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Thread: Fraud or Art

  1. #21

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    I'm just going to chime in for a few moments, then I have to return to preparing for tomorrow's midterm...

    As a documentary photographer, looking at a photograph that imitates documentary work, I feel lied to. The fact that this kind of work seems to completely ignore (not overcome) all ethical questions I face when I produce work of my own strikes me as wrong.

    "Do I have a right to be here, to photograph them, to show others this point of view? Is this point of view valid? How will this affect the subjects of the photograph?" In one form or another, these questions are with me everytime I work on my documentary projects. The fact that this image ignores all these issues, while assuming the aesthetics of an involved documentary work offends me. I really want to say that it "bothers me," but some offense was taken. Part of the appeal of true documentary work lies in the breaking of barriers on the part of the photographer, and part of it lies on the values that the photographer transmits (willingly or not). A very big part, which in fact should not need be said, lies in the respect for the truth (either of that particular moment or of the "true story", whatever that may be). To fake these aspects seems no more legitimate than to fake aspects of one's own life.

    Anyway, I have to get back to my studies...

    André

  2. #22
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    Photographers left this stuff behind 120 years ago.

    It took a while, which was reasonable, for the folks who had access to the photographic paraphenalia, and who had the time, to make the necessary progress technically, aesthetically, and morally, to go out and shoot a farmer instead of dressing up a servant, or friend, as a farmer. But by the time Emerson was out and about with his camera photographing real people, the time for sentimentality and social stratification was past.

    The Salons, however were too precious, too respectable, and too arrogant, to catch on.

    Years later, we generally see a photograph and assume it is real. And that's why this is fraudulant, and what is truly wrong with it. Dressing it authentically, and staging it as it were a photojournalistic image, or documentary, is cold and cynical.

    I'd be happier if the photographer hired Amish locals to walk back and forth for an hour. That's contrived, but honest.

    Blansky, and me, and other folks enagaging in portraiture are dependent on one thing: we tell the truth as we see it, or feel it.

    A portrait is about a deeper reality than the surface of the subject. We all use different words for it, I'd call it soul. We risk a lot when we dare look at the person in front of the camera, and we risk a lot when we make the picture. That's our job. And that is why this image should be despised, it mocks our craft and calling.

    String 'em up.

    MB: when you drift out to Toronto next year, bring your skates and come through Detroit: Ted Lindsey still skates 3 mornings a week, and is supposed to be pretty good company.

    .
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  3. #23
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky
    This page was cut out of The Professional Photographer Sept 205 edition...
    I figured the whole thing was a blatant fraud as soon as I read that.

    Heck, photography was only invented in 1826. Gutenberg Press in the mid-1400s...There weren't any Amish back in 205 either.

    Can't fool me.

    Joe

  4. #24
    blansky's Avatar
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    A couple of points:

    This thread was not so much about whether you think this particular photograph was art, or even good. More so, it was about the fact that a top photographic organization, would be endorsing this kind of staging, and raving about it.

    The second thing is, in life we sort of have an expectation of truth. Obviously the older we get, the more jaded we get. A child comes in thinking that everything is truth, and soon has to discover that it is not.

    In movies we accept that it is not truth, in advertising we have also come to accept that, although that has not always been so. In photography for years we accepted that it was truth, well maybe just a little enhanced, but still pretty much truth none the less.

    Look at how outraged we used to be when athletes who we admired reached great heights of achievement and then we find out they used steroids etc. Now we almost expect that they cheated.

    I guess I just think it is sad that we must place a mental caveat on everything these days, that don't allow us to enjoy something with the knowledge that it was achieved honestly and without betraying our trust.

    ....here I sit, a sadder but a wiser man.....

    Michael
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky
    So I guess the question or dilemma is, concerning the Amish thing, if you never knew it was faked, would you like the picture. And since you found out it is faked why is it that you feel cheated? Michael
    It reminds me of the controversy of the "White Band" sales in Japan is somewhat similar to this: Some PR firm ran an anti-poverty campaign for Africa by featuring celebrities (like I heard what Oxfam did in Britain) wearing white wrist bands, but it was a fraud. It turned out this was not directly linked to any of the campaign ads that the aid agencies put out abroad, but the director of this firm(not OXfam) got an idea from them. So only some Japanese, mostly young people who paid 300 yen (about 3 USD) per rubber-made ring got tricked and got quite upset.

    Because on its ads, it had a listing of the names of NGOs and NPOs that're in the business, giving an impression to the public that the money you paid for "White Band" rubber-made rings would directly go to (or be spent on) the countries that are in need. But the most of the money was split beteen the PR firm and the Chinese manufacture for the manufactuing cost and the labor.

    I was wondering why these rings were being sold in convenience stores and record shops most of the time. The most ironic part was that some right-wing advocates including a majoy newspaper, broke out this story because their counterparts were among the names on the list. Later the explanation from the firm was posted as a caution that said something like, "Originally it only intended to send out the message for the public to be aware of the issues on poverty." And now it's onto something else completely.

    I don't know what this was all about, but concerning the ethics on the use of images, I'm hardly surprised by the problems that occur such as this.

  6. #26
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    I think you and I see pretty much eye to eye on this one, Michael. It's kind of funny, because whenever I can no longer resist the Soap Box I'll often see posts from you that really tick me off. I'm starting to suspect that the reason I get so ticked off is that I take your comments at face value when, in fact, you have a much deeper and more twisted sense of humor than I have given you credit for. Be that as it may, you've called it on this one. I like this photo. Had I paid good money for it and then found out it was made in the way that it was, I would be EXTREMELY disappointed. I certainly would'nt keep it on the wall anymore. It would be very much the same as buying a landscape photo, then finding out that someone put Mt. McKinley on the Serengetti. (I actually saw one of those once) Creative license is just that, but at some point one has to draw the line and call it a lie. Where that line is drawn is up to each individual but, for me, this one is way over the line. So far over the line that I picture Amish folk chanting "You don't speak for me!" Except, of course, such chanting would be beneath their dignity. Really gotta admire those folks... For a national organization to endorse it as some kind of Pulitzer prize contender is beyond fathoming.

    Anyway, good call on this one.

    Bruce

    PS - Thanks for picking up the phone a month or so ago and setting me straight on the best use of the Zone VI VC enlarger, the new darkroom should be done soon and I'll actually be able to put that knowledge to use...



    Quote Originally Posted by blansky
    A couple of points:

    This thread was not so much about whether you think this particular photograph was art, or even good. More so, it was about the fact that a top photographic organization, would be endorsing this kind of staging, and raving about it.

    The second thing is, in life we sort of have an expectation of truth. Obviously the older we get, the more jaded we get. A child comes in thinking that everything is truth, and soon has to discover that it is not.

    In movies we accept that it is not truth, in advertising we have also come to accept that, although that has not always been so. In photography for years we accepted that it was truth, well maybe just a little enhanced, but still pretty much truth none the less.

    Look at how outraged we used to be when athletes who we admired reached great heights of achievement and then we find out they used steroids etc. Now we almost expect that they cheated.

    I guess I just think it is sad that we must place a mental caveat on everything these days, that don't allow us to enjoy something with the knowledge that it was achieved honestly and without betraying our trust.

    ....here I sit, a sadder but a wiser man.....

    Michael

  7. #27
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    This is neither fraud not art, it is a piece of everyday professional photography using everyday professional methods. If you don't like it, get over it! My personal opinion is that the image is unremarkable and I wouldn't want to buy it - other people (in charge of an award scheme) apparently thought differently. Yes, technically it harks back to Henry Peach Robinson and all the other multiple-printing experts of Victorian times, but this doesn't sway me one way or the other. Just please don't be naive enough to suggest that a manipulated (staged) photograph has no validity - this would consign 95% of press pictures ever made, 100% of portraits, etc. to the garbage can!

  8. #28

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    Is it just me (maybe its the tumbler of scotch I just swigged after seeing this masterpiece of kitch) or is the scale in the photo somewhat off? Compared to the people, the cows look huge. Are cows really that much bigger in Amish country? and are those fence post on the right hand side along the road really that tall?... or is it that the digitally replaced country folk's scale is a bit out of whack.

    Staged, unstaged, true, fake, false, crap, whatever. To my bloodshot eye, the shot is about as cheesey as a Kenny G solo on a Celine Dion single but whatever floats your boat eh?

    For me, it is the very weird sense of scale that places it in the reject pile.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
    If you don't like it, get over it!
    Interesting solution, where have I heard that before? In any event, I think not.

    Quote Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
    Just please don't be naive enough to suggest that a manipulated (staged) photograph has no validity - this would consign 95% of press pictures ever made, 100% of portraits, etc. to the garbage can!
    I'm afraid I am that naive, and you are quite correct about 95% of press pictures ever made. Not, however, about portraits. Those customers either got what they were paying for, or (hopefully) didn'tpay for them.

    Bruce

  10. #30
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Well let's say the photographer fuzzed it up a bit and then maybe printed it in gum bichromate or bromoil. Then it wouldn't look so photojournalistically real and it would attempt to be obviously "artistic." Acceptable then even giving the staging and digital manipulation?

    Y'all are upset because you are looking at it as a document. I dislike like it for that very reason. It purports to be a clinically-sharp document of reality and I want to see it as an impressionistic fiction.

    IIRC, the PPA holds the equivalent of salons and judges these things and awards points, etc. It's a big camera club. What do you really expect from such a practice? I expect fuzzy-wuzzy fictions.

    This thing is upsetting to us because of our approach to it. It's on the fence and straddles two viewpoints. It's just poorly done from any camp.

    Joe

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