Sunday, November 10, 2013

HOW does a photographer construct the view?

From the work we produced for the mini movie "Constructing the View" we tried to decompose and recompose the photos to illustrate and highlight what we loved about those pictures and what made them so powerful - the sky's reflection in the car's ceiling, the movement of characters and objects, the hat, etc. The Winogrand sketch we did puts the viewer in the place of Winogrand exactly at the moment when the people walking towards him are framed by the business man to the left and the man looking straight at the camera to the right, exactly when he decide to take the picture.

 Gary Winogrand - New York - 1968

My idea is to continue the process we started through the film about how and what the photographer implemented to capture a great photo. 

Time: What did he think at the time? Was it carefully prepared in advance of the picture being taken or was it thanks to "the decisive moment" Henri Cartier-Bresson talks about?
 Henri Cartier-Bresson - Derrière la Gare Saint-Lazare - Paris - 1932

Composition: How much do you keep in the frame how much do you have in focus? What does he want to highlight? How does he construct, through porportions, objectivity or flatness? What made him select a certain frame from another?

The Mental Level: How the photographer through is art impacts on the viewer's impressions and emotions? What he leaves out of the frame for the imagination? What are the photographer's intention when taking the picture?

Michael Woolf - Tokyo Compression 75 - Tokyo - 2010

I base the structure of my anlysis on sub-titles seen through the semester but to look more carefully at the photographer's process. Photographers have multiple methods and tools to create impact on the viewer. I want to research what decisions were made and what approach were taken to create Art through photography.

Looking Through A Bigger Camera

27-alec-soth-blog480.jpg (480×337)
The photographer Alec Soth using an 8-by-10 film camera.

Photographers usually start off with a small format camera, 35 mm, then acquire more lenses moving towards the medium format. What happens when you move to the large format view camera? How as a photographer is your 'seeing' of the world changed? Do you become more considerate of the image you will produce or are you simply just looking for a better quality of photo at a larger scale?

With the large format the photographer carries the heavy equipment to site. Then takes precious time to set up the camera. Looking under a black cloak at an inverted image the scene is considered. The image is not instant as a digital will be. The ground glass shows you a preview of the image but its not final. The photographer judges what exposure is right and waits for 'the decisive moment' (Cartier-Bresson).

Stephen Shore in 'Uncommon Places'  was, at first intention, attempting to recapture 'American Surfaces' only this time in full colour and with better equipment. Yet he almost immediately found that this new equipment forced him to carry out his process in a different way.

"The view camera forces conscious decision making. You can't sort of stand somewhere, it is exactly where you want to be... So what happens is that you develop a kind of taste for certainty'.

Stephen Shore - Main Street, Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, August 18, 1974

Edward Burtynsky in Manufactured Landscapes tells in an interview how it slowed him down, made him methodical in his study and search for the image. How he sees himself in the final image.

"It's a contemplative approach. You find your way to the image slowly. ...I looked upon the ground glass the same way you might look at a blank canvas - a space to be filled. The beauty of it was that it filled so quickly and with such exquisite detail."

Ansel Adams in 'The Camera' suggests this contemplative nature of the view camera. he also comments on the way in which you take the photo. Like the opening image of Alec Soth the photographer can be in isolation from the world around him while giving complete attention to the image in front of him.

"With a smaller camera we see the subject through
a viewfinder, and release the shutter at the desired moment of exposure.
A view camera favors a far more contemplative approach,
partly because it is slower to operate... In addition
we see the image on a ground-glass screen that is in precisely the
same position the film will occupy when we are ready for exposure."

Ansel Adams - Yosemite Park
The detail a 4 x 5 or 8 x 10 format camera gives is the most impressive compared with medium format or 35 mm. Maybe this is why photographers move to a large format. Shore did this, he realised he didn't have to be as direct with what the subject was.

'Especially if I'm photographing an intersection, I don't have to have a single point of emphasis in the picture. It can be complex, because its so detailed that the viewer can take time and read it; they can pay attention to allot more.'

I want to investigate this affect, if indeed there is one, of the large format camera has on the psyche of the photographer. In an age where images are capture and instantly available is it a version of “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (Robert Capa) or is there still a place for the slow process of the 'Bigger Camera'.