Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1997/08/12

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Subject: Seeing
From: (Alastair Firkin)
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 97 18:55:51 -0700

> I think SEEING is the important thing. This is the most critical
> factor in
> photography, distinguishing good photographers from bad. Most people
> cannot
> see.

G'day Oddmund,

Once again a goodly stream of traffic has flowed from your comments. Seeing
is interesting, and of course important, but what I find interesting, is
that most people can see much of what is in the finished product. By this I
mean that most people seem to be able to recognize a good and interesting
photograph from an ordinary one. This must be true at least in some
respects because it is through appreciation of the viewer that all
photographers become known. You should not be so dismissive of people. I
suspect you may subscribe to the lowest common denominator factor if what
you say is what you believe. The ordinary "man/woman on the street" can be
discerning of the final product, just as they may be or become discerning
of a painting, so can they produce this painting? I believe that it is more
a technical thing. Train someone to understand how to put what is before
him onto film and train him to look for images, put a fancy camera which
will do all the technical stuff, and bingo you have photographs worthy of
reproduction. Painting is more difficult. You may see things that you wish
to put onto canvas, but lack the artistic ability to do so, and no paint
brush comes equiped with "auto/colour". This is the age old arguement about
Photography as art, but it is my belief, that if a person can see things in
the final image, they can be taught to bring some of that to film-- at
least in part. If the person cannot see things in the final image, they
cannot bring it to film. Now if you can train people to appreciate and see
things in the photographs they can then become better photographers with
like training, but they may never be able to paint.

All this does not mean that the artistic content of photographs can be
totally learnt, but when I see a famous photographers proof sheet and note
the number of "ordinary" shots from which the one was chosen, it makes my
hit rate seem more satifying. Leica to me is a little more like the brush.
I have to choose my options, the finished product is mine, not the camera's
and if I've captured what I had thought I saw, the result gives me a very
warm feeling. This group and its diverse discussions also makes me think
more every time I push the shutter. Thanks. I do hope I'm not taken too
seriously here. I'm just a great believer in people and their ability to
learn given encouragement and opportunity. We are perhaps more lucky with
our opportunities ;-)

Alastair Firkin