I feel like I'm playing chess with a master and am completely overmatched.
HHmmm I guess it would be the same as your signature. The sound of one hand clapping.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
I bumped this because it has been mentioned lately and maybe we could get some new opinions.
VERY cool thread, blansky. I haven't run across it before -- thanks for the bump.
I don't think portrait and snapshot are mutually exclusive.
On the surface, I would maintain that a snapshot is a non-expressive image. I would also maintain that a portrait is a three-way mirror which is expressive of the photographer, the subject, and the photographer's relationship to the subject. (I guess those would be the father, son and holy spirit or first three chakras portraiture.)
Now, given that all science is value-laden, since everything we do is inescapeably marked by our personal values, I would likewise contend that there is no value-free art. Given that, I would consider all photography expressive, so I guess the test of whether something is a snapshot or an artistic image would be if it was *intentionally* expressive.
From my observations over the years it seems to have to do with the price of the camera.
Snapshot = Cheap Camera
Portrait = Expensive Camera
Character Study = Expensive Camera + Black and White Film
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
In terms of the words being used, I think the comparison is a false one...
The term "snapshot" is from hunting - a shot taken quickly without proper aiming. Of course the term is also used in hockey - a quick shot without signifigant physical preparation.
A photo-snapshot could be of a person, but it could equally be of a landscape, a car driving past. It refers to the style of shooting. I'd say it has to be handheld, roughly metered (if at all).
Portait refers to the subject. If it's of a person it's a portrait. It might not be a good one. It may or may not reveal something of the inner person.
I think the question that's really being asked is how/when does a photograph aquire artistic merit/value. What seperates what we try to do, from the thousands of shots that go through mini-labs every day, without any of the pretentions.
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This is sooo very TAO.
Originally Posted by Flotsam
I just returned a book back from the library...HCB's portraits of people. They kinda look like snapshot portraits. But only HCB can take 'em like that.
He uses a Leica = Expensive Camera = Portrait
It was in b&w = charater study
I'm a big fan of Eggleston color...are those photos of people snapshots or portraits? They have a snapshot quality to it but very contrived.
I think your analogy is faulty. A snapshot in hockey is a fully thought out, physically deceptive, highly athletic endevour. It is basically a disguised shot that is deceptive to the goalie because he doesn't know it's coming and cannot properly prepare for it the same way he can a slapshot. It's called a snapshot, not because it's compared to a camera snapshot but because it is done with a "snap" compare with a slap, which is taking the stick back and laying into the shot.
Originally Posted by 127
I would compare it to a street shooter who stalks his prey, nails the focus and then points the camera in a different direction until the fateful second then turns and shoots his subject. Very well executed and disguised.
Surely it's the price of the film, not the camera, that determines the difference?
Originally Posted by Flotsam
Digital - no film - snapshot
35mm - fairly cheap pr. exposure - snapshot, but could be portrait sometimes.
MF - expensive film - portrait, sometimes Character Study.
LF - Environmental Portrait or Character Study
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Interesting topic, and one filled with semantic issues and personal value judgements, I think.
To the casual PWC (person with camera), everything is a snapshot, with no value judgement attached. In most cases, snapshots are made with cameras that allow few, if any controls, and the photo is taken (as opposed to "made") with little concern for compositional values. In contrast, to the "serious" photographer, "snapshot" is a derogatory term, an insult.
A "portrait" probably carries some inferred meaning as to use, as well. Even if the portrait doesn't conform the "classical" requirements, it is usually (always?) staged, done with the subject's knowledge and consent, and is intended to provide a formal representation of the subject. It's meant to be framed and sit on someone's mantel, or hang on the wall. Thus, a portrait is different than a "head shot", for example, because the intended use differs. When the portrait is done in a documentary manner (e.g. Lange's work for the government), however, the definitions start to get fuzzy.
Then, there's the whole semantics thing. For example, did Karsch "snap" the shutter? Well, yes, but does that make his portraits snapshots? My guess is that few people would think so. Do photojournalists take snapshots? Well, kind of, but not really.
So, bottom line, there probably is no answer that would be universally accepted. But, it makes a great topic of discussion over coffee or some other favored beverage.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
I would think by now, 150 years into the game, that people would have realized and gotten comfortable with the reality that photography confounds intent at every turn. Yet here we are in this thread, a bit like the dog lounging in the dining room, staring at the bottom of the dinner table as if our gaze would by itself eventually produce some goodies. What sort of look will produce bread, or what sort of big-eyed stare will bring down the bacon?
What separates a snapshot from, say, photojournalism? Surely the most influential news photos of 2004 were snaps knocked off by a 20-something bozo at Abu Ghraib. Avedon with the Windsors, Karsh with Churchill, Steichen with Rockerfeller -- all lasting portraits made in moments of darkroom surprise and confounded intentions -- both of the photographers and the sitters. This disparity between What We Want and What the Lens Records is at the heart of what Avedon in later years called "the terror of photography" and why he was so happy to advocate the idea that All Photos Lie. Curtis's indians were real enough, but he often brought the costumes for them himself. What was his intent? What was theirs? Maybe a "snap" would have been more honest? Or was his desire to neatly contain the remnants of their culture exactly the most honest and telling statement? Did he unintentionally make a snapshot of 19th-century white American imperialistic attitudes?
A portrait is what you say it is.
living room snap, feb 2005