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2014, Photography

photography, photograph, Rijksmuseum, art, paintings, Nachtwacht, people, light, shadow, light and shadows, wouter brandsma

I haven’t vanished. I haven’t stop blogging. And I haven’t stop photographing. When I started this year I was certain that I wasn’t going to work with a new years resolution. My photography and expectations might have changed, and for some it really did. For the better or worse. It all leaves me with doubts. I need to remind myself that I do this all for me and for a dear friend who supports me with my photography since 2007.

But truth be told that I never was so close to pulling the plug then last holidays season. The extreme doubts took their place and almost did their harm, but I couldn’t just make that happen. Talking with my friends helped me to realize that it wasn’t all for nothing. Maybe I’m too concerned about my legacy, too concerned about my intentions, my directions.. Some say you do it all for yourself, but I think that is not really fair anymore. I mean, I realize that others appreciate my photography and writing. But I like to able to change and develop without constrains. And sometimes I led the pressure add unwanted constrains.

I notice that some years the photography goes up and that other years you really struggle. It was intense in our family in the past, but we’ve made such an incredible progress. Photographically speaking 2012 was a turmoil. I stopped my photo a day project in the spring when it really felt like a mirror to me. I did the photography series for Pentax Ricoh in preparation for Photokina and I finished of with my own photo book Saudade. It felt like a closing chapter. It all likely affected my photography. And who says photography can’t be self-reflective?

Last year felt like a year of starting all over again. And start-ups go with ups and downs I guess. And when I did the interview with Don Springer for the photography online magazine Inspired Eye I questioned whether I was a photographer. In David Hurn and Bill Jays book I read the quote: “You are not a photographer, because you are interested in photography.” And that summed it up how I really felt.

Despite not having any resolutions I am trying to figure out how to continue with my photography. The photographs you normally see posted on my blog are not necessarily part of a project. They meander for me like a stream of consciousness. When working on my book I learned that it felt truly liberating to go through my work. And for this year I like to keep more time free between photographing now and the editing. I want to sift through my previous work now and maybe present them in a more unified matter on my blog. I know the project mind helps many, but works counterproductive for me. Sure a lot of projects can be meaningful and important to some, but I tend to filter these like the continuous feeds of information on TV or the internet. Unless the photographs really captures me. I just get out and see what comes up. Remember that what draws your attention is very much related to how you feel at that moment.

photography, photograph, Rijksmuseum, art, paintings, people, light, shadow, light and shadows, wouter brandsma

The same could be applied on story telling too. Should all serious photography be story stelling? Should a photograph tell a story? Photographs can be interesting too in my opinion when a series of photographs are well thought sequenced without telling a story. And maybe these photographs might still be perceived as a fictional story by the viewer and that is also the strength of images. The truth is in the eye of the beholder.

So you see, why bother about how others should photograph? Instead remain curious and keep asking questions instead of defining the rules and requirements. Changes will still happen anyway, no matter how hard you try to defend your current understanding of the medium. Ansel Adams once said: “No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” The role of art has largely changed in my opinion. Some dislike the “self-role” in art (and photography) and think it needs to be there for a greater good. And in the past this certainly used to be so. Now, “you” have become important. The stage has become smaller, while the means to share have become more universal. What you make is what you think is relevant and it may well differ from what others think.

I might photograph on a daily basis, but in the end week not have more than 35 photographs. Often less. It reminded of what Don wrote in his blog post: “Don, why do you need 70 rolls of film that you can’t afford so easily to make 3 photos? Don’t answer! Just think about a possible answer.” Read the rest here. Don’t let others fill in the answers for you, but question yourself and others to move forward.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Reality or imagination

2010, Photography

Reality or imagination, for me that is the question. I haven’t been rambling for a while, but some things kind of really struck my in the perception and execution of photography, in particular with amateur photography. So please remember that this is just merely my own thinking.

Often you hear and read how important reality is to people. Photographers say the camera (or film) should give accurate, neutral and realistic colors. Photographs must be tack sharp, because the lens should get sharp photographs. Shallow depth of field is fully overrated, hate bokeh, and who needs it anyway to make good pictures?

For instance last night I read at a forum: “Only real pros go to such dark places and like to blur their backgrounds to hide the surroundings . Us mere mortals like to see clearly what’s in the pictures. I know it’s crass…”. Well believe me, I find such remarks crass. I really do. Maybe huge depth of field, tack sharp fore- and background, and neutral colors records an accurate photograph of a moment (or basically a snapshot in my opinion). But in my opinion also only that, a record. Like a witness.

I believe the essence of good photography is to leave enough space for imagination. Photography is already so close to reality, unlike painting or drawing. With painting and drawing you can leave behind anything that forms a distraction and only paint or draw that what is necessary so the viewer will be forced to imagine the story, the setting, the reason of the art piece. And the viewer is likely affected by their own perception as well. We all have our own interpretation of reality so does the viewer recognize the subject or scene? Do the colors match the colors we remember and can relate to (stoplight is red, grass is green, etc.)?

Especially amateur photographers have so much more freedom in photography than professionals. Only we, and not the clients, set the requirements for our photography. We have more freedom to experiment, to challenge our creativity. It is however something most don’t do or hardly try. And when they actually do it, they hardly understand that they are doing it. Many don´t use the `rules` (hate that word) as freely interpretable guidances. They seem to treasure it as the law. Technical limitations like gear or knowledge set the borders for their photography and when they want to push further many will likely buy them self new gear.

Imagery is like depicting on a subject and leaving room for interpretations. Basically a form of isolating. The more we add, the harder that becomes. When the subject matters to you, photograph only the subject. When the subject and surroundings matter to you, than add some of the surroundings, but only just some what is needed. When you want the viewer to trigger their imagination, only photograph a particular detail of the subject (a photograph of a woman´s leg will likely trigger your imagination how the woman might actually look like, a photograph of a beautiful woman less).

There are several compositional and technical methods to work on that. You can play with the height of the horizon. Where to place the subject in your composition. Black and white photography, Wider angle for open spaces and layers, or longer focal lengths for compressing the scene. Getting close or keeping distance. And shallow depth of field to isolate the subject. Try to study photographs from people you admire or work that inspires you. See how much is needed to tell a story, to create an interesting photograph.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma