Some Photography Philosophy

[This post is sure to bore most of you, but it was on my mind at some point because I had it buried in a file, so I figured I’d post it. In particular, this one is for you Ed!]

Photographs are intentional artifacts that are visual records of their subjects during brief, unrepeatable moments in time. As a record, a photograph of a tree is a visual description of that tree in that moment in time. No other tree can depict the same “tree-ness” and no other moment in time can exactly match the one previously exposed.

Great photographs are intentional artifacts that balance, whether through design or the serendipity of circumstance, their inherent visual description of the subject with meta-information* that reveals substance beyond what is present in the image.

*Meta-information is a technical term from the computer industry that basically means “information about information”.

(more after the jump)…

Edward Weston’s Pepper #30 is a perfect example of a great image. While it is an image of a pepper, the visual description that shows it as a pepper is balanced with meta information that reveals it to be more than just a pepper. The bulging curves and textured flesh of this simple vegetable have been framed an lit in such a way that to some, it nearly seems to be a nude male African-American crouched in some strange configuration, while to others, it’s like a photograph of sand dunes taken from a plane.

That’s not to say that a photograph of a cloud that looks like a bunny is a great image, because the visual information within the image actually describes the bunny. Instead, what I’m trying to say is that a great photograph has some other “somethingness” beyond what is present in the photograph that makes it great.

Justice Potter Stewart said it best in 1964 when he was talking about pornography “I know it when I see it”. The same is true of a great photograph, we know it when we see it.


~ by ghendar on March 29, 2009.