Thursday, June 11, 2009


One of the first points Freeman Patterson made in the workshop I took with him and André Gallant some years ago was that a photograph says as much or more about the person doing the photographing as the subject being photographed. On Wednesday we were asked to jiggle which has nothing to do with hips and thighs, and everything to do with how to guide the camera through an eighth of a second exposure that effectively makes the camera a tiny bit like a paint brush. Jiggles, pans, multiple exposures, montage overlays, shooting weird reflections are some of the techniques offered that effectively subordinate objective reality to subjective expression and got everyone in the workshop clearly talking and shooting in the same language.

Of course every workshop I've ever taken has been about making your photography more "expressive." Usually one learns a few strategies for composing or catching expressive images and sees lots of examples to emulate. Beyond that, you're on your own. Only in one of Freeman or André's sessions would you find everyone out in front of the B&B jiggling their cameras at otherwise unexceptional bushes. The result is workshops that get everyone photographing more freely and that open new paths to self-expression.

I know that the very best to be said of the vast number of my jigglings might be that they were, "unexceptional," and everyone accepts a high rate of failure in this. One of my images almost works. Had I known when I took it what I know now after seeing it on my computer, I would have stuck with that spot and maybe made it right. However, some of my workshop colleagues succeeded in creating images of great beauty and surprise, and André has produced a body of magnificent photo images in this manner. We saw one framed and matted and on its way to a gallery in town; its beauty sticks in my mind still.

So why am I unlikely to begin jiggling again regularly any time soon. I think that's true of other participants in these workshops, though I know several who jiggle still and with much success. Those who don't may feel some guilt as I did. Is it insecurity that keeps me from adopting the new techniques? I don't think so.

For one thing, as André confided, one must set out to jiggle; while seeking images to jiggle it may be hard to see other images. It's the same as when I photograph bugs or water drops among the weeds and become become blind to the roll of the hills. Also developing an eye and a hand for jiggling takes time and practice. One must commit to such a path. Of course if I see some curvy wrought iron stuff like the stuff that gave form to my, "nearly successful" shot, it might lure me to begin jiggling, and I'll probably look for some good side light on the swamp maples at Macricostas to pan or jiggle the way André did in the framed image he showed us. I may have a future in jiggling yet, but perhaps to jiggle or not to jiggle is not the question. The path of every expressive photographer is to find his own voice and articulate it clearly. Perhaps the real value in these strategies is that they break any link to photography as documentation or to photography as imitation while encouraging experimentation toward forever rediscovering and epanding one's expressive potential. The image above is not jiggled, but I find much in it that I recognize as my own, consistent with other images on this blog; and yet that stripe of green is definitely new.