Friday, July 3, 2009

seeing with new eyes

Since completing the photographic essay workshop with David Alan Harvey and Jim Nachtwey at LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph three weeks ago, I have barely picked up my camera. I'd say this is the longest I've gone without taking pics since I bought my first digital point-and-shoot in December 2000. Then today I was reading a book, "Martin Parr" by Sandra Phillips, that I'd bought after hearing Martin speak and show his work to the audience in Charlottesville's Paramount Theatre during Look3. It got my juices going and I went around the park finding unsuspecting people to photograph. This little girl was one of them.

But things are different for me now. Even when I'm shooting from my lap, as I did here, my inner eye is looking at the entire frame in a new way. I keep hearing Jim Nachtwey's voice saying, "Think of each frame as a piece of sculpture. Walk around it. Take into account its dimensionality. See it from all angles." I also hear Jim's frequent critique of our images: "You were five seconds too late (or early) and/or five steps too far to the right (or left)." I hear both Jim and David say, "Yes, you captured the moment, but is it a PHOTOGRAPH?" That became the mantra of the week, "Is it a photograph?" Time and time again we students would ask, "What do you mean? How do you define a 'photograph'?"

Well, they never did actually define it in words, but they did show us what they meant as they critiqued our photos for five hours every day. By the end of the week it got so we knew when we were looking at a "photograph" and when we weren't. The photograph had all its elements in place, there was a certain harmony to the whole (even if it was a quirky harmony), nothing distracted our eye from what the photographer wanted us to see, but most importantly, there was a certain feeling that hit us in the gut when we saw a "photograph" and a kind of apathy when we didn't.

When I look at the photo I shot today, I'd say it's close but it would have been better if I'd been just a step or two to the left.

And it isn't just Jim's and David's words I remember. It is their actions. I can still see David Alan Harvey shooting pics during a spontaneous bluegrass performance by some wonderful ole Southern boys outside a crowded bar in C'ville at 1 a.m. on the last night of the festival. I see how he was squatting, standing, bending, dodging this way and that, stationing himself in as many different positions as possible in order to get different angles with every shot he took. The man was in perpetual motion. He was a living example of what he'd called "working it non-stop" whenever conditions were perfectly set up to take good pictures.

So now I'm wondering if I just needed some time to let all that I'd seen and heard during those remarkable six days--eight days counting the festival--percolate down deep into my being before picking up my camera again. My guess is that I'll be assimilating what I saw, heard and experienced for a long time to come. I'd been told that taking a workshop with David Alan Harvey was life-changing, but add James Nachtwey to the mix and you're talking once-in-a lifetime. Am I grateful? Hell yes!


Blogger Vivek Manek aka Viky m said...

thnk u fr sharing this ....u r the sweetest ....... till thn viky

July 13, 2009 at 11:09 PM  

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