Saturday, August 10, 2013

August Photography Book Club: week 2

It's week 2 of the August Photography Book Club and our study of Freeman Patterson's Photography and the Art of Seeing. Catch up by reading the overview about the Book Club and the summary and exercises from week 1 or just jump right in from here. If you don't have access to a copy of the book, you can still join in by participating in the exercises and reflections below. If you do have the book, you'll have a lot more material to draw upon and work with.
End of result of spending 20 minutes taking 10 different images in the bathroom. I really liked the reflection here in the toothbrush holder.
I have been so impressed by the quality of the photographs and ideas being created and expressed already in week 1. To see what others have been coming up with, take a look at the photographs on the Flickr group page, posted to the 365project discussion board, or tagged bookclub-seeing1.

For week 2 (August 11-17th), we will focus on the second two sections: Learning to Imagine and Learning to Express. Below, I've provided a few quotations and exercises that struck me from these chapters. (All page numbers refer to the 2011 edition.)

Learning to Imagine
"The more sensory experiences you have, the more material your imagination has to work with. The photographer who observes his [or her] environment carefully, who lets his [or her] eyes linger on physical details, is feeding his [or her] imagination" (pg. 54).

This section explores the ideas of imagining and abstracting and how they contrast with the idea of labeling: "We look at a cup and what we see is 'cup-ness,' not the flaring rim, the curving handle, the mottled design, or the reflections of the windows on the side of the cup. In short, labels can limit the amount of material accessible to our imagination" (pg. 55).

Rather than focusing on such labels, Patterson encourages the photographer to go through a three step creative process: "First, you conceive or imagine a theme. Second, you find (that is, perceive) subject matter that expresses that theme or concept. Third, you conceive the best way to organize the subject matter and use your photographic tools" (pg. 56). This process of "abstracting and selecting help to make clear expression possible" (pg. 60).
Expressing 'calm' for a photography scavenger hunt. Calm by Archaeofrog on Flickr
Try some of the exercises in this section. For example, start by selecting an abstract subject (his example is 'tranquility'), and then ask yourself what subject matter best expresses this subject and why. Or, think about what tones or combination of tones would express that idea. Try to seek out and take photographs of that subject matter and/or those tones to express that subject.
Expressing 'chaos' for a photography scavenger hunt. Chaos by Archaeofrog on Flickr
Learning to Express
"The goal of your photography is effective expression" (pg. 64).

The challenge of this section is to focus your photography on learning to see what your subject matter can express rather than focusing in on your own self-expression. One exercise given is to take a hard-boiled egg (or other similarly mundane object) and make at least twenty photographs of it over the course of twenty-four hours, while trying to answer the question, "What does this egg express?" For inspiration, check out some of the mundane challenges on the 365project site such as mundane-screwdriver, mundane-toothbrush, or mundane-pen to name just a few. Patterson suggests that the sequence of photography should flow from seeing, then responding, and only then making photographs.
My entry for the 'mundane screwdriver' theme. (Not sure that this expresses something essential about a screwdriver, other than the pun.)
Multiple Ways to Join the Book Club
Want to participate? Post a comment with your thoughts or a link to a picture you've taken for the Book Club and an explanation of how the book influenced your image. Or, you can post pictures and contribute to the discussion by joining the Photography Book Club Group on Flickr.

And remember, "Good imagination can be infectious; catch it and pass it on to other photographers" (pg. 58).
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