As most know I often take on flower photographs. Poor Alcy has to put up with my anti-flower photography tirades constantly because Alcy is and considers herself to be primarily a flower photographer.
I frequently use flower photography to illustrate what I believe is a big problem with much of amateur photography. I use flower photography as an illustration because everyone enjoys flowers, photographs flowers and can therefore relate to talking about photographs of flowers. It may be the closest thing to a universal them as can be found.
True flowers are naturally beautiful, they even sometimes smell good. But they do something that I find to be detrimental to the art of photography. They beguile the photographer. Nothing, short of a baby, can affect the mental capacity of a photographer as much as a flower (thank goodness there are not nearly as many babies around as there are flowers or photography as an art form would be totally doomed.
In my not so humble estimation a photographer has to be able to see a photograph, not a subject matter, but a photograph—there is vast difference between the two. It is almost impossible for flower photographers to get past the subject matter.
Now, I will admit that often Alcy gets a pretty decent photograph of a flower. However, as much as she claims to want to do good flower photography, what she really wants to do is to document something she finds fascinating and quite beautiful—a flower. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It may even be laudable, enriching, life enhancing. But it flies in the face of her statement about photography. When it comes to Alcy photographing flowers, I have determined that the photograph will always be secondary to the flower and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about that.
How can I tell? It is much easier than you might surmise—just look at the area in the photograph surrounding the flower. I often say that when I look at a painting I want to see the bush or knife strokes because that is where I see the artist. In flower photography I don’t look at the flower; I look at what surrounds the flower and how the flower fits within the frame because that tells me whether the photographer is thinking about the flower or the photograph. I do not care about the flower; I care about the photograph.
I say that then I also have to say that I am the photographer that for two years in a row, and actually started a third year but didn’t finish—I spent six months of both years documenting the life cycle of a Magnolia blossom. The life cycle begins in April long before the bloom appears and continues into October long after it has faded. The blossom itself will only last for less than a day to maybe two or three days but that is only a single step in the process. I still have one photograph that comes at the end of the cycle which I have yet to accomplish. Hope is fading that I ever will since my neighbor cut down the Magnolia tree that did over hang my property.
The reason I do into this again is that last night at the camera club competition I came home with two first place ribbons. One was for something I dearly love—a street shot of people (I am not really sure that I consider a photograph that does not contain the image of one or more people--or something that looks like a person--to actually be of any value as a photograph). The other was for a photograph of a vase of dying flowers.
So, I am not opposed to flower photography—I am opposed to the general approach to flower photography. I am opposed to the general approach of much of amateur photography. Amateurs should be the freest the most adventuresome of all photographers but in many ways they paint themselves into a tenny tiny little corner and I find that very sad. Being a member of a camera club exacerbates the problem and you will forever after be fighting to get out of the bag. I know from personal experience, I’m still fighting.
Slowly Ending—after Alcy finishes with flowers I get to shoot. Actually that is okay because the are more interesting to me as they fade away. I do a lot of flower photography and this is one of my favorites.
The Critic—yeah, I stole the title from Weegee but I think it is appropriate. The most surprising thing about this photograph is that I took it. Street portraiture is easy for me. I have no problem sticking a 200mm lens in someone’s face from four feet away—I love it and I think I get some pretty good photographs. But this is imposing in someone’s personal life—that I find much more difficult. However, I think this photograph has more power and is much more ‘valuable’ than the street portraits that I do.