Photography: Eggleston, Strand, and Waite

A few days ago I would most certainly have written something different from what follows.

But that was before I watched a documentary film about one of the leading American art photographers of the 20th Century. His name ~ Paul Strand.

There were few words recorded in his voice but of photographers he said this:

“In order to be a photographer you must have something you want to say about the world.”

I think he’s right, and that this bleeds over into the ability to create and sell successful images.

This is why Bill Eggleston was a successful photographer whose photographs of the mundane sold well as limited editions, and he was frequently commissioned to record the details of factory plants for the likes of Cocoa Cola and the Getty Museum. Nearer to my own heritage it’s also why the work of Charlie Waite is popular. He too has a unique eye.

Lately I’ve been making some portraits of young people for a school yearbook. The normal way to do this is for hundreds of sitters to form a line and be photographed under a standard set up in a few seconds.

The results are invariably unmemorable.

Group shots tend to be predictable and lifeless when shot by bored photographers who have seen it all before. What happens is that they lose their ‘eye’, which is an industrial disease affecting photographers and related to other forms of alienation in other disciplines.

Pictures of young people need action, with something of the style of old-time record sleeves.

Some lively students celebrate the end of the beginning in Marmaris.
Like this perhaps?

More to come . . .

2 Responses to “Photography: Eggleston, Strand, and Waite”

  1. Anita Says:

    Hi Stephen, I enjoyed reading your blog.

    I really like Paul’s quote – ‘In order to be a photographer you must have something to say about the world’ I totally agree!

    I specialise in flower photography. I think that photography can be a very personal process, the decision to then share that moment with others is an expression of who we are. I am always interested in why people decide to photograph something; it can be a snapshot of a time that is precious, a memory and something that can be seen as important to share with others…

    I also agree that group shots can be so boring! But it doesn’t need to be. I love the group shot of the young people!

    In the processes I use, I like to consider not only the image, but why I am taking the photo, for what purpose am I aiming for and so on… I also create greeting cards using my flower photography and love the creative process behind it all – I just love it :)

    Photography is a wonderful creative way to express who we are and the world around us.

  2. Stephen Bray Says:

    Strangely enough I too have a small collection of flower portraits. I call them portraits because, as with people, I approach living things as if they have personalities. You might say that I strive to photograph the ‘deva’ within the plant, its essence, rather than surface beauty.

    Recently, however, I’ve come to see that the same is true for all manner of things including stones, detritus and man made objects. That’s not to say I find a connection in everything, but simply that things with which I do feel a connection I attempt to photograph.

    Good luck with your flower cards. It’s wonderful to see you extending your love for the plants through your photography.


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