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Why photography?
Old 05-14-2018   #1
irbridge
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Why photography?

So why do you shoot? Hope it's not too intrusive a question... but going beyond all the gear talk, what is it that photography does for you?

Just curious to hear what RFF users have to say...

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Old 05-14-2018   #2
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i think it was gary winogrand that said...i shoot to see what things look like photographed...i'm starting to understand that more & more.
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Old 05-14-2018   #3
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What does photography does? Mainly 2 thinks:

a) Relax me. I truly enjoy the photography process, from calculating exposure to printing.

b) Creates memories for me. I'm not an artist myself so most of my photography is related to things I want to preserve.


Most of the time the two mix together and sometimes don't. Sometimes I create memories with digital, skipping all the analog process. Sometimes I take photos just to test equipment and for the sake of it, without creating any memories.

All in all, my photography main function is to add some fun to my life.

Best regards

Marcelo
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Old 05-14-2018   #4
irbridge
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Amazing, just saw that gary winogrand later work adds up to roughly 12,000 rolls (2500 rolls shot but undeveloped, 6500 rolls developed but unproofed, 3000 proofed). These numbers are from wikipedia so grain of salt, but that averages to more than a roll a day across a career of roughly 30 yrs. That's a lot of film...

If photography's your job, then I guess one reason you shoot is you have to... but especially for the serious hobbyists/semi-professional photographers here who invest a lot of time and effort (not too mention money, esp. for the leica crowd), there must be something compelling in it, no? Even if it's just the visceral sound/feeling of pressing a shutter?

In a ways, I guess I'm trying to wrap my head around why I like photography so much, myself. To grow as a photographer, does it have to have meaning? I've noticed, for example, that Michael Kenna looks for a lot peace and harmony in his photos. Don McCullin seems to be driven to conflict, suffering, and war--to the point where he mentions it really taking a toll on family life. Michael Somoroff might have been born into it, but seemed to really have a fascination with it from early on... though in Somoroff's case, I don't recall why.

On the note of Somoroff, since I've already gone and posted a strange question on the forum, I might as well contribute something by sharing one of my favourite portraits from Somoroff, taken of Brassai (his book A Moment. Master Photographers: Portraits by Michael Somoroff is highly recommended. the printed version):

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Old 05-14-2018   #5
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1. Photography allows me to pursue being a visual artist without needing mucho studio space. Know that at one time I was a painter, and moving around a painting studio in NYC was painful and not practical.

2. I never purposely intended on becoming a gentryfier and somehow got swept into this urban process for decades. Presently at the age of sixty I worry that one day I will have to leave and will permanently be forced out of NYC. My photography is so I can maintain a sense of home and have some form of permanence to take with me.

3. I think being involved in the arts my whole life gave me meaning and purpose, otherwise I likely would be dead by now. Life does not make sense without art.

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Old 05-14-2018   #6
irbridge
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Interesting, thank you Marcelo (sorry, I saw your response only after drafting the above post!)

Relaxation and memories sound like good reasons. Indeed, sometimes a camera seems to be the best way to turn the brain off and relax...
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Old 05-14-2018   #7
Ko.Fe.
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I'm no good on paintings, renovations, gardening, fishing is too expensive and not always possible. I do no fix old cars and bikes, I'm not into knotting. I'm not into cooking and carpentry. I'm not collecting stamp and not gluing nazis planes and tanks models.
I'm not capable of running my own business and live at and for work.

Now you know why I like to take and print pictures. Simply because it is something I cloud to with more, less success.
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Old 05-14-2018   #8
PaulDalex
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I am a retired mathematician (still doing research though), but ever since I was a boy I have been an art lover and never ceased to study art history.
But I also needed to give my love for Art a creative outlet. I made my first photographs at 8. I also attempted painting, but soon realized I had not enough time to learn to master the technique.
So I turned to movie and photo and kept taking pictures for all the rest of my life
I do so moved by an intimate passion, by my visual greediness and fantasy, by my love for art.
Thus I don't mind exhibiting anything, although some work of mine is hanged at home, and I am working at a photo book and a movie, which I believe will never finish, given I am 73 and sick.
My images evolved and sometimes they are created using multiple photos rather than being simple photographs
Of course I am an hobbyist. But I like to think that my approach and commitment to anything I do is the same, the only difference being I had a salary for my job and kept spending money form my dilectantish Art activity
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Old 05-14-2018   #9
irbridge
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Pistach, as a former natural scientist who converted to the humanities, I think I can understand to an extent what you mean by needing a creative outlet (though maths, judging from mathematician friends, seems closer to art than most). I hope you find completion in the photo book and movie, and wishing you better health for doing it.

Calzone, my previous response in an edit seems to have been lost. The idea of photography for maintaining a sense of home quite struck me. I've also found myself reaching for the camera when feeling lost/disoriented. It's interesting food for thought.

Haha, and thank you for a refreshingly pragmatic answer Ko.Fe. (and thank you for your many posts, I've read a lot of them on rff. I also liked your pictures from the thread on your mother's present, and hope the repaired M-E is treating you well)
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Old 05-14-2018   #10
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I get a kick out of making prints for people I know. And also, like a surfer looking for the perfect wave; I'm looking for the perfect photo. (I've never done it though.)
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Old 05-14-2018   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irbridge View Post
Calzone, my previous response in an edit seems to have been lost. The idea of photography for maintaining a sense of home quite struck me. I've also found myself reaching for the camera when feeling lost/disoriented. It's interesting food for thought.
In the 1960 census there were less than 238K Asians in the U.S., and during the Vietnam War I grew up looking like the enemy. I moved around a lot and was known by my friends as a drifter.

Somehow the drifting never stopped and in a way never really had a "home," a place where I belonged, and you are correct in that I do have very strong feelings of being lost and disoriented.

I forgot to mention that photography offers me the opportunity to impose control when many things in life one cannot control. I find this redeeming and peaceful because I can create a universe that is my own. It seems photography offers me the permanence that is missing in my life.

Cal
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Old 05-14-2018   #12
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Because it's there
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Old 05-14-2018   #13
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I became interested in cameras because I had a telescope (a cheap and not-good, one) and when I used it to look at planets, the moon and stars, I thought "Is that it? Is that all I get to do:look?" There was something missing. I decided that the missing thing was 'practical', there was nothing practical I could do. I don't quite know how it occurred to me, but I began to wonder if there was a way I could take photos of what I was looking at. I presume it's because I saw photos like that in books. So I started looking in mail order catalogues for cameras with speeds as slow as 1 second and 'B'. I had no idea where to get any adapters though, so I suppose that scuppered the plan.

Having picked up the idea that slow speeds were good for astrophotography, either from astronomy books or photo magazines, i began to take notice of the different types and levels of cameras and lenses, and also what they were used for.

I veered from an interest in one type of subject to another, such as macrophotography and sport etc. My interest also veered from camera to camera, starting off with multi-mode ones to shutter priority ones to manual ones. After a run-off between a Pentax MX an olympus OM1 and Nikon FM, I settled on wanting an FM because of its metal shutter, higher flash-sync speed and info in the viewfinder.

I had no chance of getting one though as I had little money.

Anyway, I suppose I finally got around to actually doing it and paying to have the film processed and printed as it's 'practical', a thing I can 'do' (not as in 'something I'm good at', I'm not) and 'images' that at least try to say something appeal to me. I think this latter reason is why silent films also appeal to me.
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Old 05-14-2018   #14
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It just happened to be one of my hobbies.
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Old 05-14-2018   #15
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I'm gonna just cop to a short answer. Photography massages my ego, feeds a desire to be creative and gives me a joyous sense of accomplishment at those moments when everything goes well.

There are other reasons but, really, those are enough.
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Old 05-14-2018   #16
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Why not?

Photography is stopping the time and keep the moment conserved.
There is soo much to discover in every moment.
Some are worth, others not so and some are missed.
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Old 05-14-2018   #17
shimokita
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the sins of my father...

Growing up my bedroom was previously my dad's darkroom which he moved to an ever expanding garage behind the house as his business grew. As a pre-teen I would accompany my dad on photo shoots and as a teenager I spent many happy hours in the dark... sometimes I take different photos than my dad, but some 60 odd years later I never lost the love for the process... 'baseball has been very good to me...'
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Old 05-14-2018   #18
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No idea. I've been working seriously with a camera since 1982, started making snapshots in 1969 when my grandfather gave me an old Brownie Hawkeye that had been my mothers. I too began as a painter, but found that as I was making photographs as reference for paintings I really loved the process of being in the darkroom more than the painting.

Photography gave me a good living for a long while, and even if it does not anymore I am still lugging a camera with me pretty much everywhere I go, and making pictures pretty much every day. I kinda need to do it, like some compulsion.

I've been going back through my B&W negative books, (76 binders worth) and revisiting negatives I never got printed as I wanted to. Wonderful fun. I'm in the darkroom most mornings, then have the afternoons for the maintenance of the apartment buildings I manage now. But always with the camera. It just became part of my daily existence back about thirty years ago and hasn't left.
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Old 05-14-2018   #19
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I needed something artsy and cheap to cover the nail holes in the walls. Looks a lot better than the newsprint that was there, but not everyone agrees on that.....everyone's a critic these days!
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Old 05-14-2018   #20
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I use photography to say something about us and our world - I create “visual essays”, I guess. I aim to exhibit my finished photographic projects in galleries - my images are simply a means of communication, so if people don’t see them, they lose their purpose.

When I started photography about a dozen years ago I simply took photos of things that caught my eye - landscapes, sunsets, people, animals, plants ... anything at all that made me look. After a couple of years I started to get bored. What was the point of my photos? What do I do with them? How many sunset photos do I really need?!

In fact, I almost gave up photography as a pointless pastime.

But then I got talking to an artist, and she saw something in my photos and persuaded me that I was going about photography all wrong. She told me to photograph ideas, not things. And she persuaded me to apply for an MA Photography degree - she said it would make all the difference. It did. (As an aside, the UK government subsidises degrees, so the MA cost only 4000 ($6000) - worth every penny!)

The way I work now is that something catches my attention. Usually not visual but a thought or fact - perhaps something I’ve read or heard. I may then photograph my thoughts.

An example is my “Insecta” project. I was looking at a collection of pinned butterflies and moths in a junk shop, all rather tattered and faded, the labels faded to illegibility, and I wondered about its history - that someone long ago dedicated their life to these insects, but their collection was now meaningless. Not only had it lost all the information it once had, even the person who created it had been forgotten.

So, I decided to photograph my pondering: that we try to organise the world around us - for example in natural history collections - but this is doomed to failure.

I spent several months researching - reading, writing, visiting museums... Eventually I decided how to do this photographically. It would be a still life project of about 100 photos, of old collections I found myself plus collections in the Booth Museum of Natural History - which kindly allowed me to explore their private store rooms. The end result would be gallery prints and an artist’s book.

The project statement that I worked to is:
The urge for humans to collect and classify is instinctual – a need to arrange the world around us into patterns, to form order from chaos. But time dissipates that which has been carefully hoarded; and it is this failure that fascinates me.

Dust and disintegration are the hallmarks of the fragments of insect collections depicted in my project “Insecta”. These creatures have died twice, first poisoned in killing jars, then turned by time into ruins. What remains are cul-de-sacs: their stored knowledge dissipated, their context lost.
Below is one of the 100 or so images, and also an installation shot in a gallery (the book is on the stand, and I created a sculpture too - a “cabinet of curiosities”).



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Old 05-14-2018   #21
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I had some aquariums I was serious about and one night awhile back I bought some CZJ microscopes off ebay. I was also using a few Sony p&s rigs with the aquarium hobby which led me to fast fifty Contax, ZI, Contaflex and rex, eventually to Nikon which was what I always circled for Santa as a kid.

My cameras today...a black Contaflex Super with a 50 and an 85, Anscoset Autoset, F2, Df...the gear aligns well with my evolution.

Photography gives me a lot of joy I guess.
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Old 05-14-2018   #22
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An artistic urge drives me. When I am photographing I look for something meaningful to fill the frame, and to isolate it from the wide, wide world (or to put it in context of the wide, wide world). When I am not photographing, I still look, but the urge for art is not satisfied - all I can do is explain it to someone else in words, and that never works.
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Old 05-14-2018   #23
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I suspect I differ from most here in that my goal is to convey information and influence thinking about unique and disappearing cultures.

Photography just seems to be to be my most effective communication tool.

I once had the motivation to photograph as many here seem to. But after about 10 years of giving it my best, I had to conclude that I was doing nothing significant and quit for about 12 years. I later restarted when I had some clearly defined communication objectives.
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Old 05-14-2018   #24
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I became interested in photography when I was a little kid, and Dad would be taking photos of the family while we were in the backyard, or on one of our infrequent trips to a state park. He had an Argus CC that he got during WWII, and every once in a while would show his Hawaii slides. Most of the family stuff he did on a Spartus Full Vue. But every once in a while when he got really serious, he'd break out the Argus C3. I'd look at it sitting on the fireplace mantle with all it's gearing, and think he had to be pretty good to handle a camera like that.

My own start began when I was taking a lithography class in high school. I first used a couple of Polaroid cameras, but wanted something more usable, with the ability to have a negative to make multiple prints from, so I bought an M42 system.

I took to it pretty quickly, and had thoughts of starting a career, but the military draft got in the way, and changed my plans. Still, I kept up with it, changing camera systems, and trying other formats. But by the time I got out of the service, I was mentally drained, and it was a long time before I got back into it.

After many years, and one more try at going pro, I settled on the premise that I could do it when I no longer had any priorities dictated by others. So now it's kind of like my therapy for dealing with what life throws my way, and since I've been retired, I can just up and say "It's too darn beautiful to be sitting around doing nothing.", then grab a camera and go.

So it's gone from fascination, to serious endeavor, and now to therapy, with a few lulls thrown in there. Quite a cycle to go through.

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Old 05-14-2018   #25
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I used to ride a motorcycle, mostly so I could work on its vintage engine. Same with the old Triumph TR3.
People ask if I like playing the guitar, but I know that I would much rather build a guitar than play one.
So...I take photos to rationalize buying neat old gear.
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Old 05-15-2018   #26
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Irbridge,

thank you very much for your comments and kind words.

I absolutely agree that Math is a form of Art. I have no doubt about it. That's one reasons why I love my work and keep soldiering after my retire. There are many other of course: in Math one knows what is wrong from what is right and there is a nice accumulation of knowledge that lacks, for example, in philosophy.

The great mathematician Paul R. Halmos wrote I wonderful paper about this subject, just to propose the thesis that Math is a form of Art. He kindly sent a copy to me, but at the spare of the moment I am not able to find it and give you a reference. Books and papers are submerging my house, to the point that it always difficult to retrieve a specific piece of paper.

At the same time I don't like to be too specialized. I feel that Science alone is not enough to realize my cultural aspirations. Science and humanities are expression of the same mankind, and I dream of an unified culture, where they move on hand in hand, as it was long time ago, when knowledge was confined enough to be mastered by a single man (Leonardo comes to my mind).

Each of them, Science and Art are half of the story, and I would not feel complete and accomplished unless I cultivate both of them at the same time.
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Old 05-15-2018   #27
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Also about Math I should mention the fascination of mystery and of the challenges that it poses, which sometimes last centuries.
People is afraid of mystery I think instead we should love it: it is one of the most beautiful aspects of human condition. And it provided me a wonderful job, that allowed me incidentally to get a living.
By the same token I believe that some extent of mystery improves a work of Art
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Old 05-15-2018   #28
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I do it because I have something to say that I can't say any other way. I am a photographer. I photograph professionally and have for well over 30 years. Mostly commercial/advertising type work. No weddings or family portraits. That part feeds the family, pays the bills, buys the equipment and is that base that makes everything possible. I also do personal work which is what feeds my soul. I do believe without the personal side of it I would have been burned out years ago because the work I do professionally is not mine. It is ultimately the clients and often collaborations with other visual professionals. My personal work is all mine so I have something that reflects me. Nobody else.

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