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  1. #1
    darinwc's Avatar
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    Subtle photographs

    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.

  2. #2
    jstraw's Avatar
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    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."
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  3. #3
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    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).
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

    My APUG Portfolio

  4. #4

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    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

  5. #5
    jnanian's Avatar
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    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"

    john
    Last edited by jnanian; 05-26-2007 at 04:38 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: sorry, forgot the smirk

  6. #6
    jstraw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrBremerhaven View Post
    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

    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.
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  7. #7
    eddym's Avatar
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    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.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  8. #8
    Gary Holliday's Avatar
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    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
    Last edited by Gary Holliday; 05-26-2007 at 04:59 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: incorrect use of smiley ;)

  9. #9
    Sparky's Avatar
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    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.

  10. #10
    Monophoto's Avatar
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    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.
    Louie

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