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8 or 10 Reasons to Make Pictures

September 11, 2009


Driving through a waterfall in the High Pamirs of Tajikistan, 2009 by Frank Ward

I thought about this picture as I stared out the window on this rainy day in Ashfield. Then, I looked at my friend Clayton Salem‘s picture that he took at my house a week or so ago and I remembered that making pictures is more about where a photographer’s head is at than his body.

While I was grilling in the rain. by Clayton Salem
Grilling in the rain, 2009, by Clayton Salem

I’ve been thinking about my photo classes and browsing blogs looking for new work that might be of interest to them. A good picture is often good for unquantifiable reasons. It got me wondering about composition.


We can look at our picture making process in a similar manner to painters approaching a fresh canvas. The first thing a painter may think about the canvas is its size. Photographers don’t think about scale often enough. In fact, it is rather curious that photographers seem to prefer a consistent scale in any body of work. A painter may do that also, but the first consideration is how to approach the dimensions of the canvas before his/her eyes. Photographers are cursed, or blessed, with a tunnel vision view through their ground glass viewfinder. That view is most often at a much smaller scale than any print that may result from the photograph. Adding to the blank canvas concept, the photographer is also immediately challenged by the fact that the viewfinder is filled with, often unnecessary, stuff.

What to do? Start looking wherever you can find vast spaciousness- the sky, the floor, pavement, grass, leaves, walls, night, close-ups, backdrops and add what catches your interest from there.

Here are some contemporary examples of pictures made with a fair amount of spaciousness:

Holyoke Mall, 2008 by Lisa Berry
Holyoke Mall, 2008 by Lisa Berry

Lisa Berry

by Mohammedresa Mirzael, 2009
by Mohammedresa Mirzaei, 2009

Mohammedresa Mirzaei

By Rita Maas, 2008
By Rita Maas, 2008

Rita Maas

Untitled, 2009, by Aaron McElroy
Untitled, 2009, by Aaron McElroy
Untitled, 2009 by Michael McElroy
Untitled, 2009 by Aaron McElroy

Aaron McElroy also has a fascinating series of street portraits. These are quite unique yet, they are made with traditional 35mm negatives and silver printing.

Dolldrums, 2009 by Aaron McElroy
Dolldrums, 2009 by Aaron McElroy

A special thanks to Jorg Colberg for the Aaron McElroy tip.

You may ask, What are the 8 or 10 reasons to make pictures? It depends on how you count them. Normally, I would count Rita Maas’s triptych as one. Rita offers the option of buying the prints individually on Photo Eye so you make the call.

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