SoCal PhotoExchange

Single Image or Series…What Does It All Mean?

Posted in Photography by jeffalu on February 18, 2015

 

5

 

I’ve often pondered the difference between shooting a series of images and a single image. Does taking a series of photos heighten the meaning and understandability of what a photographer is trying to say? It would seem that this is the case, especially when considering that most photography books published today deal with a series of images based on a single idea, rather than a random series of images. It would also seem that most of the photographers being represented by many of the major photography galleries around the world shoot with very specific ideas in mind and have a series of images which support those ideas.

 

Main

 

I’m wondering however whether this entire realm of belief is nurtured and promoted based less on personal or aesthetic reasons and more on a need to cater to a viewing public who need to be spoon-fed something more obvious, especially when based on the fact that we’re living in a very sound- and visual-bite-oriented society. We’re used to having many images thrust upon us without our permission, and those images that are thrown at us are done so with such vigor, especially where advertising is concerned, that we’re made to believe that those particular images are golden. What does that do to the part of our brain that should be left to making up its own mind? Doesn’t this make it more difficult for us to decide for ourselves what is worth seeing and what is not? Hmm.

Ahh, but back to the series thing. Oh but wait, an aside: Can’t the input into our eyes when turning our heads from left to right be thought of as a series of images as well? True, the brain does not have to process each of those images individually, in fact I would say only the first and last images in a single head turn, and especially the last one, we’ll call it the “goal image”, the image which caused you to turn your head in the first place, is the one worth processing. But everything we see is in fact a series of images. Obviously it’s safe to say that the images “in the middle” are not as important.

 

First

 

So, maybe the images “in the middle” of a series of photographs do not in fact need to be as strong. Maybe we’re wasting our time shooting those middle images. A good starting “gotcha” image and a strong finishing image might be enough to do the trick. The middle stuff can be ho-hum.

I think it might be true to say that the general public often has difficulty determining what is good and what is not, especially considering how much is visually thrust into their conscious on a given day. Seriously, to stop and look at something, while still within the realm of their control to do so, is perhaps in fact counter to what they actually feel like doing, or are, as of late, being programmed to do. People would rather move, not stop. Who has time to stop?

A series of photographs: It almost alludes to stupidity, as if we need multiple examples of the same thing. Isn’t it like we’re thinking, “I don’t understand what you’re saying, I need another example.” Alright fine, here’s another one. “I still don’t understand what you’re saying, I need another example!” And on and on.

 

Second

 

Or maybe it’s the photographers way of saying, “I can’t take a decent image of this subject, so I’m going to take a bunch of these and maybe I’ll get lucky.” So you try and try, and eventually, yeah, you do get lucky. Good job.

In a series of images it seems that the emphasis is on the idea. In a single image, it would seem that the emphasis is on the image itself. How does this affect the way in which we shoot these photos? Well I guess you could say taking a single photo…takes a lot less time.

Now don’t get me wrong I enjoy taking series of images also. I began doing it about 10 years ago, after someone asked me, “Why don’t you take a series of images?” I obliged and I was happy with the result. But I can’t help but wonder if this has caused me to be lazy in some way.

 

Third

 

And I suppose you could zoom out and take a broader look at that big fractal. For example even if I’m not taking a series of images of one subject, if I am taking a lot of random landscapes, you could certainly call that a series of landscapes. Come to think of it, is it even possible to avoid taking a series of images in the first place? Pretty much any image you take on planet Earth could be considered to be a series about, well planet Earth, eh? And don’t even get me started on the universe.

So please don’t ask me to shoot a series when I’m already doing it. Don’t tell me I need to hone in on one single idea. Let’s face it, even images that seem totally opposite of one another are still part of a series: Images shot using light in some way. Images shot using a camera in some way. Images that I myself have taken. Images that are less than satisfactory.

About the only way it’s possible to successfully take a single image is to only have shot one image in your entire lifetime. And there’s a pretty good chance that this image is going to suck. But thankfully, no one will be able to tell the difference.

 

Jeff out.

Advertisements

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Nancy Harlan said, on February 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Well I stopped long enough to read it, and now I’m totally confused. Good way to start my day, better than starting it thinking I know something. I shoot refections and portals, but I never considered that a series. I am at best a haphazard artist. I don’t read art stuff really, so I didn’t know series were even a thing. Guess I’ll just keep on shooting what I want. thanks for provoking thought.

  2. ViNSaNiTY said, on February 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    My Lightroom catalog is clogged with “series” 🙂 I find that in order for me to remain inspired, I need to “explore” what is in front of me if nothing more than to justify the amount of time it takes to travel, unload gear, setup the shot. Looking for different angles, perspectives, Shoot wide and close, shoot macro, off center, whatever before my “firelight” for that goes dim.

    Your article is well written…thanks for sharing your “sucky” images which I found pretty darn interesting.

  3. douglaspstockdale said, on February 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Hey Jeff,
    Perhaps the alternative to a “series of photographs” is to call a idea or concept that is being investigated a “project”. This might seem like semantics, but typically I think of a series of photographs as being made in one succession; i.e. seeing a subject, then one moves around to photograph it in different compositions to see what it might look like. Thus if I am creating a narrative and have a concept woven through the story, such as my photobooks, then I think of this as a photographic project, not a series.
    As a singular image, this maybe a subject that jumps out at me for which I photograph but the resulting image does not immediately fall into any of my current projects. But it may later…
    Cheers & thanks for stirring the pot!
    Doug


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: