October 28, 2009
I had just moved to Portland, Maine, intending to leave my consulting career and open a commercial photography studio. In those days we didn’t have personal computers with desktop publishing software, and so I hired a designer to produce my business card, letterhead, etc.
Her suggestion: “Your work is so graphic, and so visually strong . . . take pictures of something like dancers, and use these on each printed piece”. And so I did — set up my strobe lights and a nine foot wide roll of white background paper, invited dancers from a local modern company, and my own dance began!
Making good art can be painstakingly slow, but my first attempt at dance photography was easy, exhilarating, and spiritually fulfilling. She struck a pose, and I snapped. I moved a bit, adjusted, and clicked again. She moved. Click. And on we went. I found myself drawn into a visual dialog. Later I would discover that it was actually a dance — although I’ll hasten to say that I’m not in any way a dancer. Read the rest of this entry »
October 26, 2009
This is my 90 second photography lesson! Look before you photograph.
In my dance photography class, I note that most people walk into the dance studio, or into the theatre for a rehearsal, pick up their camera, and start shooting right away. I guess they are looking for the highest leap, or the kmost perfect arabeque, or some other triumph. That doesn’t work.
Start by looking . . . carefully. Find something visually exciting, something that tells your story, something that you want to share with us. Find something too important to miss.
And remember . . . your job is not just to be in the presence of this wonderful dance, or this beautiful landscape, or whatever. It’s to craft pictures that draw on your vision. You are translating a three dimensional moving world into flat still images. They will only be exciting if you are alive, creating passionately, seeing with all your strength.
If I were to ask you what you’re photographing, I hope you just say something like “that beautiful dancer”. Let me know that you’re photographing a visual rhythm, or a magnificant sweep of energy, or something else very special that you just saw.
Remember . . . before you photograph, look! Really look.
October 18, 2009
I wish I could copy the entire text here, but more properly I urge you to read the Adam Goipnik’s short “postscript”article about Penn at the New Yorker web site. Here’s the concluding paragraph:
Penn’s subject—as in “Woman with Long Black Neck” … —is not performance but inner poise, and the dignity of appearances became his central theme. His work is a memorial of a specially privileged era, where the duties of a fashion photographer and the ambitions of an artist could coexist in one serenely realized surface, an age that in retrospect seems to have been one of fine silver, coolly applied
Also on the web site is a slide show of some of Penn’s best work.
This issue of the New Yorker also has a compelling article by Malcolm Gladwell about the dangers of football. Gladwell doesn’t call for us to abolish the “sport”, but it’s hard to imagine any other conclusion from the data he presents.