I think it all depends on how you work and the opportunities. In my case sometimes I see something I like but dont have the camera so I go back with an "image" already in mind, so I guess in this case the print would be more important than the subject. OTOH sometimes I just pack everything and go hunt for an image, so I guess in this case the content and what initally draws my interest is more important.
I think you work the same way jdef, in one of your pictures your caption mentioned you just had met your subject and asked her to pose for you.....in other images is more apprarent you went for an image you already had in mind.
I beleive in some measure we are "limited" by our taste, in that case then I would think the subject is more important than print content, I can only speak for myself but I seem to confine myself to subjects I enjoy photographing in that vein then the subject is always the first thing that captures my attention. OTOH if I was talented enough to do portrait, landscape, comercial, close up etc, etc. Then I would not be posting here and I would be working as a phtotographer...lol.....
--I contend that whatever you frame up in your ground glass is your subject, wether or not you have a preconceived idea about what that should be. --
Without objectivity your result may be much different than what you envisioned, with subjectivity you are setting yourself up for dissapointment, or as an optimist, suprise!
I am not sure what the hierarchy is really a useful construct, it is a physically mandated reality.
You cannot make a photograph from a print(at least not in the sense we are talking about).
art is about managing compromise
I am just suggesting that if you don't look at the GG image objectively you won't truely see it as it is, and your result most likely be different than you envisioned. Also the heirarchy thing was not obvious to me at first either,I was just distilling the discussion.
art is about managing compromise
Well for me as my skills have developed the subject has become less and less important and my interpretation and technique more. So for me the hierarchy would be interpretation/technique/subject. IOW I see something that interest me but I might not photograph it because the interpretation I have in my mind might not be possible. Sometimes technique might not allow me to get the image I have envision.
I think that your question is related to the search of your own style, and is a natural evolution IMO. I can only speak for myself, when I first started I wanted to take pictures like AA or Weston......so with that in mind I searched for the "right" subject, then I applied all my zone knowledge (interpretation) and then I would go to the darkroom and try to get the "perfect" print (technique). As my skills evolved I see less and less this rigid process, I have not done film testing in many years, if I try a new developer I just measure the shadow densities and adjust EI, but testing developing, N+, N. N-...forget it! Of course when I first started I tested every film and developer combination under the sun...I had great charts, notes, H&D curves...but not a single good pic. It was not until I made a good print totally different from what I had envisioned that I realized that technique allowed me to get a good print out of a bad neg, and that my interpretation was not chained to the subject but was a product of my imagination and what I "saw" in the negative.
I beleive that if I am to endow the print with some kind of "feeling" I must depart from reality, and in a sense we all do when we apply filters, N+ or N- developing etc, we are taking the image away from what is really there and adjusting it to our desires.
So I will post the image that changed my opinion, merely to illustrate my point, the negative was flat, the contrast was not there and the straight print was just boring......with a little bit of work and experimenting a descent print came out, and as a matter of fact was my first sale.
OOpps....messed up when loading the print, here it is....
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Exactly jdef I think a balance has to be acheived to be comfortable with your "style". In the beguining I was searching for that perfect negative that would yield the beautiful print, as we are led to beleive that technique is everything in LF.....Now I dont obsess about it I am confindent enough in my skills and technique that interpretation has taken a primary place in my images.
Thanks for the comment I am glad you like it, but yes, the print has more detail and sharpness.....the reason I hate scanning...
BTW altough it looks like a tree this is only a little piece of branch about 3 feet long....
That was part of the experimentation, some Agfa papers if toned in selenium to completion get a sort of coppery color and split toned, so I bleached the leaves with ferri and then toned the print. The print was printed with a mesh under the enlarger lens to diffuse the dark tones. Simple techniques but in this case effective.
Much of the discourse so far is coming from the point of view of what I will call "reactive" photographers. That is, those who go out with a vague or often undefined subject, but react to what they find.
This method of photographing is neither good nor bad it is just a way of working - I often do much of that type of work myself.
However, for many of my projects, I have started with an idea of what I've wanted, sometimes sketched the idea and then put it into a photograph. If you look at Andy Goldworthy and much of John Pfahl's work, it is obvious that they have started with an idea first, that is then executed by finding the subject for the idea. (I am using those two because they could fall into a landscape category as opposed to someone like Joel Witkin.)
How do you classify or quantify a series of photos? I have a friend who shoots a lot of the Hispanic culture, and although he has to find the subject within a set of circumstances, he knows the total presentation he is trying to make within a certain subject genre. For example, he worked for two years on a project documenting prostitutes along the Mexican border. He also has a long term project documenting the Mexican influence upon Native American ceremonies.
In a hierarchy, one would have to say that each of his series started as an idea first that is later realized by finding the subjects to illustrate the idea.
I'm not sure in your method of working any of this makes a difference - or, even why trying to define a hierarchy within a working methodology is important.
Could you explain how/why defining a hierarchy is important to you and your photography? I've never thought about it previously, and it is mildly interesting but what about it is germane to making (better) photos?
Yes, I use "reactive" because it means to respond to a stimulus. In this case, the stimulus is the subject of the photo - and the response is making the photo.
Receptive means open and responsive to ideas, impressions and suggestions. I don't mean to wordsmith this, but you can be responsive (thinking, analyzing, etc.) with no reaction (doing something) because of the stimulus.
***"If photography is indeed uniquely compatible with this methodology, then I feel that it's important for me to understand that."***
This has nothing to do with compatibility of the medium, it has to do with you discovering the best working method for yourself. But, before you can do that, you need to find out what kind of photos you want to make. This is part of developing your own personal vision about whatever interests you, and then trying to put what you see/think is interesting into a photograph that is meaningful to you - and then maybe, others will find meaningful also. If they aren't interested, don't worry - you may just be too advanced for them.
***"I'm just trying to figure out what I'm doing"***
Yeah, me too - and I've been trying to figure it out now for the past 35 years. My advice is to relax, take your time, and don't be concerned if it turns into a lifetime pursuit.
***"I have no education or training in photography, and in fact, know very few other photographers."***
I have a lot of formal and informal photographic education, and know quite a few famous photographers - I'm not sure it's all that important. If you are interested in photography you will educate yourself in whatever way you need to in order to better understand what you are doing. It may be through formal classes or reading books and using what you understand in a trial and error method.
There is no one best way. Edward Weston really had no formal education in photography, and had a lean methodology that was perfect for his style. Ansel Adams had to know why things happened so that he could control them and pursued photography through a self-developed semi-scientific method. Leslie Stroebel and Richard Zakia understand photography to the sub-atomic level in both physics and chemistry. Of the people named - which ones are famous for making "art," and which are famous for contributions to the understanding of photoscience? Each has their place because both areas (art & science) advance photography - one is not better or more important than the other - only different.
I think you might benefit by getting a book called, "Perception and Imaging" by Richard Zakia. It's a quite fascinating study of human perception and translation of perceptions into a photographic image.
There are even "excercises" you can do to verify or play with the concepts presented. The nice thing is that for all of Mr. Zakia's photo background, he truly advocates breaking the "rules" (and shows his examples of doing this), and having fun with making photographs - and that's really what it should be about.