Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vision Incarnate

I read a sample chapter in duChemin's book, VisionMongers, and it got me thinking about photographic vision, craft, and equipment.

Twenty years ago, in discussions on the internet news group, "", I was involved in a conversation about "art" and "expression" in photography.  At the time I was using a collection of used film cameras in various formats and was developing my own film and printing my own images in my darkroom.  I was dismayed at the number of photographers for whom the photographic equipment seemed to be the focus of their interest, rather than the vision and communication involved with the pictures produced.  I said something like: "Equipment shouldn't be so important, an artist's vision will transcend the medium used to express that vision."

Lately, I've been shooting photographs with modern 35mm digital SLR cameras and have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about equipment, more than I used to.  I have a camera body that gives me a digital image containing 21 million pixels and some of the very finest lenses, I have autofocus, autoexposure, auto color balance, all kinds of tools to help make my life easier.  I worry that I've become too distracted by the technology I use to express myself.  I do feel that I'm making some good photographs, and the technology helps make them easier to capture, but part of me still harkens back to the artist who can make art with whatever materials are at hand.  Sigh.

So, I recently got a new cell phone and it has a camera in  it.  The camera is fixed focus, fixed focal length (3mm), allows the user to have some control over exposure and white balance, probably has a fixed aperture (f/2.8), and an unknown shutter speed.  The images contain about 1,300,000 pixels.  This got me thinking about trying, as others have done, to limit myself to this little camera (not all the time, though, I'm not that much of an artist!) to see what happens.

In my last set of images posted to my web site, I have a photograph of an old school bus rusting away in a field in New Mexico that got me thinking about why I took the image.  I decided that I liked thinking of the idea of all the years that school bus delivered children to school, probably in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  Who where those people?  What experiences did they have on the bus?  Where are they now?  It's like a little piece of history, one that nobody writes about in history books.

Today, I walked over to a nearby neighborhood park that I know is very well used and looked at the playground equipment and thought again about the history, how many children had slid down the big slide and where are they now.  There is evidence of many coats of paint on that old slide that have been warn off by all the little hands gripping the  rails, the bed of the slide is smooth and shiny from regular use but when I was there, nobody was around.

Here is an image, taken with my cell phone looking down that slide, post processed in photoshop to make it black and white.  As ever, click on the picture to see the larger version.

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