Sleeping Beauty

Reader question: 

Dear Len
The quote from Lucas Gentry - "Photography has nothing to do with cameras" can you please explain what this means? I guess perhaps once one works out what is meant by the word - photography.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this line.

Many thanks



Thanks for asking, John. 

For me a “Photograph” is a physical print.  When I learnt photography we had negatives, positives, contact sheets and once printed we had a photograph.  It wasn’t ever finished until we printed it.  Even transparency’s were slides, we went to slide shows, not photography presentations.


It has been amazing lately to hear so many people say to me about how beautiful my photographs are.  They are specifically referring to my photographic prints as opposed to the images most view on thier screens.  They say, Len, they come alive, they are so different.  Well, this because you are seeing them in thier final intent and finished. Resolved. Completed.


Anyone whom judges a photographer by images on a screen, is really out of touch with photography. 


I know this definition probably falls a bit short with our Instagram generation of iPhone snappers where a photograph is viewed on a screen.  Or the Facebook generation of like seekers. Interestingly, the director of the Photography Department in the Moma in New York convincingly argues that when they are viewed on a screen they are “Images”, and ‘Photographs’ only when they are printed.


Therefore for me, photography is the art and process of creating photographs.  One of the recent winners of the Olive Cotton Portraiture Prize was made without a camera. Similarly the photographs of Paul Kenny are made without cameras.  Photographs are prints.


All of those image makers who post thier images on the web, they really need to take the next step and print them so they can create photographs and then they can call themselves photographers. ;)


But the main point of the quote is about the importance of cameras in photography.  The camera is really only your tool.  The real essence of photography is about the photographer, thier feelings and thier expression.  The Photograph is the ultimate important final outcome.   


He is really saying, stop fussing and worrying about your cameras and concentrate on your self expression and create beautiful photographs.  


I get caught up in this as well. I worry about my cameras and lenses.  I read all the latest camera announcements.  Yet, I know, deep in my heart, that the three year old camera I used today was good enough and I don’t really need a new one.  I get sucked into consumerism as much as the next photographer.   But I really should spend my time creating photographs and enjoying every moment of that process, staying in the moment as much as possible.  


Enjoy your photography, I know I do.


Ivy sleeps.  From the Fine Art Nude Workshop day one.  Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018

Artist | Writer | Photographer | Educator | Adventurer