letters to a young photographer (part one: edited for clarity)
- What advice would you give me—as far as taking pictures goes—as I depart for Thailand on Friday? I am hoping to have minimal "should have" and "could have" moments when I come back, and to prevent these, I've been thinking ahead a lot about what I want to focus on…—Maria
- 1. I would suggest you reconsider using the phrase "taking pictures" and possibly replace it with "making pictures". In the final analysis, you are the author of your photographs and your personal viewpoint in a single image or series of images is of principle concern in the interest of effective storytelling value. Mostly, there are in between moments in photography and the division between these and the matter of successful evocative imagery may be the made up in the passing of a fraction of a second and in the movement of a fraction of an inch to the right or left, up or down.
- 2. Remember that light and all it's qualities are the basis of photography and without there are no pictures (or at least no successful pictures). Always consider the lighting; your subject(s) gesture and their rhythm; the relationship between figure and ground; the moment when these elements relate best in the interest of the story—with care.
- 3. Don't over think things. Simply witness, respond and calmly cover the scene from as many valuable angles as possible. Always find pictures from far away, near and in the in-between—this means many overall angles, details and medium-distance vantage points. Seek out all the visceral angles that might best tell a given story.
- 4. Work predominantly in even lighting situations and avoid distracting elements of formal dissonance or hi-key color such as blown-out highlights in your frame. Recompose to avoid items of stark contrast where they detract from the subject. First find the "safe" photographs and craft them well, then diverge from there. Always photograph using the full-frame and experiment copiously. Watch your edges.
- 5. Do not censor yourself. If you find something which captures your interest, slow down and stay with it for it may not be revealed again. Trust your intuition.
- 6. Be mindful of cultural ritual, influence and tradition. Learn the language and use it with respect and good humor. Work to portray your subjects with both dignity and honor—keep this in your heart and they should notice. Be patient.
- 7. Never carry fear or anxiety with you—yet be mindful and careful of your immediate environment—watchful toward what is to come. Find fascination in your surroundings, be curious about everything in the capacity of your senses and ask of your experience many questions. Slow down. Look to the periphery. Always remember to breathe deeply as this simple act will find you all the more relaxed and aware in your surroundings.—Seth Butler
moving forward giving back
Photograph © Copyright Christian Bobst. All Rights Reserved.
Just before the holidays I received a stunning 8 x 10 print of a photograph by former Momenta Workshops student Christian Bobst which I had recently purchased for a close friend as a holiday gift from Nuru Project.
The concept of Nuru Project is beautiful and quite simple really, they split the revenue from all their print sales with a number of non-profit partners and photographers alike, a real win-win scenario.
catalyst for social change
Nuru project is a very accessible way to collect photography—print costs start at only $50 USD—while also directly supporting contributing photographers and positive change through non-profits simultaneously. Non-profits receive 50%, photographers receive 25%, and Nuru Project keeps 25% to cover all printing costs, so a full 50% of the sale of a print goes to the non-profit and a full 25% goes to the photographer.
Currently, Nuru Project supports the following non-profit partners which can be chosen to benefit from your purchase:
- Acumen Fund
- Architecture for Humanity
- Malaria No More
- Millennium Promise
- Partners In Health
- Pencils of Promise
opportunity to reciprocate
Not only can documentary photographers and photojournalist support causes they believe in and discuss in their own work through Nuru Project, but collecting quality photography becomes more accessible to the public. Another exciting feature of the Nuru Project concept is that it allows both photographers, collectors and lovers of photography to support a good cause and have ownership of photographs they might not otherwise be able to afford through the traditional fine art marketplace.
There is also a “back story” document which accompanies each photographic print, so you can connect with the photographer’s intent and have documentation of the art and non-profit benefactor as well. Moving forward in this new year, we should all consider ways to give back a little more, while supporting artists and good causes alike in order to achieve more positive impact in our world.
absence in our presence
For over three years Ashley Gilbertson has been investigating the less than tangible affects of war through a body of work focused on the bedrooms of deceased U.S. soldiers left intact by their families. In this work Bedrooms of the Fallen, Gilbertson seeks to explore the effects of war from a nuanced standpoint while paying homage to the lives of the fallen.
Discussing the work, Gilbertson states “…This is the closest I’ve ever got to explaining to people—who haven’t experienced what I have—what war is”. Indeed, the body of images achieves a haunting success by quietly distilling everything—the ultimate personal effects of war, the null potential of lost lives, the details left behind, the loved ones who bare witness—into the thinning air of absence that ultimately encompasses bereavement. From an individual and grippingly honest standpoint, Gilbertson further discusses some indisputably humane ideas in his recent interview The Consequences of War regarding Bedrooms of the Fallen in VII Magazine.
When viewing this work in the context of his interview with VII Magazine, another message becomes clear through Gilbertson’s discussion of how the attention deficits of our society and our media neglect to consider the long term personal, psychological and emotional fallout of our war theater. By closely coupling these quietly powerful photographs with the striking personal standpoint of the photographer, a further question might be posed: Have we come closer in turning the corner from medium is the message to the messenger is the media?
(Originally published on the APAD blog in Summer 2010)