Rick Allen - On Intent and Technique
Why do we need to photograph?
Photography has become such an ubiquitous part of our lives that the action of taking a picture is almost involuntary. We may photograph for play, to learn, to inspire action, or to remember. No one answer is more valid than another. However there is also this “photograph everything and make it pop” mindset that pervades many professional and most hobbyist photographers today. No matter why we’re taking a picture, we seem to always want perfect clarity and an abundant supply to choose from. In that respect, I think technique often gets separated from intent.
For personal work, my photographic intent has always been to encourage others to get out and go exploring. I’ve found that hinting at an unfamiliar environment often generates more interest, perhaps more mystery, than completely showing all there is to see. By creating a little intrigue I’m enabling viewers to want to see more, to learn more, and to explore more. For these images, I’m not as interested in capturing every visual detail as I am with capturing the way an environment feels. I typically shoot on 35mm film to achieve this because it allows me to play with grain, shadows, and a bit of nostalgia that lets viewers feel a sense of familiarity in something exotic.
On the other hand, I think digital photography is an invaluable tool for scientific research. Advances in photogrammetry and high-resolution cataloging of subjects are prime examples of the best of what digital photography has to offer. For these projects, it’s not only often best to go with the latest equipment, it’s often innovations in equipment that enable researchers to look at subjects in a new way, gaining new insights into their study.
Photography is both an art and a science. Suffice to say that I choose film for artistic photographs and digital for scientific record-keeping. As in engineering where form follows function, anyone picking up a camera should keep in mind that technique follows intent. -RA
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