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  1. #1
    mgonzale's Avatar
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    Change in people's posture in candids over the decades

    I was at my grandma's house over New Year's week and got to see many old photos of my extended family through the decades. These were photos of them at the beach, on the farm, at work, and doing just normal activities. She had many photos from the 1950's of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and even her and the thing I noticed most was the complete lack of frozen-stiff "candid" poses. This was in contrast to what usually happens these days when I pull my camera out: people put on a fake smile, squeeze in together, and all stare at my camera by instinct. My question is...How have you seen a typical person's reactions to a camera pointed at them change over time? I'm 32, if that puts my observation into perspective.

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    Yes, indeed. A couple of years ago, I had occasion to go back through a large set of pictures taken in the mid-sixties, for a fortieth reunion of my high school class. Mostly just snapshots, but also pictures made for the school newspaper, yearbook, and some promotions sponsored by the local city paper. It was amazing just how attractive the average student was in those pictures, and how generally unaffected the postures and demeanors were.

    My guess is that folks nowadays are too heavily influenced by the mass media; a large proportion of them seem to regard their self-images in relation to the extent that they either do or do not resemble one or another celebrity.

    Another factor is perhaps that "just normal activities" aren't photographed as much any more; every picture is assumed to be some sort of portrait (hence the posing) and "if you own a camera, you are a photographer" so there is an obligation on the part of the subject to "perform".

    Too bad, really; when all of the unstable color snapshots from the seventies have faded into oblivion, and most of the digital pictures have been lost to obsolete media, our grandchildren will probably assume that life today was exactly like it is shown in television, the movies, and glossy magazines.

    (And yes, at forty-odd years out of high school, I'm a bit older than 32!)

  3. #3
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgonzale View Post
    I was at my grandma's house over New Year's week and got to see many old photos of my extended family through the decades. These were photos of them at the beach, on the farm, at work, and doing just normal activities. She had many photos from the 1950's of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and even her and the thing I noticed most was the complete lack of frozen-stiff "candid" poses. This was in contrast to what usually happens these days when I pull my camera out: people put on a fake smile, squeeze in together, and all stare at my camera by instinct. My question is...How have you seen a typical person's reactions to a camera pointed at them change over time? I'm 32, if that puts my observation into perspective.
    Huh??? If they know you are taking the picture, they are not candids!!!!!!!!! (!!!!!!!!)
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

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    mgonzale's Avatar
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    2F/2F, I suppose you've got me there. They're not candids if they're aware enough of the camera to do anything other than naturally continue what they were doing before the camera came out. Maybe these situations could be called environmental portraits in some cases. Regardless, the number of frozen over-performed poses have increased greatly over time. Many times, I do intend to photograph people to get candids as you're thinking of, but most folks are hyper-aware of the presence of a camera and stop what they're doing to shine in the moment. Makes me think of revisiting those threads concerning unobtrusive photography.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mgonzale View Post
    2F/2F, I suppose you've got me there. They're not candids if they're aware enough of the camera to do anything other than naturally continue what they were doing before the camera came out. Maybe these situations could be called environmental portraits in some cases. Regardless, the number of frozen over-performed poses have increased greatly over time.
    It bugs me too. I haven't had a chance to make the sort of comparison you have, but it rings true to me. Maybe the blame belongs to film and camera advertisements that created this very strong cultural image of what Family Snapshots were "supposed" to look like?

    Kids, especially, get very strongly conditioned to stop what they're doing and smile for the camera, and it just drives me up the wall. No, dang it, I wanted that expression of concentration you had on a second ago!

    -NT

  6. #6
    Ria
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2F/2F View Post
    Huh??? If they know you are taking the picture, they are not candids!!!!!!!!! (!!!!!!!!)
    I disagree. A "candid" photo can mean a photo of people who are acting naturally, spontaneously; that is to say not posing for the camera. A candid photograph need not necessarily be one of which the subject is unaware.

  7. #7
    mooseontheloose's Avatar
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    And how many photographers behind the camera expect these stiff poses as well?

    I used to work as a costumed interpreter in a museum (1860s) and have had thousands of pictures taken of me over the course of my work there. If people were polite enough to ask permission to photograph me, I'd usually ask if they wanted me to pose, or for me to go back to what I was doing. Virtually every one wanted a posed shot -- so even as photographers (of the tourist kind), their expectation was of the ultra-posed candid. I did my best not to smile though, to be as historically accurate as possible.
    Rachelle

    My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus

  8. #8
    mgonzale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mooseontheloose View Post
    And how many photographers behind the camera expect these stiff poses as well?

    I used to work as a costumed interpreter in a museum (1860s) and have had thousands of pictures taken of me over the course of my work there. If people were polite enough to ask permission to photograph me, I'd usually ask if they wanted me to pose, or for me to go back to what I was doing. Virtually every one wanted a posed shot -- so even as photographers (of the tourist kind), their expectation was of the ultra-posed candid. I did my best not to smile though, to be as historically accurate as possible.
    Good point about the photographers' expectations. I forget I am also a subject at times. I must be a frustrating person for my friends to get a pic of...always continuing with what I was doing instead of staring back at their lens.

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    And the digital uprising will make for another shift.

    I am thinking of how many times a person is photographed in his/her lifetime, and how that plays into the "pose" taken by the photographed. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, how many times would the average person be photographed in their lifetime -- twice, ten times, perhaps 20 times.

    By the mid-1900's, one's life in the USA would be documented from birth to death...limited somewhat by the need to load film and have it developed. Every major event and most minor ones we are asked to stand for a recording of the event..."Blow out the candles, dear." "Stand by the Yosemite sign, everyone!" etc. It becomes a learned behavior...this getting into the ritual position for the paricular event.

    Now since the late 1900's and the coming of the digital snapshot and now the camera phone, we are photographed weekly if not more. A dominate position these days seem to be the wide-angle arm-length self/portrait/small group shot.

    vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

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    Hmm, I do still have a trick that seems to work, when I want people to not pose.
    I start fiddling controls at the camera, then tell "continue, I have to set everything before" have the shutter and aperture set for a correct exposure, take out the eye of the VF and start looking the camera like "what the", and then when there is an interesting situation and they don't expect it, raise it and cling!
    But I believe it doesn't work as well if you're a very experienced photographer and they do know, you must be fiddling around like a newbie.
    I wanted to photograph once some relatives that they were laughing, they seen the camera and put out a fake laugh and was too late, I took the photo. But I could take another one with natural laughs, there was a notable difference between the two.

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