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For photography to progress it is necessary to have an overall vision and reasonable clarity of purpose. Successful photographers understand the impact of an image. They visualize a message as the image is composed, and decide how it should be interpreted and conveyed to the viewer. Simple images suggest the most powerful messages, and are more likely to be understood when viewers re-interpret the visual information in the light of their personal values and beliefs. Only by developing such vision can we hope to produce an image that might, for example, come to represent a particular crisis or war.

A broader type of vision derives from clarity of purpose. Images accumulate as projects come and go, and it can eventually become difficult to see the wood for the trees. Those who view images inevitably detect uncertainty of photographic purpose arising in the mind of a photographer. Indeed, an image or photographic project without an identifiable visual message will probably fail. It will confuse those who view it, just as poorly composed letters leave readers unsure of what the writers intended. Without vision, clarity of purpose and the ability to interpret a subject we are lost.

It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut and follow the same unadventurous path, always framing similar pictures in the same way. At such times it is worth reviewing past work and asking how things might develop. Look for unexplored areas and identify consistent successes and failures. Ask what you saw in failed images, and how the subject might be approached more successfully. Objectivity is fundamental because exercises of this nature can be painful as well as stimulating and refreshing. Reviews may bring a photographer face-to -face with unseen aspects of their work, but consequent recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses may prove to be the catalyst for beneficial change.


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