Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Breaking Rules 327/365

More soul and photo studying for Find Your Eye.  Really, if you missed out this go around, make sure you jump on next time Kat offers her classes.  They're fantastic.   **If you don't feel like reading a little soul search, you can just skim to the bottom and check out my images**

Coming to photography (and visual arts in general) later in life....I don't have a clue what the rules are.  The one rule I gave myself when I first picked up my point and shoot 2 springs ago....if I like it, great; if I don't I can push delete.  Not much stress there.  That rule still applies thousands of photos and a DSLR camera later.  I think it's good for me to have come to this art form with no boundaries. 

I actually kind of like rules.  Several times I've written to fellow bloggers for help, looking for "a rule of thumb".  I've come without rules, yet I find myself collecting rules/guidelines along the way. I hope they won't stifle, but that they'll enhance my ability to be creative. The jury is still out on that.

As a musician I referred to myself as an arranger not a composer.  What I meant-given a frame work, a set of guidelines....I can get super creative inside that box.  What I don't usually think of is "the box".  If someone says...."draw anything you want" that freaks me out.  If someone says "draw anything you want using geometric shapes"....I'm ready to go. 

In many ways photography is like arranging, not composing.  I see something beautiful, a scene, or mood that an artist, God, or happenstance created....and capture it.  When I'm stumped for images I go to an antique store or boutique where someone artistic has made beautiful displays.  But what I am learning is the way I put my images together is an art form too. 

It is hard for us to evaluate our own photos.  I have a blogger friend who turns out amazing photos amassing all kinds of praise in comments...and still wonders "do my photos suck?"  They don't.  She can't see how incredible her work is.  I used to say "I really don't know what I'm doing" until an artist I'd asked for opinions of my work said "You need to stop saying that.  You do know what you're doing."  She was kind and firm.  I listened.

As I looked through my images for rules I've collected since day 1....blank.  No clue.  "What?  I don't get it.  How do you do this?  Is there an example?  Has anyone else done it yet?".....the usual drill. 

Then I recalled one of the first rules I figured out on my own as I was framing images in the LCD screen on my point and shoot-I thought....who is going to understand what this image is?  No one?  Anyone?  Some people?  There has to be something in the photo to make it make sense to someone else who is looking at it.  A frame of reference...a clue.  I was thinking about context. 

I created a rule that said an image needs to be placed in context-so someone beyond me can figure it out. But is that true?  Is this a good rule or not?  Who am I shooting photos for....myself or someone else?  Hmmmm.  And is a little mystery, a reason to pause, perhaps a good thing too?  Hmmmm.  And if I shoot images that come from my heart and appeal to me, will not others feel, sense, be moved in their own way...or just walk away wondering?  And in that, can I stand behind what it is, whatever that may be, I'm saying in a frozen moment?  Even if I'm unsure what the message is?  I'm sure I can.

Leaving a Wake
Leaving a Wake

Rock Wall
Rock Wall


South Station
South Station

But most of the time, I think that contextual thing provides a pretty good image....

Up Ahead {327/365}
Up Ahead {327/365}

Thanks for reading my thoughts on "rules".


Ashley Sisk said...

The one thing I gathered from your piece today is on context...that really is one of the things I'm trying to provide more and more of lately. I love that last shot. Great thoughts.

Kat Sloma said...

Interesting musings Susan, especially about where you come from in this art with no rules and seeking them out. It's a good place to be, really. Try the rules on, see how they fit. Use them, break them - it's all your choice. That's one important thing to learn from this exercise - that the rules you follow are your choice. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Brenda said...

Brilliant discussion about rules. And about not having rules. As someone who rarely shoots for context, I enjoyed your thoughtful questions as to what a non-contextual photograph can be and mean to ourselves and others. Excellent questions that I will have to think about as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same boat - I've never had any 'formal' art training. Stuff that drives us crazy is probably a piece of cake for a first-year art student.

I think 'Slot' is my favorite from this bunch (not that any of them are shabby). I can't explain why, it just is (I guess I'm not really helping your dilemma, am I?)

Carol Blackburn said...

Susan, I really love your "up ahead" shot and really do want to know what is around that turn in the walkway. You know I think your photos are awesome. Your photos are like my paintings; from the soul (no art classes for me either). Shoot what you love because we love what you shoot!

Dyche Designs said...

I loved reading your thoughts on this. My main rule of thought is to shoot what I love and delete the images I don't feel strongly about. I feel as though I should know more about light, composition and the like but they're part of the journey I find myself on and on a good day I try not to beat myself up with how I measure up. Other days . . . . now that's a different story. I would love to be able to shoot consistently good images but I know I'm not there yet.

urban muser said...

i love that last photo. you are so close to finishing your 365!!

Cedar said...

I love rules and I wish I knew more of the rules of art and photography because I think it will help my work in the long run. I love your analogy of composition and arrangement~which is photography; certainly both at times~maybe the shoot is the composition and the editing/presentation is the arranging, both take your own unique creativity to end up with a pleasing song or photo. And just like music knowing the rules of "pleasing melody" doesn't limit you to one song~it just gives you an idea of what you will create by breaking which rules~the rules of photography can do the same.

Sorry for the long comment. Your post is making me think.

Cathy H. said...

Well spoken and beautiful photos!!

Jamie said...

Great post, so much to think about.

I usually like rules, but in also like to break them occasionally

JM said...

Great set of beautiful detail shots and a lovely view with a great light at the end.

Iquemon said...

That was very interesting to read, I have never thought about it that way but I can relate to what you are saying.

Christine E-E said...

ummm - your comment about "who am I shooting photos for" resonated with me!
I think about that all the time! I love your photo style... it appears to me that you look at detail... and color... especially love the last picture! I want to be sitting in a comfy chair, on that dock, enjoying the smells of nature. For me, you have "frozen" a place to enjoy!

Gilly said...

What a very interesting post! Lots to think about here.

The first thing that struck me was your comparison of photography to musical arranging; I think that's a brilliant way of putting it. Photography is a strange art form, because it's the only one I can think of that has a starting point of what's actually there. Other art forms start from nothing and can put whatever they like into their creation. With photography you have to select from something that already exists. In other words, other arts tend to be additive, while photography is subtractive.

And then there's the question of rules. I think myself that rules are made to be learned and then broken where appropriate and with the knowledge that you are deliberately breaking them. Basic photographic rules are a good starting point - if you follow the Rule of Thirds, for instance, things rarely go too badly wrong. On the other hand, many of the best and greatest pictures don't follow this rule at all!

But there are other kinds of rules, too. I have a bit of formal art training, but that only serves to introduce a whole new set of rules, many of which are unspoken, but woe betide you if you break them. These tend to cluster around what's 'acceptable' as art and what isn't. Much of it is pretentious, but there is a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and learning about art has deepened my appreciation of images that I would have dismissed before (well, some of them anyway). I do feel I've gained a lot from this, although it has also moved me away to some extent from the kind of photo that tends to be very popular and more easily accessible.

As for who you shoot for - it's tough to stick to this, but I think it's always got to be a case of shooting for yourself. Anything else won't come from the heart and that will show. It's hard when you've taken something that you yourself love and other people just don't get it, but it's going to happen at times. I have photos on Flickr that loads of people love and I don't particularly like, and I have others that I really like and they never get any comments. It feels so good to get that positive feedback that it's tempting to take photos with that in mind, but the minute you start taking them for other people is the moment when you begin to lose who you are and your own unique view of the world.

I've just been reading a book that goes into these kind of questions: The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum. A lot of it is about rather technical stuff mostly to do with film, and I just skipped these bits, but the rest of it is very readable and he has some interesting things to say about these kinds of questions. If you can get hold of a copy, I think you'd enjoy it. I don't agree with everything he says, but there's lots of food for thought.

Love your pictures!

Kimberly said...

I love that there are rules in photography, but I also remember that rules are made to be broken. If I'm always "following the rules", I'm not allowing my creativity to come out. And if someone else doesn't like it? Well, too bad for them. :)

Great photos!

justine said...

rules are meant to be broken as long as you know that you are breaking them! that's what someone once told me, it's all subjective. I love that last shot, draws you in.

Ms. Becky said...

I'm happy that you think about these things so I don't have to. if there is one rule I subscribe to with photography it's this - "don't think about it". your thoughts are so beautiful though. I love Leaving a Wake. looking at this series of photos I've discovered yet another consistent quality to your photos - purity. I'd hang any one of these on my wall. happy day to you my friend.

seabluelee said...

Susan, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. At one point you referred to "rules/guidelines." Perhaps that's all the rules are, really, is guidelines - helpful to consider, but not necessarily to be obeyed.

Your comments about context struck home with me. I often wonder if I love a photo I've taken because it's a good photograph, or if it's just that it calls up memories of the occasion when I took it. Can it stand on its own and speak to someone who doesn't know the backstory?

Looking at your work, I'd never have guessed you were so new to photography. Your photos are just a different sort of music, and it's beautiful.

lisa said...

Wonderfully written Susan, and the last shot here is pure perfection!

gina said...

Your post was very interesting and helped me understand my approach to photography. I like all your sample photos, especially the coin slot. Lovely colors and composition.

Wanda said...

I especially appreciate your comments on context. For me, at least, Leaving a Wake and Up Ahead each provide a lot of context. In the first, I can almost feel the wind and hear the sound of waves crashing. The second is so very inviting that I want to walk into that image and enjoy a few minutes of solitude.