many great thoughts have already been laid out here - forgive me if I'm repeating one as I didn't read the entire thread.
I believe my best work in the urban environment have been made using imperfect subject matter.... it's careful use/placement of those imperfections that can really bring a photograph to life in my opinion. Maybe you should focus on photographing imperfections themselves for a time?
One other thought that might help... I rarely, almost never, think about waiting out light for a certain subject matter. I approach it from a different perspective. It's always the perfect light to photograph something... so go out looking for the light - not the subject. I find I discover lovely things I'd never consider as subject matter when I let the light itself be my guide.
Hope this helps in some way.
All the best.
I went to Las Vegas in 2007 on a business trip. I had brought with me this old Zeiss Ikon with a Nettar lens, because it was easy to carry. I found nothing of real interest to take pictures of, but was out with a couple of colleagues at a mall outlet, and I started to see some potential shots. It was a strip mall, almost brand new, still shiny and without too much evidence of the usual human destruction.
One of the pictures I took was a picture of a store front window with an awning. The place was so new that there were no markings on doors or windows, no logotypes, or anything. Just empty. Flat concrete walls, aluminum framed window from floor to ceiling, and a door. I stood directly in front of it, hiding my own reflection behind one of the aluminum window frame uprights. Perfectly clean, even the sidewalk was untarnished. So I aim, burn off a frame, and then a piece of hamburger wrapper blows into the scene and lands on the ground right in front of the window. I decided to take a picture of the same scene with the trash in it.
To me, after I had printed both frames, the trash added something to an otherwise fairly ordinary picture. It emphasized the sterile and clean shapes and form of the frame. I wish I had the file of the scan here at work. It isn't at all difficult to understand why somebody would not want the piece of paper in the frame, but consider the possibilities of leaving it there. Play with the concept.
My earlier suggestion of pinhole camera use is one where you can, with long enough exposures, take pictures of scenes with people moving through them, and they will mostly disappear in the total exposure. It's a really liberating and interesting exercise, and a pinhole made well can yield super sharp results in case that's a bother with anyone.
Don't be too obsessed about perfection. Look at those plastic surgery addicts. They will never stop finding flaws. They have so many surgeries that they can't recognize who they are nor who they are. Be yourself and accept the world as it is.
I understand what you say. My personal approach to photography is basically production for stock agencies rather than "artsy" stuff. That means people are normally a nuisance unless they are small and don't interfere with composition, mood etc. Especially they don't have to draw attention. People typically cannot be the main element of the picture if you want sales (unless you have a model release, that is).
Originally Posted by jeffreyg
Having a focus toward the market prevents me from going insane with this kind of problems. A disturbing element is a disturbing element, but a picture is better than no picture. Productivity matters.
If I didn't have this kind of approach, and if I only stick to the ars gratia artis philosophy, I would easily fall in a deep hole of self-defeating perfectionism. Besides, as our "artistic" product is the way we want other to see us, this carries the risk of being sucked into a narcissistic spiral bordering with mental masturbation. You know, producing something beyond reproach and criticism. Not less than perfect.
At the beginning of the thread I was tempted to suggest to the OP "just shoot for stock agencies", but I refrained as I think it was a bit overboard as an answer, one cannot change so brutally his own approach to photography, his motivations to photograph.
Anyway, I like the process because it makes me stay with my feet on the ground. Good enough quality, good enough composition, good enough light makes good enough a picture. Money which arrives actually satisfies my ego more than compliments. When somebody pays to publish a photo of yours, choosing it among hundreds of competing ones, it makes your ego feel better no less than a good comment at an exhibition.
I don't want to compare myself to any great artist of the past, but I am sure that all the Michelangelo and the Caravaggio of all times had this same kind of problems, they certainly saw imperfections everywhere in their work. They would have reworked the opera continuously if they didn't do that for a living, and for a client. The fact is: they saw the defects, the clients in most cases didn't.
Leonardo da Vinci worked on its MonNa Lisa* for years and years, continuously reworking countless details. That's because it wasn't a work that he would (ever more) give to a client. If he hadn't worked for clients, he would have produces quite a few works, I suppose.
* That really is Monna Lisa, florentine dialect for Madonna Lisa, Lady Elizabeth. "Mona" in north-east dialects (such as Venetian) means "cunt", and by extension "girl" and "stupid person" (don't shoot at me for the polical incorrectness :whistling:). In both cases Mona Lisa really is an unfortunate deformation :(
Good points. It is certainly true at least some of this has to do with coming to terms with the fact very little if anything we produce can be "perfect". I've always been lousy at accepting errors, even tiny ones in my artwork, but I'm trying to become a little more flexible. Constantly starting over, or waiting forever is not healthy.
I must also admit part of this might come from a desire (as you say) to produce something that cannot reasonably be criticized on a fundamental level. That's another long story...
Here is the picture I was referencing, and as it sometimes happens, memory doesn't serve us entirely correct (I was wrong about where I hid and the door). But you get the idea. I think this particularly clean shot was stronger with the piece of paper littering the scene.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Perhaps it would help to know that there is no objective reality. Your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your work may be influenced by factors that seem unrelated, like personal or emotional issues. I find most problems are routed in connection or lack thereof.
I agree. You also emphasized the litter by placing it in the Golden Mean. Have you seen this lushious platinum prints of found discards by Irving Penn? How about his shots of those ample women? Are they revolting or beautiful? I find them beautiful.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson