Photography is NOT about light…

photography not about light

This is an astute observation by one of the best creative minds in modern photography.  If you don’t subscribe to LensWork or own one of his books, I highly recommend them.  Letting Go Of The Camera is required reading on all our workshops!

I had a conversation today with a fellow photographer in which we were comparing the Zone System to Postscript and Photoshop output, and how the differences in tonality don’t quite translate from one medium to the other. We got involved in all the details about trying to measure gray, etc. It reminded me how often we photographers get so hung-up in this technical aspect of what it is that we’re doing.

I once attended a workshop in which a very famous workshop instructor said the photography is “about light.” I couldn’t help but be thunderstruck by how silly that statement is. That’s the functional equivalent of saying that novel-writing is about words. Or that poetry is about fonts. Or that music is about notes.

Good art, meaningful art, the creation of meaningful art, is always about life. It’s about humanity. It’s about being a human being. It’s about the human condition. It’s about the struggles, the joys, the thrills, the disappointments of everyday life; that’s what art is about. It’s about God. It’s about the supernatural. It’s about relationships. It’s about the Earth.

But it’s not about light, because it’s not about technique and it’s not about tools.

There’s no doubt about it, light is the important tool, but photography is no more about light than painting is about pigments.

The next time you find yourself staring at a photograph that just captivates you take a moment and ask yourself, is it the tones that you’re interested in? Or is there something in there that just grabs your heart, makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, gives you the goose-bumps, makes your heart go pitter-patter, excites you on a much deeper, emotional level—not the mere tonalities.

At least in my opinion, that’s what art is all about.”  -Brooks Jensen, LensWork Magazine

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