Photographing as an act of affirmation
Most people take pictures only to document events and sights they witness. My niece’s graduation. The snowstorm on my way to work. Like a receipt. As a proof that I was there, I can include a selfie, can you see me there? Photographs as Post-it notes. Reminders. Unfortunately, there is also the desire to share them with anyone who wants to look at them or not. The heap on Social Media. Not so long ago you could be subjected to look at the photo album, displayed conspicuously, on the coffee table. If you wanted a generous refill of your drink, you would say: Of course, I would love to look at your photo album. Now we share the screen of our smart phones. Scrolling through a LOT more photos than an album could contain. New technology, same boredom. We are bored because most of the photos taken display no hook to capture our attention. They are not really addressed to us. They are like a menu that promises food but does not deliver it. Empty calories. I am not doing what is necessary to bring you into/inside the image. You remain bystanders on the outside. The person who took the pictures is only talking to himself.
When struck by the beauty of a landscape I can attempt to communicate the attraction to such a glorious sight in my pictures. (We will examine the tools we can/will use to do that later) And we, as viewers can then be more receptive to the results too. When viewing such an image my body might even get closer to see the image better, showing definite interest in it. Now there is communication between the witness and the audience. No longer idle viewers we become participants in the experience. We have gone up one level in the sharing. Therein lies the potential for photography as an art form: when one is able to touch others. We are no longer talking to ourselves, we are communicating.
[•••] If you can describe it do not take a picture of it.
Many years ago, after traveling through the Canadian Rockies, crossing over the border into Montana, laundry had to be done. A few grungy magazines laid on the sorting table. One of them was Popular Photography or Modern Photography, too long ago to remember. After looking at it, I came to a powerful realization: One can take photos to document something, but some photographers use the craft as an expression of self. Images imbued with the depth of self. The sensitivity of the photographers’ consciousness permitted them to see more, to express more. That was my first realization of what vision could be capable of. The person who took the image made a huge difference in what was seen. There is looking at, and then there is seeing. The same landscape seen by different people brought many different results in their photos. One cannot escape it. My images are my babies. Time to become proud a parent.
In order to see I have to be awake, present. Present to the present. Mindful of the world I am looking at, as a photographer, I am a witness to what is. Clicking the shutter is an act of affirmation of both the world and self. It is a cooperative act. The world lends itself to the creative process. I always half-seriously say that I should write photo by jean-claude & the world. I call WORLD whatever I photograph. Whatever I look at. I contemplate. The world as an offering to my creativity. The result is my responsibility. The ingredients are handed to me, let’s see what I can cook. Great respect should be given to what one looks at firstly because it is a gift, and also because that instant will pass and will never be the same again. Even a face is not frozen in time. A live entity changes constantly. A landscape that looks so placid is never the same. Even if the landscape appears to be the same, the light it is basking in is always changing. Pay attention. Pay respect. It will give it back to you a thousand times. I am therefore I photograph. I am what I photograph. Photographing as a way to apprehend the world. As Cartier-Bresson wrote: It’s yes. yes, yes!