The Thinking Photographer


Backlighted Leaf

It is possible to make good photographs without having an articulated style. Simply shoot a huge quantity of film and by the law of averages a few will be acceptable. These are the happy accidents.

On the other hand, if the photographer ponders the issues of composition and communication to reach an opinion of what is good and desirable, then a style will have been created. A much higher percentage of photographs will be acceptable.

Some may argue that a style implies restriction and constraint. This criticism may be justified. An unflexible adherence to any standard, even one self imposed, can lead to repetition and dull images. On the plus side, a consistent style allows the photographer to communicate visual goals independent of subject matter. The style injects personality into an image.

If a photographer's photographs do not show a recurrent approach, then the work is probably not worth looking at. I do not want to see a simple reflection of reality. I want to know something about the photographer. Random exposures, even of stunning subjects, are worthless. The good photographer will carefully choose the moment of exposure and the composition. Innumerable value judgements go into this selection process. The final result, the image, should express the judgements. Each image will reflect the photographer's goals in a different way. Taken together, a collection of images should completely express the photographer's goals of composition, emotion, and beauty.

A photograph is simply a memorandum from a photographer which whispers, "This is how I see the world." Viewers of the photograph may see the intention, that is, the unique point of view, or they may miss it altogether and see only the subject.

It is impossible for any one person to appreciate every photograph which enters his world. This is understandable. Many times it is necessary to transcend one's own viewpoint in order to understand a photograph. These instances are particularly valuable. Photographs which enable us to abandon our moorings and venture forth to a new viewpoint have realized their full potential as tools - instruments through which we gaze out of eyes different from our own.

© Copyright 1999 Brian R. Page

  • Colloquia Photography Class Main Page
  • The Thinking Photographer: Introduction
  • What is a Good Photograph?
  • The Role of Black & White
  • Subject/Object
  • Style
  • Who's Who and What's What
  • Audience: For Whom the Silver Tones
  • Guts
  • Gladly Learn Home Page