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Stalking a Photograph

Lesson 2 from: Think Like a Photo Editor

Jared Platt

Stalking a Photograph

Lesson 2 from: Think Like a Photo Editor

Jared Platt

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Lesson Info

2. Stalking a Photograph

Lesson Info

Stalking a Photograph

I wanna talk about stalking a photograph. This is actually a contact sheet back from the old days with film, when we used to take pictures with film and then make contact sheets on pieces of paper. That was our computer. This is our light room. It was in the dark room. This is actually David Hurn's contact sheet. David Hurn is a photographer for Magnum, photographer. Used by his permission. He is showing us here how he thinks, basically. I have a whole series of my contact sheets here. If you were to show me all of your images, your contact sheets, or your entire library before you deleted anything, I could learn a lot about you and the way you think and the way you try and find an image. How you get to an image. As we're looking at these, we're looking at David Hurn's images and we see how he's thinking. We see how he's circling around different topics. See how the cannon keeps coming back in to the picture, because he's seeing the cannon, he sees that that's important. The dog keeps ...

coming back into the picture. As he circles around, and what I like to say, he stalks the photograph. He's stalking it like a tiger in the wild. He's stalking it. He's creeping up on this moment. He's watching it and he's seeing things happen around it and he's choosing not to photograph for a while, again subtracting time. Then, occasionally, he sees something that he likes, so he starts taking a picture of it. You can see down here in the bottom there's a dog. He was originally looking at the dog and the cannon and the sleeping people over there, and then he kinda walked away from that. Then he comes back to that and he starts to photograph the dog again, he's really interested in it. He's watching people, not only is he watching the dog in the foreground, but he's watching the sleepers in the midground, he's watching the cannon in the background. As you go through these series, you start to see how the people in the background start doing, there's a guy dragging his luggage right down there on the second image in on the bottom. Finally, he finally selects one photograph where a kid's sitting on the cannon, there's a group of people that's blowing in the wind, holding hats and stuff like that, but people are still sleeping. The dog is still sleeping and he finally selects that one moment. I want you to notice something about all of these contact sheets. I'm looking at my contact sheets and I used a grease pencil back in the day, so I'm looking at my images with little red marks, so it's kinda hard to see. I'll use this little white china marker to show you. Of all of these images, this is shots that I took in Europe, I see one here that I liked. I saw one through a window that I liked and that one, pretty much those are my selects. Then as I go through here, I see one here of the Pantheon, I see this street here that I kind of liked, but we're not choosing a lot of images when we're looking at our contact sheets. Generally speaking, in the day when we were shooting 35 millimeter film, we were shooting 36 images per roll. That's how we were discovering the world. When we were doing that we had to be better editors at the camera because every time we took a picture, it costs us money. 50 cents, a dollar, things like that. It cost quite a bit of money to take those photographs. Today, I see that people photographing are much more loose and free about taking the photos, which is fine, which is absolutely fine, but that's because there's no cost associated with it. It's almost free to take pictures. As a result of that there's a lot less thinking that's going on out there in the field and the thinking has to start happening a little bit more here in the computer because we stopped thinking out there. The point is is that when we were shooting film we were editing in our heads and we were saying, "Is this worth taking a picture?" We would study a little bit more before we started shooting. Still we would shoot, as you can see on David Hurn's photographs, you could see that he would see an image and he would keep coming back to it and he would investigate it and keep shooting until he got the moment that he thought he was looking for. That's called stalking that moment. Sometimes you don't know the moment has occurred or is going to occur, so you photograph it and then you wait, and then you photograph it again 'cause it got a little bit better, and then it got a little bit better, so you photographed it again and got a little bit better, so you photographed it again. You keep doing that until finally whatever it is that was there disappears. It's growing, it's growing, it's growing and then it's gone. You can sense when it's no longer there, so then you stop shooting and you go find something else to photograph.

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