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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk
Thread started 04 Apr 2012 (Wednesday) 08:26
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Composition and all that Arty stuff - discussion thread.

 
sjones
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Jan 11, 2018 20:10 |  #3856

As to why I like photographing humans is a bit perplexing; much the way one might question why I love living in cities when I’m an introverted quasi-misanthrope. Just one of those predilections that might invariably fall into the realm of other subjective simplicities, like why I might prefer the color red over green, leaving us with the unsatisfactory but honest answer: Because I do.

I will say that when I really dove into photography, in 2005, I was fairly open in regards to subject matter. However, living in the middle of Bangkok arguably forced a setting amenable to “street photography,” whereas, at the time, I was simply photographing the world in which I lived.

Yet, it wasn’t just geographic determinism that shaped my interest, as I found myself organically gravitating towards the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Daido Moriyama, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Elliott Erwitt, and so on. Whatever I might feel about humans, humanity makes a fairly compelling theme.

As for the topic’s beauty, photography has never demanded that the subject matter itself be conventionally beautiful. Winogrand was particularly concerned about this since young women featured frequently in his catalog (attracting numerous accusations of sexism, but I digress). He worried that the woman’s attractiveness, and not the photograph itself, carried the weight of its worth. Winogrand argued that the merits of a good photograph should be able to transcend any inherently beneficial qualities of the subject matter.

Of course, visual interests is going to vary among each viewer. As for me, I have yet to come across a more engaging collection than Robert’s “The Americans” despite the world having more than 60 years to surpass it. Yet, I cannot impose this opinion on anyone else, so I can only be grateful that photographers are unlimited in their genre or genres of choice. Styles, tastes, and interests are spread across seven billion inhabitants, and unsurprisingly photography reflects this diversity (and I know, Tom, that you are not belittling such diversity; I largely rambling to the broader “you”).

I will stress that I enjoy looking at a wide spectrum of photography. When I used to ‘use’ drums in this or that garage band, I liked playing a certain type of music (typically loud and fast), despite enjoying all types of music. Likewise, what I enjoy photographing doesn’t define my overall appreciation of photography. A good photograph is a good photograph.

Anyway, I wish I could provide a more specific answer (and perhaps more succinct), but photography is so much reaction for me, that while I might be able to elaborate more on what shapes my interests, I’m more inclined to just say, “because I do.”


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OhLook
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Jan 11, 2018 20:58 |  #3857

Tom Reichner wrote in post #18538998 (external link)
Thank you, OhLook, for correcting me . . .

People so rarely say that to me, and I give them so many occasions to do so!


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Owain ­ Shaw
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Post has been last edited 4 days ago by Owain Shaw. 3 edits done in total.
Jan 12, 2018 01:45 |  #3858

OhLook wrote in post #18538860 (external link)
Sure. Seeming and opinions aren't the kind of thing that justifies use of the subjunctive mood. I can't diagram sentences just by typing, so I'll try to show you. "It must seem strange that someone choose instead to photograph stuff" is only a clause, not the whole sentence. Now, for simplicity, pretend that it is a whole sentence, as it could be. The subject of that sentence is It. This word, It, is a stand-in for the noun clause that someone choose instead to photograph stuff. The subject, then, is It (that someone choose instead to photograph stuff).

A more direct way to say the same thing omits it, like this: "That someone choose instead to photograph stuff must seem strange." You wouldn't use subjunctive there, would you? The natural (and correct) form is indicative. "That someone chooses instead to . . ."

Thank you for the explanation. I had understood that opinions did justify subjunctives - perhaps perceptions do not - and perhaps I allied this thought with Spanish, where opinions (such as qualifying something as good or bad) do lead to subjunctives as they aren't objective facts. I've gone wrong somewhere though and need to brush up on it ... perhaps not urgently as this particular language feature is somewhat endangered, but it might make a comeback.

Today is your lucky day, OhLook, as I too am going to take you up on the opportunity presented to thank you for the correction. Now, don't be surprised if nobody else does this for the rest of the year, you've already had two and we're only in mid-January.  :p

Also, like Tom, I too love people. Some of my best friends are people. I photograph some of them on occasions but rarely do these photographs end up among what I consider my 'work' even if I have tried to produce a nice photograph of them and of the moment.

At the same time, the work of all the photographers listed by sjones (I always enjoy your posts, by the way) fascinates me, and some of those names were the ones that most inspired me when I first started photography - and have stayed with me - rather than the unarguably excellent work of Ansel Adams, to give an obvious example, whose work is of course without question magnificent, and - on some level - of interest to me, but does not captivate me in the same way. Why that is, exactly, I don't know. All of these bodies of work have qualities that make them worthy of interest and admiration, but there is little objective reason to be more interested in the work of Cartier-Bresson than Adams. Some of us are more drawn to one than the other but both are valid - even if 'valid' does both a disservice.

As to Winnogrand's misgivings about attractive subjects, I think this is one of the reasons I find a lot of portraiture to be quite vacuous. There is very little behind a great many portrait photographs, to my mind at least, which ultimately reduce down to pretty pictures of an attractive subject. There may be great technical merit in the way they have been produced but little beyond that either. (I'm not talking about Winnogrand's work - I've taken his thoughts and applied them to a different realm of photography.) Many landscape images might also be analysed in the same terms, though somehow it seems less cynical to me than the ubiquitous model headshot image.


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OhLook
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Jan 12, 2018 11:14 |  #3859

Owain Shaw wrote in post #18539185 (external link)
Thank you for the explanation. I had understood that opinions did justify subjunctives - perhaps perceptions do not - and perhaps I allied this thought with Spanish, where opinions (such as qualifying something as good or bad) do lead to subjunctives as they aren't objective facts.

I studied Spanish too long ago to say anything about the subjunctive there. English uses the indicative for opinions as well as knowledge:

  • I know Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I think Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I understand Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I guess Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I believe Sam comes to work at 9:00.

But:
  • I prefer that Sam come to work at 9:00.

Anyway, the relevant part of your sentence is a factual statement. People do choose to photograph "stuff."

Much more could be said, but I'll stop now lest a mod intervene (see? subjunctive) for topic drift. Most people who open this thread want to see something about a different kind of composition.

Here's something, then. It's an insightful comment I recently saw in a review of Stephen Shore's work. The critic was talking about Shore's use of the whole frame. He said that in these images there is no "background."

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twoshadows
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Post has been edited 3 days ago by twoshadows.
Jan 13, 2018 00:14 |  #3860

On the topic of people as subjects, I thought the Native Americans had something in their assertion (if indeed they actually did) that portraits steal souls. Not literally, but a photographer and subject form a relationship. That relationship yields an image; hopefully one that represents the spirit (or soul) of the subject. And as we know, images can become their own thing, attitudes about the material can change over time and times change (which can change the way any given image is perceived). As the keeper of these photos, I am keenly aware of my subjects, our intent when we shot, their opinions of each image, etc. All of this is taken into consideration whenever I decide to show this representation of their spirit to the world. Most have given a significant part of themselves for these images and I own responsibility for their disposition.

Does anyone else feel like this?


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Owain ­ Shaw
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Post has been edited 3 days ago by Owain Shaw.
Jan 13, 2018 03:18 |  #3861

twoshadows wrote in post #18539872 (external link)
On the topic of people as subjects, I thought the Native Americans had something in their assertion (if indeed they actually did) that portraits steal souls. Not literally, but a photographer and subject form a relationship. That relationship yields an image; hopefully one that represents the spirit (or soul) of the subject. And as we know, images can become their own thing, attitudes about the material can change over time and times change (which can change the way any given image is perceived). As the keeper of these photos, I am keenly aware of my subjects, our intent when we shot, their opinions of each image, etc. All of this is taken into consideration whenever I decide to show this representation of their spirit to the world. Most have given a significant part of themselves for these images and I own responsibility for their disposition.

Does anyone else feel like this?

To an extent, yes. In another one of John Free's videos on youtube he talks about not being out to hurt anyone with his photography in the streets, not having the intent to do harm to them, make them look bad or stupid. I think that's an important and correct attitude. He says photography shouldn't be about putting anyone down to lift yourself up, but making work that celebrates life and lifts everyone up.

With regard to portraits, I would feel similarly. As a photographer we are asked to take a portrait to reflect that person, and a good portrait reflects not only the physical appearance but something of what lies within that person - their soul if you will. That is a great responsibility - particularly with a participating sitter aware of being photographed and the final outcome, it is important that they are happy with that outcome.


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Owain ­ Shaw
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Post has been edited 3 days ago by Owain Shaw.
Jan 13, 2018 05:28 |  #3862

OhLook wrote in post #18539372 (external link)
I studied Spanish too long ago to say anything about the subjunctive there. English uses the indicative for opinions as well as knowledge:
  • I know Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I think Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I understand Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I guess Sam comes to work at 9:00.
  • I believe Sam comes to work at 9:00.

But:
  • I prefer that Sam come to work at 9:00.

Anyway, the relevant part of your sentence is a factual statement. People do choose to photograph "stuff."

Much more could be said, but I'll stop now lest a mod intervene (see? subjunctive) for topic drift. Most people who open this thread want to see something about a different kind of composition.

Here's something, then. It's an insightful comment I recently saw in a review of Stephen Shore's work. The critic was talking about Shore's use of the whole frame. He said that in these images there is no "background."

Probably wise. I've found a relevant reference in a grammar book and, though not exactly the idea I was expressing, it does say that "should" rather than the subjunctive would be used. Thanks again. (The uses of the subjunctive in Spanish are too numerous to explain here but do include personal opinions ... and a lot of other stuff.)

The quote about Shore is interesting. Even though I tend not to shoot with a small aperture for deliberately wide depth of field, I do shoot with a wide-standard lens mostly and at distances that generally mean quite a lot of the photograph is in recognisable focus even at the shallower apertures I like to use due to my own aesthetic preferences. That said, even in soft-focus or out-of-focus areas I find it important to consider what is there, in the frame, and what it's doing - whether it could be a distraction or whether it could be used to help the photograph in some way. The whole frame is important. I try to avoid having to crop later but I no longer prohibit myself absolutely from doing so. It's still rare that I do though. I want to get the framing right in camera. This is easier with more static subjects of course but pre-framing some street or nature photographs would also be possible.


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Composition and all that Arty stuff - discussion thread.
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