Friday, December 2, 2016

Thoughts on Photography.



Russian photographer A. Lapin delivered lectures on photography to various student groups.
I would like to highlight the following points.

1. The mystery of the flat image.

People communicate with words. This is verbal communication, where every word is a sign. For example when you hear the word “a tree”, you understand what kind of object it is.
This sign indicates a huge number of objects of any level of abstraction.
The visual vocabulary contains as many words as there are trees on earth.





And this is the difference between the visual vocabulary and the verbal vocabulary.

A photograph cannot become a sign because every image is individual and unique.

Structure or shape, color or even mood distinguishes one tree from another.
And there are different moments every time. For example, the wind blew, something has changed, and it makes a lot of sense.

Things are complicated by the fact that in the visual vocabulary there are as many words as there are objects. But in fact things are enriched by this fact.
 Photography is able to reproduce details of objects better, more precisely than other forms of art. Photography emphasizes individual features of objects.

Photography is unique. At this moment the woman looks this way. In the next moment anything can change and she will look completely different.

Photography is motionless and static. Time in the image doesn’t flow and nothing will change. But photography is needed time “to be read” and to be understood. You look at the photograph where nothing has changed, and you find something new – new nuances. Unlike the theatre and cinema where time is flowing, photography is contemplation. 

Photography is more like poetry than anything else. There is the harmony of words (rhyme) in poetry and there is the similarity of objects in photography.

It is impossible to analyze the photo only through the visual narrative. It’s not about “what?” It’s about “how?”

The key word in art is “as if”.
The actor was “killed” on stage…he stood up and bowed. It was “as if” he was killed.

Our eyes see a flat sheet of paper (a photograph). This is visual perception. But our brain creates life in it. We think with analogy, trying to complete flatness to space. In the image we see a part of real life with its real roads, sky, clouds, and so on. This is logical perception. This is good. And this is bad. One kind of perception could win. Or they could reach an agreement. We need both approaches when we analyze an image.

2. Photography, literature and painting.

The writer does not find it necessary to pass on details of appearance or clothes. We, readers, have to guess other details, we fantasize. But we know what had happened in the past and what will happen the next moment. You will not see the moments of past of future in the photograph.
Time is flowing in literature, theatre or movies. There’s a story, a narrative there.

A photograph could not “tell” a story. Then a fantasy appears. If a photograph affects you, penetrates your soul, but you do not understand what happens, you’ll create your own version. Every viewer will create his (her) own version. And it’s okay. The main thing is that the picture affected them.

When photography appeared, photographers announced emergence of a new art form. But other people, especially painters, objected. They told that it was the mechanical process, optical process, which was not an art form. They told that art was always a fantasy, a fiction, even a lie. They told that photography had no dignity.

But photography could become an art form, with imagination and fiction.
You will remember a photograph when you see something unusual, something unfamiliar. But a photograph will affect your soul when it has a hidden mystery, an unsolved problem. And a photograph will affect your soul with its beauty. 

Painting should have nothing superfluous. And there are often a lot of unnecessary details in photography.


3. The specificity of photography.

The specificity of photography comes from the primacy of the realism (if it’s not fine art photography).
Photography is very meticulous. We see every hair, every knot. This is an excess of information. We do not need this information, if we are not detectives.

Thanks to this excess, high accuracy, authenticity a photograph becomes a document.
We do not need this excess to understand the image. There are principal and secondary objects in photograph. We need principle objects to understand the image.
The language of photography is the language of the moment.


4. The possibilities of photography.

Photography is a time machine which allows navigating to the past, not the future. Photography doesn’t demonstrate the future. Photography demonstrates the past. And this is the meaning of photography. Nostalgia.

Thanks to photography we are able to see things which we’ll never see in reality.

Photography is a way to remember the history of mankind.

Photography is the evidence of something important in life.

Photography is able to think…
to lie…
to sympathize…
to regret…
to demonstrate beauty…
to laugh…


Photography demonstrates the level of greatness or insignificance of the photographer himself.

Photography shows us things, invisible for our eyes.

Photography freezes the movement.

Photography is able to show the tragic moments.

Photography is the study of life. And this is the main purpose for photography.


5. What we see on the photograph.

Photography helps us to make discoveries.  Usually we are in a hurry. We are running here and there.
We do not look, we do not explore, we do not contemplate.
 We do not notice any leaf on the tree or the tree itself.
Treat photography like music. Strike a false note and all that we've worked for will be lost.


6. What to shoot.

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph”. Alfred Stieglitz

You can take pictures of anything you want, if there is light. It does not depend on the weather. It depends on your state.
Photography is not a profession; it’s a state of your soul. Even if you feel out of things, take your camera and go shooting.
A ballerina performs exercises at the ballet class for 8 hours every day to dance on the stage for 5 minutes.
A pianist plays ten hours a day to develop his skills. A photographer needs to train his eyes to find the best light, to frame shots and so on.


Thank you for reading!
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