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Author Topic: A favorite  (Read 8786 times)
John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2010, 09:00:47 AM »
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Funnily enough, Fred, I got caught in exactly this trap just a week or two ago. As part of an ongoing discussion in the MF section, someone posted a picture to illustrate a point they were making. It was brilliant, technically perfect, but a really appalling piece of Kitsch portraiture (in my opinion, of course).

I was just about to post some nasty scathing comment or other, when I realised to my horror that the photographer concerned was one of the really big names on the Forum (I hadn't bothered to take in the sender's name up to this point). So I quickly trashed my post and slunk off.

So you see, I'm just as bad. I don't have the courage of my own convictions.

John
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2010, 09:11:36 AM »
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Big names can need a virtual kick in the butt at times ....
Nonames as well ....
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John R Smith
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2010, 09:17:24 AM »
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Big names can need a virtual kick in the butt at times ....
Nonames as well ....

Well, we all can, Christoph. And my apologies to Armand for highjacking his iguana post. But just see what an interesting discussion you started off, Armand . . .

John
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 09:37:39 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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stamper
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« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2010, 10:36:13 AM »
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Funnily enough, Fred, I got caught in exactly this trap just a week or two ago. As part of an ongoing discussion in the MF section, someone posted a picture to illustrate a point they were making. It was brilliant, technically perfect, but a really appalling piece of Kitsch portraiture (in my opinion, of course).

I was just about to post some nasty scathing comment or other, when I realised to my horror that the photographer concerned was one of the really big names on the Forum (I hadn't bothered to take in the sender's name up to this point). So I quickly trashed my post and slunk off.

So you see, I'm just as bad. I don't have the courage of my own convictions.

John

Was it one the really big names or one of the really big egos? Smiley Wink Grin
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Rob C
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« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2010, 01:56:38 PM »
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This isn't really anything new; various emperors have been spied frolicking in the altogether since time - or at least, emperors - began.

I think that what lies underneath all of this, both from the point of view of 'emperors' as well as from the viewpoint of the simple man in the street, is something altogether more fundamental.

As I see it, the problem lies in not the individual work, the ego (there should be one there, or you have no art) nor in bolshy and probably bemused viewers; the problem lies in the fact that there is so much stuff to look at, good, bad and indifferent, that the ability to discern the difference has, over time and due to saturation, all but vanished.

Look at almost any photographer's site, my own included, and you will see that there is nothing new. The same old themes, views, ideas are everywhere.

And that's the problem: everything has gone stale.

The only way forward is to find the new. But I fear it doesn't exist other than as fraud.

Rob C
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« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2010, 02:39:12 PM »
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Look at almost any photographer's site, my own included, and you will see that there is nothing new. The same old themes, views, ideas are everywhere.

And that's the problem: everything has gone stale.

Rob, Yes, there's nothing new under the sun, but that doesn't mean there aren't things that can move you, even though they're not new. I can bring up Steve McCurry's Afghan girl in my mind at will, and it always moves me even though there's nothing new about the innocence and confusion in the glance of a young girl. Same thing with the blessed surrender in HCB's "Cardinal Pacelli in Montmarte." There are too many like those for me to list here. Same thing with music. Tebaldi singing "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" can break me down any time I hear it even though I know every note. Just because something's familiar doesn't mean it's stale.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2010, 02:56:33 PM »
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Right on the target Russ. Novelty, groundbreaking happens once or twice every century.
Indeed, very few are the elected in all history. I think it's more about having a personal style into the déjà vu and ultimatly art that moves you.
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armand
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« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2010, 04:16:57 PM »
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Well, we all can, Christoph. And my apologies to Armand for highjacking his iguana post. But just see what an interesting discussion you started off, Armand . . .
At least there is something interesting in this post after all. Anyway, I have this "quality" to start discussions (long and contradictory usually) often when I post on forums, so I'm used to it by now.

And a crop that although not perfect, I think it expresses a little better what I wanted to show with the first one (I hope I'm not going to add gas on the fire  Grin )
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shutterpup
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« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2010, 08:17:30 PM »
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At least there is something interesting in this post after all. Anyway, I have this "quality" to start discussions (long and contradictory usually) often when I post on forums, so I'm used to it by now.

And a crop that although not perfect, I think it expresses a little better what I wanted to show with the first one (I hope I'm not going to add gas on the fire  Grin )

You've finally settled on the first thing my eye noted when I saw your OP; the red fringe that reminded me of fringe on a handbag. Ok. I'm a woman. I'm allowed.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #29 on: October 22, 2010, 02:13:47 AM »
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And a crop that although not perfect, I think it expresses a little better what I wanted to show with the first one (I hope I'm not going to add gas on the fire  Grin )

Spot-on, Armand. That is just so much better than the first version of your picture. What you have done is thought much more clearly about the elements of the image which attracted your eye to it in the first place, and removed everything which was either distracting or contributing nothing to it. Next time it would be good to achieve this in-camera, but hell, there is nothing wrong with a good crop.

John
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Rob C
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« Reply #30 on: October 22, 2010, 03:07:35 AM »
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"but hell, there is nothing wrong with a good crop."

John



Whew! I misread the last word at first; really must stop trying to read the monitor before my eyes are properly opened in the morning.

Russ, I can't agree with your musical analogy. To me, who can neither whistle nor sing a tune, music is a far more powerful stimulant than photography or painting. It gets right into your head and touches all sorts of buttons that pics can't. The trouble with images is that yes, though new variations are possible if not unavoidable by simple default, they seldom have much power to spur the wow! reaction; at best, we can recognize a good alternative take to a tired theme. But music - I can watch the same old video over and over again or simply have a soundtrack on whilst I work at the computer and the feeling is terrific. I may not even remember the last song/tune that the machine just played, but no matter: the pure 'friendship' that the sound can give is enough - it completes the situation. Just as it did working in a studio.

Pity you picked Afghan Girl. To me, it turned into one of the most blatant bits of exploitation ever in photographic history; wasn't even a great image, just unusual in that the expectation for Asia is brown eyes. (There's a pile of stones at the back of the garden, so nobody need bring their own.)

If we want powerful imagery, then I think we have to look at W. Eugen Smith's Pittsburgh opus. From what I've been able to see of it, that's where the power of photography actually lies: the telling of huge stories. To me, you can take all the St Ansel shots that were ever made (or sold) and they rate as nothing in comparison with the Smith epic.

So there you go: lizards or Lazarus (the latter would be newsworthy!), one good, pretty picture isn't worth squat when stood up against a great story. But as with the art, where the good stories?

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #31 on: October 22, 2010, 04:05:23 AM »
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Whew! I misread the last word at first; really must stop trying to read the monitor before my eyes are properly opened in the morning.

Russ, I can't agree with your musical analogy. To me, who can neither whistle nor sing a tune, music is a far more powerful stimulant than photography or painting. It gets right into your head and touches all sorts of buttons that pics can't. The trouble with images is that yes, though new variations are possible if not unavoidable by simple default, they seldom have much power to spur the wow! reaction; at best, we can recognize a good alternative take to a tired theme. But music - I can watch the same old video over and over again or simply have a soundtrack on whilst I work at the computer and the feeling is terrific. I may not even remember the last song/tune that the machine just played, but no matter: the pure 'friendship' that the sound can give is enough - it completes the situation. Just as it did working in a studio.

Pity you picked Afghan Girl. To me, it turned into one of the most blatant bits of exploitation ever in photographic history; wasn't even a great image, just unusual in that the expectation for Asia is brown eyes. (There's a pile of stones at the back of the garden, so nobody need bring their own.)

If we want powerful imagery, then I think we have to look at W. Eugen Smith's Pittsburgh opus. From what I've been able to see of it, that's where the power of photography actually lies: the telling of huge stories. To me, you can take all the St Ansel shots that were ever made (or sold) and they rate as nothing in comparison with the Smith epic.

So there you go: lizards or Lazarus (the latter would be newsworthy!), one good, pretty picture isn't worth squat when stood up against a great story. But as with the art, where the good stories?

Rob C
Rob, I must say that I pretty much agree about Eugene Smith, and the "real" power of photography medium. Maybe that is why I like so much Lindberg in fashion because he tells the big story behind the genre.

What you just wrote has been a source of meditations for me recently. Sometimes I was about to give up photography because I don't get the point, the reason, why I'm keeping telling the small stories, call them images and try to enjoy or to pretend I enjoy myself with the little images I produce. In fact, I bloody don't enjoy telling the small stories and at the same time, I may have to recognise that I'm not a Smith or a Lindberg, but just another one (un)happy snapper. Am I doing photography? certainly not. I'm just doing little images that have no social, cultural, artistical impact or interest.

I saw a film maker friend recently and he shows me a short about this old woman he is filming the truth story. She goes everyday in the park and sits at the very same bench, and she writes her life. This guys his filming her life tale. She is lonely, has no one else so the only powerfull thing that drives her alive are souvenirs of her life. A very simple common life, full of repetitions, little anecdotes.
I was listening to her life story and felt completly depressed, thinking in my mind: "is that all?" What is the reason apart from basic surviving tasks. Is that all what our lifes can offer? little anecdotes of unsubstancial and irrelevant events? Am I interested in filming that? I immediatly answer that I was not interested, but the most horrible was to admit that my life, and my artistic life is exactly at the same point.

I'm pretty sure now, that if I have nothing but irrelevant stories to tell, I will give up taking photographs.

« Last Edit: October 22, 2010, 04:15:18 AM by fredjeang » Logged
John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #32 on: October 22, 2010, 04:38:10 AM »
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What you just wrote has been a source of meditations for me recently. Sometimes I was about to give up photography because I don't get the point, the reason, why I'm keeping telling the small stories, call them images and try to enjoy or to pretend I enjoy myself with the little images I produce. In fact, I bloody don't enjoy telling the small stories and at the same time, I may have to recognise that I'm not a Smith or a Lindberg, but just another one (un)happy snapper. Am I doing photography? certainly not. I'm just doing little images that have no social, cultural, artistical impact or interest.

I'm pretty sure now, that if I have nothing but irrelevant stories to tell, I will give up taking photographs.

Fred

One of the most useful pieces of advice which I have ever seen was that you should photograph what you love. Now, you should interpret that in its broadest sense - perhaps it might be better to replace "love" with that which turns you on, or concerns you deeply, or whatever. However, for a direction in art (or life) you can't go too far wrong with it. The reason that I photograph a lot of medieval parish churches, is that I love them. I like being around them. They turn me on, strange though that may be to a great number of people. The mistake that is very easy to make, is being in love with photography, and thinking that in itself is enough. You might love it, but you can't photograph photography.

John
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #33 on: October 22, 2010, 05:27:18 AM »
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Fred

OK, so here's another angle (after all, we really don't want to lose you).

Stop thinking in terms of each individual picture having to be a stand-alone masterpiece. That is almost impossible to achieve more than once or twice in a lifetime. After all, off the top of your head, name the Ansel pictures which spring straight away to mind, with their titles - four, five, maybe six, ten at a push? (No cheating or looking in books or on the web, now). And those pictures represent a lifetime's work. Or in painting, name Vincent's greatest without looking them up.

A very good motivator is to work in themes instead. That is, where each picture forms part of a group which tells a story, and where they are meant to be viewed together, not singly. The theme could all be shot in a single day, or over the course of many months. But there must be some unifying element. My little set of snaps of the Tregony Show on the MF section is an example of that approach (and I do love shows). I have a number of these themes going at the moment, and they do keep me motivated.

John
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Rob C
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« Reply #34 on: October 22, 2010, 09:26:33 AM »
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Fred

The website problem is different for each photographer. For some, it is an up-to-date record/advertisemnt of what they do, where they are allowed to put up their feet and with whom they can sometimes go to bed. For others, such as moi, it's more of a sentimental journey back to happier times. That's why, for example, I started the Biscuit Tin section, which hasn't much to do with paid work at all, but is intended as a repository for new, self-motivated photography. Were I starting to design the content again, now, I would perhaps put it all into slightly different folders, but I'm not going to do that, believe me - I'm not fast at these things anyway, and perhaps it's nice to be different.

But that brings us to the thing that John mentioned: themes. I thought I'd be doing something like that when Biscuit was in my mind; in the event, I realise that themes are part (for me) of professional life; that without that drive towards a target, I can't motivate very well, if at all. I have set up such an experiment and await response from commerce. With business interest, I would pull out all the stops to pull it off; without it, I'd probably just end up having a holiday and thinking myself better off at home.

Perhaps that's a problem associated with pro snappers; amateurs only ever need please themselves. Which, unfortunately, makes me wonder if I am not now living the sin you mentioned: being in love with photography rather than with making images. I doubt it, otherwise where would the urge to become a photographer have taken root? But still, no commission does seem to correlate with no pictures, either.

Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: October 22, 2010, 09:28:44 AM »
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Pity you picked Afghan Girl. To me, it turned into one of the most blatant bits of exploitation ever in photographic history; wasn't even a great image, just unusual in that the expectation for Asia is brown eyes. (There's a pile of stones at the back of the garden, so nobody need bring their own.)

Rob, I agree about the exploitation, but I don't agree with the idea that the only thing striking about that picture is the girl's green eyes. I give a lecture on photographers and the impact of photography once or twice a winter while I'm in Florida, and I use the Afghan girl to illustrate exactly that point. Using PowerPoint, first I show the picture as McCurry shot it. Next, I show the girl with brown eyes. The picture's just as powerful even though the contrast between the girl's eyes and her red shawl is gone. Finally I show it in black and white. In my own estimation the B&W version is more powerful than the original, and the majority of the audience seems to agree. What matters in that picture is the kid's haunted look. Here's something similar that I did in Vietnam. The kid's in the middle of a war, and some of that is reflected from her face. It's not as good as Steve's girl, but it captures something of the haunting uncertainty of a child in that kind of situation.

Quote
If we want powerful imagery, then I think we have to look at W. Eugen Smith's Pittsburgh opus. From what I've been able to see of it, that's where the power of photography actually lies: the telling of huge stories. To me, you can take all the St Ansel shots that were ever made (or sold) and they rate as nothing in comparison with the Smith epic.

I certainly can't disagree about Gene Smith's Pittsburgh photographs. I don't think Gene had both oars in the water, but his work was very, very powerful, perhaps because of that. I also agree about Ansel -- in comparison with Gene Smith and in comparison with a dozen other photographers I can name.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #36 on: October 22, 2010, 10:27:17 AM »
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On the risk to say an heresy and being burn alive on the public place, I never understood the great genius, almost cult attributed to Ansel Adams.
To me, Smith is frankly in another league.

John, do you know about "L'encyclopédie médievale" from Viollet le Duc.
Don't know if exists an english version but it is really a complete and complex and titanic work on the middle ages. All aspects are treated with of course a foucus on arquitecture.
I have one edition that weights like a truck, and if you can find it, it's worth every single page. The editior is George Bernage.
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« Reply #37 on: October 22, 2010, 11:31:28 AM »
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On the risk to say an heresy and being burn alive on the public place, I never understood the great genius, almost cult attributed to Ansel Adams.
To me, Smith is frankly in another league.
Comparing Gene Smith and Ansel Adams is like comparing apples and oranges. Their work is in different genres, but IMO they're both great within those genres.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #38 on: October 22, 2010, 11:53:50 AM »
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From Rob:

... The trouble with images is that... they seldom have much power to spur the wow! reaction;... one good, pretty picture isn't worth squat when stood up against a great story...

And Fred:

... I'm just doing little images that have no social, cultural, artistical impact or interest...

Rob and Fred,

What are you talking about guys!? Pictures have no power!?

Just take the example of this thread: one (crappy) picture inspired you to respond with profound musing on life and art, from rediscovering nihil novi sub sole, to reexamining the purpose of life (in general) and your career (in particular). I guess that would make Armand a true artist, no? Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy


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Slobodan

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« Reply #39 on: October 22, 2010, 12:05:08 PM »
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What are you talking about guys!? Pictures have no power!?

Just take the example of this thread: one (crappy) picture inspired you to respond with profound musing on life and art, from rediscovering nihil novi sub sole, to reexamining the purpose of life (in general) and your career (in particular). I guess that would make Armand a true artist, no? Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy

I have no idea whether Armand is a "true artist" or not. I wouldn't presume to judge the man on the basis of one photo. All artists, even "true" ones, can make sub-standard art.
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