Aspects of Photography

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This essay is about different aspects of photography. Photography allows us to express our feeling and emotions, but to do so we need to master the scientific part of the medium.

Submitted: February 15, 2013

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Submitted: February 15, 2013



Aspects of Photography



Photography is an art and science as the same time of creating images and photos by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation. A photograph or photo is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image such as a CCD or a CMOS chip. Most photographs are created using a camera, which uses a lens to focus the scene's visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the human eye would see. The process and practice of creating photographs is called photography. The word "photograph" was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek, meaning "light", and graph means drawing or writing, together means "drawing with light".

Photography allows us to express our feeling and emotions, but to do so we need to master the scientific part of the medium. Unlike a painter, who is in direct contact with his subject and his canvas, a photographer is separated from his subject by the camera and from his "canvas" by computers and printers today and by darkroom equipment previously. Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer's decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless. A photograph is a meeting place where the interests of the photographer, the photographed, the viewer, and those who are using the photographs are often contradictory. These contradictions both hide and increase the natural ambiguity of the photographic image.

The scientific aspects of photography can be both overwhelming and fascinating, so much so that for some photographers photography comes to be just that: a scientific process that they attempt to master over their lifetime. However, to achieve mastery of the technical side of photography is to address only one of the two aspects of photography. The result is often technically excellent photographs that lack emotion and "seeing" qualities. In this regard, I share the opinion of Ansel Adams who said that there is nothing more boring that a technically perfect rendering of a fuzzy visual concept. In other words, an artistic photograph is created when technique is used to express a vision and an emotion, not when technique is used for its own sake.

Countless articles are written daily about the many scientific aspects of photography. From equipment reviews, to image processing techniques, to tips on how to be a more efficient photographer, to stories about what works and what doesn't, there is no shortage of material on the subject. Nothing wrong with that. Again, the scientific aspect of photography is very important and learning as much as you can about it is certainly worth your time and efforts.

 However, learning about the artistic aspect of photography is just as important. Unfortunately, there is a much lesser amount of information on photography as art. Far fewer essays are being written, far fewer discussions are taking place, and far less information, help and tips are available. It is as if photographers, for the most part, discovered how much they have to learn about photographic science and, overwhelmed and enchanted by equipment and technique, stopped there and looked no further. It may also be that some photographers, or photographic instructors, are uncomfortable writing about photography as art, or lack the practice and knowledge to do so.


The Goal of The Project:

The goal of this project is to explain this situation in two ways: first, by providing you with a source of help and information about the artistic aspect of photography. Second, by making use of Berger's background and experiences.

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this -as in other ways- they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.

This project carefully considered what the contents of each essay might be. The last thing was to provide ineffective, redundant or superficial information. Avoiding  what I perceived to be the most obvious pitfalls of such a series, namely to talk of photography as if it was art, without attempting to explain why it is, and later proceed to apply art concepts to photography, as if there was a direct crossover between photography and other arts.

In comparison between Photography and Aesthetics, the first on is free and more direct fashion. Photography and Aesthetics consists of carefully organized articles written over weeks and, for the later articles in the series, months.  Reflections on Photography and Art consists of essays, a format that allows me a much freer approach to the content of each piece.  As we will see in the series, feeling free to create is one of the sine qua non conditions for practicing photography as art

Do you want to build upon your current skills by studying the artistic aspect of photography? If your answer is yes, you are welcome to read this essay and be an enlightening, though at times challenging, experience.


The Aspects of Photography: Seeing & The Image

Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does. The photographic moment for Strand is a biographical or historic moment, whose duration is measured not by seconds, but by its relation to a lifetime.

There are many aspects of photography that work together to form a good image. If any of these aspects are left out of the picture, you may end up with a sub-optimal photograph. They’re all important, but I’m curious which of those aspects are most important . If you had to pick only one, which would it be? As always, feel free to add answers if they’re not listed here.

Berger starts by trying to explain the relationship between words and what we see. He points out that seeing and recognition come before words. It is seeing that

establishes our place in the world, but we use words to explain this world. Despite

this he argues there is always a distinction between what we see and what we know.

The example he gives is that of us seeing the sun revolving around the earth but

knowing the opposite.

For Berger, ‘An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced . . . which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance . . .’ (p. 9). This detachment can be great or small, but all images, including photographs, involve a way of seeing by the person who has created the image. Further, when we look at someone else’s image, our understanding of it depends on our way of seeing.


Berger argues that images were first made to represent something that was not there, and later acquired an extra level of meaning by lasting longer than the original subject. The image now showed how the subject had once looked to other people. Later still, with the increasing consciousness of the individual, the image was

recognized as the particular vision of a particular artist. Nothing else documents

the past so well, and the more imaginative the work, the more we can understand the artist’s experience of the world. Unfortunately, when images from the past are

presented as works of art, their meanings are obscured (mystified) by learnt

assumptions such as beauty, truth, form etc. Our understanding of history will always change as we change. However, this cultural mystification results both in

making the images seem more remote, and allows us to draw fewer conclusions

from history.


Uses of Photography

"through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, free standing particles; and history past and present, a set of anecdotes and fiats divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of mystery." The true content of a photograph is invisible, for it derives from a play, not with form, but with time. One might argue that photography is as close to music as to painting. . . a photograph bears witness to a human choice being exercised. This choice is not between photographing x and y: but between photographing at x moment or at y moment.

Essentially the same way the camera saves a set of appearances from the otherwise inevitable supersession of further appearances. It holds them unchanging. Before the invention of the camera nothing could do this, except, in the mind's eye, the faculty of memory.

The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us. Yet no other god has been so cynical, for the camera records in order to forget. We hate to look at his [Don McCullin's] pictures, but we have to. McCullin is the eye we cannot shut  

Memory implies a certain act of redemption. What is remembered has been saved from nothingness. What is forgotten has been abandoned. If all events are seen, instantaneously, outside time, by a supernatural eye, the distinction between remembering and forgetting is transformed into an act of judgment, into the rendering of justice, whereby recognition is close to being remembered, and condemnation is close to being forgotten. Such a presentiment, extracted from man's long, painful experience of time, is to be found in varying forms in almost every culture and religion, and every clearly, in Christianity.  

For Berger, the term ‘publicity images’ has the same meaning as ‘advertising

images’. He points out that they surround us, and that this is unique to modern

society. These visual messages last only for a moment, both in terms of how long

we look at them and in terms of how frequently they need to be updated. Despite

this, they do not refer to the present but to the future.

We see these images so frequently we now take them for granted. Although we

usually pass these images, we have the sense of them continually passing us, so

they are seen as dynamic and we seem static.


These images are justified in terms of an economic system that, in theory, benefits the public (the consumer), by stimulating consumption and as a result, the economy. Although tied to the concept of free choice, the freedom to buy this brand or another, the whole system of publicity is based on one proposal: that we can

change our lives for the better if we buy something. Despite having spent our

money, our lives will be richer by possessing more.

In the contemporary world the practical applications of the photographic medium are legion: it is an important tool in education, medicine, commerce, criminology, and the military. Its scientific applications include aerial mapping and surveying, geology, reconnaissance, meteorology, archaeology, and anthropology. New techniques such as holography, a means of creating a three-dimensional image in space, continue to expand the medium's technological and creative horizons. In astronomy the charge coupled device (CCD) can detect and register even a single photon of light.

Photography brings that which was hidden to the eyes of many. Things that someone may never have seen before. You might not have even took the time to find the right composition and lighting when taking the photo, but people like it for the content and creativity. What may not seem creative to you is creative to someone else. It all goes back to the function of art. Creative professionals all realize that art is not only a creative expression, it is a functional element that changes people's lives. The effects that a photo has upon the mind is hard to measure without the help of fMRI technology, and sometimes that does not pick up everything.



Every photograph presents us with two messages: a message concerning the event photographed and another concerning the shock of discontinuity. A camera can get you close without the burden of commitment. It's a nifty device that way, a magical passport into people's lives with no permanent strings attached. Where the focus of the photographer's mind is more on the way he is taking the picture than the reason for taking the picture at all, the result will fall short of what photography is supposed to be. Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does. What makes photography a strange invention - with unforeseeable consequences - is that its primary raw materials are light and time.

The true content of a photograph is invisible, for it derives from a play, not with form, but with time. One might argue that photography is as close to music as to painting. A photograph bears witness to a human choice being exercised. This choice is not between photographing x and y: but between photographing at x moment or at y moment.

There are many things that a photo contains that can have an effect upon the mind of another. Color, composition, content, balance, elements, arrangement, aesthetic, lighting, shadows, gradients, and the list goes on. It conveys information. It can be silly or sad. A photo can be dramatic or simple. A photographer cannot underestimate his photos, for they do not know what is going on in the minds of another. Now a photographer can spend his time making the most stellar photo knowing the elements it has, and he may be able to predict the effects it has upon someone. When looking at the art of photography one must remember that it is not just a photo, it is a functional piece that is living. Maybe not physically, but at each stage in human development, one picks up more information from the same photo that has been looked upon for years. We as photographers need to challenge. ourselves to make sure that we remember the functional aspect of our photos, and remember that it’s more than a photo.

There are positives and negatives for the aspects of photography. The positive thing is that original view of a subject, Dimension can be guessed even it can be measured using some special software, Three dimensional view can be got easily, It can show original color, Keeping memorable moments, Historical value can be achieved from older photographs, Visual Artistic value. The negative thing is that documentary evidence can be used for blackmailing, Photographs can be used by terrorists, evil minded demons for destructive intention. Capturing one's personal moment without his/her knowledge and to spread it over around the world.



- Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com1

- Berger, John. "Ways of Seeing". New York. 1972.2

- Berger, John. "Uses of Photography". About Looking. New York. Pantheon Books. 3

4- Berger, John. About Looking by John Berger, J. Laslocky (Editor).

5- Berger, John. Keeping a Rendezvous (Vintage International) by John Berger.

6- Nina Berman - The Photographs Not Taken.

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