Masters of Photography

Lesson 2 of 34

Influences

 

Masters of Photography

Lesson 2 of 34

Influences

 

Lesson Info

Influences

(upbeat music) You are so lucky to be living in this time. This is a time where photography books are abundant. When I began photographing 55 years ago, photography wasn't an art form that was so recognized and so abundant as it is today. I only had three books to look at, and I didn't even know about them at the beginning. They came to be in the course of one year. They were American Photographs by Walker Evans, this incredible book by Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment, and this book, The Americans by Robert Frank, which was a life-changing experience for me. But I am bringing this up because it's important to have books around, to have the literature of photography available to you. Not so much that you could copy or steal from these artists, but that you could find in their work the same impulses that you have. They developed them, they became artists of great significance, and they were able to bring their work together in a book, and these books have become part of the histor...

y of the medium that we're all so involved in. But when you look at these books, it's like entering a dream. All of the experiences, the locations, the identities of artists that they've photographed or of actions that they've seen, these are available to you as a way of finding a comparison between your impulses and theirs. Like I say, it's not so much about making photographs that look like theirs, but about having human instincts, responses to a kind of generosity of experience that the world offers, and in the pages of these books there are untold poems. Any one that you open can take you into the way a photographer had the good sense to stop at that moment in the middle of an ordinary street or a landscape or, you know, by the seaside and just pause for a moment and let the indwelling experience come to them. I'm here now, in this place, this is what it looks like, and the invitation to enter that moment, the photographic moment, is available to you by looking throughout these resources. This is a book that I made, my very first book, Cape Light, and it's been a constant resource. I go back and look at it, surprisingly, at my own book year after year because it gives me the courage again to keep going forward and pushing beyond the things that I learned when I made these photographs. So, I think, for all of you, the references that come up out of these books are part of the encouragement that you get. You'll have encouragement from me in the course, but I think you need to go and read the poems of all the photographers from the last 150 years, and you'll find them in books everywhere. And for those of you interested in street photography, this is a book that I've worked on with my co-author, Collin Westerbeck, for 25 years, and it's a book that really expresses what it's like to be out in the everyday ordinary street of, streets of any city in the world and finding on those places your image, your counterpart in some way, your sense of what's of worth or of value to you at any given moment in the day because the streets are an abundant and astonishingly surprising place to be. Ordinary life isn't ordinary. When you put a frame around a moment, you separate it from everything else, and it's a concentrated essence of who you are. Having books is having an asset that is a library of ideas. Photographs that can inspire you and encourage you to go out and search on your own for your qualities, for the things that make you feel that your instincts are valid and valuable to you. I've used books, really my whole life as a photographer, I've used them as a resource to inspire me. There are gonna be days when you feel like I've got nothing to say and it's boring, I can't go out. You'll have a lot of excuses, everybody does, and sometimes when you feel that way and you pick up a book, it charges you with that desire again. I wanna go out and do the same thing. And I can tell you that a photographer like Cartier-Bresson, great Decisive Moment. I mean, I can almost open any page. Look at this. Here's a spread of four different photographs. I mean, I open a book like this and there are four pictures here of... In almost all cases, there are children in these pictures, which is interesting because children are a great subject. You can observe them, they're probably not gonna pay much attention to you. It allows you to get in close and intimate and see things, but you know, you look at a picture like this and you say how did he make that? How did he know to make that? He was probably caught by the uncertain arrangement of windows. There's no regularity here. I don't know who decided to punch holes into a building like that and put windows in, but it's a fantastic thing, and Bresson thought wow, this is a great background. I'm gonna hang out here for a while, and then he noticed that there were kids playing. So, he moved within the range of where the kids were because they're not gonna be bothered, you know, with his presence nearby them. So, he could observe the kids and this wall behind them. Both of them came together to make a kind of photographic space, and then, because he was there waiting, a man comes walking through and the man has a hat on and he has suit jacket and he's got a belly and he's walking through this playground of kids, and Bresson sees the photograph. First there was the inspiration to stop there because of the way the building looked, then there was the sighting of the kids and Bresson finds his way into position, and then this man enters and a photograph appeared for him just because his instinct said stand here a while, pay a little attention here. And look at how these four pictures look on the spread. I mention this to you because we live in a time now when anybody can make a book out of their work, and I have to say, when I began as a photographer, my dream, after seeing Robert Frank's book, The Americans, my dream was that someday I'll have my photographs in a book. It wasn't about an exhibition or about selling anything, it was about making a body of work come together in book form that would express my feelings about the world, my personal poetry, my sense of what's valuable. And so, looking at books gives you an opportunity to see the way other people put pictures together because pictures together are like music or they're like lines of poetry on a page or they're like literature. You put things together and you get some very interesting relationship surprises. I mean, look at this. Bresson walks along the street and he sees a man (snores) sleeping against his little... He has a little fruit stand here and Bresson stops to make the picture because not only is the man sleeping, but on the wall someone has drawn a caricature in chalk, and Bresson sees that the man and his caricature look exactly alike, and he stands there, right in front of the sleeping man, and he makes this picture. This is the kinda thing you can take in as inspiration and say yeah, I'll just get as close to people as I can to see if I can find something interesting. And then when the time comes to put the book together, on this page, he puts a still life of fruit in a box that's covered with a little bit of a screen so the flies wouldn't get on their fruit. But he makes a still life on the street and he makes a sleeping man picture on the street and they come together as a new kind of poetry. So, I believe that books give you a kind of inspiration, and we all need inspiration, but they give you an inspiration to search in the world for the kinds of connections... You to a single moment, but the interconnectedness of putting pictures together in a way that describe only your sensibility. And that's what this course is all about, keeping you in touch with your sensibility so that you feel how to strengthen it by making photographs that come to you only through your curiosity. Take for example someone like Diane Arbus, who was a photographer mostly doing portraits of people. Here, Diane Arbus has photographed twins. So, what's the first thing we think about with twins? Oh, they look alike, they're twins. Oh, they dress alike, they're twins. But she's sharper than that. This photograph of these look-a-likes show just how much they do not look alike even though they're twins, and that quirky aspect of who they are was what was so intriguing to her. And she was an interesting photographer in that when you sbe was curious about somebody, she didn't just sneak up to them and take their picture and run away, she entered their space, their life. She was able to show them that she was interested enough in their specialness that when she expressed that, either physically or through words, they were able to release themselves and free themselves to give her their mystery. Because photographs describe the mystery of others, and I think that portraiture is one of those connective moments between the human beings, between the artist and whoever he or she chooses to make the subject, that reveals a lot about the person making the photograph as well as the person who is being photographed. And really, for most of you, you'll learn a lot if you start to photograph the people around you not just for family album snaps, but to make photographs that show the mystery, the essential qualities, the tenderness, the physical beauty, the magic that people have when they express themselves and when they reveal themselves to you. This is part of the art of photography is how to work with your human capacities and communicate them to other people so they, in turn, yield themselves up to you. You can do this, and it's incredibly rewarding. I would say if you're gonna buy any book first, but The Americans. It is a lesson in looking not only at individuals, but at looking at a whole culture. A young Swiss photographer comes to America, he finds it fascinating, he tours around the country, and he makes this book, which is considered the single greatest poem, photographic poem, of the 20th century. I just opened the book a few minutes ago and I came across this picture, and it's probably not the greatest picture in the book, but it's a terrific example of just walking along the street and suddenly seeing someone who's out of place, a cowboy in New York City. And Robert Frank has the instinct and takes pleasure at the same time from pausing for a moment in his passage and just going (clicking). That's all, it takes just that, and although it seems like a simple picture, it carries a lot of meaning to it. And when you come across a picture like this on a day when you feel dull and you don't feel like going out and you look at the picture, it's a reminder that yeah, you can just walk down the street and you might see someone leaning against a garbage can rolling a cigarette, and suddenly, it becomes important to you. So, out of nothing, out of ordinary everyday life, beauty and significance can be found. This is my book, my first book, Cape Light. I made it with an 8 x 10 view camera, color work, and just as I said about Robert Frank, sometimes you can stop in front of what seems like the most banal ordinary thing in the world, laundry blowing the line. So, why did I stop to look at that? Why did I think it was worth a picture? I don't have to speculate as I do on Robert Frank and Cartier-Bresson. I can tell you because I was there. I walked along and I heard this flapping sound (flapping) like that, and I stop and I look and I see sheets and towels blowing on a line, and I think this is the dumbest thing, you know? Who would want.. If I said to one of my friends, hey, you know today I took a picture of laundry, they would say oh, but I have to tell you, I stood there and I watched the way color was flowing in front of me and I thought it was magical. And you know, with a view camera, you see things upside down. So, when I set my camera up, this is what I saw, and it became transcendent. It was bigger than laundry blowing on a line, it was about wind and sunlight and color, and it gave me a kind of revelation that something as simple and mundane as laundry on a line could be transformed into a little essay on time and light and color and air. I mean, elemental qualities and something as simple as sheets and towels, it's really all there waiting for you. All you have to have is appetite and imagination, and take yourself out of the house and go for a walk in the world and see what comes your way.

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.

Reviews

Cosmin Dolha
 

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.

Adriana L-G