The photographic tools or characteristics of photography that are involved in the taking of the picture include The Thing Itself, The Detail, The Frame, Time, and Vantage Point, which are introduced to us in John Szarkowski’s book. Those five categories cover the photographer’s goals, values, and reverence or respect for the subject; symbolism and metaphor; the picture edge, what’s IN and what’s OUT of a picture; the power of long and short exposures and timing the moment of exposure; and perspective and juxtapositions of objects in space. We will extend those discussions to include other ways to think about each category, as well as adding a sixth category, Light, which fits comfortably in this group.
Kennedy will illustrate the presentation with his own photographs, made over a period of 50 years.
The word “composition” has a different meaning for photographers than it does for painters and artists who create from scratch, including many digital artists. Creating from scratch means having to create the structure of an artwork, or build a composition to begin with. A photographer can’t do that. Since photographers simply “borrow” the structure of their new image from their selection with the camera, we start with a completely different approach. In Ansel Adams’ opinion, the “rules” of photographic composition are invalid, irrelevant, and immaterial. Since every photograph poses a unique set of problems, every photograph needs to be analyzed, using intuition and the photographer’s intentions, to produce a successful image. That result might conveniently “match” one of the traditional rules of composition, but that’s not the point. If intuition and intention give you a result that is the polar opposite of a traditional rule, it’s still correct! (And the traditional rule is, as Ansel said, irrelevant.)
Gene Kennedy is recognized nationally for his photography of the contemporary American landscape. He is best known for his black-and-white documentary images about suburban land development in California and his 16 years photographing the Gladding, McBean ceramics factory in Lincoln. He has a significant body of work in the collection of the California State Library, and prints at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. From 1986 to 1996, Gene owned and taught photography at The Darkroom, a do-it-yourself photography lab located in Sacramento. He was managing editor of View Camera and Camera Arts magazines from 1998 to 1999. He taught photography at numerous colleges and universities in San Diego County and in the Central Valley from 1970 to 2002. He currently teaches traditional black-and-white photography at Butte College in Oroville and also works at the California State Library Foundation. From 2003 through 2008, Kennedy served as executive director of Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. From 2015 to 2018 he continued his active role at Viewpoint as the gallery coordinator.