In Order to Progress Artistically

One of the more difficult things for an artist is to read their work and understand how their creation can move them toward their next creation. Ralph Gibson talks about his process, and how he approaches this problem. I have included the video with this discussion at the end of this text and another photographer with a similar approach.

He begins by suggesting, “Learn how your lens sees, and your lens will subsequently learn how your eye sees.” In other words, the eye sees very differently than a lens and camera, and in the end, the image you produce will be from the camera, “the camera always wins.” Consequently, the photographer needs to “listen” to his camera, which has an autonomy separate from the photographer’s.

The trick, then, is to understand the camera and lens you are using to the point where you become fluent in its language. When you converse, you speak without considering how you structure your sentences, wielding grammar and syntax unconsciously. Cameras and lenses can speak a different dialect and, in some cases, perhaps a different language. This may be if you are constantly changing lenses or cameras get in the way of becoming fluent. Being fluent can and will have an impact on your development of a personal style or signature.

How does one increase their fluency? Gilson suggests one needs to limit one’s settings and equipment by using a specific camera, a fixed focal length lens and a particular f-stop. So when you are out creating images, and surrounded by a constantly changing series of circumstances, the limitations you have made to the camera wukk advance your individual style, signature or visual language more rapidly. If you were to confront these circumstances with a bag full of camera gear, it is likely to be distracted from the relationship between your camera and the surroundings. It will allow a more concentrated focus on how to fill the frame with line, form, or gesture. An image works or does not work based on what is within that frame.

Photography is a medium of expression that requires listening to one’s work and practicing. The camera has to become an extension of oneself, and this occurs more rapidly by creating more images; also, creating more images helps develop and maintain one’s skills. So, he suggests limiting one camera, lens choice, and f-stop has multiple benefits.