concentration part ii.

“A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.” –Ansel Adams

It is easy to simply look at a photo as you would anything else. Ansel Adadms captured breathtaking black-and-white landscape images—you do not have to look into one of his photos to be impressed. Beautiful photos are often beautiful at a glance. Looking into a photo is more complicated.

The artistic and technical mastery of the Mona Lisa is clear—you look at it, and you know. However, it is her smile that people have been so intrigued by all this time. It is haunting, as it is not the blank slate-expression of many portraits of the Renaissance, nor is it a full-blown, toothy smile. It is small, delicate, and mysterious. That seemingly minute detail is what is found when a piece of art is looked into. Looking into and seeing that kind of detail in a photo is just as important as it is in a painting.

When I am focusing on those details, it has a huge effect on how I choose to capture things. Depending on what that detail is, I may choose to compose my shot so it is more subtle—a treat for the viewer who really looks. Other times, it is the main focus of the image and I really try to get up close and personal with it.

This is an assignment from my Advanced Digital Photography class. Check out my photos from the class here.

concentration part i.

I mentioned a while ago that I am taking Advanced Digital Photography this semester. I thought it would be fun to share my work from the class as I go. The photos won’t always be my best, but you will (hopefully) be able to see as I learn and grow throughout the semester. This kind of work is very different from what I’m used to–or rather, what I’ve gotten used to. Prior to my work being primarily portraiture, I did a lot more of the get-down-on-the-ground-and-try-to-make-a-leaf-look-interesting kind of work. I’d be hard-pressed to call it “fine art”, because I was 11 and just learning how to operate a camera. Still, I did a lot more artistic and creative work, even in Minnesota. It was my hobby as much as it was a way to develop my technique. I guess as I have gotten busier with school and as photography has become more like a job, I gradually phased out that kind of work. I miss it. And as out-of-my-element as I feel in the class, I am glad it is forcing me to get back to my roots. I really think it will help me develop my technique overall. Plus, maybe now I’ll find the time to go on photo-walks again.

In each unit, we have four photo assignments, each with a different focus. At the end of the unit, we look at a quote and discuss what the author meant by it. I will be posting my photos to my facebook page, along with their titles and the focus that the assignment called for. Here, I’ll be posting the quote and my response to it.

The first unit was called Concentration Part I. Enjoy!

“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” –Dorothea Lange

This quote from Dorothea Lange is, in some ways, the very essence of photography. There are two ways that the quote may be perceived. The first is a very simple look at the importance of technique. A photo that tells us “nothing more than what we see” would be a very straight-on shot of a generally boring and every-day object, like a cup of water. A photo that proves what our eyes don’t permit us to see would look at that same object from a completely different and unexpected angle.

The second way one could interpret the quote is a bit more complex. A photographer has a chance of capturing even the most fleeting of moments—an expression that quickly passes over someone’s face, the tension in the muscles of a dancer mid-grand jeté. Someone that is simply watching one of these events will never be able to train their eyes to see that kind of detail on their own.

Lange is best known for her intensely moving work from the Great Depression. The amount of depth and emotion in her portraits from that time is truly stunning. That emotion is only somewhat visible with the naked eye. However, a photo captures that moment and allows the eye to study it fully.

See my photos from the class here!