Friday, 2 October 2009

Seeking the Quiet Eye

I've signed up for an evening class at my local college - Digital Photography and Photoshop. Part of the course requires us to keep a journal. This has to be on paper in order that it can be moderated - but I also thought it would be fun to keep an online journal too. This is an experiment. It might not work out and perhaps I won't post very often, but it might enable me to keep a record of how my photography is developing....if it's developing!

I wanted to do the course because, though I love taking photographs, I've never really been into the technical side of cameras - apertures and shutter speeds and ISOs and stuff. I think that increasing my understanding will probably improve my photographs - at least that's what I'm hoping. Furthermore, spending three hours a week (and more, 'cos there's homework to do) focussing on photography and playing with Photoshop, with the guidance of a tutor who knows what he's on about, must surely make a difference?

So it's back to basics, and let's see if I can really improve my results over the next six months or so....

The title of the blog - Seeking the Quiet Eye - has come about because of one of the course assignments. We are asked to explore the work of other photographers: on the web, in books and magazines and through galleries and exhibitions. It's something I've been doing for a while anyway. I'm fortunate to live not far from the city of Bradford, in West Yorkshire, England. Bradford is the home of the National Media Museum (formerly the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television), and also has some good galleries including Cartwright Hall, so I have easy access to some great exhibitions.

Some while ago I visited an exhibition of photographs by Felicitas Vogler,
perhaps best known as the third wife of the artist Ben Nicholson. She died in 2006 but left an outstanding archive of photographic work. I loved her work. She takes simple scenes - the interior of a small Greek chapel, a Japanese lake - and produces stunning images that are more 'art' than 'record'. Her first exhibition in Zurich in 1969 was called 'Felicitas Vogler - The Quiet Eye'. This title came from a poem by Wordsworth, an English poet, called A Poet's Epitaph:

"In common things that round us lie
Some random truths he can impart
The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart."

These seem apt lines for a photographer as well as a poet. To take common things and impart some kind of truth, to communicate something of the essence of the subject but also to show something of what is in your own mind, or on your heart - surely that is what most photographers are somehow seeking after. I think I am.

Looking at my own work, the images I am most pleased with are those that are more than just a record of what I saw. Through the lighting or composition they speak something, they are evocative. That is what I try to do and what I am exploring in this course - and what I hope to learn to do more effectively. I guess I want to develop my own 'voice' through my photographs. When you look at the work of famous photographers, you can usually tell instantly who has produced the image. That is what I'd like to develop - my own 'signature' in my work, though without it becoming 'predictable'.


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