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  1. #1

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    SO why don't many photographer tell their "story" or the "why" behind their images

    Please don't let this turn into the likes of the thread on artist statements.

    Is it arrogance? Figuring if the viewer does not "get it" then that is their problem. Is it lazyness? Do we just not think about it?

    In the thread on charging too much Brooks makes mention of the "story" of the image or the artist. I have been doing a lot of thinking about this lately as I had a conversation with a painter where the "story" came up a lot a couple weeks ago.

    I have seen painters talk for a long time about their paintings and why did what they did. I have never seen or heard of a photographer do this. I am sure they are out there.

    A painter I respect greatly came into my classroom and saw a photograph I took. He asked about it. I thought he did not see what the subject was, stupid me. He wanted the story and he even phrased it that way after I told him what the subject was. I hardly remembered taking the image I told him that. He told me he thought I was more serious about my art than that. After some discussion I came to realize that the story is extremely important, not just BS put on paper or in a talk to sell the images. Over the last coupple of weeks it has become the why of the image, and if I cannot communicate it to someone how can I expect someone to "get it" on their own.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  2. #2
    roteague's Avatar
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    Why does there have to be a story behind every photograph? Sometimes photographs are simply about making people feel good; giving people an environment that relaxes and provides a relief from the modern world. The only story in my images, and is the same in all my images, is to show the glory of God's creation.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  3. #3
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Alot of photographers, don't know how to tell the story, and that is not a put down, but every product needs a story to have value, or we become the Walmart of the photography world and value goes down, I have often heard from many friends who take pictures for a living, the taking part is 10% and the marketing part is 90%..I agree with Robert to a certain extent, many images can tell their own story, but for the mass majority in a society that is bombarded by images in virutally ever aspect of their daily life, they need to see why, when, what and how and in the case of more expenisive images, the buyers needs to feel they have personal relationship with the artist..and in the case of gallery sales, the person representing you, must be able to build that personal relationship, or they have no business selling art.


    Just what has worked for me and my .02

    Dave

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mark
    I have seen painters talk for a long time about their paintings and why did what they did. I have never seen or heard of a photographer do this. I am sure they are out there.
    I am sure you have heard AA's 'moonrise' story many times. I wouldn't be suprised if that has helped sell half (or more) of those prints.

    Check out AAs 'making of 40 photographs'. There is a story for every one.
    art is about managing compromise

  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Most writers and artists aren't terribly articulate about their own work, even if they are articulate critics or interpreters of the work of others. Ask what it's about, and you get more text to interpret, and I think that's as it should be. Artists who know exactly what they are doing, or who think they know exactly what they are doing, are probably doing formulaic work.

    I think it's most interesting to hear photographers talk about their subjects or their process, and that's enough of a story. Part of what makes a work of art interesting should be as much a mystery to the person who creates it as it is to the viewer or reader.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  6. #6
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    The object of making a photograph is to make the viewer experience what you felt when you were moved to make the picture. At least that's what some of us believe.

    What, then, are words for ?

    Words come into play... stories... when the image is tangential to the message or emoton, or when irony is the motive, or when the image is sentimental. In other words, when the photographer doesn't know why he made the picture ( at an intuitive, not analytical level )... a story is needed to make the connection with the viewer.

    A good, or succesful, image elicits the story from the viewer.

    .
    "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

  7. #7
    Bill Hahn's Avatar
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    Some photographers can be very eloquent about the stories behind their pictures - I'm thinking of the video "A Visual Life" by Dorothea Lange, and various letters/comments by W. Eugene Smith. I think in some other thread (not necessarily on APUG), I pointed out how Smith's comments about one of his Pittsburgh pictures startled me; while I saw a pretty cityscape with a beautiful moon, he was thinking "moon = no smoke in sky = mills are closed = hard times for Pittsburgh folks".

    Which leads to my second point - often the viewer brings a more profound "story" to the picture than the photographer had in mind. One of my favorite pictures shows three ducks swimming along in a horizontal stripe of light tones, leaving dark wakes, above that stripe is the dark stripe of reflected trees and the trees themselves, then there is the light horizontal stripe of the sky. It's like a layer cake. I never realized the power of the alternating tones, and when complimented on the picture, I had to admit that all I was thinking when i snapped the picture was "Oo, look at the duckies."...
    "I bought a new camera. It's so advanced you don't even need it." - Steven Wright

  8. #8

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    DF, I see your point, but there is a market reality that must be considered. Without the daybooks, would Weston's work be selling for what it is now? Even the title 'Pepper #30' gives you an idea of the struggle he went through to make his images. Art does not live in a vacum.
    art is about managing compromise

  9. #9

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    I've never been very good at telling or even discerning the 'story' behind my photographs. So I always like to fall back on a quote from Paul Strand that I came across somewhere.

    "I find in most cases that what the artist says about what he is going to do, or what he has done, is an inadequate and not very meaningful statement. The thing is the work itself, and in a sense the artist should not be asked for the philosophy of life upon which he bases his work. The work is the basis. The work is the thing itself."
    Paul Hamann

  10. #10
    jd callow's Avatar
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    I agree that it can be important to have a developed understanding of what it is you, as an artist, are doing (the whys and hows). I am not sure that this needs to be shared along with the work.

    It might be important to have as a supporting tool when selling your work to a gallery or a buyer. On the flip side it would be nice for those who view the work to come to it unincumbered.

    *

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