Why would you think a photographer is different in this regard from an architect or a cardiologist? Yes, they will go to where they can do the most meaningful work to them, and where opportunities are best. That is a perfectly acceptable generalization. Weston liked Carmel, but Irving Penn & Avedon didn't.
Originally Posted by jdef
This is a rather tall claim, and one that I doubt very much. Any evidence?
Originally Posted by jdef also
I just returned from my darkroom. Apparently Tetenal Mono PK RA-4 chemicals that were mixed on 16 December, 2003; and stored with air in the partially filled bottles displaced with butane (BernzOmatic) are still OK. Hah!!!
One problem in discussing "Philosophies" is that many of us are PASSIONATE about our work, and many of us have learned our lessons WELL - at times integrating them into our philosophies a little TOO intensely.
It can demand a great deal of discipline and talent to be able to express that passion - to try to convey a sense of the level of it that we understand in ourselves.
We hold clear, reasonable beliefs, which are all but too obvious to ourselves. We must recognize that "The Other Photographer" holds what to them is equally "clear and reasonable", but has a different point of view.
It comes as no surprise that our opinions are not uniformly the same ... simply put, each one of us is different and unique .. that in itself is cause enough for riotously joyful celebration.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Okay, I lied, I'm back.
Your comments as I've said are kind of the way I felt when I sold my downtown studio. The work was all looking the same, but I was still busy and in demand. So even though you wouldn't be interested, others were.
Another comment is we are talking lots of apples and oranges here. People who have "traditional portrait studios" are selling to the people who come in for the work. There is a limiting factor built in. They can't spend a week with the person and become buddies. The better ones will try to "get into the clients heads' so to speak and try for unique work. But the bottom line is the subject has to like his image, and it has to be flattering. Also the subjects are often "ordinary people" who don't want some super creative or avante garde image of themselves.
As for Karsh, and Life Magazine type "portrait photographers" they were not selling to the person photographed. They didn't really necessarily care if the person like their portrait or not. They were selling to whoever paid them to get the picture. A lot more latitude.
We often on this site and others, see pictures that people rave about. A "traditional portrait photographer" has to be concerned that the subject likes the picture. A person doing "lifestyle work" or "commerial work" or work for galleries etc that is not necessarily so.
A person who photographs children is not selling to the children so if the children like it or not it does not matter. It's the parents, you must please and kids can look cute doing damn near anything. A person doing art studies, same thing. Generally not selling to that person.
A person photographing a woman say, if she is beautiful, pretty easy shoot. Get creative, do lots of cool stuff. What if she is not pretty, then certain rules of technique and lighting have to come in to flatter her. If she is over 40 and doesn't want to see many lines in her face, you can't photograph her like a 20 year old. There are many limiting factors.
People whose work you admire probably aren't shooting every day. When you photograph a lot of people day in and day out, you kind of burn out and start to nail your lights to the floor. Human nature.
Commercial people who do a shoot for say a certain product, start out with models (usually good looking ones), they plan the shoot with art directors and have all sorts of time to pre plan. Often you will see these pictures in magazines and say what a great portrait. But it is essentially a faked situation and the subject of the picture isn't buying it.
Anybody who goes from an "amateur" to being a "professional" will encounter this huge dilemma. Firstly, you have to attract business, secondly people often want what they see on your walls, and thirdly you have to eat. Therefore your work will attract by the quality of it, a certain clientele. People see a portrait on you walls and want one the same but with their family in it. You have to be good and consistantly good and do a certain voulme or you will starve. So your really cool portrait that you spent a week doing, may look pretty neat but if it isn't "commercial" you are in trouble.
Anyways, in my case I downsized and work on doing a sort of cross between traditional and more illustrative approach, and spend time with the subjects. It ain't easy.
I can't think of any other way to answer your question.
JDef, my point about Weston vs Penn/Avedon was a difficult one because of the scales involved. I started by typing Penn/ Avedon/ HCB/ Smith/ Leibovitz/ Pierre&Gilles/ Winogrand/ Levitt/ Meyerowitz/ Doisneau/ Chappelle/ Erwitt/ Strand/ Sturges/ Newman/.... but cut it back.
Significantly, Weston's portraiture was only a fragment of his work, though it was the part that usually paid the bills during the early days. And most of those commercial portraits are forgotten.
While it's possible to imagine and believe in the existence of small town high volume mall portraitists whose rapport and work is amazing, without any need for evidence or example, it's also easy to imagine and believe in, say, healing energy from crystals or atlantean flying saucers. They can't be dismissed a priori but, like the miracles in David Hume's book, they are so removed from everyday experience as to be effectively non-existent.
[size=2][color=blue](More gratuitous kid shots)[/color][/size]
[size=2][color=blue](More gratuitous kid shots)[/color][/size][/quote]
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Shifting sands... now you are comparing different things, and seem quite self-contradictory at this point by pointing small-town storefront operators at one another.
Originally Posted by jdef
Photography is no different from other arts in the respect that as a cultural enterprise it requires the presence of clients, subjects, and other artists (and occasionally, teachers and critics) to prosper (financially and artistically). I could just as easily replace the list of photographers from an earlier post with Ballanchine, Beethoven, Rembrandt, Pollock, Glass, Rodin, Satchmo, Delacroix, Durer...
[size=2][color=darkblue](Expected at this point kid pic)[/color][/size]
One thing puzzling to me here is the idea that Edward Weston was a sort of "product" of a small-town "$3.95 and your pictures will be ready next Tuesday" studio. That had led me back to my copy of "Edward Weston - Forms of Passion" - if not a definitive, certainly a thorough study of Weston and the influences that affected his works. Weston opened his first studio - for "portraiture" in Tropico, California in 1911. Continuing:
"While trying to support himself and his family through his commercial efforts, he also began to navigate the international world of art photography and the growing local community of artists.
In his pictorialist work, Weston made the most of a few, simple ingredients, letting light, shadow, texture and the poses of figures create an ambiance of mystery. (Note 1 - ES) He often employed a few simple, but highly expressive props - a flower, an oriental fan, a mirror - as exotic references to help evoke the sense of narrative. Whether indoors or out, the figures in Weston's photographs are bathed in a bright, natural light that highlights hands, face and breasts. Light gleams across the surfaces of his studio's burlap-covered walls, the multi-paneled silver screen that he often uses as a backdrop, the polished wooden floors, the spartan furniture, and the mirrors; shadows create a double world, casting distorted echoes of the figures across the wall and revealing the existence of objects not seen within the frame of the pictures themselves."
Certainly, that does not follow the stereotype of the "Sit there. look into the camera, and smile" small-town studio.
"With Hagermeyeer and other artistic friends he attended concerts of contemporary music and performances of ballet and modern dance. He also photographed members of the dance troupe founded by Ruth St. Denis an Ted Shawn, as well as the composer Leo Ornstein. For Weston, these arts, along with European literature, spoke of new artistic possibilities, new social and sexual freedoms. THey were bold and modern, and spoke to the daring side of Weston, who felt trapped in staid, puritanic Southern California" (Note 2 - ES)
"Weston took one of the principle tenets of pictorialism - the search for the universal and the eternal - and turned it on its head, exploiting photography's quickness to seek out the momentary, the rare. Underlying this was Weston's insistence, even through his pictorialist period, that photography be an extension of vision, not of thought. "The greatest photographers must be `intuitives'. How fatal it is in photography to be uncertain ...".
I am fascinated by this book, and the insights into the life and "spirit" of One of the Most Significant photographers of all time.
Note 1 ... "Mystery" ... a vitally important ingredient, IMHO.
Note 2. ZOUNDS!!! Southern California - characterized as ... whut?? "Puritanical"?
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Michael all of the things you wrote about professional portrait photography conspire against the kind of emotional connection I referred to, and explain (to me at least) the disparity between pro/commercial work and amateure/personal work.
JDEF since you are grouping all pros now against amateur work and saying there is no emotional connection and since "traditional portrait work" is not in the national spotlight where examples are possible, I'll give a few examples and tell me if there is an emotional connection here.
Dorothea Lange -- Migrant Mother
Avedon -- West Series
Karsh--- Winston Churchill
W. Eugene Smith --- Tomoko in Her Bath
While I'm guessing that you are referring to an emotional connection between a mother/father and child or lover to lover, in your hypothesis I can't believe that the above list of pros work doesn't represent any emotional connections.
This site and Forum are a corrupting influence - instead of doing the "mole impression" in my darkroom, I've been sidetracked into burying my nose into "Edward Weston - Forms of Passion".
This time I searched for references about his early "training" and the factors that served as "building blocks" of his genius.
I've been trying to find any information of those who served to be "tough critics" - who taught him "The difference between a "good" photograph and a "bad" one. So far I've come up empty. Apparently there were none who filled those roles.
The only information I've been able to glean:
"Having taken up photography passionately during his teens after the gift of a camera from his father, Weston briefly studied photography at a technical school in Illinois 1907-08."
Anyone know any more about his education?
There is so much more...
"Throughout his early work, Weston constantly approached composition unconventionally, often building his images asymmetrically and letting empty spaces dominate the picture frame. Critics suggested that he was influenced by Japanese prints and the work of painters from the preceding generation, notably Whistler. To this Weston replied: "Now I do not protest against any intimated influence, but I do say that mostly the artist takes the customs and types of the day - ugly or fine - and re-creates them to his fancy".
"... About 1920, he went even further in a series of photographs made in friends' attics, transforming oddly-angled alcoves and ceilings into massive planes and angles that overwhelm the meditative figures of his friends as they sit or stand in corners. In these pictures, Weston seems on the verge of photographing the architecture for it own sake and creating purely abstract images. But he was not at the point where he could eliminate the human element entirely, even though the people in these images can do nothing more than try to blend in with or try to hide from the Cubist- inspired geometry. Predictably, the critics did not respond well to these pictures: one called the image Betty in her Attic, 1920, "pure cussedness" and, "queerness for its own sake."
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Jdef, I just don't see how you can make a general statement about "big city" photographers and then use a comparison between two small-town storefront operations as evidence of the statement's veracity. That's what I mean by "shifting sands," and it seems to be what Michael's struggling with as well, via your switching of topics into an apparent assertion that pro's have (by definition?) inadequate empathy.
As for my list(s) of artists, all of them, photographers or not, thrived becasue of their work in cities. Some (like Weston) may have had retreats, but they were still involved in a surrounding art scene based in cities, whether it be the patrons of Leonardo's travels or the wealthy San Franciscans (and others) who kept Weston and Adams fed (though Adams was in SF himself).
I really can't think of an exception to this in art history.
One might make the point that an amazing artist may live in, say, Cogswell North Dakota, whose artwork is as good or better than any uppity New Yorker's -- it's just never been seen by anyone outside his or her neighborhood. To which I respond that they have failed. Part of the job of the artist, as Duchamp famously championed, is to get their work out there to be seen ("I attach even more importance to the spectator than to the artist").