AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 15: Actor Billy Crystal attends the Samsung Studio at SXSW 2015 on March 15, 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Samsung)
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Every year during the month of March I celebrate my birthday with some whimsical make believe adventure. Last year I “cruised” around the world sailing to various countries on multiple continents (a virtual bucket list of vacations) and posted gorgeous pics that I borrowed from the internet. The year before was filled with very colorful hot air balloons in all shapes and sizes and colors, photographed during spectacular sunsets, beautiful sun rises, rainbow colored skies, and over breathtaking landscapes.
I like to refer to this year’s fun as the celebrity edition (My brother said I had too much time on my hands, :-p) So for every day in March this year, I chose a celebrity whose birthday was that day and inserted myself into photos with them. Each with a caption that identified them via song lyrics, movie titles, or quotes and together we sent out birthday wishes to all of my friends.
This little exercise was particularly therapeutic for me as I had been experiencing a mental block with creating my own original art and this proved to be cathartic while providing me a creative outlet needed to maintain a daily routine – and my sanity. For everyone that played along thank you. I hope to be back to creating new original works real soon.
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.