Sunday, 23 January 2011

Observational vs Expressive Styles

In a recent discussion, a respondent asked what I meant when I said that most beginners start with an Observational Style and progressed to an Expressive Style. My take on this is that when one gets a camera and starts shooting, the scene one captures is what the camera sees, not what one wants to convey. Of course, there are exceptions, people who have what we call, a “natural eye” for the photo but they are exceptions rather than the rule.

That “visualising eye” may indeed be inherent or it may be consciously and explicitly developed. Some “get it” early, some achieve some semblance of it, some work very hard but never “get it” – that side of the brain is so recessive that it appears with difficulty. There’s always hope though, that’s what’s so fascinating about going out with the camera on a purposeful mission – your encounter with the world should bring new, unpredictable, savoured moments – if you feel you’ve “been there, done that”, it’s maybe time to give the hobby or your approach to that hobby a rest or a change.

I often see beginners on the DPR Beginners Forum ask – “which camera, which book, which website, which tutorial DVD” and on. And yes, there are products that will provide information but information is not knowledge and knowledge is not “soul”. You really need to go out, hang out with people who have soul, who have passion, to get some Shutter Therapy otherwise, as much as you read about cameras and menus and settings, it is hard to develop your aesthetic appreciation and artistic skill in a vacuum. Of course, there are exceptions.

On a fresh and upbeat topic, I’ve just met up with a nice bunch of guys and girls – they’re members of the Malaysian Pen Lovers / Zuiko Lovers Group. David Chua is the Olympus product and brand evangelist (he assures us it is part time and he has his own clients as well as a young family) and the fabulous Robin Wong turns up when he can to contribute and lead as well. Robin’s written a blog article of our meetup as well: Robin Wong: Olympus Walkabout in KL

The youthful exuberance and joie de vivre is infectious. You really have to walk in their shoes


Add to that, age old memories of that little hill that hold Stadium Merdeka and downtown Petaling Street and it is a magical journey, a revisit to the past and the dilapidation that is here today.


Robin comes from Sarawak, and he sees Kuala Lumpur with new eyes and new visualisations. I do too, as a visitor now, rather than someone who went to two schools in the city. There are so many offbeat visuals jostled within the life and living today. Many family businesses and even shops have extinguished and torn down, but there is still a lot of grit and texture to see.



It’s not an easy life in the streets, in some respects, the whole world has shaken off its lethargy and it is no slack life anywhere else. The work in KL, however can be demonstratively hard.



As the city develops into more styrofoamed, artificially contrived shopping malls, where the environment and appearances are manipulatively manufactured out of textureless blankness are we merely textureless visually or do we still run lives of challenge and difficulty like we’ve always run?
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