Photography ustaad : Sarah Moon

Article by Dhaval Shah


‘You have to believe in magic and miracles more, than in Photography.’

This statement made by Sarah Moon, a well established fashion photographer of the seventies, intrigued me. How can one believe in the unknown, the unseen, most probably fictitious fragments of ones imagination, more than in ones craft? I questioned. And then not daring to doubt a statement made by a photography legend, I tried to understand more.


A photographer can be distinguished through his/her ideas and experiences, as that is what reflects in his/her work. Here are a few ideas from Sarah Moon’s stable, that may lead you to envision photography or respective craft differently.


Colour - Black and White
A question that haunts a beginner or an amateur photographer is whether to keep a picture colour or Black and White. Teachers in all photography schools encounter this question every now and then. Earlier, in the primitive stages of photography, the photographers had no choice, but now, when the whole world is spoilt for choice, how does one choose ?


Sarah Moon believes, that the essence of photography is Black and white, as Colour captures too much unnecessary detail that may not be the main subject. And hence she uses filters such as grains that breakdown colour, or filters that manipulate colour. Colour, she believes is more of a deviance. Whereas black and white, itself acts as a filter.


Staging -

Photographers also fall prey to the debate between ‘staging an image’ or ‘witnessing reality’ or mixing the two. To elaborate, Staging may mean the story, the way of telling it, the directing by the photographer, or putting ones imagination, in front of the lens. Whereas witnessing reality is more of reporting, capturing and documenting.


Sarah Moon throws some light on this as well. She asserts, purists of photography may believe they are witnessing reality, she defends her style as being a witness to her own fantasies.


Decisive moment – Closely related to the above point, in-spite of staging, there are always open ends, where a photographer may witness something beyond the seen. A moment, unexpected, may bring the beauty in the shot, may be the way the model gestures her hand, or perhaps the way the light falls on the subject or more. And this is the decisive moment that the photographer chooses to hit the shutter.


Failing - Sometimes the moment may not arrive, sometimes it may pass without the photographers realization. Sarah believes, A photographer must accept the risk of failure, telling himself that failure is not the worst; Though it is not an option to fail an assignment.


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