From photography to art: the go away factor

In photography, my efforts consist of freeing myself from the limitations when film braked the creativity: there was little I could do to transform the image into what I saw in my mind. Doing what I call “ transmitted transform “ to digital images has therefore raised as an essential aspect of the journey. Things that were impossible to do with film either in the field or in the darkroom. I call them “ transmitted transform “ because they seem to appear in the mind, coming from nowhere and transmitted by an unspeakable source. 

With digital era, the cost of a single capture is the cost of storage, which is negligible. We can thus go away from trying to get a perfect capture in one shot: a perfect capture can happen mixing a multitude of images. We can shoot as much as we want and maximize our chances of success.

In my opinion, a today’s picture is rarely completed with a single capture. Instead, it must be done with multiple shots assembled in Photoshop or an other postproduction software, by using collaging / stitching techniques to extend the composition, or HDR to extend the dynamic range, or focus stacking to increase the DOF, or whatever. However, trying to density and  build a final image is only one of the things we need to go away of even if we learn how to create artistic photographs.

Therefore ask yourself a few questions:

  • Looking at your approach to create artistic photographs, what do you want to change ? Make a list: what to throw away and what to keep doing.
  • Where do you stand regarding the film vs digital paradigm ? How do you feel about deeply manipulating your photographs ? 
  • Which manipulations are you doing now? Which ones do you want to learn and use in the future?
  • What is the most challenging thing for you to go away of ? Why is that ? 

Turning photography into art means doing something different, something new, something that has maybe been dreamed, but not been done before. Innovation is at the root of art and to innovate we have to go away of preconceptions.

We have to learn to go away. Go away comes after learning. First, we learn, then we run away from what we feel stopping us from being fully creative, from becoming ourselves. Go away starts by changing this belief and clearing our head.

Going away means thus pushing aside the things that prevent us from being creative. It can be a single thing but most of the time they are a lot of. We cannot let them go all at once because we do not necessarily know what they are. We need to go away when discover what they are, one after one.

However, we do not want to run away from everything. We do not want to let go what is positive. Some of the things we are doing are good and deserve to be carefully kept. This selection, what to keep and what to go away from, is personal. It is different for each and every one of us. What you decide to keep and what you decide to let down are truly personal decisions.

The outcome of these steps is a nice path towards the creation of artistic pictures that are unique to you.

Camera Obscura

Pinhole photography, the “Camera Obscura” effect, forms an image through a small pin-sized hole rather than a lens and its origins can be traced back 2.500 years to when Mo Ti in China observed that light travels in a straight line through a small hole like an arrow. 

It is a radical alternative to conventional photography, exploring a world beyond the limitations of the human eye and human wallet. In an age of instant automated screen-based predictability it rediscovers accident, wonder and delight through experimentation, delicious qualities increasingly absent from contemporary photographic practice. 

Pinhole images have properties that aren’t encountered using even the most expensive CanoNikon camera. These properties include:

  • Unlimited depth of field: Everything is in focus – from objects next to the pinhole to distant mountains enabling a “bug’s-eye view” of the world.
  • Capturing time beyond vision: Exposure times can range from fractions of a second to the six months that a solargraph camera exposes for when capturing the movement of the sun.
  • Construction, indestructibility and cheapness: cameras can be homemade. The combination of the camera’s relative indestructibility with its low cost allows experimentation where digital cameras fear to tread.
  • Multiple exposures: You can take two or more images on top of each other, often accidentally.
  • The joyous lack of a viewfinder: The wonder of the unknown replaces the instantaneous fix of a digital viewfinder (and a children’s “let me see it” demands are replaced by a wait-and-see approach).

Nonetheless, there is a mid-term solution for the speed lover. Rather than build a film camera, you can also use your up-to-date digital camera and convert it into a pinhole camera, filling the gap between a very old process and the most modern electronic devices. By the way, in this case, a mirrorless camera has a tremendous advantage: it allows you to observe immediately what you’ll get through the tiny hole, and it measures also the exposure time needed on manual position, without using any external lightmeter. 

In our age of instant photographic feedback, it is amazing how a bit of time and thought can change your images from previewed experiments to what could be the greatest photographs ever taken, something to ponder while you wait for them to be processed.

The trick ? Modify your DSLR camera’s body cap to create a pinhole effect. As long as you can spare a body cap you can do this. The lens emulates the distinctive vignette and softness of a pinhole photograph in a fraction of the time and is great for adding an abstract or surreal quality to an image. While the digital technique isn’t the same as a classic biscuit-tin camera, your home-made lens makes for a dynamic approach to a nostalgic analog process. Plus, the unpredictability of the results adds an interesting twist to your digital practice.

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