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2F/2F
06-08-2011, 05:05 PM
Obsession can be very good, but only if it is useful by improving your work. But if you are self-indulgently obsessed and not getting any better because of it, or are obsessed with technique rather than with how it affects your content, I say give it up and relax a bit. Then again, it could be that the obsessive aspects of how you approach the craft are exactly why you like it so much; it is like your version of crack or heroin, only self induced with bodily chemicals, rather than with external ones. Better photographic obsession as a form of self regulation than being a crackhead or a junkie.

Toffle
06-08-2011, 05:39 PM
I have only skimmed some of the responses, so I don't really know what the going trend is or if this has been covered. My apologies if this has already been covered.

My approach is that if I find something that I can't eliminate or disguise in my photos, I try to make it a feature of the photo. A line of perfectly symmetrical streetlights may be less interesting than one with a missing light. The missing light or broken fence rail, or obscured detail can add drama to an otherwise "perfect" shot. Even when I think I've nailed a shot, I tend to turn around to see if there is something else that is worth shooting. Oddly enough, this can turn out to be the better of the shots at a given location... For example, having taken the obligatory touristy shot of Notre Dame in Montreal, I also got a couple of very effective shots of the crowds of tourists looking over my head and up at the cathedral, and of the streetscape lighting outside the church.

Cheers,

Michael R 1974
06-09-2011, 09:15 AM
Actually, having looked at your gallery now, your comments make a lot more sense.

Your pictures look like tuxedos, folded napkins, or Bauhus architecture and Lissitzky drawings (none of which are criticisms). The geometric nature and structure of them does indeed not look condusive to deviations.

However, I think that elements of chance & assymetry would actually be incredibly interesting in the context of your pictures... to contrast the "chaos" of nature against man's perfect manipulations in steel, stone & timber.

I don't want to make too much of the symmetry thing. I was using it as an example. Basically it's little things that (to me) might draw attention away from the space. I'm probably not explaining this very well.

Here's a good example, and one I've had to deal with many times: I'll want to make a picture of a space I find interesting, a space people probably see every day but never stop to notice. Maybe it's an interesting alcove for example. But some jerk has tagged his idiot name in spraypaint on one of the walls in the scene. For some urban photographers, perhaps ones concerned more with communicating a social statement, this would actually strenghten the image for them. For me it is different because I am interested in the space itself, and the graffiti is a distracting element that draws attention. This is especially evident when you show someone else the picture. The graffiti in the picture inevitably becomes the point of focus (people always look for some sign of life to grab onto in a picture), and then they might take it further by reading some kind of commentary into the picture.

Anyhow it's something I'm working on, trying to be slightly more open minded.

Diapositivo
06-09-2011, 09:51 AM
I perfectly know how you feel. I take mostly photographs of Roman architectural features. I am constantly striving against:
writings;
pedestrians;
pedestrians with red or yellow garments;
cars;
delivery trucks;
street lamps;
wires of all kind;
buses etc.

After you placed your tripod, having found a good composition without too much interference by wires and poles, there comes the bus. You wait for the bus, there comes a colourful sponsored taxi. The taxi goes, another comes and stands there while the client pays. The taxi goes, a group of tourists pass by. You wait for the tourists to pass, but other two tourists place themselves in the picture to take a picture. I think mon semblable, mon frère and wait again. When the tourists go, the delivery van arrives. When it goes, a bus on your back make the road vibrate, it has to pass. Sometimes one really have only a second to take a picture. After that, I find that I clean out all the writings on the wall, and even most of the litter on the ground. Sometimes I even clone out cigarette butts if they reflect light.

I find people too disturbing. My reasoning is that many persons can be OK, but one or two persons are a compositional nuisance. I now tend to relax more about that. One or two persons can add a touch of "life" to a scene that might appear too "museal" so to speak. Provided they don't have flashy jumpers, they can work in favour of the overall impression.

I take mental note of a certain light condition for a certain photo, but when I am there again, the sky is grey. When I am there again, the sky is blue, but the trees have foliage. It's the sad life of road photographers: no control over the scene.

Michael R 1974
06-09-2011, 10:32 AM
Diapositivo, this sums it up perfectly! Exactly what I'm talking about. I have faced every single issue you wrote about here. Interestingly the one thing I find easiest to deal with are people. Since I am usually looking for low ambient light I am often working either overnight or extremely early in the morning, when there are much less people around. But yes all the other things you're talking about are annoyances I have to deal with, from wind, to vibrations, stray light potentially causing distracting flare. One time I was in a park and had a great composition all sorted out except for one damn trash can (bolted to the ground) that I could not avoid!

I'll be honest - I even kept a small broom in my car for a while, for cases where I return to a scene to set up and someone had left garbage on the sidewalk that would have become the focal point of the picture.

There's an interesting example by George Tice, one of my favourite photographers and printers. It's one of his more well known urban landscape pictures of the Strand Theater in Keyport NJ, taken in the 70s. (I'm lucky enough to own a print). The picture is exactly how I would have done it, except there is one small piece of what looks like paper in the gutter next to the sidewalk. I've often wondered if in retrospect that ever bothered him. I know if it had been me I would have removed that paper before taking the picture. And yet, this is one of my all time favourite photographs, meaning in the end that small nuissance doesn't bother me as a viewer! Perhaps I should learn something from this!!

A Sabai
06-09-2011, 11:08 AM
I suppose my subjects are different. I've come to the realization that as a nature photographer I'm 1% artist and 99% illustrator. I'm telling a story and educating my viewers. I also realize that I don't have to be the best, I just have to be the one telling the story. In my project no one else is telling the story of habitat loss in my locality. I've held myself to the standards of Ansel etc., before but the had spectacular subjects, and much more time to hone their skills. I realize by holding myself to these standards i could never be happy with my work, and felt like giving up. The great photographers are to admired, not emulated. I have a site (http://www.winnebagophotography.com/) where I have my favorite photographs to display, and maybe sell, and a flickr site where I display anything worthy of illustration and discussion. I don't know if my example helps, but it has worked for me, and may help some others.

jeffreyg
06-09-2011, 11:16 AM
To each his own of course but many of the objects that annoy you could actually be interesting elements of a photograph. the juxtaposition of people to one another or to other objects in the composition can open a whole new horizon to your photography. We were in Rome this past October and I went thinking I would be photographing the antiquities and ended up with most of my photographs being of people. You have the good fortune of being in a city with a great diversity of back-drops and variety activity. For example brides and grooms being photographed and videoed near the Coliseum while multitudes of people pass obliviously by, back-lit crowds of people on streets near the Spanish steps with just the tops of their heads shining and on and on. Go out with one camera and only one or two lenses and see things with different eyes. Have fun!

http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/

Shawn Rahman
06-09-2011, 11:17 AM
Wow. Like many here, this was me, too. The Holga suggestion is a TERRIFIC one.

May I also suggest reading a great little book called Art & Fear? It gets to the heart of the problems we all seemingly face one time or another:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Fear-Observations-Rewards-Artmaking/dp/0961454733/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307632515&sr=8-1

holmburgers
06-09-2011, 11:29 AM
If I may say one thing more; one of my favorite aspects of large-format photography (or just highly detailed & sharp architectural photography) is the ability to explore the picture. The fidelity is such that you can look at it and find new things... kind like a Where's Waldo book or something.

I personally would think that the theatre picture you speak of might be enhanced by this errant piece of paper in the gutter. It's a tiny piece of intrigue and reality.

At any rate, I've enjoyed this discussion and will listen henceforth ;)

Ole
06-09-2011, 11:49 AM
I have been there too - and my chosen subject was portraits!

What "cured" me was a long study of Julia Margaret Cameron's photos. With smudges, scratches, cracks, uneven coating, and chicken feather embedded in the emulsion. Yet wonderful.

I didn't go so far as to keep chickens in my darkroom, but at least I learned that some imperfections simply don't matter.

Shawn Dougherty
06-09-2011, 12:10 PM
Michael,
many great thoughts have already been laid out here - forgive me if I'm repeating one as I didn't read the entire thread.

I believe my best work in the urban environment have been made using imperfect subject matter.... it's careful use/placement of those imperfections that can really bring a photograph to life in my opinion. Maybe you should focus on photographing imperfections themselves for a time?

One other thought that might help... I rarely, almost never, think about waiting out light for a certain subject matter. I approach it from a different perspective. It's always the perfect light to photograph something... so go out looking for the light - not the subject. I find I discover lovely things I'd never consider as subject matter when I let the light itself be my guide.

Hope this helps in some way.

All the best.
Shawn

Thomas Bertilsson
06-09-2011, 12:19 PM
I went to Las Vegas in 2007 on a business trip. I had brought with me this old Zeiss Ikon with a Nettar lens, because it was easy to carry. I found nothing of real interest to take pictures of, but was out with a couple of colleagues at a mall outlet, and I started to see some potential shots. It was a strip mall, almost brand new, still shiny and without too much evidence of the usual human destruction.
One of the pictures I took was a picture of a store front window with an awning. The place was so new that there were no markings on doors or windows, no logotypes, or anything. Just empty. Flat concrete walls, aluminum framed window from floor to ceiling, and a door. I stood directly in front of it, hiding my own reflection behind one of the aluminum window frame uprights. Perfectly clean, even the sidewalk was untarnished. So I aim, burn off a frame, and then a piece of hamburger wrapper blows into the scene and lands on the ground right in front of the window. I decided to take a picture of the same scene with the trash in it.

To me, after I had printed both frames, the trash added something to an otherwise fairly ordinary picture. It emphasized the sterile and clean shapes and form of the frame. I wish I had the file of the scan here at work. It isn't at all difficult to understand why somebody would not want the piece of paper in the frame, but consider the possibilities of leaving it there. Play with the concept.

My earlier suggestion of pinhole camera use is one where you can, with long enough exposures, take pictures of scenes with people moving through them, and they will mostly disappear in the total exposure. It's a really liberating and interesting exercise, and a pinhole made well can yield super sharp results in case that's a bother with anyone.

- Thomas

Mainecoonmaniac
06-09-2011, 12:43 PM
Don't be too obsessed about perfection. Look at those plastic surgery addicts. They will never stop finding flaws. They have so many surgeries that they can't recognize who they are nor who they are. Be yourself and accept the world as it is.

Diapositivo
06-09-2011, 01:07 PM
To each his own of course but many of the objects that annoy you could actually be interesting elements of a photograph. the juxtaposition of people to one another or to other objects in the composition can open a whole new horizon to your photography. We were in Rome this past October and I went thinking I would be photographing the antiquities and ended up with most of my photographs being of people. You have the good fortune of being in a city with a great diversity of back-drops and variety activity. For example brides and grooms being photographed and videoed near the Coliseum while multitudes of people pass obliviously by, back-lit crowds of people on streets near the Spanish steps with just the tops of their heads shining and on and on. Go out with one camera and only one or two lenses and see things with different eyes. Have fun!

http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/

I understand what you say. My personal approach to photography is basically production for stock agencies rather than "artsy" stuff. That means people are normally a nuisance unless they are small and don't interfere with composition, mood etc. Especially they don't have to draw attention. People typically cannot be the main element of the picture if you want sales (unless you have a model release, that is).

Having a focus toward the market prevents me from going insane with this kind of problems. A disturbing element is a disturbing element, but a picture is better than no picture. Productivity matters.

If I didn't have this kind of approach, and if I only stick to the ars gratia artis philosophy, I would easily fall in a deep hole of self-defeating perfectionism. Besides, as our "artistic" product is the way we want other to see us, this carries the risk of being sucked into a narcissistic spiral bordering with mental masturbation. You know, producing something beyond reproach and criticism. Not less than perfect.

At the beginning of the thread I was tempted to suggest to the OP "just shoot for stock agencies", but I refrained as I think it was a bit overboard as an answer, one cannot change so brutally his own approach to photography, his motivations to photograph.

Anyway, I like the process because it makes me stay with my feet on the ground. Good enough quality, good enough composition, good enough light makes good enough a picture. Money which arrives actually satisfies my ego more than compliments. When somebody pays to publish a photo of yours, choosing it among hundreds of competing ones, it makes your ego feel better no less than a good comment at an exhibition.

I don't want to compare myself to any great artist of the past, but I am sure that all the Michelangelo and the Caravaggio of all times had this same kind of problems, they certainly saw imperfections everywhere in their work. They would have reworked the opera continuously if they didn't do that for a living, and for a client. The fact is: they saw the defects, the clients in most cases didn't.

Leonardo da Vinci worked on its MonNa Lisa* for years and years, continuously reworking countless details. That's because it wasn't a work that he would (ever more) give to a client. If he hadn't worked for clients, he would have produces quite a few works, I suppose.

Fabrizio

http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

* That really is Monna Lisa, florentine dialect for Madonna Lisa, Lady Elizabeth. "Mona" in north-east dialects (such as Venetian) means "cunt", and by extension "girl" and "stupid person" (don't shoot at me for the polical incorrectness :whistling:). In both cases Mona Lisa really is an unfortunate deformation :(

Michael R 1974
06-09-2011, 01:28 PM
Good points. It is certainly true at least some of this has to do with coming to terms with the fact very little if anything we produce can be "perfect". I've always been lousy at accepting errors, even tiny ones in my artwork, but I'm trying to become a little more flexible. Constantly starting over, or waiting forever is not healthy.

I must also admit part of this might come from a desire (as you say) to produce something that cannot reasonably be criticized on a fundamental level. That's another long story...

Thomas Bertilsson
06-09-2011, 10:51 PM
Here is the picture I was referencing, and as it sometimes happens, memory doesn't serve us entirely correct (I was wrong about where I hid and the door). But you get the idea. I think this particularly clean shot was stronger with the piece of paper littering the scene.


I went to Las Vegas in 2007 on a business trip. I had brought with me this old Zeiss Ikon with a Nettar lens, because it was easy to carry. I found nothing of real interest to take pictures of, but was out with a couple of colleagues at a mall outlet, and I started to see some potential shots. It was a strip mall, almost brand new, still shiny and without too much evidence of the usual human destruction.
One of the pictures I took was a picture of a store front window with an awning. The place was so new that there were no markings on doors or windows, no logotypes, or anything. Just empty. Flat concrete walls, aluminum framed window from floor to ceiling, and a door. I stood directly in front of it, hiding my own reflection behind one of the aluminum window frame uprights. Perfectly clean, even the sidewalk was untarnished. So I aim, burn off a frame, and then a piece of hamburger wrapper blows into the scene and lands on the ground right in front of the window. I decided to take a picture of the same scene with the trash in it.

To me, after I had printed both frames, the trash added something to an otherwise fairly ordinary picture. It emphasized the sterile and clean shapes and form of the frame. I wish I had the file of the scan here at work. It isn't at all difficult to understand why somebody would not want the piece of paper in the frame, but consider the possibilities of leaving it there. Play with the concept.

My earlier suggestion of pinhole camera use is one where you can, with long enough exposures, take pictures of scenes with people moving through them, and they will mostly disappear in the total exposure. It's a really liberating and interesting exercise, and a pinhole made well can yield super sharp results in case that's a bother with anyone.

- Thomas

Saganich
06-09-2011, 11:04 PM
Perhaps it would help to know that there is no objective reality. Your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your work may be influenced by factors that seem unrelated, like personal or emotional issues. I find most problems are routed in connection or lack thereof.

Mainecoonmaniac
06-10-2011, 12:23 AM
I think this particularly clean shot was stronger with the piece of paper littering the scene.

I agree. You also emphasized the litter by placing it in the Golden Mean. Have you seen this lushious platinum prints of found discards by Irving Penn? How about his shots of those ample women? Are they revolting or beautiful? I find them beautiful.