People frequently ask me what exactly is fine art photography? Before I answer, I usually take a big breath and brace myself to answer the question in the time it takes to ride a few floors in an elevator as they usually expect a quick answer. And, despite my apprehension to answering their question, I have come to realize that most good answers are the ones that are simple and direct. Hence, I begin by clarifying that fine art photography does indeed have objective criteria despite falling in the subjective and vast realm of art.
I have never liked the phrase “rules of composition.” To me, it seems too formal, suggesting that such a complex topic as composition can be boiled down to a few quick tips. So, in a blatant attempt to out-do John Sherman’s provocative “Is Nikon’s New 500mm FL Too Sharp?” title, I have aimed this article at the heart of photography school’s most basic lesson in composition: the rule of thirds.
In my recent essay on visualization, I discussed the historical and modern day significance of this concept in photography as well as the role that a composition card serves in bridging the vision in the mind to its tangible realization into an image. In this follow-up essay, I will discuss the interplay of other critical aspects of visualization that accompany, if not transcend, the tangible aspects.
What makes a good black-and-white photograph, how do I take one, and why should I try when I have this nifty hypersaturation preset that makes even my lamest photos look awesome? I’ll answer the last question first – your oversharpened oversaturated photos stink. Their gaudy colors may suck the eye in, but then the eye gets stuck, realizes there’s nothing more to look for in the picture and hastily moves on. Effective black-and-white photography relies on form, texture, lines, contrast, tonality and composition to engage the viewer. Without flashy colors to draw viewers in, the black-and-white photographer either masters the principles of composition or perishes. Shooting in black-and-white is a great way to improve your photography skills.
Talking to Tadas Kazakevičius (in case you are having a hard time spelling that, he’s just as well known as Ted Kozak), a young Lithuanian portraitist, was precisely one of those times when you think you have a million questions to ask. But then you meet him at a restaurant for a glass of cold bread kvass and a pizza only to realize you’ve suddenly forgotten all of them. What do you ask a person who’s work you admire so much, you think he’s one of the future classics of his generation? Where do you start? “Don’t be nervous”, he told me. “Why should you be?” True. Why should I be? But then, whilst talking about his street portraits, he answered his own question: “Even after all the portraits that I took of strangers, each time I attempt to approach a person on the street, I need to bring myself to do it. It’s scary.”
She posed atop a sand dune with wind-gnarled cypress trees clinging to a rocky precipice in the distance. She was nude of course, and sitting on a bedpan. A dead pelican lay at her kelp-entwined feet. In one hand she held a nautilus, in the other the most sensuous bell pepper that had ever grown. As I adjusted my 8×10’s tilts and shifts she gave me that glance – just 1/60th of a second, but in that moment I knew there would be more tilting and shifting later as her aperture and my shutter speed would dance in perfect rhythm. I stopped the lens down to f/64, then…I woke up.
A while ago, Nasim went to London to spend some time with his family and meet up with some of our dear readers. You might have noticed that, for a couple of weeks, he did not have much time to work on articles, certainly not as much as usual. You might also have noticed my own absence for the last couple of months at least. We did not plan to take vacation at the same time. It just so happened that I, too, have been extremely busy at the time, hence no new Lightroom or composition-related articles coming out. My time away, however, was rather less glamorous than that of my friend’s. And less relaxing, let alone fun or enthusiastically met. In fact, it was somewhat of a nightmare at times, a blur of nights and days turning into long, long weeks of never-ending stacks of books, articles and albums. How I missed my job! Although rationally I understand it is not, in the moments of weakness writing articles seemed like a much simpler endeavour. Certainly much more fun.
Update: this article seems to have spawn a number of different opinions. Which, we must admit, makes us rather happy – discussion, as someone much brighter than me has said, is an exchange of knowledge. More importantly, argument is an exchange of ignorance. While the photograph described at the beginning of this article is not actually all that important for the said discussion, a lot of our readers have expressed their curiosity and wish to see the reason for this article popping up in my head. And no matter how tastefully and subtly done, please do note it contains nudity, and if that is something you’d prefer your children not to see – or something you would prefer not to see yourself – take caution. For the rest, click here and enjoy.
Today we are bringing you a whimsical world of Oleg Oprisco‘s fine art photography. The depth of Oleg’s work and the idea behind each, thoughtful shot prompted me to share his creations with you. I reached out to him with multiple questions and he gladly agreed to share his knowledge with the readers of Photography Life. Oleg teaches multiple workshops every year and is a great educator. He promised to appear in Photography Life more to share tips about his line of photography and if you have any questions for Oleg, leave them in the comment section below.