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The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom

From: Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

Video: The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom

Rodney Smith: So I was my own client. I would drive around the roads. I would see some farmer or some person that appealed to me, and I would take the picture. These were people that I had nothing to do with when I grew up. I mean, I grew up in Manhattan, and these are farmers in Wales; sharecroppers in Mississippi; you know, in Haiti, really, really poor people. I just felt that these people had a significant gift about life that I was lacking, that is, that they had this ability to go through life, which was physically and financially and emotionally very difficult, and yet triumph over it, that they were positive, funny, good spirited, and I just thought it was amazing.

The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom

Rodney Smith: So I was my own client. I would drive around the roads. I would see some farmer or some person that appealed to me, and I would take the picture. These were people that I had nothing to do with when I grew up. I mean, I grew up in Manhattan, and these are farmers in Wales; sharecroppers in Mississippi; you know, in Haiti, really, really poor people. I just felt that these people had a significant gift about life that I was lacking, that is, that they had this ability to go through life, which was physically and financially and emotionally very difficult, and yet triumph over it, that they were positive, funny, good spirited, and I just thought it was amazing.

I was looking for their secrets. I was trying to find out, how are you able to do this? How are able to live these kind of very--by traditional American standards--this very difficult life and yet still really come out shining? Chris Orwig: When you have the chance to sit down and talk with someone like Rodney Smith, someone has who has been creating for forty years, you can't help but think, well, how was it that they actually started out? You know, what's interesting about photography is most of us start out the same way.

We have some interest, some passion, maybe a little bit of skill, and then we go out into the world and try to create photographs that matter. And I like how Rodney reflects on the first part of his career, those first fifteen years where he was his own client. You know, he studied photography and theology at Yale. It's almost like he was trying to blend these two worlds. How can I create pictures that have depth? He went out to photograph people. And as he said, he was looking for their secrets. How was it that they were able to endure such hardship and somehow thrive, somehow see it through to the other side, and come out perhaps even shining? He was looking for wisdom.

And I think the camera can be a great tool for gaining insight and wisdom. When we photograph people, we have such an opportunity to learn from them, to learn from their life experience. I like how the British scholar and author Clive Staples Lewis puts it. He says, "It's one thing to be wise yourself. It's another to be surrounded by those who are wise," and I think we can use our camera to surround ourself with people who have had different life experiences.

We can use that almost as a way of taking notes, as a way of digging deeper, of asking questions, of trying to find other people's secrets, and you know, the end result is that we're changed. Not only are we creating good images, but we will gaining a bit of wisdom that somehow influences who we are.

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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
      46s
  2. 31m 37s
    1. Creating serene photographs...spontaneously
      4m 37s
    2. Creating photographs that ask questions
      4m 43s
    3. What makes a photograph good?
      5m 28s
    4. Film, digital, and the importance of the artifact
      6m 1s
    5. Contrast, tone, and black and white versus color
      5m 0s
    6. The early years and photography today
      5m 48s
  3. 13m 16s
    1. First impressions: A portrait without the subject
      3m 52s
    2. The finishing room
      1m 4s
    3. The darkroom
      7m 13s
    4. The final print room
      1m 7s
  4. 23m 11s
    1. Selecting the gear
      3m 41s
    2. Shooting the portrait
      6m 13s
    3. Reviewing the plan for the shoot
      2m 6s
    4. The portrait in review
      6m 36s
    5. Large prints in review
      4m 35s
  5. 8m 33s
    1. Why take pictures?
      2m 11s
    2. Cultivating the discipline to print
      2m 8s
    3. Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"
      4m 14s
  6. 5m 27s
    1. Embracing a theme: Surprise, whimsy, or cliché
      55s
    2. Creating photos that ask questions
      2m 22s
    3. Creating fashion photos with a unique style
      2m 10s
  7. 26m 40s
    1. Photography is a reflection of who we are
      1m 47s
    2. Photography is about the art of observation
      1m 57s
    3. Working with models
      2m 10s
    4. Raise more questions than you answer
      3m 5s
    5. Mentors strengthen our vision
      3m 37s
    6. There is a right place for certain things
      4m 39s
    7. What influences you?
      3m 22s
    8. The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom
      3m 6s
    9. Creating photographs deepens who we are
      2m 57s
  8. 33s
    1. Conclusion
      33s

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