On Saturday I met with a few photographer friends (Paul, Josh, Graeme, Praveen, Steve, Chris) to shoot the Cherry Blossom Parade (DCist Weekend Gallery) and see the Character Project Exhibit. After the exhibit, we had lunch and discussed a wide range of topics ranging from the influence of the French New Wave in film, to Ryan McGinley’s obsession with Moz, to what work we loved and loathed in the Character Project, to bad photo editing and visual literacy.
I was trying to remember this quote about music criticism that was attributed to Elvis Costello.
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do."
- Elvis Costello, in an interview by Timothy White entitled "A Man out of Time Beats the Clock." Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983), p. 52.
Is it the same for photography? Is writing about photography a really stupid thing to want to do? I don’t think so, hence this blog. Visual Literacy is the ability to understand and better appreciate visual images and being able to use visual imagery to communicate to others. Photographs need to be decoded and interpreted in order to be fully understood and appreciated. A good starting point for interpreting a photograph is by asking the following questions:
What is this photograph about? (what is obvious and what is implied)
Does the photograph work and why?
A photograph can communicate complex messages. They are not objective but reflect the photographer’s aesthetic.
The first photo is Iggy Pop, photographed by Eric Ogden for his series on Detroit musicians in the USA network's Character Project. The second portrait of Iggy is by Danny Clinch for a John Varvatos advert. Danny Clinch's portrait is sublime. It goes beyond the scores of cliched images of Iggy with his shirt off, to reveal a true rock and roll icon.
Eric Ogden, 2008 (As seen in the Character Project exhibit)
Danny Clinch, 2006, Iggy Pop, Central Park, NYC