The Photographic Idea

In November of 2017, a new photographic group was formed – Lincolnshire Image Makers –

It is a group of 11 photographers who meet monthly to discuss all things photographic.

At the core of the group is the view that the most important part of image-making is that photographers should have something to say. Camera skills, composition, editing and software skills, etc all have their essential place, but photography is not primarily a technical activity – it is about ideas.

Interesting photographers are interested photographers – they photograph with a purpose. Photography is linked to abiding interests – perhaps natural history and wildlife; or the production of fine art images; or aspects of the natural or man-made landscape; studio or environmental portraiture; macro-photography; documentary, travel or street photography; or ‘digital’ art – all feature in the work of the group. Often, we are telling stories with a theme; always we are saying’ ‘look, this is interesting or funny or beautiful.’

We have a project on the go at the moment – to record in about 15 images – the British Summer, and I look forward with anticipation to see what sort of things the group comes up with.

Two things have come from my membership of this group.  Firstly, I was finally inspired (Pushed) into putting together a panel for my Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society.  The images for this are now put together, and the panel is ready for submission and a final assessment in October.  Whether I pass or not – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process, and making the pictures.  I think that for me, the part of actually making prints, and mounting them was the best.  To actually hold a finished product in my hand, and be pleased with it, was a triumph.

Secondly – working with projects.  It’s much better than I ever thought it would be.  I’ve always worked on single images (probably as a result of my job, and camera club mentality).

I’ve also learned that it is as easy to make a photograph without content, as it is to write a sentence that doesn’t say anything.  Both are common, and both are useless.

What and why you photograph is influenced by the ideas which precede it.  I know that with my Associateship panel, I’ve been influenced by 19th century impressionist painters, though I didn’t really realise that at the time.  I looked back through work I had produced over the preceding years, and realised that I had been slowly working towards a style without knowing.  The ideas came after photographing, but before printing.

I go out with friends and we say, what are we going to shoot today?  The response could be “anything” – but in fact it’s never really true, or we wouldn’t be out seeking something.  We could have just aimlessly shot at home.  So we must have had an idea -and in fact we usually do – at least we have a venue in mind.

I think that it’s not “what do I photograph”, but what is my idea…..  it is the idea that lies at the heart of a project, or series of images.  A good photograph has to ‘say’ something.  Otherwise everyone would be masters of the craft.

In order to use a camera to say something, you must first have something to say, or the resulting photographs can be meaningless and powerless.

I read on Facebook of someone bewailing the fact that people were not commenting on his images, but only stating banal “wonderful”, “wow”, but no real imput.  My comment was asking him what he intended for the image to ‘say’.  It was of a pretty girl sat on a bench….. a competent image, but it said to me, nothing more than a girl on a bench.  I don’t think the photographer was thinking of anything deeper than that.  A pretty photo – but with no soul…… no heart….. no story……  I wasn’t even left wondering ‘why’ she was there…..

It’s very hard to put a finger exactly on what makes one image of a girl on a bench, better than another, but images have to express something because it is non-verbal.  Images without passion are just pictures.  In an interview David Hurn (Magnum Photographer) said “…basically in photography there’s just two controls. One is where you stand and one is when you press the button. So if you stand in the right place, and you press the button at the right time, you’re gonna be alright.”

Take a look at this video of David – talking about his photography in the 1960’s

 

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

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