Personal Post: what do you bring to the viewfinder?

People who are makers are makers their whole lives. It doesn’t matter if they are artists or musicians, gardeners or pipefitters; those who were born to make will keep their hands busy and minds wandering.

When I went to art school, I imagined myself as a painter or ceramicist, covered in clay and acrylic. My goals changed when I had my first photography class with Sarah Detweiler. I didn’t love those messy mediums any less, but images took on new meaning. I was amazed at how the simplest objects and scenes were open to interpretation. Sarah explained that each of us comes to the viewfinder with our own voice, whether we know it or not. This photographic voice is built of our past experiences, our opinions and political views, our taste in clothing, our relationship with our families, and so much more. Everything that we are, and everything we surround ourselves with affects what we choose to make.

People often reject photography as a passive medium – unartistic because of how “easy” it can be to take a snapshot and how little we alter our environment before photographing. But I will argue (alongside every photography theorist) that the decision to take the image, is, in itself, and alteration of the environment. As viewers, we are not seeing a hotel or a sign or a person as a whole experience; we are seeing exactly what the photographer has chosen for us to see. Their inflection and bias is added to the image by what they cropped out, what they left in, what perspective they chose, and a thousand other micro-decisions that make up the artwork.

In my “Developing a Creative Vision” class at Peninsula Art School in Fish Creek, we talk about these natural attractions that appear in our work with repetition. As see-ers, we are moved by certain colors, textures, angles, objects, etc and they call us to take a photograph. You can see my attractions simply by looking at two rolls of film from my personal work (above: from September and October 2016). I am attracted to vintage ephemera (hand painted signs, neon, roadside oddities, vernacular architecture). I get pulled in by natural light and faded colors (especially blues and reds). Nearly all of my photographs are “straight-on” – deadpan with no dramatic angles and little action, and it is rare to see a person, especially one who addresses the camera.

When we know what we are attracted to, we better understand the images we are making and how they will function as a body of work. This awareness makes us better see-ers and better photographers. Details on my upcoming class below.

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Above images taken in Wisconsin and Michigan on 35 mm film.
To sign up for “Developing a Creative Vision Class” at Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek on July 13, 2017, please visit PSA .
For more blog posts about thinking creatively, check out: Liking What you Like and Honoring Your Thoughts .

1 Comment on Personal Post: what do you bring to the viewfinder?

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