Sunday, October 14, 2012

Painting, Polaroid, and Digital

Edwin Land (the Polaroid guy) gave a presentation to the Royal Photographic Society in London, in 1949, in which he said on the topic of painting and drawing:

... the artist initiates his activity by observing his subject matter and then and then responds, as he proceeds, to a two-fold stimulus: the original subject matter and his own growing but uncompleted work.

The important point here is that the incomplete drawing or painting is part of the process. Being able to see the work as it is created is fundamentally and powerfully different.

He then went on to talk about his Polaroid process, and how it allowed a similar mode of working for photographers. You shoot, you see, you shoot more. Interestingly, he is completely unconcerned with technical details here. In Land's mind, you're working for aesthetic perfection, not technical. Each image is a reaction to the previous images taken, as well as to the subject. You're working to simultaneously develop and realize an artist impluse.

This struck me like a bolt a lightning, albeit a very small one. I am as opposed to chimping as anyone, but I still do it when I'm out shooting digital. It's pretty hard to avoid. However, I find that I do it as much for artistic reasons as technical. I pretty much trust my camera to get the exposure right, and you can't really see focus on the back of the thing anyways. Sometimes I play with exposure compensation a bit.

Mostly, I chimp to see what I've got, and what I should do next. Mr. Land has pointed the way, here, and I intend to do this more, and with more intent.

The next time some joker tells you tape over the screen on the back of your camera, tell said joker to get stuffed. I do suggest you turn off the histogram display and all the little technical details, though, and just look at your picture.

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