I was looking at instagram, which I shouldn't be doing (that is a whole other topic), and in looking at some of the photographs, I started to think about the balance between what is said and how it is said. Both aspects are all about the photographer and perhaps this is a way to look at how I develop over time.
What does this mean? What is said, and how it is said. I'll address both aspects. What is said is based on the content of the frame. It can be descriptive and literal, and can be transcendental, metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic, or anything else that isn't a literal description that conveys a message, story, idea, emotion, experience or any combination there of. Paraphrased, I think I mean the point of the frame.
How it is said. This is more like how a director / cinematographer explains the frame. Christopher Nolan does it differently than Steven Spielberg. Neither is correct nor incorrect, they interpret according to their own methods, perceptions, preferred emphasis and bias, etc.
Both of these aspects are of equal value in making a frame, and photography is unique in its challenge to do so in a single frame. It is a subtractive and perception based art form - how do I capture what I see in a way that communicates the way I see it? The answer seems obvious to the non-photographer - just press the shutter - however, the photographer knows that this is the biggest challenge in photography and takes much time to learn how to do well, if ever. And this has little to do with the technical aspects and everything to do with art and the photographer's life experience.
What do I mean, how much of me is enough? I am in a phase where I am evaluating in myself what is noticeable about my photography, meaning are there aspects of my photography that are noticeable enough to be a distraction to someone looking at the frame? A part of me wants me to completely disappear from a frame and that anything I am doing to the frame, whether with light, or in post, is not noticeable. I'm improving at the lighting and post processing, but the events of capturing a frame are not as developed.
What does this mean...I keep asking this question...if a viewer looks at one of my frames and sees the photography, notices some type of processing, manipulation, distortion, capture related photographic artifact, then I have done a poor job - I got in the way of the message of the frame and distracted the viewer from a transparent and immersive experience. My opinion is that in the best photography, the viewer completely forgets that they are looking at photographs and is only experiencing the content in a way that the photographer directed. The photographer can't control the viewer perception, but can influence it. If there is some of the craft that is to be shown in the frame as well, the photographer must control how much is shown to help communicate the content of the frame, nothing more.
Back to how much of me is enough. I show up in the photograph in two places. I capture the frame and I develop how it will be presented. An example of a photographer showing up in capture would be a poorly staged photograph. Because of the poor staging or lighting or direction or posing or whatever, the viewer is reminded that they are looking at a concocted frame that wasn't executed well and perhaps doesn't have a point / story (unless that was the intent of the photographer). It makes the viewer aware of the photographer's choices in constructing the story, presenting it in a frame, and recording the frame.
I can also show up in how the frame is presented. If my presentation brings attention to itself outside of the content of the photograph, I have yet again presented the viewer with distractions that show them my poor choices. Maybe my presentation is overly processed HDR, or too much saturation or poor choice of print media or bright green mat board or poor choice in color balance, etc. I can ruin a potentially good photographic viewing experience by how I show it. I get cocky or I get cute.
In both instances, I need to be striving to be invisible, that 100% of the viewer's experience makes them forget they are looking at a photograph - the message of the frame and my presentation of it both contribute 100% to my intended effect, well, as much as that can be. 90% isn't good enough - 10% distraction (or any distraction) is enough to make the viewer focus on the distraction and miss the photograph.
My effort lately has been to do as little as possible in the process of recording a frame and processing a frame. I can't say this is the ultimate goal, because I don't know, but it does make sense to me, at least based on my experience driving cars fast - the least amount of intervention into the chassis always results in the best performance. Much of learning to drive fast is learning to undo a bunch of bad crap - big, unnecessary inputs that slow the car. Learning to go fast is about learning to use the least amount of steering, the least amount of braking, but on the accelerator as much as possible. Photography is much of the same - I have to learn how to make my inputs as small and invisible as possible to disturb the frame as little as possible. Then I can get closer to what I am seeing and trying to interpret.
So how much of me is enough? As little as possible, and I should be working to make me less and less conspicuous. But this is just the first layer...I'll right about the next layer in the next journal entry.