Friday, 14 March 2008

Written in stone?

Is this a photograph of a fascinating old headstone.... or a comment on my own mortality?

'Photographers think too much'. That was the bold statement i made to my fine art photography lecturer during a work review on my degree. A thin smile and barrage of theory to the contrary was what i got in reply although he didn't change my views. Maybe he saw it as saying 'Fine art photographers think too much'. They do.... in my humble opinion.

To get to that image taking moment, a photographer goes through a lot of processes but many images are taken via instinct. OK, I may think about what i want to put across in the image I'm taking but for some image makers, the process goes much deeper. Some photographers have to create deeper meaning, a message via a visual metaphor for the reader to understand. This is what is meant by 'reading an image'. It was this reading of images that i perceived as photographers thinking too much because often the intellectual reading of an image can be way off what the photographer was actually trying to say. Sometimes the viewer ignores the subject itself and concentrates on the technical makeup of the photo instead.

During my HND we had to do a ten minute presentation on a photographer. Robert Capa was one such legendary figure to come under the gaze and scrutiny of my group and it was fascinating to see how different people read the images. One person commented on the lone GI on Omaha beach image concentrating their view on the visual elements that 'constructed' the image. "You can see how Capa constructed the image by making the metal debris lead the viewer to the lone GI in the water" exclaimed one of the viewers. It was after this remarkable statement that i decided to add to the debate the fact that Capa was in the middle of a hot killing ground with dead lying all around, bullets whizzing by everywhere, up to his waist in cold sea water. Probably his only real thought was getting the HELL behind some cover before his head was blown off!

Did Capa really think at that decisive image taking moment 'oh those metal pieces of debris lead the viewer to the lone GI'? Or was it a fast, terrifying scramble for cover, through deep water, while very quickly taking some images? I leave the final interpretation of the image to you, dear reader.

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