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Photography and poetry

In a world of cellphones with cameras as powerful as Leicas, sites like Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest etc., the problem still remains - what shall I shoot? This advice is from The New Illustrated Universal Reference Book (Odhams, London 1933.) The book called itself 'the book of a million facts' covering 'the main interests of humanity…no essential subject is left out.' Much of the technical stuff is highly out of date, the language even more so, but the advice is still good. A good photograph comes from the heart...

The world is crowded with things calling to be photographed when a man first goes forth with a camera. Indeed, he is so overwhelmed with the thousand and one things to take that he frequently returns home with only half his roll of films exposed.He is so confused and confounded by the wealth of possibilities confronting him in the end he cannot see anything worth taking.

The man with the camera should ask himself what class of subject naturally interests him…Let him focus his mind on something before he attempts to focus his camera on anything… every picture that is worthwhile arouses some feeling; wonder or sorrow, peace or joy, fear or distress, or any one of the many emotions which move the human heart.

Luigi Ghirri

To be on the watch for scenes and incidents in nature and life that arouse feelings will carry a photographer a long way toward finding pictures. To know what to look for is half the secret; to look and wait, until from the prospect some feeling is roused, some impression is created, is to be far on the way to picture finding.

Poetry and Pictures. An observant eye may be  stimulated by the picturesque phrases of the poets. Such lines as 'in leafy woods by fountain's clear' ( Wordsworth) - 'Shadowed coves on a sunny shore' (Tennyson) -  'Branches hung with copious fruit' (Milton) - 'A  mountains brow compassed with clouds' (Beattie) or 'A  lonely pile with ivy overspread. (Coleridge)...  poetry is full of phrases as descriptive as these. A photographer who makes a note of them as he comes across them is never at a loss for a picture subject. Each line gives him a definite lead, and in pursuit of a scene to illustrate the poets phrase he finds a score of other things worth taking, for his mind has been keyed to the quest.

August Sander

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