“I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.” Hunter S. Thompson

Some thoughts about photography and other things


Have you ever wondered how photography can represent material? I do, and I do it constantly. For example, I don't do anything with photographs that are just figurines, and I care that you can live an experience to the point of feeling yourself inside the photo. This thing has become for me a priority of intent that inspires me to photograph certain things and to ignore others. For example photographing, just to do it, a series of people walking in front of me appears to be a sterile operation, and I like it when I manage to solve a composition through an aesthetic reason that supports the content. In the material, and in an almost tactile experience, I find refuge as an observer and creator of images. In this sense, with this mental and creative approach, the studies done on certain landscape photographers who are or were well aware of how different the photographic medium was for example from the pictorial, or television or cinematographic medium are revealing to me. In the awareness of the partial truth of photography, as far as we can explore with our subjectivity but also with an aseptic attitude, almost as an extraterrestrial one that is suddenly called to record scenes without showing emotions, we can understand how a place can be a revealing heart of a society and therefore of the space that surrounds us. And the heart of the document is there. A document that can be passionate or algid, but always testimony of something and therefore useful to others to understand. The picture that bears a lot of information is the one I like most, which I study, admire and try to do.


Ansel Adams gave great value to the technical mastery of his profession, carefully evaluating the nuances of light in the image, manipulating the degree of exposure and constantly experimenting with new techniques.
Altogether with Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, he founded the group f / 64, dedicated to what they called "straight photography", in contrast to the images staged and embellished. Adams was also fundamental to the establishment of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, and animated by a sincere environmentalist spirit he was responsible for the creation of ad hoc laws on the preservation of nature reserves. This happens when a photographer, with his activity, does not think only of himself, but uses the photographic medium with awareness, ethics and responsibility.
The act of photographing should never be a selfish act, but aimed at making society better. The photographer, in his best expression, is one who is in love with the world and life, genuinely and sincerely turned towards others, in a continuous communicative exchange. No matter what type of photography you do. Respect and healthy curiosity, openness to life and in favor of the world we live in should always be placed at the center of our actions.


Joel Sternfeld, great master of color photography, says that photographers must choose their own palette, as painters do. What is certain is that color photography has always undergone the taste and preferences of the photographer. Think of the saturated colors of Werner Herzog, the yellowish and greenish dominants of Stephen Shore, the full-bodied reds of William Eggleston then taken up again by Wim Wenders in the exploration of the American West that finds its archetype in the film "Paris, Texas". Moreover, the natural vision of the world can also be monotonous and devoid of that personality which helps us to recognize the style of a photographer. Today, photography is above all digital, photographers can experiment much more, no longer bound to the results of the films and processes, thanks to the controls with a post-production software. Several camera manufacturers offer their jpegs with various filters, but the danger is just around the corner: the risk of finding a visual homogenization is even more exaggerated and probable. It is up to us photographers, through study and I dare to also say good taste, knowing how to choose our way of narrating and this goes through the photographers who prefer color with the choices that are made both at the time of exposing and photographing and later, in post production. I photograph directly in jpeg, which is not however how many mistakenly think "let the camera do". First of all because you work is more similar like once was with the positive film, because the jpeg allows you less flexibility in the file management, and exactly for this reason the choice must be careful and well thought out before shooting. Many cameras today allow you to change the parameters of white balance for example, and get as close as possible to what is our personal vision. I'm here to write these thoughts that are best known to myself. Object of reflection and self-analysis, they reflect part of my concerns that I have taken a long time in photographing in color. Then it happens to find boxes of old photos: dominant red, green, even blue. A chemical exasperation that didn't even depend on us and that fills memories of atmospheres and fills them with unreality, in the middle between dream and real life. The shots of my father in Sardinia with a Russian and red camera, for reddish photos of an even redder earth. Rocks smoothed by the wind that promise desert, while the smell of myrtle caresses the nostrils. Cork and salt. Flashbacks that I can't grab. It's memory and vision. Acid is the photograph I learned to love. And the analysis becomes revelation.


When we think of a good photo in general we come to mind the photograph of a master whom we appreciate because we have studied it, it has become familiar and therefore welcoming, even when it appears unattainable.
A mental operation that commits us to research into the archive that we hold in our memory and that requires an effort aimed at remembering that image. I sometimes ask my students to remember a photograph they particularly like, to try to describe it to me as much as possible, explaining to me how many more details come to mind. It is a very useful mental path that leads those who are remembering the image to understand better not so much about photography, but rather about themselves and what they consider important in a photographic image. The cognitive aspect that leads us to be attracted to certain photographs and, before that, to certain visual messages is the basis of what we will be as photographers and what we will be led to tell. Moreover, this mental exercise is useful for training the brain in that fundamental task of reading an image, which will then become simpler when the photograph is physically under our eyes.
Doing this, of these distracted times and volatile memories, becomes a gym for our perceptive ability. And it will be very useful, at a later stage, as the creator of images, becoming, in fact, a precious tool in our photographic approach.
The question to be asked is: what do we want from our photographing? Do we want it to be art, document or what? Do we want to use it just to stay healthy? Do we want to do it to communicate something we have inside and feel we deserve to be shown to others? Depending on the answers we will give, we will have a clearer picture of the situation, and perhaps we will actually be starting to listen to our inner voice, the one that allows us to express what WE have to say.
I both as a teacher and as a content proposer, both as a writer and as a photographer, I believe that photography and words walk together and the more we know how to use one and the other and the more we will be able to create interesting content. No, I'm not talking about using descriptions or titles to give strength to an image, but when we aspire to express concepts through our images, we will also need to know how to describe and talk over our photography. Just think of a synopsis of a photographic project. When we are already projected towards a photographic project the only images will not suffice. And this even with the awareness that the act of photographing leads to sensations that often cannot be described with words, in this sense a metaphysical component comes into play, linked to atmospheres and perceptions, for example certain intimate childhood memories, something we cannot or cannot grasp with words, but remains suspended inside us, hidden within us, real but impalpable. The ambiguity of photography is part of his magic. It surprises his own author. The more we focus on conceptuality, the more indispensable the word will be. And the word, which goes neither dodged nor disgusted, is today a saving oasis, which dissociates us from the oppression of non-thought, from shooting and not thinking, from that extreme aestheticism that conditions, impoverishes and consumes shared photography today on the net, flattening it into the banality of homologation, of visual homogenization, of easy consent. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are reading, let alone wanting to read about photographs. When a photographer rewards us with a long explanation, with a wise essay of the path that led him to a certain work not only highlights the research carried out and the knowledge of the proposed theme, but actually acts by digging into deeper channels, and this indicates respect in that particular relationship that is established between author and user. The most outstanding authors of each art have been and are distinguished people, capable of engaging in interesting discussions in many fields. I'm sorry but for this reason I can't and I don't want to believe the ignorant and mute photographer, the one who has nothing to say if he can't do it through his photos. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Stephen Shore, Carmelo Bene, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Paolo Villaggio, the first names coming to my mind, names of artists that went beyond their specialization and that show how much culture, knowledge and well-speaking leads the author towards a different dimension, much more stimulating, multifaceted, innovative. At this point, perhaps, we can understand how improvised photography that arrives proposed by those who do not have certain processing abilities remains mediocre, without a future, comparable to a crust in a neighborhood market.
Today more than ever we must expect that there is substance behind photographs. Or better yet, that there is someone who is not throwing things at random, but who shows knowledge and culture that allows him to go beyond the aesthetic result. Thoughts out of this time and this space, on a hot Mexican afternoon.

Alex Coghe, 2019 © - All Rights Reserved