Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The eye ... not the camera.

Few "relatively" unknown photographers have grabbed my attention in recent years the way that Phil Douglis has with his work.

Douglis, director of The Douglis Visual Workshops in Phoenix, Arizona is well known in some photography circles, but is still relatively unknown to the general public.

Whether he's capturing the expressions of Hmong Children near Laos or drawing attention to details in a rusted steam locomotive in Oregon, Douglis evokes an emotional response from the people who view his photos. Douglis calls his pictures "expressive" images.

In his own words, Douglis describes expressive imagery as "photography that interprets, rather than describes, what we see to others." Douglis provides a more detailed explanation of his method for crafting expressive images on his Web gallery and displays some of the best photojournalist work I've seen in the last few years.

One of the other reasons I find his photos even more interesting is that Douglis flies in the face of convention and uses compact digital cameras and all-in-one "prosumer" digital cameras for almost all his work. I'm not talking about the latest digital SLR and $2000 lens, I'm talking about the same $500 point-and-shoot digital cameras that mom's and dad's complain "take horrible photos" at football games and on vacations.

Why is Douglis crafting amazing images with cheap cameras that "can't take good photos" when the majority of serious photographers have given up on these types of cameras? Because great photography is more about the photographer than the equipment.

When most photographers want to improve their images they think (thanks to successful advertising from camera manufacturers) that they need a new camera ... but what they really need is a new eye-to-brain interface. The difference between a "snapshot" and powerful image boils down to the photographer's ability to add meaning to the photo. There is no camera that can do that.

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