originating in Greek terminology, means 'writing / painting with light' and suggests to be interpreted as an expressive and creative act. Instead of seeing it as a means to thoughtless snap-shots, mere documentation or as a vehicle to convey sociopolitical messages, I try to point the viewer towards photography’s original, artistic mandate … the challenge and recognition of visual qualities and pure design … where not content, but light, shape, texture is the message.
Since its invention photography has been associated with the recording of reality and has become the norm for the way things appear real to society. In a painting it is often automatically assumed that the scene depicted is not as it appeared in reality ... that the artist has included his own feelings, way of seeing and expression. On the other hand, in viewing a photograph, we mistakenly tend to believe that it is the truth ... that it is a factual document of something that existed in the exact form in which it was recorded. This attitude represents the unfortunate, but commonly held believe that the camera gives us a picture of the world as we would see it without the camera … that the camera simply duplicates what the eye sees ...
... nothing could be further from the truth!
As in all visual arts, in photography it is equally essential to distinguish between the natural design we observe and the personal design we create. To me photography is a creative process much like painting or sculpture. Not only seeing in general, but even more so taking pictures … or better: 'Making Photo-Graphs' … is biased and constructed via mind and tool. Photo-Graphs are an expression of what the photographer imagines. They are an individual's perception … an individual’s subjective view of the world. This applies to the photographer as well as to the viewer. As a result, one could say, the camera's lens is equally pointed towards our surroundings as inside our psyche. It illuminates the observed as well as the observer.
The most important part of photography … and for that matter of all visual arts … is still the ‘Art of Seeing' … recognizing the elements of visual design … freeing the subject matter from its identity by ignoring the object and its name or label, followed by creative vision, experimentation and by breaking the rules … transforming the observed into personal expression. It's like the ability to hear notes and their ingenious constellations … in pitch, rhythm, melody and harmony ... musical qualities … instead of fixating on silly words. It's the ability to see blobs of paint and brush strokes and their execution ... visual and graphical qualities … instead of sunflowers. Vermeer couldn’t have been less interested who the girl by the window is, but how the light falls on a surface. I have no doubts that the events in Guernica occupied Picasso's mind only briefly before he concentrated on what painters do … on visual and painterly aspects ... the sole reason why it is the great painting that it is. It’s about seeing triangles instead of trees ... ovals instead of faces … squares instead of houses. That's how the artist sees things!
I think a photographer needs even more imagination than a painter. The painter starts with an empty canvas and can entirely invent things. The photographer, however, starts with a full one, facing the challenge to envision and reveal the essential, while discarding clutter and the inessential. In photography everything is so ordinary and 'real' to start with. It takes a lot of imagination to break free from the claws of recording reality. Mastering the functions of the camera is nothing more than a precondition ... operating a tool. The challenge is the ability to abstract and to transform the observed into personal interpretation. Photography is not about capturing a scene, but about expressing yourself ... by shaping and altering the scene through your imagination. It’s a way of opening a window into a different world, a world shaped by emotions rather than by logic. Here reality has little or no relevance.
Photography, especially in the digital age, with its technological advantages and convenience, can be the easiest medium to be confident in. But, contrarily, it can be the hardest medium to have personal vision because we are constantly reminded of- and held back by the demon of reality. However, it is also important to realize that, no matter how surreal or non-representational our efforts and the results may be, it always started from something that actually existed. It is a unique property of photography … being both, abstract and real … at the same time.
All things considered, we must overcome stagnate, conservative thinking, let go of convenient strategies only because they worked in the past and accept making mistakes. Resist the urge to ask 'what is it?' … resist the label. Instead, let your eyes roam over shapes, lines, textures and their arrangement, responding emotional, not logical. It can be the means to discovering the world around us … with new eyes … and perhaps ... discovering ourselves.
"By grade 3 or 4 we stop visualizing things freely, put word-labels on them instead. By these labels we recognize everything, no longer see anything.
We know the labels on the bottles, but never taste the wine" ~ Frederick Frank
I hope you enjoy viewing my images as much as I do in making them.
Klaus Rossler © copyright