Yukon College Papers by Murray Lundberg, 1993-1994
Intimate Vision: The Joy of Photography
January 14, 1993
For most people, the words "photography" and "snapshot" are synonymous, meaning simply "taking a picture". For others, "photography evokes a wide range of emotions brought on by the activities which centre around the creation of a photograph, termed an "image" in photographers' jargon. Photography has become a major component of my lifestyle for a multitude of reasons, all overlapping and inseperable, but, as an arbitrary categorization, could be termed the pleasure and challenge of artistic expression; the requirement to look closer at the world; and the opportunity to pass my experiences on to others.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but art, "an esthetically
pleasing and meaningful arrangement of elements ...", according to Funk & Wagnalls, must first be in the eye, or mind, of the creator. The challenge for the photographer is to create one image that will please both critics: himself and the audience. Several years ago, I developed a style of environmental photography that, on a good day, meets that
challenge; it demands a lot of me, and has met with enthusiastic audiences. Made famous by Ansel Adams, and more recently men like David Muench, Freeman Patterson, and Galen Rowell, successful images must convey a deep spiritual connection with the earth. The keys to this type of photography are, foremost, to be in the right place at the right time, and, secondarily, to have the right equipment and the knowledge to use it properly to capture the mood of the moment. Creating successful images consistently demands extensive travel, a list of equipment that should include a mule to carry it, and a willingness to stay outdoors in any kind of weather. For those times when someone catches me sprawled out in
the snow with my camera lens right up to a dead, frost-bedecked bug, a sense of humour is also imperative.
Successful photography is a matter of putting emotions on film; there are times - many times, in fact - when, regardless of how hard I work, none of the images say what I had intended in a strong enough voice. Since sufficient film was used, obviously sufficient emotion was not present. Despite that, I have often had good audience response to what I consider to be uninspiring images, even winning contests and having them published; to many photographers, having an image published is the ultimate recognition of artistic success. To me, however, the real pleasure comes when I am sorting out another little yellow box of Kodachromes, and all of a sudden, one image appears in which everything worked out the way I hoped it would. It is difficult for many people to imagine the elation that can come from what they see as a fifty-cent piece of film, but which to me is the result of years of work. All it takes to keep me, and most other serious photographers, happy, is to get one image like that out of every four or five hundred.
It took me many years to realize it, but photography has made the world a much larger, more complex, more beautiful place for me. Though environmental photography is my forte, my choice of subject matter is quite eclectic, ranging from architecture, to mushing, to race cars. Every subject has its own beauty or drama, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle. I seldom sleep while travelling; wherever I am, whether I have a camera with me or not, I am always looking around, searching for a moody spot of light, building details, the curves of a neon sign, the profile of a tree, the patterns made by distant hills, or a thousand other details that many people sleep through.
Occasionally I get a creative block, and am unable to see photographic potential anywhere. A common exercise for photographers with this problem to set themselves is to take 24 or 36 pictures of any one subject, whether it be a single car, building, or tree, or if they really want a project, their cutlery drawer. The only way that it can be accomplished is to look ever closer at the subject. By setting myself this task, starting by taking "normal" pictures of a car, and finishing off the roll on some marvelous detail on the tail-light housing, my creative spirit, particularly the ability to see the small details, is almost always re-energized.
The opportunities to share my experiences, whether it be by giving advice to tourists on the bus tours that I operate in the summer, or conducting travel slide shows at seniors' homes, or by more formal classes, are something that I seldom fail to avail myself of. The concept of teaching photography as a creative process, an art form rather than as a technical exercise, is fairly new, but has opened up a whole new avenue of enjoyment for me. For the past three years, I have been teaching multi-day courses in outdoor and travel photography and it has been extremely fulfilling. The most rewarding part of these courses is when I can open up to a student the enormous new world that I discovered by looking closer. Although it sounds corny, there are times when I can almost see the student as a butterfly with his wings unfolding. Some of my fondest memories of photography reflect back on the field trips and workshops during these courses.
Whether I am looking at past holiday slides by myself at night, sharing them during a slide show or on a magazine cover, or passing on the knowledge toethers, the intimate vision fostered by photography is a continuing source of joy to me.
You're not entirely at ease with your sentences - as if you're unsure of their limits and ability to carry a load. Try to engage your ear - how does it sound? You can afford to do more re-vision.
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