My Approach to Photography
I use a digital camera so I can take as many photos as I want without regard to cost. But I keep them natural – no digital manipulation, which I only use in my art, and then only minimally. Digital manipulation is a great technology; I just choose to find the artistic bent in the image itself.
The great thing about photography is that anyone can do it, and with practice, do it well. It does take many years until you get to the point where you can say, “I’m a photographer.” It’s not in the camera; it’s in the eye. An eye for the image is what makes a picture successful. Good photography has an element of luck also. Sometimes you end up with a different image than you thought you were taking – there is an element you didn’t notice the first time.
My particular preference is documentation. I document events, travel, scenery, whatever catches my eye. I don’t set up photos or take portraits, but I pay as much attention as I can to composition and contrast. This means I have to always be looking, scanning, and seeing beyond the surface. I like the fanciful and absurd. For example, in China, I took many photos of traffic. The juxtaposition of vehicle types and sizes was endlessly fascinating, as well as a little scary. In the Kern County desert, I encountered a wonderful dump full of all kinds of strange things. There was an old trailer that was blending back into the landscape as it deteriorated. The implications of that image are endless.
When I’m photographing something that isn’t going to move, like a landscape, I take a careful look at my surroundings and get to know them before shooting. For people, animals or moving images, I have to be fast. When photographing an activity or person in a sensitive situation, I take a look at what I want, then look as if I’m photographing something else while quickly turning the camera to my real target.
So, my approach is pretty simple – keep an awareness of my surroundings and look beyond the “main” feature. Get to know my surroundings if possible before shooting. Then look as carefully at the image as I did the original setting for the unexpected.
Sounds simple, anyway, but it does take years of practice.