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Author Topic: Fascism of flawless photographs  (Read 86103 times)
howiesmith
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« Reply #40 on: May 04, 2007, 12:25:38 PM »
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"Inside/outside what box?" was the first thing that hit me upon reading this post.  Certainly they are outside the National Geographic/Arizona Highways box, as I understand the limits of that particular box.  They aren't "realistic".  It's not what one would have seen were they standing where the tripod stood. 

(A 1/2,000 second shutter speed shot that freezes a single drop of water is also not "realistic", but closer.  With concentration I can see a single drop as it falls.)

But unless we are talking about a specific box (realistic landscape, abstract fashion, whatever) I think we should be careful about discarding photographs based on either content or technique.  If someone likes it, it's liked.

That said, I think at times someone introduces a novel treatment, be it crooked horizons, intentional "smearing" by long exposures, exaggerated grain, oversaturation, etc. that are entertaining, even thought provoking in their presentation.  But often those treatments are adopted by many, many photographers and become trite.

Milky water has, to me, become as distasteful as those paintings of big eyed kids that were so popular a few decades back.  Interesting on first or second view.  Off putting by the thousandth. 

One of the most "digged" images on the web (hope that is a meaningful statement) is one of a waterfall in eastern Europe.  It's a very beautiful set of moderate-height waterfalls shot at a very low shutter speed.  While admired by many, to me it looks as if there has been a major catastrophe at an ice cream plant upstream.  Hundreds of thousands of melted vanilla are rushing downstream....

So, yes, I am talking about personal bias.  But putting my bias in the context of "too much of a good thing can give one a belly ache".
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What box?  Fair question.  I was originally think the "norm." but I will change that to mine.  Pretty self centered.

While thinking about your post. I realized fashion photographers and the people who pay their bills aren't trying to sell me anything.  A am not the audience.  Come to think of it, I don't even know anyone that dresses that way nor do they shop where I shop.  Fashion photos may be what you would see standing next to the runway, but I have never seen that on the street.  I can just as easily argue "not real" as you do about National Geographic.

No photo will appeal to all people.  Their must be an audience.

But back to the notion of technical excellance.  Fashion may have a different set of ideas about what is excellant.  That's fine.  But I think fashion photographers are then held to those standards.  Overexposed a stop means a stop, not two.  Are the rules as free as "Point.  Shot.  Whatever I get is perfect."?

I was thinking about looking at a bunch of fashion shots and commenting they all look underexposed.  The photogrpaher explains that the battery in his flash was dead, but assures me the shots are otherwise perfect.  Then there are several overexposed by a couple stops,  The photographer explains he realized his flash wasn't working and borrowed one.  He didn't have time to learn how it worked so he overexposed the shots.  Toss the lot.  Not arty.  Too big a leap (for me at least) to make in technical excellance.

"Too much of a good thing can give you a belly ache."  I think it was Way WEst who said too much of a good thing was wonderful.

++++++++++++++++++

See Bobtrips post below.  Yes, I did mean May West.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2007, 04:05:46 PM by howiesmith » Logged
Bobtrips
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« Reply #41 on: May 04, 2007, 12:51:48 PM »
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"Too much of a good thing can give you a belly ache."  I think it was Way WEst who said too much of a good thing was wonderful.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=115701\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think you meant May West.

If so, then one might say that too much of some things can leave one sore but with a smile on ones face....
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Ray
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« Reply #42 on: May 04, 2007, 09:54:07 PM »
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I was thinking about looking at a bunch of fashion shots and commenting they all look underexposed.  The photogrpaher explains that the battery in his flash was dead, but assures me the shots are otherwise perfect.  Then there are several overexposed by a couple stops,  The photographer explains he realized his flash wasn't working and borrowed one.  He didn't have time to learn how it worked so he overexposed the shots.  Toss the lot.  Not arty.  Too big a leap (for me at least) to make in technical excellance.

I didn't know there were photographers around with that attitude, Howard. Is this an anecdote from personal experience of photographers' attitudes, or are you just repeating what some photography teacher told you?

To Bobtrips, knowing how supercritical you are of my photos, does the following waterfall shot appeal? D60, 500th sec, f11, ISO 400, 15mm lens, uncropped.

[attachment=2445:attachment]

To Howard: you may pull this photo to pieces but I reserve the right of rebuttal, but without the pathetic excuses you refer to above   .

ps. Forgot. For the record, Milla Milla Falls, Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland, Australia.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2007, 09:57:17 PM by Ray » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #43 on: May 05, 2007, 02:21:43 PM »
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I can't think of a single photograph generally regarded as "great" in which technical perfection, whatever that means, was an issue of any kind -- either the presence or the lack of it. When it's present, it's taken for granted. When it's not, it's unnecessary. Technical perfection used to be hard to get because everything was done manually and at slow speeds, and then had to go (blindly) through a series of chemical baths in which many things could go wrong. Therefore, most images had some imperfection, but it didn't keep them from being considered "great." If you're a collector, one of the one-going discussions that takes place is whether or not a print of a given image is a "good" one. Ansel Adams printed several hundred and maybe more copies of Moonrise, in several different sizes, and the quality varies (although it's usually extremely high) -- but the image itself is considered by most collectors to be one of the greats; in other words, the quality of the image exists separately from the technical perfection of the print. Capa's Normandy landing photos were damaged in the lab (he didn't process them) but are still considered great, partly because the damage to the photos seemed to enhance the terror and violence of the moment. Paul Caponigro's "Running White Deer" has sharp trees and blurred white deer; if he'd chosen another technique, he could have had blurred trees and sharp white deer; if he'd chosen another technique, they both might have been sharp. So which is technical perfection? Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Behind the Gare St. Lazare" (man jumping a puddle) is actually a little fuzzy...so what?

I can even think of a couple of famous photos that were partially faked -- in one, a figure was eliminated because of a conflict with another figure (but the photographer neglected to remove the shadow of the missing figure) and in another, by O. Winston Link, his famous drive-in shot with the plane on the drive-in screen, the image on the screen was almost certainly a cut-and-paste job.  

I personally don't think technical perfection is very hard to get anymore -- if you can afford a tripod and good equipment, and are shooting landscapes, your camera can probably take something close to technically perfect photographs with very little input on your part. Most photo-journalists in fast-breaking situations will put their camera on auto-everything and concentrate on the action, letting the camera take care of exposure and focus; you need to know a few more things, of course, but if somebody seriously applied himself, I doubt that it would take more than a month or so of parttime work to get to the place where 95%+ of your landscape photographs would meet the standard of "technically perfect."

Whether or not they were interesting is a whole different issue; that's one reason why so many issues of National Geographic are so forgettable.

JC
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Ray
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« Reply #44 on: May 05, 2007, 05:51:44 PM »
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I can't think of a single photograph generally regarded as "great" in which technical perfection, whatever that means, was an issue of any kind -- either the presence or the lack of it.

John,
You've basically answered the question. Technical perfection doesn't of course exist. Everything is relative. Three dimensions are represented by two. Dynamic range is compressed enormously on the print. Images that appear sharp are just that, an appearance of sharpness relative to other frequent appearances and experiences of 'less sharpness'.

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Ansel Adams printed several hundred and maybe more copies of Moonrise, in several different sizes, and the quality varies (although it's usually extremely high) -- but the image itself is considered by most collectors to be one of the greats; in other words, the quality of the image exists separately from the technical perfection of the print.

From the stories I've read of the taking of that shot, the fact that Ansel didn't even have time to remove an inappropriate filter from the lens and had to guess the exposure, it would appear that the consequences of a lower-than-usual state of perfection on the negative resulted in the need for an unusual amount of processing in the darkroom to compensate as much as possible for that lack of technical quality.

I don't know about you, but I usually feel slightly disappointed when I see old photographs hanging on the wall in restaurants and public places, often showing how a particulat street looked 150 years ago, because they are usually quite blurred. They are often reproductions of reproductions, the negatives having been lost years ago.

However, when I see photos from a true master, whose negatives have been preserved, a photographer who was concerned with the technical quality of his shots and who used the best equipment of the day, a photographer such as Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, perhaps the most famous photographer in the world around the end of the 19th century, I'm amazed at the quality of the prints and can't help thinking if his photos were blurred and indistinct like so many 'reproductions of reproductions from old prints', they wouldn't be nearly as interesting.
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Digiteyesed
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« Reply #45 on: May 07, 2007, 01:15:11 AM »
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This thread reminded me of an article by Chip Simmons that I stumbled across recently:

"Once upon a time I shot a computer big wig…and he was such an ass, I thought (and said) "you know…I don't think people care what you look like anyway…but they do care what you say" ... so I proceeded to shoot him out of focus and as a silhouette."

Also, consider this...

http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/flat4.asp?id=6909
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Neutral Hills Stills
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Ray
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« Reply #46 on: May 07, 2007, 02:33:52 AM »
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This thread reminded me of an article by Chip Simmons that I stumbled across recently:

There's a lot of sense in that article. I agree with most of the points. Nevertheless, I have to say, I don't like out-of-focus parts of an image that draw attention to themselves, which is often the case when the OoF part is in the foreground or to the side of the part that's in focus. It generally just doesn't seem right and doesn't appeal to me. I don't like portraits where the eye is in focus but the nose is OoF, or picturesque scenes of babbling brooks where there's a big boulder in the foreground that's OoF.

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Also, consider this...

http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/flat4.asp?id=6909
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=116083\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

That's an amusing film which raises the intriguing question, to what extent is our idea of beauty fashioned and shaped by the images that inundate us, and to what extent are those images altered and manipulated to conform with some innate preference for a certain kind of symmetry.

I'm a believer in the Darwinian framework of evolution. We respond to our environment and do whatever works. It's curious, and yet understandable, as well as rather amazing, that certain bird species are now imitating the sound of mobile phones; presumably to add to their repertoire of tantalising calls to impress the opposite sex   .
« Last Edit: May 07, 2007, 03:52:02 AM by Ray » Logged
howiesmith
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« Reply #47 on: May 07, 2007, 02:11:25 PM »
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I just read the article by Chip Simmons.  He could go another logical step and say you don't have to do anything.

I would also say that shooting a portrait out of focud and in sillouettte requres one to know how to focus and light.  The technique won't work even close to everytime and probably shouldn't be tried very often.  Not every CEO or photo editor will get it.

I may get a job on giant ego alone, but to keep it, I had better produce something the boss wants.  I can lie about my skill taking photos, but sooner or later, someone will figure out I'm a lier and the gig is up.

Oh, and I also decided I don't have to think his photos are cool.  I can just as easily (and have) decide they are junk.  I know I don't care and I'm pretty sure Chip Simmon doesn't care.

It is easy to say I don't want to shoot the cover of the Rolling Stone when I know the Rolling Stone would never let me.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2007, 02:32:09 PM by howiesmith » Logged
Digiteyesed
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« Reply #48 on: May 07, 2007, 11:47:44 PM »
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Oh, and I also decided I don't have to think his photos are cool.  I can just as easily (and have) decide they are junk.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=116205\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I rather like many of his light painted portraits. I'm not so fond of the rest of his work. I do admire his "Devil may care" attitude, however. :-)
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larsrc
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« Reply #49 on: May 12, 2007, 04:16:35 AM »
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I rather like many of his light painted portraits. I'm not so fond of the rest of his work. I do admire his "Devil may care" attitude, however. :-)
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=116309\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

As a long-time fan of surrealism, I like most but not all of that page.  His photographs show a fired imagination, which is great. It's obviously not the type of photography that we focus on on this site, but then we can't do everything.

-Lars
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« Reply #50 on: October 08, 2007, 02:22:14 PM »
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When it comes to style, the main issue is and remains one of illustration.  The style should help visually comunicate.  If second curtain sync is called for, use it.  If putting a horizon in the middle of the photo creates a stronger feel of symmetry, use it.  If shooting scene "perfectly" more correctly communicates the message, use it.  I think that the most concerting situations come from people who forget that photography is at it's core visual communication and only see colors, sharpness, etc and lose the general message.  When breaking the rules, its always good to know them first so it's a decision, not a happy accident.
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inissila
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« Reply #51 on: November 05, 2007, 07:09:53 AM »
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What I'm suggesting is that perhaps we as photographers sometimes put too much emphasis on the traditionally good technical qualities of our images (like focus, sharpness etc.,), when we should be trying to find a way to a illustrate a dream or a thought we had.  This is a contstant struggle for me.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=115260\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Why  would you want to use photography to illustrate a dream or a thought?

I would think a drawing or a painting would be better suited for the task, since then you can have everything according to your vision.

Photography works best to illustrate the physical "real" world.
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Rob C
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« Reply #52 on: November 07, 2007, 02:58:33 PM »
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Why  would you want to use photography to illustrate a dream or a thought?

I would think a drawing or a painting would be better suited for the task, since then you can have everything according to your vision.

Photography works best to illustrate the physical "real" world.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=150659\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Go tell that to the movies!

Rob C
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #53 on: November 07, 2007, 08:26:34 PM »
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Why  would you want to use photography to illustrate a dream or a thought?

I would think a drawing or a painting would be better suited for the task, since then you can have everything according to your vision.

Photography works best to illustrate the physical "real" world.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=150659\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Pretty much the entire history of "fine art" photography has been devoted to using photography to illustrate dreams or thoughts. This was certainly true of Oscar Rheylander (sp?) in the 19th century, it was Alfred Stieglitz's "Big Idea" at the start of the 20th century; it was true for Minor White, Dianne Arbus, and many others in the 20th century, and certainly for the "conceptual" photographers of today, whether you like what they do or not.

Even product photographs in catalogs are trying to push a thought (selling), as is pornography, landscape photography, and photojournalism.

I, for one, find "thoughtless" photography rather boring.
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Rob C
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« Reply #54 on: November 08, 2007, 03:33:12 AM »
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Pretty much the entire history of "fine art" photography has been devoted to using photography to illustrate dreams or thoughts. This was certainly true of Oscar Rheylander (sp?) in the 19th century, it was Alfred Stieglitz's "Big Idea" at the start of the 20th century; it was true for Minor White, Dianne Arbus, and many others in the 20th century, and certainly for the "conceptual" photographers of today, whether you like what they do or not.

Even product photographs in catalogs are trying to push a thought (selling), as is pornography, landscape photography, and photojournalism.

I, for one, find "thoughtless" photography rather boring.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=151221\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

If not, in fact, rather difficult to achieve!
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Ray
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« Reply #55 on: November 10, 2007, 12:53:03 PM »
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Shouldn't we be making a distinction between a dream and a thought?

Thoughts are modified by practical reality. Dreams are chaotic, confused, impractical, impossible, disjointed, uncontrollable, spontaneous and often apparently meaningless. Is that how you want your photos to be? And if the answer is yes, how do you get them to match your dreams?
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Rob C
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« Reply #56 on: November 11, 2007, 10:39:44 AM »
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Ray, that´s a very interesting bit of self-analysis you opened up to us: I had no idea that your dreams and thoughts were different; I had always assumed that for most if not all of us, one was but an extension of the other. Why else would anyone try to earn the daily crust via photography?

Better behave, now, Big Daddy´s back and I see he´s already getting noised up  from some quarters! An interesting step back into Nikon history, though, and I have to - no, want to - agree  that the Nikon F was the way to go in its day. For myself, I bought an F2 as backup to an F and its only advantage for me was that, with a lot of hand-held shooting (oh those glorious days!) the F did get a little hard on the hand with its sharper edges; the F2 cured that.

I would also like to add that the F4 body, which I bought by mistake because the lack of advertising had led me to believe that the F3 had vanished from this world, was certainly a step in the wrong direction, marking a moment when classical camera design was abandoned to Italian car designer input. Why?

It marked another milestone in the dumbing down of photography, in the quest to do-it-all-for-you thinking: the public had clearly found it too difficult or even  impossible to load a film in the traditional manner, that was a challenge too far for the then photographer with sixpence to spend? Frankly, for all the positives that the F4 might have had, it went when I found a new F3 because of that damn supposed self-loading pantomime, which ensured that I had a minimum of three attempts each time I had to change film. Cool stuff.

Anyway, life goes on, and the world reaps what the makers sow.

Rob C
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Moynihan
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« Reply #57 on: February 10, 2008, 05:29:43 PM »
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This shot of a raptor and its handler...

Really like that one.

jay
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« Reply #58 on: February 10, 2008, 05:43:43 PM »
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Chip Simmons...

Thanks for pointing him out. New to me, interesting stuff.
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #59 on: April 20, 2008, 07:44:37 PM »
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This was an interesting thread to read after having spent my afternoon on a blog-treatise on the future of digital photography. I think part of the drive to create the perfect image comes from the inability to stop working on an image when there are still ways to improve it. The more tools that are offered to improve an image the harder it is to stop and accept the image as it is.

If even half of my predictions come true (virtualized camera position, virtualized aperture, virtualized shutter etc) then we will all have FAR more ability to manipulate/refine an image in post than we have right now.

Maybe we are all doomed. One thing is sure: technology won't stop long enough for us to fully resolve the aesthetic and artistic questions it raises, so this will always be an ongoing debate.

Doug Peterson Doug Peterson's Weddings, Portraits and more
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