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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 17 Feb 2014 (Monday) 16:26
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vemödalen

 
airfrogusmc
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Feb 18, 2014 14:42 |  #16

OhLook wrote in post #16699443 (external link)
In the sense in which nobody reads the exact same book, even a book of stories doesn't tell stories. Can we find a set of meanings for words which will make this statement correct: "A story writer tells stories and a photographer doesn't"?

But rarely does a book have two drastically different interpretation unless it is written abstractly. I doubt that there would be two many different interpretations of Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" or Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" because there is narrative that tells you what has happened. I doubt anyone would get that Atticus was a car mechanic or that Scout was a 15 year old Latino. ;) A novel exists to tell a story.

The bigger question should be why to so many think that a single photographs needs to tell a story? They don't, they can't so don't look for it in your work or the work of others. It can be so liberating.




  
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MattPharmD
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Feb 18, 2014 15:12 |  #17

I don't think "tell a story" is the right way to say this, I think it is "convey something" - An idea, a thought, a piece of a story, or an emotion. Doesn't have to be the same for each person. A painting can tell part of a story (don't think anyone really denies that, do they?) It is part of the art that the rest of the idea or story is filled in by the viewer. It is okay that everyone might see something a little different.


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airfrogusmc
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Feb 18, 2014 15:25 |  #18

MattPharmD wrote in post #16699584 (external link)
I don't think "tell a story" is the right way to say this, I think it is "convey something" - An idea, a thought, a piece of a story, or an emotion. Doesn't have to be the same for each person. A painting can tell part of a story (don't think anyone really denies that, do they?) It is part of the art that the rest of the idea or story is filled in by the viewer. It is okay that everyone might see something a little different.

Exactly. Great photographers can inspire thought, can move people to action, can ask questions, can make you see something differently and they can make you feel.

Some photographs are nouns and can show you what something looks like. Weston used the word obvious instead of noun. Great photographs are usually more than nouns or the obvious. He said that he had no desire to photograph the obvious.




  
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Feb 18, 2014 15:30 |  #19

I think this sorrow is rightly classified as obscure. Try as I might I cannot produce a picture identical to another. Every attempt I make is unique in all it's imperfect virtue and each one conveys something no matter how elevated or banal.


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LV ­ Moose
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Feb 18, 2014 15:58 as a reply to  @ AZGeorge's post |  #20

.“The frustration of photographing something… .” If you find it frustrating, don’t shoot that subject. Problem solved. If you’re getting paid for it, suck it up and shoot it.

There was a thread a year or two back about certain subjects being “overshot.” Some individuals apparently didn’t see the point of shooting them since it’s all been done before... the Lone Cypress near Monterey, or the sun rising beneath Mesa Arch, as examples. If it’s new to you, then who cares if it’s been “overshot” by a thousand others? If you love what you’re seeing, shoot it, hang it on your wall and enjoy it. If you think you need to find a different angle or perspective, just for the sake of being different, I’m pretty sure someone else has already had the idea, been there and done that.

If I go to Alaska and see bears fishing in a stream, am I going to shoot the scene, even though similar shots can be found everywhere? You damn betcha. If I go to Paris, will I photograph the Eifel Tower? Yep. Will I spend a day on the internet, making notes of the angles and times of day it’s been shot so I don’t do something that’s been done before? Nope. Will I feel “frustration?” Only if my camera breaks.

If you don’t want to photograph something that’s been shot before (“the same waterfall…”), sell your gear. ;)
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OhLook
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Feb 18, 2014 16:24 |  #21

MattPharmD wrote in post #16699584 (external link)
I don't think "tell a story" is the right way to say this, I think it is "convey something" - An idea, a thought, a piece of a story, or an emotion.

Yes, good way to put it, I was thinking along those lines myself. What is conveyed can be more or less storylike. I'll throw in two of mine as examples of "more" and "less."

I took this one just to record a fact: a violent local windstorm uprooted a large tree. This is a "story" image.

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This one also concerns a tree, but it doesn't convey a message. It's just to look at, just a visual production, although a viewer might respond with some thoughts.

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Levina ­ de ­ Ruijter
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Feb 18, 2014 16:32 |  #22

airfrogusmc wrote in post #16699516 (external link)
But rarely does a book have two drastically different interpretation unless it is written abstractly. I doubt that there would be two many different interpretations of Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" or Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" because there is narrative that tells you what has happened. I doubt anyone would get that Atticus was a car mechanic or that Scout was a 15 year old Latino. ;) A novel exists to tell a story.

I agree. Sorry OhLook to have muddied up definitions. In a book the story is written down and thus a given, but it is our own life with all its experiences, traumas, happiness etc. that colour that story. A photograph does not tell a story at all.

airfrogusmc wrote in post #16699516 (external link)
The bigger question should be why to so many think that a single photographs needs to tell a story?

Good question. Maybe because people seek to find meaning and they can't without a story?


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Levina ­ de ­ Ruijter
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Feb 18, 2014 16:37 |  #23

OhLook wrote in post #16699763 (external link)
Yes, good way to put it, I was thinking along those lines myself. What is conveyed can be more or less storylike. I'll throw in two of mine as examples of "more" and "less."

I took this one just to record a fact: a violent local windstorm uprooted a large tree. This is a "story" image.

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://s641.photobucke​t.com …down_zps029518b​9.jpg.html  (external link)

This one also concerns a tree, but it doesn't convey a message. It's just to look at, just a visual production, although a viewer might respond with some thoughts.

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://s641.photobucke​t.com …2813_zps193872d​2.jpg.html  (external link)

The first image is photo journalism and needs a caption. My first thought was that people had celebrated something, the festivities ended and now the place had to be cleaned up.

The second is nice.


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airfrogusmc
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Feb 18, 2014 16:40 |  #24

Levina de Ruijter wrote in post #16699784 (external link)
The first image is photo journalism and needs a caption. My first thought was that people had celebrated something, the festivities ended and now the place had to be cleaned up.

The second is nice.

Totally agree. Without words I have no idea what going on and the second is a real gem...




  
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Feb 18, 2014 18:48 as a reply to  @ airfrogusmc's post |  #25

The ol' tell a story or not debate. A photograph can help illustrate a story; a story can be contrived from viewing a photograph, but a photograph, by itself, generally does not convey enough context for it to be considered narrative.

What narrative that presumably exists, even if it seems obvious, still largely depends on assumption for development, as in assumption about the viewer's preexisting knowledge of the photographed event and the viewer's assumption about what has actually occurred in the photo.

When someone is trying to present a story, a series of photographs, such as in a pictorial, can guide a storyline, but even these essays typically requires text for the thorough understanding of the facts.

Where it gets complicated, though, is that the image or images presented, even without all the facts, might still effectively convey a message or reaction despite certain ambiguities surrounding the basics: Who, What, Where, When, or Why.

Look at Larry Burrow's superb "Yankee Papa 13" photo essay: http://life.time.com …ment/wp_yankeep​apanew004/ (external link)

If you just look at the photos in the series, you may or may not know that it is taking place in Vietnam; you may or may not know that the photos center on Americans; you may or may not know that the event occurred in the 1960s. You may or may not know why the event is taking place.

But of course, the photos (or even one) can still have marked impact or meaning, depending on the viewer...and that might be the photographer's only intent. Even so, written facts provide more clarity, offering even greater context to the loss and disillusionment involved, as well as reducing potential erroneous assumptions. (Note: in this linked series, the face of the killed pilot was obscured in post to conceal his identity when originally published; another concern about relying on photos to tell stories).

But having been in these discussions before, there will be entrenched disagreement. A PHOTO CAN TELL A STORY!!! Fine. But what is not fine is any argument that states that a good photograph MUST ABSOLUTELY ALWAYS tell a story or a good photo should NEVER need explanation (i.e. captions, article...). I'm not saying that anyone has made these contentions in this thread, but I've come across them in the past.


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OhLook
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Feb 18, 2014 20:10 |  #26

airfrogusmc wrote in post #16699516 (external link)
The bigger question should be why to so many think that a single photographs needs to tell a story?

Do so many think it needs to? If that's a popular opinion, I haven't seen it. There are people who think the only reason for making a painting is to produce an accurate likeness. This is a provincial view which can safely be ignored. There are also people who think a photograph isn't good unless it's beautiful--also a limited opinion.

One obvious difference between a still photo and a written story: a story unfolds in time. My husband says many of my photos have an element of time: they imply that something is about to happen or something has happened. His observation surprised me because I don't usually set out to make a photo "about" time. Sometimes I do, as with a store that had recently closed (you may have seen that one in Urban Fragments). But not usually. I wonder what about me is leaking into my choice of subjects or treatments that brings time in. It may even be something about him instead.


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airfrogusmc
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Feb 18, 2014 21:01 |  #27

There's been a lot of other threads as sjones pointed out that argued it was.

If you are leaking into your work that is a great thing.
"You should be able to look at me and see my work. You should be able to look at my work and see me." - Roy DeCarava




  
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