29 March, 2013

The eye of the beholder

So my good friend, John Kelsey of Wilson/Kelsey Design shared the below "challenge"

"This past week, I've had several long and thought provoking conversations with my Mom over a seemingly simple question. She is taking a digital photography class and her current assignment is to "Write a Letter to a Friend About How You See. Think of and write to someone who is interested in your work but is, perhaps, not an artist or photographer. Maybe this person wants to know what it is like to be you when you are taking photographs, or perhaps this friend wants to know why certain subjects or objects, or shapes, or places interest you to the extent that they do." Think about this question in terms of design or whatever context you like. Think carefully and hard. Dig deep and question why, what, where and how. You may find out things about yourself you didn't know. I would love to hear your thoughts."

And here it goes...

My favorite expression is "seeing the tree within the forest" (don't know if anyone ever actually said that, but I'm not going to take credit for it, either). When I scout out an upcoming shoot, my first inclination is to figure out what the Designer I'm working for did and well what they were stuck with...

I create that challenge for myself because having been a Designer, I know this happens all too frequently and I LOVE being able to show a Designer their work "again" for the first time. I get really excited when a Designer gets enthusiastic over their own design. 
Second, I scout and almost always shoot (except details, and really really small bathrooms) at 35mm. Yep that's it, I just gave away my secret, but I force myself to live in a 35mm world and it's interesting how that focuses my eye to what really matters. I would say that most of the average Architectural Photographers out there (and even some of the highly publishable ones) live somewhere between 18mm and 24mm. 

The single solitary question I ask myself almost 100 times a day "is it necessary to the story..." and at what point does it become redundant. My other favorite focal length is 50mm, which I use almost exclusively for vignettes and details, though once in my life I photographed a Dining Room at 100mm and it was AMAZING (you'll see it soon in New England Home Magazine). 

So if the question was about "how do I see, then why is he spending all this time on focal lengths..." Well, remember the phrase the tree within the forest, by using a "longer" lens, I'm forcing myself to make decisions (for the better) of how a space is perceived through the eye of the camera. Also, just in case you  where wondering, I kind of have tunnel vision. For as long as I can remember, I can walk into almost any space and see beauty and be able to zoom in on it and completely block out all the noise around it. 

So how does this all pertain to how I see, well I LOVE to look at a space and look within the space at what elements make up that space and how do I extract them in such a way that I can create an image that defines the space without revealing the space in its' entirety. 

IT's CORE...

I am intrigued by how each element within a space interplays with the other elements, I wouldn't say I see shape per say but more relationships and when I see relationships that matter or reveal in some way the bigger picture, I hone in on them. 

Now of course none of what I am saying matters without discussing the Architecture. Often times when I'm scouting a space for the first time it is the Architecture that dictates where the camera starts and stops. As I mentally scan a room I'm looking for those Architectural moments that "frame" up a photograph, knowing that the furniture can move. I often times take scouting shots of "space" with complete disregard for the elements within that space knowing later that on the shoot, those pieces can be arranged to complement the Architecture.

Lastly if you've read my blog posts in the past you may have sensed a dis-taste for what I deem "Real Estate" Photography, it's not that I dis-like big wide, more is more shots, it's just that my clients do not sell homes, they sell emotions, they sell ideas and they sell lifestyle and often times less is more when you are in the business of selling design.

Hope I answered your question, John?

Warm Regards,


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