Sunday, June 6, 2010

Photography by a Dummy

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to teach a class on photography. It was a very interesting, and nerve wracking experience. See, I don't do things the way other people do them. Most of the time I learn things the hard way, and in an expression of my "male-ness," I NEVER ask for directions. I work at something, and weary it, until I finally get ahold of it. I do this with my photography, and I do it with my piano playing.

And it's not that I'm displeased with the results, it's just that it's not a very teaching-friendly process. So, I have generally tried to avoid ever being put into a situation where someone might ask me to teach photography. I had to avoid being put into the situation, because I'm such a push over, that I knew if I were ever asked, I wouldn't be able to refuse.


Well, they caught me, and I said yes.

What surprised me, as I prepared (overly so) to teach thirty women how to take pictures, was to find that I actually had something to say.


Since that time, I've been considering refining what I said, and making it a little more comprehensive -- not to mention more comprehendable -- so that next time (should that fateful day ever come), I won't sound like such a babbling idiot. And that's where you come in, dear blog readers: for the next several Sundays, I'm going to give you a crash course in Photography according to Chris.

Or,

Photography by a Dummy.

So, here goes:

Lesson One: Philosophy

I get asked, from time to time, what makes a good picture. My photographic philosophy, in a nutshell, is this: if you like it, it's a good picture.


Photography is art, and the word art is short for articulation -- the act of giving utterance or expression. Art is something we create and whether it is drawing, singing, dancing, painting or photography, it is our personal expression to the world.

To create art, is to gather the elements that surround us, and form them into something unique in the Universe -- something no one has ever seen before. It is an expression of the divine that exists within each one of us. You have the right to create it, and you have the right to call it good.


Having said that, it's one thing to express yourself, it's something else entirely to be understood.

I can bang away on a piano, in a fit of self expression, and clear the room in seconds. No one is obligated to appreciate or even to acknowledge me.

But, if I learn some of the fundamentals, if I learn how to read the music and what notes sound good together, if I begin to grasp the ideas of rhythm and timing, then I just might get a few of you to stick around.


Eventually, if I practice, and if I refine and hone my skills, I will create something sublime. I may even begin to draw you in to hear what I have to say.

When we express ourselves to the world, it's because we have something to say. We need to learn to communicate.

We take pictures for two basic reasons: to document, and to remember. Most people want to take nice pictures, but most also treat their camera as a piece of documentation equipment. I want you to learn to think of your cameras in a different way. I want you to stop thinking of your camera as a piece of recording equipment. Your camera is your pen, it is your paintbrush.


The camera is no longer a documenter, it is a storyteller.

Next Week:

The Photographer's Code (more guidelines than actual rules...)

11 comments:

WackyMummy said...

This is awesome Chris! Can't wait to read and learn more! =)

Aaron said...

Where is my barfing clown....?

imbeingheldhostage said...

awww Chris, you are not only a fantastic photographer, but an incredible writer as well.
You just really "get" it, you know? Either that or you are an excellent faker.
Either way, you excel! ;-)

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

Oh this will be fun to read your ideas and see more of your great art. Thanks for sharing your ideas and knowledge earned the hard way.

Michelle said...

Holy cow man.....that last shot is absolutely breath taking.

I look forward to your photographic musings.

Kat said...

YEAH!!!! I'm so excited! This is just what I need. It should be called Photography FOR Dummies. That being me. ;)

I just need to learn how to best use my camera. That would be a big help. :)

kris... said...

I just hope that the question I asked you a few weeks ago gets answered... cuz i need an answer one of these days!

Kelly Deneen said...

SO excited you are posting about photography. I love to learn from you. :)

Heidi said...

That was a perfect introductory lesson. You are right, our camera's are our paint brushes. Can't wait to read next weeks!

Emmy said...

Wow! so wonderfully said. The couple of weeks that I was in the hospital and then in limbo I was dying to take some good pictures and to get the pictures off of my camera that I had taken. It was actually driving me quite crazy and once I was able to upload and really view my pictures I was amazed at how happy I was. Photography is really my chance to create.

Honey Mommy said...

I am so excited to read this series. I have only had my camera for a year now, and I am ready to get better at telling stories rather than just documenting my life.