October 28, 2007

Why do we photograph? A discussion.

"Welcome to what may be my very best conversation yet," says George Jardine of the latest Lightroom podcast.  "Or at least the most fun and insightful."

George sat down with photographers Jay Maisel, Greg Gorman and Seth Resnick for "a long and rambling discussion about film archives, digital archives, various sorting and editing methods, and how they all intersect. Or not… I found Jay continually driving at a singular point about why he photographs, how he edits, and why he feels shooting to please yourself is the only important thing for a photographer." [Update: George has transcribed a couple of key bits & added some comments; I've now included these in this post's extended entry.]

The podcast is on George’s iDisk under "20071016 Podcast – Maisel Gorman Resnick."  This podcast & others can be found on iTunes by searching under Podcasts for "Lightroom," or via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed. [Via]


From George:

Upon listening carefully (about 10 times during editing…) I’m finding some really nice kernels in here. Near the end, we get to a VERY interesting conversation about WHY we photograph. On the one hand, Jay seems to say that he photographs for himself.

Jay says: “You have to understand that what makes for a really successful thing is a thing that speaks immediately to many people. And things that _we_ like, speak to other photographers. There are a lot of pictures that I think are some of my best, that everybody except the photographer looks at and says ‘so what?’. Because I’m interested in solving problems that are unique to the way photographers see, and other photographers see it, and are kind of fascinated by it, but the average person looks at it and says ‘big *% &$*% deal. so what.’.”

Seth clarifies, by saying “But you don’t make pictures for the average person. You make pictures for yourself.”

Jay agrees, but then throws out the Degas quote*, and finishes the (useful part of the) recording by saying, “That’s very important, because sometimes you see, and you can make your fellow artists see, but if you can’t make the world in general see, then it doesn’t matter any more.”

So…… is this an inherent contradiction? Is Jay really saying that in the end you have to photograph for yourself? Or that in the end, you have to make photographs that have the ability to “make others see”? Or… is Jay saying that you should be doing do both at the same time? :-)

* “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

Posted by John Nack at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2007

Comments

  • Jack Reznicki — 12:29 PM on November 03, 2007

    Knowing Jay, I hate to put any words in his mouth, but I’d say that Jay always shoots for himeself. Always. He has to shoot like he has to breath.
    But being a realist, he knows that if a photo doesn’t resonate with others, no matter how much he likes it, it may not matter. Sort of like taking a photo of a tree falling in the woods. If no one sees the photo, did the tree really fall?

  • Mark — 12:15 PM on November 18, 2010

    Quite interesting. Recommend reading this post on ‘why we photograph’… http://www.thinkvein.com/2010/11/17/why-do-we-photograph/

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