Start with the Eye not a Camera: How to Learn Fine Art Photography

Learning Fine Art Photography

[blockquote author=”Brassai”]To me photography must suggest, not insist or explain. —Brassai[/blockquote]
Being an artist/photographer starts not necessarily with a camera but by quietly observing all. Translating this creative vision to a photographic print will come later.

Have a Voracious Eye

Start with the Eye not a Camera: Learning Fine Art Photography, Have a Voracious Eye @SteveGiovinco

Look at everything; have a voracious eye. Be open to all, and study (without leering), for example, how the man across from you on the subway folds the newspaper, then grips the hand rail, glances down, lost in thought; the woman’s face as she moves past you on the elevator; witness the glowing lights of the city in background in a night landscape after rain.

Once you start looking, really looking, you’ll start to see magic, and this is where art comes from. Avoid observing with your brain, and let go of what you know. Rather get lost in the moment, and feel what is around you.

Look at the Masters

Start with the Eye not a Camera: Learning Fine Art Photography, Martin Parr @SteveGiovinco

Next, look at photographs by master photographers you like. Start by visiting the Metropolitan Museum or Museum of Modern Art the in New York for great examples of great work, ranging from to Atget’s then-vanishing Paris, Robert Frank’s lonely vision of America, or William Eggleston’s quiet saturated minor mysteries of the everyday (or Martin Parr, above). Also gather books of fine art photographers, and flip through them frequently.

Start Shooting

Start with the Eye not a Camera: Learning Fine Art Photography, Start Shooting @SteveGiovinco

Now pick up the camera. Take pictures of everything. Don’t get bogged down with the best camera or lens–they matter little in creating excellent work. Instead, just start shooting.

Be Critical

Start with the Eye not a Camera: Learning Fine Art Photography, Be Critical @SteveGiovinco

Use a critical eye when reviewing your work. Let go of any initial impetus that lead you to make the image in the first place; rather, observe carefully what is in the photo (inspiration rarely matches the result. No matter.). What is crucial is what is seen when looking at the image.

One of the best approaches is to not focus on the “good” pictures but study those that are not quite perfect and a bit baffling, because these–the ones you don’t understand–will lead you in developing a unique creative photographic vision.

Repeat

Keep looking, shooting, and reviewing what results in the photograph.

Questions?  Feel free to contact Steve Giovinco for more information about “The Crit.”

And So It Starts: The Chelsea Art Season Gallery Openings Begins with Strong Photography Shows

Some good photography by Laura Letinsky, Justine Kurland, Paul Graham; Others

Laura Letinsky at Yancey Richardson

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Laura Letinsky at Yancy Richardson

At Yancey Richardson, Laura Letinsky continues her exploration of still life photography–using fragments from her own still life photographs.  Beautifully constructed, its hard to discern the object being photographed vs. what has been cannibalized from a previous print.  Using one’s own work as the appropriation medium is intriguing and reminds me of Michael Apted’s Up films–only in the notion of revisiting the past.  But its hard to say this is about recycling old work and finding a new context for it: perhaps it still is about a type of decay.  Displaying the prints without glass, allowing the images to be seen directly “unfiltered”, also plays with the notion of work as object. (Full disclosure: I have shown together with Laura, many years ago.).  I highly recommend this show, and these really need to be seen in person.

Justine Kurland at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Justine Kurland at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Justine Kurland at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

A stunning show that I highly recommend is Justine Kurland’s photographs at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in Chelsea.  In a museum-like space, the modestly sized photographs (by today’s standards), are allowed room to breathe–even though there are more than several dozens of them.  The work, although looking head-on, with “straight” approach,” is moving to me with its mix of tactility combined with a wistful sense of place.  The approach is almost novelistic is scope and feeling.

Paul Graham at Pace Gallery

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Paul Graham at Pace Gallery

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Paul Graham at Pace Gallery

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Paul Graham at Pace Gallery
When coming across some older photographs taken in the United Kingdom in the 80s by Paul Graham fairly recently, as part of the rotating selection at MoMA’s photography galleries, I was struck by how delicately emotive they were.  Here, although the size has changed–they are large scale and with strong color–Paul Graham’s work at Pace Gallery still carries that sense of lostnes in the quotidian.  The subjects are diverse, which I like: rainbows over Ireland; gold shops in New York–not those found on Fifth Avenue, by the way; a woman sleeping in rooms that seem on the other side of the world.  I like too, how they are displayed, with some nearly resting on the floor, while others, like the rainbow appropriately enough, positioned high towards the ceiling.

Roxy Paine at Mariane Boesky Gallery

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Shows: Roxy Paine at James Cohen

Although clearly not photography, one of the strongest shows was Roxy Paine’s Checkpoint diorama made of wood at Marianne Boesky.

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Shows: Roxy Paine at James Cohen

Gary Panter at Fredericks & Freiser
Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Shows: Gary Panter at Fredericks & Freiser

Chelsea Art Season Opens with Strong Photography Shows: Gary Panter at Fredericks & Freiser

Just liked these Gary Panter paintings at Fredericks & Freiser.

Lee Friendlander, Fine Art Photography, at Pace/MacGill Gallery

Before storm Sandy, fine art photographer Lee Friendlander opened a new show at Pace/MacGill gallery on Fifty Seventh Street.

The show included new black and white photographs of mannequins taken from street windows.

Lee Friendlander at Pace/MacGill

The show, however, of earlier nudes was stunning to see again.  This work I had seen years ago but found the luminosity of the prints and light on flesh mostly sumptuous and uncannily oddly compelling.

Lee Friendlander at his Opening at Pace/MacGill Gallery, by Steve Giovinco

It was great to see at few ex-Yale MFA Photography teachers at the opening, including Tod Papageorge, and Tom Roma (currently teaching at Columbia University).