Taking Pictures vs Making Pictures


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A friend and fellow photographer recently made a very bold statement over drinks one night…

“Rangefinders help you take pictures and single-lens reflexes help you make pictures. ”

I believe there is a colossal difference between taking pictures and making pictures, and an equally enormous difference between rangefinders and and SLR’s. However, I can’t help but take offense to the statement that SLR’s help you make pictures.

Rangefinders help me make pictures all the time…

The differences between these two types of cameras are obvious. Through the lens versus a viewfinder, focusing mechanisms, size, weight, film advance etc. What we as photographers seem to forget is that a camera is a tool.

When I was little my father had a workshop in the basement. In the workshop was a hammer. This was not a special hammer, other than the fact that is was older than dirt, rusty, beat up, just a really old hammer. I asked my father why he did not just buy a new hammer. He said, “It still pounds nails. ” Point being, my rangefinders still pound nails.

That aside, the real issue I have is the difference between taking and making a picture. The other day I was at a friends house for dinner. She took a picture of everyone at the table with her digital camera. Result: She took a picture. Short, sweet, to the point.

Last month I bought a roll of Tri-X (yes I still shoot film). I had a few things in my head I wanted to photograph. I made some exposures over the next week or so. I developed the film, made a contact sheet, edited down to a couple of frames I thought would print well. I then proceeded to the darkroom where I made an 11X14 fiber base print. When I was pleased with the print, I then matted and framed it. Result: I made a photograph.

Some people take pictures, other people make photographs. The camera is just a hammer. Film, digital, rangefinder, SLR, all just ways of recording an image. Our individual process is what makes photographs, not our hammers.

Joseph Szymanski
Art and Photography, Mostly...OpenOrigins.com


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