It has actually been awhile since I posted a recollection – let’s just do something about that. Today’s recollection once again comes from the field of photography. Last year I obtained a book recommended by a photography podcast that Linda and I are regular listeners of. It was also recommended by Scott Kelby so it had two very good things going for it. The book at hand is by David duChemin and called Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision. It was billed as a book about the art of photography, those things that go beyond the technical aspects of taking a photograph that make your images compelling. I have definitely had my fill of the science side of photography books as of late, so figured I’d pull this book out for insights on how a professional photographer sees the image, or as the book characterizes it, how the shot is framed. There were two things that caught my attention immediately. The first was the fact that the author was Canadian. Based on a quick skim of the photographs in the book revealed a large number of Middle Eastern and Asian portraits and figured it was due to proximity. Nope, David is actually a well traveled photographer and to say he has seen the world would be an understatement – and that isn’t just book a flight, walk around the tourist attractions and call it a day. David truly immerses himself in the culture and tries to capture that in his photography. Ironically, duChemin means “of the road”. The second thing that stuck out immediately is he’s primarily a portrait photographer and not that into wildlife. This is exactly contrary to my preferences so immediately there were concerns as to whether I should invest time in this book. I consider my free time pretty precious so most of my reading is focused on learning something – but you should know that by now if you’ve looked at many of the recollections on this blog. After some waffling, a decision was made to proceed and since giving up on a book is pretty rare, figured I was in for the long haul .. good .. or bad.
All in all, it turned out to be a good thing – or rather really good in the beginning and eventually tapering off as he began to hone in on the portrait details. There were a number of thought provoking concepts scattered throughout the first half of the book. The one that touched home was the belief that photography is a journey. This I can relate to. I’ll probably never get to where I’d like to be with this form of art, but looking back it is pretty easy to tell that there has been significant progress since those younger years of shooting film. Granted, some of this is due to an improved income which enables better equipment, but there is a definite change in how I compose a shot and there is more interest for me beyond the common postcard shots on our vacations. To sum it up, my shots are more about what I want to remember from a trip and less what I want to be able to show people where we went. If there was one sentence in this book that stood out for me, it was definitely in the Afterword by Vincent Versace. “Most likely there is one image that sent you on the path of photography.” Wow, that is a tough one. My early interest in photography was thanks to my brother Ron who would take me out with him to parks and what not to take pictures with the trusty 35mm Nikon – I still remember shooting deer in a park in Rockford and even further back when we were out chasing the moon on country backroads trying to get the perfect angle for a shot (don’t ask). However when the digital age came I likely embraced that ahead of him when my wife and I would head out to the local wildlife park to shoot the animals. At some point I came upon the work of Joel Sartore (link here) and Scott Linstead (link here). From that moment on the hook was set. If I was to answer for Linda she’d probably go with Ansel Adams and me (hehehe, sorry had to get the dig in since she is currently lagging in the awards department – If she reads this, she’ll probably make some crazy excuse for what that isn’t true, but the jury has already rendered their decision!) Take the time to ask yourself that very same question and see what you come up with. The look back is well worth the time.
So if there is one aspect that gets some scrutiny, it has to be the impression that you should just travel somewhere and immerse yourself in the culture and come back with great shots. First of all, depending on what your preferences are you could be carrying more than the locals would see in their lifetime. Second of all, depending on your heritage, you might not be welcome in certain parts. This thought made me cringe when he wrote “When seeing and capturing the spirit of a place, nothing can compete with wandering on foot and getting good and lost, Not momentarily lost, but completely and unfindably lost….you have no idea if it will open …. into a narrow alley that is the de-facto red-light district of town. Clearly David has knowledge, experience and contacts that far exceed most of us and this familiarity allows him greater freedom the other cultures. However, the thought of walking around in the back alleys and local haunts seems dangerous at best especially carrying stuff that says Nikon or Canon on it. Hell, even he mentioned he was almost arrested for taking a picture of a Muslim girl. To his credit, he does recommend using resources like Lonely Planet before you go, but for my comfort we’ll pick safer shoots and keep the danger to just the footing.
It does look like duChemin is an active blogger (http://www.pixelatedimage.com/blog/) so check him out if you want to learn more about him and his art – described as World and Humanitarian Photographer.
Hit the jump to see my takeaways (which were actually more than initially anticipated)