GH Nagai Photographics

Course Description

Can Photographers Fly?
Camera as Metaphor

Gordon H. Nagai, Instructor

Meeting 1: Reasons Why We Do Photography:
We do photography because we love it; because we have to; because we want to; because our mother says so...

Photography, like any creative medium, can be merely a hobby that you do and do for fun with no further thought to it. It may be in response to a need to exercise your creative side, or may be more
serious and an effort to make your mark in time. It may be, or may become, a love that you do for the pure joy of it. The process of photography itself may, thus, not only give you a deep sense of satisfaction, but secondarily, in experiencing the wonderland through your viewfinder, lead you to experience life more fully...

Instruction: How you approach photography depends on why you are doing it in the first place. This session addresses why one pursues photography, whether as a hobby, out of curiosity, or as a love. Through slide presentation and use of two introspective exercises with discussion, we will examine our view of ourselves and our personal world-view and how they affect our perceptions. We will additionally examine an approach to one's photography as process...

Meeting 2: Photography as Process
What you see through the viewfinder depends in large measure on personal taste and interest, or what takes your breath away. This can change over time. How you look through the viewfinder is determined by your personal world-view, and your knowledge base, attitudes, and preconceptions. Lack of knowledge, e.g. - principles of aesthetics and elements of composition and design, and an inflexible and closed mind, can result in unsatisfactory photographs and missed opportunities. One's attitude about life affects how one looks at the world, whether through a viewfinder or directly. While this, too, can change over time, as long as it remains an unconscious dynamic, it likely will remain unchanged and continue to affect what one sees. Why does this matter to a photographer? Because it can affect whether you see the world as it is, and if you view the world with a personal agenda, with blinders and filters, you will miss seeing beauty and the extraordinary that is out there.

Instruction: Through slide presentation and lecture, a questionnaire on how one looks through the viewfinder, and work at the board, this session examines photography, and art, as meditative, as an inner process that relies on developing one's intuition, and then valuing and trusting one's personal vision. We will address questions regarding personal tastes in subject matter, considering reasons for such choices. We will examine a brief paper on two alternative cosmologies describing the world in which we live: one, an "intellectual cosmology of scarcity," and another a "visual cosmology of abundance." This will lay the groundwork for addressing photography as a conceptual model and meditative process in subsequent meetings. We will end the evening with an examination of the benefits and hazards of pursuing one's art.

Meetings 3 & 4: What Makes for a Good Photograph...?
What Makes for a Good Photograph…?
  • Mastery of your camera.
  • Isolating a story to tell.
  • Knowledge of composition and the elements of aesthetics and design.

What Makes a Good Photography Distinctive…?
  • Mastery of your camera.
  • Isolating a story to tell.
  • Knowledge of composition and the elements of aesthetics and design.
  • Knowledge of yourself.
How does knowledge of yourself affect your photography? It may not, necessarily, but lack of self-knowledge can affect how you approach it, how you think about it and make artistic decisions, how you look through the viewfinder, and what you do in the process of securing an image. In the moment of taking a photograph unconscious forces may blindside you, causing you to miss what is going on immediately around you. You may thus not only miss a photo opportunity, you may also miss how you function behind the viewfinder. In the end, self-knowledge may not only help you to understand and appreciate good art, but more importantly, it may help you to understand and appreciate your own art.

Instruction: These sessions address how one can move from seeing the results of one's photographic efforts and muttering, "I'm not satisfied with my results, but I don't know why," to knowing what makes for a pleasing photograph. To do this we will examine the principles of aesthetics and the elements of composition & design. We will address the question of these "rules" in photography, and when to follow them, when to break them, and how one decides when to do either.

In examining those elements that make for a "good" photograph and why some pictures are pleasing and others not, we will touch also on the mechanical, ergonomic, and technical aspects of the process of photography, and how these contribute to one's personal vision and personal style. For the latter, we will respond to a
questionnaire asking for whom one is doing photography, whether for oneself, or to please others, and how this affects your results, and why this matters at all. We will explore through viewing slides how one can consciously compose in the viewfinder using specific design elements in such a way as to obtain pleasing results that are also true to yourself and your personal vision.

During the week following the third session, students will undertake a photo assignment utilizing the principles of aesthetics . We will review the results during Meeting 4. A second assignment following Meeting 4 considering the elements of composition and design will give students another opportunity to implement conceptual elements, with results being reviewed during Meeting 5.

Meeting 5: Camera as Metaphor
Photography as a life-view: Through any grand scenic vista, intimate landscape, or the portrait of an individual, one can experience the extraordinary. There is beauty everywhere, and in abundance - more than can be consumed by everyone. It is there for the taking - taking, as in a photograph, not owning. The only thing to own is the experience. Whether you come away from a photographic excursion with the photograph, matters not. If you experience a connection with nature, an interaction with another individual, or capture a glimpse of some aspect of the living world, you will come away with an internal photograph, the fruits of which can play out in your life.

Mind's Eye as Camera: As a camera has a lens, so does your personal camera - your eyes. In the same way that a camera gathers light and exposes an image on film or digital sensor, so do your eyes
gather light and imprint images within. The mind introduces various filters that color what you see, opens you to greater light or closes down (aperture), and affects the timing of your openness to seeing what is out there (shutter).

Heart as Film: The image your personal camera takes is imprinted on your heart. Seeing beauty in the world, as well as those areas of shadows, is deeply personal, and gives one an experience of the world as it is. Beauty, and its associate, art, have the power to transform one from being self-referent to becoming an observing and active participant in the world. Learning from what you see, from the images imprinted on your heart, can affect how you live your life, how you consider yourself, and how you treat others. Publishing your images, then, is in the life you live - and the life you lead can be an affirmation and celebration of life.

Instruction: Through slide presentation and lecture/discussion, this session examines the role of beauty as that which draws one out of oneself and into the other, and the importance of this for an individual. In this we will consider the transcendence of the self as a primary function of all art.

We will examine a model of the Camera as
Metaphor for the Self. Using questions and discussion we will consider self-knowledge and the freedom that comes with increased self awareness as an avenue to opening oneself to experience life directly and more fully. We will view photography not as an end in itself, but a means toward living a richer life, while at the same time accruing the side benefit of improving one's photography.

Meeting 6: Enchantment and Intrigue in Wonderland
Artistry as a means to soar: Knowing how you yourself work, how you think, and how you act, especially in relation to the world and those around you, can open the way to living a freer and richer life. Photography can aid in this opening up - by giving you a direct experience of reality, of unrestrained joy in the experience, and of bliss in connecting with what is out there. Doing photography because you love it, then, is a celebration, a blessing. Not only do you benefit, but so do those around you...

Instruction: The final session revisits the key to what allows the artist to soar with her or his passion - knowing for whom one is doing photography, and choosing to be true to oneself and one's personal vision, one's visual voice. We will conclude with two slide presentations: one highlighting points touched throughout the previous weeks of the course, and one of the

instructor's work with macro-photography of flowers. Time will be provided for a final self-assessment, setting of a personal goal coming out of the experience of the course, final comments and questions, and an assessment of the instructor and the course by the participants…

Meeting 7: Indepth Critique of Student Photo Assignment
Instructor and student critique of work: This session was added to the curriculum to allow class participants a full session in which to examine and critique their work. Due to the size of the class, it is not possible during the regular weekly sessions to spend a great deal of time in examining and critiquing a student's work - each session contains significant amounts of information, concepts, and ideas which students must consider and internalize to master the course.

Instruction: This session will be wholly spent focused on the work selected and brought to class by each student for the express purpose of learning through examination and critique. The instructor, with each student's participation, will assist them in self-critiquing of their work, and entertain suggestions and input from fellow

students to complete and enhance student learning.

The instructor will end the session with a slide presentation examining "good," then "better" or improved photographs from the same shooting location.