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Author Topic: Learning From The Best Images  (Read 4103 times)
wolfnowl
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« on: January 31, 2010, 08:08:30 PM »
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Great article, George.  I wrote about this same topic a week or so ago on my blog, but I think you did a much better job of it.  I added your article to my page for reference!

Mike.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2010, 08:09:40 PM by wolfnowl » Logged

If your mind is attuned to beauty, you find beauty in everything.
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George Barr
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2010, 12:28:13 AM »
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Thanks Mike. You make several good points in your blog and the list of photographers should keep the serious photographer busy for some time.

George
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PierreVandevenne
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2010, 03:31:44 AM »
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Quote from: wolfnowl
Great article, George.  I wrote about this same topic a week or so ago on my blog, but I think you did a much better job of it.  I added your article to my page for reference!

Mike.

Indeed, great article and above all great pictures.
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JohnBrew
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2010, 07:02:42 AM »
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George, enjoyed the article. I was pleased when I placed some of my best images under the magnifying glass of your criteria and found that they met almost every point.
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George Barr
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2010, 08:23:27 AM »
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Of course John, now comes the tricky part, breaking the "rules" deliberately, oh yeah, and making it work.

Best,

George
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2010, 09:22:00 AM »
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Interesting read, however. I think that photography is so vast, and so taste driven, that it is unwise to attempt to over analyse it.
There are merely solid guidelines, that can and should be ignored/used as and when needed.

Also some parts are so vast and imprecise, you can never really nail it down. It could be an expression on a face, where composition was not really that strong. Some images are not great on a technical level, yet are considered classics (VJ day in Times Square an obvious one!)

I will leave you with an scene from a film that sums up my thoughts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpeLSMKNFO4




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DaveCurtis
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2010, 01:37:51 AM »
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Interesting read George. Well done!

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Rajan Parrikar
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2010, 10:49:13 AM »
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Quote from: barryfitzgerald
Interesting read, however. I think that photography is so vast, and so taste driven, that it is unwise to attempt to over analyse it.
There are merely solid guidelines, that can and should be ignored/used as and when needed.

One aspect that receives scant attention on this topic is the role of culture in the perception and formulation of aesthetics, which in turn may have a bearing on photographic composition.  Many of guidelines that George has enumerated are culture-independent and it will do the photographer a lot of good to be aware of them.  But it pays to have a broader appreciation of cultural issues, too.  Let me cite a specific instance - colours and colour schemes found in India are often very bold.  Viewed through the lens of the Western observer they may be characterized unflatteringly as "loud" or "gaudy," and so the evaluation of a photograph thus carries a subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) bias of one's own cultural sensibilities.

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George Barr
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2010, 11:46:32 AM »
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I confess, I had not thought of these ideas as being culturally influenced. OF course, a limited colour palette refers more to the number of colours rather than the saturation of them but perhaps that too is cultural.

George
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vgogolak
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2010, 07:35:55 AM »
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I am sure it is a matter of style..isn't everything?

But I found many of the images used as examples, dull, simplistic, and cliches.

I am an amateur, I hope in the best, older sense of the word (dillitant used to be a good word too.) I have been taking pictures since I was 8, have several professionals in the family, including an artist (oil) and processor (good ol' chemicals.)

My taste run to the more complex, the story (narrative as some say) NOT the iconic. What I see as being taught, including here as 'best' take one damgerous step beyong skill and telent to 'taste'. The traste for the 'simple;, the isolated' the 'less busy' That is a style...some like it, but it is NOT an inhenent quality of art; exciting, message sending and by all means, TELLING A STORY.

Otherwise, sorry, it is just well crafted decoration. It is like non-fiction writing; communicating some truth, without 'creating' a new world.

With more resolution and stiching we can create high resolution photographs that do many things; tell a story, show you something that you will never see (say a shot while sky diving  :-)  

What I am saying is that there are good maybe even exciting images that are large, that you can "crawl around in (I use FOUR 30"  2560x1600 screen. I print 2x7 FEET)

I appreciate Mapplethorpe, and yet even Van Gogh had a VASE of flowers  LOL

Sure these eye catching perspectinves, repetition are good, but sorry, not great.

You may hate it and I am NOT going to present counters to the images in the article; I actually liked a few. I am not that good. But when I see art (and photopgraphy can certainly learn from painting) I can appreciate. I also have two daughters Art History majors who let me know when I am pumping out dreck.

But here's a simple shot, from the 39th floor of the Pierre in NY. Complaex. But has geometry and an exciting perspective , to me. Then at P45+ resolution I can crawl around and 'see' more of what my mind captured in real life.

Two messages: 1.  think bigger, even in small prints an d2. remember that with modern technology you can ;dive into' and image and explore a scene like never before.

OK, maybe that was 3cents worth..

best regards
Victor
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jenbenn
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2010, 08:37:31 AM »
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Quote from: vgogolak
My taste run to the more complex, the story (narrative as some say) NOT the iconic. What I see as being taught, including here as 'best' take one damgerous step beyong skill and telent to 'taste'. The traste for the 'simple;, the isolated' the 'less busy' That is a style...some like it, but it is NOT an inhenent quality of art; exciting, message sending and by all means, TELLING A STORY.

 Good point. I tend to agree. Last week I visited an exhibition with photography from F.C. Gundlach - one of the most successful fashion photographers from 1950- 1980? in Germany. Yes, his pictures were kind of unique in the sense that he often used backgrounds that graphically reflected the paterns of the clothes his models were wearing. Historically they were also intersting because one could see what was "in" in the good old days. The pictures were also quite stereotype as many models were presented as stewardesses or secretaries  a decorative and beautiful accessory for the men.
Photographically, however, I was bored to death. Not one picture really made me think  " Oh, I wish I could take this one". The resaon ? Well, the pictures just didnt draw me in. They seemed distant and indifferent, to their subjects. No story apart from beautiful model with weird old fashion.

For me a photograph has to evoke emotions by telling a story. This story could be as simple as highlighting the beauty of nature, but it could also be as complex as telling how life goes on on a busy street.
All the rules George put up are of course true and adhereing to them can turn a  bad photograph into a nice depiction of whatever was photographed. In order to make a great photgraph as opposed to a good one, I believe it takes more than adhere to those rules. You have either to add something unique to it (like a story) or at least purposely violate one of his rules in order to highlight what you want to convey with your photo.

Despite of all this, I have to say that merely decorative photographs of course do have a right to exist. Stroy-telling photographs often make a bad wall decoration, because they are tend to be too stimulating and too complex, making people thoughtful rather than feeling homely and relaxed.

To conclude,  I like to propose that George's essay be expanded, so as to include additional tips for specific kinds of photography.
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vgogolak
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2010, 09:30:15 AM »
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Very interesting perspective. Of course, there are many roles for photography, from "wall hanging" to "remembering the scene".

I agree, storyteeling can make for a strange decor piece. There is also a difference in commercial vs 'art' (if you allow that SOME of use, at least try to get beyond the 'family snaps' stage :-) and nothing wrong with fam-snaps of course.

You seemed to interpret my jist correctly - not to counter the POV in the article, but provide a complementary POV. I may be alone in this, but very few photographers seem to appreciate that SCREEN viewing is likely to gain over print as the medium. Let's exploit; we can ZOOM, browse, focus, compare. I have sequences that I think capture a 'story' better than a video (Ok, Michael, with RED we may get 8,000x5,000 60fps progressive, but not there yet!)

I do wonder though thatmuch of corporate is inherently a story - so are ads.

In architecture for every "red-door over a silve flight of stairs with triangle shadow' Bauhaus type image, there is aBaroque church interior prep for a wedding (below)
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Rajan Parrikar
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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2010, 12:18:07 PM »
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Quote from: vgogolak
My taste run to the more complex, the story (narrative as some say) NOT the iconic. What I see as being taught, including here as 'best' take one damgerous step beyong skill and telent to 'taste'. The traste for the 'simple;, the isolated' the 'less busy' That is a style...some like it, but it is NOT an inhenent quality of art; exciting, message sending and by all means, TELLING A STORY.

Quite.

When I began taking photography seriously a few years ago, the overriding refrain I read or heard in the experts' critique of photographs had the same predictable ring - that it leads the eye away from the subject, or it is too complex, or it is too busy, it says too much or...some variation of this.  These critiques are so banal that one could write a computer programme to generate them randomly.  Note that I am not talking here of poorly composed casual photos with booboos we all commonly recognize and avoid, and I certainly do not adhere to or advocate the "anything goes" philosophy in Art.  

While photography itself was new to me at the time, I knew right away that this way of looking at things could not be wholly right - I mean, the human mind can hold more than one thought at any given time.  Furthermore, this had been reinforced in me given my background in music (Indian Classical Music) where we run the gamut from the very simple ragas with ditty-like simplicity and appeal, to the highly complex formulations with their byzantine melodic plot lines, fully amenable only to those willing to make an effort (recall "Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair" - Charles Ives.)  Aside: raga literally means "colour" and in the context of music, "that which colours the mind" - so the correspondence with photography is apposite.

I have since learned not to trust 'experts.'  My general guideline in these matters is summarized by the old aphorism: "beauty is the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole." (see Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Newton.)
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Pete Ferling
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2010, 11:10:03 AM »
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I've learned that composition is a lot simpler than grasping rule of thirds, charts, bars and graphs.  It's about listening to yourself and then doing your best to present that same message in the resultant shot.  That is, "what thought ran through my head that told me to take that particular shot?"  That's the message you need to convey to the viewer.
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RomanJohnston
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2010, 06:14:19 PM »
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George, wonderful article! I have been working on developing a workshop and been analizing my processes and workflows that go into creating my own images. You have given me solid concepts to consider as I move forward in the creation of my format.

Well done and thank you kindly for the insights.

Roman
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JRandallNichols
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« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2010, 07:25:56 PM »
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I appreciate the insight and sophistication of both George's article and Victor's response.  What strikes me is that while Victor seems to be wanting to disagree with George in some way, the two images he offers are a remarkable confirmation of the very criteria George adduced, though with very different style and content.  To check this I put Victor's images up on one screen and George's criteria (not his image-examples, which are particular to him, no matter how much I appreciate them personally) on another.  It was completely easy to see Victor's images as representing vividly and appealingly--though with very different tenor and style--the criteria George was after.  But if you don't appreciate the difference between concepts and narratives--ideas and images--well then it's probably a Louis Armstrong paradigm: If you have to ask the question you wouldn't understand the answer.  The dialogue between idea and image is at least lively, and never very comfortable.

I was enriched by both contributions, and my only point here is to thank their authors, and notice a perhaps neglected commonality.  It is to me a fascinating example of what happens when mythos and logos are conjoined (as, for example, in both religion and aesthetics, and hence today geopolitics): many people think there is a fight going on, when in fact it is an exquisite, mysterious and often tragically misunderstood dance of human consciousness.  Perhaps photography in its own small way has that insight to offer to a world sundered and made fractious by an inability or unwillingness to understand those two modes of experiencing and how they coinhere.

Peace.

Randy
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Randy
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