A Camera is a Fine Tool, but What is it that I am Trying to Say?

Century Village, Florida

Century Village (Deerfield Beach, Florida)

In my recent post, Finger Painting; or, Why I Fell in Love with My iPhone I wrote:

I still use the Olympus OMD-EM5. I love it because I can choose the lens I want to use (although I typically head out with only one lens so that I am not encumbered and I can just go with the flow based on the one option I give myself), manipulate the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed; the images are of a higher quality and the higher control and resolution add a whole layer of beauty and precision. Nevertheless, I find myself predominantly utilizing the iPhone.

The truth of the matter is that even though I LOVE my “real” camera I simply adore the hands-on-ness of the iPhone and the post-processing applications (apps) I use to create the final images. It provides a direct way of looking at and capturing the subject and light, moving the image into a creative idea through the apps, and then sharing it with others through social media. I no longer think that taking a photograph with a small mobile device (that happens to be a telephone among other things) is not photography. It is, as I’ve said, simply another camera.

Having said the above, and with more thinking since, I looked at photographs I’ve taken in the last year with each camera. When I use the iPhone camera the results are definitely “looser” (this begins with how I hold the instrument). However, it appears that I sometimes use the Olympus with the same freedom. This typically happens when the camera is set on auto, aperture, or shutter mode as appropriate, rather than using the camera manually.

MBTA (Cambridge, MA)

MBTA (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

During my many years of creating sculptural installations, drawings, and mono-prints, I rarely second guessed myself. In photography I do. Always. This medium is not second nature to me, as yet. To swim upstream against that somewhat, I trust that a more casual approach to photography will help me capture the immediate visceral reaction to the subject that instigated my desire to take the shot in the first place — rather than force the image. While the subjects of my photographs are part of the physical world the photographic product is an interpretation of how I see it. I seek for something that cannot be touched; my desire is to make one feel. My aesthetic, I hope, shifts the viewer’s impressions of the visual (rather than material) in an emotive fashion (rather than that of the intellect). My aim is to get to an essence. Whether I *ever* get there is another story…

Clouds (Cambridge, MA)

Clouds (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

My eyes catch light, colour, patterns, shapes, and people – often as details, but sometimes as part of a larger environment. I’ve been told that street photography is about telling an open-ended story; it may be expressed through a “decisive moment” that translates into many possibilities (i.e., in that one moment, every element in the frame helps to tell the story). Typically the storytelling element is provided by the presence of people.

I am trying hard to figure this genre out. Does a human subject always need to be in the image? May I not take a photograph of a detail? Does it matter how much I cut part of a person out of the frame? Stepping back, I see that I have a tendency to focus on abstractions, angles, lines, parts of the human body. I often focus on detail and leave a lot out of the shot. If I decide a photograph should be converted to black and white extreme contrast is the way I typically go; it speaks to and from my gut. I am learning to manipulate colour so that it does the same thing to me.

Rockport, Maine

Rockport, Maine

After School (Maine)

After School (Maine)

One telling difference between the iPhone and the Olympus is that the phone does not have a viewfinder. I am inclined to frame the world carefully but find that when I am more casual with my tool I connect more closely with the subject.

East Cambridge, MA

East Cambridge, Massachusetts

Perhaps my photography is all over the place. I walk the streets a lot – in both cities and small towns. I have a weakness for architecture; I look at the detail around me; I look up a lot; I crouch low and see what the world looks like from that position. If I see someone on the street who catches my eye I go up to her/him and ask to take a photograph. I like to get up close and personal with people (almost invasive).  I don’t know exactly why I do this. I see the world differently. I see things better. It seems to me that the narrative content is not as important as the emotional matter.

Rockland, Maine

Rockland, Maine

Karen, Century Village (Florida)

Century Village (Deerfield Beach, Florida)

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