Day 15: A Photographer’s Rant

I never truly realised how little appreciation people have for photography, especially as an art form. Studying photography and majoring in art practice I am surrounded by fellow students (and teachers) who are respectful towards each other and can understand how much effort it takes to create a body of work, whether it be one image or twenty. Being on this trip with students who study the more “classical” art, i.e. sculpture, drawing, printmaking, that are more likely to appear in an art gallery, has made me realize how little respect and understanding they have for photographers. And it is extremely insulting.
I have been absolutely gutted that a teacher went out of their way to inform me they see photographers all the same, and that they are expected to document a process that may be used for advertising for free, not get paid for it, but on the upside at least my name will be mentioned (serious sarcasm). Then I have students who have kindly modeled for me, taking photos on their phone of a scene that I HAVE CREATED and then find out they are showing everyone my image! I know they don’t realize what they’re doing, but it is absolutely gut-wrenching and I have never been put into a situation like this before. Just because I don’t spend hours drawing my art doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

Actually, let me give you a run down on how my hours are actually spent planning a photograph. And this is just the icing on the cake…

1. Location

  • Setting, (example of one photograph: graffiti, needs to be Indonesian so audience can recognize language).
  • Lighting: time of day, contrast, strength of light, direction.
  • Will the public be a problem? Privacy issues. Am I somehow disrespecting the locals?
  • Private property of abandoned?
  • Is it dangerous and how much time is needed?
  • Safety for myself, model and anyone else helping

2. Model

  • Colour of skin, hair, height
  • Figure, what clothing should be worn
  • Flexibility, what are their limitations and how far are they willing to go in the photograph.
  • Can they take direction?
  • Are they able to act, can they control their emotions, facial expressions.
  1. Technical
  • Camera settings, low light situation obviously required more light – ISO produces noise, aperture decreases what’s in focus, slow shutter speed increases chance of movement (tripod may be needed) – what needs to be sacrificed?
  • Highlights and shadows: where will they fall, what mood do they create, time of day and direction of light.
  • Viewpoint, perspective, lens – wide or zoom? Flat or layered imagine.
  • Cropping – what needs to be shown to complete narrative?
  • Equipment – flash, tripod, lighting modifiers, assistants?
  • EDITING (won’t even begin on that).
  • Printing: paper type, size, how will it be displayed.

But before any of this can even be considered, I need to have my concept sorted. What’s the point in making art if it doesn’t have anything to say? What is the point if it doesn’t make people talk, question and learn? I don’t take photographs for the sake of recording, I create them to tell a story, to share how I see the world, and I hope to move people, whether it’s making them angry, sad, happy or even if it just makes them think about a different perspective. If I can make them feel something I know I have succeeded.

Most of the time when I am stuck on a concept I can’t see clearly, I become this whole different person. I wallow in my depression for weeks; I make excuses to skip on socializing with people, going to work, uni or visiting family. I get to the point where I can’t even get out of bed because I see myself as a failure.

But then, when I see that perfect imagine in my head, when I can see the model and how the lighting highlights their hair, and how the location looks and the way it just fits into my concept, when I can create that piece of art, all the wallowing and feeling low is worth it, and somehow it feels beautiful, peaceful and complete.

To have someone quickly snap that imagine, that thing that created days of torment, to have that taken away from me, it’s heartbreaking.


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