organic chemistry {noun} the chemistry of carbon compounds (other than simple salts such as carbonates, oxides, and carbides)

November 5, 2007

only to end as carbon

I set aside a few days for photography last week. As I drove around I started thinking about my photography. Why do I do this.....take pictures? I mean, is there really anyone who will benefit from what I am doing? After all, we live only to end as carbon right? It got me thinking about my process. How do my subjects feel when I make their photograph? Why would this guy want me in a picture? This is where I came up with the new title of this blog. I do not refer to the actual science of organic chemistry here. This is more the idea that there is a certain chemistry that happens in the process that I tend to work within. Obviously, I am a student of the portrait as of late. The subjects that I work with are mostly strangers. Their environment, or mine, or the way I see and use the surroundings, is very much a part of what I find interesting at first sight. I aim to render my subjects in an organic way. That is, I want to show what is that it likely will not change in the near future, or will it? I prefer not add my own light if I can help it. Existing lighting, weather natural or artificial, helps to keep my subjects part of their surroundings. I don't add props and, generally, don't take away anything. There has been much talk about truthfulness in photographs or photography itself. I don't recall where I first heard (or read) it, but there is the opinion that family photographs, high school seniors, weddings, etc. is all propaganda. It is staged to show happiness when in reality there are likely monetary, emotional and a number of other sociological issues that tear at the very meaning of the families seen in these smiling-happy-on-the-beach-or-in-the-park photographs. I really am not a glass-half-empty sort of guy, and I don't mean to torture you with my over use of hyphens. It's just that I have been thinking lately and I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone who might still visit this blog. Now, this "organic" way of working is not a new idea, I'm sure of it. It has helped to guide me into a type of photographic style that I feel is worthy of continuing. But why? If for no other reason, it is the process that I am so passionate about. I have come to realize that the chemistry of interacting with someone I know or a perfect stranger or nature or whatever it may be is exactly why I keep going. It is the idea of allowing others to experience the same connection when viewing my photographs that is the goal. I leave you with a question. What experiences have you had that made/make you feel this "organic chemistry"? Please share.

Dead Moose . White Pine Drive . Idaho . 2007


ben huff said...

shawn, how did i not see this post earlier? man, so much of what i'm doing right now feels more organic. my series up north has everything to do with moving slower. taking time with people, and establishing trust. slowing down in my speech, my anxiousness, my way of shooting - everything.

thanks for this post. you verbalized so much of what i'm thinking. as always, love the new portraits.


Anonymous said...

Much of the time, I feel like a chemistry experiment gone awry -- all boiling over and spilling on the countertop, the high school science teacher shaking his head in disapproval.

What I admire about you is how much you put yourself out there -- the result, in your photographs, is a chemistry that anyone who looks at your photos is a part of.

Mel Trittin said...

I'm working on it and appreciate your taking the time to articulate your thoughts and growth. Your work certainly reflects this distillation.