Reflection on the Medium: What it Means to Photograph.

The two most interesting pieces to me were by Berenice Abbot and Larry Sultan. After reading the persuasive argument made by Abbot, I could not enjoy Ken Light’s piece as much.

Starting with Abbot’s piece on the ‘reality’ of photography. She says, “I believe there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time.” I’d have to agree with her. A photograph is a snapshot of a certain moment in history and no other picture captures the same moment and perspective. A photo can be influential or meaningless. Log onto ‘Instagram’ and see pictures of people’s dinner, people’s cats, and the ‘outfit of the day.’ None of these pictures influence me in any way. On the other hand, some Instagram accounts take real pictures. Pictures that exhibit reality and influence people.

Abbot then goes onto say how certain historical events call for a need of ‘real’ pictures to document the event. But she argues that simple documentary photography is the plague of photography and pictures need to impact a person. They need to be a ‘penetrating statement.’ I agree with that; without a statement, a picture is nothing more than a disconnected perspective of something we may (or may not) care about. Simply put, pictures aren’t good without the ‘magic.’

Now onto Larry Sultan’s piece on why he photographs his family. Sultan uses photography as a way to ‘find’ himself. But how can anyone find himself or herself through taking photos of other people? Well firstly, he very much enjoys taking pictures. He would work his father’s garden for hours if his dad would let him take a few pictures of him. That’s dedication. But, Sultan tends to make his parents and his other subjects seem more “despairing than [they] really feel.” Sultan wanted to capture an objective reality of his subjects. Something that bothered his father or, as Abbot would say, penetrated him. His father felt something because of Sultan’s work. I think that is the point of photography, something that Abbot feels as well. Photography should be real and impacts a person, for better or for worse.


5 terms of Photography:


BLUR: Unsharpness because of the movement of the camera or subject during exposure. Blur can be used for many creative effects. In computer imaging, the use of Blur controls to selectively soften parts of the image.

DEPTH OF FIELD: The zone, or range of distances within a scene that will record on film as sharp. Depth of field is influenced by the focal length of the lens in use, the f-number setting on the lens, and the distance from the camera to the subject. It can be shallow or deep, and can be totally controlled by the photographer. It is one of the most creative and profound effects available to photographers.

FOCUS: Causing light to form a point, or sharp image on the image sensor or film.

SHARPNESS: The perception that a picture, or parts of a picture are in focus. Also, the rendition of edges or tonal borders.

WASHED OUT: Jargon for seriously overexposed slides, or overexposed highlight areas within slides and prints. It’s as if the colors have been diluted to the extent that all pigments have been “washed out.”

Definitions from:

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