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Author Topic: End of traditional photography?  (Read 15731 times)
RSL
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« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2010, 07:57:56 AM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
That is surely ONE of the photography's great strengths, but there are surely others of equal validity.

Chuck, Strange, you didn't name any.
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« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2010, 09:33:30 PM »
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Chuck, Strange, you didn't name any.

Not strange, it really wasn't on topic. But to answer you question the unique strength of photography is simply it's ability to be a medium of record, to act as witness. The human condition IS an important subset of that, but no more so than other genres. Take the Hubble telescope, for instance. It's images have captivated and educated us for years, and have lead to a broader understanding of the cosmos and our own existence. In that same vein, the landscape photographs of Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher (and the guy who first photographed the Yellowstone area, whose name I forget) have captivated and educated millions of people, leading to important environmental protections of their respective areas. Brett Weston's sand dune portfolios are beautiful and inspiring, as are his fathers images of Point Lobos. The list goes on and on.

Sure, documentary and photojournalism are important aspects of photography. That cannot be denied, but to label them as the overarching power of photography is, IMHO, a bit narrow of thought.


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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2010, 08:31:25 AM »
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Chuck, If you see photography strictly as a recording technology I can't argue with you. No human hand can record reality as accurately as can photography -- not even the hand of Charles Sheeler. I failed to make clear that I was talking about photography as an artform. I agree: the Hubble is a marvel of technology. But things get a bit less clear when you bring in the photographs of Ansel Adams and others of his persuasion -- including Edward and Brett. Technologically, their work was excellent. But, at the risk of being considered an apostate to photography's cause, I'd suggest that landscape painting by people like Thomas Cole and Asher Durand always has pushed photography into a back seat. I'd say further that the work of HCB, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Elliott Erwitt, Garry Winogrand, Steve McCurry, et al goes way beyond documentation and photojournalism. The meaning of humanity shines out from some of these pictures in a way no other artform can mimic.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 09:09:21 AM by RSL » Logged

ckimmerle
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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2010, 11:30:38 AM »
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I'd suggest that landscape painting by people like Thomas Cole and Asher Durand always has pushed photography into a back seat.

Nonsense. Both Cole and Durand specialized in pictorial romanticism with little emphasis on reality. Ansel, the Westons, Robert Adams, Butcher (and the bulk of modern landscape photographers then and now) use(d) the camera to record (in their own individuality) a reality they had actually witnessed. Both sets may be creating landscapes, but their work is so different in both purpose and mannerisms that neither can be considered better or more important than the other.


Quote from: RSL
I'd say further that the work of HCB, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Elliott Erwitt, Garry Winogrand, Steve McCurry, et al goes way beyond documentation and photojournalism. The meaning of humanity shines out from some of these pictures in a way no other artform can mimic.

Considering that HCB and Erwitt had no problems either creating or recreating scenes, their work cannot be held in the same regard as either documentary or photojournalistic photographers such as McCurry and Winogrand or Evans.  I'm not at all saying that the work of HCB and Erwitt is less valuable as an art form, just that inferring general documentary or journalistic attributes is unfair to those who actually practice the "ethics" those genres require.

As for photography being a recording technology, I stick by the definition. It's that unique attribute that differentiates photography from all other art forms. Please don't assume that I mean the end result of all photography should be a simple reproduction of reality. Far from it. However, the recording of a scene (real or otherwise) is the basis for ALL photography.
 

corrected for slight grammatical boo-boos
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 01:02:30 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2010, 12:23:04 PM »
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Nonsense. Both Cole and Durand specialized in pictorial romanticism with little emphasis on reality. Ansel, the Westons, Robert Adams, Butcher (and the bulk of modern landscape photographers then and now) use(d) the camera to record (in their own individuality) a reality they had actually witnessed. Both sets may be creating landscapes, but their work is so different in both purpose and mannerisms that neither can be considered better or more important than the other.

Sorry, but I think the idea that a landscape photograph can record "reality" is a bit of a stretch. But even if that were possible I doubt a good landscape photographer would argue that his main job is to record reality. The thing that Cole and Durand's pictorial romanticism can give you is an Ahhhh...! I think the work of "the bulk of modern landscape photographers" often is interesting, but it rarely, if ever, transmits the emotion and understanding that an effective painting can transmit. Yes, a good landscape painter transmits the Ahhh by warping reality: emphasizing some things and de-emphasizing other things. But that often gets the message across much more effectively than a photographic record can do, no matter how well the photograph is shot and printed. "Moonrise Over Hernandez" is one of Ansel's most effective photographs, but it's especially effective because it includes the hand of man. In a sense, it's a super street shot.

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Considering that HCB and Erwitt had not problems either creating or recreating scenes, their work cannot be held in the same regard as either documentary or photojournalistic photographers such as McCurry and Winogrand or Evans.  I'm not at all saying that the work of HCB and Erwitt is less valuable as an art form, just that inferring general documentary or journalistic attributes is unfair to those who actually practice the "ethics" those genres require.

Sorry, Chuck. You lost me with that one. I've read it about five times and I still don't understand what you said.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 12:25:32 PM by RSL » Logged

Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2010, 12:40:50 PM »
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IMO reality as we perceive it is at first the result of an interaction between
- the object or motive - be it a physical object or something like an emotion
- the artist
- the technique (camera, film, paint, pencil, etc ...)
- the context of presentation and metadata (like declaring it "documentary" or "digitally manipulated")
- the viewer
- the ever changing mood of the viewers cat or the artists cat or of both cats and, of course my cat.

Some techniques tend to stress the physical properties of reality - photography does so.
Other techniques tend to stress the subjective part of it (e.g. oil paintings, pastell chalk, etc.).

But despite of its highly objective nature photography has the ability to be highly subjective
and paintings can be very accurate in a technical meaning (e.g. photorealism).
 
In any case the artwork is the result of that highly complex interaction.

my $.02

~Chris
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 12:41:59 PM by ChristophC » Logged

ckimmerle
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« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2010, 12:43:32 PM »
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Russ, you had said that the work of HCB and Erwitt transcended photojournalism and documentary. I don't agree. Both were prone to contriving scenes, which is the antithesis to either pj or documentary.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 01:07:12 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2010, 02:53:27 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Russ, you had said that the work of HCB and Erwitt transcended photojournalism and documentary. I don't agree. Both were prone to contriving scenes, which is the antithesis to either pj or documentary.

Chuck, Can you give me an example? I don't deny that Erwitt contrived scenes. That was his job. Unlike HCB he had to make a living with his photography. (He was doing a commercial shoot on kitchen appliances the day Nixon and Khrushchev walked in.) But when he was through with a day's work he did his own personal shooting -- for fun. That wasn't contrived. I don't know of any situation where HCB contrived a scene, though there may have been one. In my own estimation, HCB's did his best work in the thirties.
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« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2010, 04:07:00 PM »
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Russ, I attended a lecture 10 or 15 years ago in which the speaker called into question a few of Bresson's images. At the time his reasoning seemed valid and reliable. I really wish I could remember the specifics. In retrospect, though, I should NOT have included Bresson along with Erwitt. The approaches of the two are quite different and, more importantly, the source of my information could be considered, for all practical purposes, hearsay.....or more correctly heresy.

Should have thought more before responding.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 04:08:35 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2010, 04:31:43 PM »
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There is a big point missing in this thread. Traditional photography won´t die as long as it is fun and rewarding to do it. What would you rather do this spring, go to Alaska and shoot landscapes, or sit in the dark in front of your computer making fakes in Terragen?

What I do see is great applications in advertising photography, which anyway will eventually succumb to 3D modeling, and all that fake artificial imagery that most agencies love. The quest for a perfect world, no blemishes, no scratches, leads us to a place of boredom and unsurprising events. Remember in the eighties when people went to the movies just to see the effects?
We have just lost the capacity to be surprised by all these megahypercybershiny little mirrors swinging before our eyes.
Doing honest photography that is about real people, real events and real places, I think will always have its appeal and its place. And this is exactly the type of photography that needs a photographer to do it. Not a computer geek. (Nothing wrong with computer geeks).
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« Reply #30 on: February 01, 2010, 05:03:27 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Russ, I attended a lecture 10 or 15 years ago in which the speaker called into question a few of Bresson's images. At the time his reasoning seemed valid and reliable. I really wish I could remember the specifics. In retrospect, though, I should NOT have included Bresson along with Erwitt. The approaches of the two are quite different and, more importantly, the source of my information could be considered, for all practical purposes, hearsay.....or more correctly heresy.

Should have thought more before responding.

Chuck, I don't think you need to apologize for heresy after my burst of iconoclasm. In spite of the lack of first-hand evidence I'm not entirely convinced all of HCB's stuff was as virginal as he made it out to be either, but, like you I lack the evidence. Sometimes I think he was like The Shadow: He could cloud men's minds. The one that always blows me away is "The Locks at Bougival." He was standing just behind the guy's elbow with the camera in a vertical position at his eye, which means his right arm was above his head, yet nobody in the picture saw him -- except the dog on the boat. Amazing!
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« Reply #31 on: February 01, 2010, 06:20:42 PM »
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As long as pressing the shutter release is faster than designing, building, texturing, and rendering a CG image, there will be a place for photography.
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Rob C
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« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2010, 04:29:07 AM »
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I think Jonathan has cut to the chase here; I would add that photography is supposed to be about the doing, in the amateur mode, and about the result in the professional one. I already find current pro digital work so different a scene to what I was doing myself that it not only looks as if I could never fully enjoy doing it, but that since so many other people are involved in the doing, it wouldn't really appeal to me much anyhow, as I don't think of myself as a team player. The whole attraction about being a pro when I started up was doing your own thing; the only fly in the ointment was the need for a client.

As another contributor from Madrid mentioned in another thread (about the costs of being a snapper), so much time and damage is being done to the person since digital, much of it in terms of physical discomfort and long-term threat to health. Apart from that, there isn't really any true parallel between darkroom work and digital computer manipulation. Yes, of course they both lead to an image, but the doing appeals to such different emotions as to make (my opinion) no similarity in the experience of the journey. To repeat myself for the umpteenth time: had I been faced, when I started, with digital photography as the norm instead of the classical type as was, I doubt that I would have felt remotely interested. It's only because I have built my life around the damn thing that I still continue messing about with it now, despite myself.

Rob C
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« Reply #33 on: February 05, 2010, 08:48:40 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
.... I would add that photography is supposed to be about the doing, in the amateur mode, and about the result in the professional one.

I think we've pretty much exhausted this discussion, so I don't feel guilty for going OT......

I think know what you're trying to say, Rob, but for me the "doing" is is as fulfilling, if not more so, than are the "results". As with all art, the entire process of photography, from finding a subject to making the final print, is experiential. It's one single, long process.

I would suggest that your definitions are reversed. Professionals are about the entire process (doing) and hobbyists are solely about the final product (print or digital file).

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« Reply #34 on: February 05, 2010, 09:57:45 AM »
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I think we've pretty much exhausted this discussion, so I don't feel guilty for going OT......

I think know what you're trying to say, Rob, but for me the "doing" is is as fulfilling, if not more so, than are the "results". As with all art, the entire process of photography, from finding a subject to making the final print, is experiential. It's one single, long process.

I would suggest that your definitions are reversed. Professionals are about the entire process (doing) and hobbyists are solely about the final product (print or digital file).
This resonates with me, Chuck (but I don't know how it divides pro from amateur). In my darkroom days (B&W only) for many years I was enamoured of the entire process -- with one exception, that being developing the darn film, which was boring, boring, boring.

Then one day I noticed that the film development process gave me time to relax and meditate, sort of a zen-like thing. Thereafter I found myself enjoying that part of the process, too.


Then, of course, moving to a digital workflow meant giving up parts of the traditional process and substituting different ones.

As for the "doing" being fulfilling, I remember vividly my first few weeks with an 8x10 camera. It was so satisfying just setting up and looking at the "full-sized" image on the ground glass that I often felt I didn't need to shoot film at all.

As for pro vs. amateur, my feeling is this: A pro is one who makes a substantial part of his living from photography, while an amateur is someone who loves doing photography. The two are not mutually exclusive categories. Some pros are also amateurs (and judging from your work and your comments, I'd say you fit both categories). Some amateurs are good photographers. Some are not. Some pros are so stressed out that they don't love what they are doing, even though they make good money at it.

Eric
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Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: February 05, 2010, 03:08:00 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I think Jonathan has cut to the chase here; I would add that photography is supposed to be about the doing, in the amateur mode, and about the result in the professional one.
Rob C




What I mean by that is simply that the amateur can enjoy the luxury of self-indulgence in the doing of photography whilst for the pro, whether he enjoy it as much or not, the bottom line is earning a living and that depends greatly on the final result, not on whether he has a good time getting there.

I did not see myself excluding the pro from enjoyment, simply stating that it can't be his top priority which has to be keeping the business going. I would guess it a given that most of us who are/have been pros were there because of the love; whether that alone could possibly sustain the venture is another matter! I dare say there have been pros with the financial clout to pick and choose work; I did a little of that myself by limiting the search for clients to a narrow field - not always brilliant as a strategy, but about as far as I could go in keeping alive my own interest in photography. Frankly, looking back over it all, it did give some great times, but at huge cost in many other ways. In fact, in any other field than model-related work, I think that the amateur has the edge because he probaby doesn't need a client to pay the huge bills such interests inevitably create. He can shoot all the buildings, bottles, landscapes, cars or city streets he wants - they are all around him for free.

Rob C
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« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2010, 11:26:24 AM »
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This resonates with me, Chuck (but I don't know how it divides pro from amateur).

The trouble with the term "amateur" is that many are as serious and talented as professionals. It wasn't all that long ago that the term was given to people who were actually more knowledgeable and creative than professionals in many fields, as they had the means to pursue their interests full-time. That's how photography, as we know it, came into existence.

To be honest, as everyone now has a camera of some sort, I'm not sure what we call the most casual of users; those that only want pictures for memories:  parties, family vacations, drunk uncle Willie in a dress kissing the family dog, etc. It was THAT group to which I was referring when I said they were only interested in the simplest version of the final product, destined for a photo album or Facebook page.

Professionals and serious amateurs are about the print, to be sure, but only as it relates to the entire process, start to finish.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2010, 11:29:36 AM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2010, 01:05:25 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
The trouble with the term "amateur" is that many are as serious and talented as professionals. It wasn't all that long ago that the term was given to people who were actually more knowledgeable and creative than professionals in many fields, as they had the means to pursue their interests full-time. That's how photography, as we know it, came into existence.

To be honest, as everyone now has a camera of some sort, I'm not sure what we call the most casual of users; those that only want pictures for memories:  parties, family vacations, drunk uncle Willie in a dress kissing the family dog, etc. It was THAT group to which I was referring when I said they were only interested in the simplest version of the final product, destined for a photo album or Facebook page.

Professionals and serious amateurs are about the print, to be sure, but only as it relates to the entire process, start to finish.
Yes!
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« Reply #38 on: February 08, 2010, 12:02:30 PM »
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I think it is strange that these topics come up over and over again and yet no one seems to want to acknowledge the definitions. Also, I find it strange that digital technology is still (after all this time) somehow seen as perverting 'traditional photography'. Photography is the formation of an image on a light sensitive material by a lens. There is a little leeway in this definition (e.g. infra-red instead of light, a pinhole instead of a lens), but it is first and foremost a recording medium. People will then dismiss the recording bit by trying to say that what you abstract or omit from your composition makes it impossible to record a 'literal truth' (whatever that is) and therefore anything can be allowed as a photograph, provided it looks like one. Rubbish I say. Photographs never represent literal or absolute truths, but personal truths or realities. This is true of any photographic genre, be it landscape, street, documentary or whatever. When someone views a photograph, provided they understand what the medium is, they will have an entirely reasonable expectation that what the photographer saw at the time the photograph was taken is more or less what they would have seen had they been there with them. The photographer in turn has a duty to the medium to not distort this understanding by introducing or removing compositional elements that simply did not exist at the point of capture. No one is going to get too worried about the odd bit of litter or a hair out of place, but we all and I mean all know what is real to us and that is what should be reflected in our photographs. Please do not confuse photography with photomontage, CGI or any other media.
As for art, that is the expressive arrrangement of elements within the medium. They may be contrived, spontaneous, whimsical, sentimental, inspiring, emotive, intellectually stimulating or kitsch or whatever. It all comes under the heading of 'one man's art is another man's poison'.
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Rob C
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« Reply #39 on: April 03, 2010, 02:30:56 PM »
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Just stumbled onto this thread again.

What's appears surprising is that we seem to have allowed the heat of the longish moment between posts to distract us somewhat from the main issue, which I don't believe is the difference between pro and am, but the application of this new technological possibility to the working photographer. Regarding the am, why should it matter in the slightest to him? Nothing will prevent him doing whatever takes his fancy, traditional or latest thing.

The impact, I expect, is going to be almost exclusively on the head of the pro. He will probably find himself having to learn yet another discipline or face a declining market for what he does if, indeed, he is allowed to hang on to that part of the process at all!

Considering the currrent heat about stock, perhaps this will change the format of that sector yet again. I do not see all that many amateurs willing to learn/afford even more abstract software and join in that particular race. For a start, as amateurs they have the freedom of choice, of doing what they think is fun, which presumably is shooting pictures. I see the opportunities for existing stock agencies changing too, with fresh markets opening to them as suppliers of ever more clip art at even lower prices. These are  opportunities, aren't they, lowered prices?

For people that shot people shots on far-flung beaches, in paddy fields, in cityscapes, on boats etc. the chance for enjoying the buzz of the days of travelling somewhere to do that has already shrunk a lot; maybe this signals the end. It may also mean that fewer creative, curious minds that once sought that very thrill will survive or ever exist in pro photography again. It was only because it formed part of the possible that many of us actually had those pro pho dreams and managed to turn them into fact for ourselves; little else about photography is remotely exciting enough to warrant spending your life doing it for survival.

Frankly, an Orwellian future may turn out to be not one of political tyranny but one of extreme personal boredom.

Rob C
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