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Photography as a Means of Expression

Can we consider photography to be a means of expression? I think so.

A photograph is almost always associated with a reproduction of reality. When you look at a photograph you assume at least something similar to what is depicted really existed. This might suggest that photography, unlike painting, is a mere witness or a faithful reproduction of reality.

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However, I like to think that the photographer is a sort of filter between the real world and the public of his photographs. The photographer, even unconsciously, interprets reality and proposes his own version of it through his photographs.

Choosing whether to photograph something or not is an early form of interpretation. Just what the photographer sees as salient or interesting will see the light in a photograph. The public will not have a complete picture of the scene, but will only see what the photographer has decided to show him.

Then, when framing, deciding what to include and what not to include in the picture, the photographer further filters the reality and still delivers his interpretation.

Again, in the focusing process the photographer chooses what to emphasize in the picture, and adjusting the lights and contrasts, establishes the visual sequence and the atmosphere that the image should transmit.

Even the selection of the sequence of shots to show in an essay and their order helps to give an interpretation of reality.

In short, the photographer has a number of tools that allow him to shape his own version of the real subject he is photographing. It occurs to me that, just like journalism, it doesn’t exists impartiality in photography.

Thinking about the interpretive nature of the photography, come to mind the words of Susan Sontag:

Some photographers set up as scientists, others as moralists.

There are photographers who believe they don’t interpret, but just reproduce in a scientific manner their photographic subjects, others are convinced instead that they are giving a moral judgement thus being interpreters.

I believe that any photographer, in the end, is an interpreter, being he conscious or not. The mere preference for a subject rather than another is enough to make me think that there has been a form of interpretation and that, somehow, the sensitivity of the photographer has intervened.

Daido Moriyama once said that the photographer shoots according to his own perspective, but when he presents his work to a public, in its reading their perspective takes over and it all comes back into play.

It is true, in fact often my audience points out aspects of my photography I had never considered, which are actually present and tangible.

Often the photographer works in an almost unconscious manner: he photographs what interests and attracts his senses, but in doing so, everything is filtered through his style and his perspective. When the work of a photographer is seen, this perspective will emerge to the attentive eye.

I’d love to know what do you think of the role of photography. Can we consider it a means of personal expression, or is it just a mere document of reality?

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