The Priority of Art

Robert switches from one camera to another as he shoots, based on what he sees and how he wants to express it.
Robert switches from one camera to another as he shoots, based on what he sees and how he wants to express it.

As a professional photographer, I have lots of friends, including my lovely wife, who are photographers. I guess the axiom “birds of a feather fly together” really does make sense.

The author in repose.
The author in repose.

One of the things we like to do as photographers is get together for the purpose of making pictures, often with the idea that we will make pictures that are outside our usual cadre of imaging. We try to summon something creative, something that will help force us to grow as artists. Sometimes it works, and other times it’s frustrating.

Aside from my travels with Abby, some of the photographers who join me for these endeavors include Michael D. Zeiler, Matthew White, Wil C. Fry, and last week in Tulsa, Robert Stinson.

In the Zone: Robert makes pictures on Tulsa's walkover bridge along Riverside drive.
In the Zone: Robert makes pictures on Tulsa's walkover bridge along Riverside drive.

I might step out on a limb and say that Robert is the most creative of the bunch of us, and I think the reason for that is that he is more open to experimentation than the rest of us, and that is probably because he is less organized and less attached to his preconceived notions of how an image should work.

Shooting with my Sony DSC-828.
Shooting with my Sony DSC-828.
Stop sign and trees made with my Nikon/Kodak DCS720x, which I recently modified to be an infrared camera.
Stop sign and trees made with my Nikon/Kodak DCS720x, which I recently modified to be an infrared camera.

One of the many things Robert and I discussed is his struggle with the purpose of his imaging, and the priority of imaging in his life. He finds that he often photographs things instead of people, and was wondering in the labyrinth of talk as we shot last week if this priority needed to shift. I argued that even when photographing things, people are still involved, since the images are meant for an audience of viewers without whose participation our imaging would be less meaningful. I also argued that sometimes imaging can be an escape from people, something that is just for ourselves, and for that we owe no apology.

Rusted sculpture on Riverside drive; this is an excellent example of imaging that is outside my usual realm.
Rusted sculpture on Riverside drive; this is an excellent example of imaging that is outside my usual realm.
The 30-ton bronze "Praying Hands" sculpture at Oral Roberts University, in maturing afternoon light.
The 30-ton bronze "Praying Hands" sculpture at Oral Roberts University, in maturing afternoon light.

Like when I travel with Abby, frequently Robert and I can be standing right next to each other and make completely different images. It has little to do with differences in equipment, and everything to do with how we perceive the scene, and how we translate that to an image and ultimately to the viewer. That’s part of why it’s so fun and challenging to shoot next to other photographers who are willing to share the craft. Now that it’s almost all digital, we will shoot something and show it to the other, often followed by, “Oh, I didn’t see that at all!” And with these people there’s never any right or wrong way to make pictures, since the only client in the chain is the artist inside.

Rusted drain cover; this is an example of an object that seems like it wants to be photographed, but doesn't bend well to visualization.
Rusted drain cover; this is an example of an object that seems like it wants to be photographed, but doesn't bend well to visualization.

By the end of the day, Robert and I sat having dinner after dark, both of us wishing we had four more ours of shooting together. The creative place is still with us even when we are not together, but getting together awakens it in ways that otherwise sleep. We look forward to our next chance.

The main building at Oral Roberts University; at midday, this is a fairly interesting structure to photograph, but at sunset, it is amazing. Be aware that security at ORU does not want you to photograph these buildings, although it is not posted.
The main building at Oral Roberts University; at midday, this is a fairly interesting structure to photograph, but at sunset, it is amazing.
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2 Comments

  1. Loads of lovely images here.

    Aside from family snapshots (and aside from my former job as a small-town reporter), I find I also shoot mostly things instead of people. I’m okay with that. For whatever reason, some of us think people are the center of the universe, but the rest of the stuff matters too (and much of it was shaped/created by people anyway).

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