Do you take photos or make pictures?
The Biker's Diary
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:32 AM
It's long been known that most of the time, people see what they expect to see. That happened to me when leaving for this last trip. I had made the reservations long before, for a morning departure from the Twin Cities. Things got busy, and I did not look at them again.
About four days before we were to depart, Spouse Roger asked me what time our flight would be on Friday. I said I couldn't remember exactly, but about 9:15 or 9:30. I went to get out the paperwork to see exactly which it was. It was 9:30, but at night, not in the morning.
I am sure what happened is that, because we wanted to leave in the morning, morning is what I saw when I was online doing the booking. Obviously what followed finding my mistake was a lot of time spent scrambling to make the necessary changes, not to the flight itself because that would have been prohibitively costly, but for the cars, hotels and arrival date at my Uncle Jack's. The bright side is that we needed that extra day anyway to better get ready to be gone.
But it reminded me about it being common that we see what we expect to see. The opposite of that is Uncle Jack when he is behind the lens of his camera. On this trip to visit him, we were looking at some photos of and talking about his and my late aunt's trip to Norway. It was a trip to not only visit the land of our ancestors, it was also a trip for them to pursue some serious photography, a hobby that they shared and, in fact, is how they met.
On this trip, I had a sort of light-bulb moment, an "aha!" He related some anecdotes about finally finding the right vantage point for a photo shoot, getting set up and waiting for the perfect light. For the first time I noticed that he did not talk about "taking" pictures; he talked about "making" a picture.
I remembered a photo my late aunt had made of the famous El Capitan in Yosemite Park, for which she waited interminably for the light - and a rainbow - to be just perfect. That photo had won terrific awards and everyone at her funeral got one of the copies. It was a photo that had been made.
Uncle Jack talks about making photographs just like the more famous photographers do. Michael Freeman, in the book "The Photographer's Eye," said it isn't the equipment that makes a good shot: "The photo is made here (he pointed to his head) in the head and the eyes." A photographer has to get familiar with the subject, and compose the shot in an interesting and meaningful way, make it striking.
Another professional photographer, Hilary F. Marckx, said that "a photographer has a way of seeing the world differently...(s/he) lives for light and because of it...(s/he) explores light and texture...together with image, content, and title, all act together to construct a reality..."
Marckx was writing as part of an art show series titled "The Photographer's Eye." The fact that he included the title of a photo as being an important part of the total photograph was interesting to me. Uncle Jack had just shown us some photos he had made and entered into the shows in which he participates. The titles were a big part of the photos' success. For example, he had photographed one of his own antique cars, somehow made it look as if it were in motion emerging from a fog, and titled it "Out of the Past."
Another was a photo of an old utilities meter, obviously trashed, which was titled "PG&E Meltdown." Pacific Gas and Electric, the huge California utilities company, changed out the meters, and as with any change, encountered expensive problems and also was met with a lot of grousing by utilities customers. Uncle Jack spotted the meter in a junk heap somewhere, and told us of the long detailed process of making the photo: he reversed the face of the meter, and hung a sheet of some kind of plastic in front of it. The plastic was just flexible enough to wave a bit in the wind. He waited until the plastic rippled just right, and "made" the photo. As he said, he not only got an award but a lot of laughs from PG&E customers.
What I see through the lens is quite different from "real" photographers: I often end up with a shot of someone in which the subject looks great, but there is a light pole sticking straight up out of the middle of the person's head or a sign right behind them. I have learned now to look at all of that first. And not to take photos in bright sunlight. And a few other things. But I know I will never really have the photographer's eye like my Uncle Jack does. I take pictures; he makes them.
And as for that airline schedule on which I saw what I wanted to see, it happened again on the way home. I looked at the schedule and saw a 12:30 noon departure, or I thought I did. Spouse Roger did the same. We got to the airport about 10:30, checked in, and prepared to relax, happy to be there early. Suddenly he pointed out that our boarding passes said an 11:22 departure with a 10:40 boarding time. We reaffirmed to each other that we had both looked at the paperwork that morning and "saw" 12:30. But on re-checking, it did indeed say an 11:22 departure. We just reaffirmed that too often, people see what they expect or want to see.