Are words important to photography? John Paul Caponigro suggests they are fundamental, not just as captions or stories, but as foundations for the creative
process itself. And he himself is a source of great words and inspiration - as we discovered when we interviewed him for Better Photography this issue.
“People ask me, do I pre-visualise or post-visualise?
“I say yes.
“And I always think back to one meal. I was a kid. My father was teaching at The Ansel Adams Workshops. So was Jerry Uelsmann. Dad and Ansel, both classically trained pianists, were trading notes on music. Ansel preferred Mozart; classic. Dad preferred Chopin; romantic.”
And you couldn’t find two photographers with more diverse approaches than Ansel Adams, known for his landscapes, and Jerry Uelsmann, known for his surrealist composites.
“Dad decides to tease Ansel while Jerry listens in: ‘You know, if you can pre-visualise, you deserve what you get.’
“Ansel makes the mistake of taking Dad seriously. ‘Well, when I coined the phrase pre-visualisation, I didn’t mean I knew exactly what I was going to get, just that I was in control of my materials to get where I wanted to go. After all, I also said the negative is the score and the print is the performance.
“I’m looking at Jerry, thinking he will have a totally different take on this and right on cue, he bursts in. ‘You’re the reason I came up with that mouthful, post-visualisation. Can’t we call it all visualisation?’
“From that moment forward, it was clear to me that people used photography in many different ways for many different purposes. There are many ways of seeing (or visualising). Jerry’s book Process And Perception suggests that process influences perception. That’s certainly been my experience, particularly in photography because the language we use is very limiting. There are a lot of prejudices and biases towards certain things which are taken as truths, rather than preferences."
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