Learning to Observe – by Anton Candra

This writing is a  personal bookmark in the “book of photography” of mine. Over the past 3 years, I have known digital photography. During this period, so many people, books, events, etc have influenced my way of taking pictures.

I remember my earlier years, I took pictures almost everything – people, trees, statues, garbage bins, bug, mountain, sunsets…literally everything. It seemed that the world was filled by so many interesting things, and I felt overwhelmed. However, there was a period of time when I felt I had enough of everything. There was a time when I saw a statue and I didn’t want to shoot because I felt I had enough. I saw a beautiful mountain, but I was reluctant to raise my camera because I had so many similar pictures back home.

(lumberjacks, 2011)

In sort, I ran out of ideas of what I should shoot, up to the point when I got bored of shooting without any context. Photography had became a mere digital snapshot without any aesthetic interest. I felt like a teenager who was unable to distinguish a good wine from the bad one, who thought that all beers tasted the same.

Once a great photographer said something that changed my approach in evaluating a picture ( I read this from one famous book about photography, I can not remember the title)

“Stare, it is the way to educate your eyes, and more. Stare, pry, listen. Die knowing something because you are not here long” – Walkers Evan.

He added that we should educate our eyes and observe those great pictures taken by great photographers and find a reason why they are considered as a great picture. From this simple quote, it goes a long way. It took us more than a quick glance to recognize a good photo and gave us an indefinite reason to remember it.

So I keep staring at those pictures taken by great photographers, hoping that I could learn and be inspired by any of them. So much of it that I was determined to get that kind of photos and it’s gonna be a never-ending quest of taking good photos.

Then I realised, if we want to make a good photograph, certainly we must find ourselves an extraordinary event to shoot, thus making those photos special because of our ability to be there. However, there’s also a moment that is less ordinary and could become extraordinary as a photograph in the hand of great photographer. Hence, it gives us an understanding between journalistic photography and street photography.

I look at pictures taken by Robert Capa and realized that he was capturing picture of extraordinary events, and those remains extraordinary as a photograph. A history printed and it showed us a very emotional moment of human suffering and all violences. I am sure, everyone who looks at his picture would instantly understand its greatness. The strength of his pictures was his courage to be there, to document those events. Therefore he is recognized as a great photographer who dedicate his life capturing something that no one would be brave enough to do. An extraordinary moment that created an extraordinary picture in the hand of great photographer.

A picture called  Carrefour, Sevres Babylone Paris 1948 taken by Willy Ronis, less boldly-characterised picture. Simply a picture of everyday life in city of Paris. Nothing seemed unusual, nothing seemed extraordinary. Only a picture of woman crossing the foggy street of Paris with buildings, cars, trees in the background, another car in foreground, and few pedestrians as a supporting and perspective element. A quick look, I could swear to myself that I thought it’s as special as none . But this is Ronis we are talking about, there must be something which makes this picture so famous. Something that still beyond my comprehension. Ronis’ pictures were my best exercise of staring since his pictures are not as strong and direct as Henri Cartier Bresson‘s. They don’t immediately show its mystery and a bit hard to digest (at least for me).  A moment that is less ordinary and becomes extraordinary as a picture in the hand of great photographer.

(I can not attach their pictures here, due to copyright issue and all that)

Not only those famous photographers whose photograph I look upon, but also many other great infamous photographers who posted their picture in their own web, their own blog, Facebook, Flickr and other social network.  Being able to acknowledge their work of arts is really a privilege for me.

Figuratively speaking, now I know in which ship I should sail. I know what I must shoot and on which ground I should stand. I try to gain a photography context by looking at their picture, learning their method, and reading the story behind it.

Just a thought and personal opinion to share, nothing else. Thank you for reading.

PS. Another great photographers to whom I paid so much respect and had huge influence on me are Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Robert Frank and Marc Riboud.

Visit Anton Candra Flickr page for more image



About Anton Candra

Thanks for dropping by, click one of my sites and you will find out about me :)
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