Tuesday, 13 March 2007

POV: Semantics?

From Laos: Monks & Wats-Image Copyright 2005 Tewfic El-Sawy

One colloquialism describing a photographer that I personally find particularly irksome is the word "snapper". It's mainly used in Britain, and it's irritating that even some of the broadsheets and dailies use it. Even worse is to hear it spoken. I know....I know...some photographers freely use it to describe themselves, but I still cringe when I hear it. Another word commonly used is 'shoot'...as in 'he is shooting in afghanistan' when describing the whereabouts of a photojournalist. I don't think that pressing the shutter of a camera is akin to shooting of a gun. I must admit culpability in using the equally grating term of 'photo shoot'.

However, this is not what I'm going to vent about today. No, today's about the difference between 'making' a photograph and 'taking' a photograph. Generally, the action is described as 'taking' a photograph (or taking a picture) but, to me, here's the difference:

Taking a photograph is when I photograph a spontaneous scene or portrait. There's no prior preparation, and I just see a scene that makes visual sense to me, and I take its photograph. But making a photograph is different, because making implies a degree on personal involvement. In other words, when I spend time with a subject and direct him or her to stand in a certain way, then I'm 'making' a photograph. Some people use 'create a photograph', but I find it rather pompous sounding.

While photographs that are made or taken are equal, they require different skills...interpersonal skills, pre-visualisation skills, and predictive skills. Taking a photograph requires predictive skills, while making a photograph requires interpersonal skills....that's my personal take.

Having said all that, I leave you with this: is it a photograph, a picture or an image?