Photograph your life!

A speech given at Mosman Toastmasters club in 1989

How many of you own a camera?

How many of you would like to take photographs that show creativity and say what you mean?

I want to talk to you about photography – being able to make creative photographs that communicate your vision and to make a visual statement.

Yes that’s right – photography can be used to make visual statements and we all think visually as well as verbally.

My ideas of what photography are all about were drastically changed when I undertook a course at Hornsby Technical college called PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART. For many years I had been interested in photography but I realised I was taking photos as a technical process rather than expressing myself. Witness the obsession that amateur photographers have with the latest in camera technology, zoom lenses, flash guns and the like. I was much the same, but the photographs I produced weren’t much good.

I often hear people say … That’s a great photograph .. what kind of camera do you have? Can you imagine a citizen of Vatican City saying to Michelangelo …. What a fantastic painting in the Sistine Chapel – what kind of paint brush did you use??

A camera is a paint brush. . .you paint with light on film and ultimately onto color or black and white film.

The purpose of my speech is to tell you how to start using your camera as a means of creative expression.

I believe that it is necessary to follow three steps in becoming a photography:

1 – Become familiar with the techniques of using a camera, measuring the exposure and choice of film.

2 – Become aware of the work of other photographers.  This also educates you on what makes a photograph effective.

3 – Decide on your direction and develop that idea.

TECHNIQUES

It is important to know how to use a camera, but be aware of learning rules of composition. These rules work but they often produce cliches. In art, rules are meant to be broken. You’ll find that when you develop your photographic eye, you will automatically compose the scene.

VISUAL AWARENESS

We are bombarbed with photographs through magazines, newspapers, TV and to a lesser extent books. Many images are cliched, many of them have become part of our culture. Many of these images are of historic events – man on the moon, war photos or portraits of famous people.

FINDING YOUR OWN STYLE

Find a photograph that you admire – ask yourself why that photograph is effective. Try and make a similar photograph. Then add your variations – use that photograph as a starting point to explore your own style. It is like standing on the shoulders of that photographer.

Here are some ideas for you to explore your creativity

PORTRAITS OF FRIENDS/FAMILY

I admire the work of Arnold Newman – who specialises in portraits of famous people. What i like is how he photographs the person in their environment. Eg, Stravinsky. An example of adding to this style is this photo of Keith Emerson – a Rock Musician with a classical training.

I have set myself the project of making similar portraits of friends and family so that the photo gives the viewer some information about that person. For example, we know that Richard Knox is a merchant banker and a scuba diver. How about a portrait photo or richard wearing a dark suit …. and a snorkel and aqualung! Not only would it be an amusing photograph but it would show that merchant bankers enjoy scuba diving.

TRAVEL

Photographs of foreign places have tremendous potential – what were the people like? What did you see? Next time you go away, rather than the Japanese style photos of “Me in front of such and such a building” – why not show the people. Even if you don’t know the people – take their photos, particularly of children. My favourite photo I took in Venice is of a small child on a ferry.

So, I hope you have some ideas to get you started. Learn how to use your camera, look around for ideas, and start photographing.

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