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Every Photograph Has a Story: The Photograph Itself, The Photographer’s and The Viewers’: Some of the prints available on the website include the story behind them.  For example,  “The Carnival Stopped” is from one of the “Roadside America” trips along Virginia’s eastern shore where I was regularly exiting the highway to check out the villages, sea marsh and fishing boats.  In Wachapreague, Virginia, population 230, the fishing boats were either all out at work or gone forever. I am not sure.  The docks and handling facilities appeared to be in a state of disrepair, worn out or shut down.  But there at the corner of Atlantic Rd. and Ice Plant Street, was the carnival. Not a soul to be seen.  But there it was…a carnival stopped – a place of fun and community gathering but a little eery and ghost-like.  Much like the fishing town itself.

In Henry Carroll’s new book, “Photographers on Photography, How the Masters See, Think & Shoot,”  I was struck by this quote:

“When a person looks at a photograph you’ve taken, they will always think of themselves”    Jason Fulford

Henry Carroll in is commentary notes, “right after we interpret the literal aspects of the image…we enter into a second, much personal meaning.  The second reading is informed by elements such as our memories, personal experiences, tastes and cultural backgrounds…this second reading is unpredictable and entirely outside the photographer’s control.  For Fulford, this gap between what is pictured and what it might mean is where photographs come alive”

There is an image on the website whose owner described it “art that stirs his soul.”  For yet another owner, their print has an intimate feeling, and a nostalgic tone with a sense of timelessness. It is their views that give the images meaning and excitement.

In a related story from Artsy about Keith Haring, they note,

“The quickest way to kill your art, according to Haring, is to rigidly define it. “There is no need for definition,” he wrote. “Definition can be the most dangerous, destructive tool the artist can use when he is making art for a society of individuals.” That’s not to say an artist can’t have certain concepts or themes in mind when creating an artwork. But the “artist’s ideas are not essential to the art as seen by the viewer.…The viewer does not have to be considered during the conception of the art, but should not be told, then, what to think or how to conceive it or what it means.”
This idea went hand in hand with his belief that artists should consider more than just the art world. “The viewer should be able to look at art and respond to it without wondering whether he ‘understands’ it. It does not aim to be understood! Who ‘understands’ any art?.…Nobody knows what the ultimate meaning of my work is because there is none.…It exists to be understood only as an individual response.”
 

Bringing Images to Life with Real Meaning: It is these kinds of personal reflections that turn the literal stories behind the images into your art.  That is what brings an image to life and gives it real meaning.

 

I’ve been reading Henry Carroll’s new book, “Photographers on Photography, How the Masters See, Think & Shoot”.  He takes a look at the influential figures from past and present who pushed photography forward. Through a selection of quotations, photographs and interviews he offers insights into the minds of masters and examines the approach to the craft and what matters.  His U.K. publishers have a blog post with some lovely excerpts which feature a selection of images from the book that serve as brief introductions to the big ideas and collective viewpoints on thought-provoking photography.  The book is a great read.

Rather than a chronological storyline, the book is organized around thoughts about photography by photographers.  It is a sort of an introduction and examination of the philosophical aspects of photography using quotes, iconic images and Carroll’s own commentary.   There is no delineation by chapter of which specific philosophical underpinnings of photography are being explored (rather the book “chapters” are simply a list of the photographers by name).  While Carroll’s selection of quotes and commentary leads you on a path, he leaves the interpretations open to the reader.  In this respect the book is like a series of thought starters for you about how you think about and view photographs. While I am still reading the book and continuing to digest it, here are some of my takeaways on some of the perspectives offered in the book:

  1. The camera as machine…and the linkage between man, emotion, art and a machine
  2. Pictures, photographs, prints and the parameters around each of them
  3. Photographic consumption and the digital world we live in today
  4. The image as a reality, a selected segment of reality, a past or an emotion and how these combinations may inter-relate
  5. The diversity of photographers’ views of their own image making (i.e. photographs are taken as a whim, to feature a subject or to say something more).  Is the photographer driven by the making of a political statement, reporting and/or emotional expression?
  6. What and/or who gives a photograph meaning: the photographer? the subject? and/or the viewer? or the context?  This was discussed for fully in my email newsletter, in case you want to subscribe to future emails for commentary about photography, and even some special offerings that are available to subscribers. Subscribe on my the bottom at the contact page 
  7. The power of photography…or not

Be prepared…the book forces you to think and often raises more questions than answering them.  In some cases you flip a page and the next page contradicts the page before it….it forces you to think about the different perspectives and approaches to photography.

This is a great book. It is an enjoyable, thought-provoking, informative read that takes you into the world of thinking about photography for collectors and photographers.

Here’s a video of Henry Carroll talking about the book…his challenges putting it together and what it is all about.  Enjoy the video.  Enjoy the book.