I usually don't use this space to rant, but this particular topic has been chapping my hide for sometime.
While the advent of digital photography has made documenting life available to the masses, it has also spawned the mindset of if you have a digital camera or (gasp) camera phone and can take a decent picture on Automatic, then you can call yourself a photographer. Now I fully support individuals in their creative pursuits, but that is not what I'm referring to here. I'm referring to the people who come up to me and act as if their son's birthday party photos are the same as my professional photographs. It's that mindset that has changed the value of photography as a skilled art form and that angers me. It angers me because I work really really hard to make my photographs. I study and analyze and obsess over them (probably to my detriment). To me, photography isn't simply snapping a decent picture with your camera set to Automatic. It's about seeing. It's about knowing how to use your camera in any situation. It's about capturing a moment. It's about making art. It's about finding a new take on an ordinary situation. And that takes patience and skill and talent and most importantly, a unique eye. So this malarkey about photography being something anyone can do really. chaps. my. hide.
Sooooo. Now that I got that out of the way, here is what I was originally planning to write about.
I study photography as much as I participate in photography. I can spend hours looking at and thinking about one image, wondering why the photographer chose that specific point of view and what was left out. Aside from the technical aspect of photography, for me the hardest part of photography is what to keep in the frame and what to leave out. Below are a few books I've been reading and studying the last few months. I highly recommend all of them, for those who are interested.
Annie Leibovitz At Work by Annie Leibovitz. I've mentioned before how much of an influence Annie Leibovitz had on me. She was the first professional photographer I took note of when I was younger. While I appreciate all of her work, it's really her early work from the late 60s and 70s that fascinates me. I love that this book tells a story behind each set of images, especially those taken on the 1975 Rolling Stones tour. Dude. Can you imagine?
Photo-wisdom by Lewis Blackwell. Every few months my friend, Sean, and I get together and talk non-stop about photography. He's the one person in my life who is as passionate about the art as I am. So when he recommended this book, I didn't hesitate. Similar to Annie's book, the photographers featured tell about their influences, inspirations, adventures, and so on. It's a fantastic compilation.
Richard Avedon: Portraits by Richard Avedon. What appear to be simple portraits against white backdrops are in truth raw, complicated, intimate snippets of his subjects. He is a master.
Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967 by Tony Shafrazi. A few weeks ago I watched The Cool School, a documentary about the L.A. art movement that began in the late 1950s. It was fascinating and further fueled my obsession with Dennis Hopper's lesser known career as an artist and photographer. His work ranges from quietly honest photographs of anonymity to sophisticated portraits from behind the scenes of 1960s Hollywood. His range is incredible.