My course in Photography, would be called Dancing with the Hasselblad. I would choreograph it with Mark Morris. If photography is about your point of view, literally, then how can everyone photograph from within a space of 30cm ( Camera in front of eyes or there about) .Why is it so difficult to move with the camera, a deep breath and your vantage point already shifts, imagine if you could learn to dance around your subject, the range of images that would emerge, many that would completely surprise you and me. Each shift changes the balance between background and foreground. Each movement affects the aesthetic of your frame.
Photographers please learn to get down on your knees and you will see, its a different world from there.I was always envious of my colleagues who were close to 6 feet, I could never see as they did, let alone navigate the crowds, until I started to realise that my 5 feet vantage point was my stength and then when the Hasselblad entered my life, the vantage point became even lower.
I like using my Hasselblad because I can use it at waist level/navel level, so already I have a different vantage point than what I am used to seeing, it allows the place to surprise me and then I literally do a dance with it. Moving up and down and to the side, walking into and walking away, before I decide on the frame.
It was Naoya Hatakeyama who taught me the significance of walking backwards, of walking into a situation and then walking away from it. It completely alters your experience of the space.
No conversation on Photography can continue for too long without a mention of Michael Ondaatje, the master of editing. In his poem ” What we lost” he writes among all that we lost-“how to enter a temple or a forest”. I try very hard to time my visit to a place I maybe wanting to photograph, with the light, the time of day. How I first see a room is very important, how I enter the museum determines my relation to it. I prefer the back door, that allows the building to reveal itself to me that is not the prescribed route. My chief patron here is light, how it falls and how it shifts the reflections. What is reveals, what it withholds, at different times of day and night.
I am glad I was gifted In Praise of shadows at just the right time, when I started to photograph without people.The same friend gifted me Mahlers 1st symphony that I often play on repeat, while I am editing and sequencing. He also brought Austerlitz to me. Perhaps this friend came to deliver these tools to me, the gifts that would help me fly, possibly away from photography even.
I wonder why people are happy just to photocopy what the eye sees anyway? perhaps the answer is in learning to dance, to be comfortable moving ones body. Perhaps you need to bend, to make yourself a little vulnerable, a little flexible, take the risk of ridicule or whatever it is you fear,and then see how a place or person reveals itself. That to me is the magic of photography, not just replicating what comes infront of the camera. That any machine can do.
PS- This ofcourse is advice at a seemingly practical level, the most important shifts happen with whats in your head, the books you read, the music you listen to, the places you travel to, whom you travel with, your conversations, your silences. The people you befriend, the people you unfriend.
Its really what you bring to the image, that gives it that ‘something else’. As Anish Kapoor said ” If an artist does not have an inner life, what comes out is bubbles”