Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/01/26

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Subject: Re: [Leica] What makes a good photo (was: Lee's week four)
From: Henry Ambrose <>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 21:31:44 -0600

I wrote:
>> For an experiment try turning off all that you "know" about taking
>> pictures then go out and do it. Shoot a roll of only things that interest
>> you. Walk around until you see something interesting. Don't "dress them
>> up" shoot EXACTLY what piqued your interest. Don't use any of the rules
>> you know, reject them. Come back and look really hard at the film. What's
>> happening?
Martin replied:
>Yeah, the two schools.  I'm of the other one: First you learn the rules,
>then you break them, but in interesting ways.  I don't believe that you can
>turn off what you know.  You carry it with you at all times.  You cannot
>switch it off.  The trick is to know it so well that you use it in more
>abstract ways, that you break free of the lowest level of knowing it.  I
>believe that with my way of doing things, the ability to analyse (the "look
>really hard at the film" part) is enhanced and rather than doing and "seeing
>what happened" you can conciously do.  Which, ultimately, allows you to
>express more.
and Martin also wrote:
>I like both of these -- and they go back to photographic clichés.  Know for
>a given situation what the photographic cliché is and then don't to it: do
>something different.  At the moment, I'm very much exploring photographic
>clichés, conciously taking the unexpected, mundane, unsurprising photograph
>so that I get to know it, get to feel it in my gut when I'm confronted with
>it.  Then I can start finding ways to break out of the mold.  Like music,
>where people practice scales and variations until they can use one structure
>to create others.

No, I am suggesting an exercise that is close to what you are saying.
Reject what you know (the cliche that you already learned).
You know cliches whether you know it or not. Make any stupid picture you 
want but NOT the cliche one. You already know the rules. And you can't go 
out and say "I'm not making cliches" you go out and say "I'm 
photographing that which is interesting just as I find it  - first 

Put your brain and intellect on vacation and photograph what you see. 
Sure they're still with you and you can't completely send them away for a 
day. Just listen to the other part that sees without thinking.

It is hard to shoot a roll of film this way. Very hard. Lots of "why are 
you making a picture of this?' and "no walk over there it looks better" 
Then just ignoring all that and photographing only what I found 
immediately interesting.


Replies: Reply from S Dimitrov <> (Re: [Leica] What makes a good photo (was: Lee's week four))