Posts tagged photography
Photographs Not Taken, Book Review

The Photographs Not Taken is a collection of essays by photographers about the times they didn’t use their camera. I have asked the photographers to abandon the conventional tools needed to make a photograph, and, instead, make one using words to describe the memories and experiences that didn’t go through the camera lens. Here, the process of making a photograph has been reversed. Instead of looking out into the world through a camera lens, these essays allow us to look directly into the photographer’s mind and eye and focus on where the photographs come from in their barest and most primitive form. These mental negatives depict the unedited world and the moments of life that do not exist in a single frame.-Will Steacy

It seems too serendipitous that only a few days before I internet surfed right into this book, I was talking to my good friend and photographer Brian about writing the photographs we've missed, all the shots that for one reason or another would have been perfect if only the shutter had closed. It could be a way to document those instances for ourselves in words that may show more than the photographs could have. We both remembered March the year before as we had crossed a border in California with a three other photographers and our car was searched. Five of us were asked to take out all our photo gear and sit on a bench in the desert heat under a sign that said "no photography." It was so ironic, sitting there sweating, weighed down by tripods, film, and more cameras than I can count, both of us just wishing we could take just one photo of the scene. Will Steacy and his book Photographs Not Taken beat us to it.

The essays run a few pages each, and range from hilarious to dire, while the reasons for refraining from taking a photo encompass the sentimental, the ethical, and the mistakes all of us as photographers make.

The stories themselves bring you a little bit closer to understanding the motivation behind the photography, and I've really enjoyed looking up the portfolios of photographers who's essays or ideas I've connected with to see bits of their thought process in the photos they have taken.

Gregory Halpern  asked questions about the portrait. His book project called Harvard Works Because We Do is mostly a portrait series that asks a lot more questions using portraits themselves about the working class there and it is a complex situation he delicately approaches while making his opinion and the truth very visible. My favourite paragraph from his essay is below:


Matt Salacuse  is no bullshit, and I like that.


Tim Davis I think says it best, photography it is a way of looking at the world and seeing beyond yourself. I see things differently with a camera, and as I sling it over my shoulder the uniform transforms a lot of the mundanity into scenes worthy of documenting. It really is something I appreciate the longer I do it, and I think Davis articulates it beautifully.

My two favourite essays in their entirety were written by David Maisel and Chris Jordan. Both romanticize the photographs in their own personal lives not taken, and Chris Jordan's in particular brought up an image I have of my Grandmother from an Easter dinner a few years ago. My family sat a her long dining room table with the blue table cloth on. I was in the middle, quiet and listening to her with her party hat on and a little bit of food stuck to her shirt from the meal she'd prepared, waving her arms talking about what a sorry excuse for a Mayor Rob Ford was. It was a photo I wanted to take then but didn't, I couldn't interrupt her speech, I didn't want to, and I'll never forget that mental shot of her commanding the table so seriously, with her party hat all crooked.

I sat outside yesterday on my balcony and read the whole book in the sun in a few hours. It brought me to Uganda, and Pakistan as well as to a backyard BBQ not dissimilar to the one I had attended the day before.

Photographs Not Taken is a short, insightful read in its entirety and give a quick glimpse inside life defining moments not photographed and how they've etch their way into the stories told by photographers who subsequent work to those moments is influenced by them themselves.

Can you think of a photograph you haven't taken?

Black Rock Resort, Hiking Ucluelet Photos

Two of my best friends in the world were beside me, all three of us across the country from where we grew up. Whales were spotted in the distance. The sun was shining, and then setting over the pacific ocean.  I picked up a little trash on the trail to do my part, feeling like if I cleaned up a little that I deserved to be there in the splendour of the whole situation. We climbed and hiked over the black rocks for a better view, and all nine of us were mesmerized by giant waves. The company was excellent, the Black Rock Resort and the trails surrounding it in Ucluelet were stunning, no photo I've seen or taken there, including the ones below do it any justice. I was in love with everyone, and everything, sentimental before it was over. It was one of those days.

I haven't been as happy as I was that afternoon in a very long time.

The Americans - Robert Frank, Jack Kerouac

The Americans - Robert Frank For the last year or two Jack Kerouac's writings, and now the On The Road movie have been intertwined into my wikipedia late night surfing addiction. After a road trip across the country I read On the Road, and then The Dharma Bums - [good reads]. I watched his biography, and then after a little more research I found the work his friends at the same time, photos, writings etc that all depicts the same 1950s intrepid american history.

One thing lead to the next and through a little history of photography self-study this winter I came across Robert Frank's work, which I first found online, and then amazon's single click checkout later his book ended up in my mailbox.

Jack Kerouac opens the introduction to The Americans which is a collection of photos by Robert Frank.

"After seeing these pictures you end up finally not knowing any more whether a jukebox is sadder than a coffin. That's because he's always taking pictures of jukeboxes and coffins - and intermediary mysteries."

The photographs are haunting, and honest, and the lack of colour and the romanticism of time itself make them all that more appealing.


The combination essay, and anthology of photos is what I liked most of this book. A set context and interpretation by someone else - closer in time and place to the photos themselves, to echo or question your own interpretation of them.

These are a collection of my favourite photographs:


I also enjoy really like the sequencing of the next five shots. In putting all of my owntravel work together into something cohesive I've been picking up on these subtleties I might have missed before.


 I like The Americans because it covers though not all Americans by any means but a sampling enough to get a feel. It is an ethnography in a sense - a comment on culture, of a time period. The captions give enough context without ruining the air of silent mystery from the photos, and of course I enjoyed nomadic nature of the photos themselves.

"To Robert Frank I give this message: You've got eyes." - Jack Kerouac

The Americans On Amazon]

Mikhael Subotzky Ted Talk

Transcribed from Mikhael Subozky's Ted Talk: "Taking pictures is an act in two directions. Forwards and backwards.

The photographer likewise is thrown backwards onto himself.

The photograph is always a double image. Showing at first glance its subject, and at second glance more or less hidden behind it so to speak, the reverse angle; The picture of the photographer in action.


Every picture indeed reflects the attitude of whoever took it. Yes forward a camera sees its subject and backwards it sees the wish to capture that particular subject in the first place thereby showing simultaneously the things and the desire for them. If thus a camera shoots in two directions, forwards and backwards, merging both pictures as the back dissolves into the front. It allows the photographer at the very moment of shooting to be in front with the subjects rather than separated from them.

Through the viewfinder the viewer can step out of his shell to be on the other side of the world, and thereby remember better, understand better, see better, hear better and love more deeply.

I came across this talk yesterday. I have watched it a couple times since, Mikhael Subotzky work itself is staggering, and now I've transcribed my favourite part. It gives meaning to all photographic work beyond a simple picture and I felt the need to share. I think about the reverse photograph in regard to my own work and my favourite artists. The drive to say something, to be there with the subjects, to tell a story from both sides of the lens - that is why we all pick up cameras in the first place.

"Through the viewfinder the viewer can step out of his shell to be on the other side of the world and thereby remember better, understand better, see better, hear better and love more deeply." 

Ansel Adams: A Letter

Last week I came across this letter from the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams to his friend Cedric. I thought it was nice, and kind of poetic in itself.  


June 19, 1937.
Dear Cedric,

A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that related to those who are loved and those who are real friends. For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone. Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it. Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality. Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these. I wish the thundercloud had moved up over Tahoe and let loose on you; I could wish you nothing finer.
- Ansel


(Source: Letters of a Nation, by Andrew Carroll)