When learning photography and now whilst teaching photography, I often feel that there is something missing. That there is something beyond the usual technical issues of resolution, exposure settings, white balance etc. That there must be more to photography.
An understanding of this issue may be seen in a book that I am currently reading, “At The Loch Of The Green Corrie” by Andrew Greig.
The book is one of those that can not be simply summed up in a few words. It is a book with numerous layers and hidden depths that map out a wandering narrative covering many issues. It is a book which Billy Connolly says allows you to luxuriate in the most beautiful use of the English language borne along by the love of one gifted poet for a recognised master of the melancholy.
In essence, the book revolves around a promise made to the Scottish Poet Norman MacCaig by Greig to seek out and fish at small secretive lochan that was a favourite haunt of MacCaigs'. The search for the illusive lochan took in days of outdoor living, meetings and fishing with friends in the remote hills of the far North West of Scotland. The search finally leads to the waters of the Green Corrie, which would come to reflect Greig's own life, his thoughts on poetry, geology and land ownership in the Highlands and the ambiguous roles of whisky, love and male friendship.
Early on in the book Greig talks about the idea of “transmission”, the idea of indirect learning, not through practice or development of skills but though absorbing ideas and more importantly values.
“When the young writers of my generation sat, listened, talked and drank with Norman and his peers, we were getting transmission. It was not one of technique so much as values.”
Greig illustrates his point by describing how his two fishing companions fish with a grace and ease, not borne of good technique, but rather of years of watching and observing their farther fishing. Absorbing his values.
Likewise, learning photography must surely be about more than just learning good technique or understanding what and what can not be photographed and how. It needs to be much more than that. It has to involve absorbing and understanding the wider values of those who have gone before, about absorbing “transmission” from those around us and those we respect and with whom we share our passion for photography.
Maybe this was eluded to by Ansel Adams when he said,
“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”