Right, there are some words and phrases in photographic technical language that I feel denote certain things, and some which are inappropriate when talking about work.
Firstly, because it’s freshest in my mind, is the word “shot”. To me a shot is a spur of the moment, unplanned chance, the kind of word you use when describing contact sheets or landscapes (still hate them). There is a huge difference between a ‘shot’ and a ‘picture’. This grates on me because I was recently reading some student blog and they were speaking about how they felt a picture they had done was reminiscent of a famous ‘Mapplethorpe shot’. This just completely jarred in my mind that anyone could put the words ‘Mapplethorpe’ and ‘shot’ in the same phrase. Mapplethorpe is a god to me, so I always do get annoyingly picky about peoples thoughts about him, but to me, the appropriation of ‘shot’ to him was a complete oxymoron. The image they were talking about, a portrait of a male ballet dancer’s buttocks, was very definitely a ‘picture’ or ‘image’. It was carefully constructed, lit specifically, the model being cast thanks to his notorious young ingénue status in New York, the exact opposite of all my connotations of the word ‘shot’. I feel that you shoot things you see in what some might call the real world. The thing dies a small death when it is photographed; you have supposedly caught its essence if we are the sort of people who read Barthes. To me, the kind of work Mapplethorpe does is almost the exact opposite. He does not destroy or replicate, he creates things afresh. He does not attempt to recreate reality, he creates AN IMAGE. He fills it with ingenuity, Eros, stylised light, classical poses and inhuman looking men. I despise anyone who looks at his work and comes up with ‘Sick shot.’ IT IS NOT A SHOT, IT IS A PICTURE.
Another phrase that’s been setting my mind on edge for a while is the whole ‘shooting’ concept. In a way it’s too violent for the work I produce, particularly in relation to my current themes of renaissance and baroque painting. Again, I see situations in which that phrase might be more appropriate, but right now, for me, not so much. I was trying for quite a long time to come up with an alternative, but nothing came to me until recently. I tried ‘taking pictures’ but that still felt wrong. In one way it seemed to simplistic, and in another it seemed inaccurate. I don’t feel that I am ‘taking’ from my subjects; I feel that I am giving, creating, an alchemist. I recently reread ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ and I did start enjoying the relationship between the artist and the model. I enjoyed the idea of having someone in to ‘sit for me’, when it comes to pictures. I feel it relates to my fine art beginnings and suggests something unexpected about my images.
‘Capture’. Another sticking point. I don’t think you capture anything, through photography or otherwise. You can never own a fleeting moment; there is nothing to hold onto. This is another word I see littered over student and amateur sites like flickr, and I constantly see it being (in my opinion) misused. I find a beautiful studio portrait with surreal lighting created by about four different flash heads, coloured gels, intense make up, and then the comment ‘Wow, great capture”. It drives me insane. This clearly wasn’t a capture, this was a carefully thought out set up. Stop flooding the internet with your weak, ineffectual lexis.
Sometimes, I just hate everyone else in the world.