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catem
08-16-2006, 05:44 AM
well - I got no problem with trying to keep the lingo as 'street' as possible. I think that would be a good exercise in forcing one to say what one means in as plain a way as possible...
I've skimmed this thread a little, so could be getting it wrong here, but I'm not sure blansky's point is about keeping the language 'street', I think it's one of approach.

I agree it's useful to know the context of photographs and the intention of the photographer, particularly the more conceptual the work is. Though you could argue that, even with highly conceptual work, the viewer should be able to 'get it' on at least some sort of level without explanation, otherwise it has failed, or failed outside a very narrow context and audience, who speak the same language. That is an area to at least consider vis-a-vis the relative 'success' of a photo or body of work.

It's not always so important though (again, very much depending on the kind of work it is, and also whether it's part of a series or not). I agree that Dorothea Lange's migrant mother image can speak on it's own without full knowledge of the circumstances in which it was taken.

In fact to know more may detract rather - the fact that Lange took five or six shots to get that one, moving closer and closer to the family until the final one. After I knew that I always wonder whether the expression on the woman' s face is more one of irritation with the photographer than anything else (and the children are turning away from her).

So how much information, precisely, do we need, or is positive. As Avedon said, (not of any photograph in particular) perhaps Lange's image is 'accurate' rather than 'truthful'. And yet, if so, it manages to convey a wider, and more important truth. Just where does helpful information begin and end, and how selective is it.

I think knowing whether you like or dislike something is important. Sometimes I don't know...and this is the case with Friedlander, and so I suspend judgement, because it's also important not to rush in, and to at least try to understand.....I agree that knowing more about the photographer and his or her intentions can be particularly useful in this kind of case.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is I think 'I like it' or 'I don't like it' are valuable responses - perhaps the most valuable and ultimately what it's all about - but the more conceptual the image-making the more we are drawn into the whys and wherefores, and we need to accept that that is a part of it.

Even so, I think it's always acceptable to step back,when you think you understand as far as you can what someone is trying to do and still say 'but I don't like it'. In that case it hasn't 'worked' and that's a valid response.

Yes we should try to understand and dig deeper if the work warrants it, but we should also trust and value our gut feelings. They are a valid place to start.

It's also an important difference between offering critique for a fellow apuger, for example, and consideration of the work of an established photographer. For the first to say 'I don't like it' would be unconstructive and unhelpful. For the latter, I believe we are entitled to make such judgements (informed, of course ;) )

Cate

blansky
08-17-2006, 10:27 AM
.

It's not always so important though (again, very much depending on the kind of work it is, and also whether it's part of a series or not). I agree that Dorothea Lange's migrant mother image can speak on it's own without full knowledge of the circumstances in which it was taken.

In fact to know more may detract rather - the fact that Lange took five or six shots to get that one, moving closer and closer to the family until the final one. After I knew that I always wonder whether the expression on the woman' s face is more one of irritation with the photographer than anything else (and the children are turning away from her).
Cate

As someone who has spent many years photographing people, I fine this to be a very astute observation.

We view a photograph and in many cases we think the photographer was invisible and recorded what was laid out before him. In reality, in most cases he injected himself into the situation and as you point out, migrant mother and the kids may be just sick of the damn photographer sticking his camera in their faces.

The other thing that we know from watching some of the stuff in the middle east is that in a lot of cases the expressions are made expressly for the camera. They are not candid but are essentially "acting up" for the camera.

We don't know if the WW2 sailor kissing nurse picture is in that genre or not, seeing the photographer, the sailor grabbed a nurse, planted a wet one and said, how that? put me in the paper.

But we know the Iwo Jima was a "re-enactment" of the original occurance and therefore not as candid as we would have thought.

Michael

tim atherton
08-17-2006, 10:49 AM
But we know the Iwo Jima was a "re-enactment" of the original occurance and therefore not as candid as we would have thought.

Michael

well - I guess it depends on how you define a "re-enactment"

It was the raising of a second, while fighting continued, but not re-done for the camera.

Sparky
08-17-2006, 04:47 PM
As someone who has spent many years photographing people, I fine this to be a very astute observation.

We view a photograph and in many cases we think the photographer was invisible and recorded what was laid out before him. In reality, in most cases he injected himself into the situation and as you point out, migrant mother and the kids may be just sick of the damn photographer sticking his camera in their faces.

The other thing that we know from watching some of the stuff in the middle east is that in a lot of cases the expressions are made expressly for the camera. They are not candid but are essentially "acting up" for the camera.

We don't know if the WW2 sailor kissing nurse picture is in that genre or not, seeing the photographer, the sailor grabbed a nurse, planted a wet one and said, how that? put me in the paper.

But we know the Iwo Jima was a "re-enactment" of the original occurance and therefore not as candid as we would have thought.

Michael

Not trying to be nasty or insensitive toward subject here - but - does it even matter? A good photograph is a good photograph. Does it matter how it was made? Since you've labored previously (in the same thread - that WAS you wasn't it?) how the intent of the artist shouldn't really be important - and the photograph should stand on it's own merits... why be concerned at all? (btw - I'm not trying to be facetious here or elicit a response - it's just that in THIS situation - I don't think the intent actually DOES matter).

Sparky
08-17-2006, 04:50 PM
I wasn't thinking so much of technical goings-on of a shoot, so much as the artist's intention in making an image - lest that intention be somewhat hard to read. If it really helps the image be successful - then why not?


I've skimmed this thread a little, so could be getting it wrong here, but I'm not sure blansky's point is about keeping the language 'street', I think it's one of approach.

I agree it's useful to know the context of photographs and the intention of the photographer, particularly the more conceptual the work is. Though you could argue that, even with highly conceptual work, the viewer should be able to 'get it' on at least some sort of level without explanation, otherwise it has failed, or failed outside a very narrow context and audience, who speak the same language. That is an area to at least consider vis-a-vis the relative 'success' of a photo or body of work.

It's not always so important though (again, very much depending on the kind of work it is, and also whether it's part of a series or not). I agree that Dorothea Lange's migrant mother image can speak on it's own without full knowledge of the circumstances in which it was taken.

In fact to know more may detract rather - the fact that Lange took five or six shots to get that one, moving closer and closer to the family until the final one. After I knew that I always wonder whether the expression on the woman' s face is more one of irritation with the photographer than anything else (and the children are turning away from her).

So how much information, precisely, do we need, or is positive. As Avedon said, (not of any photograph in particular) perhaps Lange's image is 'accurate' rather than 'truthful'. And yet, if so, it manages to convey a wider, and more important truth. Just where does helpful information begin and end, and how selective is it.

I think knowing whether you like or dislike something is important. Sometimes I don't know...and this is the case with Friedlander, and so I suspend judgement, because it's also important not to rush in, and to at least try to understand.....I agree that knowing more about the photographer and his or her intentions can be particularly useful in this kind of case.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is I think 'I like it' or 'I don't like it' are valuable responses - perhaps the most valuable and ultimately what it's all about - but the more conceptual the image-making the more we are drawn into the whys and wherefores, and we need to accept that that is a part of it.

Even so, I think it's always acceptable to step back,when you think you understand as far as you can what someone is trying to do and still say 'but I don't like it'. In that case it hasn't 'worked' and that's a valid response.

Yes we should try to understand and dig deeper if the work warrants it, but we should also trust and value our gut feelings. They are a valid place to start.

It's also an important difference between offering critique for a fellow apuger, for example, and consideration of the work of an established photographer. For the first to say 'I don't like it' would be unconstructive and unhelpful. For the latter, I believe we are entitled to make such judgements (informed, of course ;) )

Cate

blansky
08-17-2006, 07:30 PM
Not trying to be nasty or insensitive toward subject here - but - does it even matter? A good photograph is a good photograph. Does it matter how it was made? Since you've labored previously (in the same thread - that WAS you wasn't it?) how the intent of the artist shouldn't really be important - and the photograph should stand on it's own merits... why be concerned at all? (btw - I'm not trying to be facetious here or elicit a response - it's just that in THIS situation - I don't think the intent actually DOES matter).

I agree. It does not matter. It is merely anecdotal.

BUT. In emotional photographs, we want to have "honestly". We hate to be duped.

As for the migrant mother that we were discussing, she could indeed have been tired of this photographer in her face. Still a great picture.

I would bet you that you could hire actors to play roles in these types of situations and it could be pulled off as being authentic.

But it would still be a good picture.

We pay people to cheat us every day. And pay them millions to do it.


Michael

Sparky
08-17-2006, 08:34 PM
well - I guess it depends on how you define a "re-enactment"

It was the raising of a second, while fighting continued, but not re-done for the camera.

Oh. I thought it was done FOR the camera. I'm taking that picture OFF my wall, now! Thanks!!

Sparky
08-17-2006, 08:36 PM
Another funny little anecdote I remember reading... Arthur Koestler in one of his books (sorry - forget which) mentions a friend of his, who had a quaint little etching hidden away somewhere in the apartment. As soon as it was found out that it was a picasso, suddenly it was hurried to an esteemed place above the mantle.

People are funny.

John McCallum
08-17-2006, 09:21 PM
There's also the other side of the coin.

The example of Arnold Newman's well known portrait Krup the German industrialist. The image had widely understood connotations that were accurate and 'truthful' from most viewers perspectives. But Krup had no idea he was being portrayed that way, with nearly serious repercussions for the photographer later.

Isn't this what goes with people photography. Accurate and truthful are just like life. All a matter of perspective.

The good photographers understand and use it for themselves as well as their subjects. Sometimes it works for you sometimes it doesn't.

We hate to be duped unless we like the result.

bjorke
08-18-2006, 12:53 AM
I like Sticks and Stones most of the time. Some really terrific shots though it sometimes feels like LF has so gotten his signature down that he's just generating as many images of it as possible to give people what they expect.

For me this earlier one kicks hard ass:
http://www.masters-of-photography.com/images/full/friedlander/friedlander_mechanics_monument.jpg

catem
08-18-2006, 04:20 AM
I wasn't thinking so much of technical goings-on of a shoot, so much as the artist's intention in making an image - lest that intention be somewhat hard to read. If it really helps the image be successful - then why not?
I'm not quite sure how you thought I was talking about technical goings-on and not artist's intention, unless it was something to do with me making the post late at night and rambling a bit ;)

Of course, it was the intention I was talking about, but I was making a wider point about how information can change perception of an image, in not necessarily the most predictable ways.

If by technical goings-on you mean my description of Lange's approach to her (ultimately iconic) image I don't see that as 'technical goings-on' but a more fundamental aspect of the photographer's relationship with their subject. Though I'm not making judgements about Lange here, simply illustrating the point that language and information can work in diverse ways.
Cate

Lee Shively
08-18-2006, 11:09 AM
Wow, bjorke! We agree on something! Sticks and Stones was pretty overwhelming to me. I think the book could have been edited better because the sheer volume of photographs lessened the value of each one. I already knew he was a prolific photographer.

The recent book Friedlander, I think it's published by the Museum of Modern Art, gives a good deal of insight into his work and a good overview of his projects through the years.

Sparky
08-18-2006, 02:25 PM
I'm not quite sure how you thought I was talking about technical goings-on and not artist's intention, unless it was something to do with me making the post late at night and rambling a bit ;)

Hi Cate - I re-read your post - and what I was referring to was the fact of her getting shots that were progressively closer - and your suggestion that (am I projecting?) it might seem mildly disappointing to know. About that - I would say it's silly to let it bother us. I think all photographers work that way. I think when we're shooting, we're gathering promising but informed source material.

When we shoot, we're editing possible shots from the environment around us. And in reviewing our contact sheets - it's like another photography in a way. We're choosing from a reduced set of possibilites.

A good friend of mine met an old coot in Montreal once who was a friend of Cartier-Bresson's who mentioned that all that decisive moment business was complete claptrap. Apparently the guy (Bresson) had LOADS of contacts of the same shot from a thousand different angles...!

blansky
08-18-2006, 02:48 PM
I think any photographer who's ever photographed people will tell you that you don't really know what you got until you're in the darkroom. I'm sure this is the same for landscapers too but they aren't dealing with the nuances of facial expression that can make a photograph soar.

So it's just like Christmas morning, sometimes it's magic and other times you get that damned ole lump of coal.


Michael

catem
08-18-2006, 03:40 PM
Hi Cate - I re-read your post - and what I was referring to was the fact of her getting shots that were progressively closer - and your suggestion that (am I projecting?) it might seem mildly disappointing to know. About that - I would say it's silly to let it bother us. I think all photographers work that way. I think when we're shooting, we're gathering promising but informed source material.

Hi Sparky,
Not exactly that it's disappointing to know. More that it gives a different perspective on her expression and on the childrens' body-language (possibly). I agree it doesn't matter ultimately, which is what I meant by the photograph showing on one level at least a 'wider truth' (in any case I don't know whether the woman did feel any annoyance, I was only raising it as a possibility).

I think the point I was trying to make is that the full meaning and implications of a photograph can be deeper and more complicated than it seems at first, certainly not as straighforward as a photographer's explanation of intent might lead us to believe.
Cate

Sparky
08-18-2006, 03:47 PM
I suppose - in retrospect, I can eat my words about intent, at least in one sense. I think that a lot of artists don't really understand what it is they're trying to do until it's been post-rationalized. Even then, maybe not. I think Schopenhauer had it down. IF I understood his beliefs correctly - he thought that people just do things according to desire and self-interest, unwitting and unthinking. Everything 'conscious' is post-rationalization.

John McCallum
08-18-2006, 10:44 PM
... dealing with the nuances of facial expression that can make a photograph soar.

So it's just like Christmas morning, sometimes it's magic and other times you get that damned ole lump of coal.


Michael
It strikes me that the business of people photography is extraordinarily complex. Whether it's a sitting in a studio under the most possible control of the photographer - or at the other end Salgado asking a fireman being doused in Kuwait if he could just "hold that thought" a moment.

http://www.terra.com.br/sebastiaosalgado/photos_op1/w_screen13_1.jpg

For some reason viewers of people images seem to be much more sensitive to anything that doesn't look right in the picture.

Where as landscapes etc can be interpreted at printing in a miriad of different ways, even entirely differently from how the photographer envisaged when they hit the shutter. The challenge of complexity comes with the lighting of the landscape in the first place.
But the photographer, if they print their own can play with the image until it turns into something that looks good. So where is accuracy and truth here?

Incidentally, in my experience it's rare when a printer can really turn a sows ear into a wow picture.

Cate makes a great point. I think some artists are particularly prone to giving meaning to something to justify their image after the event. It may have been even less complex or serendipitous than the "statement of intent" might suggest.

tim atherton
08-18-2006, 11:29 PM
Cate makes a great point. I think some artists are particularly prone to giving meaning to something to justify their image after the event. It may have been even less complex or serendipitous than the "statement of intent" might suggest.

actually, I think the worst offenders or those who justify their photogrpah by a whole commentary of "I had to carry 150lbs of camera gear by mule train to my base camp, then hike through disease infested swamps and make the climb to the snowline, then camp there for three days with my camera kept warm by my own body heat while I waited for just the right light to fall across these particular peaks - possible on only one day of the year... etc etc" - (or words to that effect) - when all they are showing is another boring sunrise/sunset or whatever

I can't recall how many of these I've heard from supposedly "world class" photographers at one talk or discussion or lecture or another

David H. Bebbington
08-19-2006, 12:04 AM
I think any photographer who's ever photographed people will tell you that you don't really know what you got until you're in the darkroom. I'm sure this is the same for landscapers too but they aren't dealing with the nuances of facial expression that can make a photograph soar.

So it's just like Christmas morning, sometimes it's magic and other times you get that damned ole lump of coal.


Michael
This I think is one of those rare instances where the kind of camera you use has major creative repercussions. I do portraits only occasionally, but when I do I try to use a twin-lens reflex every time. This kind of camera allows you to view the subject AT the moment of exposure, with this I always know when I have got the result I want, with any SLR this is much harder, and with an SLR without an instant-return mirror (such as the Mamiya RB/RZ67, which so many pros use for portraiture) you cannot know what the hell you've got and will feel you need to burn 100 frames of film as insurance!

John McCallum
08-19-2006, 12:10 AM
actually, I think the worst offenders or those who justify their photogrpah by a whole commentary of "I had to carry 150lbs of camera gear by mule train to my base camp ...
I suspect most of those offenders mearly give commentary to how they took the image. They do this because the people listening want to hear it. It lets them feel involved.

This isn't as offensive as spin that is contrived to give an image meaning where there was none.

The difference is. In the first case the audience probably already like (or loved) the image to start with. They didn't have to be talked into it. They didn't need some guru (or guru wannabee more likely) massaging their intellectual egos in an attempt to instill more meaning in their world.

I don't include the images that I've seen of Greenfield or Freidlander in this btw.