Today I’m going to start with a couple of formal definitions from the Oxford Dictionary.  Compare the following adjective

Objective – (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts:

‘historians try to be objective and impartial’

Contrasted with subjective

Subjective – Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions:

‘his views are highly subjective’

Contrasted with objective

These two words are so intertwined that the dictionary links them together.  This is also true photographically.  I have to make subjective choices when capturing an image. 

  • What is my subject? (Subject as a noun vs subjective as a verb, might make a good post for another day)

  • Where am, I going to take the picture from?

  • Am I going to use a slow shutter speed to capture motion or a fast one to freeze it?

  • What angle am I going to aim the camera at my subject?

  • What am I going to include within the frame of the picture I’m taking?

  • When am, I going to hit that shutter?

What are we doing when we take a picture, capturing a subject.  Something that is influenced by our personal feelings, tastes, and opinions.  We look for people, props, or locations to shoot.  To include in our creative activities.  Yet we look at Time Magazine, or USA Today and believe that the pictures we see there are reflecting the truth of what happened in a particular event.  The subjectivity of the photographer has certainly influenced his objective picture. 

This is the difference between the more objective documentary or journalistic photography and more subjective fine art or creative photography. 

Consider our judicial system.  Can a judge really sit on a bench and rule objectively?  Perhaps he is a staunch proponent of abortion, or the death penalty, or gay marriage.  How does he rule as per the law?  He needs to listen to a case objectively, with an open mind and an ear toward how the law is written and applies to a situation. 

Therefore, we as photographers can go to a location as a group and capture a wide verity of unique images.  Each of us brings our proverbial luggage with us.  Our life experiences, our own points of view, or hurts, loves, and perspectives.  The culmination of our lives that has made us who we are. 

What’s the takeaway here?  We as photographers need to identify what our purpose is.  Are we trying to reflect the truth of a situation, or just to stir up some emotional feelings with our work, for some cause or purpose?  Are we trying to express ourselves creatively, our feelings, artistically, expressing ourselves through the medium of photography?  Whether we are capturing photographs as documents or art, we need to review the subjective decisions that we make in light of our purpose.

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