Every Moment of Understanding

From the series, Personal Ecologies, @2012 Dave Ortiz

Working in the Equivalent Tradition

One of Minor White’s most often quoted saying goes, “When a photograph is a mirror of the man and the man is a mirror of the world, spirit might take over”.  In a rather eloquent and poetic way this begins to get across the idea of working in the equivalent tradition. What is rarely quotes is White’s rider, “It follows that ‘self-expression’ as the aim of the photographer is not in itself sufficient”. 

In my previous post I hopefully got across the idea of an equivalent as a function that a photograph might possess. That is not to imply that an “equivalent” is merely symbolism and connotation. It goes beyond that. It is a function that operates at two different points. As I stated in my previous post, the viewer has an active part to play. Without the active participation of a sensitive viewer there is no equivalent, no experience.

The role of the photographer is the second point and goes beyond the simple need for self expression as stated earlier. The photographer must be able to actively analyze and understand  his feelings such that he is then able to use the transformative and expressive capabilities of photography to convey  something that cannot be, in and of itself, photographed. Minor White states:

The power of the equivalent, so far as the expressive-creative photographer is concerned, lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed. The secret, the catch and the power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities. Or to say this in another way, in practice Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer’s expressive purposes. He may wish to employ the recording power of the medium, it is strong in photography, and document. Or he may wish to emphasize its transforming power, which is equally strong, and cause the subject to stand for something else too. If he uses Equivalency consciously and knowingly, aware of what he is doing, and accepts the responsibility for his images, he has as much freedom of expression as any of the arts.

In Equivalency, the photographer is actively using all the tools of photography in order to create an image that when put in front of a sensitized individual will relate the feeling or intangible idea experienced by the photographer in the creative process. The practice of Equivalency is a practice of introspection and self discovery which leads you back into the world. Minor White:

Self-disocvery through a camera? I am scared to look for fear of discovering how shallow my Self is! I will persist however…because the camera has its eye on the exterior world. Camera will lead my constant introspection back into the world…

every photograph

A celebration

Every moment of understanding a birthday


3 thoughts on “Every Moment of Understanding

  1. Cool Blog Dave! Can you site the source of White’s rider, “It follow that ‘self-expression’ as the aim of the photographer is not in itself sufficient”?

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