“Vision is the beginning and end of photography. It’s the thing that moves you to pick up a camera, and it determines what you look at and what you see when you do. It determines how you shoot and why. Without vision, the photographer perishes” (p. 2).
My photographic journey has ebbed and flowed between focusing on creativity and learning all the mechanics…sort of a back and forth rhythm of learning, discovering, and processing. When I first began dabbling in photography, the only tools I had were my eyes and my creativity because I had no idea how a camera formed a photograph, nor how light interacted with the film. Disappointed with the fact that many of my images didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned them, I began down the road of learning mechanics and all things “technical.” As with any new thing, the scales tipped in the direction of perfecting the image for quite some time. I became focused on light, sharpness, shadows, focus, quality of lenses—and the idea of vision was buried deep in my creative mind, somewhere behind thoughts of gear and aperture and off camera lighting.
And as with any tide that ebbs and flows or scale that gets tipped to one side, I began to yearn for balance. I wanted to create something deeper, something creative and an expression of myself. Around the holidays, I stumbled upon David duChemin’s blog and began poring over his posts. I loved his writing style and connected deeply with the content and humanitarian work he does. I began to take a look at some of the books he has written, and I chose Within the Frame* to dig into first.
As soon as it arrived, I began reading, and underlining, and reading more. I devoured every chapter. I was reading so fast that even in the first few chapters, I had already begun thinking about rereading it. I was coming from a place of knowing a good deal of the “technical” or “how-to” information, but my soul was longing to go deeper, to use these tools I’ve learned and go back to my first love: having a vision and expressing it creatively. Within the Frameconnected with me exactly where I was at in my journey and began to tip the scales back towards creativity. The goal is be able to live in the tension between the two and to find balance between technical perfection and creative expression of my vision.
“It’s as though photographers are afflicted with a chronic split personality. One personality is the Artist, the other the Geek. One is Vision, the other Craft…and in the middle where they meet is the art of photography—the expression of our unique vision through practiced technique. Great photography happens where craft and vision meet” (p. 38).
What I enjoyed about this book most was David’s ability to discuss some technique and technical aspects of photography within the context of beginning with your vision. He stresses that this is not a how-to book, but rather a why-to book. The book is written from the perspective of traveling and photographing in other places and cultures, but I think the content is applicable to doing work in your own hometown as well. “The art of expressing an encounter with people, places, and cultures remains the same whether or not you get on a plane” (p. xvi).
This is a book I’ll be going back to many times. I’ll take it with me when I do travel work. It is truly a great reference and one I’ll be keeping in my library for many years. I would recommend it to anyone, whether you’re just starting out or have been on your journey for years. However, I doubly recommend it to those that are at a place of knowing your craft pretty well, knowing how to wield your tools, understanding light and the mechanics of your camera (although, if you’re like me, with plenty still left to learn), but perhaps the scales have tipped and you’ve buried a bit of your inner creative. You’ve practiced your technique, but as you perfect your craft, you want your images to say something, to mean something and connect with your audience.
“Vision is everything, and the photographic journey is about discovering your vision, allowing it to evolve, change, and find expression through your camera…It is not something you find and come to terms with once and for all; it is something that changes and grows with you…Finding and expressing your vision is a journey, not a destination” (p. 4).
*Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”