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Author Topic: George Barr's article, part 1  (Read 22587 times)
alanrew
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« on: January 08, 2007, 05:09:53 PM »
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First of all, thanks to Michael for hosting George's article 'Taking Your Photography To The Next Level'. I've been following George's personal blog for a few months and found it a good source of information about the psychological aspects of learning/improvement - e.g. preparation, 'seeing', not setting yourself unrealistic goals. George's ruminations deserve wider exposure - and this site is ideal for that purpose.

Secondly, thanks to George for this thought-provoking article, which I'm sure fills a gap for many of us trying to 'improve' our photography without having a clear idea of where we currently are. As someone involved in running a photography club, I'd like to try using these definitions as a way to help our less experienced members get an idea of where they are and where they'd like to get to.

Regards,

Alan
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George Barr
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2007, 12:35:14 AM »
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Thanks Alan, and to everyone else who has been kind enough to make a comment or drop me a note - much appreciated.
George
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Quentin
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2007, 07:33:56 AM »
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Thanks Alan, and to everyone else who has been kind enough to make a comment or drop me a note - much appreciated.
George
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94896\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Very interesting article I look forward to the next two installments but...

Generally I am uneasy about categorising images like this.  It smacks a little of camera club culture where judges look for flaws and you end up trying to shoot an image to please the judge and his or her prejudices and not the image you really want.  Its probably more relevant to the technical than the artistic side of photography.

Also not all images end up as prints, but where they do I prefer glossy prints to matte prints in most cases (although I have done a lot of both), and I'd reject any idea (if that was the intention) that one is superior to the other - the reference to high gloss plastic prints might reflect a personal preference, but its not one I share.

However, I commend the article as thought provoking even if I don't necessarily agree with everything, so I look forward to reading the remaining installments  


Quentin
« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 07:36:35 AM by Quentin » Logged

Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 08:58:21 AM »
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Generally I am uneasy about categorising images like this.  It smacks a little of camera club culture where judges look for flaws and you end up trying to shoot an image to please the judge and his or her prejudices and not the image you really want.  Its probably more relevant to the technical than the artistic side of photography.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94923\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I am with you Quentin. Although I find the article interesting, there is a certain photosig side to the method proposed that might result in some "normalization" of images.

The thing is that it takes someone with photographic talent AND a well developped education background to make people grow along their own path when providing comment on their images. This is VERY difficult to do, and most peers will not be able to do that - simply because it is not their job. Technique can be assessed more or less objectively, but the rest cannot.

The importance of technique vanishes as one improves, and as vision becomes more central in one's work, I feel that the relevance of the proposed method decreases.

Regards,
Bernard
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amcinroy
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2007, 09:26:06 AM »
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Hopefully I will soon be able to make the "upgrade".

Personally, I don't feel the need to categorise myself in such a discrete way.

The whole thing smacks of americanised appraisal culture which I have some experience of. I have no wish to start applying this to my hobby.

Perhaps I'll get that promotion next year.

Andy
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« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 09:27:06 AM by amcinroy » Logged

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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2007, 09:49:12 AM »
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The whole thing smacks of americanised appraisal culture which I have some experience of.

In order to understand your post I'll need a definition of "americanised appraisal culture".
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francois
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2007, 09:55:03 AM »
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In order to understand your post I'll need a definition of "americanised appraisal culture".
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Francois
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2007, 10:01:27 AM »
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Personally, I don't feel the need to categorise myself in such a discrete way.

www.andymcinroy.com
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I didn't think the article suggested categorizing the photographer, but rather the print.

In my opinion, grading each print with a systemized system makes it much easier to assess where you stand and see progress.  While such systems often mean pleasing someone other than yourself, the photographer need not adopt any suggestions or comments he doesn't choose to.

Learning what other think helps to solidify what you think.  You may learn what you don't like as well as something you do.

I too am curious about what "americanised appraisal culture" means.
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amcinroy
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2007, 10:05:17 AM »
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In order to understand your post I'll need a definition of "americanised appraisal culture".
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94937\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

That would need a thesis.  

DarkPenguin. Please, I'm no troll. I am happy that my comment be read and comments  directed to the original article once again rather than my own comments. What do YOU think about the article. Tell us.

Andy
« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 10:16:44 AM by amcinroy » Logged

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Ken Tanaka
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2007, 11:33:00 AM »
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First, a thanks to George for preparing this piece and to Michael for posting it.

I've given George's self-assessment system nearly two days of thought.  It's a thoughtful swing at  the subject but I have the following reservations and thoughts.

The proposed appraisal system seems directed principally at a secular segment of photographers; mainly amateurs shooting landscapes and other still life.  Factors that affect other types of photography (ex: fashion, architectural, sports, journalism/documentary), and photography principally for publication, are absent from consideration.

George's self-appraisal system is also devoted as much toward printing as it is toward the much more significant matter of basic photographic craftsmanship and aesthetic judgement.  I am not at all sure that mixing those two factors together into one assessment "system" makes practical sense for two reasons.  First, printing is a craft in itself.  As in the wet darkroom days one can be very skilled at photography but very weak in printing.  Second, printing is not necessarily the universal destination of images today.  Many are only displayed electronically.  Others are produced only for mass print publication, a matter outside the photographer's control.  So I think printing should be considered separately from photography.

In my final analysis I am not confident that the generalized application such a self-assessment system would be very productive.  In the case of amateurs and hobbyists photography is generally an undertaking of enjoyment and relaxation, a diversion from more stressful obligatory activities. The process of photography for such folks is often more therapeutic than its actual product.  Imposing a grading system might be fun for some but, frankly, would not really enhance satisfaction of the activity for many.  They might as well go play golf within their handicap.

The cycle that's almost guaranteed to improve anyone's photography is:  practice, careful review, and self-corrected practice.  Although many amateurs are, consciously or not, largely attempting to become consistently competent mimicking work they admire, photography is still a personal endeavor.  The question of "Am I there yet?" can only be answered by comparing one's results against one's vision...whatever the source of that vision might be.  Productively judging one's self-performace is not a matter of grading; it's a matter of determining what's amiss with respect to one's own objectives.  

Digital imaging has delivered some truly wonderful tools for capturing, analyzing, and modifying photography.  But it has also pandered to those with photographic attention deficit disorder.  By allowing us to costlessly record hundreds of images digital imaging also encourages us to spend little time simply looking at any one of them.  I really believe that if most folks simply took more time to really consider their subjects and scenes during shooting, then much more thoughtful time later looking at the results, they'd find themselves much more satisfied with their photography -- sans a self-grading system.

Sorry to ramble.  Just my thoughts on the subject.

p.s.  
Andy:  I'll stake a wager -- the "British betting culture" -- that you can't reach "6G" by year's end in George's "Americanised appraisal" system!  
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2007, 11:52:05 AM »
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I think George has started a series that is at least thought provoking and commendably, it is clearly written.  I personally look forward to installments two and three.  

I also think it is okay to have defined levels of progress.  However I don't think said definitions necessarily correlate directly to one piece of work being "better art" than another...  (And to be fair to George, I don't think he's claimed they do, at least not in this first instalment.)  

As examples, one of my most sucessful images was taken with a relatively inexpensive 35mm film SLR and an even cheaper lens.  Using Velvia.  I print it normally at 16x24 and it sells very well.  On request, I will print it out to 24x32 -- WAYYYYY more than technically advisable by my own standards, but it still sells at that size...  Another one has the focus plane off. I missed proper focus, period, so the main subject is visibly oof with unimportant details being perfectly focused.  But the image is so compelling it stands solidly even with its glaring flaw.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 11:57:52 AM by Jack Flesher » Logged

larsrc
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2007, 07:36:53 AM »
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  The question of "Am I there yet?" can only be answered by comparing one's results against one's vision...whatever the source of that vision might be.  Productively judging one's self-performace is not a matter of grading; it's a matter of determining what's amiss with respect to one's own objectives. 

I was about to write something here about not wanting to get to "there" and then stop learning, but there could still be milestones that one would want to check for.

Quote
Digital imaging has delivered some truly wonderful tools for capturing, analyzing, and modifying photography.  But it has also pandered to those with photographic attention deficit disorder.  By allowing us to costlessly record hundreds of images digital imaging also encourages us to spend little time simply looking at any one of them.  I really believe that if most folks simply took more time to really consider their subjects and scenes during shooting, then much more thoughtful time later looking at the results, they'd find themselves much more satisfied with their photography -- sans a self-grading system.

Amen!  I made a deal with my wife when I got my first DSLR that I'd only buy more equipment with profits made from selling photography things.  This has forced me to actually look at my results for more than just the occasional competition, and has done a lot to make me think about how to improve my pictures, both when taking them and afterwards.

Still haven't made a profit, though:)  

-Lars
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George Barr
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2007, 05:46:42 PM »
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Gentelemen:

good points all. While I could, in fact did try to write a defence of my article, I realized in the end that each of the concerns expressed above is entirely legitimate and its simply up to me to deal with the concens as I will. In fact the second article is already written and almost ready to send to Michael and the third written in rough. I will however reread my third article, which after all is the one with the actual suggestions for improvement, and take your points into consideration.

Of course, if the issue is whether to even attempt to help people improve, well it's nothing ventured, nothing gained... We'll just have to see.
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ddolde
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2007, 10:44:45 AM »
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I thought this was a completly worthless article and found it of no interest, tiring reading and generally a waste of my time.
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ricwis
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2007, 06:25:59 PM »
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Wow! That was about as rude and worthless reply as I've read on this forum.  I thought we were above that kind of in your face slap.  Personally, I enjoyed reading the article and appreciate the time and thought that went into it.  If you did not like it go on to something else that pops your cork but don't ruin the discussion with this kind of stuff.  I am personally offended by your remarks and I did not even write the article.  But as a member of the forum, it is offensive to see this kind of response and I think  you should be called on it.
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Rich Wisler
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Pete JF
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2007, 07:39:11 PM »
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I don't see it that way. That was the complete opposite of a saucy compliment. Nothing wrong with it, the guy was honest. If you put an article like that on an internet discussion board you had better be prepared for people who don't like it and express it.
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Hank
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2007, 09:04:36 PM »
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I read the article closely and with particular interest because it shares the title of a 3-day workshop offered around the country by Sam Abell.  I took the workshop a number of years ago and found Sam's careful tutelage especially useful.  Looking back over the span of time, I found that the experience really did precipitate worthwhile change in my photography.

With that as background, I think I am in a position to read the article more critically than most.  I find it especially interesting that both Sam Abell and George Barr make the same points, but in different ways and with different words.  

Argue with the choice of words ias you like, but I've proven to my own satisfaction that the principles behind them are sound.  Even with the change in vocabulary, it's useful to me to have those points reiterated in written form for easy review after the passage of time.  I'll refer back to them again, because I suspect their application to my current photography will be as valuable as before.  

Congratulations on a terrific article George!  I look forward to the remaining two installments!

As for your outspoken critics, I look forward to reading their articles and the words they choose to help others.  That is, if they can ever motivate themselves to make constructive contributions to the literature on the subject.  Until those appear for all to judge, I think their remarks can be safely and fruitfully ignored.
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George Barr
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« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2007, 07:05:09 PM »
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Wow, I don't know which is worse, dealing with the occasional very negative comments about the article, or living up to the expectations of Hank based on his experience with the famous and skilled Sam Abell.

Still, I'm committed and the articles mostly written so I'll stumble on.

Articles on Luminous Landscape can be entertaining they can be informative, or they can be educational.

Informative articles if you already know the information are not likely to generate a whole lot of controversy even if they are a bit boring. Educational articles, on the other hand, quite reasonably risk not only NOT being helpful but criticised by those who feel this isn't the way to teach things, or who feel the person doing the teaching isn't competent to do so. Education involves strategies and quite reasonably we don't all agree on strategies.

What I think we do need to remember is that the skill set that people bring with them to Luminous Landscape varies hugely. There are people like some of those commenting above who bring many years of experience and skill to the website, but I suspect there are a lot more people who don't come with 20 or more years of experience, who have never sold a print or been published and who struggle with issues foreign or dimmly rememberd to the more experienced amongst us.

Fortunately positive feedback has far outweighed negative but lets face it, I presented a controversial idea, that there could be a better way to learn, that there might be a faster way, or heaven forbid a short cut.  Time will tell if it really is useful.

The most negative comments have come from people who do fashion or sports and who see my levels as not applying to their kind of photography. As my own interests are not in sports and fashion, I dare say that to some degree they are right. Great sports shots are often not very sharp and yet large prints can be dramatic and powerful.  Capturing the peak moment is far more important than perfect focus or tripod steadiness. That said though, the great sports shots are the ones which strongly convey a message, which make you feel the athlete's pain, their glory in victory, and so on. The sports photographers who use motion blurring with great skill are almost certain to have learned to hold a camera steady before they learned to move it with skill. A nude can be erotic or anatomical, so I think the levels I describe for the most part still apply, especially the aesthetic ones.

I remember some years ago attending a lecture on back pain and the ideas presented were absolute rubish and my blood pressure was steadily climbing as the talk proceded. I left cursing under my breath about wasting my time. Six months later though Things he'd said kept coming back to me and seemed to apply to situations my patients found them selves in. That information has been amongst the most useful continuing medical education I have ever experienced. A similar experience occured when I took a photograph appreciation course and found it boring and a waste of time. I have never looked at a photograph the same way since.

Whether my little contribution will be of that class is doubtful, but I can hope. Perhaps even my doubters will down the road find something that applies or is useful.
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mcanyes
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« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2007, 08:50:30 PM »
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I thought this was a completly worthless article and found it of no interest, tiring reading and generally a waste of my time.
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Doug, that was unnecessary. Congrats, you have just been added to my ignore list.
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Michael Canyes
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Carl Harsch
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« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2007, 09:09:40 PM »
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I enjoyed the read and look forward to the future installments.
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