a blog by knut skjærven

Bits & Pieces: The Sources

Rainy Day.© Knut Skjærven.

“Rainy Day” shot in Berlin in June 2011. The image is a crop of a larger frame. It contains static and no static elements. By including both you contrast both. The overall message of “rush” comes out clearer. You have to work with denotations and connotations at the same time. The denotative elements are the physical and easily recognisable elements in the shot: chairs, lorry, people, umbrellas, bicycle, etcetera. The connotative elements are how the denotative elements move or act or interact within the shot. 

Question: What Sources Do You Use?

 What sources do I use? Let me think. It is good to have these questions asked because it brings you into corners that you normally don’t visit.

The major source, I would say, is in general the rest of your  life. In this case, my life. You need to include photography in such a way that photography, and the rest of your life, becomes the same. In that way you can work on a, or any, project all the time without speculating much about it. It is a good way to work and it saves much time.

It works the other way around as well: Things that you pick up in photography gets a potential relevance for the rest of your life. For me this is a good way to arrange things. Nowadays, I don’t speculate much about it all. It just works that way. By itself.

Other sources are art in general and photographic art in particular. Both writing, reading, studying and simply looking. Make sure that you benchmark up against only the best people and the best works of art. For me one of these “best sources” is definitely HCB, but I am impressed by Walker Evans too. And others, but more sporadically. You only need one or two mentors. Make such to you pick the best.

This is a life long learning process and you have to keep at it all the time. For instance by visiting exhibitions, reading and looking in books, visiting museums and more. Is it not something that you do over night. If you don’t enjoy it, you should probably not be in photography at all. If it becomes a burden, just forget it. Do something else in stead. Go play golf.

Most importantly you need to work with you own pictures. You have to study them over and over again. Rework them, re-crop them, remake them from scratch to see if you get different results. You very often do. Work with them till you are satisfied with the result. You know that you are looking at a good picture when you feel good about it. This is not just something I say. This feeling good about something is a sure indicator that you have done something right. It has bearings from many fields besides photography.  I have it from investigations into human innovation, where it seems to be one of the common denominators describing a successful solution. It work for me doing pictures and for that reason I use it.

Take the image above: Rainy Day. That is a crop of a much larger “negative” that I started playing around with. Hey, this feels good, I said to myself at one stage. Then I knew that this photograph was in the box. The composition is not very classical, I know. But that was never the intention either. I tried to create some sort of compositional and thematic strain. I hope it works for others, as well. The good thing with compositional rules is that you can use them in two way: positively and negatively. You can use them, or you can use them not.

The feel good technique does not work all of the time. Often things are done in a hurry with results not as good as they could be. Basically, however, that is your own decision.

These are basically my sources. Kind of an automated melting pot. I fell good about that too :-). Works for me.  Roughly.

Bits & Pieces: IntroductionThe SourcesPicturetaking or Photography; The Mission; Additional Movement; Reinvented Reality;



5 responses

  1. Most interesting text. Especially when it concerns a picture that I very much liked the first minute I saw it. I like the way you chose to crop it though it’s different from what I would have done. Of course I am not the photogapher and this picture is not a part of my life. I would have chosen to crop it in a 3:2 ratio, leaving the upper part intact and cutting out the chairs on the bottom. On a side note I would love to see the frame uncropped, as it was originally composed through the viewfinder.
    I’m glad you decided to post these bits and pieces in your blog. It’s good food for thought, photography wise and not only.

    November 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    • Many thanks, Stamatis, for your well formulated comment. It is very relevant.

      You say that you would have cropped differently. That would have been a good solution too.

      I deliberately included the chairs in the shot, and in the later crop as well, since my idea here was to create a two-dimensional shot. The rush and the rain being one dimension, and the empty chairs being the other. I like the visual and thematic “strain” such a combination imposed on the viewer.

      By using your crop idea you would have gotten a one dimensional shot. That would not have been better or worse, or more right or wrong, than the other. They are just different stuff. Different pictures.

      Your comment is very relevant, because I have already written a short chapter on dimensionality in the interview mentioned – including examples of even multidimensional contents. So please stay tuned.

      I think that versatility in photography very often is based on the content of the toolbox you bring with you when you are out taking pictures. It is my personal ambition to have something to work with out there. That is why I have taken mentors :-).

      Hmm, I need to get that interview ready. Have a good weekend, and once again thank you for your kind comment.


      November 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      • Indeed you are right about the two-dimensional shot. There is this contrast between these 2 dimensions which enhances the image. My point of view would result in a different photograph as you said, not better or worse, just different.
        Thank you for your input and for giving me the chance to engage in such an interesting conversation 🙂

        December 16, 2011 at 7:43 am

  2. Incredibly good blog Knut, so dedicated! Continue the good work! It is instructive and inspiring! Thank you! Rune

    November 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

    • Many thanks, Rune. I am honored. Hopefully there will me more posts very soon.


      November 27, 2011 at 10:57 am

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