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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Pixel - Peeping, 70's Style

One thing leads to another. I used to watch Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In regularly as a kid. Recently, Henry Gibson, one of the show's comedians, died, which got me thinking of that time in my life. This led to my remembering a book which I had recently bought but had not yet cracked open.

In one of the late Bill Jay's Endnotes columns which he wrote for LensWork, he mentioned, and recommended, a book by Ralph Hattersley entitled "Discover Your Self Through Photography". He mentioned that it is still as relevant today as it was when it was published, though it has a good bit of 60's lingo. Somehow, having Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on the mind led me to have a peek at the book.

Initially published in 1971, it really is a wonderful book that is filled with ideas and exercises to help expand one's creativity through photography and is definitely worth reading. I personally find the occasional smattering of 60's language and ideas a bonus that tends to bring back memories, if only for a short while (and if they were there to start with). And to top it all off, the book can be had quite cheaply and contains many images by Jerry Uelsmann (who taught with Hattersley at the same institution).

One of the paragraphs in the book made me recognize that what we now call 'pixel-peeping' is not at all something new....the pixels may be new but the peeping goes back a long way. In his introduction to an exercise called 'Creative Destruction' (an exercise involving the exploration of purposefully breaking photographic rules), Hattersley says:

"One of the fascinations of photography is that it can be a subtle and demanding craft. No matter how much sensitivity and technique you pour into a photograph, it can still absorb more. This is a great challenge, of course. But it can lead to the hang-up (there's a bit of that 60's creeping in) of being overimpressed with craftsmanship at the expense of everything else. People who fall in this trap generally turn themselves into unhappy, nit-picking old maids (yikes, I don't think anyone would publish that terminology today) who are terrified of making technical mistakes. To avoid them, they conduct endless experiments with technical trivialities or ceaselessly repeat past technical triumphs."

That sure seems to me a reminder that pixel-peeping is nothing new and that our main goal in photographing should be to instill emotion into our pictures while still secondarily maintaining a backdrop of technical excellence.