Well, here goes........
At the outset I think I would like to clear up some things, and give you a preview of specific assignments I will talk to you about, and give you a blow-by-blow description of how the assignment went, and then include a scan of the finished ad or print, which was the end result. Any opinions on the final result is your option, because the final word is the nice check I deposited at my bank....and for me that is a goal achieved.
One thing that bothers me is the descriptive terms commonly used to described those who make photographs for a hobby, and those who do it for a living. Amateur or professional. Amateur's are defined to be hobbyists or those who do not derive their life income as a photographer. Professional is said to mean those who make their entire income as a photograph producer. I
DON'T LIKE those descriptions, especially for the amateur. Frankly, I have seen amateurs who are more highly qualified than some pro's I know. I think we should throw this discussion open to ideas for a new word to describe highly qualified amateurs...and there are a ton of them. Calling myself a 'pro' is technically correct, but references to others as 'just amateurs' feels like a put down, and I DON'T LIKE THAT. I am not interested in a class warfare fight...and I am interested to pay honor and tribute to those who love to sweat, strain, and learn to master the technical craft of photography, and who have also sweated and learned the 'art' end of visual communications...and there are a ton of those people. Honor to you.
Let's try to find some way of leveling the playing field, i.e. defining our terms to find some way to make 'amateurs' of equal worth and value...to 'professionals....in terms of artistic achievement.
If we can do this there will no reason to feel that any comments of mine could be seen as a 'put down' for those to are not employed, full time, to make photographs. Remember...for every guy like me, ....we were once weekend snap shooters. It's part of the development process. I honor the hallowed memory of my first attempts at making good pictures. Ahhhhhhhh....wonderful years.
O.K. Hopefully we can use this as a stepping stone to more effective communications.
Back to the present, and to bring in to focus one of my most important philosophies about finished images. IMPACT! Kodak did an excellent hard cover book called, "Impact, Photography for Advertising". I own a copy and some of my best friends are published in this book. This book is also a lesson for others...in LANDSCAPE photography in particular...and many others too. The title...Photography for Advertising may turn some of you off. I caution you not to do so, for there is a message here for you too. To you who show in galleries, you have the same challenge.
Almost everything I have shot in my many decades of photography, has been in the venue of publication. That means, almost everything I was hired to shoot ended up being published in a national magazine or a corporate annual report. Although my major at Art Center was photojournalism, I switched to advertising photography because THAT IS WHERE THE MONEY WAS and new trends in ad photography used editorial photography not the studio, even though I did both! In advertising illustration competition is the name of the game. This involves photography that is designed for impact...or grabbing viewer attention. In a magazine, my ad will compete for audience attention and recognition, against 200 to 400 other ads in this magazine, with a similar goal....that is: To grab attention of the viewer, and create retention over the others who are competing for the same thing. This high competition, one ad against the other created a highly competitive market, and raised prices for the producers of these ads. Don't think so? My double-truck (two page spread) in Time, Newsweek, and others cost so much for the space the ad reserved, that my fee of a few thousand bucks was ' pennies'! A couple of hundred thousand dollars for just the space make my fee look like peanuts.
Back to my original point of impact. That is one of my key points in mentoring my people who yearn to be better, and more. Give me impact....which can also be Quiet impact. Just give me a theme to tell me why you chose to make this picture.
My criteria in teaching and critiquing is what I call the 'SENSE' test...as in touching, smelling, hearing, etc.
Students will call me, and come over to view their latest work on the light table or in print.
One of my most common comments is....it doesn't pass the SENSE test. How do I define this?
Let your work excite and communicate to my senses....what you chose to shoot.
If my student shows me a shot of a forest....I want to imagine that I can smell the pines.
If my student shows me a shot of surf breaking on the beach, I want to imagine I can smell the sea and hear the thunder of the water breaking on the beach.
If my student shows me a shot of an aspen grove, I want to be able to touch the aspen tree and feel the texture of the white, curling pieces of bark on the tree.
If my student shows me a shot of a water fall, I want to imagine that I can hear the roar of the water....and pretend I can feel the spray of water on my face!
These are part of the viewer experience that comes with tone control, but more of composition and use of the 'fore-ground' which, in my view is the most neglected area in all of contemporary landscape photography. (more on this later).
If you are a landscape shooter, let me imagine I can hear the sound of the wind, blowing in the field of new winter wheat.
If you shoot a mountain scape, let me imagine I can feel the texture of the decomposed granite.
If you are a photojournalist shooting the tail end of the elephant parade through city streets, I want to smell the elephant poo*......err....strike that, PLEASE!
"Fresh Eye's" , RB
My Words in This First Piece of Writing are Dedicated to the Memory of my Friend, John Cook.