I Didn’t See That
Text and Images – Chuck Kimmerle
There is a myth regarding landscape photography. This myth, routinely propagated in online photo forums – and reinforced by lazy and inept photographers whose only desire is to mimic postcards they had seen in a National Park gift shop – states that, because we do not have physical control over the landscape, our genre cannot be considered art. That we, as photographers, play a subservient role in the creation of the image. In other words, the scene dictates the image, and we simply, and obediently, comply. Of course, the implication is that all of our photos will, and do, look alike. No creativity necessary.
Of course, those of us who are serious about landscape photography as an art form, who are driven, inspired, passionate and talented, and who have something personal and worthwhile to share, know this is simply not true. We are individuals, not clones. We are the driving force in the creative equation, each with our own unique stories, our own experiences, and our own emotions, all which combine to shape our respective, unique visions.
This was reinforced to me a couple weeks ago during a photo workshop in Death Valley. On no fewer than four occasions, participants said to me, “I didn’t see that” while viewing images I had made during group outings. Images shot very close to where they were standing. When I viewed their own work, I often had the same response…I didn’t see that. How, if we were standing in proximity, if we were but simple, subservient photographic clones did we see, and create, images which were so different? And how, if we were not artists, did we present these images in such vastly different ways?
I can take that one stop further. Not only would I view a particular scene differently than my comrades, I may very well see it differently than….myself. For example, on two successive mornings I was photographing with students on the dunes. On the second morning, I excitedly photographed a developing dune-scape, exploring the curves and dimensionality of this subject as the light changed, satisfied that I had found a new and worthwhile scene. However, when the light had evolved past the point of usefulness, as I was packing my gear, I discovered that it was the exact scene I had shot the day before. The same divots, the same curves, the same basic shadows. I had, on that morning, seen it differently than I had the day before. The resulting images, despite the same physical characteristics of the scene, were quite different. In each case, I saw the scene, and visualized the final images, a bit differently.
So, while landscape photographers may not have direct physical control over the elements which comprise a landscape, we are far from mere pawns. Through the filters of our respective backgrounds, biases, personalities, feelings, visions, intentions, etc, we can each see and create as individuals. It is only after the photography is done, while sharing our images with colleagues, that we are exactly alike, each, in turn, repeating…I didn’t see that.
To see more of Chucks work be sure to visit his website www.chuckkimmerle.com. While there, I suggest you sign up for his excellent newsletter. You can follow Chuck on Facebook as well.
Every time you look through the lens, you see something new, different and then again when the image is ‘developed’, be it digitally or in the dark room. This is one of the reasons I love photography so much. Ever changing.
Chuck, I agree completely. And, to take it a step further, how many times have we visited our own work, after a period of time, and see it in a new way.
Great post, Chuck! Thanks for having him, John. The statements and his experience reasonated with me as i have thought/felt the same on several occasions. “Vision” is such an interesting process.
Oh crap, I was on those dunes and didn’t see either of those scenes.
BTW, Chuck, you are an inspiration and since spending time with you, I have started to see scenes based on both their color and bw potential and think about my work in a very different way. Your words are profound in that we all have a natural tendency to compare our work with others and fall into the “grass is always greener on the other side,” or “why didn’t I see that ” mentality. There are so many degrees of freedom in nature photography compared to studio work that I see nature photography as the more artistically challenging not the other way around… We have to make decisions based on time, weather, depth of field, shutter speed, crop-factor or framing, technique used for post processing, angle of view, perspective, etc., each of which can change a scene in dramatic and substantial ways… something not evident in studio work with fixed lights, pre-arranged pose and predetermined camera settings.
Keep up the good work and the words of wisdom, and hope to shoot with you again real soon.
Awesome, Chuck. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the inspiration. And, if I may, I’d like to suggest that your theme extends beyond photography, and applies to life itself. Check out this lovely thought I happened across this morning:
“To what you pay attention, that you will notice.
What you notice, that you will perceive.
What you perceive, you will experience.
And what you experience, will be your life.
Therefore, your focus of attention, creates your whole life.
You´ll not always have an impact
on what is happening and how people behave.
But you always can decide to what you pay attention.
And so you yourself become the consciousness
that creates it´s reality new, everyday.”
A Course in Love and Presence (178)
The importance of your inner alignment
Not only do we each create our own photographs, we create our own reality.
Thanks, all. This topic addresses a major pet peeve of mine, which is that landscape photographers are often dismissed in the art world.
FYI, both of these images are the same, exact scene I wrote about. Different days, different visions.
Might I add, if you click on the blog post title, (rather than read it from the main blog page) you’ll be able to see the share buttons. Please consider sharing posts that you find interesting, inspiring etc…
This is a great insight on creativity and landscape photography, Your thoughts presented in our workshop on creativity and how it is applied to evoke feelings and emotions was also very insightful.
I have copied your guest blog on my web site and passed it on to several of my friends.
Thanks for the valuable lesson and very awesome images – they say something important about you. Love the Ruediger Schache quote. I will also post your article on my own website.
Damn… Didnt think of writing about that 🙂
Great post and, of course it goes without saying, great image(s)…..
Now that was funny. Why didn’t I think of writing that?!