What kind of photographer are you?
A few days ago my son and I went on the famous Caminito del Rey walk in Andalusia.
It was once the world’s most dangerous walk, tiny walkways clinging to the hills with 100-metre drops, but after the renovations, it now offers stunning views across beautiful gorges and valleys. It was fun walking over the moving walkways and feeling the deep stillness of nature.
Of course, I want to record the beauty we experienced, so most of the photos today are from this walk.
Di and I are working on a post about the colour blue (coming hot on the heels of our blog about the colour purple.)
I am a great lover of colour. I talk about it all the time. Almost as much as I talk about how much I love light (and we’ve had great discussions over on our online course about colour these past few weeks.)
In our explorations around the colour blue, we’ve been reading about the artist Yves Klein.
Klein was obsessed with creating the purest blue that had ever existed, so he created his own – called ‘International Klein Blue’. This blue doesn’t absorb green or red light, and so keeps an intensity of blue that he felt hadn’t existed before.
It’s a super fascinating story – and there have been many other artists and people who have wanted to bring the purest colour into fruition in the world.
People get very passionate about colour.
Anish Kapoor, for example, received a lot of flack for buying the exclusive rights to the technology of the ‘blackest black’ called Vantablack. A fellow artist retaliated by producing Pinkest Pink, which he said anyone could buy, except Anish Kapoor.
I discovered the art-fight issue and Yves Klein’s obsession in a very interesting essay by Simon Schama, which includes the story of the Forbes Pigment Collection. I had no idea that there was such obsessiveness about pursuing the potential of colour.
So while we were reading these cool, interesting stories on our journey to learn more about the colour blue, Di came across this quote from Yves Klein:
“May all that emerges from me be beautiful.”
She said – That sounds like something you would say.
And I thought it is. Beauty for me seems to be my primary motivation in taking photos.
We all have a vision of what we want to do with our photography. I have always, always simply wanted to show the world the beautiful things I see.
Of course, beauty for me is my perception of beauty. Other people will have a totally different perception.
It got me thinking about how we when we write about other photographers – Richard Avedon or Ernst Haas, for example – they have seemed to have an overriding purpose to express something quite specific. There seems to be a singular vision that weaves its way into all of their work.
We all see ourselves and our journeys differently as photographers.
This is one of the things we love about writing about other photographers. So I wanted to pick out some of my favourite photographers and tell you what they themselves said was their motivation for taking photos.
Let’s start with Ara Güler, whom we wrote about recently: “They call me a photographer, imagine that! Son, I am a historian. I record history.”
And then, for me, Ernst Haas shows how photographers can be poets:
“Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view.
Without touching my subject I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken.
Without a descriptive caption to justify its existence, it will speak for itself – less descriptive, more creative; less informative, more suggestive; less prose, more poetry.”
If I am to align myself to any one vision – it would be that of Haas. Because, for me, the world is so much about light, colour, shape, motion, feeling and texture. That is what I experience when I step out into the world.
With Elliott Erwitt it becomes about noticing the strange and wonderful things we humans do…
“You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.” Elliott Erwitt
Even though he is famous for being a war photographer, Don McCullin wants now to be remembered as a landscape photographer. What I like is his philosophy that:
“Every day to me is an opportunity is to discover something new, not just about myself but about the planet that I live on.” Don McCullin
The power of remembering, that we can all be explorers, discovering things even if it’s in our own backyard.
Gordon Parks captured powerful images that carry messages about social justice and humanity. I think photography can often be a more impactful medium than writing in many ways:
“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.” Gordon Parks
We can also use photography as a way to bring life into complete focus:
“Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.” Berenice Abbott
Or to tell stories….
Sebastião Salgado said: “I’m not an artist. An artist makes an object. Me, it’s not an object, I work in history, I’m a storyteller.”
Or to comment or express what we are seeing in the world, and reformulate it with our own ideas…
“We’re all products of what we want to project to the world. Even people who don’t spend any time, or think they don’t, on preparing themselves for the world out there – I think that ultimately they have for their whole lives groomed themselves to be a certain way, to present a face to the world.” Cindy Sherman
Personally, I feel I am an artist. That is the ‘label’ I identify with the most. I think because it feels then like I have more licence to just create with my imagination. To not be confined. But really, labels are not significant. It’s your passion that counts.
I can find beauty in nature, in people, in buildings but also in the trash on the street or in broken and peeling walls – I often find it in grafetti.
I don’t see beauty everywhere – but there is the possibility to see it in anything.
I want to ask you now: what do you want to speak about in your photography? What is motivating and inspiring you?
I’d love to know if you’ve thought about what moves you. What gets you excited to take photos?
Is it something you are conscious of?
I’d love to know – tell us below.
We’ll be back in a few days with our exploration into the colour blue.
Now – I’ll leave you with one last quote, which made us quite happy:
“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.” Gordon Parks
Have a really great day, and happy photographing,
Anthony and Diana