Robert's Blog

robert golden's blogs consist of three different subject groups - photography and film_cultural essays _ social essays

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH

  Truth emerges as fragments of a theme in individual photographs and as more complete ideas in essays, series or photo-stories. In these 4 relatively unrelated images, the viewer can still gain a sense of flavour of the photographer’s concerns.

Truth emerges as fragments of a theme in individual photographs and as more complete ideas in essays, series or photo-stories. In these 4 relatively unrelated images, the viewer can still gain a sense of flavour of the photographer’s concerns.

Some say there are only seven basic stories from which all others arise*. I think this is also true about the themes we draw upon. Chosen themes arise from underlying personal likes and dislikes  - morality, ethics, things of interest. They are constructed out of our experiences, knowledge, culture and belief systems, streamed through our emotional make-up.

If you outline your deepest concerns, in the end they are probably reduced to very simple things shared by most of us: a desire for love, beauty, and knowledge; fear of loss, illness and death; perhaps a craving for wealth, power, redemption or sexual fulfilment; and a desire for joy, achievement and acknowledgement.

I have found that using mind-mapping techniques combined while asking the right questions help people to clarify what they really care about. The easiest part is discovering themes and content. Content is the particular condition that represents a part of your theme. For instance, if one of your themes is about injustice, you may choose as content a story about unemployment, or low wages, or poor education. These are conditions, once recognized as manifestations of your theme that lead you to likely subject matter: the story of an unemployed person, people striking for fair wages, a group of people striving for self-improvement through education.

subject matter

content

theme

(the theme is the base      upon which you determine content      that suggests subject matter)

 The difficult part is understanding how to choose subject matter that will reveal underlying themes. Part of the solution is to learn how to tell a story with pictures and how to present the story. As a PDF with or without text? As a stills-film** with voice-over, sub-titles, music and other sounds? As an exhibition, in a portfolio etc.?

Once you have the chosen subject matter that represents your content, questions arise about what is honest, correct, morally acceptable and indeed, what is the truth in front of your camera. And, how to represent those things – and that becomes a question of style and technique which I will discuss elsewhere.

For me, truth must be at the centre of what I do. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in a documentary, when organising files for incoming Trump administration officials, ‘fact not opinion must be the basis of the new government’s decision making’.

*see Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces** see my film https://vimeo.com/40117176