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Author Topic: If art is goal does gear matter so much?  (Read 88832 times)
skiphunt
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« on: March 09, 2011, 09:58:39 AM »
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Just curious what the general reactions of photographers are when they're looking at photographic images from an art appreciation point of view.

Over the last 30 years I've shot everything from 4x5 view cameras to simple cell phone digicams. I've been obsessed with gear off and on, but have gravitated over the last few years to simply looking at what an image conveys and how I feel about it. I really don't care as much about pixels, noise, gadgets, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems to me that all the manufacturer emphasis on gear and the tech side of things, including painstaking pixel-peeping camera reviews has shifted the user/viewer's attention away from the vision of the photographer and more on the gear itself. As if the photographer doesn't matter so much anymore if you have bought the latest and greatest version of some new gear.

Of course I know this isn't true, but it seems like the meme has taken hold and it likely sells a lot more cameras. Still, it's painful to hear, "Hey, that's a really nice image. What camera made that image?" As if all one must do to make nice images is buy the fanciest, most expensive, most sophisticated machine and then push a button.

After again lugging Nikon dSLR gear and a small Panasonic LX3 compact on a U.S. motorcycle journey http://www.kaleidoscopeofcolor.com/galleria/go-west-color/ I discovered getting back to just using a simple compact  appealed to me. My intent was to work on publishing a book of my photos and journaling from the road to capture more of a LIVE feel http://amzn.to/hE9KNG So, I figured I better make myself shoot more sophisticated dSLR gear for the extra resolution. However, I found that I actually ended up using just as many images from the much easier to shoot LX3 stuff in the book. Sure, you can tell a difference between the compact and dSLR images, but I don't believe there's much difference in how the images emotionally convey what I intended.

I recently backpacked for a month in Mexico. I've spent many years traveling off and on in Mexico. Have lugged 35mm gear through the jungle, and heavy dSLR gear all over the country on motorcycles, backpacking, buses, etc. So, at this point I figured I had plenty of satisfying images of Mexico (from a 2009 Motorcycle/Mexico trip: http://vimeo.com/7268216 ) and could leave the heavy gear behind at home for a change and force myself to simply use only an iPhone 4 and apps for editing and uploading. Also published short MagCloud magazines from the road via my travel blog http://www.kaleidoscopeofcolor.com/mexico-2011 (sorry, it shows me still in Mexico but I got the flu on the way back and haven't got around to wrapping it up yet)

After I got home and noticed how well the iPhone images actually held up and printed, I was fairly shocked to be honest: http://skip-hunt.artistwebsites.com/art/all/mexico+winter+2011/all

So, my question is this... when photographers look at images in general do they now mostly study the image for pixel quality and make an aesthetic decision whether they like an image based on how much resolution and lack of noise there is? Or whether or not the image was obviously made with the state of the art full-frame camera? Or, if the photographer managed to make something nice with the simplicity of an iPhone, Holga, or a toy camera?

Or, do you first look at an image and decide how you feel about it based on how the image effects you without regard for how and what camera was used to create it?

Skip Hunt
Austin, Texas
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 10:15:54 AM by skiphunt » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2011, 10:24:30 AM »
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I admit to being a "propellor-head" and lusting after megapixels, and yet, the images that I appreciate the most, are the ones that I can emotionally connect to. My first DSLR, at 6 mpix, is used just as often as my newer 12 mpix one. And it will continue to be used when I upgrade to the next 24 mpix model.

I think that we all know that fine images are created by people, not cameras.
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skiphunt
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2011, 10:35:09 AM »
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I admit to being a "propellor-head" and lusting after megapixels, and yet, the images that I appreciate the most, are the ones that I can emotionally connect to. My first DSLR, at 6 mpix, is used just as often as my newer 12 mpix one. And it will continue to be used when I upgrade to the next 24 mpix model.

I think that we all know that fine images are created by people, not cameras.



When you say "we all know" are you speaking mostly for photographers who tend to be more inclined to get obsessed over spec sheets? Or people in general? If the latter, I'm not so sure that's the case.
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feppe
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2011, 11:39:15 AM »
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As for myself, I don't really care - as long as a photograph is compelling it doesn't matter whether it comes from a camera phone or MFDB. I've seen good and bad photos from all types of camera.

One good way to avoid gear tangents is to not disclose the camera and strip EXIF information when discussing artistic merits of a photo . Nobody can reliably tell from web-sized photos if a photo was taken with a DSLR or MFDB*, and even iPhone shots can be pretty amazing.

* I did a survey/test regarding this a few years back here, so if you disagree come equipped with data
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2011, 11:56:12 AM »
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So, my question is this... when photographers look at images in general do they now mostly study the image for pixel quality and make an aesthetic decision whether they like an image based on how much resolution and lack of noise there is? Or whether or not the image was obviously made with the state of the art full-frame camera? Or, if the photographer managed to make something nice with the simplicity of an iPhone, Holga, or a toy camera?

Or, do you first look at an image and decide how you feel about it based on how the image effects you without regard for how and what camera was used to create it?

There is another aspect of this which you haven't mentioned and that is the photographers use of light, composition, timing in the picture. More often than not I spend my time looking at the technique used in creating the picture rather than anything technical about its reproduction. I also do this with painted images as well - recent case in point was a trip to a Gaugin exhibition at which we all came away thinking what a poor quality (composition/ content) artist he was.

To answer your question, my initial reaction is usually emotional. I then start to pull the image apart and, if I learn something from it or it still continues to stand up IMHO, then it gets on the keepers list.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2011, 02:16:11 PM »
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Art is the result of a complex interaction process between artist, gear and subject (not necessarily a physical object, could be a concept as well).

A great artist can do good things with little gear, but will do other things with other/better gear.

Technical mastery has always been an important part of art,
not only because it is the craftsman within the artist,
but also the effort and long term development which is behind technical perfection.

In other words - if someone uses gear which requires skill, like a tech camera and film and it can be seen in the product,
that he has mastered it, the satisfaction with the result will be influenced by this in a positive way.

But just using the gear and producing technically satisfactory results is not enough.

There is a difference between a skilled craftsman and an artist.

But being a skilled craftsman isn't that bad.....

my 0.02 ...
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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2011, 02:56:21 PM »
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Hi,

My view is that the artistic value of an image does relate little to it's technical quality, but technical quality defines pretty much how you can present it. So I have very good images shot with a 6 MP DSLR, like the one below. I actually have an A2 enlargement hanging on my wall. It's nice but it is a stretch. With the 24 MP camera I have now I could make an excellent A2 or an A0 with the same quality I have now on my A2. The image won't be better or worse, but I could make a larger print, and I love large prints.

The other side is DR. I seldom feel that my images are limited by DR and I can always shoot HDR. So extended DR is nice to have, but I can live with limited DR.

Best regards
Erik


Just curious what the general reactions of photographers are when they're looking at photographic images from an art appreciation point of view.

Over the last 30 years I've shot everything from 4x5 view cameras to simple cell phone digicams. I've been obsessed with gear off and on, but have gravitated over the last few years to simply looking at what an image conveys and how I feel about it. I really don't care as much about pixels, noise, gadgets, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems to me that all the manufacturer emphasis on gear and the tech side of things, including painstaking pixel-peeping camera reviews has shifted the user/viewer's attention away from the vision of the photographer and more on the gear itself. As if the photographer doesn't matter so much anymore if you have bought the latest and greatest version of some new gear.

Of course I know this isn't true, but it seems like the meme has taken hold and it likely sells a lot more cameras. Still, it's painful to hear, "Hey, that's a really nice image. What camera made that image?" As if all one must do to make nice images is buy the fanciest, most expensive, most sophisticated machine and then push a button.

After again lugging Nikon dSLR gear and a small Panasonic LX3 compact on a U.S. motorcycle journey http://www.kaleidoscopeofcolor.com/galleria/go-west-color/ I discovered getting back to just using a simple compact  appealed to me. My intent was to work on publishing a book of my photos and journaling from the road to capture more of a LIVE feel http://amzn.to/hE9KNG So, I figured I better make myself shoot more sophisticated dSLR gear for the extra resolution. However, I found that I actually ended up using just as many images from the much easier to shoot LX3 stuff in the book. Sure, you can tell a difference between the compact and dSLR images, but I don't believe there's much difference in how the images emotionally convey what I intended.

I recently backpacked for a month in Mexico. I've spent many years traveling off and on in Mexico. Have lugged 35mm gear through the jungle, and heavy dSLR gear all over the country on motorcycles, backpacking, buses, etc. So, at this point I figured I had plenty of satisfying images of Mexico (from a 2009 Motorcycle/Mexico trip: http://vimeo.com/7268216 ) and could leave the heavy gear behind at home for a change and force myself to simply use only an iPhone 4 and apps for editing and uploading. Also published short MagCloud magazines from the road via my travel blog http://www.kaleidoscopeofcolor.com/mexico-2011 (sorry, it shows me still in Mexico but I got the flu on the way back and haven't got around to wrapping it up yet)

After I got home and noticed how well the iPhone images actually held up and printed, I was fairly shocked to be honest: http://skip-hunt.artistwebsites.com/art/all/mexico+winter+2011/all

So, my question is this... when photographers look at images in general do they now mostly study the image for pixel quality and make an aesthetic decision whether they like an image based on how much resolution and lack of noise there is? Or whether or not the image was obviously made with the state of the art full-frame camera? Or, if the photographer managed to make something nice with the simplicity of an iPhone, Holga, or a toy camera?

Or, do you first look at an image and decide how you feel about it based on how the image effects you without regard for how and what camera was used to create it?

Skip Hunt
Austin, Texas
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 02:57:57 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2011, 03:17:49 PM »
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Skìp

Your question is addressed to photographers and so I expect you probably hope for a different perspective on opinions.

Well then, from my point of view as a snapper, I think it always comes down to this: would I be proud to have taken it?

I can't say that I'm particularly interested anymore in what sort of equipment was used; I was very interested in that when I was still working, but now that I just potter about doing what grabs me, I really don't care what people use to get where they got. The only thing that matters to me is whether the shot works for me.

That's not to say that I'm not interested in equipment: I am. The diference is that I know that I have little intention of buying anything else unless things take a dramatic turn and I start making money from the game once again. I think that the only thing that would tempt me is an M9, and that's probably not really versatile enough for me, but it still tempts me as Leica Ms always did, though I never bought into the system for the same reasons: too limited in scope and too expensive for fun. (For me.)

Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2011, 08:58:23 PM »
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Your first iPhone picture, "A Good Read" answers this question for me -- and the answer is "no".  A beautiful, well-executed shot--what's not to love?  Now, if you were going to try to print a billboard, you might have issues, but that, to me at least, is a separate issue from artistic merit.
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2011, 01:48:50 AM »
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So, my question is this... when photographers look at images in general do they now mostly study the image for pixel quality and make an aesthetic decision whether they like an image based on how much resolution and lack of noise there is? Or whether or not the image was obviously made with the state of the art full-frame camera? Or, if the photographer managed to make something nice with the simplicity of an iPhone, Holga, or a toy camera?

Or, do you first look at an image and decide how you feel about it based on how the image effects you without regard for how and what camera was used to create it?

In my opinion the impact from and how I feel about an image is what triggers me into impression of if it is a good image. At same time the technical perfection need to be there to a satisfying degree so as not to diminish the qualities of the image to my eye. Perhaps else, the feeling and impact that an image makes on me must be stronger to overtake the lesser technical qualitative aspect of the image itself.

It also of course depends on what we shoot. Your photos look great (albeit appear way over saturated perhaps to make pop art grafitti like impact to gain attention? Perhaps the paragraph I wrote above is what aids them to work?). However, what is my own primary passion in photography are landscapes. While those can be shot with an iPhone it would lend to a photographic language that does not lend itself to represent what I visualize and see. Heck, also DSLR does not do it for me. It takes both a media and details to make the maximum impact, not merely the skill in achieving feeling and impact. Landscapes are demanding in requiring an enhancement of reality that becomes believable to the eye. This is why. That is not to say that they should not be saturated, but to a degree that nevertheless will pass as believable or natural looking.

Some of my best photos are from my 35mm Velvia slide film days. They have beautiful colors and rendering. In the end the image counts, but they lack in detail. I wish they too had detail because it would be far better images if more details were present. However, though I mention details, there is more is it not? Somehow there needs to be a balance and no matter how... an image that triggers the eye and feelings inside...

Regards
Anders
« Last Edit: March 10, 2011, 01:53:25 AM by Anders_HK » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2011, 08:22:53 AM »
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Skip, It always comes down to what Cartier-Bresson said: "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything." If you check fora like Nikonians or Leica Users Forum you'll read unending equipment testimonials from people whose lives apparently revolve around owning particular cameras and lenses but, in most cases, don't show pictures they've shot with their equipment. One of the beauties of LuLa is that people are interested in pictures, not equipment.

ln the end, the only thing expensive equipment can do for you is let you make pictures you couldn't even attempt with your point-and-shoot or your cell phone. But even with advanced equipment, looking still is everything.
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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2011, 09:19:57 AM »
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What Russ says (and his HCB quote) pretty much sums it up. Of course the end result, the picture, is all that matters. But let me give this a slightly different, personal slant -

When I play guitar, I know I play much better when I have a fine instrument in my hands. The audience may not know the difference, but if the guitar "speaks" to me I will enjoy the experience far more. And similarly, I enjoy my photography far more when I have a fine camera in my hands. A good camera and lens system gives me pleasure because of the feedback I get from it, tactile, audible, and visual. The audience who view my pictures will neither know nor care about this difference, but the act of making photographs is important to me in just the same way as playing the guitar, or sailing a reponsive wooden boat upwind against a tricky tide.

John
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2011, 11:39:25 AM »
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One of the beauties of LuLa is that people are interested in pictures, not equipment.

Oh boy, I haven't laughed that hard all week - you sure have a good sense of humor Smiley
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skiphunt
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2011, 02:18:48 PM »
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Such excellent responses! I really didn't think I'd get that many people here who really cared about such things. What an excellent surprise. Looks like I've found a new place to hang. I've highly regarded Luminous Landscape reviews for years now but didn't even notice there was a forum.

I too appreciate fine equipment and also know that there are some images you simply can't get with an iPhone (yet). And although I tend to like very rich and saturated color, the iPhone images I referenced were also edited with apps on the iPhone and I likely went a little bit far with the saturation even for my tastes. Still, I'm quite happy with what I got given that everything was done with a gadget in my pocket that also makes calls. :-)

It's just that from sites like dpreview and others... it seems people have taken the emphasis off of the "seeing" and more on the gadgets. I posed the question here because this site doesn't seem to focus so much on the pixels and hardware as other sites and claims to be a "fine art photography" site. I was mostly curious if this obsession with gear over content had bled into the fine art photography circles yet.

Also... there were shots that I wanted to get that I simply couldn't with the iPhone 4. I also had a Panasonic LX3 with me which almost picked up the slack but the reach wasn't as far as I needed.

I'm totally into minimal gear now, but will try out the new Olympus XZ-1 compact on my next trip. Heading out on the motorcycle this time, but only for a couple weeks and just from Texas to around Louisiana and a little bit of Mississipi. Will only be taking the iPhone 4 and the XZ-1.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2011, 02:22:12 PM by skiphunt » Logged
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2011, 02:20:19 PM »
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Now, after it is clear we are only interested in images and not gear -anyone out there donating me an H4D-60 or a P65?
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2011, 03:34:49 PM »
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Now, after it is clear we are only interested in images and not gear -anyone out there donating me an H4D-60 or a P65?



And if I may squeak into the queue: that now obsolete (to you) M9 can find tender loving chez moi. I'll even help you pay postage.

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2011, 04:25:40 PM »
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Oh boy, I haven't laughed that hard all week - you sure have a good sense of humor Smiley
Yes, I almost drop my coffee on the screen when I read this. On this one Russ I must admit that you broke the sound barrier of the humor.
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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2011, 06:20:34 PM »
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Of course, you guys are right. I should have said "The Art of Photography." Once I realized what I'd said, I started laughing too.
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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2011, 08:50:49 PM »
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Of course, you guys are right. I should have said "The Art of Photography." Once I realized what I'd said, I started laughing too.
Russ,

I thought you were distinguishing between "People" (i.e., the sensitive individuals who frequent the Art and Critique threads) and the "Zombies" (who produce the endless discussions and heated arguments on the technical threads).

C-B said it exactly right, as usual.

Eric
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« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2011, 06:51:02 AM »
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I sell my work at street fairs and art shows as well as galleries.  It gives me a lot of feedback from customers, and passer-bys.

The hands down, #1 question I am asked,   "What kind of camera do you use?".
It bugs me, but I am trying to sell, so I am polite and tell them.

It seems many people look for a simple technological fix to make good photographs.  If one gets the "right" printer, software, camera, then that beautiful scene will be automatically transferred to the print. 
I  like to equate it to the carpentry trade.  Very few people ask a carpenter what type of hammer, skill saw,  or level he/she uses after he/she has built a wonderful structure.  Why is it so important to photographers?  Certainly good equipment helps make good images, but when I goes back into the history of photography, there are books filled with great images made by very rudimentary equipment.

As far as art goes.  I like to quote a Navy buddy of mine.  We were all sitting around the mess deck drinking coffee and talking about art.  Mike from Nebraska, who had been quiet previously, finally piped up with,   "I don't know about art, but I know what I like." 

In the end, it seems to me, that is what really matters.
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