My visual quest is driven by a desire to create a universe capable of supporting feelings and ideas. — Jerry Uelsmann
On Tuesday I made the time to travel to the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA to view The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann. It was worth the 2+ hour trip from Baltimore.
Increasingly I have felt that composite images are one of the best ways for me to express myself, express complex ideas, and distinguish myself from other photographers. There are so many greatly skilled professional and amateur outdoor photographers these days it is really difficult to distinguish your images from the thousands of perfectly lit, well composed landscape and wildlife images. Those who can afford it, are tending to do so by going to less well-traveled locations like Patagonia, Antarctica, Greenland and Iceland. The photographer’s own creativity, imagination, insight and experience provides an alternate approach that is in many ways more personal.
In my opinion, today’s cameras and software are so sophisticated and capable, photography is less and less about exposure and technical issues and more and more about ideas, creativity, and the skills to implement those ideas. Technical skill regarding composition, use of depth of field, and post-processing are still extremely important as a means of effectively implementing the idea, concept or insight, but for me, although capturing or documenting a great scene is still extremely enjoyable, I am spending more and more time thinking about my photography almost like poetry — a means to capture and express, with only the essential details, a concept, emotion, or insight as an image. Sandpiper at Sunset Rather than “taking” photos, I want increasingly to “make” photos.
This may be obvious to others, but as an outdoor photographer my attention has been more on capturing beautiful scenes than expressing insights or emotions; which is not to say that beautiful scenes cannot be expressive or more than just documentation of content and lighting. Uelsmann noted “It is disturbing to discover the number of leading figures in photography today who believe the decisive moment or slice-of-life form of photography to be the ONLY [emphasis added] natural form, and all other approaches being somehow affectations. Let the inner needs of the photographer combine with the specifics of any given photographic effect to determine for that moment the most applicable approach… Furthermore, let him feel free, at anytime during the photographic process, to post-visualize.”