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Klainmeister
02-14-2013, 02:21 PM
Pictorialism is alive and well nowadays. I cannot decide which I like worse: a million pictorialist or a million wannabe Adams....

winger
02-14-2013, 02:27 PM
Part of it is because if everyone liked the same things, the world would be BORING. You don't like the truck, but others here do. Maybe there are people paying for things to hang on their walls who like it more than they like perfectly exposed and developed, sharp, and steady images.
There's something for everyone.

horacekenneth
02-14-2013, 02:40 PM
I cannot decide which I like worse: a million pictorialist or a million wannabe Adams....

I read this as:

"I like steak. I do not like seafood. I cannot decide which I dislike more, bad steak or good seafood."

That's not an unreasonable opinion, but I don't think it adds to a conversation about what is good art, or food for that matter.

Do you see what I mean? It's okay to dislike seafood, but that doesn't make good food subjective. There is a standard by which we compare good seafood and bad seafood and to some extent we can cross genres- comparing seafood and steak. But no one should call the cook bad because they are allergic to seafood.

Rudeofus
02-14-2013, 03:55 PM
Call me unwashed, but the grainy (I rarely like blurry) b&w street images that are quite popular - when matched with the subject well - I find to have a surrealistic quality, what I mean is, the style seems to emphasize the universal event pictured, and not the particular subject pictured.

Thoughts? Is that just me?
You can use grain, "incorrect" exposure and other image "defects" to create a certain style and mood in your image, and if it works, more power to you. If someone, however, uses these techniques for a cheap wow effect of the "OMG how did he make these dots in that image" kind, then I'm not so sure whether real art has been created. Likewise there is a lot of craft but no inherent art involved in creating a perfectly exposed, sharp and mostly grainless image.

The biggest issue I have with that image linked to by Felinik is that I honestly believe most APUGers could do such a shot by themself with little effort, and similar images can probably be found by the dozen on any Lomo wall. Given that, I really wonder who would pay big bucks for such an image.

horacekenneth
02-14-2013, 04:00 PM
Given that, I really wonder who would pay big bucks for such an image.

Again, I think the difference between a lomo waller and a gallery work lies in the background of the photograph. Here's an excerpt from a much longer essay by Clive James.


At the court of the Shogun Iyenari, it was a tense moment. Hokusai, already well established as a prodigiously gifted artist, was competing with a conventional brush-stroke painter in a face-off judged by the shogun personally. Hokusai painted a blue curve on a big piece of paper, chased a chicken across it whose feet had been dipped in red paint, and explained the result to the shogun: it was a landscape showing the Tatsuta River with floating red maple leaves. Hokusai won the competition. The story is well known but the reaction of the conventional brush-stroke artist was not recorded. It's quite likely that he thought Hokusai had done not much more than register an idea, or, as we would say today, a concept. A loser's view, perhaps; though not without substance. If Hokusai had spent his career dipping chickens in red paint, he would have been Yoko Ono.
But Hokusai did a lot more, and the same applies to ever artist we respect, in any field: sometimes they delight us with absurdly simple things, but we expect them to back it up with plenty of evidence that they can do complicated things as well. And anyway, on close examination the absurdly simple thing might turn out to be achieved not entirely without technique. Late in his career Picasso would take ten seconds to turn a bicycle saddle and a pair of handlebars into a bull's head and expect to charge you a fortune for it, but when he was sixteen he could paint a cardinal's full-length portrait that looked better than anything ever signed by Velazquez. You can't tell, just from looking at the bull's head, that it was assembled by a hand commanding infinities of know-how, but you would have been able to tell, from looking at Hokusai's prize-winning picture, that a lot of assurance lay behind the sweep of blue paint, and that he had professionally observed floating red maple leaves long enough to know that the prints of a chicken's red-painted feet would resemble them, as long as the chicken could be induced to move briskly and not just hang about making puddles.

Klainmeister
02-14-2013, 05:18 PM
....it was more of a comment on these recent threads regarding the artistic merits of different styles. They're different, and not for everyone. Why is that so hard to agree on? Things come in and out of style and if anything, the more recent pictorialist popularity is probably a backlash against the 'perfect' digital images that aren't strewn with what some consider defects. If you can pull that off, then great! If not, well hey, time to experiment some more.

My main concern with pictorialism is that the occasional image in singularity often works, but in a portfolio or gallery exhibit, it gets somewhat tiring for a lot of people.

Mr Bill
02-14-2013, 05:45 PM
I don't know much about art - I was never trained in it, nor have I thought too hard about it. I just have some fairly recent observations from a photo exhibit.

The photos were of jazz musicians, mostly playing in clubs, you would have to be over about 50 years of age to be familiar with many. I went with a friend who, aside from his day job, is a weekend club musician and sometimes photographer. We were looking forward to seeing some good photos.

The images seemed pretty grainy, not out of line with ~1960s 35mm available-light work. But they were almost universally blurry. About a half-dozen prints into the exhibit, he turned to me and said, this negative would never have made it into my enlarger. I agreed; these would have been the rejects from my contact sheets. In many, motion blur of the faces made them unrecognizeable, instruments were blurred into shiny streaks.

But on further consideration, we both agreed the images DID have the feel of the dim, smokey clubs. So, although these images would have failed in their day as reportage, they are resurrected 50 years later as art. So I dunno.

I grew up with a photojournalistic outlook, always in a fight against graininess and blur, so I have a hard time appreciating this sort of thing. If I know the photographer was skilled (as in this case), I can accept this as intentional. Otherwise, it seems to be a lack of skill masquerading as art. Just my views as a non-artist.

Mainecoonmaniac
02-14-2013, 06:06 PM
I remember being blown away by W.Eugene Smiths prints of the Jazz Lofts project I saw in Chicago. They were dark, the shadows were empty and images are grainy. I wouldn't call them bad photographs at all. It was perfection in it's own right.

Rudeofus
02-14-2013, 06:15 PM
Again, I think the difference between a lomo waller and a gallery work lies in the background of the photograph. Here's an excerpt from a much longer essay by Clive James.
Marketing and hype play an uncomfortably big role in today's art market and gallery scene. If that artist was among the first to confront a public used to plasticky clean HDR shots, he/she might have brought something new to the table and might be an innovator. If the photographer in question used that style because that's what galleries ask for at the moment, we might have progressed onto the second or third "I". Note that this applies regardless of effort and skill put into the actual making of the image.

PS: I like that snippet you quoted!

Michael R 1974
02-14-2013, 08:17 PM
Galleries need to sell stuff. Generally, photography is a tough sell. Unlike drawing, painting etc, it is difficult to get the public to see the monetary value in a photograph, because the "hand of the artist" is not obvious. People often ascribe value to things they don't think they can do, or things that look as though a lot of work went into them. If they see a drawing, they see a special skill. When people look at sharp, well exposed, grainless photographs, they think they can do it. After all, the film/sensor records the image, the lens focuses etc. The photographer just has to see what already exists and take the picture, right? Print quality? Nobody sees that or cares, besides perhaps other photographers/printers. In that context, from a marketing perspective, it might be easier to sell photographs that are blurry or grainy or under/overexposed because they are further removed from what the public would normally view as simple photographs. Potential buyers may see them as more than just pictures, and perhaps have a sense of the work the artist put in. A blurry or very grainy print might give the impression the photographer made the picture rather than simply took the picture.

Please note this post is not meant to imply blurry, grainy or "badly" exposed pictures are inherently any better or worse than straight work. I'm just trying to put forth a possible explanation for why we might find more of this type of work in galleries.

OzJohn
02-14-2013, 09:13 PM
Here I found an example:

http://images1.citybreak.com/image.aspx?ImageId=1403322

While I personally don't care for grain in my photos I don't think the grain in this image is too outrageous. Has it occured to anyone else that this photo may have started life as nothing more cerebal than an accidental shot that the photographer happened to like when they saw it? It has some of the characteristics of a picture taken by pressing the button on a camera slung over a shoulder. OzJohn

MattKing
02-15-2013, 01:14 AM
For the record, I like the image of the truck...

As do I.

But the grain and blur are important to the result, and at least appear to be the result of conscious choice.

Felinik
02-15-2013, 02:03 AM
Things come in and out of style and if anything, the more recent pictorialist popularity is probably a backlash against the 'perfect' digital images that aren't strewn with what some consider defects.


This is what I suspect as well, as with everything; music, clothes, home decoration, whatnot... there seems to be a need for "balance", and not seldom it goes in circles. This can probably be backed by looking at the current instagram "retro" hype, as well as the last years appearance of vintage looking digital cameras. In short, vintage photography seems to be "a la mode" right now...

:)

Felinik
02-15-2013, 04:02 AM
Print quality? Nobody sees that or cares, besides perhaps other photographers/printers. In that context, from a marketing perspective, it might be easier to sell photographs that are blurry or grainy or under/overexposed because they are further removed from what the public would normally view as simple photographs. Potential buyers may see them as more than just pictures, and perhaps have a sense of the work the artist put in. A blurry or very grainy print might give the impression the photographer made the picture rather than simply took the picture.

This does indeed sound like part of the truth. It's kind of like with music, as soon as an artist release a song where something is completely bananas, vocals that sounds like frogs or robots or some other odd species, banjo playing backwards, or something else that is "out of the norm", if the artist is well known enough, it's treated as a stroke of genius and hits the charts with full power...

So again "a la mode"...


:)

hoffy
02-15-2013, 04:36 AM
As do I.

But the grain and blur are important to the result, and at least appear to be the result of conscious choice.

I'm with these guys - I like the picture. Maybe this sounds like a load of wank, but to me, these portrays some emotion, some feeling.

Put it this way, lets imagine that this picture was indeed very sharp and shot on a grainless film, or heavens forbid, digital. What would we have? A truck on a highway. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it might be a technically adequate picture, but I'd say it wouldn't capture the imagination of the average viewer.

Where's with this picture - the added grain, the blurriness - it adds tension. The way I am interpreting this picture is that either a violent storm is on us or approaching. I am not sure if this is what the photographer intended, but that is the feeling I get.

Felinik
02-15-2013, 04:57 AM
I'm with these guys - I like the picture. Maybe this sounds like a load of wank, but to me, these portrays some emotion, some feeling.

Put it this way, lets imagine that this picture was indeed very sharp and shot on a grainless film, or heavens forbid, digital. What would we have? A truck on a highway. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it might be a technically adequate picture, but I'd say it wouldn't capture the imagination of the average viewer.

Where's with this picture - the added grain, the blurriness - it adds tension. The way I am interpreting this picture is that either a violent storm is on us or approaching. I am not sure if this is what the photographer intended, but that is the feeling I get.


And this leads us to an interesting chain of thoughts, this mean that blur, grain and other possible "distortion" parameters are adding to the composition, right?

I think then we are back on the same track, why does this work, and why do people appreciate it?

It's "a la mode"....

Regarding what the shooter intended with the shot, I dont know, but the shot is from a series of images about a certain group of people driving those "trucks", as kind of a unspoken community thing, it's actually late teenagers 16-18 years, driving those vehicles, home-modified kind of "car-tractors" which are allowed a max speed of 30 km/h and has to have specific dimensions etc. and that youngsters, 16 and up, can get a license to drive.

Rudeofus
02-15-2013, 06:59 AM
Galleries need to sell stuff. Generally, photography is a tough sell. Unlike drawing, painting etc, it is difficult to get the public to see the monetary value in a photograph, because the "hand of the artist" is not obvious.

[...]

Please note this post is not meant to imply blurry, grainy or "badly" exposed pictures are inherently any better or worse than straight work. I'm just trying to put forth a possible explanation for why we might find more of this type of work in galleries.

Michael, that's a great explanation for what many seem to observe here, but it also confirms that not everything we see in galleries will pass the test of time. Which isn't new either, AFAIK Picasso burned his early paintings to keep his room warm, while galleries were full of less worthwhile stuff that has long been forgotten since then.

Rudeofus
02-15-2013, 07:08 AM
Put it this way, lets imagine that this picture was indeed very sharp and shot on a grainless film, or heavens forbid, digital. What would we have? A truck on a highway. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it might be a technically adequate picture, but I'd say it wouldn't capture the imagination of the average viewer.
If exposed, developed and printed with best current technique, this image would be without merit and most likely ignored by most people. But if deficient technique can turn a pointless snapshot into fine art, something else has gone awry.

Hokusai (http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1461902) might have created fine art by chasing a chicken with paint on its feet across a canvas, but in this case he did invent a new technique to achieve a certain aesthetic. Blurry&grainy prints and the mood created by these defects are not exactly novel, though.

horacekenneth
02-15-2013, 07:29 AM
Hokusai (http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1461902) might have created fine art by chasing a chicken with paint on its feet across a canvas, but in this case he did invent a new technique to achieve a certain aesthetic. Blurry&grainy prints and the mood created by these defects are not exactly novel, though.

You're very intent on whether they are innovating or not but I don't think innovation is what makes an artist an artist. Inventing HDR or Instagram doesn't make that person an artist, but if they do something really good with it, then they are an artist and an innovator.

Clive James' point about Hokusai is not that he invented something new, his point is that he did something incredibly simplistic and kind of inane to create a winning image. And he could do that because Hokusai was not simplistic or inane.
Like Michael Kenna or Moersch shooting with a Holga - it isn't art because they are the first ones to do it, it's art because they are so good that they can take a very simple fallible tool and make something beautiful.

Klainmeister
02-15-2013, 08:53 AM
Galleries need to sell stuff. Generally, photography is a tough sell. Unlike drawing, painting etc, it is difficult to get the public to see the monetary value in a photograph, because the "hand of the artist" is not obvious. People often ascribe value to things they don't think they can do, or things that look as though a lot of work went into them. If they see a drawing, they see a special skill. When people look at sharp, well exposed, grainless photographs, they think they can do it. After all, the film/sensor records the image, the lens focuses etc. The photographer just has to see what already exists and take the picture, right? Print quality? Nobody sees that or cares, besides perhaps other photographers/printers. In that context, from a marketing perspective, it might be easier to sell photographs that are blurry or grainy or under/overexposed because they are further removed from what the public would normally view as simple photographs. Potential buyers may see them as more than just pictures, and perhaps have a sense of the work the artist put in. A blurry or very grainy print might give the impression the photographer made the picture rather than simply took the picture.

Please note this post is not meant to imply blurry, grainy or "badly" exposed pictures are inherently any better or worse than straight work. I'm just trying to put forth a possible explanation for why we might find more of this type of work in galleries.

Michael, I think you hit the nail right on the head. I have 4 photographs hanging in our office, 1 is a cyanotype toned with wine, another is a lith, and two are straight BW fiber (warmtone). Never once has anyone said anything about the latter two, while the paint-like aspect of the cyanotype gets constant comments. Someone even called it art!