thinking with pictures

How your lens shapes your vision; your kit your realm of possibilities

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size matters - either you take a camera along, or leave at home

size matters – either you take a camera along, or leave at home

Form factor is the term for the physical dimensions of a thing. Thinking of 1860s battlefield pictures taken on large glass plates by Matthew Brady &co in the USA, or before that in the 1850s Crimean War by Roger Fenton there is a certain gravity that comes from the subject of human lives destroyed willfully, but also a ponderousness lent by the mechanical process of preparing, exposing, developing and printing from the glass negatives. How different would the visual documentary have been with Point-and-Shoot film or digital cameras? By the time of the Spanish Civil War the photographer’s Cooperative, Magnum, was running and the age of the 35mm camera was dawning. The concept of street photography arose and gained ground with the poetic eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson [more on H. C-B]and many others since then. The same brute physical facts of camera size and film handling affect the photographer’s ability to capture and convey what appears in his or her mind’s eye. And while the shooters of long ago only had a few choices for lens and light-sensitizing processes, we have those old recipes and even the surviving apparatus to try out, in addition to the latest wonders from the annual photo trade shows. The almost ubiquity of camera photography and videography takes the saying about “The best camera? It’s the one that is closest to hand” and makes it a reality with some many hands and some many cameras in them. On any given foreign tourist group there will be those vowing to record impressions with eyes and journal only so that gear does not distract from the being there; others will have simple cameras to make mementos; and still others will have a few kilos of kit to make really big pictures and be preoccupied with the decision process leading to eventual burst of shutter releases. It is worth thinking through the consequences of easy shooting versus deliberate and ponderous work required before setting the exposure settings and releasing the shutter. Must the process be slow and deliberate to achieve deep vision, slow either due to the apparatus limitations or through one’s self-imposed discipline to slow down the steps before capturing a scene?


Author: gpwitteveen

Better Outreach is my aim. See to know more.

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