Saturday, 12 July 2008

What is photogenic?

I was lying on the sofa last night wondering what makes an image worth making, what subjects are worth photographing? And from that, is this an inherent property of the subject or more a function of the photographers eye?

I had been half-minded to go out and o some more photography around town but in the end felt I wasn't going to get anything from it. Possibly a bit of general malaise thrown in. I did take a few snaps around the house and tried a few odd things in focus and composition. All on film so I'll have to wait for results.

The point to my thinking was, however, that photographers all around the world seem able to make good or compelling images of almost anything that might happen along. That is not to say, however, that every photographer seems able to make all subjects into good images. And of course there is the hit rate to consider - take a thousand shots and there is bound to be a good image in there somewhere.

As ever with this sort of thinking, no firm answers came to me. I am leaning towards the notion, however, that it takes a particular combination of subject and photographer to create a compelling image. This is not just a matter of application - banging away at an unsuitable subject will not yield results. Each photographer has, in this respect, subjects that "belong" with (not to) them. I think it is one of the skills of a photographer to recognise ones own subjects and work assiduously on those.


  1. I have to ask about the concept of conquering new subjects here. Is that actually trying to improve one's skill, or is it just searching for another subject to "be with"...

  2. I think it can be both:

    1. finding a subject by working on particular techniques. We start trying to improve our skills in some way and find a new way of looking at the world
    2. we go off looking for new subjects and in the process discover new techniques

    In these endeavours one may be successful in either or neither, maybe both. e.g. you go looking for new subjects unsuccessfully but find a raft of techniques that improve your current subjects or, conversely, unsuccessfully practice new techniques that lead to a whole new way of looking at the world.

    I do think, however, that in finding new things, some of the old things (almost by necessity) will fall by the wayside. There are only so many subjects one can pursue assiduously.

  3. My vote goes to the photographer, things that interest them, who in turn will find ways to discover new ways to photograph the feelings that they are trying to connect with.

    Perhaps rather than saying, I want to photograph that piece of fruit, say what do I feel about that fruit that I want to convey? E.g. my hunger, tasteness or roundness or photograph the "smell" of the fruit;- )

    Such that my series in hotels was about loneleness or discountectiveness from family.

  4. Doug, that is certainly a way to go about it. I don't think, however, that it necessarily leads to success. Whilst the photographer may connect emotionally to the subject, that is no gaurantee that they will connect photographically.


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