Words are the enemy

First posted 19 August 2011

In my opinion, there has been far too much written about photography throughout it’s history. The intensity is increasing and unfortunately I’m going to add another few hundred words here;
As a practicing photographer I am concerned with staying as ‘visual’ as I can be, for as much of the day as is possible. Modern life dictates that we deal with many distractions, and much of this involves paperwork or computers.
In my job as head of analogue photography at a University in the UK, I have quite a lot of this stuff to deal with and let me tell you -it totally scrambles my brain.
Whenever I have to write a report, read an essay on this or that, I am a million miles away from being visual.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.36.05

Now I believe that to be fully visual you must empty your head of words. Words are the enemy, and they will distract you and smother your creativity. Reading/writing uses a totally different area of the brain from seeing photographically and you must switch off the voices to be able to make full use of your eyes.
For many years I was able to indulge myself in a world dominated by the visual, but as life has got faster and busier the visual has got pushed further and further back.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.39.00

Because I can’t think that way every hour of the day, I set myself a little task to think about everything around me as a possible picture ten times a day. So whenever the little reminder pops into my head I switch off from what I’m thinking about and look for a composition. Often, it is not possible to actually take the picture, because I may be driving or in the bath, but it is still a useful exercise to keep the visual part of my mind alive to picture opportunities.

 

3 Comments

  1. Posted 19/08/2011 at 10:05 am

    I couldn’t agree more Andrew. The world is full of distractions and it is so easy to get caught up in daily life and forget to look around you. One of my new resolutions is to look up towards the sky more.

  2. Jen
    Posted 19/08/2011 at 4:09 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Andrew. That was my problem in 2nd year, too much reading/writing about photography and not doing the kind of work i enjoy. All change in 3rd year though!

  3. Gary Liggett
    Posted 28/09/2011 at 12:04 pm

    Bang on! For me, the rot started when Art Colleges – which were entirely focussed on the creative, were subsumed into effing universities. Whoever learned how to be creative by writing about it? Did the success of Van Gough or Monet depend on a 2000 word essay? I bet some of the greatest artists in history couldn’t even write, but they could paint a 1000 words, and then some.

    When I was at art college, I was fortunate to be taught by a master, who taught me how to visualise a scene… to think in pictures…think about the way I should compose image to the best creative effect. The camera was only brought in at the last moment to record what I saw and wanted to portray. None this ‘looking through the viewfinder and shooting away’ like an American tourist in the hope that one of the frames ‘turned out right’. In that respect, on of my heroes is Thomas Joshua Cooper. He travels to the farthest corners of the planet and makes just on photograph. All of this stood me in good stead when I was making films – I had to think is moving images, which fell continuously one after the other 1/25th of a second at a time.

    Likewise, I spend weeks planning and thinking visually about a photograph: when the light will do its thing for me; when the landscape will look how I want it. On the right day, at the right time, I make sure I am there with my trusty old Thornton Pickard half-plate or my Houghton Ensign 6×9 to allow the beautiful light to fall onto the emulsion.

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