Who do we photographers take pictures for?

© Guillermo Labarca

Who do we firstly address when we take pictures not on commission? (Weddings, adversing, portraits). In other words, when we take the pictures we like, the ones we enjoy taking; personal, artistic o simply, pictures created with care. We address other photographers then, we take our pictures to be seen by photographers.

When we see a picture or when we show one, we expect some questions to raise, such as, why that frame? why that focus, or blurring? what do you mean by that colour tone? why did you use a 6x6 format, or why a 35 mm? Why digital, or why not? What sort of picture is it? What are your influences, references, etc…?

We consider, then, that each picture is the result of many conscious decisions. However, we better not lie to ourselves, we all know that sometimes unexpected pictures turn up, pictures that were taken in a rush and captured effects that surprise ourselves. This fact doesn't prevent us from still questioning all the previously exposed nor from approaching any picture trying to read the photographers intentions, trying to find the soul of the picture. Since even the most casual pictures communicate something.

So to say: firstly, the photographer never shows all the pictures they take but only the ones they consider worth watching because they convey what they are trying to express. Secondly, the picture is not completed as soon as the snap is done, there is a post-production process, either in the darkroom or at the computer, or both. Through such processes the information captured at the shot is manipulated, enhancing certain details, darkening certain areas, contrasting more or less, defining the printing size and so on.

Some authors like minimizing any post-production work trying to take every decision before or at the moment of shooting. Some of them even consider such strategy as a rule that shows their artistic and crafty honesty. All this is a matter of individual opinion and decision, in my opinion, it is not really significant (which, obviously, is just an opinion as well). However, which it is significant indeed is that what we notice is the final result. The process chosen by the author to get to the final image they show can be hinted or guessed by other photographers who try to understand the meaning of the picture.

We learn to "read" the images by watching them, taking pictures after having made conscious decisions about them, or postponing such decisions for a post-processing. One questions that arises is whether we limit our own creativity, our identity as creators by making such decisions having other photographers peering above our shoulder. The risk is undoubtedly there; only by logging into any photography forum on the Internet one can quickly notice that a great amount of the opinions posted try to "frame" the pictures under discussion into a stiff scheme full of rules and restrictions, punishing with abusive comments the most refreshing, intriguing and sensuous images while, on the contrary, flattering hugely the most conventional ones.

Well, what can we conclude? Do we take pictures with the intention to show them to other photographers? What do we gain by doing this if this fact gets us right into a suffocating corset? It is exactly that what the whole thing is about, then: undoing the ties, thus the discussion with peers is the fastest way. Having strong arguments to respond to any comment that puts our work down, together with being able to blend each aspect of the image into a consistent whole is the proof that we are doing just fine.

Actually, we take photographers for ourselves….. the rest just help us to understand what we are.