I get routinely asked by people to teach them photography and even though I usually used to decline politely, it seems I will likely start conducting photography workshops in the near future. And before I start doing that, I wanted to explain to my future students that while I can never actually teach them technical aspects of photography, I hope to introduce them to the philosophy of photography. Because I am not a technical guy, I am a hopeless romantic and a philosopher, who would rather wonder at nature’s miracle unfolding before his eyes than worry about the aperture or shutter speed!
Fact also is I do not bore myself with technicalities of photography, since as long as you get the philosophy and romance right, everything just falls into place and you get what you’re looking for.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t learn technical aspects, for those are important as well and can be easily be learnt from YouTube and technical manuals on the web and in printed form. However being a technically proficient photographer just means you will be able to get the correct exposure and the correct effect for the scene, but not the image which can stand apart from millions of others on the web. If that is what you’re trying to achieve, then I believe you will be better served by browsing technical videos on YouTube than attending photography workshops.
Because at least in my view, real benefit of attending a photography workshop of a photographer you look up to is to be able to understand their philosophy, story and emotion behind the image you loved, rather than just to learn the technical details present in EXIF.
Because imagining an image in your head is far more important than monkeying around with settings for the supposed perfect exposure, because perfection is neither attractive nor romantic, so avoid it like the plague it is and focus on the drama and the emotions instead.
In fact I would go to the extent of saying that photography is a lot like falling in love, because when you fall in love, you do not see or rather choose to completely disregard other person’s imperfections, faults and other worldly things and you concentrate on the aspect that is most important, love. Because love is what creates poetry, love is what inspires people to write epics and love is what inspires artists to create art that has no parallel in the world. Because love cannot be defined or measured, it is an unrelenting, unbridled and unequivocal form of human emotion and that is what photography should be.
Those who understand what I mean, please join in when I start my photography workshops.
Very rightly put 🙂
**I miss the ‘Like’ button on your blog!
Thanks Rajiv 🙂
very excellently put into words..
Thank you Swati
Awesome! You spoke my heart, YS! Bang on!!
Thanks Harish :).
I completely disagree with the premise of your article. Your premise is that philosophy can be taught. First, I would like to ask what do you mean by ‘philosophy of photography’? When you say Photography is like love and you ignore other person’s imperfections, do you mean to say just because you like a badly composed and badly shot picture, it can still make you fall in love just because you took it? Photography is art and science. Science is getting those settings right and Art is composition. If you stick to this theory, you will never improve yourself.
My friend had sent me the link to your blog. I think he followed your blog after review of a few things. I feel sorry for people who will sign up for your workshops. Instead of learning something good, they will be wasting their time. What are you gonna teach them? Will they be writing poems for their camera?
Rosie, I have nowhere said that I will teach philosophy, I said I will introduce them to philosophy of photography. Both are different things, since all I can hope to do is convey to others, what my philosophy is, so that they can understand that it takes much more than settings to create an image and at the end of the day, start working on their own philosophy and their own style of photography, rather than mimicking others!
I have also said that technical aspects are important; however they are not as important as philosophy i.e. story telling is lot more important than getting a sharp and perfectly exposed image or as Ansel Adams would say, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” Ideally you would like to have a sharp image of a clear concept, but a soft image of a clear concept can be any day preferred over just a sharp image of fuzzy concept.
It is up to those who attend my workshops to determine, whether or not they have taken away something at the end of the day and by stating up front what I have to offer, I hope those who attend them, will know what they are getting into. If they do not, I wouldn’t be in business for long. And at least I do not anything for short term.
Oh! I am sorry. You never said you will teach anything. Just “introduce them to philosophy of photography”. What is that even supposed to mean? Are you talking about composition? Because how you describe it, it sounds like composition. You have just given it a ridiculous name ‘philosophy of photography’. It’s composition.
Talking about concept, who decides what concept is good and what’s bad? Can you give me an example of ‘fuzzy concept’?
“Ideally you would like to have a sharp image of a clear concept, but a soft image of a clear concept can be any day preferred over just a sharp image of fuzzy concept.” This sounds like what a person happy with his mediocrity would say. It is like saying, I am a great student overall because I fail in Maths and not literature.
Anyways, good luck to you and people who are commenting giving you kudos. In this day and age even mediocrity is celebrated and followed.
Who said anything about composition?
Like I said, this is for those who understand what I am talking about and are receptive to it, not people who just view photography as set of techniques, rules and scientific formulas.
The interesting chain of arguments here inspire me to add to the conversation.
Photography could mean a lot of things, in a lot of ways. It’s like comparing Rembrandt’s work with Picasso. Both have immensely different styles and approach to a subject. But at the ground level of visual aesthetics, both of them, all of them, fall back on the backbone of any visual/performing art- the composition.
A composition consisting of color, shapes, forms, lines, space and the rest. Now what makes a composition? Your thought. What you want to convey. What you want to hide. What you want to be dominant. In essence, what will visually represent the story going on in your head.
So what I think is technical know-how is extremely important to have. Like learning how to form sentences.
Now what you do with those sentences is whats going to determine your work. Then, you create a real photograph with motive behind it, with meaning behind it.
You need to know how to get that blur at what speed to show the motion that that image demands, or what aperture to be at to justifiably capture the grandeur beauty of the endless layers of the Himalayas. You need to know how to compensate for the low light, what cards to have so you don’t miss the moment, what would be too under or over exposed to process. Unless you know all this in advance, you might just not know how to form the sentence to express those beautiful words you thought of just now.
I completely agree with you on the point that technical aspects of photography is better learnt on Youtube. What needs to be learnt is how to develop our concepts into an image. How to say what we have to say. And before that, how to have something to say.
The ‘Why’ of taking an image should come before ‘How’. And sometimes, the why can be as basic as ‘It was pretty’ and you capture that particular moment (nothing wrong with that, you have your personal satisfaction of capturing a beautiful time of your life), or it can be ‘this represents- this, that’s why’ and it can be a masterpiece.
The ‘why’ of why you chose that time, that location, that style, that composition is what is needed to be told. The story of why you woke up at 4 am in freezing cold to take that shot matters. Inspiration is all we need.