In part two of our series on Gestalt psychology and its impact on photography, we examine how the law of past experience and similarity can help us to better define not only what happens behind the camera but also what happens when we are in the editing and critique process.
I have been helping a number of photographers recently with editing and sequencing. Some of them have a similar set of photographs that reminded me of my work in one particular way. They were very chaotic images. One of the things that I like to explore in my photography is finding the point of peace or relaxation in a chaotic place. In my work, that is often finding something in nature among the trees, rocks, and waves.
As I got to thinking about how we deal with this chaos and create meaning, I returned to some psychology books of my past. In there I re-read about the gestalt approach to psychology which was all about how we make order from chaos when we only see pieces of the scene. This research is what bore out the idea that the sum is greater than the parts.
This week’s podcast is all about storytelling concepts. It doesn’t matter how much you work your technical skills as a photographer. Eventually, your work is about how well you connect with your audience beyond f/stops and shutter speeds. One of the most common approaches is to talk about the importance of story and storytelling in an image or body of work. No matter who you are or what level of photographer you are, your work will eventually be about storytelling. Your images will start to convey something more than just what you captured in front of the camera.
While there are hundreds of components and subtle nuances to storytelling, in this week’s podcast I identify five big buckets that I think are important for photographers to consider when they begin to focus on important storytelling.
In the service of others.
Emotions verse facts.
Assume your audience is smart.
Remember that while not every photograph has to tell a story, that when you do tell a story, you want to make sure that it is the story you want. Taking the time to understand the elements of good storytelling can really impact your work as a photographer.
This week’s podcast focuses on understanding who your audience is as a photographer. In general, there are two main groups of consumers of photography. There is the mass audience and then the art-elite audience. Both of these audiences are critical to supporting photographers, but they approach their viewing of photography and what they value is different.
The mass audience is looking for artwork that we like and feel good at when we look at it. This is the type of work that you might find to hang on your wall because you love the place, color, composition. The standards are more along the lines of beautiful photographs that are well composed. This is a huge space to work in. Think of all the calendars, photo books, prints that you have seen.
The art-educated group is examining work not based on beauty, composition or approachability, but rather from an examination of critical trends in contemporary art, breakthroughs in new directions of art and how current work is balanced against the prior history of the photographic medium.
The challenge for the creator is to understand what group is looking at their work and giving them the feedback. If your feedback is coming from one group, but you are targeting another, you might find that your feedback is detrimental to your work. Neither group is more important than the other, but their approach is distinct enough that it can cause angst if you were looking for feedback of one group over another.
The key is to do work that matters to you first and then try to get the feedback from the group you need rather than randomly hoping for critical feedback.
In this week’s podcast, the focus is all about the process of seeing to capture. From the moment we think we see something to the point it becomes a photograph is a journey. Along the way, there are a number of steps that we take to make that happen. In my experience when we are working well, the process seems secondary, but when things are not going well, it is a challenge. As I was rearranging the studio with Lori this past week, I came across the above quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson that got me thinking about my process.
That quote inspired me to break down my mental process into steps to see if I can figure out how to make my photographs better. I came up with see, perceive, recognize and act. At each of those stages, something important in the photographic process happens. By jumping ahead or lingering back in the process, I find myself missing some important images. So, this week I talk about how I came to be with this process and how you might consider this or a similar process to find your own method for better understanding how and why your photographs work or not.
In this week’s episode of the Perceptive Photographer we discuss two topics that can have an impact on how we create photographs and how we share photographs. The first half of the podcast, we talk about how to learn a new task that can be applied in our photography, and the second half we focus on what a photograph should be as an object or artifact.
Learning a new task is all about the creative practice. Learning new things can add a lot of energy and excitement to our creative process. When we are learning something new, our expectations need to be balanced between how long it really will take with how long we think it should take. Sometimes when we are learning something easy and simple, it might not take very long at all to learn the task. But, when things are more complex, it can take a lot longer to learn. Knowing the complexity of the task can help you set your expectations and also release pressure when you get frustrated when things are happening slower than you want.
As we move into the second half of the podcast, we take a look at some of the things to consider when you are processing and outputting your photographs. Photography is a very flexible medium and figuring out how you want to share an image and how the photograph should be experienced is an important part of the process. There are a lot of factors that can impact if your images should be prints, digital, composites or used in some other way. I like to consider some of these factors when I figure out how to create the final object that becomes the photograph:
the feeling I want the person to have when they/I look at the image
longevity of the image
manipulation of the image
replication of the image
the accuracy of the image.
In the next week or two, we will be announcing the workshops happening at Silly Dog Studios so check out that information when it is released in the next podcast or two.