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There is a right place for certain things

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

Video: There is a right place for certain things

Rodney Smith: I think rhythm in music is equivalent to composition. I think somebody who has great rhythm in music has a sense of composition. It's like putting things together. But as I was implying prior that I think--and I lament this tremendously and maybe I live in the wrong era here-- that what has happened in the latter part of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first century is this total loss, in my point of view, of being in touch with what's fundamentally important in our lives, and that is this sense of cadence.

There is a right place for certain things

Rodney Smith: I think rhythm in music is equivalent to composition. I think somebody who has great rhythm in music has a sense of composition. It's like putting things together. But as I was implying prior that I think--and I lament this tremendously and maybe I live in the wrong era here-- that what has happened in the latter part of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first century is this total loss, in my point of view, of being in touch with what's fundamentally important in our lives, and that is this sense of cadence.

I mean, it goes back to classical proportions of symmetry, about putting things in the right place. Having things, being aware of how things fit into their environment, the scale and proportion, that there is a right place for certain things. That music has to resonate with the emotional core of a human being can't fight that and have it feel comfortable or beautiful.

If you want to make discordant music and your body rhythms and cadence is that these other things, you are going to be fighting it the whole way. Now maybe that's what they want to do. Maybe they want to shake you up, scare you down. I don't know. But I think the world is so unsettled, so unresolved, so lost in so many ways that what it does, it doesn't need anymore of this. It doesn't need anybody telling them how terrible it is, or how distinct it is, or how vulgar it is.

I think people know all these things backwards and forwards. They don't need to be told these deep inner truths anymore. What they need to do is they need to find a way out. Chris Orwig: Get a group of photographers together and start to talk about this whole idea of what makes a photograph good, and inevitably the conversation will turn a corner where you will start to talk about composition, because composition really is integral to our art and our craft. And typically, when you talk about composition, at photography school or in a photo book or workshop, you start off with this whole idea of the rule of thirds, and then from there you may give some compositional tips.

You may give a few rules. Follow these rules, and it will lead to good and well composed photographs. Well, we've all heard that, and I like how Rodney kind of turned all of that on its head, and almost pushed it aside. So we have this blank slate. Let's think about composition from a different perspective. I like the comparison. He compared composition in photography to rhythm in music. What does rhythm do in music? It kind of sets the tone, the mood; it's really this structure underneath the sounds which ties everything together.

He talked a little bit about Henri Cartier-Bresson, someone whose pictures he really likes. I think in some ways the composition that we create is influenced by those photographs that we like. And Bresson was fond of talking about this whole idea of the decisive moment, you know, that magic, special moment when something is just happening and you capture the essence of it. Well, even more, in related to composition, the way he chose to work with his camera, to frame a scene, it was decisive.

In photography, we talk about being creative, experimenting. Sometimes that can lead to waffling. Should I point my camera here or there, try this or that? You know, eventually, if you want create photographs with style, with vision, with voice, you have to take a stand. You have to say, you know what, this is the right perspective, and you go for it. And in a sense, composition is a little bit about who we are and how we see the world. Remember what Rodney said, "People are unsettled.

They need to somehow be given a way out." It's almost like his photographs are providing a bit of beauty and grace and hope; therefore, composition isn't so much about the rule of thirds. Rather, perhaps it's about who you are and about how you see the world.

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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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