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Importance of imagination over technique

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Pelao, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    The discussion about DPReview forums ( https://www.mu-43.com/f35/panasonic-vs-olympus-3006/ ), got me thinking about the balance between the things that make us enjoy photography.

    Recently, Vincent Versace wrote a short essay on the importance of imagination in photography. He's a great explorer of technique, and certainly keeps gear in perspective - but here he makes the case fir nurturing a child-like imagination:

    Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider Blog » Photoshop & Digital Photography Techniques, Tutorials, Books, Reviews & More Blog Archive It’s The 3rd Anniversary of Guest Blog Wednesday ft. Vincent Versace!
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  2. photoSmart42

    photoSmart42 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 12, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    I tend to agree with most of the article. IMO, people pick up cameras for different reasons. Some do it because they simply want to record events in their lives, others do it because they want to pursue the more artistic aspect of it in creating great photographs that inspire others.

    I think the first group tends to be a lot more utilitarian than imaginative, so they focus on features that allow them to take easy and fast snapshots of the events in their lives, then share them with their friends and family. Hence portable P&S cameras, phone cameras with upload capabilities, social media and/or file server accounts, etc. Probably never heard of f-stop, aperture, etc. It's all about capturing those precious moments around us, and not caring a whole lot about IQ as an absolute. I don't think many of them join gear forums, or photography forums, etc.

    The second group is much more aimed at getting those great photos. They're the ones who look at amazing photographs and say "I want to be able to do that". For many (especially in the Western world), the solution is gear. They chase different pieces of gear, and take lots of photos hoping a few of them will turn out great. When they don't, they end up getting more gear, or the next advancement in the gear they have, hoping that will solve their output. It's the same with other pursuits (when you want a lower golf score, get new golf clubs, right?). At some point, some of these budding photogs will start asking themselves "what is it about that photograph that inspires me? what makes a good photograph?", at which point the journey of discovery is afoot. They start reading stuff about photography, join forums, take classes in composition and advanced techniques, and finally move beyond the simple pursuit of better gear. Their rate of taking inspirational photographs increases dramatically, and that's when the imagination really kicks in.

    So I think discussions like the one mentioned above happens between people on different sides of that transition from focus on gear to focus on composition and away from gear. It's quite frustrating for someone who has the latest piece of gear to still just take mediocre photographs because there's no understanding why (I know from personal experience). It's possible there's a prevalent common belief that photography is an art form that cannot be learned, so until someone gets over that and signs up for a class they simply won't understand how much they can learn. That frustration can easily spill into arguments over this gear or that, loyalty over this brand or that.

    Obviously these are generalizations, but at least from my observations of discussions on various forums that's the conclusion I've reached.
  3. Mosca

    Mosca Mu-43 Regular

    May 27, 2010
    This is something I've thought a lot about. In many ways, I think it is similar to the Christian conundrum of faith vs works; is it your belief, or how you live, that satisfies the doctrine? In the end, it is solved by James: "Faith without works is dead."

    Imagination without the skill to communicate it is navel gazing, IMO. The basis of the art isn't the imagination, and it isn't the technique; art is the synthesis of the two. It is the imagination to have a unique vision, and the discipline to develop the skill needed to implement it into existence and communicate it.

    The world is full of lazy or untalented visionaries, those who believe that having a unique perspective or incredible thoughts is all that is needed to set them apart from the rabble. Unless one has the urge and desire to learn the discipline, to learn how to communicate that perspective and thought to others, then one is IMO, unexceptional. Because it is the learning of the craft that creates the exception that sometimes becomes art.
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  4. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Isn't that what "blogging" is for? I digress, LOL.

    I've personally never been imaginative in the sense of "art". I am however extremely imaginative when it comes to problem solving and analysis. Usually engineers are. But when it comes to plain old art, I get a big ole F, LOL.
  5. Mosca

    Mosca Mu-43 Regular

    May 27, 2010

    I think of my own photography and writing as "relentlessly representational"; I can't help but make things in boxes, it is how I am wired. But I feel that within that structure there is also beauty. If I need to string my boxes together so that they lose all sense of scale and become fractal (speaking metaphorically), then I've used what I am to make something else.

    Which is not the same as actually being good at this. But it's a start.
  6. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    One of the reason's my photography hasn't advanced much is that because I view taking pictures as a problem, or should I say, how can I take the best picture of a particular subject. Solving that problem is completly subjective in the terms of what is a good picture, of course, but at the same time I wonder if my lack of imagination prevents me from getting good pictures at times.
  7. MikeB10

    MikeB10 Mu-43 Regular

    It strikes me that the idea of art is a very subjective one at best. But whatever we decide art to be, it is foolish to think that skill is not involved, whether acquired via "Popular Paint Brush" or other means. It's simply a given that the photographic voice is ineffective without photographic skills. The pitfall, perhaps, is to become engrossed in the acquisition of skills and forget your inspiration. On the other hand, my subjective view of photographic art is less lofty than some, I suspect. I believe that the family shoebox or other such collections of daily life embody the very nature of the photographic voice, one that shares with us the captured moment of time past. Every photo is, of course, time past, so it is a unique media in the world of visual art and because of this unique voice one has to nurture the creative ability to recognize a meaningful moment. I suspect that is the author's intent, though I'm not sure his description of that process, aka silliness, laughter, etc., is requisite.
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