THE PURIFICATION by Toni Ahvenainen

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen. Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO800, 1/125sec, f/3.5, Raw. Flickr account

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen.
Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO800, 1/125sec, f/3.5, Raw.
Flickr account

Season of Photographic Eye - picture 6
Week 47, Saturday

The problem with learning your photographic eye is somewhat similar to what early art photography had in the eyes of its critics. It was difficult to justify photography as an art form because it didn't yet have its visual language and some of the early critics claimed that photography cannot ever be an art form because it doesn't take any refined skills to push a button. To establish photography's place next to other art forms, photographers had, not only to create distinctive works, but also to develop photographic theories which were often pretty philosophical and declamatory. Take 'the decisive moment' by Henri Cartier-Bresson, for example. As a concept it explains some aesthetics of the photography, but also justifies why it is only the cultivated the photographer, and not a common man with a camera, that can take a photograph that is considered an art. The classic explanation of photography as an art form and its epistemology comes from John Szarkowski. He argued that much like a painter the cultivated photographer adds 'something more than originally existed in front of the camera' into his work to reflect, comment or criticize the subject the photograph is about. This makes photography, not only a form of communication, but also a mean of art if desired. In short, the early photographers had to find their own way to look the world through camera and also explain it credibly to others.

I have no interest to handle my own photography as an art, but somewhere along similar lines lies also the problem of photographic eye. For me to understand my own photographic eye, I need to be able to take photographs that differ from general 'tourist shots' and explain the basis of my own photography to myself – only after that I can say that my photography has a distinctive style related to way I see the world around me. As a very simplified and practical strategy I decided to search my own photographic eye by shooting actively and trying to learn what kind of pictures I like in my 'personal catalogue' – even if it didn't make much sense at first and I didn't know where I was going, if anywhere really. Of course I had some visual motifs, photographic ideas and knowledge with me when I started my journey, but that's the cultural part of the photographic eye. No one should think they need to invent everything by themselves (and no one has done it earlier). Instead I chose to accept these ingredients as a part of my developing photographic eye and started to, if possible with my modest skills, realizing them in my individual shots. In practice the first ingredient of my repertoire was 'the use of black' which I used to create sense of mystery, oppressive darkness and certain graphical look of the shadowy pictures which has always fascinated me. The use of black also allowed me to escape from the mundane look associated to normal daylight photography which I needed to separate this 'other' from my family photography. I was very surprised how far a single idea could take me if I just kept on repeating it – and I decided to repeat that as long as I would find my own way of interpreting the black. Now, I don't know if I have succeeded in it, but I do think I've certainly advanced in it and because of this simple strategy I am creating very different kind of pictures that I used to do before this project. In my eyes it has got to be a some sort of small victory.

Ps. There's a small article about Zeiss Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M at Steve Huff's webpage (written by me). Check it out for my final word about these two lenses!