Where's the work?
Where do you put your efforts when making photographs? Some people decide on simple subjects, and use their printing skills to achieve their vision; other people keep a simple printing procedure, but spend their energies on getting the subjects they want. There are lots of different ways to tailor one's work, but I was interested to know especially where you draw the line in your own practice between the efforts that you consider important in the making of a photo. Sometime taking a coffee break has no bearings on the making, sometimes it does and the whole photo reflects that coffee break (I'm just supposing here).
Where I'd like to drive the question is towards the medium-specificity issue in photomaking. Some people would argue that only the medium manipulations (exposing, developing, printing) are what determines the value of one's work(wo)manship as a photographer, other might disagree. Sounds weird? Well what do we say about skilled painters? Often that they manipulate their medium in a masterful way: Turner, Leonardo, Caravaggio, all these people are called great painters in large part because their painterly skills are amazing. Likewise, the Photo-Secession school has argued over and over again that a successful photo is one that shows medium-specific attributes, and tries not to borrow from other arts. Even here on APUG, our basic premise is that there is a medium which we choose to work in, and that has an important bearing on the quality of the final result.
An example that I ponder about a lot for example is the work of Spencer Tunick. As a printer, his pictures are often on par with a drugstore photo. To keep the parallel with painting, his manipulations of the medium are so-so. But his efforts are not into the medium manipulations, they are rather in the research of subjects and in the tactics developed for quick deployement of his scenes. The result is still something that still functions under a traditional "aesthetic" interpretation (a striking visual scene), and does not need much awareness of more conceptual forms of art to be understood, which are usually those that challenge aesthetic perspectives.
A difference I would see between Tunick and a painter that would also create such "striking scenes" is that the painter needs years of practice to get the shapes and the colors straight (i.e. it takes him a lot of effort to manipulate his medium), whereas for Tunick the medium effort is minimal, and his energies go elsewhere.
So do you call these skills outside medium manipulations "photographic skills" ? In your own work, what are the types of efforts that you make you consider essential to your picture practice?
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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The rest is just pushing a button.
The difficult thing is seeing the picture in the first place.
No, not the Ansel Adams "previsualisation", but just seeing that there's a picture there that might be worth taking.
In my experience, everything else is easy compared to that.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I don't think I can separate the medium from seeing. When I'm photographing, I see the possibility of a picture, but look at the scene with all of the various manipulations - exposure, depth of field, camera movements, development options, all of the printing options - in mind. The goal is a finished print.
This is not to say that I always print exactly as planned in the field - sometimes there are nice surprises in the darkroom. But I consider control of the medium to be a part of seeing.
sometimes it is finding "it" to photograph ...
but a lot of the time it is doing something with "it" afterwards ...
it's not just making a print ( at least for me ) but a different process -
kind of like using "it" as a steppingstone to do something else -
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Where is the work?
I personally divide photography into two catagories -- photography, and photo art. I define photography as the technique of producing a desired image with as little artificial manipulation as possible. A little dodging and / or burning in the printing is OK, but ultimately if it aint on the negative then it just aint there.
Photo art is the technique of producing a desired image using whatever manipulation is needed -- however, once a certain point (of manipulation) is reached the result ceases to be photography at all and becomes CGI. I don't draw a hard and clear line between the two (it's more of a gray area) but to me they are two distinct approaches. Just depends on the individual's vision. I place my own work in the photography catagory, but my son is more into digital photo art and CGI.
So long as individual artists are honest with themselves and others about what they're doing, I don't see a problem. But I do admit I tend to scowl a little when people present CGI as 'photography' just because a camera was involved somewhere in the process...
This is an ongoing topic in photography. One could almost say "traditional". I say that because I have recently been pondering the subject (yet again!). There is something fundamental about the issue. I haven't decided if I keep revisting it because I suffer from that chronic plague on photographers: self-doubt about whether or not we are artists or because (and this is what I hope is true) the very question is part of our "work" ethic.
The bulk of my paying gigs right now is digital prints of handcolored black and white photographs. Each original takes quite a bit of time and hopefully a little skill. I used to get a wee nuts when people suggested that the "same thing" could be done in Photoshop, but now I'm not so sure or so arrogant. Not the exact same thing, certainly, but is that the point? It really is about the image and your relationship to it, and of course, what we hope is the relationship an audience will develop with it. I think what I'm trying to say, is that the answer is less important than that we continue to ask it of ourselves. (although, I must also admit to an occassional "CGI scowl" :-)
I need to do everything from finding the subject matter to mounting and framing the final photograph. All photographs are made one at a time, start to finish, by my own hand. There are no back-room people, helpers, laboratory workers or shareholders. Only light sensitive materials are used.
The back of my photograph makers card reads "Guaranteed no digital".
When I am not making photographs I am looking to collect them. A set of standards parallel to the above manifesto apply to things I would consider buying.
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.
I hope you didn't get the wrong idea with my comment. I have seen some CGI work based on a digital photograph that I thought was absolutely world class art. My only objection was that the artist referred to herself as a 'photographer', and her work as 'photography' (she even bragged about her 'light' room [PC] instead of her 'dark' room [dark room]). My own son has done some digital work I seriously believe would make an outstanding CD cover -- and better than anything I could produce in the same medium, by the way.
My point is, we did not invent either the science or the art of photography, and so in my opinion we have no right to try to 'redefine' it. The definition was done for us more than a hundred years ago. If we want to take that and expand on it, grow, evolve... what's wrong with that? Our great grandfathers may have invented photography, but we invented CGI, and good art is good art, regardless of the medium. I'd rather look at world class CGI than photography done by a fool who was more ego and reputation than talent...
robopro: I think you have expressed yourself very well and I agree. I want to believe that it is a big, exciting, diverse world and that there is enough room for us all to be the artist we become.
I do miss the days when a photograph was implicitly believable. You may have known that Yosemite wasn't really on a black and white planet, but you also knew that Half Dome hadn't been imported from some other national park. I don't think we can go back to the "purity" of pre-Photoshop, but I would like to see a more vigorous defense of the unmanipulated image - especially in photojournalism or even landscapes.