Thursday, June 11, 2009

In the taking and the making

Yesterday my neighbor had a friend visiting who was a photographer, so they went to the Gallery to see my unexpected dog shots, and then invited me over for a glass of wine. I mentioned in passing that I didn't normally photograph dogs, and the photographer asked what I DID like to shoot.

I had to stop and think about that. What DO I shoot? My neighbor expressed surprise that I didn't immediately say "boats," but the fact is it's been quite a while since I photographed a boat.

When I asked the photographer the same question she replied very clearly that she was a street photographer, capturing urban scenes, and eventually I had to say that perhaps I, too, am a street photographer -- it's just that my streets are rural roads and waterways.

Obviously I'm still thinking about this this morning. And I think that the reason I love photography so much is that this is one of the places in my life where I can't really answer that "What do you shoot" question. The reason photography works for me is that I gave up trying to predict or anticipate or plan for what to shoot: it's mostly about keeping the camera with me and trying to be present in the moment, to see the possibilities around me and be attuned enough to act on them.

The photographer asked if I was self-taught, and I told her I'd taken a weeklong workshop (I think that was back in 1998) where I learned a lot of fundamentals of composition. But what I realize this morning, thinking about all this, is that there is one lesson the workshop instructor drilled into us that may just not have taken with me. He was very clear on this: REAL photographers don't just TAKE pictures -- they MAKE pictures: they control the camera, the composition, the lighting, the color, the focus, the aperture, the exposure, the print...

I don't think I just take pictures -- there's clearly more to it than that. But I don't make pictures either. Perhaps what I do is I FIND pictures, and pass them on to you. But the only way I can find is by looking, and by seeing. And to really do that well I have to set aside a lot of pre-conceived notions about what I'm supposed to find, what I'm supposed to see, and what I'm supposed to shoot. This may be one of those places where I get to practice the yielding thing I mention yesterday. But there's another voice in me that's sneering a little when I say that. "What are you -- a hippie? If it feels good, do it? Go with the flow? What a bunch of hooey!"

Don't you just love all those little voices? What complex creatures we are! Because the fact is we need them all for balance, and there IS a part of me that makes pictures -- at least, opportunities for pictures. Take this one, for example. Years ago, while driving through the Skagit Valley, I passed this house -- I think the two flowering trees in front were smaller then, or maybe it was winter? But what I remember is that there were two bright yellow rubber rainsuits hanging out on the front porch and everything else was pretty gray and colorless.

I didn't have the camera with me at the time, but every time I've passed that house since then I look to see: are those yellow suits there? Is there ANY laundry there? When we came back from Orcas a couple of weekends ago I passed the house again and decided to just stop and photograph the house, even without the yellow suits. And I like the resulting image -- which (I think) looks better in black and white than it did in color.

So I guess the answer is still that I find pictures. And then I take them. And then I make something of them. And because the images I find, and the taking and the making all help me to become a more attentive person, somehow the making of them is also in some way the making of me. I like to think that's what happens when we do what we love.

1 comment:

karengberger said...

You are an artist, and I love the way you see. XO