Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Photographer's Main Function
Let's get our priorities straight. For a photographer, what's job one?
Let me be direct. It's directing.
Sure, all that other stuff is important, and there are a thousand of them, but take a clue from the movie industry. There's a reason that the director's name is up front and in big letters. There's a reason the photographer's name is in the back, in small letters, lost among key grips, boom operators, and caterers.
The director's the one with the vision. That vision is what makes the picture. Sure, he has help. The writer helps. The actors help. The photographer helps. Everyone helps, but the director makes or breaks the picture.
I know photographers who have spent decades tweaking their craft, tweaking shadow densities, sharpening focus, gaining better control over contrast, and all that stuff (but mostly buying more expensive equipment). But they spend very little time sharpening their directorial skills.
A director is required even when there are no people in the photograph because there must be a clear vision of what's about to happen or what's happening now, and someone must know where to take it and why.
Most photographers have people as their subjects. Ordinary people. Self-conscious people. The portrait photographer's main job is not to make these ordinary people into something they are not - that should be left to great directors and experienced actors, to end up with any kind of a decent picture at all. We shouldn't expect amateur people to be great actors. When the average person gets in front of a professional camera, they typically change from who they are, into something behind a mask. It's a protective device.
For the most part, the photographer's main job is to return the subjects to their true selves and remove the fakeness that accompanies the mask, the fear, the self-consciousness, and lowered confidence.
A photographer's main job is to find the truth and bring it to the surface.
Only truth is beauty.