chantal stone photography: the blog

May 6, 2007

How Deep Does Your Photography Need To Be?

Filed under: Photography,Process/Learning — chantal @ 10:39 am


If you make your rounds around the different photography blogs then you’re familiar with the discussions concerning contemplative photography, or the what-is-beauty discussion…Mark Hobson even wrote something very interesting the other day about how his idea of beauty can be quite different from what is typically beautiful. A lovely notion, indeed.

I’ve often been told (by many) that I am far too analytical. I know that sometimes my thinking too much about a certain subject can often hinder my progress as a photographer. But even though I love a ‘pretty picture’ I need my photography to be about something, to mean something, even if only to me.

The ‘random shot’, the ‘pretty scene’ both make for nice pictures, and I shoot them as much as anyone else. And it doesn’t matter whether you shoot with a point and shoot film camera, or a high-end DSLR, I don’t care what lens you use or how your process you images. You can invest $50 into your outfit, or $10,000….it doesn’t matter. I think Good Photography requires thought, a little contemplation never hurt anyone.



  1. I agree. To often I visit photoblogs (and I have many in my feed) that have pictures that are just random shots. No thought, no processing, and very often not even any composition. They sometimes feel like some sort of twisted throwback to the days of the readymade art movement of the 20s. Duchamp was most likely making an ironic statement about readymade-ness of art, and not saying it was to be taken seriously.

    Wow I just felt like I was in my Art History class there for a second…

    Comment by DAVE — May 6, 2007 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  2. I totally agree…sometimes there’s almost a sense of arrogance in those ‘random’ pictures… some sort of inside joke that only the photographer is supposed to get.

    There’s a definite gray area though…sometimes random just works…other times…..not so much.

    Thanks for commenting Dave!

    Comment by Chantal — May 7, 2007 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  3. I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘deep’ or even contemplative? Is this from your point of view or that of the artist’s? I think that we take pictures of things that interest us, whether that be a deeply emotional picture, for us personally, or in just appreciating beauty, or perhaps taking the cliche’ shot.

    Everyone can display what they want, but just because someone doesn’t like it or because it doesn’t fit a particular template doesn’t mean that it is wrong or inappropriate.

    Perhaps it is an inside joke. Perhaps it’s just a picture of their kid, dog, cat, or swimming pool. All subjects. Perhaps they are trying some new type of composition. We don’t know the story, do we? We are just issuing judgment as bad/good/appropriate/inappropriate/interesting/uninteresting, based on our own experiences and tastes. This judgment is a normal human trait, unfortunately.

    Chantal, you said: “…But even though I love a ‘pretty picture’ I need my photography to be about something, to mean something, even if only to me.”

    Perhaps, to me, a particular image that means something to you might seem like a random snapshot to me, or one that I really like might seem just another pretty picture to you. If it appeals to me, then it appeals to me, but if not, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have taken it or displayed it.

    Anyway, my 2 cents worth … for what it’s worth. 🙂

    Comment by paul — May 8, 2007 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  4. You’re absolutely right Paul…..I appreciate your point of view. That’s just the subjective nature of photography, and Art in general. Not all art is for everyone. And I certainly don’t expect to find the meaning of life in all images, nor do I expect each photograph to reveal some deep contemplative experience. And I’m not criticizing typically ‘pretty’ or ‘random’ photographs or the photographers who make them….in fact, as I stated, I do those types of pictures myself.

    I just think the photo-world would be a better place if more photographers would think or just a moment before releasing the shutter. Maybe their exact thought wouldn’t be so obvious….but *thought* in general would eventually shine through their work—I’m convinced of that 🙂

    Comment by Chantal — May 8, 2007 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  5. I think William Corey put it best “A good photograph requires as much planning as a crime.” And I would think that this doesn’t just mean technical thought, but emotional and spiritual planning as well. This is what I think Chantal means by wanting her pictures to be “about something”. And I am starting to strive for this as well. If all that planning turns out to be a picture of a dog with the top of its head cropped off, well … 😀

    Comment by Sebastian — May 8, 2007 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  6. I am of the opinion that good photography requires connection, both internally (with your own process) and outward, toward the object of your observation and desire. If your way to intimacy is cognitive (well, why not?), then thinking a lot might be your best strategy to do your deep work as a photographer. I’m a visceral type–I feel it in my body–and those are the cues I pay attention to when I work.

    But it needn’t be so freighted with meaning, really. If it doesn’t feel like play most of the time, why bother?

    Comment by Doug Plummer — May 9, 2007 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

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