The first computer I ever worked with back in 1978 (showing my age here) was a behemoth mass of metal and buttons and switches, and took up the space of an entire room. 33 years later all of that technology can fit in the palm of my hand. Truly technology has brought us a very long way and for the most part that’s a good thing but for some, having such powerful technology in the palm of their hands sometimes gives them a false sense of their true abilities, or lack thereof.
Case in point: owning a digital camera does not make one a photographer. Point and shoot is wonderful technology for people who simply want to remember a vacation or capture images of their children in their Halloween costumes. Those are photos to be cherished for sure, but they belong in the family album and not in a gallery.
A photographer on the other hand knows a little something about composition, and lighting, and directing the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the photograph. They are aware of brightness and contrast, backlighting, and color casts. Because they know these things they put a lot more work into a photograph than merely “pointing and shooting.” And also because they know these basics, very good photographers can often get away with point and shoot technology and still come away with fantastic photographic art.
Ansel Adams didn’t just take pretty pictures of landscapes. Gordon Parks didn’t justshoot photos of people. They were true storytellers. Their photos brought tears to viewer’s eyes. Their photos moved people to action. These artists captured atmosphere, height and depth, peace, love and despair, and hope with the click of the camera’s shutters. They drew you in and forced you to see, not just look. Their photos had soul. One could feel the enormity of the mountains and step into the valley and lose oneself in the sheer vastness of it all. One could be overwhelmed by despair and feel great pride all at once from a single image. Anyone who viewed their photographs could lose themselves; become part of the landscape, part of the argument, part of the movement.
Before you approach a gallery, take a little time and study some of the old masters whose photographs are so much more than pretty pictures. Then take another glance at how things are looking through your lens.