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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

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Three words:

Doglegs print sale.

To me there are two parts of a photograph that are important ...

1. The color, the flow, the balance/imbalance, the symmetry/asymmetry. What you can see from across the room.

2. The content. Objects, people, faces, trees, flowers. Details that you notice from a long close look.

If one and two combine to tell a story or bring up a memory or arouse an emotion, the photograph is successful.

Glad to hear the tooth extraction went well, Mike.
"Legs" is a concept I'll have to keep in mind. I've looked at this idea from other points of view. One is the idea that pictures that grab people's attention tend to look good as thumbnails, while pictures with legs often make for lousy thumbnails. I'm not sure how true that is. There's also something to do with post processing that has to tie in. Sometimes, post processing that gives a particular image some extra attention-grabbing power can also take away the subtlety that gives it its legs. But only sometimes. As you say, it's complicated.
I also like "Doglegs" a lot and can see that that one would last.

Doglegs is beautiful! Really nice.

I find with my own work that the images that last the longest are almost all monochrome. The color images just don't seem to hold their appeal over time. Again, speaking strictly of my own work. It could be that the images I choose to print in color are about color, and color alone doesn't have legs for long.

More leg-

" ... crucial to editing" lies at the heart of selecting/culling one's own images.
It's a slippery sucker for me.

I agree with you, but I don't think it is that much of a mystery.
All people are similar but each individual is different and the ways in which we differ change over time.
Just as we grow, change and wither over time, so do the things that move , please or interest us change.
We Breathe, individually and collectively, and we learn individually and collectively, tastes and fashions change independent of how we ourselves change
The closer something gets to broadly accepted cultural standards of what is 'good', the more "likes" it will accumulate.
The Mona Lisa, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel will do well, Joel Peter Witkin, not so much. But Mr Witkin has his fans and the Mona Lisa has detractors.
Same as it ever was.
The real miracle is on a global scale, you don't need very many people to approve to be successful.
Re attempting to understand which of our own pictures may have "Legs" I think that is a two edged sword, we certainly want to separate the Wheat from the Chaff, but we often don't know.
(I'm not talking here about editing out obvious misses, which I think we all do, nor am I saying we can't see a fine picture if we make one)
If we start worrying about "Legs" at the editing stage we are essentially worrying about other people's opinions,
Better I think, to do work that pleases you, work that you are proud to 'own'
If the world at some point decides that it has 'legs' just be grateful.

Speaking of sogs that grab you, I often wondered why people could listen to a song a thousand times, but ask them to see a movie and "No, I've already seen that. Are music videos in the middle? I could watch that 500 times. Just thinking...

That's a great observation, succinctly put. Cotton candy versus a subtle gourmet meal.

I have learned to my dismay that my own photographs with immediate appeal generally don't stand the test of time. It's a bit discouraging to go to the effort and expense of printing, matting and framing a photograph at large size, only to find that it quickly loses its aesthetic charge. I'm bad enough at predicting which images merit the effort that I'll print a good candidate and then live with it in a print rack for a few weeks, studying it periodically. Only if it holds my attention over time will I bother mounting or framing it. Even then, some succeed much better than others over the long run.
I do find that my wife is an invaluable critic; if she really likes a photograph I'm also very fond of, it's quite likely to be good. Any split decisions are much less likely to look good to me in 2 years.

I have always thought of my keeper photos as either having a "hook" (another musical, and journalistic, analogy) or as being "strangely attractive", from here on to be referred to as having legs. I don't know why they have legs; it could be that there is an idea there, rather than a whole story. That having been said, there are also photos I keep that have neither a hook nor legs. After a while, they end up in the bit bucket. That reminds me, I must unclutter my portfolio.

As a teenager, I taped radio shows (the best were by the late, great John Peel) and would play them over and over later during the week. The songs that seemed bland on first listen often ended up being the most interesting over time and the songs with instant appeal often became irritating.

I expected to become great at sorting the two types as I got older; despite being a complete music junkie, particularly when I was younger, I never completely mastered it. I’d buy LPs, rave about them, and then have to give them away when they became extremely annoying after hundreds of plays. I’ve more or less made peace with this problem by accepting that there’s some music that’s made to be enjoyed at parties or on the radio and other music that’s made to accompany your life journey. I suspect that the same is true for all art, photography included, and that you’re right to say there are things that don’t fall conveniently into either of these two.

"Slow to yield their gifts, but then they give and keep giving"—that’s very well put. I’m a fan of both Hands and Doglegs.

I know someone who once said that she only ever bought (classical) music that she didn't like. Her reasoning was that she would tire of anything that she liked immediately, as its appeal would probably be superficial, whereas something that she didn't initially like, but was part of the accepted repertoire, clearly held something for her to discover and learn from. I suspect that this is an over-simplification of her views, as it surely would be depressing to only buy music that didn't appeal on first listen, but there's a grain of truth in there somewhere.

There's also a grain of truth in this principle when applied to photographic prints. The stuff that appeals to the masses has "pop", usually meaning contrasty, and, in the case of colour prints, heavily saturated colours. Work with subtlety and nuance - IMHO needed for an image to have "legs" - can get lost and overlooked, especially B&W in the age of colour. The short attention span of most viewers under the bombardment of digital images is also a factor. How many people really look at images and slowly unpack them?

My comments may sound like they're about image editing, but they also apply to image composition. Not falling into these traps when reviewing, short-listing and editing our own work is a challenge. My only solution is to take time and check and recheck. An honest reviewer also helps. Preferably more than one.

I've just started reading The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm. It begins with this quote.

"He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands also
loves, notices, sees … The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love.… Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about grapes.”

Paracelsus


There's an art to loving pictures

Great thought Mike!
Thanks for stating clearly a fundamental truth about photographs.
I will try to remember this thought as I continue to try and make photographs that rise above mediocre.

Your images "Hands" and "Legs" are just wonderful examples of some very fine Black & White photography. I won't ask the normal questions of what camera, what post image processing and so on, but you have demonstrated how good digital B&W can be. The two images really go well together, perhaps there may be third image that would make a great set of 3 prints ?

Love the "Doglegs" shot. Nice tonality and that mass of black at the bottom. Reminds me of the "quest for D-Max" we pursued years ago with film. Sometimes hard to get right on my old 3880..

An assignment in music appreciation class in college was to list our favorite song and explain why. I had already recognized that I would frequently shift my interest to different genres, groups, or songs, never really being able to define a specific favorite. Part of my reluctance to define a favorite is because I feel that when we have a favorite of anything we tend to develop a biased opinion that our chosen favorite is better than anything else available, therefore defending it and closing our minds to other possibilities. Also, I came to realize that music (and art) is not about an audible (or visual) experience, but rather both are emotional experiences. I believe our feelings about individual images change over time based on where we are in life, past and current experiences, and the emotions that need to be fulfilled at a given time. Those images that stay with us long term relate in some way to our core values and needs. The images that fall in and out of favor are those that fulfill immediate or short term needs.

Quite. One of my continuing goals as an artist since I was young has been attempting to combine "curb appeal" with the deeper qualities. Demanding, but can be done.

This is fascinating. I reckon there are different kinds of 'legs'. I would want to differentiate between those images that I want to hang on a wall and live with -these have to 'get to my heart'- and others that have legs in the sense that I find myself wanting to revisit them in books or on gallery walls. The latter may have much less personal resonance whilst those with, lets say, 'emotional legs' :) may include work that would not pass muster in art or photographic worlds.

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