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.

Playing To An Audience

Several days ago, I suggested that perhaps one of the reasons that abstracts don’t have as much broad appeal as, say, landscapes, is that they might be too personal. Steve made an interesting comment in response to that post. He said:

“I take flower images and photoshop them in such a way that they are vaguely reminiscent of O'Keefe paintings. These images are very popular because that artist, long ago, struck a chord with a segment of viewers. I wasn't looking to copy anyone when I started out doing that, but found that others saw in these photoshopped images that same chord that the original artist had discovered. I suppose that I too was influenced by this artist and just hadn't recognized that in myself. So, I do think that abstract images that are done with an audience in mind aren't too personal but have a more broad appeal, and thus successfully attract a following.

What do you think about working with an audience in mind?"

I thought that was a very interesting concept, the idea of making abstract images with a specific audience in mind. I responded to his comment by saying that the idea of photographing with a specific audience in mind seemed quite reasonable to me, perhaps even desirable, if the subject was one that the photographer already had a genuine interest in and that they would have already wanted to photograph independent of the audience.

I went on to bring up the example of an annual vintage car show that is held near my home. I go to this show every year to take photographs and typically show them to friends of mine that I know have an interest in antique cars. However, although I tend to show them to people that like cars, I took the images for myself.

Photographs Taken At Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
Images Copyright Howard Grill

Honestly, in general, I know very little about vintage cars. What I do know is that I absolutely love their amazing lines, shapes, and colors. If I didn’t find them so appealing as a subject, I doubt that the images I make of them would be of much interest to my friends that like cars. I believe it is hard to make good images of a subject that one has no interest in or passion for.

I had previously written about Huntington Witherill. He has put together an amazing collection of black and white vintage car abstracts as a project entitled “Chariots of Desire” (you have to click into the website to locate the portfolio, as individual web pages on the site are unable to be linked) that is well worth spending time looking at.

Finally, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the specific show I am talking about. The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is held one weekend each July or August in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. It is a fantastic outdoor show that includes both vintage, as well as unusual contemporary cars. In addition, there are two days of vintage car racing on a track that winds it way through the 420 acre park.

Interestingly, I mentioned in a prior post that I find it very difficult to ask strangers if I can take their photo. However, I find it to be no problem at all to ask people I don’t know if I can set up to take photographs of their car. No one has said no. On the contrary, they are very excited to have “a serious photographer” take a picture of something they have worked so hard on. I usually offer to send them a photograph of their automobile.

If you have any interest in photographing vintage cars, this show is really a wonderful opportunity to do so.