When you ask a kid to make a draw a picture, the result is never what the child sees but the idea of the object pictured. The sun, for instance, will, most probably, be represented by a yellow disk, with rays, though on real life, light is white and sun rays are seldom visible. Women will be drawn with skirts and men with pants, though women also wear pants and men wear kilts.
As people grow up, and keep on drawing, the result will be more similar to what they actually see than the standard concepts they learned about objects. Then, for those who engage on an artistic drawing career, after mastering reproducing what their eyes can see, they return to the world of abstract concepts – visions, ideas, but specially feelings and emotions – with more or less connection to the visual world.
Photography, being apparently the mechanic (or digital) reproduction of the visual reality, also goes through the 3 phases, though on a less obvious way.
Let’s take the example of Singapore famous area – Marina Bay Sands. A tourist goes there, and, from the internet, has a previous idea on how it is – like a childish mental drawing. So he tries to reproduce it on the best way he can.
He may be taken to an obvious spot by an excursion or a tourist bus, probably on an improper hour. Once arrives, tries to frame according to his pre-conceived idea and presses the button, posting the result on the social media, to tell the World: “I’ve been there”! The image is important as long as people can recognise the place. The visual content, the technical and emotional part of it is irrelevant.
An enthusiast photographer will focus on the technique. At fist he’ll chase pixel level sharpness, histogram perfect exposure, “rule of thirds” framing, and so on. That’s the “reality” phase.
Then, maybe he falls in love with advanced techniques: bokeh shots, long exposure, neutral density filters, panning and so on. At this point, he’s not using technique to express himself as an artist – he’s using an object or landscape to display his technical proficiency.
However a real pro photographer, has overcome that “technique mastering” phase, and uses technique to express something more – a story, but specially an emotion behind the story.
I’ve been visiting Singapore on the last years, with somewhere between 2 months and one year interval. On my free days I eventually return to the same places and shoot. After quite a few returns, I’m able to look back and see how I went through those phases as described by the captions in the photos.
I didn’t reach an end to it, but I’m starting to feel pleased with the results and its consistency. I’m starting to allow myself to be emotionally influenced by what I see and trying to convey that emotion. As s piece of advice to photo enthusiasts I say: technique is crucial – it’s your tool. It enables you to get what you want, instead of delivering some random result. However technique is just a tool. It’s what you shape out of that tool who really matters.