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  1. #1

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    On the "dynamic"

    It's difficult for me to determine whether a photograph of mine has that dynamic quality - because I was there when I shot it. I know the story.

    Right now I'm trying to select an image for a print exchange. I have been looking at one for a few days. It's meaningful to me because I know the bigger story, but judging whether that shows up in the image is difficult.

    I handed it to my 16 year old son and said, "tell me what you see". He gave me one word, that I thought came up short. But I asked him. Then I asked, "tell me about the elements". He said, "it's raining". Good observation. I asked another (dumb, I guess) question; can you tell he's holding the flag? He looked at me with that "duh" look and said "yes". That was about it.

    He could tell the littlest bit about the image, but does it have impact?

    Do you wrestle with these questions?

  2. #2
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Put the image away. Come back to it in months or years. If it still has impact for you then, then it will probably have impact with others as well.

    I have some shots that impressed me not in the least when I snapped them, but I later came to appreciate more. I have many more of the opposite (don't we all)

    The major issue, I think, is that we experience more of the scene than actually gets recorded on film. It is inevitable. The sounds, the smells, the wind in the hair, whatever! The widest lens cannot capture all those things. The photo can trigger vivid memories of all that for us... but not for others who weren't there. This is perhaps *the* biggest challenge in all photography, in my opinion. It can substantially afflict those of us who really enjoy the details and sensations beyond the frame. I mean, I get very vivid recollections of all senses when I look at a particular neg, but then I have to face the fact that I am probably the only one on the Earth who feels those things when I look at that particular neg :s If you can make a composition that evokes experiences beyond the frame for other viewers, well then congratulations, you have yourself a classic, timeless photograph.
    Last edited by keithwms; 02-17-2010 at 11:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  3. #3

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    Yeah, you said it well. Thank you.

  4. #4
    Maris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    The major issue, I think, is that we experience more of the scene than actually gets recorded on film. It is inevitable. The sounds, the smells, the wind in the hair, whatever! The widest lens cannot capture all those things. The photo can trigger vivid memories of all that for us... but not for others who weren't there. This is perhaps *the* biggest challenge in all photography, in my opinion. It can substantially afflict those of us who really enjoy the details and sensations beyond the frame. I mean, I get very vivid recollections of all senses when I look at a particular neg, but then I have to face the fact that I am probably the only one on the Earth who feels those things when I look at that particular neg :s If you can make a composition that evokes experiences beyond the frame for other viewers, well then congratulations, you have yourself a classic, timeless photograph.
    What an extraordinarily good paragraph! Everyone who goes out with a camera and intends to make photographs for other people to look at should have this burned into their brain.
    Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.

  5. #5
    Tony Egan's Avatar
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    I find a good test is to hang or lean it in a prominent place so you will pass it and look at it many times a day in different light and while experiencing different moods. Alternatively, put two which might be 'competing' side by side and let them fight it out in full gaze.

    Time is also a good test but we can't always afford to wait. I was recently going through some prints made 8-10 years ago and my overwhelming response was, man, what a lot of crap! The thing is we are always (hopefully) learning and growing but as of this moment we are where we are and we can't wish our work into being 'better' than it is although we might know or sense 'better' is possible. We have to put in the miles so to speak.

    I wouldn't fret too much. If it is possible for others to create their own story from the image itself then use it. They may connect in a way you can't predict or imagine.

  6. #6
    Tony Egan's Avatar
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    p.s. and do you think a 16 year old boy is the best person to ask? I mean, sure, maybe your son is different but is their mind on anything else but, like, well you know what I mean....

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    Put the image away. Come back to it in months or years. If it still has impact for you then, then it will probably have impact with others as well.

    I have some shots that impressed me not in the least when I snapped them, but I later came to appreciate more. I have many more of the opposite (don't we all)

    The major issue, I think, is that we experience more of the scene than actually gets recorded on film. It is inevitable. The sounds, the smells, the wind in the hair, whatever! The widest lens cannot capture all those things. The photo can trigger vivid memories of all that for us... but not for others who weren't there. This is perhaps *the* biggest challenge in all photography, in my opinion. It can substantially afflict those of us who really enjoy the details and sensations beyond the frame. I mean, I get very vivid recollections of all senses when I look at a particular neg, but then I have to face the fact that I am probably the only one on the Earth who feels those things when I look at that particular neg :s If you can make a composition that evokes experiences beyond the frame for other viewers, well then congratulations, you have yourself a classic, timeless photograph.

    Very well put. I am a believer that a photograph with strong impact is one with interesting angles, composition, use of lenses, good exposure, etc.. You need to saw the viewer something he did not see when he was there, if he was there. If not, you need to bring him there through the use of the image. You can have two photographers at a parade, on the same street and both will come back with a different image and in most cases on will have more impact.

  8. #8
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maris View Post
    What an extraordinarily good paragraph!
    Haha, thanks, you made my day. (maybe even my week...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Egan View Post
    Time is also a good test but we can't always afford to wait.
    I agree.

    Well, at least we analoguers aren't consulting a bitty screen right after capture, and debating whether the last shot is a keeper That is a mode in which I truly hate to operate.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  9. #9

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    I think I'm either a very good editor or slightly delusional because I have never returned months, years later to a photo I liked and found that it was less than impressive. However, I do the opposite all the time: find overlooked gems and wonder what I missed about them the first time.

    However, just because I have never doubted the dynamic of a shot that made it past my edits, doesn't mean other people don't! On more than one occasion, I've had friends or family tell me they love my photography, want to buy a print, blah blah...and then I sit through the agony of watching them flip through all my shots and not come up with something they would actually take. Part of the problem is I don't tend to shoot more universal subjects, I do a lot of travel, street & documentary. People can appreciate those shots on a certain level, but not want to hang them in their homes. It goes back to what keithwms says...I know what was there when I recorded the shot, and the scene has meaning for me. Someone else can love the photo in one sense, but still feel like...that's her travel memory or her subway ride to work, why would I want that on my wall?

  10. #10
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    Put the image away. Come back to it in months or years. If it still has impact for you then, then it will probably have impact with others as well.
    I have some shots that impressed me not in the least when I snapped them, but I later came to appreciate more. I have many more of the opposite (don't we all)
    The major issue, I think, is that we experience more of the scene than actually gets recorded on film.
    Very well said ... and well worth keeping in mind.

    I call the revisiting and discovery "Seeing thorugh fresh eyes". After an amount of time passes, we lose - modify much of our preconditioning, and from a different point of view (at times, radically "different") the "aesthetic" (Note 1) seems - IS different, and with me, usually is "better".
    Call it "Not being able to see, because we are too close".
    Something like Scot's Whisky - none are "bad" - it's just that some are better than others.
    That is one of the great disadvantages of "the other side" (not to be mentioned; "d*****l"), images cannot be revisited after they are sent to "bit heaven".

    The widest lens cannot capture all those things. The photo can trigger vivid memories of all that for us... but not for others who weren't there.
    Very true. A photograph is a condensation, a summary of the event. Hopefully, the necessary brevity contains the vital essence of the event.

    Note 1. I don't mean to be pretentious - this is the only word I can think of that fits.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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