Mastery and Constraint

Though I have a pretty smashing DSLR camera, I still frequently use the 3.2 megapixel camera that is integrated into my cell phone. Other than convenience, one of the reasons I do this is to foster creativity by intentionally engaging the constraints of such a medium. Well, perhaps in photography it is more accurate to say that the camera is a tool and the medium is light, but regardless of how you look at it, any artist, whatever their chosen medium, is going to come up against constraints in the endeavor to create. In fact, I would like to postulate that the road to artistic mastery in a medium is about learning to effectively negotiate the constraints of a medium in such a way that the artist produces a work that accords with his or her vision.

All this said, my family and I recently went to Los Angeles to visit friends and so I could check out a doctorate program in theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. While there we went to the beach one day, where I decided not to take my DSLR, figuring this would be an opportunity to play with the restraints of my cell phone camera. The following are my results.

4 Responses to “Mastery and Constraint”

  1. K.L.B.  

    I rather like the one entitled “My Waiting Shadow.” Were there a runner-up, it’d be “Two Fishermen Reflected II.”


    The use of space.

    In MWS, the eye is drawn to the subject IMMEDIATELY. There is no question about where to look, or what you, the creator, were seeing at the time. It’s not about color, shape, or light… it’s about space – at least ~that~ image is.

    When I was taking university level coursework in photography (I would now question the wisdom of that decision, but hindsight is 20/20, eh?), my instructor mentioned a study that talked about where a viewer’s eyes traveled across a photo, and how long that same photo kept the viewer’s attention.

    As I have come to understand, photography is all about seeing. And as I’m fond of saying, “Sometimes we see something the camera cannot, and other times, the camera sees something we do not.”

    At times, I have let the camera ‘talk,’ while at others, I am the ‘puppet master.’ There are times for both. But overall, more than anything else, I have learned to see… and take LOTS of pictures!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Simon Jones  

    really like these pics dude! I never knew you had such a good eye. really I think they’re very arty.

  3. Anthony Velez  

    I blush.

    Honestly, I appreciate the words of encouragement. All my life I have been expressive, and drawn toward art of all types, but ego and my critical self often squelches my passion to pursue such endeavors. So, it is helpful to hear such words from others. I realize I can’t live by them, as the need for external validation is a problem, but none-the-less, it is encouraging when others resonate with and respond positively to what I am doing.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – I am curious as to why you question the wisdom of taking a university course in photography. Is it something about how education can cause one to over think and thereby undermine instinct, particularly artistic instinct in this case?

    Regarding space, that is of course critical. One I remember from classes I took as an Art major at my local JC in my youth, was the importance of paying attention to negative and positive elements in composition, and the way our eyes moves when engaging an image. I don’t actually think about these things too much when taking pictures, as it is more of an emotional response. After the fact, however, I might think about them, or might consider such things when I process the image, particularly with regards to cropping. Even then, I usually just go with what feels right.