Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Photographs Do

Perhaps you haven't thought about what your photographs actually do. OK, I know they just sit or hang there, but the image has a relationship to the original scene so one could say that the image does something to the original scene.

Let me explain:

an image could be illustrative - it simply shows what was going on. It can evocative - that is it represents a whole class of things and reminds you of them - for example the expression of a child with a hand in the cooky jar - it doesn't have to be your kid yet we make a connection with that scene.

An image can be explanatory - showing how something works or why it's there or how it got in that condition. It can be interpretative in that the scene means something to the photographer and what he photographs is that meaning more than the scene itself. The image could show the risk or pain, fear or pride.

The connection of an image to the scene can in fact be quite loose as the photographer simply uses the scene as raw material for a creation, which through framing, editing, blending or whatever results in an image with very little connection to the scene.

Do you know what your images do? Do you even care? Is this similar to how you see images you admire? If your images are illustrative and the ones you admire are interpretive, just maybe this might explain your frustration with your own images, or why you haven't been published.

Why don't you look up some of your favourite images by the greats and ask yourself what those images are doing and see if your images are doing the same thing. Might just be interesting and informative.

2 comments:

Markus Spring said...

"If your images are illustrative and the ones you admire are interpretive, just maybe this might explain your frustration with your own images"

Definitely a sentence to remember and put on top of my considerations regarding my own work.

Thanks for putting this in so clear words.

Simon said...

This is an interesting point. I sense a lot of resonance with why I 'get' many key images by the major photography talents out there and so many of the derivative images (including my own) that I see day after day in the photo press are so disappointing. I think this goes back to one of George's earlier comments about valuing an image. If you find a lot of expression in an image, something that keeps you coming back time after time (like I do with most of John Sexton's work for example) then I think you are moving along the line from illustrative to interpretive, and this makes you value the image more - maybe in a similar way to the truth/beauty transition.