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Friday, 04 January 2019


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Sounds like it could lead to a good exercise, so I'll play along. I'm thinking of creating a bunch of collections in lightroom, one for each category. Should help to clarify things and help paring down the "cats" from your example.

Note, I'm glad you wrote this and didn't make a video of you telling us the directions.

Things I like to photograph:
Street photographs
People pictures
Film photography
Chrome on cars
Small animals
Available light photography
Water crafts & boats
Historical buildings
People in their trade / profession
Family snaps
Mirrored shots
People holding their optical instruments
Surgeons at work
Old bellow cameras and lenses
Writing instruments
"Decisive moments"
Frame within a frame
Street buskers
Forests and streams
Surgical instruments

Archives? You mean I was supposed to keep all my pictures organized and accessible?

This is a harsh game.

"The one begat the two and the two begat the three and the three begat the ten thousand things" — From the Tao Te Ching

I did this already last summer, its called a "Vision File", for a course by Giulio Sciorio called Finding the Photographers Vision. I put it together as a custom Lightroom catalog. When I showed it to Giulio, he said", "Its way too broad, I see landscape, architectural, motorsports photojournalism and street. Who are YOU as a photographer?"

Giulio's point was well-taken. You can't establish a clear vision, and thereby, an identity for yourself if you are too broad. Margaret Bourke-White didn't shoot racing motorcycles.

The difficult part is: I don’t think I have a pen anywhere ... a pencil is more likely I’m sure (probably in with the matting stuff) ... and I know there is paper in the printer ... all set !!! Might be easier to just type it on the iPad (did you mean only paper & pencil?). Now, if I can just remember the first twenty I was going to jot down this is 85% complete. Thanks, I need some brain exercise.

Funny, in Photos on my laptop I had created sort of what you're talking about. I looked at all of my pictures a while back and some common themes appeared to me, i.e. "walls and doors", "on the ground", "abstract", "skies", "street", "landscapes", etc. You get the picture (pun intended). I regularly review my photos there and drag them into the appropriate folder. I didn't realize until I started this process that my seeing tended to these types of themes. It was very enlightening.

I like the idea of a game, you got me interested. However! For me, there's a big 'Yeah, but...' to this game, namely that it appears to be exclusively about the subject of the picture. In my humble experience, the subject is, more often than you'd think, the least important aspect of the picture.

People often ask me, 'What do you take pictures of?' and I usually say something like, 'Oh well, whatever's in front of the camera that makes me want to frame it and push the button.' Similarly, I read an anecdote once (probably here on TOP because I start here every day) about a photographer (and I hope someone can help me with the name) who, when asked the question 'What do you take pictures of?' replied something like: 'I don't take pictures OF stuff. I take pictures ABOUT stuff.'

Whatever triggers me photographically is usually a combination of light, shape, frameworthiness, quirkiness, and rarely about the thing that I point the camera at. During Jay Maisel's workshop that I was honored to attend in Maine he badgered us all week about three aspects that make an interesting image: 'Light, color and gesture'. The actual subject is not among those three, and not even the fourth, fifth or whatnot. As you always say, I'm just sayin'.

* Are you adopting the Taoist description of the material world as the Ten Thousand Things?

That game is a horror for a specialist.

I can't list 25.

If I cast a large net, most of my my work is documentary in nature (street, streetscape, carnivals). I love to visit places where artists are creating street murals, not just the mural photo but the act of creation. It can tell more of a story

I have a modest interest in architecture and sculpture. If I reach deep, I've tried still life and dabbled in model railroads. But those last two are in the category of I-really-should-do-more-of that.

Maybe I've been at this too long.

I suppose I could do this easily enough. I think I can even guess where the game is going. However, not too long ago, I looked back at all of the photography I have done over the past many decades. I am proud of much of it, but I am also tired of most of it. I don’t need* to make any of those photographs again. I am striving to make pictures I’ve never made before, and indeed, to add to the degree of difficulty, that most others have not made before. It’s hard.

* I’m still making them. Just got back from Big Bend NP, for instance. One cannot go to a scenic place like that and not photograph, even if the pictures “look” like the ones taken years earlier. Sigh …

Ok - I'm in. I hope I read all the rules... ;-)

I can accept categorisation, but I'm not sure about 25+ categories.

I take lots of photos for different usecases, from ebay sales to commercial stuff, but I'm limiting this exercise to "personal photos" - those which are from my point of view a sort of personal expression, in the same way that a diary or journal might be. Photos that say "this is what I saw". I'm often not sure what is was that I saw, but eventually it resolves itself. I have a brain cell that is in charge of the shutter finger and it decides when to push the button - categorisation comes afterwards... So, here goes.

SUBJECT MATTER - just two sorts

- Urban Landscapes, predominantly with people, and often a single person

- Cafe Society, photos taken in that kind of ambience, again almost exclusively with human content

SUBJECTIVE MOODS - variations on a theme maybe?

- Solitude, quietness, loneliness maybe, reflection, watching, unknowing


- Black and White, Often backlit, Silhouettes, Single figures, Strong compositional

You could judge all this from a selection at https://instagram.com/richard_tugwell

Step one complete - looking forward to moving ahead.


I’m intrigued Miguel. But am I limited to my archive, or can/should I use my most recent works? Or a hybrid of the two?

Starting about 10 years ago, I had a sea change in the nature of my work (and, more profoundly, my understanding of photography and its meaning to my life). I’m still working through and on all of that, so don’t really regard pieces from that mark forward, yet, as my archive.

I think this exercise could be very valuable, and I don’t devalue my vintage work. I just seek guidance from you for the way to get the most out of it.

Am I looking back or forward?

[Really, it's up to you--whatever you most care about. You're looking to categorize the kinds of pictures you are most eager to make, that are most important to you. Your concerns; what you are driven to do. Your interests.

On the other hand, maybe don't overthink it? Just compile a list. --Mike]

I put making the list on my list of things to do.

I have a suspicion that this exercise is a sneaky, yet very effective, attempt to get me to clean up my Lightroom catalog. Well played Mr. Johnston! :)
Seriously though, this has been a difficult yet very rewarding exercise so far. I'm discerning patterns that I'd never recognized before. Can't wait for part 2!

Ah to follow-up, no, my phone is just full of crappy things, I don't use it for any kind of serious photography. That's the nice thing about m4/3, it's not hard to pack a camera with serious glass!

Second update, then I won't bother you again for a while - I rattled off a list of 65 in under 25 minutes. I stopped when I had to think longer than ten seconds about the next category. Surely there's a message there?

1. Stereo images
2. Slide film
3. Negative film
4. 645
5. 6x6
6. 6x7
7. 4x5"
8. Panorama
9. Macro
10. Hoar frost
11. Structures/patterns
12. Structures/patterns with one element breaking it up
13. People doing something that defines them
14. People in surroundings that define them
15. Test shots of the cat
16. Early morning beautiful light
17. Bold color
18. Black/white
19. Portra colors
20. Velvia colors
21. Subject close in front of the lens with background receding for a great depth effect, taken with a strong wide-angle lens
22. Repeated shapes/motifs in a flat perspective taken with a tele lens (row of trees)
23. Dead birds/animals photographed esthetically
24. Industrial esthetics
25. Motion blur
26. Pinhole
27. Human 'birds of paradise' in their natural habitat (people that are unique individuals that refuse to live mainstream lives)
28. Bokeh pictures (in which a pleasantly blurred background is important)
29. Low horizon-lots of sky
30. Cloudscapes
31. Kallitypes
32. Province of Groningen in the fog
33. Pictures of my children that show I love them
34. Portuguese flowers
35. (Objects on) sandy beaches
36. Autumn colors
37. Marketplaces
38. Things trapped frozen in the ice
39. Fireworks
40. Fast running water (rapids/waterfalls) with motion blur
41. Snowscapes
42. Mushrooms
43. Pictures with flash light on the subject and the background in underexposed natural light
44. Underwater
45. Wilted flowers in vases
46. Dew/rain drops on flowers
47. Tree stumps in a forest clearing
48. Stitched images for increased resolution
49. Striking color harmonies
50. Megalithic graves/monuments
51. Stained glass (in church windows)
52. Close-ups of dishes that we ate in restaurants
53. Butterflies
54. Rhythm (repeated motifs/patters)
55. Careful framing/ordering of image elements in the frame
56. Highlander cows
57. The concept of gesture as defined by Jay Maisel
58. Hot air balloons
59. Wind turbines
60. Snapseed-treated smartphone pictures
61. Churches
62. Castles
63. Rape seed
64. Mud flats
65. Reptiles

Best regards,
Gerard Kingma

If I find 25 categories I am going to be disappointed that my work is not more focused.

I limited it to film photographs scanned since 1/1/2016 and had more than 12000 images to look through. It took about two hours and was by turns exhilarating and depressing. I ended up with about 35 categories, which I massaged and combined down into 25, some/many of which overlap somewhat.

I wrote up a blog post about it and put some images in for each category, just the first that caught my eye as fitting the category. Great exercise, so far, and I look forward to parts 2 and 3!

Hi Mike, I have to say, I found this quite straight forward, because 1) I'm used to brainstorming lists and 2) I've recently finished a huge cull of unloved photos, deleting literally thousands and 3) I seem to have an hierarchical mind. Bring on Parts two and three, whenever you can!

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