Feelings in Photography

I read a lot of books related to photography. Nowadays they’re more about creativity than they are about technique. At some point these books always get around to two points: You should know why you are taking a particular photograph; and you should know what you’re feeling (the logic being that if you don’t know what you’re feeling how can you convey that to others in your photographs).

I generally know why I’m taking the photograph: I liked the subject; I liked the light; I liked the patterns; I liked the textures etc. But I struggle with the second point. I don’t generally know what I’m feeling. Maybe it’s because I’m British. Brits of my generation were not allowed to have feelings.

I am presently reading “Modern Instances. The Craft of Photography. A Memoir. by Stephen Shore.” In this he tells a story about famed photographer, Lee Friedlander.

…Lee Friedlander showed slides of his American Monument series in the Great Hall at Cooper Union. It was the first time he showed this work. He didn’t talk about his pictures and one could tell that the audience, largely students who are used to analyzing their work in class every week, were getting restless. Finally, someone raised their hand and asked, “What were you feeling when you took this picture?”. Friedlander replied, “As I recall, I was hungry”.

I love it.

Above: Lee Friedlander, Route 9W, New York State, 1969.

Interesting presentation by Stephen Shore

Interesting, if rather long (1 hour and 15 minutes) presentation by Stephen Shore.

In case anyone reading this doesn’t know who Mr. Shore is, Wikipedia describes him as follows:

Stephen Shore (born October 8, 1947) is an American photographer known for his images of banal scenes and objects, and for his pioneering use of color in art photography. His books include Uncommon Places (1982) and American Surfaces (1999), photographs that he took on cross-country road trips in the 1970s.

In 1975 Shore received a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1971, he was the first living photographer to be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where he had a solo show of black and white photographs. He was selected to participate in the influential group exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape”, at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House (Rochester, New York), in 1975-1976.

In 1976 he had a solo exhibition of color photographs at the Museum of Modern Art. In 2010 he received an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society.

Watching Alec Soth

Alec Soth is a well known photographer. According to his Magnum profile:

Alec Soth’s work is rooted in the American photographic tradition that Walker Evans famously termed “documentary Style.” Concerned with the mythologies and oddities that proliferate America’s disconnected communities, Soth has an instinct for the relationship between narrative and metaphor. His clarity of voice has drawn many comparisons to literature, but he believes photography to be more fragmented; “It’s more like poetry than writing a novel.”

Aside from his many critically acclaimed personal projects, selected clients include The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, W Magazine, Vogue, GQ, Wall Street Journal Magazine.

Much of Soth’s work is tied to an interest in the photobook and in 2008, he started his own publishing company, Little Brown Mushroom. His major series have all become critically acclaimed monographs; the first Sleeping by the Mississippi (Note I have a copy of this one), was published by Steidl in 2004, NIAGARA (Steidl, 2006), Broken Manual (Steidl, 2010), Songbook (MACK, 2015), I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (MACK, 2019).

Soth has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, McKnight, Bush, and Jerome Foundations and was the recipient of the 2003 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. His photographs are represented in major public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the National Gallery of Art. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney Biennial and career surveys by Jeu de Paume (2008), Walker Art Center (2010) and Media Space (2015).

Soth, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is represented by the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York, Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco and the Weinstein Hammons Gallery in Minneapolis.

He became a nominee of Magnum Photos in 2004 and a full member in 2008.

As mentioned above Soth (rhymes with Both) loves photobooks and has a massive collection. About a year ago he started a YouTube Channel where he discusses photobooks in general and uses photobooks from his collection as examples. I find the videos to be absolutely fascinating, and I like Soth himself – he seems to be a very genuine person.

His most recent photobook is “A Pound of Pictures“.