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Author Topic: What's it about  (Read 5931 times)
RogerW
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« on: February 26, 2010, 04:32:10 AM »
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A great article about the thought process involved in making a photograph.  I reckon this should be compulsory reading for all aspiring camera club members!  How about making it available as a pdf?
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2010, 08:02:54 AM »
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I think the question "what is this photograph about" it just the tip of the iceberg.  The more difficult question is why is the "what" interesting?  And even more difficult, interesting to me, the observer, as opposed to interesting to the photographer (to put a bit of a spin Jay Maisel's "If it's not interesting to you, why would it be interesting to me?" question)
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Rocco Penny
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2010, 08:12:56 AM »
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This is a wonderful article!
Exactly what I've been thinking about.
Helps to discern and give words to what I've been thinking, and how I'm starting to have a process!
I'll think  of it this morning while trying to capture a panorama on the way to work.
OK
fanboy rocco
« Last Edit: February 26, 2010, 08:13:31 AM by Rocco Penny » Logged
idenford
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2010, 01:51:37 PM »
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It's an excellent article with tremendous insight into something that should be so simple to see,
 but clearly is not always.
Thanks for posting.
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mfunnell
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2010, 05:33:12 AM »
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Yes, I think this was a good article and I think it asks a useful question.  I even take on board the final comment:
Quote
When you look at your own photographs, ask yourself that simple qustion and see what answers you come up with. In the end, if you can't answer the question convincingly, maybe the shot is not as successful as you might have thought it to be.
That seems more about the question than the answer.  But still I come back with: Why does a photograph have to be "about" anything?

Here's a favourite shot of mine.  You don't have to like it, but I do.  Perhaps I'm overly fond of it.  Who knows?



I don't think it's "about" anything.  I could come up with various after-the-fact constructions about what it is "about" but they'd all be, well, BS - and they wouldn't explain why I like the photo.  (Please remember, you don't have to like it.)

But the fact I don't think it's "about" anything at all doesn't stop me from liking the photo.  I have plenty of photos that are about things, but this isn't one.  I like this one better than many of "them".  Is that wrong?

   ...Mike
« Last Edit: March 01, 2010, 05:34:33 AM by mfunnell » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2010, 10:44:05 AM »
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Mike

No, it isn't wrong, and I agree with you 100%.

What you must never forget is that people have different agendas, and for some it's all about marketing their wares/services. There is NOTHING wrong with that, but one should never forget that it is only by making statements that make people wonder about themselves and their own abilities that selling opportunities can be created out of the void.

As I said, that's perfectly legitimate, just another form of business and it's up to the individual to take it or leave it, as is this post. Either way, if somebody gets a kick out of following advice - great.

The one place where I would suggest the 'What's it about' message is on target is stock. They sell concepts - answers to generalised questions that can be articulated in that manner.

Rob C
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2010, 10:47:13 AM »
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Mike, I'd disagree that your photo isn't "about" anything.  Without the person alone on the dock and the pelican in the water, it would indeed be not "about" anything, and it would be a bore.  But with those in there, what it's "about ", at least to me, is someone enjoying a peaceful evening outdoors.  The person is alone on a quiet dock, and we know the surroundings are peaceful because of the calm water and the bird swimming in it, and it makes me want to be that person on the dock.  That's what it's "about" to me, and it's a reasonably powerful subject.  There's definitely an "about" there...

Lisa
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2010, 11:13:05 AM »
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Quote from: mfunnell
... Why does a photograph have to be "about" anything?...
Because it always is... A photograph is always about something... a thing or concept, fact or feeling, documenting or interpreting, concrete or abstract, consciously or subconsciously, in the author's eye or in the eye of the beholder. Whether you intend it or not, there is always a story behind a photograph. You do not have to spell it out, but the story is there. The story could be different for different people, but some story it is. Some photographs could speak volumes, some are more like a haiku, but they do speak. Some are speaking in heavy prose, some are like a music to our ears, but we do "hear" them, as much as we see them.
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2010, 11:22:18 AM »
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is it possible that the something or about is nothing? Then one can say it is about nothing, wich is different that it is nothing, no?
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GeneB
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2010, 12:23:59 PM »
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I suggest Mike's photo IS about something. But of course only Mike knows. In spite of his denial, there was a reason for him to hit the shutter button wasn't there?

Com on Mike! Spill the beans.    

Gene
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2010, 03:09:24 PM »
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Quote from: GeneB
I suggest Mike's photo IS about something. But of course only Mike knows. In spite of his denial, there was a reason for him to hit the shutter button wasn't there?

Com on Mike! Spill the beans.    

Gene




But Gene, I think he already has told you: it is about nothing except that he liked the shape/colour/whatever; that does not imply a narrative, without which there cannot be an 'about'. I have no difficulty in accepting such a concept - indeed, my own 'painting' pics are most certainly not about anything at all, just blobs that please me. There is no story. That certainly doesn't preclude third parties from having ideas or interpretations, but those are their problems, their constructs, nothing to do with the pictures as made!

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2010, 03:31:39 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
... it is about nothing except that he liked the shape/colour/whatever;...
Isn't it about the shape/color/whatever then?
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2010, 03:34:13 PM »
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Quote from: Slobodan Blagojevic
Isn't it about the shape/color/whatever then?



But the shape and colour are not about anything...?

Rob C
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mfunnell
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2010, 04:17:13 PM »
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Quote from: GeneB
I suggest Mike's photo IS about something. But of course only Mike knows. In spite of his denial, there was a reason for him to hit the shutter button wasn't there?

Com on Mike! Spill the beans.    

Gene
Well, I liked the colours around dusk and the quality of light reflecting off the water.  I had an idea of how I wanted the geometry of the shot to look.  I waited for the pelican to swim into view, because pelicans had been something of a theme of photos taken during the trip I was on.  When the girl on the pier seemed to pose "just so" I brought the camera to my eye and took the shot.

But it wasn't "about" the pelican, or the girl, or the reflections.  If it was "about" anything it was about the quality of the light and an arrangement of elements that appealed to me, for whatever reason.  But if that is an "about" then all photos are about that: light and framing and arranging elements within the frame.

I think more than that is needed for a photo to be "about" something.  Perhaps not a lot more - this photo, for example, is about something without having to make it slap-in-the-face obvious:



   ...Mike
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KeithR
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« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2010, 04:41:53 PM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
is it possible that the something or about is nothing? Then one can say it is about nothing, wich is different that it is nothing, no?
Sounds like a Seinfeld episode
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stamper
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2010, 03:35:13 AM »
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Quote from: RogerW
A great article about the thought process involved in making a photograph.  I reckon this should be compulsory reading for all aspiring camera club members!  How about making it available as a pdf?

I take it this is about Lamp & ladder on the front page of the site? I posted a while ago in the forum in respect to looking at images. If in reality I don't ever see an image similar or the same as Lamp & ladder then how do I "set up" in my mind what has been detailed in the narrative? In real life I normally try hard not to have a lamp post in any of my images so that doesn't help me. You can only see what is in front of you and while taking an image I won't be thinking of what Michael stated if none of the elements are there. This might sound as if I don't have much of an imagination and this is probably so? I know all about the so called rules and use some of them sometimes. I tend to agree with Rob C about this. A previous poster said that if he liked it why would he have to say why? Is liking not an instinctive thing rather than a thought process? If you explain to someone why you liked it and they disagreed then who is right or wrong? Having said this I do from time to time put an image in the critique to get a reaction.  There is no right or wrong to this .... only subjective thoughts? This is assuming that the technical aspects of the image has nothing that is glaringly wrong.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2010, 03:37:16 AM by stamper » Logged

michael
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2010, 05:56:37 AM »
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I think that some folks in this discussion have missed the point of the article. The image I used simply served as an an example of the thought process that I went through in taking and then post-processing one particular image. No "rules" were implied; we take photographs at the time of exposure because something has captured our eye or imagination.

But, then it becomes necesary once in front of the screen to take that score (to use Adam's metaphor) and turn it into as performance.

I often see people's photographs during review and don't "get" what the creator had in mind. It isn't so much "what's it about" as why? what were you after?

Normally no answer to this is necessary, of course. An image should stand on its own merits.  But when the photographer is asked this question in a learning situation then it helps focus the mind, and hopefully leads to a bit of self analysis.

Michael
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2010, 10:35:24 AM »
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Quote from: michael
I think that some folks in this discussion have missed the point of the article. The image I used simply served as an an example of the thought process that I went through in taking and then post-processing one particular image. No "rules" were implied; we take photographs at the time of exposure because something has captured our eye or imagination.

But, then it becomes necesary once in front of the screen to take that score (to use Adam's metaphor) and turn it into as performance.

I often see people's photographs during review and don't "get" what the creator had in mind. It isn't so much "what's it about" as why? – what were you after?

Normally no answer to this is necessary, of course. An image should stand on its own merits.  But when the photographer is asked this question in a learning situation then it helps focus the mind, and hopefully leads to a bit of self analysis.

Michael
And that's it in a nutshell. Beautifully put.

Eric


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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2010, 12:58:36 PM »
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Quote from: michael
after[/i]?

Normally no answer to this is necessary, of course. An image should stand on its own merits.  But when the photographer is asked this question in a learning situation then it helps focus the mind, and hopefully leads to a bit of self analysis.

Michael




Michael, trust me, that way lies madness! Blessed he who never analysed but simply performed as per divine order of Nike!

;-)

Rob C
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JohnKoerner
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« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2010, 04:57:01 PM »
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Quote from: Slobodan Blagojevic
Because it always is... A photograph is always about something... a thing or concept, fact or feeling, documenting or interpreting, concrete or abstract, consciously or subconsciously, in the author's eye or in the eye of the beholder. Whether you intend it or not, there is always a story behind a photograph. You do not have to spell it out, but the story is there. The story could be different for different people, but some story it is. Some photographs could speak volumes, some are more like a haiku, but they do speak. Some are speaking in heavy prose, some are like a music to our ears, but we do "hear" them, as much as we see them.


Dan, I think there's a shorter saying (that we all know) that validates what you just said: "A picture's worth a thousand words."

Every photo captures something that it would take a lot of words to 'try' to duplicate. Take Mike's photo above as an example. Suppose you tried to relay that same scene in words, as an author. It would probably take several paragraphs, and more than a thousand words, to adequately describe the full setting, the lighting, the mood, etc. Yet with one photo the entire scene is captured.

Thus, as it relates to Michael's article question, "What's it all about?", this kind of question is why I like macro-photography so much. Macro-photography gives me the ability to take the tiny, common things that we walk passed every day and turn them into huge images that "tell a story" that a person seldom takes the time to notice. Sometimes it is simply an appreciation of form, or color, or both form and color. Sometimes it is the feeling of awe at how alien some of the smaller creatures of this world are, when blown-up, that we begin to imagine "what it would be like" to encounter such a creature the same size as you. Tiny things that we barely notice when walking by, when blown-up to life-size, give fleeting thoughts, impressions, and moments of reverence that would not not be possible to get without macro equipment.

So I too believe that every photograph has a reason why it was taken. However, whether or not anyone else cares (or can share the same sentiment) is another matter. Perhaps the definition of a "successful" photograph would be one that accurately transfers the sentiment or impression that the photographer who took it felt. If a photo causes someone else a moment of pause, then in that moment of pause is where the transfer of feeling or sentiment is felt by the viewer, which originally was felt by the photographer and compelled him to take the photo to begin with. By contrast, the photo that is tossed over the shoulder, and effects no such moment of pause, fails to transfer the intended sentiment effectively, at least where that individual is concerned.

Thus it is all about communication. Writing itself is nothing but an attempt to transfer facts, sentiments, ideas, etc. It is, in short, a slow form of communication. Quite obviously, the same is true with our spoken words: they too are used to communicate but they too are slow when compared to other means of communication.

Well, if we default back to the saying, "A picture's worth a thousand words," and if we apply it to this discussion (and thus to our photography), this means that the pictures we take are merely an accelerated form of communication. They are an attempt to say "a thousand words" with one click of the finger. And, just as there are people who can talk all day and yet really say nothing, so too are there people who can say a lot with but a few words.

I think this same fact obtains with photography, just on an accelerated level.

Jack




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« Last Edit: March 04, 2010, 05:14:39 PM by JohnKoerner » Logged
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