On Photography


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                                                                                                                             “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed”  Susan Sontag.  

I have a whole collection of images that I cannot resist taking of people photographing other people or things. and I was reflecting on what it is about the subject that almost compels me to take them.  So I have been meaning to get out my copy of Susan Sontag’s book, On Photography for at least a year and this seemed like a good time!  This was taken in MOMA in NYC during September.  It is the famous Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.  I remember how many people crowded around it, standing at a distance and how many people photographed it.  To take a likeness away with them perhaps?  But why?  This has to be one of the most photographed and reproduced paintings in the world and its definitely well known judging by the amount of people who came to admire it.  I have, for a long time now been interested in what lies behind the typical tourist photograph, the family in front of the well known cultural landmark or icon, perhaps the gates to Guinness’s brewery in Dublin or the with Eiffel tower or the Arc de Triumph in the background.  To me it seems that these images are taken as evidence, like early scene of crimes photographs were, to record something for posterity, to make the experience more real.  Once we photograph something we feel we can never forget it.  

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 “Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter.  Unsure of other responses, they take a picture.  This gives shape to the experience:  stop, take a photograph, and move on.  The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese and Americans” (Sontag.  S. 1977)

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“it seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along.  Photographs will offer the indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had” 

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                                                                                                                          Of course I myself am a tourist with a camera too.

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Often I find I look at photographs believing what I am seeing, mistaking what I see before me as the truth, as fact.  But the subject of a photograph is not what is in the image but what it represents, what it symbolises.  

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                                                                                                                          “Photographs are as much an interpretation of reality as paintings and drawings are”


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                                                                                                                          “A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it”

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                                                                                                                      “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation and fantasy”



                                                                                                                                                        “Like guns or cars, cameras are fantasy machines who’s use is addictive” 

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Sontag.  S.  1977.  In Plato’s Cave.  From On Photography.  Penguin Books 1979.  London

About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
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