Monday, May 14, 2012

The art of photography

Pinhole camera

In my last blog I told that I take pictures with a pinhole camera. I think that most readers of my blogs don’t know what such a camera is. It is the simplest camera you can imagine. It’s not more than a box with a very small hole in it (the pinhole), which can be opened or closed with a shutter, and with a film or sensor in it (but most pinhole cameras still use film). There are more complicated types, but most pinhole cameras are like this. You can buy it or you make it yourself. In mine you cannot change the diaphragm (size of the pinhole). I open and close the shutter by hand and I use my watch for measuring the time that the shutter must be open for making a photo (which is a matter of several seconds).
Photos taken with a pinhole camera are a bit blurred and also moving people and objects are always vague. So photos taken with a pinhole camera do not meet the standards of a good photo. Why then make such photos in this age of digital cameras that allow you to make technically perfect photos? Well, my reply is another question: Why still make paintings in this age of photography?
I think that my answer has everything to do with what people consider beautiful. Beauty is not an objective experience. It is subjective; and there is no accounting for tastes, as is often said. Yet, there is something objective about beauty. When I have an exhibition of my photos or when I present them on an art market, it’s just these photos taken with my pinhole camera that attract attention. Why? I think because they have a shade of beauty that cannot be imitated by an ordinary digital or analogue camera. Beauty in photos (and beauty in general, but that’s not what I want to talk about here) has nothing to do with technical progress as people often seem to think. Nowadays, with these technically perfect cameras, everybody can make good photos, they say. Is that true? I doubt it. Even making a technically perfect photo with a simple digital pocket camera of good quality still seems to be a problem for many people. And is it the technical quality that makes a good photo a good photo? Then all photos taken by Cartier Bresson could be considered rubbish now, for instance. But they are still considered as top photography. Why? Because what is photographically good is in the eyes and the minds of the makers and the beholders and not in the technical quality (whatever this may mean, for isn’t it so that also the idea that a photo must not be blurred is nothing but a subjective opinion?). Technical progress is not the same as progress as such, let alone that it is implicitly good and beautiful. To take a photographic example, there are many photographers who make photos with digital cameras of top quality and next they use photographic filters (in Photoshop, for instance) to make them look like analogue photos made on film! Why not simply use an analogue camera then? No surprise that today we see a revival of analogue photography. For in the end the art of making a good photo has nothing to do with using the most up to date techniques but everything with choosing the right means for expressing what you want to express. Sometimes simple or old-fashioned means are the best for it. It’s an open door* and everybody knows, it’s true, but many people tend to forget it.

P.S. I have planned to buy a good digital camera, too. They have so many advantages (as they have disadvantages as well).

* Dutch expression for an obvious point.

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