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  1. #21

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    Michael,

    You have valid questions about whether it is the fact that the subject is recognizable or whether it is the manner in which the subject is manifesting themselves in the photograph that makes for good portraiture.

    I don't know. Certainly, I could say that it is the person that is well known that captures my immediate attention, which in fact it normally does. But, for me, there is a secondary aspect of the portrait of a famous person that engages me. That aspect is the facial expression, posture etc. that is apart from what I have previously seen about that person.

    Was this "something new" a deliberate manipulation of the subject that is somehow less then genuine? I really don't know, and wonder if it really matters because it is still a distinctive part of that person.

    It is almost, to me, that there are several different considerations involved here. Among those are whether the thing accomplished in a portrait is greater then the individual portrayed (Migrant Mother as a case in point...since to me it is indicative of the human condition) this would seem to have a much broader audience impact.

    In addition there is the matter of portraying through a person's facial expressions and body language a part of what that person's way of interacting with life is about. This would seem to be of more limited audience appeal, since it would be most appealing to those who already may know the person photographed.

    Additionally, there is the case of a famous person who may be portrayed in a way that is not normally seen and still indicative of the persons temperment (Churchill by Karsh as an example).

    It is interesting to me that the direction that this thread has taken has made me really question this in ways that I have never done before and I thank you for raising your original question. I don't know that I have effectively expressed my considerations.

    Regards,

    Donald Miller
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  2. #22
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    Donald:
    You use Migrant Mother as your baseline for your argument because you know for a fact that she was impoverished and life was hell. Not only is the picture telling you but also you have background knowledge on this. Could not someone take a picture like this and have it be a total fake and you just assume that she is in misery. Could you not dress someone up as a homeless person. get them to look as pathetic as possible and pass it off as a statement of the victimization of the homeless.

    Lets take Brians example of a snapshot for example. Lets crop it tighter, or not, perhaps photoshop a shadow side or print a shadow side, or perhaps not, and print it in black and white. We now rename the clicker and call it a remote and name the picture "Remote Child".

    The picture perhaps now has become a statement of children being left alone to be brought up by their disinterested parent's TV set. ( I'm sure this is not the case for Brian' child). The child is alone and expressionless. Now doesn't this picture have far more impact that Brians portrait example of a child shot in large format with short depth of field a direction of light and cropped tightly.

    Is this then any different that Avedons Out West series ( that David Hall has admitted has profoundly affected his desire to take portraits) or the Mudmen of New Guinea or the photographs of the Native Americans. They are all shot against a plain background, the subjects are virtually expressionless and they are flat lit. Do we need lines on the faces or different costumes to have it be named a portrait.

    Docholliday has stated that we need surroundings to relate back to the subject, then that would negate Avedon' s Out West series. It would also negate Brian's "portrait" shot but it would add further credence to his "snapshot" of "Remote Child" as being a portrait. IT has far more context.

    What do you think.

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

  3. #23

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    Michael,

    I am attempting to understand what your concerns and questions are. You seem to be returning to the matter of realism versus a manufactured portrayal of a subject.

    There is no argument from me that a person could be posed and made up in such a manner as to give a representation that had nothing at all to do with that particular persons real condition. Does that negate it's import as an image? I would have to say "no" it would not negate it at all if, in fact, it was that the photographer wanted to impart a message to the viewer and was able to do that with his portrayal of the subject. If that were the case, how would that be different then a photographer doing a table top study or a landscape that is favorably photographed? It would seem to me that the only difference would be the choice of subject and that a preceding intent existed, on the part of the photographer, to impart a message. Would that be a portrait? I would guess that most would feel that it was a portrait, since it was an image portraying a human being. It, however, would not be based in a realistic depiction of that particular person. It could still be effective, in my estimation, if it portrayed something about the human condition.

    There is another aspect to this, as I see it. That is portraiture in which a photographer wishes to render the person which he is photographing that would be representative of that individual and it may or may not portray some aspect of mankind as a whole. Again, that would seem to me to be protraiture.

    This has gotten quite far afield from your original question of snapshots in comparison to portraits. I don't mind discussing this if this is helpful. I just don't want to be quilty of diverting the subject from your original intent.

    Regards,
    Donald Miller
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  4. #24
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  5. #25

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    How about this -

    A snapshot is when you just want to take a picture with no care or knowledge of how it will look. You just want an image.

    A portrait is when you take a picture with care and knowledge of how it will look. You want to convey emotion and feeling and not just have an image.

    See to me that defines the two.

    And it relates to an experience I had recently -

    I went out for Mardi Gras to do some street shooting and because I am apparently ignorant of my past hangovers.

    Now, a guy I work with was also heading downtown for Mardi Gras. I said we'd meet later, have a few drinks, etc.

    Anyway, in the early part of the evening, I was shooting street performers and people in costume. What I did then was mostly portraiture. Without a doubt.

    Later, I was drinking with my friend and some others. Then it was snapshots. Mostly because people kept posing.... But the images don't show anything other than people smiling. Where-as the images I took on the street show people being people and doing things.

    Like the attached shot - Unconventional, but a portrait none-the-less.
    Official Photo.net Villain
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    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]DaVinci never wrote an artist's statement...[/FONT]

  6. #26

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    Please induldge me while I catch up after being away for a couple of days...

    1) Inner essence does not necessarily have anything to do with portrait vs snapshot, in my opinion. If Donald Miller is pissed and Michael Blasnky and about to clock him, and I whip out the Fuji disposable and capture the moment, it isn't really a portrait. Although we're sure seeing the insides of Donald Miller. However, inner essence CAN be part of a portrait. Richard Avedon is perhaps best at this.

    2) I still say that portraits, like landscapes, are created. And lets use landscapes as the example as it's sometimes easier to see an analogy than an illustration: Aggie is walking through the woods, with no camera. She sees a stream. If she whipped out a camera at this point, it's a snapsnot. But as she continues to walk she notices a branch crossing over the stream, with an icicle hanging from it. And as she walks and changes the relative position of the elements from her point of view, she notices that the icicle, when looked at from a specific angle, is pointing into a V of leaves suspended in the stream. And she notices a rock in the stream that causes an eddy that reflects the sky in a spectacular way. NOW if she whips out the camera, it's a creation. Because it's as much her mental assembly of the raw elements of the scene as it is the random elements of the scene itself.

    And so it is in portraits. I see Jorge Gasteazoro in a particular way and as I mentially focus on him, I notice things that fit the image of him in my head. The wrinkles by his eyes add to my image of him as wise. The weather in his face reflects the Mexican sun he lives under. By the time I open the shutter, I am CREATING an image of him more than I am simply capturing one.

    That, in my opinion, is the difference between a landscape or portrait and a snapshot of anything.

    dgh
    David G Hall

  7. #27
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    Hi David,

    Aside from the fact that you stood idly by fiddling with your camera while Donald clocked me, welcome back.

    In your reply in essence it says portrait vs snapshot is create vs capture. This means that one must manipulate the scene or subject in order to achieve a portrait, or at least manipulate it mentally.

    The conclusion from this theory is then, perhaps, that a snapshot is more like a passive reflex to a scene or subject compared to portrait which is deliberate conscious action. Therefore planning and mental preparation are a necessary common denominator for a portrait or a successful landscape to be considerated ranking above a snapshot.

    The key word is then manipulate.

    Interesting. I could live with that.

    How does "Remote Baby" fit into this. If Brian or his wife took this picture and we and he concludes that it is a snapshot. But if it is cropped etc as I said before and makes a statement that I said before, and even though they don't think it's a portrait what if other people do.

    Is the argument determined by the person taking the picture or by the audience.

    What if Migrant Mother was a quick grab shot (I'm not saying it was)
    that Ms. Lange took and later noticed in the darkroom. She then cropped and played with it and it turned out to be a masterpiece. Even though at the time it was a shot among many and was more of a reflex than a conscious photograph. Is it a portrait or a snapshot.

    What do you think?

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

  8. #28

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    Michael,

    Wow, very good points. I guess the real answer is that the argument is probably both in the eye of the audience and the artist. I think it works for Dorothea Lange to consider her piece a shapshot, if that's what it was to here at the time she made it, and for me to consider it a portrait of a migrant mother and her children. If she created the image, mentally, then to her it's a portrait. If the image looks captured to me, then I'll probably catalogue it as a snapshot.

    dgh
    David G Hall

  9. #29

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    Well the about the image I posted of the fire dancer?

    It is arguably not composed. They were there, I was there, I shot. I did not move anyone around.

    But I did drag the shutter for the effect (although with stuff like this where the subject is not directed you never know what you might get), and move around to get the right framing. Does that count as "enough" composing?

    Or is it that picture not a portrait, not a snapshot, but something else?



    Official Photo.net Villain
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    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]DaVinci never wrote an artist's statement...[/FONT]

  10. #30

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    If an image is neither contrived nor spontaneously taken but only contemplated in the minds eye of the photographer does it count? Or is it what would normally be called a "wet dream" in the barrooms that I used to frequent?
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

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