Learning From Great Photographers

I was watching a documentary this morning about Eve Arnold, the great photojournalist, and I thought about the true key to good photography that her work so amazingly exemplified. Ms. Arnold was known for her photojournalistic style pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X, as well as her portrayal of the human condition around the world. She exposed starvation and abuses in South Africa, showed us fantastic images of China at a time when people only thought of the Chinese as people who wore Mao jackets, and salved the wounds of her own miscarriage by bringing us thoughtful images of the miracle of new life at birth. Spend some time looking at just a tiny bit of her work at Magnum Photos. All this at a time when female photojournalists were unheard of, and the photojournalistic style we're familiar with now was in it's infancy. Many of the techniques and style we take for granted today were pioneered by her. The one thing I want you to think about as you look is the fact that you never have to guess where to look in her images. BAM Your eyes go right where she wants them to go, you see what she wants you to see. Her images are clear and tight, and need no explanation. They expose who their subjects really are, and remind us of how we feel or felt about those individuals, or how they felt about themselves. So what does that have to do with you? Simply ask yourself this: do you have to explain what's happening in every one of your pictures, or even who the person is (because they're unrecognizable)? Do you focus in tightly enough on your subjects that we can see their faces, the expression in their eyes, or do you just snap a picture from wherever you happen to be standing and hope for the best? Show people how you feel, and how your subject feels by how you take pictures. That's what Eve did. You can too. Think about the pictures you love best in your family album. Dad leaning on his new car. Mom looking up from the kitchen sink and laughing with your grandmother. You in your little water wings with the dog in the wading pool. Your pictures hold your memories. Tell your story.

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