On Making or Taking a Photo.

I just watched a programme on Gregory Crewdson's "Under the Roses" project and I found myself thinking about the making/taking argument in photography. My wife found the manufactured process of the images, often with a cast of dozens, totally disengaging, even alienating, removing any pretext of legitimacy. Crewdson's intent is to represent moments in time that are ideas of his ideal representation of memory, history and emotion, but they are not spontaneous, just remembered. I must admit that if forced to choose between taking a photograph or making a photograph, I will always choose the former, but the reality is most of the photographs we look at in our every day lives are made images*. Other photographers are more equitable when looking at images than the general public, giving due credit to and appreciating the efforts of the Takers, but they are in the minority.

The Makers.

Most of the fine arts movement, many press shooters not reliant on immediate action, wedding shots on the whole, commercial work unless derived from an already taken shot, studio and portrait work and street photography relying on direct communication with the subject before the shot are all examples of "made" photographs. Any photo created in concept or literally, prior to the shutter being fired is a made photo. This does not necessarily include post processing, but the intent to heavily modify an image comes from the same thinking. The technical quality of made photographs is completely up to the shooter, ranging from the very best to unique and even difficult processes, but they have time and repeatability. Good examples of Makers are, Crewdson, Rankin, Ellen von Unwerth and most studio or fashion photographers.

Normally I would insert an example photo here, but I have not one "made" photo in my library.

The Takers.

Street photographers from the old school who shoot first and interact later or not at all, landscape and wildlife photographers, slaves to their often fickle or elusive subjects, press photographers intent on capturing the action of sport, war or documentary, rare wedding photographers shooting "fly on the wall" and quiet observers who fall roughly into all of the above categories are the Takers. These forms of imagery rely on watching and being prepared, with the acceptance that a miss is a (great?) "one that got away" story, but a miss none the less. They usually do not have the benefit of the highest technical quality as that limits reactivity too much, rather they capture emotion, genuine interactions and one-off events full of life at the expense of ideal quality (many of the great street shooters' images are technically poor due to the limited choice of film and equipment at the time, but are no less powerful). Takers are limited by the same things photography has always been limited by, that is you can only photograph what is in front of you with limited controls or distortions. Sam Abel, Steve McCurry, William Eggleston, Mario Cuic, James Nachtwey, HCB, Salgado, Kate Kirkwood are examples of "Takers".

Gold and Green Kyoto Japan. OMD 17 f1.8

Gold and Green Kyoto Japan. OMD 17 f1.8

Post processing has to a certain extent blurred some of the differences, allowing the Taker to reinvent, to an extent, their found image and the Maker has more control after capture of what they cannot control before, but the distinction is in the process. Pre think or react. 

I suppose in essence, the Taker relies on inspiration from their discoveries with the only pre thought part of the process being the intended destination (geographically and artistically) a bit like writing about your experiences after the trip and only planning the basics of the trip before going, where the Maker pre imagines the idea and makes an image to fit, that is they don't travel to discover, but tell the story from their imagination at home with "sets" of what they imagine the destination would look like (or even better than reality).

Which is best?

Which are you (or a bit of both)?

Doesn't really matter, both have their place, but it may help to think on it.

*I am of course ignoring the vast output of on the spot, opportunistic mobile phone users, who do not claim to be photographers or cinematographers, but make up the majority of the Takers simply by being there.