In order to say something outward, something universal, you must first look inward.

- - Photographers

Photographer Rodney Smith has a new book and a blog he’s using as a promotional tool which is great, because he’s dropping some real gems in the posts. Like this one:

To say a photographer has a vision is to say the photographer has something unique to say to about the world. Why do some photographers have something unique to say, when so many others just shoot pictures that are general and lacking vision? Most people would say it has to do with talent. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe it has nothing to do with talent. Maybe it has to do with the ability to express one’s feelings. The person who presents a strong vision has figured out a way to express his or her feelings, while others are struggling to do that. Talent, then, becomes not so much artistic talent, though that may be a good part of it, but rather emotional talent.

via Rodney Smith- The End Starts Here.

There Are 23 Comments On This Article.

  1. Okay, so why is it that so many artists have only achieved interest in their work after they died? Let’s not confuse good marketing and networking with artistic talent.

  2. le cinémasagiste

    I’d compare photography and photographers to writers and writing. Some do sports, some do news, some do fiction, some do poetry, and so on. I don’t think emotion is necessary for all forms. It all depends on which we are talking about. Martin Trenkler doesn’t have much to say about the world, but the guy can shoot some amazingly beautiful Formula 1 photographs. I’m not saying he is without feelings or emotions, but I think his abilities stem more from natural talent and artistic vision.

      • le cinémasagiste

        @Allen Lee Taylor,

        I have no doubt, at least for me, it is a very emotional process and I know lots of emotionally imbalanced folk that make amazing work as well! Some of the best (art)work is done by those that are massively imbalanced. I agree in large part to what he was saying and I think emotions and the ability to express or release them lays the groundwork for artistic vision.

        I was just making my opinion known that I think it all depends on the particular field of photography. If I were looking for a photographer to shoot the Rolex watches for my eBay auction, Joel-Petr Witkin might not be on my list. I really wouldn’t care if the photographer brought any emotional talent to the table. If he did, it might be kinda weird?

        • @le cinémasagiste,

          I think I understand what you mean, but I believe there are many types of emotion that come into play. Not all our worn on one’s sleeve. I think an inner passion for the work in itself is an emotion that a product (watches) photographer would benefit in having.

          • le cinémasagiste

            @Allen Lee Taylor,

            agreed. Emotion is the basis for everything to SOME degree. I would imagine a product photographer brings some sort of emotion and passion to the delicate lighting that his job requires… or at least the good ones do.

  3. Hanging out today

    Anyone take notice of the price for this gem of a book? $600 plus $50.00 for shipping.

    It will be beautiful as expected. Not sure I can pony up 650 extra at the moment…..

    I think I will read the blog…..

  4. I agree that talent is not a necessary ingredient in producing pictures with vision. However, combining the ability to express one’s emotions with talent and skill has the potential to create an even stronger photograph.

  5. I am a free thinker and speaker, I voice my thoughts openly. I think that Rodney is right on track. It has always been my belief that a piece of Art not matter the medium should evoke emotion. I have thousands of photos that just don’t speak to me. They do not evoke any kind of emotion (YET). Thus I put them aside for the ones that do. I think to look at Picaso other Masters (now) and compare to todays ways of getting the art out is much different. So to me the truth is do you see soemthing that evokes emotion or not, did you experience emotion or not. If not why did the photographer shoot it….

  6. @Jake: I love you man, you do great work and are what this post is about.

    I agree with some of the statements made, as art compels emotion when it is filled with it. But it has often been my experience as an emerging editorial professional and an artist that certain personal viewpoints are better left out of certain assignments. Greenberg comes to mind. Although the work is fantastic, the client and job do not always require or want polarized viewpoints. Better reserve these feelings for the exhibition art.

    Great post Rob.

  7. Great post. As a writer, I’m going to second le cinémasagiste’s comment about the similarity between photographers and writers. (And I suspect you can extend the metaphor to graphic designers and illustrators.) There are varying degrees of emotion that you can (or should) inject into different circumstances and segments of the field. Some of them, newswriting comes to mind, theoretically *shouldn’t* have any emotional content.

  8. I can tell you, from the AD/PE point of view (and I think Rob would agree), that it’s really easy to see these differences when books are called in for a project. I’ve seen photographers get so tangled up in their equipment that they seem to pay about half as much attention to what they’re shooting and it shows in the work. On the other hand, I’ve seen photographers do amazing things with nothing more than an old manual SLR and a decent lunch.

    I couldn’t agree more with Rodney on this and while I know it’s my job to pair the right shooter with the right assignment, being emotionally “there” for the shoot ALWAYS becomes evident (or not) in the edit. Which, many times, becomes the point when it’s decided whether or not the photographer will get a call back the next time…

  9. Intrinsic talent is something that can be built upon with practise and experience. It’s takes a mixture of “artistic” emotion and skill to make good photos. Rather than the possession of emotions, however, I think the most important thing is communication skills. You might be the most emotionally-attuned person in the world, but if you can’t communicate those emotions, then you’ll go nowhere.

  10. I agree with what Rodney is writing, but I think it’s only part of complex equation with lots of variables.

    My comments aren’t about photography that is in service to anything else (in order to sell watches on ebay or even an editorial assignment with certain constraints and enforced rules.) It’s not a question of whether or not those photographs created in service of something can be art, but I’m going to leave out the whole business/marketing elements because I don’t think they’re relevant to my thoughts.

    Having an ability to express your emotions is important. So is having an ability to express your thoughts. I think it’s that ability that Arty Fucking Smokes (15) is calling communication skills.

    But does it matter if you can express in a photograph what you have to think or feel if nobody cares? Well, as an artist you can feel that you’ve created something authentic over which you have real authorship. I think that in and of itself is a pretty great thing and something to be proud of.

    Different cultures and generations interpret works of art in different ways. Old photographers are often being discovered years after their work was created because the work takes on new meaning in the changed world.

    Being able to explain the work in an informed manner can also make a difference. Two different photographers might make two very similar photographs (think of a lot of the photographs that have come out of Beijing in the past few years that focus on the rapid modernization there). If one photographer is better able to communicate what his/her work is about and do so in an intelligent manner that is relevant to art discourse, there is probably a better chance of that work being seriously considered. Similarly, if one of those photographers is Chinese and photographing his own city and the other is from Paris, the work also takes on different meanings.

    Well said Rodney.

    anyway, ramble, ramble ramble.

    J