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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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do you have a subject?
Old 12-31-2013   #1
Margu
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do you have a subject?

a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?
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Old 12-31-2013   #2
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my main subject is a small part of my city that i hang out in as much as possible. i have been shooting there for years…eventually i'll take a great pic there.
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Old 12-31-2013   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?

I disagree with your definitions of happy and unhappy.
In fact, i would almost turn them around to say that a happy photographer is always restlessly looking for the subject of his next picture. But the truth is . . . to each his own.


EDIT: yikes, as always, someone beat me to it !!!
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Old 12-31-2013   #4
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I never take a photograph unless I have a subject.

Despite having a master's degree in photography, I can happily go months without picking up a camera - until I have initial plans for a project well developed and ideas for subjects.

I never, ever just wander around until something catches my eye! For me, photography is very deliberate, like many painters approach their craft.

Haven't taken a "proper" photo since July!
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Old 12-31-2013   #5
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My subject is New York City. Mostly inanimate objects, but some people. Various projects. I am very happy. There is no one size fits all in photography. Some people do well with a very defined idea and some do better with just photographing and then figuring out their project later. I do a little of both.
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Old 12-31-2013   #6
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My subject is sensuality
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Old 12-31-2013   #7
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I believe in serendipity, opening up myself and my frame to the good things and subjects that'll happen when I allow and facilitate them. With patience it'll one moment all come together: the light, the people and the composition.
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Old 12-31-2013   #8
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My subject are photons, I have yet to take a successful photographs without them in the frame.
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Old 12-31-2013   #9
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My preferred subject is destination photography; however, for practical reasons, it is not something that I can practice throughout the year, so I am constantly on the lookout for local photo opportunities. I am only unhappy in the sense that I wish I had more time and/or money to photograph my preferred subject.
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Old 12-31-2013   #10
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I remember attending a workshop with then Outdoor Photographer magazine writer DeWitt Jones who said..."If you go out looking for Clouds and Clouds aren't happening but Trees are...then shoot Trees..."
I normally don't have a subject in mind when I go out...I look for what's happening and work with that...
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Old 12-31-2013   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?
I have several.
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Old 12-31-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?
Hmm, were I to parse it that way, then, no. For me, mostly, I have an objective and the subject is based on that.
For example, this winter I want to learn macro photography and the subject of those photos will likely be snowflakes.

Seems a bit facile to to me.
Rob
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Old 12-31-2013   #13
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Margu I'm not sure I follow you.

Searching for and capturing that "Known Unknown" is to me the happy place of photography.... discovery!

Are you referring to a "story" rather than a "subject"?
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Old 12-31-2013   #14
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My subject is whatever interesting thing or situation my life offers up.

Just an observation Margu, you come across as somewhat rigid. Surely there are different styles/manner of working that suit different photographers' temperaments.
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Old 12-31-2013   #15
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I've just finished editing a large project and am about to begin layout. I have two more projects on tap, one about things, one about people; for one of which I may need a different camera from the ones I have. So maybe that's three projects, including the search for the right camera.

But lately I've mostly been photographing my grandson. I guess that's a subject/project in itself. He's starting to be aware the camera, so maybe that subject (documenting his ongoing discoveries of life and the world with no self-consciousness on his part) is beginning to come to an end. Though the pictures will continue, as long as he lets me get away with it.

And you, Margu?
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Old 12-31-2013   #16
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Sometimes I am driven by a subject ... a lot of the time I'm just driven by light and composition and the subject becomes secondary.
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Old 12-31-2013   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” ... no?
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Old 12-31-2013   #18
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Im not a photographer.

I take pictures, and I own lenses. And guess what? I have a great time.
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Old 12-31-2013   #19
lynnb
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there's a number of themes or subjects in which I have a continuing interest, but I don't let that prevent me from experiencing the joys of carrying a camera and taking a picture when I see something that interests me, or a fleeting opportunity that arises. Successful pictures aren't dependent on a plan. Sticking only to a predefined subject limits opportunities to take advantage of the moment..

Having a subject makes it easier to build a coherent body of work, if that's your aim. But a personal way of seeing can have the same result, even without a subject.

Edit:
Quote:
"an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject"
a happy photographer is always restless, in my experience.. whether pursuing a subject or not. If we were all satisfied with our work, progress would stop..
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Old 12-31-2013   #20
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I'm not "fully committed" to any "subjects", but I definitely have a greater affinity for shooting some things than others: e.g. I'd rather photograph architecture and coastal scenics than make macro shots of bugs, and I'm better at those types of photography, too.
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Old 12-31-2013   #21
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“A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson
An idea about what you want to photograph certainly helps - for example, I would like to take more portraits, but I simply have no time to arrange this, so whenever I have a camera in my hand, I wait for a photograph, that will take me.
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Old 12-31-2013   #22
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Happy photographer is dead as photographer, BTW.
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Old 12-31-2013   #23
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no sarcasm intended
but whatever I click on is 'the Subject'

not blind shooting but always with Intent.... The ' Image' Moves Me
it tells a story which I hope is apparent with an Imprint of Time

as For Happiness, that is ever fleeting
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Old 12-31-2013   #24
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If we define photography as an art, then a happy photographer is generally not a very good one. When a photographer, musician (which I am) or any other artist is content with their ability then the art suffers. A true artist should always strive to do better, do more and un-turn the stone which hasn't been turned. That's why most great artists are miserable and unsatisfied, never truly happy with what they've done, always striving for something greater. After all if you're not moving forward, then you're moving backwards, because you better well believe that everyone around you is constantly evolving. The subjects are always changing and so is my ability to capture them.

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Old 12-31-2013   #25
Richard G
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All happy photographers are like; each unhappy photographer is unhappy after his own fashion. (With apologies to Tolstoy.)
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Old 12-31-2013   #26
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Beautiful, natural landscapes. Generally I prefer to have no trace of human presence in my pictures, but that's hard to come by.
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Old 12-31-2013   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
a happy photographer has a subject and is fully committed to that subject. an unhappy photographer is always restlessly looking for a subject.

do you have a subject?
I have a few themes
I have a few places
I have a few "Go out and see what catches my eye" moments.

The area I live in is my subject, not in whole, but in part every time I go out, the part I photograph.
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Old 01-01-2014   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I have several.
Dear Chris,

Same here.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-01-2014   #29
Harry S.
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I agree with the OP.

For years I've agonized over creative block about working at a subject or a project, which is always my goal. I think it is possible to get a good "single" but without a context or body of work to support them, they feel a bit powerless after a while.

Ive been taking a lot of pictures while I am traveling, and even the ones I like, 2 days later I no longer care about. The good thing is while taking these pictures is that I have noticed a pattern of subjects that I am drawn to...In this case everyday items that are covered in some way (under tarps, car covers, tents etc), which I will use as inspiration for a project when I get home.

The travel grab shots have served as a sketchbook for a larger art-piece, hopefully.
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Old 01-01-2014   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry S. View Post
I agree with the OP.

For years I've agonized over creative block about working at a subject or a project, which is always my goal. I think it is possible to get a good "single" but without a context or body of work to support them, they feel a bit powerless after a while.. . . .
Yes, but a context or body of work is NOT the same as "a subject".

Cheers,

R
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Old 01-01-2014   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sejanus.Aelianus View Post
I think that the Limeliters put it this way: "Oh, how happy it is to be miserable; oh, how miserable it is to be happy"

It really has more to do with not being so content with oneself that he stops striving to improve.

Thanks
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Old 01-01-2014   #32
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It just depends on the context
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Old 01-01-2014   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Yes, but a context or body of work is NOT the same as "a subject".

Cheers,

R
Care to elaborate?
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Old 01-02-2014   #34
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Koudelka has different 'subjects.' In that wonderful interview quoted here recently he said that he moves countries often so everything in front of him remains fresh. Recently his subject is The Wall. Conversely he was out shooting a few rolls every day, anything, anywhere. Practice. Barnwulf quotes Giacometti in his signature, "I no longer work for anything other than the sensation I have while working." I like that. I am out with a camera seeing what is there, savouring the light, the incidental, the found geometries. That's a subject too, I think. Others must have 'content' in their subject, The Wall being a great example. Salgado's Genesis has content. But what about almost all of Kertesz's work?
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Old 01-02-2014   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry S. View Post
Care to elaborate?
Dear Harry,

Consider (for example) Bill Brandt. His highly formal reportage; his "grittier" reportage; his soft/wide-angle nudes series. Each is a self-contained series, with its own context, or set of contexts. My sole objection to "subject" was that implies just one, whereas most great photographers have shot several. Or, to consider someone "unknown", I greatly admire Raphael Schott. Even then, if you Google him, you won't easily find his whole range: retirement home beauty queens, circus, dolls, "blanc manteaux"...

See also the comments of Richard G. above.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-02-2014   #36
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I understand now. :-)
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Old 01-02-2014   #37
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Capitalism, I'm surrounded by it. Really nasty at times, but at the same time it keeps people happy, like drugs.
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