Thursday, April 05, 2007


West Boylston, MA April 5, 2007

I was, over breakfast of fresh pears and cereal, reading Stephen Shore’s revised, The Nature of Photography. It was the part about the “frame” as definer and confiner of mental and physical depiction of the two dimensional object we know as a photograph that had caught my interest.

I had been outside earlier with the snow blower clearing the light, overnight snow fall from our driveway and front walk. Just yesterday driving to and from the Clark campus I had noted the brownish tinged gray of the landscape and wished that spring would hurry and relieve the drabness we must suffer in these parts during this time of the year. Now all that drabness is covered with a fresh blanket of soft white. The day is cloudy and the scene is undisturbed by shadows from the trees, bushes, and rocks, and only their dark outlines against the white gives form to their representation.

I was thinking about the concept of “frame” from the Shore book – the part where he states that “A photographer’s basic formal tools for defining the content and organization of a picture are vantage point, frame, focus and time.” when I happened to walk to the mud room door and look down towards my neighbor’s house. That mud room door has a panel of glass with mulleins arranged three over four. Stepping to the glass framed by those mulleins, I became intensely aware of their frame, or I should say the frame they formed of the outside scene. Quickly I mounted my Rebel XT with 28-105mm lens, and shot the above picture.

While I somewhat agree with Shore about the “photographer’s tools,” I have always narrowed that down a bit to just “where” and “when” as the two creative controls photographers have at their command. For me, vantage point, frame, and focus all have to do with my “where.” I guess some could say I need to add a “what” to my set of tools. Like what camera, what lens, what film, and what I choose to let those three things see. “Time” is all encompassing from the time of year to small slice of time for the exposure.

Shore’s book is superbly illustrated and beautifully printed by Phaidon Books in this revised edition. Minimal text offered as simple but complex thoughts about lots of pictures.


Steve Williams said...

Stephen Shore has a deliberate thought process around photography. I bought a copy of his book before interviewing him and was intrigued by the range of issues he covered.

Like you Frank, my own work seems to focus on the tools of when and where along with a sprinkling of why sometimes....

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

pitchertaker said...

It's that "sprinkling of why" that gets to be the tough one. The "where" and "when" seem to come rather naturally for me. A senior curator once told me: You take the pictures, I'll do the talking. Only problem with that he's not always around when some talkin' need to happen.

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