Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Story Pictures Tell

Why bother to take photos?

In 1934, a photo of my mother won honorable mention in a contest at Sanger Brothers in Dallas, a contest her mother had entered. That photo became even more valuable to my mom when her mother died at age 26. 

And then there's me.

My love affair with photographs began when as a child I would look through the giant photo album my mother had purchased from a professional photographer. This purchase included a few sittings to produce studio quality portraits. A picture of me before my first birthday was on page one.

My mother was making a values statement. She valued photos. She wanted to tell her story. She sought to preserve memories.

How important are photos to you?

This is part of my story too. I took pictures long before I had a camera. And long before I knew anything about photography.

Pictures tell stories. And I'm fascinated both by the images and the stories pictures represent. A camera gives me permission to be involved and curious about other people's stories. And I like that.

Besides 4 years spent at Amarillo College studying photography, I operated this business for 5 years.

 A Brief History of Photography

The first camera obscurra or pin-hole camera appeared c. 1500. The next leap in photography came with the daguerrotype around 1840. 

Nearly 50 years passed before George Eastman founded Kodak and introduced a roll-film camera. In 1900, the Kodak Brownie was the first mass-marketed camera. 

Throughout the 20th century, color film, 35mm cameras, slide film (Kodachrome), the Polaroid camera (first with B&W film and later color), Hasselblad's medium format camera (a square negative, bigger than 35mm), these cameras and the film medium dominated photography and dictated its course. 

But in 1981, the first digital camera was introduced and Kodak in 1991 was first to make a professional digital camera. Ironic, since the digital revolution ultimately led to Kodak's demise. 

Sharp made the first camera phone in 2000. And in 2001 Polaroid went bankrupt and in 2004, Kodak quit making film. 

Drum roll … the iPhone came out in June, 2007.

Why the dates?


We've come a long way, baby. In a relatively short time. I guess. 

What's Next?

What do we have to show for all the camera clicks? Where are most of the pictures we take? In shoe boxes, crates or on Facebook? Today, who has time to let pictures tell their story?

Considered the father of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "Photographs deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again." 

But in fact, a photograph reminds us of those moments and the people who make moments and places worth remembering. 

An art for the heart, I like what Cartier-Bresson said about portraits, "You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt." 

That idea helps explain why I take so many pictures. Like a hunter on safari, I try to capture that one image to represent my subject in the best light possible. 

Photography means "painting with light." Light and shadow are what give a picture its life and dimension. Without the subtlety of shading, detail in both highlights and shadows, a photo remains as flat as the paper it's printed on. 

What follows are a few tips to help you take better photos and then too encouragement to preserve the best of your photos.

Something my photography instructor taught