David duChemin is a photographer, blogger and author of the book Within the Frame.
Note: This is not really an interview with David. He was not involved with this at all. This is just me misappropriating his words from his book. My leading questions, his words taken completely out of context…
Chris: Hey David, lets get right to the questions. Would you say this book is just for professional, travel, or aspiring travel photographers?
David: It’s a book for everyone who’s wanted to shoot images of the places and people they love, whether or not they ever go around the world to do it.
Chris: So your goal with this book is to reach all types of photographers, not just travel photographers?
David: If you come away with anything from this book, I hope it is a renewed resolution to seek and serve your vision through this elegant craft.
Chris: You spend a lot of time talking about vision. Is there a brief way to summarize your thoughts on vision?
David: It’s the thing that moves you to pick up the camera, and it determines what you look at an what you see when you do. It determines how you shoot and why. Without vision, the photographer perishes.
Chris: That’s a strong statement. Is vision really that important to a photographer?
David: The photographic life is one of discovering your vision and expressing it in purely visually terms. Sometimes our vision finds us; sometimes we need to chase it down.
Chris: Is vision that important? Can’t a photographer take pictures without this vision thing behind them?
David: The photographs that move me to laughter, to tears, or to get me on a plane and see something for myself are the ones where the photographer has done more than shoot with her eye; she shoots with her heart as well.
Chris: Are you saying that a photographer needs vision behind a photograph to make it work?
David: From simple vacation images to shocking images of genocide, and image succeeds of fails based not only on the subject matter but on how that subject matter is expressed.
Chris: Ok, so tell me something practical about what goes within the frame.
David: As a visual storyteller, you are responsible for every element within the frame. If it’s in the frame, it’s because you allowed it to be. If it’s missing, it’s because you chose to exclude it, or you neglected to include it.
Chris: So are you are saying that it is your vision that needs to dictate as your press the shutter what goes within that frame?
David: As you press the shutter, ask yourself, “What is it about this person, this place, that compels me to capture this image? Am I capturing this in a way that most clearly communicates that?”
Chris: So this is about how to capture more than just a pretty picture?
David: As you shoot, be aware of the stories you are shooting, as well as the emotions and thoughts you want to capture. Then remove every element that does not contribute to that vision.
Chris: As I am standing there trying to remove everything that doesn’t fit my vision, I fear that I will miss that one moment that makes my photograph.
David: That’s what makes these moments so precious – their fleeting nature. But no one sees the junk and the misfires, and the blurry shots. They don’t matter. What matters is the images you have taken, the times when the stars align with the moment and the long hours of practicing your craft, and you capture your vision so well that you sit back and wonder if it was really you how shot that image.
Chris: So once I get past that, I just need to concentrate on the person I am trying to capture?
David: The subject of a photograph is not, for example, a Kashmiri man in front of his family. That’s the subject matter. The subject itself is the emotion, thought, or intangible that you are trying to express through the image.
Chris: That sounds much more difficult. How can you attempt to fit that in a photo with the correct exposure.
David: Consider the look of¬† your image beyond just getting the exposure right.
David: Shutter speed is not only a means for creating the right exposure, but for making a photograph that says precisely what you want to say and gives the feeling you want. Rethinking the role of shutter speed and its aesthetic effects can have a profound influence on the images you create.
Chris: You have a saying “Gear is Good, Vision is Better.” Can you say more about that?
David: Photographers run the risk of spending more time thinking about gear than using it to create great images. In short, we become addicted to the how of photography, and when that happens, the why and the what suffer.
Chris: Do you think all the tech talk is affecting the pictures photographers take?
David: The result is a glut of photographs that are technically perfect but lacking in emotion, depth, symbolism, and passion.
David: Despite the cameras, computers, and vast arsenals of lenses, software, and assorted geekery, photography is an artistic pursuit. At the heart of that pursuit is our vision and the need to create an image about which we are passionate – something that communicates the ineffable in color, light, and gesture.
Chris: Do we need to just toss the gear then?
David: By all means, geek out on the gear, but don’t forget that without vision the whole thing falls apart and devolves. It stops being photography and just winds up as an addiction to expensive, soon-to-be-obsolete gear. Your vision, and the photographs you take, will last much, much longer. No one cares if you create your images with a Canon or a Nikon; they care if the photograph moves them.
Chris: David, I wish I could continue, but we are out of time. I would love to get into more about how you express your vision within the frame, but we will have to leave that for people to discover in the book. It really is an excellent book that gave me tons of insight in to the “why” I take pictures. It really helped me understand more about this whole vision thing. Thanks again.
Don’t forget to check out David’s blog where you can continue the discussion.