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darinwc
05-26-2007, 12:51 PM
What do you guys think about subtle photographs?
I am talking about photographs that do not have a strong subject, or no main subject at all.

Much advice ive heard talks about having a strong focal point or foreground subject. But i dont think it is neccesarily bad to not have a main subject.

jstraw
05-26-2007, 01:12 PM
One measure of talent or a unique aesthetic, vision or something...is the ability to break the rules and succeed in spite of doing it "wrong."

Michel Hardy-Vallée
05-26-2007, 01:12 PM
Would you have an example? There are many ways to define it; photos having lots of blur, or low contrast could be one kind. Düsseldorf-school type of deadpan photography could be another kind. The Eggleston/Shore/etc style is also sometimes in a similar vein, though many of their photos have brilliant and strong colors (red ceiling by Eggleston).

HerrBremerhaven
05-26-2007, 01:25 PM
I like that approach, though unfortunately it doesn't always come across well. Seems that more often with commercial imaging I apply a three second rule; basically I have three seconds or less to get a viewers attention. The problem with more subtle images is that they can require more attention from the viewer.

Ciao!

Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

Sirius Glass
05-26-2007, 03:03 PM
Some times a panorama or a landscape may be a subtle photograph => just enjoyed for the view.

Steve

jnanian
05-26-2007, 03:10 PM
sometimes the best things are about nothing,
and if they are about nothing, they allow the viewer to reflect
inward. the problem, of course, is that most viewers want
to be spoonfed everything, and if they aren't, the imagery is " pathetic "
or worse ... "art" :p

john

jstraw
05-26-2007, 04:28 PM
I like that approach, though unfortunately it doesn't always come across well. Seems that more often with commercial imaging I apply a three second rule; basically I have three seconds or less to get a viewers attention. The problem with more subtle images is that they can require more attention from the viewer.

Ciao!

Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)


Can you imagine an image that you would include in a large show, when you have people's attention but which you'd hesitate to present as a stand-alone image?


I can. It's similar to the difference between what's known in the world of photojournalism as "wild art," which is a stand-alone picture that doesn't even illustrate a story...often the result of "cruising for features"...as opposed to the sort of images that flesh out a picture story where the images are equal to or even primary, relative to the text. On a page like that you might have between three and six photographs, some of which work in a way that's essential while not being images that would be published separate from the group.

Sometimes subtle images aren't just ok, they're critical.

eddym
05-26-2007, 04:53 PM
About 25-30 years ago, Joel Meyerowitz did a book called Cape Light, of photographs made on Cape Cod. The first time I saw the book I flipped through it quickly and was not impressed. First, it was in color, and I am a B&W photographer first and foremost. Second, he shot everything with a Deardorff 8x10 on Kodak Vericolor II Type L, a tungsten balanced film, though many of the shots were in daylight. The colors were subtle and nuanced, and of course they were not done in his usual street shooter style.
But then I went back through again and looked at each photo carefully. Oh my god.... they were wonderful! "Cocktail Party, Wellfleet" is my favorite.
From this experience, I learned not to ignore the more subtle photos in a portfolio.

Gary Holliday
05-26-2007, 04:58 PM
It depends how "visually aware" you are. All photographs need some form of focal point. If you were a beginner, I could look at your photograph and think, what the hell is this a photograph of? Or you could be a master of composition and have a very minimalistic/ abstract photo.

I've seen people come up behind me and wonder what I'm photographing, then go off and admire the pretty picture-postcard view of the same scene. The latter of course being very dull ;)

Sparky
05-26-2007, 05:13 PM
Well - it seems there are ALL sorts of levels this sort of phenomenon can occur at... and context (however you choose to define it can ALSO have a huge role to play) - so it seems to be extremely difficult, at best, to even talk about this unless we have specific examples to play with. It seems also a discussion of 'subject vs. object' might be useful here.

Monophoto
05-26-2007, 05:59 PM
Several posters have touched on what I believe is the key point here. What you are calling "subtle" images are images that don't have a lot of initial impact. If you are selling beer, or engaging in competition, you need to capture the attention of the viewer in the first few seconds. That takes impact, and subtle images aren't going to do it for you.

There is a place for subtle images. They tend to "grow on you", and you can hang them on the wall and they will feel very comfortable.

Or, a collection of images displayed together can be made stronger by the addition of a few subtle images, even though those images won't work very well in a stand-alone situation. In this situation, the subtle images tend to act as mortar, bridging between stronger images that are not totally compatible with each other.

As Michael noted, subtle images are wrong - - - which means that they violate one or more of those rules that Kodak published 100 years ago and that photographers have been following religiously ever since. The same rules that the best photographers have learned to creatively break.

jstraw
05-26-2007, 08:32 PM
It depends how "visually aware" you are. All photographs need some form of focal point. If you were a beginner, I could look at your photograph and think, what the hell is this a photograph of? Or you could be a master of composition and have a very minimalistic/ abstract photo.

I've seen people come up behind me and wonder what I'm photographing, then go off and admire the pretty picture-postcard view of the same scene. The latter of course being very dull ;)

Man, I heard that!

Ed Sukach
05-27-2007, 10:47 AM
... All photographs need some form of focal point.

Not that I want to "select" you, in particular - or anyone else for that matter ...

I would suggest that this "rule" - as well as many others - is better viewed as an advisement, rather than a hard and fast requirement for a successful photograph.

Is it suggested that there *must* be a single "point of interest"... or can there be "many" ... where the observer's eye is directed in some form of progression? If so, each "point" will be less dominant ... and in many landscapes, I would be hard pressed to select a single "most important" one.
Come to think of it ... I think the idea of a "directed, progressive interest" is far more common, and important, in photography ... and other forms of art ... that are considered to be "great".

Landscapes come to mind most rapidly .... there are other instances where "patterns" become the essence of a significant photograph ... and of course ... that free field we call "abstractions".

Roger Hicks
05-27-2007, 11:33 AM
I would suggest that this "rule" - as well as many others - is better viewed as an advisement, rather than a hard and fast requirement for a successful photograph.


Dear Ed,

As so often, I agree with you: the 'rules' are often excellent rules of thumb, but that's all. And like several people, I'd also query the word 'subtle', in that short-term impact and long-term staying power are by no means synonymous. Is staying power subtler than impact? Or merely different?

Cheers,

Roger

User Removed
05-27-2007, 11:42 AM
First off, there are NO RULES when it comes to making art, so if your out photographing and find yourself wondering where you should put the horizon line in your picture and then you remember "OH! The rule of thirds!", you need to just clear your mind of that because that would probably not make the best photograph. It's difficult for many photographers to get away from letting these so called "rules" not influence their vision.

I've always been interested in not having just a single element in the picture as the "focal point" but rather where the WHOLE PHOTOGRAPH is the focal point for the viewer, and their eye can move freely all around the picture plane without getting stuck anywhere.

Attached is an example of a recent photograph I made from my Boneyard series.

Ryan McIntosh
www.RyanMcIntosh.net

Roger Hicks
05-27-2007, 11:49 AM
...you need to just clear your mind of that because that would probably not make the best photograph. It's difficult for many photographers to get away from letting these so called "rules" not influence their vision.


Dear Ryan,

I disagree here. The 'rules' are a good start if you can't think of anything else to do. Then you try them; realize there's a better way of doing it; and take a better picture...

Cheers,

Roger

Gary Holliday
05-27-2007, 11:51 AM
Nice image Ryan, I believe that photo would come under my "master of composition and have a very minimalistic/ abstract photo" approach.

It really depends on how advanced your composition skills are, whether the photo needs a/ or multiple focal points.

User Removed
05-27-2007, 12:01 PM
Dear Ryan,

I disagree here. The 'rules' are a good start if you can't think of anything else to do. Then you try them; realize there's a better way of doing it; and take a better picture...

Cheers,

Roger


Roger,

I think a good place to start when making a photograph is just by seeing. The reason I say seeing and not looking is because all to often a photographer is influence by that in which they already know and that in which they have already seen in the past. Therefore, when a photographer goes out looking for photographs, they are only looking for things in which they already know would make a good photograph. In a way, they are just reinforcing what they already know and possibly only recreating what they have already done.

If one just goes out seeing what is around them, not letting any rules or past ideas about things influence their vision, they will discover something that is completely new and visually different from that in which they have done in the past.

You see this problem in the APUG gallery ALOT today. Several photographers made a great photograph in the past, and now their work is all somewhat derived from that one image. Even though they might be creating more good images, they are not learning or seeing anything new. Some people might say they are being "consistant", but I feel many have become stagnate and stuck in a rut with their way of seeing. This can be VERY hard for some photographers to break.

jnanian
05-27-2007, 12:14 PM
You see this problem in the APUG gallery ALOT today. Several photographers made a great photograph in the past, and now their work is all somewhat derived from that one image. Even though they might be creating more good images, they are not learning or seeing anything new. Some people might say they are being "consistant", but I feel many have become stagnate and stuck in a rut with their way of seeing. This can be VERY hard for some photographers to break.

ryan

every photograph is derived from another image - abstracts, landscapes,
portraits everything.

humans are creatures of habit and of memory.
as said in the book of ecclesiastes
there is nothing new under the sun ...

http://www.hope.edu/bandstra/BIBLE/ECC/ECC1.HTM

Gary Holliday
05-27-2007, 12:42 PM
You see this problem in the APUG gallery ALOT today. Several photographers made a great photograph in the past, and now their work is all somewhat derived from that one image. Even though they might be creating more good images, they are not learning or seeing anything new. Some people might say they are being "consistant", but I feel many have become stagnate and stuck in a rut with their way of seeing. This can be VERY hard for some photographers to break.

I don't upload images myself, but I would be guilty in this. Everyone is allowed a style instead of a mishmash of ideas which can't identify an artist.