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View Full Version : Slate.com article on "slow photography"



frobozz
01-18-2011, 10:01 AM
http://www.slate.com/id/2279659/pagenum/all/

DWThomas
01-18-2011, 04:54 PM
I can't help but be impressed, as he named three of the cameras currently found in my working collection!

Back in the nineteen-ought-fifties my dad and I were fishing off a causeway that carried a drive into a state park. The park contained several thousand acres, miles of trails and a pair of creeks that produced more than twenty waterfalls on their way down the mountain. A car with two middle-aged women in it stopped. One got out and asked "Is this the lake?" (At the time, I thought that was pretty self-evident.) From her vantage point, she could probably see about one quarter of this body of water. I told her the name of the lake and said there were two others in the park. "But is this THE lake? The one people talk about?" So I said, yes, I'd guess so. She snapped two pictures in about three seconds, climbed back in the car. The driver did a K-turn and they drove away. I clearly remember the incident because even as fifteen year old, I thought that was bizarre behavior -- sort of like claiming to see a big city in an hour.

CGW
01-18-2011, 05:44 PM
Sympathies aside, the analogy is strained and one that's been beaten to death here and elsewhere. I see shooters fussing digital shots--whether with a DSLR or p&s--in about the same % as before with film. They're still a minority.

Ken Nadvornick
01-18-2011, 05:59 PM
This resonates.

I've written before that my personal favorite part of the photography experience is the part that happens before I pick up or set up a camera. This before part consists of walking around, seeking out, looking, thinking, and then hopefully seeing. Unencumbered by the hardware, and the expectations of use that go with it, it becomes solely an exercise in observation. Becoming more in tune with one's surroundings.

At the appropriate time I may - or may not - then pick up a camera. But either way, the experience will usually have been a worthwhile one.

Ken

ic-racer
01-18-2011, 06:00 PM
I only take pictures of light, and exciting light does not wait for any one.

Ken Nadvornick
01-18-2011, 06:08 PM
True, but if one is not looking in the right place for it, the net effect is the same...

Ken

Moopheus
01-18-2011, 06:34 PM
I clicked on the link and saw the picture of the koi, and knew exactly where that was taken right away. I have a few photos just like it.

Focus No. 9
01-18-2011, 07:33 PM
Great article and Links to the NY Times essay by Fred Conrad with LF photos and Tim Wu's slideshow link at the bottom of the Slate article. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you Frobozz.

keithwms
01-18-2011, 09:00 PM
I've written before that my personal favorite part of the photography experience is the part that happens before I pick up or set up a camera. This before part consists of walking around, seeking out, looking, thinking, and then hopefully seeing. Unencumbered by the hardware, and the expectations of use that go with it, it becomes solely an exercise in observation. Becoming more in tune with one's surroundings.

Ditto for me, Ken. I took some guff in a thread here a year or so ago for using Minor White's term to describe it - previsualization. It's what happens before you directly see your subject... foreseeing. It is the conceptual exercise that seldom happens in the snap-happy auto-everything world of 'capture' and instant gratification.

Bruce Watson
01-19-2011, 07:57 AM
From the article: "But if you really want to impose limits, a twin-lens reflex camera will force you to take your time."

I was hoping that someone who'd bother to write an article like this would know more. Clearly the author knows nothing of large format photography. Sigh...

If you really want to impose limits, try LF. Outside of press cameras it's nearly impossible to do LF fast. The essence of modern LF is slow and deliberate.

perkeleellinen
01-19-2011, 08:32 AM
I was hoping that someone who'd bother to write an article like this would know more. Clearly the author knows nothing of large format photography. Sigh...

If you really want to impose limits, try LF. Outside of press cameras it's nearly impossible to do LF fast. The essence of modern LF is slow and deliberate.

From the article:


The slow-photography purist uses a large-format camera

ntenny
01-19-2011, 08:40 AM
From the article: "But if you really want to impose limits, a twin-lens reflex camera will force you to take your time."

I was hoping that someone who'd bother to write an article like this would know more. Clearly the author knows nothing of large format photography. Sigh...

But the very next paragraph of the article *does* talk about large format...


If you really want to impose limits, try LF. Outside of press cameras it's nearly impossible to do LF fast. The essence of modern LF is slow and deliberate.

...and says much the same thing (apart from the press cameras)!

To be fair, I had the same snap reaction: "TLRs are slow? Ha!"---but by the standards that the article's describing, yeah, I think it's a fair point.

The only beef I really had with the article is that it doesn't give enough credit to the fact that people used to do the same thing with point-and-shoot film cameras; not so much the machine-gun imaging, but looking at the camera rather than the thing photographed is a complaint quite a bit older than d*g*t*l. That quibble aside, though, I thought it was a provocative article that discussed film much more accurately than the norm, and correctly concentrated on the photographic process rather than on gear per se.

-NT

Moopheus
01-19-2011, 08:49 AM
The only beef I really had with the article is that it doesn't give enough credit to the fact that people used to do the same thing with point-and-shoot film cameras; not so much the machine-gun imaging, but looking at the camera rather than the thing photographed is a complaint quite a bit older than d*g*t*l.
-NT

It is true that digital has not so much created a new phenomenon but accelerated an old one to new extremes.

Also, I thought this was a bit suspect:

"And yet fast photography is not the enemy of good results, by the logic of volume: If you take a thousand photographs, one or two will turn out great. "

In fact, good photos rarely come about by chance. Garry Winogrand took a lot of photos, but taking a lot of photos isn't going to make you Garry Winogrand.

In some cases, like much street photography, sports photography, and such things, the process can happen very fast, but getting something good is usually the result of being prepared and alert.

perkeleellinen
01-19-2011, 09:11 AM
The way I read the article, the author has become totally bored and alienated with modern photography and in his search for pastures new has found a way to reconnect with an idealised past that never existed.

This is probably the same process that drives people away from Microsoft Word and toward Moleskines or fountain pens. Away from mp3s and toward turntables. Away from the supermarket and toward the allotment. Clearly this process won't work for us all and it's easy to pick holes in such things. But to me it seems like a much more personal project that's quite fuzzy but clearly makes some people happy. Convenience is all good, but maybe people need an outlet where effort and reward are better matched.

For the author he's probably equating extra time with extra effort and therefore greater reward. I feel the same way when I bake bread - it's far more rewarding than driving to the supermarket. My guess is writing with a fountain pen on nice paper is a much better experience than typing into Word. I think for most people there's something in their lives where they take a "more effort" route to get a greater reward, the slow food analogy fits here. For the author it's photography. We should probably encourage it - it'll help sales.

Jeff Kubach
01-19-2011, 09:37 AM
I really enjoy the article. I have gotten 'slow' over the years.

Jeff

totalamateur
01-20-2011, 10:30 PM
I'm not a great photog, but I'm pretty great at hiking with a lot of heavy gear over treacherous terrain and putting myself in harm's way to make sure my precious kodak view/calumet/mamiya TLR/tin can pinhole doesn't get dirty or scratched. I do like the idea that having more invested in the image (literally and figuratively in the case of an 8x10 or 4x5) makes you sit and look at your subject, try to "tell a story" or a particular mode of light, etc. I'll be the first to admit that I've got many times more invested in digtal equipment than film (film is cheep), but if I'm going somewhere were my primary goal is to look around, I grab the TLR or 4x5, if my primary goal is to record, I'll grab the DSLR. If my primary goal is self flaggelation, I grab the 8x10. I think it was a pretty great article.

walter23
01-21-2011, 01:50 PM
In the next paragraph he mentions (to paraphrase) even medium format is a compromise - if you really want to slow down use large format, heavy gear that takes forever to set up and use. Maybe that was added after you read it?


From the article: "But if you really want to impose limits, a twin-lens reflex camera will force you to take your time."

I was hoping that someone who'd bother to write an article like this would know more. Clearly the author knows nothing of large format photography. Sigh...

If you really want to impose limits, try LF. Outside of press cameras it's nearly impossible to do LF fast. The essence of modern LF is slow and deliberate.

erikg
01-21-2011, 02:38 PM
Thanks for the link, it's interesting to see this type of discussion going on. I think it all comes down to what people want from their photography practice. Even calling it a practice suggests a certain choice. George Dewolfe offers and has offered for years a workshop in "contemplative photography". Seems to me the aims mentioned in the Slate piece are similar to what Dewolfe talks about, although I think his course is aimed at a fairly serious worker. The author of the article states that he does not consider himself a photographer. Lots of things compelling us to move fast, but that isn't always the most enjoyable way to go.

jnanian
01-21-2011, 02:44 PM
i don't know bruce ...
i have a graflex slr and can work pretty fast ...
i don't really think size of the camera has anything to do with it ..

sometimes slow isn't the way to go
sometimes it is ...

Toffle
01-21-2011, 02:57 PM
If you want to see slow, paint dries faster than I can shoot 8x10.