Exercise 2: Holiday photos

I reviewed some of my holiday photos, and the first thing that I notice is that there are not that many, at least in comparison with the number of photos I take in my everyday life. One of the reasons is that I always travel light, and so I rarely take a camera with me in the days out, being mostly happy with having just my iPhone, comfortable shoes and a bottle of water and leaving everything else in my hotel room.

Also when I am busy in something or visiting places during a vacation I normally don’t think to take pictures, and so my eyes are my camera, even if later I often regret my ‘laziness’. What I generally do is to take snapshots of details that draw my attention, and to me this is like taking visual notes, like in these pictures below, colours in a window shop and the textural waves of a textile piece in a museum.


Left: San Francisco, Union Square – Right: Bogotà, Casa de Moneda

This sequence of three images was taken from a ferryboat approaching Seattle from the sea. I remember that the setting was grandiose, the light was beautiful in the mid afternoon and I wished to see how the town changed as I came nearer.

Seattle, from the ferryboat

Again in Seattle, I was interested in the patterns and drawings on this wooden structure, and especially in the window looking out onto the city. The place really attracted me even if these quick pictures certainly don’t do it justice but they help me to remember how special it was.

Seattle, Western Avenue

I put these two images side by side even if they were taken in very far away places because they are both flat and decorative photographs. The patterns and graphic qualities made me take out my iPhone.

Left: Seattle, Pike Market Place – Right: National Park The Arches, Utah

I was driven by the interplay of architectural structures against the sky. I normally take several photographs of features that really interest me from different angles and distances and I keep only the ones that satisfy me most discarding all the others.

Left: Seattle, 4th Avenue – Right: Bridge on Colorado River, Gran Canyon

These landscapes were absolutely memorable so I could not resist the temptation to take my photos. The first image on the left is an aerial view taken from a small plane.

Left: View on the Colorado River – Centre: View from Seattle – Right: National Park The Arches, Utah

The linear patterns on the rocks and the play of light inside the Antelope Canyon were so obviously wonderful that everybody inside could not resist putting the iPhone to rest. At right, I loved to see the trees outside filtered by the glass in the Museum so instead of photographing the artifacts on show I turned to the windows.

Left: Upper Antelope Canyon –  Right: Seattle, Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum

What I normally do not do is to take photographs of iconic places, say the Eiffel Tower or the Hoover Dam, not because I ‘spurn’ doing it but because I feel that my photographs would never do justice to them and so I prefer to buy professional images or books and limit myself to take pictures of some small details of these wonders that I particularly enjoy and wish to remember personally. For example in the image below, on the right, I was standing with my back to the colossal statue of the Cristo Redentor, at the top of the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, and took a picture of the people admiring it instead.

Similarly on the left what dragged me were the three identical caps worn by people looking out from a trail.

Left: National Park The Arches, Utah, Right: Tijuca National Park, Rio de Janeiro

The last two images are snapshots of family and speak out loud: this is holiday time, the weather is nice, and we are having a very good time! The diagonal angle on the table was the only way to take everybody in the frame so I went for it. I really love the rather faded colours of the photograph on the right, and the positioning of the young girl on the left: it was a totally spontaneous picture but I think it gives a feeling of the heat and the wind of that day.

Looking back at my pictures all together I think that there are in them some involuntary common features: more often than not there is in these images attention to patterns and structures and this certainly belongs to me; people are only occasionally included; there is a tendency towards abstraction. It’s also apparent that my approach to photography has been so far very casual: I could not find anything resembling a ‘documentary’ value in my trip and holiday albums, only scattered fragments.

I don’t think there is anything intrinsically ‘wrong’ in using an iPhone and snapping away, if nothing else it allows for a spontaneity and quickness that it was once just unthinkable. But it’s a shame to use such a powerful instrument carelessly without exploiting its wonderful possibilities to their fullness. Using an iPhone for taking photos is in certain ways similar to writing on a computer instead than on a piece of paper: one tends to write without thinking too much because editing is so very easy and one gets sloppy. But if we want to produce a good piece of writing or a decent photo we have to put in the effort in any case at the post-production stage. I think that every time a new tool becomes available we develop new ways of thinking, learn new processes, and give up on obsolete ones or alter them and in so doing we discover different possibilities.




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