Why, not How…

hands 3, photograph

“The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.”

Raymond Chandler

I really don’t like to talk to people about how I’ve done a particular shot. You might have gathered that from reading this blog, where I rarely if ever discuss how the photograph was made. This is definitely not a how-to type of blog…

It’s not that I’m protecting some great secret, I just think it’s beside the point. The point is how the photography makes you feel, what emotional or intellectual response does it elicit, not technical details about what camera or lens was used, what lighting, exposure, etc. When I get into that kind of discussion with someone, I know they’re not really seeing the photograph.

Since I tend to shoot images that involve a fair amount of technique, some of it unusual, I’m opening myself up to more than my share of such questions and conversations. And I accept that – but I do relish the times when someone talks to me about how they feel about the image. And I feel myself deflate a bit each time I hear “how did you do that?”.


4 responses to “Why, not How…

  1. Similarly, I take a photograph and modify it with graphics programs. The finished product is a result of how I felt it should be during each step of the process. I would be unable to recreate the end result.

  2. I have the same issue when people ask me to explain how I write poetry.

    What I like about this image is how the hands absolutely command the space and rivet attention. Also how they slice a great V into the black void. They seem about to begin. . . something; they’re expectant, waiting to conjure.

  3. Adding to what I said earlier, although I can’t explain exactly what I did, I can offer something to anyone interested enough to ask. I don’t feel “deflated.” We all learn technique from each other, so why hold back information? I find it impossible to describe how I “feel”.

  4. And thank you for that Bob. I, for one come for the incredible visual sensory experience which is nebulous, beautiful, sense provoking. I don’t want to be reading about photography how to which would make my eyes glaze over, but then I’m not a photographer. I come for the insights such as the one I just read “It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.” – Edwin Land … To which I sigh and say, “yes.”

    But besides the quotes of others that you pepper throughout the posts, your own thoughts about creativity, individuality, and beyond I so often hear myself concurring and echoing “amen.”

    To your statement, “And I feel myself deflate a bit each time I hear “how did you do that?” I agree. That and so many other questions that seem immaterial, however well-meaning the questioner may be.

    Generally a silent observer and admirer of your work, I thought I would speak up today for all of us silent people who view, read and admire, agree, disagree and thank you.

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