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Friday, 18 March 2016


Well, you know what Brooks Jensen from Lenswork would likely do... he'd divide it all up into manageable chunks, and then tackle one chunk at a time. In his case it would probably be a series of podcasts. In your case a series of blog posts, perhaps over a whole year or longer, could result in enough material to fill that novella-like book or ebook. You've already outlined the first eight weeks.

You aren't describing an essay, but rather a book -- one that I would buy.

.....and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Last year I wrote a handful of entries on my blog about the fifteen pictures ones I considered to be the best of all time. I completely disregarded technical aspects - not because I'm a bigoted 'substance over form' type of guy, but for not being qualified for the task -, and got quite nice feedback from readers.
The pictures, of course, were all wonderful: works by Dorothea Lange, Koudelka, Richard Avedon, W. Eugene Smith, Lewis Hine, Kertesz, Ralph Gibson, HC-B, Kishin Shinoyama, Doisneau, Jane Bown, Helmut Newton, Adams, and also Francis Wolff and an unknown photojournalist called Ben Martin, who photographed Pannonica and Monk by the Five Spot at night entering Nica's Bentley.
It was a nice exercise in that it caused me to further research into the photographers' works; for the audience it was amusing too, especially because I showed a picture by Kishin Shinoyama named 'Two Nudes Seen From Behind' that caused some furore.
What I tried to do was to write down my findings on the picture: its context, what I thought the photographer intended to express, the impression each picture produced on me. People liked it so much that they decided to vote for their favourite picture (the winner was W. Eugene Smith's 'A Walk Into Paradise Garden', which probably means my readers like beautiful pictures).
In a nutshell: it's not such a stretch to deduce people like this kind of essay. As you have the knowledge to write on the technical aspects of the photograph, I expect TOP to break all audience records if you do decide to start your project. (Of course it will take you quite some time to moderate all comments!)

By the way, here's Shinoyama's picture I mentioned earlier, which, like all others, I posted on the grounds of fair use: [NOTE: NSFW --Ed.] https://numerofblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/kishin-shinoyama_38.jpg

A good analytic summary. Much of this is what I would call "structural analysis", which is sensible to serious phtographers - your audience. But, does this apply to the average non-photographer, or many cell phone cameera and cheap digital pocket camera users? I don't think so. For many, it is an instant visual impact that matters. Most of them wouldn'thave any idea that shades of gray (that book title??)or high/low key (musical notes??) refer to images. Impact and content determine their response. That is usually the basis for liking or rejecting a photo. The extent of the analysis may be "my, its dark" or "that's very bright/colorful". And that's OK, The why and how are not needed for simple like/dislike decisions. And sometimes excess analysis can get in the way of enjoying and image. But, hey, its what we do.

"We ain't going too much further down this hole."

Bummer. The last 3 days were really terrific. Thanks to you for the posts and to all those who commented thoughtfully.

This relates to what I thought earlier; A photo has to "make" you want to spend time with it. That's what I'd call the initial "spark," or the "quick Like."

"It's a Skill to look Fast, but a gift to look slow"
Just beautiful and perfectly said, Thank You.
So much of what is written about Photography tends to be exclusionary and elitist when it doesn't have to be.
Knowing more is good and can lead to a deeper appreciation but shouldn't be a prerequisite to enjoying the medium.
Let the beauty of the work that speaks to you draw you in and make you curious about why. Then let your desire to learn draw you further.
You do a great job at being inclusive.
I enjoyed the piece very much but understand why it can't be the focus of T.O.P
But perhaps a good alternative might be for you to revisit a list of your favorite books on the subject, and it might ring the cash register as well.
Many of us have all the Szarkowski & Newhall books and recent ones like Why Photographs Work but one of my favorite recommendations of yours was John Loengard's Pictures Under Discussion. Perhaps because he was such a good Photographer it seems to speak with extra clarity,
In any event, Thank You

Tension is a subjective quality, or metric, I can't help but think of when looking at pictures. Ansel Adams is low tension, Lee Friedlander is high tension. HCB: medium tension. Robert Frank: medium-high. Diane Arbus: high/medium-high. Alec Soth, Vivian Maier: medium.

Does this make sense to anyone other than me?

I enjoyed this topic, but when lamenting the quality of most converted BW these days, some examples would have been helpful.

Personally, I prefer to work with color and find that color can be altered surprisingly much to trick the people who were there, even more for the people who weren't there. What this then means in terms of genuine creativity or repeating cliches I'm not sure.

Regarding Foxworthy and " you might be a Redneck if..."
there was none better than Jerry Clower
whose "Examples of a Redneck" from 50 years ago were really funny and inspired Foxworthy
here's one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLnAZtdnZWU

Very interesting. I can't help noting that there's nothing here that wouldn't apply to painting, drawing, or other representational media. That's not a bad thing (he says while ducking).

I also can't help thinking of Stephen Shore's book The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. It's been a while and I don't have it in front of me, but I recall that book being much more formalist. I'm tempted to say that this outline for a book takes up where that one leaves off, but it might be more accurate to say that they are complementary approaches. I'll have to track down a copy.

At any rate, a very stimulating overview.

Dang you David Brock, dang you to heck. It was bedtime when I clicked on your link. Now it is way past bedtime. Time well spent. I have been laughing and now have developed an infectious southern Mississippi twang. I just went back and read this article again in the voice of Jerry Clower.
Colorism, I agree, more often than not, color can clutter a perfectly good photograph. Unless you are Steve McCurry, the exception that proves the rule.

Very interesting, and it is refreshing seeing someone talk of not just gear for a change :)

Should you keep at this, I'd be gladly one of those "170 very happy, satisfied readers", and my suspect is that we will be much more.

Dear Mike,

Some day it would be fascinating for the two of us to sit down together with a stack of photos (NOT mine or yours) and just discuss them because I suspect we see them very differently.*

You wrote, "You get the drift." Well, no, in fact, I don't. Not in several respects.

I'm not saying I necessarily disagree with anything you've said, because to do that, I'd have to understand it, and a lot of it I don't.

For example, why are you calling a photo aspect "Colorism" instead of (or along with) simply "Color?" Because to me,t hat my be a style or aesthetic, but it's not a property, like tonality. And I don't see you breaking out "Monochromism" as a distinct thing (or in place of tonality). It's like you've put color into an entirely separate cognitive realm, which is totally NOT how I perceive it (or, for that matter tonality).

Now, I have a strong suspicion that I am talking right past your point without being able to tell that I'm doing so. Which kind of would make my point.

I suspect it's more profound than a simple "not speaking the same language" problem.

'Twould be interesting...

pax / Ctein

*(I can't see it working by email, because I think we'd need the immediacy of discussion.)

Mike, thank you for sharing your knowledge. Some thinks I knew but was not aware of them. And please do that essay/book. You can do in parts and link to a PDF: one line (the link) won't scare anyone.
But I think will be a success.

Keep up the good work.


How nice to hear an intelligent review of an image. I hope we get many more.

It is also a terrific image. Carefully chosen I suspect.

I love this from Henri Cartier-Bresson:
"A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you."

That is often my approach: the photo takes me. I see something, and I can't NOT shoot it.

Like this: https://www.photographerslounge.org/attachments/fz200-oakwood-and-st-mary-cemetery-skies-023-jpg.26855/

Oh man, I'd pay to watch Mike and Ctein discuss pictures... Mind blown just thinking about it.

Ctein wrote: Some day it would be fascinating for the two of us to sit down together with a stack of photos (NOT mine or yours) and just discuss them because I suspect we see them very differently

What an outstanding idea! I would love to read a writeup of such an exchange (and/or watch the video).

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