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Author Topic: This needs to be read  (Read 14762 times)
John Camp
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« on: June 22, 2013, 04:49:53 PM »
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Here's an article that all landscape photographers should read. I'm not sure this is in exactly the right place on the forum, but it does touch some issues that have recently been discussed here.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/humanity-takes-millions-of-photos-every-day-why-are-most-so-forgettable/article12754086/
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David Sutton
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« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2013, 06:03:33 PM »
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Hello John. As good a place as any to post.
I am reminded of the last time I visited an art exhibition. It was mostly painting, and most of the pictures were not very good. Quite forgettable  in fact. People forget that historically most art has not been very good. I don't think that matters too much. This was about people making an attempt to express something within, and without that step no-one will get better. All painters start somewhere.
Photography is just catching up with the other arts. While not necessarily disagreeing with him, I think the author frets too much. I should be sorry to see traditional story telling skills lost in the current digital wave, but I'd give it another 20 years before making up my mind on that one.
As for the "happy snappers". Clearly something else is going on here. To make any painting, good or bad, takes commitment, and pointing an iphone doesn't. But that is nothing new. 130  years ago they were called "camera fiends" The Photographic News in July 1891 reported that when Prince George of Greece was travelling to America, he was “pursued by 150 ladies, all armed with cameras, who persisted in photographing him, despite his protests and his attempts to cover his face". There was outrage expressed in parliament when Queen Victoria was snapped laughing. It seems those days have returned. To quote the 4th October 1910 issue of The Amateur Photographer: “Our moral character dwindles as our instruments get smaller”

Edit: forgot to say thank you for the link

Second edit:
I just saw this in today's newspaper:
"Fruit - the original easy-to-eat food - has become the latest pre- peeled, ready-sliced convenience food, as stores sell it in bright little packages for "time-hungry" consumers. It's not just tricky produce like pineapples or pomegranates either. Some Fruit World franchises are now making our days easier by selling pre-peeled mandarins - that's the fruit marketed as "easy-peel"."
This makes me want to lie down in a dark room. In the world of photography, I suppose George Eastman began this trend. Must remind myself : in all things, just because most of the rest of the world does it, doesn't mean I have to.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 06:27:10 PM by David Sutton » Logged

wolfnowl
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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2013, 06:33:24 PM »
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Well written.  I can't remember who said it, but the quote was, "Why is it that if you buy a violin you own a violin, but if you buy a camera you're a photographer?"  Tr truth today is quite simple, though, that most of the images made will never be seen, and of those shared, most will never be looked at more than once, and by far most of them will be viewed on a non-colour-calibrated, small screen.  When we stop trying to make it art and relegate it to the category of the children's drawings or macaroni art that we hang proudly on the fridge door, those are still making photographic art will be sought out.

Mike.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2013, 03:00:53 AM »
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I can't speak to the merit of the thesis made by the author of the article without at least seeing the entries.  But I do find the title of the article to be mildly ridiculous: "Humanity takes millions of photos every day. Why are most so forgettable?"

Imagine a chef saying, "Humanity cooks millions of meals every day. Why are most so forgettable?"

Or,

A novelist, "Humanity writes millions of words every day. Why are most so forgettable?"   

In my case, at least, my reaction is, "is that a problem?"
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2013, 03:16:06 AM »
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The article is a little bit negative, but then the reality is, too.

In fact, the first thing that came to mind when reading the article was the famous Terence Donovan quotation:

The most difficult thing for the amateur is finding a reason to take a photograph.

It gets no more true than that. I find it to be my own current experience as well. When I was working as a photographer the work that I picked up was the raison d’être, purpose and justification of all the effort, time and money involved in its creation. Remove the business factor and there’s a huge void that screams to be filled. And it can’t be filled. The difference between shooting a photograph of a girl for ‘fun’ and doing it for reward is immeasurable. On the one hand there’s the buzz of the assignment, the need to outdo what one (or more importantly one’s predecessor) did before as well as the suppressed fear that something might have gone wrong unnoticed and that it will all turn to dust or, at best, a reshoot. It’s a helluva nervous high.

When a professional shoot is for self, then two things happen (to me): I get doubts about the marketability of the product; I worry about the financial investment if the first doubt proves correct. That was the main problem with stock, and why I preferred to use surplus material from commissioned shoots. The work was created on a high and so it was better and more successful in its secondary role as stock.

So there you are – remove the pro element and I’m where I find myself today: wandering about aimlessly with a cellpix machine or an expensive dslr, and in the end, it’s all the bloody same. Photography is, of itself, an amazing experience, but it can’t stand alone. Spend your life in it and it’s impossible to let go when your time is up, and you end up trying to continue doing what you used to do because you love it so, But that is impossible; desire is but a tiny part of the circle.

Photography needs real purpose. That has to come first and from it, given the ability, all else follows.

Rob C
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MarkL
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2013, 04:16:50 AM »
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I can't speak to the merit of the thesis made by the author of the article without at least seeing the entries.  But I do find the title of the article to be mildly ridiculous: "Humanity takes millions of photos every day. Why are most so forgettable?"

Imagine a chef saying, "Humanity cooks millions of meals every day. Why are most so forgettable?"

Or,

A novelist, "Humanity writes millions of words every day. Why are most so forgettable?"   

In my case, at least, my reaction is, "is that a problem?"

Maybe the internet and social media has just made the deluge of digital pictures more visible and means people compete for attention or maybe the difference is with the intent: most people won't think they are a chef because they cooked a meal but might think they are a photographer because they took an iphone picture with instagram.
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Robert55
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2013, 04:38:29 AM »
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What the guy you linked to does not explain, is whu an increase in volume should lead to a decrease in top quality
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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2013, 08:19:25 AM »
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What the guy you linked to does not explain, is whu an increase in volume should lead to a decrease in top quality




Why?  Because digital allows the distancing of cost, which was always a consideration, even for the top pros: everyone has a budget.
So, take away that consideration, and what's to stop the machine gun opening up? Better a sniper.

Rob C
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John Camp
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« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2013, 09:58:21 AM »
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I thought one of the most striking things was the implied victory of technique over content. What the guy was saying is that they had lots of perfectly exposed and processed pretty pictures, but none that meant anything, especially in the context of literally hundreds of other pretty pictures. If there's nothing to distinguish them (like a story) then what's the point? It's the thing we've sort of argued here several times, especially after Mark writes one of his essays about high-end cameras. I mean, is photography really nothing more than the best possible technique?   There's a school of painting called "The Boston School" which has led to a proliferation of "atliers" in the US, in which people spend a fairly rigid four or five years drawing and then learning to paint, and I find their end-product product to be banal and generally unviewable. The problem is the same as in this kind of photography: a victory of technique over content. There are no ideas in the work, other than technique: in fact, technique IS their idea, and for me, that's simply not enough. I'm not against good technique, understand, but it's no where near sufficient on its own.
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2013, 10:17:46 AM »
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Got to love this quote:

our jones for digital photography is – with rare exceptions – a form of neurotic masturbation, fuelled by an unstoppable sense of technological entitlement.
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prairiewing
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« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2013, 10:46:57 AM »
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I thought one of the most striking things was the implied victory of technique over content. What the guy was saying is that they had lots of perfectly exposed and processed pretty pictures, but none that meant anything, especially in the context of literally hundreds of other pretty pictures. If there's nothing to distinguish them (like a story) then what's the point? It's the thing we've sort of argued here several times, especially after Mark writes one of his essays about high-end cameras. I mean, is photography really nothing more than the best possible technique?   There's a school of painting called "The Boston School" which has led to a proliferation of "atliers" in the US, in which people spend a fairly rigid four or five years drawing and then learning to paint, and I find their end-product product to be banal and generally unviewable. The problem is the same as in this kind of photography: a victory of technique over content. There are no ideas in the work, other than technique: in fact, technique IS their idea, and for me, that's simply not enough. I'm not against good technique, understand, but it's no where near sufficient on its own.

The article was interesting but if that was his message then you stated it better in a single paragraph. 

I'm a little unclear about the requirements for the category they judged but if it was for photo essay--multiple photographs telling a story--that seems to be something that relatively few photographers have ever mastered and something there seems to be little market or call for today.  I think the essays he cited in Life and National Geographic were usually the result of good/great photographers working with good/great editors. 

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Pat Gerlach
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« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2013, 01:08:33 PM »
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This is just Sturgeon's Law in action. Over time the good stuff will survive and the dross will be forgotten. No need to fret about it. Same as it ever was...

-Dave-
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2013, 03:27:12 PM »
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I can't remember who said it, but the quote was, "Why is it that if you buy a violin you own a violin, but if you buy a camera you're a photographer?"

Mike.

Not just true of photography.  Along those same lines, at least here in L.A., a number of people think that buying a car means they know how to drive.  
« Last Edit: June 23, 2013, 03:28:57 PM by Paul Sumi » Logged

David Sutton
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« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2013, 11:24:29 PM »
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There's a school of painting called "The Boston School" which has led to a proliferation of "atliers" in the US, in which people spend a fairly rigid four or five years drawing and then learning to paint, and I find their end-product product to be banal and generally unviewable.

I agree, but the question I'd ask is whether this is anything new?
There are millions of photos being taken every hour with the modern equivalent of the brownie box camera. I don't see this as the victory of technique over content, because there is no technique. It's all in the camera's software (or later in the computer). How can it not be perfectly exposed and processed?
The thing is, human nature doesn't change just because of the introduction of new technology. To question why so many photos are forgettable is a bit silly really. To question why so much art is forgettable is a more interesting question, but one that ignores human nature and its fads and follies. Don't get me started on some of the art world's latest fads.  Smiley
There is some great photography being done. The difference now is that the the web is the first place most folks go to see it. The web is the new "art gallery", and it is a gallery swamped by a tsunami of images that in the past were safely hidden away in the family album. You have to shovel hard.
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2013, 02:43:23 AM »
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I agree, but the question I'd ask is whether this is anything new?
There are millions of photos being taken every hour with the modern equivalent of the brownie box camera. I don't see this as the victory of technique over content, because there is no technique. It's all in the camera's software (or later in the computer). How can it not be perfectly exposed and processed?
The thing is, human nature doesn't change just because of the introduction of new technology. To question why so many photos are forgettable is a bit silly really. To question why so much art is forgettable is a more interesting question, but one that ignores human nature and its fads and follies. Don't get me started on some of the art world's latest fads.  Smiley
There is some great photography being done. The difference now is that the the web is the first place most folks go to see it. The web is the new "art gallery", and it is a gallery swamped by a tsunami of images that in the past were safely hidden away in the family album. You have to shovel hard.


Or take the advice: when in a hole, stop digging!

;-)

Rob C
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2013, 06:16:55 AM »
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The article was good, but we've known this for some time. However it's far from limited to photography either.
We are not in the age of golden photography or golden anything else. We are in the age of the "Wannabe"  Tongue

Youtube is full of ho hum videos be they personal broadcasts with reviews or comments, or bands looking for a record label to notice them. Everyone is taking ultra shallow DOF videos in the desperate attempt to become the next in demand cinematographer that some Hollywood studio pays a bomb for.

I partly blame these reality shows (which are getting a bit tiresome and overdone) pluck average Joe/s from obscurity and throw them on TV with the promise of a record contract, or instant fame or some other job they walk into just for being on our screens. It's the next gimmick with people. Be honest in 10 years time do you think anyone will consider "Gangnam Style", to be one of the greatest songs ever done? I doubt it.

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width - Never did cut it for photography, video work, or writing songs or painting.

I think half the problem is the way we live in society. People are celebrated for being in the ultra elite or super wealthy. It's a ladder for some people to try to climb. Does Damien Hirst really deserve to be the richest most successful artist living and worth over £200 million? Or is he just talentless and reliant on gimmicks and shock tactics? I'd wager the last category myself.

Putting a bunch of sausages into an acrylic case with silicone isn't art. Neither is showing a dead carcass.
 
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2013, 08:37:25 AM »
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The article was good, but we've known this for some time. However it's far from limited to photography either.
We are not in the age of golden photography or golden anything else. We are in the age of the "Wannabe"  Tongue

Youtube is full of ho hum videos be they personal broadcasts with reviews or comments, or bands looking for a record label to notice them. Everyone is taking ultra shallow DOF videos in the desperate attempt to become the next in demand cinematographer that some Hollywood studio pays a bomb for.

I partly blame these reality shows (which are getting a bit tiresome and overdone) pluck average Joe/s from obscurity and throw them on TV with the promise of a record contract, or instant fame or some other job they walk into just for being on our screens. It's the next gimmick with people. Be honest in 10 years time do you think anyone will consider "Gangnam Style", to be one of the greatest songs ever done? I doubt it.

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width - Never did cut it for photography, video work, or writing songs or painting.

I think half the problem is the way we live in society. People are celebrated for being in the ultra elite or super wealthy. It's a ladder for some people to try to climb. Does Damien Hirst really deserve to be the richest most successful artist living and worth over £200 million? Or is he just talentless and reliant on gimmicks and shock tactics? I'd wager the last category myself.

Putting a bunch of sausages into an acrylic case with silicone isn't art. Neither is showing a dead carcass.
 

Really enjoyed reading the above post on this subject.
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Isaac
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2013, 11:37:26 AM »
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I can't speak to the merit of the thesis made by the author of the article without at least seeing the entries.

Past winners.

I'm a little unclear about the requirements for the category they judged...

Regulations (pdf)
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Isaac
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2013, 12:11:52 PM »
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Tendentious writing with the reek of snobbery.


Quote
Why are most of them so forgettable?

Most of them were created as ephemeral amusements, so it's really not hard to understand why they are forgettable.

Quote
One of his most memorable photo essays is an ongoing series of pictures taken from the front porch of his house: his kids playing on a toboggan in a blizzard, his wife’s belly, the dog. They mean something to him...

aka Family snapshots.

Quote
But when “everybody with a phone thinks they’re a photographer,”...

Everybody with a phone doesn't think they're a photographer -- they think they have a source of amusement that they can share with their acquaintances.
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Isaac
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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2013, 12:17:23 PM »
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Does Damien Hirst really deserve to be the richest most successful artist living and worth over £200 million? Or is he just talentless and reliant on gimmicks and shock tactics?

Sour grapes.
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