Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

February 24, 2008

Me in my photographs?

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 5:18 pm

Hongqiao Construction

This weekend I made it to the bookstore looking for the recent issue of Photo-Eye, which was not on the rack, but I did pick up the current issue of Photo Techniques (Jan-Feb 08) issue. Although I was recent chosen by them as one of six photographers to be highlighted as part of a future promo campaign, I really do enjoy a couple of continuing columns that they provide, such as Vestal at Large by David Vestal. You’d think that I would get a subscription and save myself the trouble, but then I would have less of an excuse to get to the bookstore.

Which kinda takes me to the recent writtings by Vestal, What’s this Self doing in my Photos? The bottom line is how much of you (autobiographical) is in your photographs? This might be seen as how much of this photograph is me, versus how much of this photograph is the subject being photographed? To begin, Vestal does admit that the pictures reveal us.

Vestal then provides his assessment of the possible continuim of photographers who have different ratios of biographical content in their images, ranging from Minor White at 90% about himself, Ansel Adams at 50% of his images being about himself and Vestal states that he is striving for 20% of himself in his images. Vestal even states that if more than 20% of himself is evident in the photograph that he considers that he failed in that image, in as he further defines his photography process as “I do not seek, I find“. hmmmmm

The take away from me is, how much of myself is in my images, how autobiographical are they? There is some, no doubt, in as I took the picture, so it was with my eyes looking and seeing, and my brain going, Press the shutter NOW. When I work on a series, where I have the idea and concept that I want to expand on with a group of images, perhaps my autobiographical factor is on the high end of the scale. When I just react to something that is interesting, perphaps my autobiographic factor is then in the middle or low end of the scale.

There must be futher autobiographic factors in which images I choose to include or exclude, the final cropping and which tweaks and photo-mojo do I select for a specific image. And as we get older, and hopefully wiser, this whole autobiographical ratio thing will probably change as well. I know it has for me.

I have enjoyed my early nature landscapes very much, but now I question how much of what I photgraphed and the final selection of what I printed was for me or who much was it to get attention and please others? I know that I enjoyed the process, that is hiking up canyons, looking, seeing and enjoying the wilderness, the process of taking the photograph, and subsequently developing (oh, look, I just did a +2 development and look at that negative and resulting tonal scale) and printing. Perhaps what I did not know, is that during the experience of the process, I was also learning a lot about light, form, shape, texture and later, what I really liked versus what I thought others would like. And I started to take only those photographs that really moved my spirit and letting others take the photographs that they would like.

So I guess you could say, my autobiographical factor is on the rise, which is okay with me. I don’t think much about this while taking photographs, but on occasion, I can relect back on what road I think has taken me here;- )

Best regards, Doug


  1. It’s a weird thing to discuss. i think every image you take contains both you and the subject. But does it really make sense to talk about quantities or ratios. Maybe the sum isn’t 100%. What if every image contains both 100% you and 100% the subject. and to catch the viewers attention you need to put some good stuff into both.

    Perhaps the subject part depends on the viewer. If the viewer is interested in the subject, he will look at the picture. The photograper part may be how you make a viewer enjoy a subject he is not really interested in. How you get the viewer to share your facination about the subject.

    ah, i don’t really know what i think of this, but it doesn’t make sense to me to say there is 24% me in a picture.

    Comment by Kjell Harald — February 24, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  2. I like the way you expressed maschine’s power

    Comment by nataliak — February 24, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  3. Perhaps the question might be as to how much do you (autobiographically) want to be part of your photographic image? The viewer might not know, but you would.

    Such that my series “Insomnia: Hotel Noir” is probably going to be very much autobiographical in that I also use myself as the ‘model’.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — February 25, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  4. for some reason i read it differently last night. with your last comment i think i get it, maybe.

    Comment by Kjell Harald — February 25, 2008 @ 7:40 am

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