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Author Topic: The Lure of the Déjà Vu  (Read 2310 times)
Rob C
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« on: May 17, 2013, 11:54:33 AM »
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Photography of ‘standard’ sites.

I wonder what the attraction really is; why people do this. I realise that some seek to outdo the existing and definitive ‘master’ shots from some great snapper of the past and that yet others say that the appeal is to achieve nothing more than their own record of been there - done that. T-shirt photography, then.

It seems a bit of a pointless effort, especially in the day of digital and the time that demands at the altar of the computer. I’d have imagined that the thing to do would be to seek out something original, something never seen in a book or a magazine anywhere else. This comes to mind when I look at sites where there are so many alternative versions of Half Dome, El Capitan and that confounded waterfall tumbling down on the right side of the image. (It’s almost always on the right – can’t these snappers change their stance?) Perhaps it’s part of the psychology running through another thread: the preservation unto posterity of the now – anybody’s and everybody’s now. Yet, if you ever had access to the old Image Bank and Tony Stone stock catalogues, you’d have been surprised just how individual many stock shots of standard sites can be. The Image Bank claimed to hold 36,000 trannies of the Eiffel Tower; you can bet they were not identical.

I can certainly get the point of shooting pix of somebody one loves in front of a well-known scene; that’s personal, and has every justification I can think of going for it. But remove the personal, and what you got, as they say?

Looking at the current series of images from cjogo, I can understand what he's doing, especially now that he’s explained that it’s been in pursuit of gallery material. But so far, I don’t see any weak versions of another snappers existing ideas about a given place; I see personal points of view about design being expressed.

The same can be said of Michael’s LuLa cover shots: being in a place like Mexico, the lure of cliché must entail a constant battle to avoid it – I think he succeeds and comes up with non-clichéd images all his own. Perhaps that’s due to the presence of people. Somehow, landscape shooters often fail to make images look personal, either because of the dreaded tripod holes, or a failure to be adventurous with the processing. Possibly, it’s even a problem associated with great DOF. Whatever the reason, it makes the occasional great shot stand out lonely in the crowd. There are not that many, I’m afraid. I think city shooters have a greater chance of scoring a hit.

Rob C
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Isaac
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2013, 02:35:15 PM »
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The obvious:
  • many standard sites are visually spectacular
  • others prefer to admire and acquire photographs of places they recognize
  • easier than searching-out somewhere new and spectacular

Why do musicians play Jazz standards.

Having said that, I'm more likely to acquire an Emerald Bay or Yosemite Valley photograph from someone else; and make photographs when I see.
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WalterEG
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2013, 03:26:38 PM »
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The ONLY time I ever set my sticks in someone else's tripod holes was in Wells Cathedral where I was compelled to pay homage to Frederich H Evans "Sea Of Steps" — and much of the purpose was to see what the differences were in the passing of 100 or more years.

There was a time in my advertising days when working for a large food manufacturer (biscuits - or cookies) where the art director would sketch a layout, including placement of key elements) which I would have to trace onto acetate with a rapidograph and then attach to the ground-glass of the 8x10 cameras we used.  I hated doing it then and nothing in the intervening 40 years has lessened my sense of displeasure with taking other people's pictures.

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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2013, 05:04:57 PM »
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Isaac,

1.  “Many standard sites are visually spectacular.”

Yes, I agree that they probably are, but if they are done to death, why not leave the dead in peace?

2.  “Why do musicians play jazz standards?”

I think they do that for a variety of reasons, not least of all that the audience often recognizes them and that helps with the atmosphere (Greatest Hits Syndrome) where they play. Standards are well known – by definition – and the musicians will probably all be familiar with the structure of the pieces, allowing for a better, more contained combined effort. Where ‘guest’ players sometimes join in, the well-known numbers are usually the ones that get the spin because of their easily recognized form to all the players.

Not all musicians are particularly creative – not any more so than are all snappers; they do what they do according to the music sheet or, if far enough out of that, then play around melody and chord sequences that bring them back to a unified position just in time to go walkies again together.

At least, as a non-musician, that’s how it has seemed to me over the years. It isn’t as complicated as it looks, that’s for sure! If you spend time over a season, going to all the gigs of a particular group of musos, you do realise that they repeat much of the same musical portfolio time after time; it makes their lives simple, the audiences seldom being the same each session. Too much familiarity can breed a certain contempt; well, not contempt, but it isn’t difficult to become a little blasé after a while. It’s like it must have been living with a Hollywood goddess: the reality must eventually leave you somewhat underwhelmed. So what chance mere mortals with instruments?

Walter,

I sometimes found myself working to tight layouts too; not a stack of fun, but the nature of some parts of the game.

Much of my life in fashion was relatively free, apart from some Vogue-destined trips where I had to shoot twenty-year-old girls I’d never seen before wearing clothes designed for middle-aged ladies-who-lunched. The girls were usually about size 10 and the clothes from the manufacturers were sizes 12 or 14. Farcical. At least the standard collections I used to shoot twice a year were made to suit the models we chose, and it was up to me to do my thing and come up with interesting pics that some unknown (to me) magazine somewhere would want to publish, and that sales reps could give to stores that stocked their range.

Had a giggle: we did a studio shot of my muse in a tank top and hot pants, about to stick a banana into her mouth; we had huge fun that afternoon and never really expected the client would go along with it. He did: it became one of some 60”x40” colour prints for their stand, and made the front cover of a Helsinki newspaper reporting their show. Alas, can’t scan it: newspaper lost (destroyed by self) along with all the magazines and my other fashion material. What the hell was I thinking when I flew the coop from Britain? Not a damned thing survives from all those years in the rag trade. Maybe self-destruction is built-in; perhaps a kind of safety valve that lets one seek out fresh pastures.

Did anyone see the tv show on the Beeb tonight about F. Scott Fitzgerald? Some fabulous shots of OOF car lights on city streets… the programme was also rather interesting; he could have been living the life of a photographer, for all the differences between that and one of writing. On the subject of the car lights: it occurred to me that the images, shot on long lenses, were especially interesting because they weren’t stills but slowly moving…

Rob C
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 05:07:49 PM by Rob C » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2013, 12:07:16 PM »
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Why do musicians play Jazz standards.

Getting away from jazz, why would a magician like Perlman play a standard like Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen? Perhaps because no matter how many times you've heard it that music can reach in, grab your heart, and squeeze, especially when Perlman plays it.

I think it's always possible to do something original with a clichéd subject. It just takes a different head doing the something. Every head is unique, but it seems to me most photography of "standard" sites is done without the use of a head.

And yes, Rob, I'm convinced that man and/or the hand of man almost always improves landscape. Maybe you already knew that.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2013, 01:18:39 PM »
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Why? Because it works. Nothing succeeds like success. Cliches are cliches for a reason.

Take a look at the Pantheon of good photography, National Geographic, and see how many Vatican spiral stairs and El Capitan shots won their contests over the years. Look at many other photographic venues, and you'll see even more Vatican spiral stairs and El Capitan among the prize-winners. Works every time. You would think that there is no way to shoot those stairs in an original fashion (and there isn't, or at least those prize winners aren't), but somehow there seems to be something in them, some mystique, perhaps even... The Holy Spirit itself?
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Slobodan

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Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2013, 07:46:39 AM »
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I haven't seen NG in years; after all the tv programmes I'm surprised it exists in paper form.

Perhaps in paper format it's a little more sophisticated; on tv it's pure ass-fodder; rainy afternoon filler material because even the dog doesn't want to go out with you. IMO.

Rob C
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 12:07:26 PM by Rob C » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2013, 10:52:34 AM »
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The paper version is still around, Rob, and although its editorial material is mostly by Greens bemoaning the demise of various species (according to my historical geology professors a process that's been going on since the first ooze of life) some of the photography is simply magnificent.

An aside: My granddad -- the one with the 5 x 7 view camera and flash powder -- had a shelf in his library with every issue of National Geographic from issue 1. After he died they gave the set to the local library.
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