Facing Your Influences

Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash

Recently, in an ongoing chat among three old friends, one asked: who would you put on your Mt. Rushmore? I said the current list of presidents was pretty good, actually. No complaints. Might be nice if we made room for Kennedy. But he said, no no, not presidents… your Mt. Rushmore. As in, name four of the most important and influential people that you’d like to immortalize in a mountainside. The one rule: no friends or family.

At first, I was inclined toward the undeniable selections: Einstein, Edison, Whitman… but then I realized that the question was asking something different…


Light or Life? Photograph by Josh S. Rose. Big Bear, 2021.

I believe there’s a case for life as the raw material of photography.

Painting has its paints and so you push together the pigment into something that feels right to you. Representational, if you wish, or it can be the act of the brush. It can be abstract. You can pour, splatter, sprinkle or spray but paint explains the actions. Art needs to understand its essence to understand its endeavor. The earthy clay of sculpture, the movement of the body, the notes of song — those who do them, know them.

But what is the raw material of photography? It…


Photo by Josh S. Rose. San Diego, 2021.

Most of us who learned photography in school, learned basic black and white darkroom processing and never bothered with color. Or we tapped in and tapped out quickly. For one thing, there’s just more chemistry involved in color. But also, color processing has vastly more combinations of possibilities which, in turn, makes decision-making very complex. And it evolves in ways that black and white doesn’t — new film types equal new processing techniques. The complexity of it all made it an overly-technical endeavor that the majority of photographers were all too happy to leave to the labs. The occasional photographer…


And How To Shoot Them Like A Pro

While normally a low-budget affair, the home movie’s place in history is always secure. There’s rarely a narrative, not much by way of character development and no awards dolled out for the performances or production, yet home movies are an important art.

If high budget films are a giant klieg light that fills the night brightly, home movies are narrow little beams that continue out into space and time indefinitely. Smaller audiences, in breadth and stature, but an ever-appreciative audience that only grows through generations. When you make a home movie, you tell a personal history in the most authentic…


“My Menlo.” Venice Beach, CA, 2021.

In my view, photography is a competition of wonderment. To the most enthralled go the best images. And many a photographer goes blind from jadedness.

I’ve read some Thomas Edison biographies. Always a man consumed with work: the long hours in his invention factory at Menlo Park, the distracted family man, the odd sleep schedule, weird eating rituals. Never the passion and, oddly, being the lightbulb guy, never the inspiration. Americans obsess on the wrong stuff. As though we might touch genius by wearing the same shoes as one. But anyone who lives life in the arts understands Edison. The…


An Easy Way To Fully Understand Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO

As you already know, light is the life blood of photography. And if you’ve ventured into the realm of manual settings, then you’ve stood before the abyss of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO and wondered: how do these help?

I’ve taught this method to many people and I find it helps because instead of teaching you how, I teach you why. When you learn the how of camera settings, you end up in variations of ideals where study does not help you and end results still surprise you. …


This is really part two of a series on bringing narrative into your photography. In the first part, I looked at the human behaviors that drive us toward, away or against others and how those can translate into relatable gestures, relationships and attitudes that infuse narrative into your photography. As I mentioned in the article, there are other techniques. Here we will go through the legendary story arc structures that drive nearly every story ever told. But because we are focused on the single image, not a series of images, it’s important to see how these story arcs can work…


“Move Against.” Photo by Josh S. Rose, 2019.

In my workshop today that I gave on Daisie, I took participants through an hour-long deep dive into how to add narrative into their photographs. It was a great session, but it really takes some unpacking to truly get what is meant by narrative.

We often intertwine the word “storytelling” with “narrative,” but that’s a little misleading. Yes, narrative is part of storytelling, but storytelling is a generic term that applies to many media, most of which have something that photography does not: Time. With time, characters develop, plots twist, tensions rise and arcs arc. With photographs, famously, time stops…


“Resting.” Photo by Josh S. Rose, 2015.

You know the story. You grow up, get a job, make a bit of money, this affords you a nicer camera than the one you’ve been tooling around with and, in turn, opens up some tear in the fabric of your life. From this point forward, life stops moving in a linear direction, and just as you begin to understand the gravitational draw of nostalgia, the withering of the body along with the enlightening of the soul, the beauty of the quotidian, the true sound of birds in the morning, the true feeling of trees, the truth of coffee and…

Josh Rose

I’m just a boy, standing behind this camera asking it to love me. Top Writer on Photography, Prof of photojournalism, Leica Akademie Instructor, lover of tacos.

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