The expression is to “take a picture” …

… could this be a reference to the theft of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ from a gallery in Oslo in February of 1994?  Probably not, and of course this is a bit tongue in cheek, but you see what I’m driving at.

The manufacture of a photographic image, whether electronic or not, is a complex procedure, yet one continually hears of the ‘taking’ of a picture, which suggests something entirely different and instantaneously simple.

Perhaps a more realistic rationale for the expression may be apparent if one looks at photography when it was in it’s infancy; well, teenage years anyway … when the magic of the medium was still a novelty.  The ability to travel somewhere, observe a scene and then to be able to ‘take’ it home with you inside a camera.  One can appreciate that, at the time, it might have felt like one had ‘taken’ the experience home in one’s camera … away from where it once was.

The truth of it though is the ‘making’ of a photograph involves a great many stages … but before attempting any of these, surely it would be wise to describe what a photograph is.  After all, how can we know how to get somewhere if we don’t know where we are going?

A photograph is not the same thing to everyone.  Or rather, what one man requires from a photograph is not necessarily the same as his neighbour. Indeed it is most unlikely.  There are those who think that a photograph only succeeds if it is an accurate representation, that is, a copy, of the original scene or subject.  To me, this is only of value, and indeed most important, if the task is to portray the subject for it’s sale.  Advertising a coffee pot in a catalogue, for example.

But if the point of the exercise it to ‘create’ something, then what is the point of copying something that has already been created in real life?  Indeed, if the intention is to be creative, making an accurate representation would mean failure.

Artists have been disagreeing for centuries as to how something or someone should ‘look’ on a canvas.  Every interpretation of the same subject will be different.  The same goes for one conductor’s interpretation of a composer’s music and another’s.

My view is that a photographer may feel he is succeeding when his canvas approaches his visualisation.  This visualisation may start before he gets out of bed, or it may start to come when arriving at the location or at the studio.  It may come quickly or it may be a struggle.  The ‘realisation’ however, has to be built … to be created … and this takes just as much time and effort as the original idea, if not more so.

Photography is as similar to ‘taking a picture’ as cuisine is to opening a tin of beans.

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