4.09.2012

A re-introduction to the Visual Science Lab. The manual.

"A man with a live grenade in his hand always gets more attention."

What is it? This is a blog that's written by me to talk about stuff I'm interested in.  By extension, I think you might be interested in some of the same stuff.  This is not an "inspirational" site where I toss on my rose colored (but still polarized) sunglasses and write column after column of positive affirmations meant to make us all feel good about wanting to be photographers.  You can find several hundred million of those sites scattered across the web.  This is not a blog where I implore you to learn how to light like everyone else.  This is not a blog for people who think that their cellphones are a perfectly good replacement for cameras.  If we all agree with each other and pat each other on the back all we've basically done is the adult version of giving every kid who participates a big trophy and a sense that nothing is left to be done.  

I think this blog should be about the hard work of doing good work with your camera.  There are a few things I might take too much for granted about you as part of the audience.  To wit:  I think you've read your camera's owner's manual and you know how to operate the machine.  I think you're a good reader and you have a wide knowledge of subjects that deal both directly with photography but also with culture, art and literature.  I think you care more about the "why" of photographing something than the "nuts-and-bolts-how-to" photograph something.  I think you've been through enough schooling to make cogent arguments that center on the topic rather than presenting ad hominem attacks in your comments.  Further, I presume you are experienced in taking and making images and that you are not here because you think I have magic photo beans that I might be induced to share. I might be taking too much for granted but I'm optimistic...

How to use this blog.  Read the newest blog, think about it, figure out what's true for you and then go about your business.  If I do my job right you'll think about what you're shooting, perhaps concentrate on what you love a bit more and really be mindful about your photography practice.  If you do your job right you'll come to see me as a peer and just another voice on the web.  Someone with different opinions and maybe a different approach than other ports on the web.  Even if you violently disagree with everything I write it may be constructive for you to at least be exposed to a different way of thinking as a vehicle to strengthening your own position.  Share what you like and pass over the stuff you don't like.  I like my photographs.  You don't have to.  I'm not posting them for your critique. 

I don't want to read or write any comments on politics here.  There are hundreds of thousands of sites where you can go and scream at each other about which rich white men should lead us into the future.  Just remember the old Japanese saying, One step forward and all is darkness. Or you could ponder Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.  Especially if you are very sure of all facts.....  Let's just not do it here.  Because, from my point of view, half of you are wrong.  :-)

No one really wants to talk about religion here either.  Unless it's about the worship of film or the damnation of cellphone-o-graphy.  But maybe those religions are too volatile as well.  I guess we better skip them. (for the record, I'm not against taking images with phones but I do resent the showmen and fervent proselytizers who are pushing the new agenda as a new way to monetize the process.)

There are three things we'll mostly discuss here. By that I mean there are three things I'm interested in discussing here, for the most part. The first is art.  What we're trying to say, and whose shoulders we're standing on as we try to say it. We'll talk about influence and art history because those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it....  The second is about the equipment we use to make our images and how our tools mold us and the other way around.  If you think you are the master of your tools and there's no reciprocity we'll have some interesting discussions.  Finally, we'll talk about the process.  How to go about realizing a vision.  And we won't just discuss it in "step one, step two, step three's" but in allegory and metaphor and allusion and idiomatic reference.  

Right now I'm grappling with the idea of re-inventing my take on the portrait.  But sooner than you know it I'll be on to something else.

Want to enjoy good photographic art?  Want to make good photographic art?  Then we all have to reach for it and spend the time in the water (a metaphor for practicing our craft over time) that it takes.  It won't happen a nanosecond quicker just because you won an argument on a web forum.  Get your goggles, your Speedo and your latex swim cap.  We start again tomorrow. Hope the water's not too cold...


One final word.  The use of a camera, and the personal experimentation with camera or a lens, will always take precedence over charts, graphs and numbers.  Always.  Measure as much as you want but leave your slide rule and charts in the car when you come to lunch.

29 comments:

Lanthus Clark said...

I was about to start expounding on religious and political views and how they influence photography just for the heck of it and then just couldn't muster the energy! Welcome back, and keep 'em coming the same flavour we used to. I like it like that!

Have a great day!

John F. Opie said...

I went swimming outside this winter in subzero (centigrade) temperature at 7AM three days a week for around 3 weeks. The water I swam in was around 70°. Cool enough to keep you moving, but not nearly warm enough to make you want to stay in the water any longer than you needed to. Surprisingly full pool at that time and temperature, too. Did some of my best recent times then as well (1km in 28:37, crawl)...

Later when the weather really turns nicer and I'm back up to speed, I'm going to start taking my Lumix TCS3 with me in the water. There are such lovely patterns of light in the water at times I just want to stop and stare... :-)

John F. Opie said...

Oh, right, real reason to post: welcome back. :-) I still swim, but the temperature was only that cold for that long...memo to self: preview, then post.

kirk tuck said...

Not a day goes by that I don't wish for a kick board camera. The point of view just above the surface is gorgeous.

atmtx said...

Welcome back.

Chris Mielke said...

Sounds like you had a good break. Nice to read you again.

Eggboy said...

Hi Kirk,

Welcome back. This is my first comment...I missed you! Please continue to write exactly want you want to write. Warts, angst and all! I really appreciate reading the musings of an actual living, breathing, joyous, inspired, pained, and agonizing human being!

Alf said...

Happy to read you again. You are a welcome voice, particularly when I disagree, as your opinion helps prospective thinking.
Plus, I like your images.

Carlo Santin said...

I am very much interested in the why, so count me in. I'm confused though...I thought the why of it already was the mandate of the VSL...so what's changed?

Ken Norton - Image 66 Media said...

What? No politics or religion? Grumble mumble. Well, your pretty portraits will have to do.

typingtalker said...

A product that is well designed doesn’t need a manual and as long as I’ve been reading VSL I’ve never wished for one.

Welcome back.

Bold Photography said...

Time for me to dig back into Jansen's book...

Bold Photography said...

I'm a bit surprised you haven't sprung for one of the water/shock/kid proof cameras out there... some of these: http://www.reghardware.com/2012/04/07/eight_rugged_cameras/ should do the trick for you with regards to attaching it to the kick board and either doing time lapse photos or a video from board level ....

Bill Bresler said...

So, I've worked as a photographer since I was in high school, way back in the early 70s. Some days I feel like a Master of the Universe. Other days I feel like I could use a few of your magic photo beans. Good to have you back. I love your portraits and don't care if you shot them with an 8x10 Sinar or an iPhone.

Dan said...

No magic photo beads? damn. Welcome back, everyone needs a break now and then, I hope you enjoyed yours. Oh, we don't need to see me in a speed. I am afraid that time has passed.

Ed Lara said...

Welcome back to you and your blog, Kirk. Looking forward to the new approach----sounds like you've distilled your content down to the best elements of what have kept your avid readers following along all this time. I've pretty much limited my online photography-related reading to TOP, this blog, and a few select older posts on the art of seeing and understanding triggers and motivations on the MU-43 forum. I think what i am most looking forward to are your reflections and the resulting discussions on how we stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before us. That is where many out there have lost their way, thinking it's all been invented for the first time by the latest web evangelist. It's ancient, enduring light that our kind has been capturing and using as paint and brush from the days of the daguerrotype to the latest XXXXX MP sensor.

BTW, just got my copy of Dixon's "The Photo Album" from Amazon today (as well as a copy of Vivian Meir Street Photographer)---was I surprised by the "photos"! Couldn't help but smile, though, at the reflections---they are thought balloons to many of my own photos!!!

John said...

Looking forward to the daily........

john

John said...

I too would love to see a kickboard camera. I used my AE-1 as a water top camera for a while, it still works since I never did submerge it. I did get some wonderful swimming photos though. I also enjoy the way the sunlight hits the bottom of the pool. I usually extend my push off the wall to enjoy the light. Ahh swimming.....waiting for the waters to soften up and get above 55F so I can actually put my face in the large outdoor pools we have her in Northern Vermont.

Blake Ricks said...

"If we all agree with each other and pat each other on the back all we've basically done is the adult version of giving every kid who participates a big trophy and a sense that nothing is left to be done."

This is the best thing I've read in a long time. So true, indeed.

Ken Hurst Photography said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Hurst Photography said...

"for the record, I'm not against taking images with phones but I do resent the showmen and fervent proselytizers who are pushing the new agenda as a new way to monetize the process"

- my thoughts also and thanks for condensing it into one succinct sentence. Hmmm, wondering who those showmen and proselytizers are? Maybe live nearby or call Austin home?

Marino Mannarini said...

Aye Aye Sir, we crew all onboard and ready to sail, sir!

Raianerastha said...

Welcome back Kirk...sort of? Your comments about how to use this blog are timely for me, as of light I've realized I don't spend nearly enough time taking my camera out and "practicing". So I'm setting up specific projects intended to hone skills or expand my "photographic vision". So it's great to have that idea reinforced.

I also especially like that you lay out your expectation of photography literacy. It is indeed tiresome to try to have online discussions with people who don't read manuals, don't understand the process of photography beyond those things which satisfy pixel peeping, or can't explain the why of photography beyond wanting to impress other pixel peepers.

I use an "outdated" dslr. Yet people see my photos and make a point of telling me how they are impressed with the results I get. I have no magic beans either: my process is to start with a clear concept and goal for my photographs, then use whatever degree of skill I have to attain that goal. That is what overcomes most limitations of gear.

So I'm tracking right along with you Capt. Kirk (LOL).

Simon Lupton said...

I've RTFM and I agree with the instructions given. I DO want to see more pics of Martin taken on the 'blad though............ please?

Welcome back, looking forward to seeing the shiny new lab as often as you can manage.

John Sarsgard said...

VSL is the rarest of art sites. The art itaelf, the tools, the process. You'd think there would be much more. Must be harder to talk about this stuff. Really missed it during the hiatus. But suspect it was the right thing for Kirk to do.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Saunders said...

Thanks Kirk - looking forward to participating.

Clay said...

Personally, I'd rather see the two pictures you want to show than the ten it took to get those two - unless there's some lesson to teach in showing the ten. If I were your subject, I think I'd feel the same way.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

I'm a bit late to welcome you back as I see, but still... have been on vacation, which was very nice, and now I'm glad that I have that much to read from you.