It wouldn’t be fair of me to start a photography blog without first admitting that I have no photographic training outside of some helpful people who have answered photographs for me online and in person. I never have taken a photography class, although if the chance should arise, I would certainly like to.
Because I have no formal training, I lack the technological knowledge and terminology that would help me to express what makes a photograph stand out to me. Rather, when I see a photo that captivates me in some way or another I often can’t express why it does. My fiance, who is an art teacher with years of art training will usually put into words what may be appealing to me in a photograph I tell her I like. Still, there is something I like about not necessarily knowing how to verbalize how a particular photograph has impacted me. Because of this I feel I can hold on to the image as a whole without picking it apart and let it run wild in my imagination.
Two particular photographers – one living the other deceased – have left important impression on me and although I am sure their photos contain many formal composition aspects that all come together to make a great photograph, I prefer to simply be impacted by their work.
The first photographer is Helen Leavitt, who died back in 2009 at the age of 95. Leavitt was one of the first female photographers to get recognition. Her scenes of everyday life in her native New York City are amazing because it seems to me that though observing and recording her subjects, she made no real impact on them and instead allowed them to be as they were in the moment her shutter opened and closed.
If observing an event can effect its outcome then Helen Leavitt and her camera may have just as well been invisible. Because I most enjoy pictures of people – particularly photos that capture them in their most informal way – Leavitt’s photos really make an impact on me.
Stephen Shore is another photographer whose work always resonates with me.
Because I like pictures that give an impression of a particular time and place, Stephen Shore is another photographer whose work I enjoy. In his book Uncommon Places Shore shares a series of photographs he took during various trips across the continent through the U.S. and Canada in the 1970’s. His subjects were seemingly boring but very alluring at the same time. Shore shot the motel rooms and streets in the towns he visited as well as shots of people he knew or met along the way.
I cannot imagine this photographer shooting in black and white because it seems that in every photo of his that I have seen, Stephen Shore finds a way to frame the colors from natural and man made environments that are complimentary and attractive.
The first Stephen Shore photo (Broad Street, Regina Saskatchewan, 1974) in this post is my favorite of his. I love the idea that he may have surreptitiously caught this couple during a walk through their town. The long shadows hint at late afternoon and I imagine them heading to the local Ground Round, Ponderosa or Denny’s. Neither is dressed particularly formal, and so I see them heading out for their once-a-week meal before heading home to a few hours of television and then to bed.
Because Shore titled many of his photos with the actual street or intersection they were shot at, a person with the curiosity and time can use Google Streetview to see how life has changed or not changed since his shutter opened and closed.
For Christmas last year my fiance bought me The Nature of Photographs, sort of a theoretical introduction to looking at photography written by Shore. Without beating his reader over the head, Shore gives hints as to why certain photographs have a particular impact – light, foreground/background, movement, etc. The book has helped me to a degree understand what I’m looking at when I’m looking at a photo. Still, there are certain photos by these artists, Leavitt and Shore, whose qualities can only be explained with so many words and yet leave a lasting impact on me.