract.

The image above is a poor attempt at a self portrait and I clearly don't have it right yet - but you know, it's not a bad idea and I might just experiment a bit further. So far I don't like the picture on the wall in one mirror and the tile in the other, perhaps I can reshoot it with only the plain walls for background - even if it means taking the picture off the wall.

I'd show you my other bathroom attempts but I want you to have a chance to try this exercise on your own. Perhaps in a few weeks I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours.


Anonymous said...

George, I sincerely hope you will not share with us any extreme "toilet experiments". I'm not interested in scatological art, however abstract that might be...

George Barr said...

Perish the thought.


paul said...

I actually tried this type of stuff the other day. I went into the bathroom and took 36 shots. The first few were pretty easy, but the last 10 or so took a really long time. It's an interesting experiment, though. I'm not sure of the value, however.