I think the issue of implicit believability as far as photography as a medium in general is concerned is simply a matter of social naievete vs jadedness - in the early 20th century, when photography was still relatively a "new" medium, people were much more prone to take it at face value, especially since they did not understand how it worked. There was this idea of "light went in the box, and a picture came out", and the whole in-between was a bit of a mystery.
Today, people accept the process, even the chemical one, as not quite as much of a mystery, and they're less prone to accepting images on face value because they KNOW how they can be manipulated on the computer, and easily. Where the shortcoming lies, as always, is not in the photograph, but in the photographer. Just as there are ways to determine if a chemical photograph has been altered or manipulated, there are ways (and actually much easier) to determine if a digital image has been manipulated. Even if someone were to present a JPEG file in court, it would be possible, with relatively unlimited resources of time and money to extract the file history from that image, and to track back any modifications made in Photoshop or other image manipulation technology. With a chemical photo, that's harder, unless you also have the original negatives. It is up to the personal professional ethics of the photographer taking and manipulating the images to own up to the changes he/she is making.
For me personally, the art and the work in what I do is in the human connection, in understanding my subject and pulling something intensely soulful out of them to catch on film. The technical aspects of what I do are very simple, and I don't generally do much to the frame in the darkroom (any more) other than to do just match the depth at tone of the print to the depth and tone of the subject.
The best investment of time I've made with regard to photography was learning who I am and what I value, and finding a way to express that through my work. Without that foundation, my work really wouldn't say much of anything important.
I agree with Ole. You have to see the "picture" and extract it from the location. But, since many of us may go out to take photos with preconceived ideas, we must remember to remove the blinders to see what is presented to us.
Originally Posted by Ole
Interesting thing about this thread is that it seems I'm the only 'people' photographer who has responded. The rest seem to be landscape and still life shooters. In what I do, I can't "see the picture and extract it from the location". It would never work. Some photogs who shoot nudes seem to fit into the landscape shooting frame of mind, i.e. find the landscape shot and encorporate the person into it.
Any other people photogs out there who want to participate?
Cheryl, I have a "history" as a portrait/model photographer. And that's when I first started with the "find the picture" way of working. Admittedly it was in a controlled studio setting so no "background clutter" to extract the picture from, but to me it was still a matter of finding something that could make a good picture and then getting an inexperienced model/sitter to repeat it until I managed to bring everything together (I did test photography for a model agency - it can be difficult to explain in nice terms to a beautiful young woman that she's as graceful as a log!).
Sometimes I would go mute as an oyster until the sitter started fidgeting, at other times I would chatter incessantly in an attempt to make them go crazy. Maybe. Whatever, it often worked. At least often enough to get lots of repeat work.
I know there are different ways of working; mine is to try to see what is in front of me as it would look as a picture - and then try to capture the best picture I see.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
I've been following the answers and am very interested by the perspectives of thoses who put their efforts on the "human" perspective, whether it is finding the picture in other people or in themselves. I'm especially interested by those like Cheryl who nailed the medium manipulations to something simple, because that gives a whole other meaning to the idea of "skill," which is so often associated with mastery of printing (perhaps I'm talking from a guy's perspective here).
After reading countless how-to books because I wanted to know everything about making good photos, I bought Les McLeans's because it explained split-grade printing. I believed this was the secret lore I lacked to take my work to a new level.
Instead, it dawned on me that in the end there's no arcane knowledge that must be sought for years to create photos. When I look at the making-of of Les's photos, it's: get the exposure and the grade right, dodge/burn/flash if needed, and process. You don't need to fancy gadgets or printing-fu to get the print right, but you need a damn good mind first. With a limited number of tools you can create a lot.
Making things properly demand effort and dedication, even (especially!) if they are simple. In a way, Rodin only took bits off a stone with a hammer and a metal tool, but using his hammer won't make a masterpiece.
I'd be interested to know what do people who specialize in more technically involved processes like lith, pt/pd, dags, collodion, cyanotypes, cross-processing, etc, think about the role of medium in their work.
Last edited by Michel Hardy-Vallée; 12-05-2006 at 09:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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'With a limited numder of tools you can create a lot'... Michaelangelo created 'David' from a block of marble, a hammer, and a chisel. Technique can include any technology, but art comes from the soul.
Originally Posted by mhv
the medium has to be an important consideration in ones work - you need to know in advance what your intended output will be before you take the picture, because it will significantly affect how you take the picture. Not so much for pt/pd, where you can use negs shot for silver, and negs shot for pt/pd can be used with silver as well, but for something like wet-plate, your entire shoot, especially if shooting portraits with it, must be planned around the process, and the kinds of images you would look for would also be highly dependent on the process. There are certain poses I'd never ask a model to attempt if I were shooting wet plate, because I know you'd not be able to hold them for the eight to fifteen seconds required for the exposure.
The "work" is first in the seeing,
- then in the visualizing,
- then in the "capturing"
- then in making the right choice (i.e. editing)
- then in the creating the final product,
- then in the presenting of the final product.
The medium you choose should be related to the skills, knowledge and tools you have available to you.
Each medium has its own potential - whether or not that potential is realized is a question of skill, knowledge, experience, inspiration and luck.
The requirements of some media tend to lead to the development of some types of skills.
The strengths and weaknesses of the media chosen will affect how much effort goes into each stage of the work - e.g. the "capturing" done with an 8x10 view camera will mean very little time is spent editing after the exposure, and may lead to a relatively short amount of time over the contact printer, while the photographer who shot a whole roll of 35mm may have a lot of editing to do, and the skill and time and effort necessary to get the high quality print may be greater (emphasis on the "may").
And as far as the digital shooter with the full memory card is concerned - much editing, and potentially much time post-processing in the interests of trying to get a print of reasonable quality.
Some media are poorly suited for some needs - try to shoot sports, for instance, with a view camera. The necessary work might approach infinity.
It really is a question of how much quality you are looking for. If the medium is suitable, and the skills and inspiration are available, than extra work will yield extra quality.