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Monday, 22 July 2013


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"Apart from motion pictures, still photography remains the most powerful means we've ever been given to capture moments from the flow of time and then hold them up to say: this is what I saw."

Perhaps that's it, the people who would have been documentary photographers in the past are all shooting video now. Why shoot a single moment when you can capture the whole event?

I'm not saying that's right, and in fact I'm inclined to agree with the message of the article - and it makes me wonder what all the people on Internet fora banging on about street photography and raving about X100s and Leicas are doing if not documenting life around them.

...got a buddy who judged a photo contest recently and he stated the two most overused processing techniques were "saturation" and "sharpening". Colors were so unrealistically juiced, and the sharpening made everything look like it was etched on the paper.

Dealing with the "kids" all the time, in media management, it's not that they have a different set of heros, it's that a lot of them have never even done a study of what existed in the past. They don't reject our references, they have no references AT ALL! Every one of my "aging" pals who has to work with the younger generation, especially in modern media agencies, says it's appalling to what extent the "sub-30's" reinvent the wheel every time they do something because of improper training...and an unwillingness to want to learn about the past.

Digital replaced film, and the digital work-flow has replaced processing, but that was 10% of the job, the 90% still exists, it's just the focus on constantly getting the ridiculously ever-changing technology down has eliminated the study of great imaging...

It's hard not to see how the sky-rocketing cost of everything needed to live has made the pursuit of the dollar a number problem for anyone getting out of college. Running a little stream-lined life as a documentarist, or some other photo related thing, cannot happen. The ONLY people making a middle class living in photography I know, are people who have gotten themselves hooked up working for the catalog and retail house studios, everyone else is running around town higglety-pigglety trying to make a hundred bucks here or there, and relying on their spouses income to survive. None of these scenarios are going to work for the time-consuming and reflective work of documentary.

This is the logical result of a definition of 'photography' that embraces the cinematic, deliberately artificial or even virtual reality form of the medium. Call it the Cindy Sherman/Jeff Wall/Gregory Crewdson mode of photography. It's really a different beast entirely from 'straight' traditional or documentary photography. Perhaps it should have its own category.

In my own area of landscape photography the same trend is evident. On line one can find endless examples of extensively processed images with screaming neon colors, carefully staged composition and bright, HDR-processed tonal ranges never seen on planet earth. One can make the argument that Ansel Adams wasn't doing anything fundamentally different from this with his extensive darkroom manipulation. But intuitively, emotionally, these highly altered and processed contemporary landscape images strike a completely different cord. At least to me.

I'm sorry. Today I'm intractable. Delivered a roll at a store that can make no prints and didn't withdraw my order out of shyness; and then bought a Kodak Portra 160 film roll, which turned out to be much more expensive than what I was willing to pay. I'm as angry as the angriest of all Finnish birds.
1. I hate 'Are You Real?' It's by far the worst theme from 'Moanin''. I always skip that track. And Benny Golson's sax playing is flat, horizontal. The last Jazz record I listened to was Hank Mobley's 'Soul Station'. Now Mobley isn't quite in the same league as Coltrane or the young Sonny Rollins - but even he makes Benny Golson sound like an amateur who was just trying too hard.
2. The picture atop this article is a powerful reminder of why I turned to film. It's too processed, too unnatural, too... well, unreal. There's creativity and then there's overprocessing. They're not the same thing.
(I acknowledge this is not quite the nicest way to welcome a new TOP collaborator, but when grumpiness attacks, it attacks. Sorry, Mr. Kennerdell. It was a nice reading and a thought-provoking one, though.)

Taking a look at the trees and the clothes worn by the crowd I cannot believe we are watching a day in August.
Maybe England never was part of Europe - but I think I remember it as somewhere on the northern hemisphere.

I agree that many images you see today are overly processed. I do it myself sometimes. I can hardly be called young except by retirees. There is one statement you made that might need rethinking.

'Apart from motion pictures, still photography remains the most powerful means we've ever been given to capture moments from the flow of time and then hold them up to say: this is what I saw.'

These days cell phone and small camera video is where the vast majority of so called 'real' images are found. Motion pictures or professional video in the traditional sense are not a major part of this. People document every corner of the world with handheld devices that no professional would have considered even a few years ago.

Whether we like it or not professional reportage is being displaced. I can't say I'm too concerned about this given what passes for news on Fox and CNN these days. Happy talk and 'news you can use' is just pretty pictures with little substance anyway.

I was looking through 500px.com the other day in search of some landscape photographs and the same thing struck me. Most of the images looked like movie posters, fantasy book covers or kitsh paintings, but nothing wrong with that. It's just how things are these days. Digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop is to photography what Roland and Yamaha were to music in the 1980s. New technology that becomes in vogue easily gets overused and abused, but then most things return to normal. After Hair Metal came Grunge, and talking of jazz, even the mighty Miles Davis got lost in synthesized music in the 80s.

I've fought with this myself, but a little differently. I admire these illustrations the same way I might admire a skillfully painted gas tank on a Harley...with a touch of snobbism but with respect too. I suppose it's the same with music. The most intricate, most classical in structure, super-complicated, multi-layered heavy metal song still sounds like crap to many people (even on the best sound system).
But do I think if some of the photo-illustrators became photo-artists we wouldn't complain as much about method or style.

Totally agree.

Here's the rub, most photo buffs (however you want to refer to them) today will reject your black and white example out of hand: it' s blurry, poorly lit you can't see anything, the shadows are blocked up. You get the idea.

The first example brings to mind something like: wow it's so...cool...

So what? ( it could make the cover illustration for "A Boy and His Dog" sorta btw that a scifi short story, Harlan Ellison, maybe). Apart from the technical skill, what does it have to offer really? The same critque could be applied to this summer's blockbuster season of duds. Lots of imagination in the service of nothing.

Thomas Kincade would be delighted if he was still alive.

1. Photography is always an interpretation of reality, foremost by the photographer. He can tell whatever story he wants to tell. So absolute reality is of course an illusion.

2. If one strives for a certain degree of 'reality' one shouldn't use (or quote) black and white photography. The use of black and white photography these days stems from a retro sentimalism linked to photography some decades ago that was in black and white due to technological constraints.
Real life is not black and white, so if reality is your thing, you should use color photography.

This discussion really goes back to the questions"Why are you taking this picture"? and "Who do you want to look at it"? For many amateurs, its all about family and friends, and recording events in their lives. For others, amateur or pro, its about making a statement-emotional, political, environmental, artistic, etc. etc. This group includes the "art photographer", whose statement is about their concept of beauty, or other artistic goal. Then you have the commercial pro, whose goal is to make images which help a happy client sell product and make money, so that you can make money. This group includes many portrait photographers as well as product shooters. And then there are the scientific and technical photographers whose goal is to show some aspect of nature or human object so as to advance our scientific or technical knowledge. Obviously these are not dicrete isolated categories, and many photographers cross boundaries in a single frame. Irving Penn comes to mind.In the end, its how well the image does what the shooter wants that counts.
As for the contests, perhaps much of the problem is in their failure to recognize these differences, and organize accordingly. If you try to judge the relative merits of apples, oranges, durians and betel nuts in a single category you can expect problems and dissatisfaction.

Take heart! There is another group of young creatives that is buying up old analog camera's and shooting film. I spent the weekend walking around San Francisco with a Mamiya C330 dangling off my aging shoulder, and being stopped on every street corner by some admiring 20 something.

The biggest of the former local pro labs in out of business, but there is a boutique film, processing, and printing place down the street that seems busy enough--just a difference in scale. Down the street from that place there is another shop specializing in Polaroid, large format, and alternative processes.

San Francisco is the heart of the digital beast, but a fair number of the young digerati spend their weekends exploring traditional photographic materials and techniques.

I have to comment on "Jan"'s statement. By the same logic, no one should be painting anything because Adobe Illustrator exists...calling black & white photography "retro-sentimentalism" stems from not even beginning to understand art...

Photography exists the same way any "art" exists, some people are selling it in a commercial market, and have to deliver what that market wants, with some exceptions; others are doing it for their own edification/gratification and can do what ever they want. I'll be shooting film for the rest of my life, maybe not for commercial uses, but certainly for myself. I'm actually shooting more black & white than I have in the past only because color transparency is virtually unprocessable within 90 miles of me...

Same as it ever was.

Was John writes about was true even before digital photography. Juried photography shows back in the 70s and 80s would feature large prints on textured papers that had obviously been toned, bleached to brighten the highlights, dodged, burned, masked, and whatever else could be done to demonstrate "technical mastery" of the medium. Portraits were invariably wrinkled old men holding a pipe. Still lifes were of flower arrangements, fruits and vegetables, or dead bugs. Everything was in black and white. The results had all the soul of the mass-produced "art" you see in tourist galleries--or a Hollywood celeb whose face and body has obviously has a few too many enhancements.

It all makes me feel like I'm living in the photographic equivalent of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Run! For God's sake man, run while you still can!

"the more accomplished the [contestant] photographer, the less I believed in their photograph."

Then this tale will not make your day.

In reaction to "If it's not vivid, it's not good," I had been experimenting with minimal-color subjects. I posted some of my shots on a respected forum along with questions about the 'style' of barely-color.

Boy, did I get the proof that this idea is just plain out of step with the times.

Because I did not explain myself as precisely as "full-color shots of limited-palette subjects", the very experienced photographers giving the advice presumed I meant something else. Most thought I was talking about post-processing to get the "barely-color look", not seeking out a subject that already had that look-and-feel.

Well, I'm boggled. The default assumption is extensive post-processing? I must be grumpy- old-man and noob at the same time. I think maybe I liked it better when 'click' meant I had mostly committed to a certain aspect/subset/interpretation of the reality in front of me. Done this way, photography requires a level of (shall we call it) marksmanship. I think that's important.

Ah Yes. I agree. This is why I am still stunned by Vivian Maier's photos. Real life, real pictures, beautifully taken by an extraordinary yet ordinary lady. I could look at them for hours. So interesting.
I'll pass on the over processed modern "Dave Hill" stuff. Way too over cooked.
Last weekend I went out to our local "art walk" ( over 400 artists on over 8 city blocks), and ran into a fellow shooting the event with a Yashica A TLR. To me, photography is all about recording memories.

For me, "Being There" is the thing. If "there" doesn't actually exist in the "real world" then what's the point of calling it a photograph? It becomes a digital exercise which is fine if that's your thing. But in this copycat world you'll be lost in the static very quickly. I'd love to see a modern judged show that is strictly film developed at the local Walgreens. Call me a dinosaur but I'd love to see it.

@ Jan: "Real life is not black and white, so if reality is your thing, you should use color photography."

Bingo. You win the prize thus far. Indeed, black and white photography is no more or less an interpretive abstraction than the movie poster imagery.

I don't want to get too tangled-up in this topic as it's largely a matter of personal taste and aesthetic values (with a smidgen of generational chauvinism). But the type of heavily manipulated you describe is very much a result of the aesthetic values in play in the commercial and entertainment world that surrounds us. Nothing more or less.

The other, and perhaps more significant, trend that I see is from the vantage point of the art world where "photography" is merging headlong into contemporary art. It has no place else to go. (The traditional photography you reference has been very over for nearly 30 years in that world, John.)

But that's a topic for another time.

Music these days is of course, very "unrealistic". Sounds of many musical instruments (piano, sax, trumpet, guitar, violin, etc.) don't really exist in nature, in the same way that certain saturations or B&W don't exist in nature. After all, what is music if not an arrangement of notes and performed with instruments and voices? It's just that music has a few hundred years' headstart over photography and many people just accept it without hesitation. Give digital photography and manipulation another few hundred years and it will become as "natural" as music. (But by then, who knows where music will be?)

I walked into a gallery yesterday and the in-house artist works grace the walls. There's two nudes by the front door but they look like white washed chalkboards upon initial glance.
They actually require that unless the viewer "looks to see" then these very beautifully constructed nudes are never revealed.
Overdone art is easy. There is virtually no work expected from the viewer apart from casting one's eyeballs in its direction whereas great, subdued, complex and artistic storytelling needs the viewer to think and engage.

So I learn something everyday. That's good eh? While looking at John Kennerdell's images, here and on his website, I thought he might enjoy my take on Can Tho Vietnam from (egads) 45 years ago. I noted that his website provides no Contact information.
Maybe if I post a link here, he can have that look. Maybe others will too.
Balcony Shots 1,2,3
Walks Through The Town
Color Reversals
Bricks and People


" a summer’s day, almost a hundred years ago."

I think the author needs to look at this picture again. The trees are bare and the spectators are dressed in thick coats. Besides, English cross-country running is a winter sport.

"Real life is not black and white, so if reality is your thing, you should use color photography."

Nor is it two dimensional. Colour is just one element of 'reality', and not necessarily the most important one. Light, structure, texture are all also important, and sometimes abstracting colour, which can sometimes seem like a distraction, can emphasise more graphic qualities and make an image seem more real.

It may just be me, but I rarely find film or video of a particular period as arresting and transporting as a documentary photo with interesting subject matter. I suspect this has to do with a still image being an "edit" in the dimension of time (the 'decisive moment') as much as it is an edit in the dimension of space (composition).

There are lots of Flickr photostreams that make me wonder if anyone is interested in curating their work anymore, or if all we do these days is point and shoot, shoot, shoot, and share the dregs along with the gems. If we're this bad at selecting our best stills work, how much worse will all that cellphone video be, composed of lots of boring moments strung together?

Both sets of those boys were probably terribly embarrassed by those photographs when they were taken. If any of the Etons are still alive they probably love that one now, and maybe the South Africans will in fifty years. But those of us who are younger are more likely to sympathize with them at the time of taking. We're also much less casual about invading other people's privacy in general. Combined that leads us away from the kind of work you want to see, and I have a hard time saying that's wrong.

I do realism, I do surrealism, I do illustration-like things. But I almost never shoot strangers going about their business, because it's theirs, not mine.

Photography is not itself reality, yet it can powerfully invoke and reveal reality -- and black and white photography very often does that better than color.

As for all the overprocessed and overwrought imagery currently being produced, I like what the English essayist Roger Bacon had to say: "The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention."

There is no such thing as "reality'" in photography, the moment you make a choice about focal length, viewpoint, colour space, balance, ISO then it ceases to be real. Then we can get started on reality, what is it? Well we are born not knowing what colours are, we only learn them from others. Not everyone sees things the same and perception is everything.

The so called purity of documentary photography is also a bit of a stretch. W Eugene Smith, whom is mentioned, manipulted his pictures to such a degree during processing that many of the finished prints were completely different from the original neg.

Professional documentary photography is now as dead as the dodo. There's no longer any money in it as there are so few outlets for the work, in fact much is now exhibited and published as fine art, and the general public could n't really care for the form. The world has changed a lot, peak newspaper circulation was around the late 70's early 80's, from memory
( can't access my notes at the moment), television killed the market and the majority of publications that carried long form documentary phototography went. TV is now under seige from web based media. Most of the big name documentary photographers make the bulk of their income from teaching workshops or taking commercial assignments. We can't pretend it is the 1950's any longer.

There are very few photographers today, but a rapidly growing number of graphic artists who carry, and sometimes use, a camera.

I dare suggest it isn't a coincidence that the most memorable pictures for most people are the ones that get out of their own way and let the subject matter do the talking. Robert Capa's D-Day pictures serve as an eternal reminder of this.

My initial reaction to the youth center photo was pretty negative as well. However, I can see more (into the shadows) just in the larger version, and I wouldn't be shocked if it could be processed to let me do that more easily in the small version, or that a good print wouldn't let me see more.

I'm still not sure what it's actually showing me, though, so it doesn't really succeed I don't think.

I'm also not sure if a "fine print" is automatically the required way to judge a realistic documentary photo, either.

I guess it places me in the codger class as well, but for me photos like the one heading this post are far from compelling visually or seductive emotionally. For me, they're like comics, cartoons: fun to look at for a minute or two but empty and adolescent in the end. Like Man of Steel or Iron Man III: empty exercises in technical mastery.

Unlike Mr. Kennerdell, however, I don't consider photojournalism to be necessarily the pinnacle of photography. Like Paul Ameys, resort to a purity argument can be a kind of trap. It's not purity I'm after when I look at art, or reality, but an engagement with life that resonates with the heart and mind. I believe photographers can capture the uncanny, mysterious, fantastic, bizarre, and the existential -- that is, the un-true -- by keeping a close eye on the world around them and letting their vision determine the technique. The contest winners and top-rated photos on some of the sharing sites seem to favor tech over heart, computer over mind, which is always boring to me, even when the hegemon over heart and mind is paint or silver or bronze.

It has its place, as a form of graphic art. But it's a fad. Real, honest, cutting photography still has far more emotional impact and it's hard to do. For one thing you have to be there!

I sympathize with this article, I hate that oversaturated fad, but is impossible to judge photographs by their relation to reality. In many ways, the picture of those english boys is also an idealized simulation of life.

Dear Mike,

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reason you find Capa's photos of D-Day memorable is because you find D-Day memorable. It's not about the photos, it's the reminder.

Nothing wrong with that at all. I have no doubt they mean a lot to a lot of people. But that doesn't speak to the merit of the photos or that style of photography.

The reason I'm suggesting this is that D-day means nothing to me, personally. It's just history, dead before I was born. Oh yeah, I know all about WW II as intellectual history, but it's got no personal connection to me. So, when I look at Capa's photos, I'm impressed with the accomplishment of making photos under such extraordinarily difficult conditions, but I don't find them to be especially good nor memorable photos, in and of themselves.

pax / Ctein

Mike Haspert has an interesting entry. A few years ago I was able to snag a recently published book on Bert Stern, one of my early heros of photography. I was amazed at how many things in the book were shot unlit, with sometimes wild backlighting; which resulted in very 'pastel' looking photos, with a lot of color washout. In fact, it reminded me a lot of of shooting with an old Nikkor 135mm 'panda' single coated lens I had (silver and black barrel), when the rest of my lenses were multi-coated. Certainly an interesting and lovingly old style look. It lent a certain presence to the work, and it seemed as tho Stern was fearless with shooting with the natural lighting going into the lens at all angles. It was certainly a marked difference in look to what people are doing today.

Bill Poole also has an interesting observation, and why I like to freelance in San Francisco and Portland Oregon. I can use whatever I want, film or digital, and in these markets, they haven't shot the baby out with the bath-water, i.e. people still love and accept film, and there are labs that can do what you want. One of the lab owners told me a while back, that they did a lot of processing for Japanese tourists shooting 120 transparency, so there you go. You would think a nation that's spent a lot of time shoving digital down our throats would be all digital, but it is NOT so! I've done work in SFO for jazz musicians, and always shoot film as a 'legacy' project, so I know it'll be around when I die.

As to my previous post about a pal judging a photo contest and finding every thing too juiced up, I remember him telling me he refused to vote for anything that was all 'flash' and virtually content-less, and how much trouble he had even convincing alleged imaging professionals not to be swayed by the juiced color and sharpness, and pay attention to the content.

This is a great post. I've spent much time over the past few years contemplating the issues of this post. What do I like to photograph? Why? For whom? Etc.

I've concluded that my passion lies in images that are part of the historical record in some meaningful way. I think that spending some time at a site like Shorpy puts some of this in perspective. It's very interesting to see what images are most meaningful in a historical context. As photographers, we have great control over how much information we share with photographs. And it's often interesting how much information is captured in our photographs that isn't quite appreciated without the passage of time.

When you take a 'nothing' image of your 7 year old kid with four buddies after the last day of 1st grade, it gets lost in the present overabundance of images. But think of that image 40 years from now? Look at their clothes, their hair. Look at the school in the background? Remember that teacher - Ms. Brown? Check out that 2013 BMW X5! Funny how 2 of my lifelong best friends are in that shot. But the other two - what were their names? The passage of time makes 'real' images so valuable.

I think in this way when shooting my family but also on most of my commercial assignments.

Having spent the last four weeks editing six years of shots of musicians, audiences, trying to get my impression of sound/experience of an evening in a frame. Having tried to present a visualization of the memory of what I saw and managed to record...As I type this, I am listening to Mike Bloomfield's 1977 recording of "Bad Luck Baby." Do dead blues musicians play better than live ones? Or is it simply my memory of these performances that eclipses my excitement at hearing another "cover tune?" I'm not certain that my attempt at "faithful" representation of a given day/experience/scene/performance photographically is as it was, as I thought it was, or as I remember I thought I saw/heard it. Is "high dynamic range" photography or recording more "real" than what we see, because the camera [or the digital recorder] captures what is in front of it, uncolored by any experience of its own? Who is more real...Kenny G or James Blood Ulmer? Madonna or Captain Beefheart? With or without autotune?

Thirty years from now some aging, greying hipster is going to lament the kinds of photographs that "kids these days" are taking and long for the good ole' days of 16 megapickle, 2D photos.

And so it will go.

The ironic thing to me is that so much still photography is aspiring to look cinematic, while cinematographers have already been there and done that at 24/30/60 frames a second for years. Aspiring to create a still image that resembles a motion picture frame seems like a poor use of the medium. But then, it's what grabs eyeballs, at least for a second of two. And in a world of millions of photos being thrown at us, that's what it takes to get noticed. It doesn't matter any more whether it's got the chops to hold your interest beyond those one or two seconds. Nobody is going to look at a photo that long !

In all seriousness, I think that's a major factor in what I look for in a photograph. To me, the job of a photograph is to be interesting to look at. To someone, for some purpose, but if it's aimed at a general audience (i.e. Me !) then I want to be interested after the "wow" wears off.

Apparently the Eton Steeplechase was usually run in September or October, so it's possible that National Geographic got the month wrong. On the other hand, the Met Office report for August 1919 shows that the last week or so of the month was unseasonable even by English standards, with daily rain and temperatures down to almost freezing. But this is just one more reason I like straight documentary photography: you can study and analyze all the details knowing that they were true to the moment.

When evaluating my own work, I tend to try to put myself in the shoes of someone fifty or a hundred years down the line and ask, "will anybody care about this image then?" The answer is usually no, but some pass muster. I'm still not a ruthless enough editor.

I can post-process all night long, but in my heart I know when something just doesn't have "it". All the technology in the world can't make a meaningless image meaningful.

Real, hmzzz, a photo never is real.....it's all fake, no matter what film you use or wich sensor you take it's all fake. Unless of course you use a Leica M with a 50 noctilux, but since I don't own one and neither do most of you, what is the point.

Greets, Ed.

BTW, the most real photo's I know are by Gregory Crewdson and that is even more fake.....(of course he does not use a Noctilux).....

Greets, Ed.


Now I jawdrop...and being a rather technical photographer myself I have a rather fixed mandibul.........

If you can fullfill you're dreams using your technique you are one hell on top of your art.....

Greets, Ed.

Since I first saw this I have seen 3 different photographers advertising somewhat similar illustration effects to portrait clients. And in fact there is something not too far off featured in this month's PPA magazine.

This is just offered FYI. As noted in the featured comment, this to me is illustration, not exactly photography. I tried it a little a while back and quickly became bored, but if I was trying to make a living in photography and if it would sell I could learn to live with it.

I fail to see how is this something new? What about folks like Mortensen? I wager that if he were to live and create today, he'd be very close to what Hill does. What about Curtis? Not too keen on "real", wasn't he?
I think it's the olde pictorialist vs purist argument. And, if I recall correctly, Mortensen took some serious slander from the purists of the day, like f/64 for example. And, speaking of f/64, isn't Adams kinda hard to accuse of "real", too? People always liked things that are strong or pretty. Especially today, when your average daily newspaper has a deathcount well above all Rambo movies taken together. You really need strong images to get past the numbness this creates.

Mr. Kennerdell and others above are either missing or not talking about a very salient feature of art today---and many of these young photographers are coming to the medium through a blossoming art school environment (that's another story...). And that is that today the separation between photography and the other visual arts media is less than it has ever been, and shrinking. I won't remind some posters above about pictorialism, or other movements in photography that emulated painting or at least stationed themselves in contrast to painting, and the "capture the precious moment" aspect of photography is a bit of an artifact in the 21st century---second decade! Just understand that since the cubists invented collage about 100 years ago, it's been a mix and match situation ever since, at least if you look hard enough. And I read comments about young people not having enough knowledge of the past and re-inventing the wheel with some consternation---since those comments seems to come from those who themselves have an inadequate grip on what has been going on for more than a century now, at least. Also, don't infer anything about what wins photo contests, or any other contests, in any media. Do you really think the contestants on the assorted "Idol" shows are truly the most talented performers today?

What's happening today is fluidity of media, enabled by technology, history, contemporary life, and new attitudes about the "boundaries" between things. To me, as an artist using a variety of media in 2 and 3D, I see photography finally coming out of its somewhat self-imposed ghetto.

You hit it out of the park.

At the grand old age of 53 I feel like my aesthetic is from a time gone by and despite the vast array of manipulative tools available through LR, PS and Nik I often have an image I like with nothing more than a few tweaks in a basic raw conversion and am left wondering "Shouldn't I be doing more to this?" And the answer is NO.


I see this like skateboarding. When I was a kid, in the 70s, this American Californian type came past our play ground (aka school yard) one day (which in of itself was a rare and exotic thing - we're talking the antipodean equivalent of Deliveranceville here) and asked to borrow a skateboard from one of my friends. We were all completely in awe of his ability to - wait for it - slalom! Today of course, kids triple backwards summersault off 90 foot inverse inclines while texting and eating an ice cream. A decade from now they'll be doing the same to the power of 1024 while traveling through ten dimensions at once. Things just seem to get more extreme - the modern way seems to be to do this exponentially.

Take care.
(yikes, dyscalculia-ic me just frightened myself 2.718281828 times by using a mathematical term).

What marcin and Tex said!

pax / Ctein

Have been thinking about 'real' photos today, then found this link on Twitter of some amazing historical b&w photos. Some are clearly well planned, others just encapsulate the moment perfectly. The prohibition liquor disposal one is incredible, as is the lady selling her children. http://sobadsogood.com/2013/05/30/30-unique-and-compelling-photos-from-our-past/

Your article certainly strikes a chord. As a 'young photographer' (35 - grew up in digital), I am actually humble towards the straight photo to a fault. I never use my own light, for instance. Don't own a flash gun. I try never to pre-conceptualize consciously, but instead 'hunt' for my trophies, whilst being in 'the zone'. I NEVER clone anything out of, or into my photos, despite being a photoshop expert. But. I obviously like to go for the spectacular, having made my speciality performance documentary photography. In dance, I get the staging, the lighting and the spectacular often on a platter. When I did a series on homeless african immigrants in Copenhagen a few months back, it was commisioned work for a choreographer who made a show with them. Not actual photojournalism. My work bears influence from childrens books, and a career as a graphic artist. I do tend to go for 'photo illustrations' as you say. You made me think of how we shoot more to satisfy ourselves these days than to selflessly tell the stories of others as the great heroes of photo journalism often did. And yes, I think its a generation thing.

Geoff Wittig said: "Call it the Cindy Sherman/Jeff Wall/Gregory Crewdson mode of photography. It's really a different beast entirely from 'straight' traditional or documentary photography. Perhaps it should have its own category."

It does.

It's called "directorial photography" (or the "directorial mode") by the contemporary art theory people. It's even taught in art schools.

Even the last chapter of "Street Photography Now" has a number of directorial or composite "street" photographs.

I'm not as down on directorial (or composite) photography as I used to be so long as it's disclosed that the photo you are looking at is not an amazing spontanaous street photo but a carefully created image.

It's always important to distringuish between unposed "street photography" from "directorial photography" but it's not always done.

It's always a question you should als yourself when viewing an image: "Is this in the directorial mode?". Rather than the more common: "Is this real?". That latter question is a much more complicated to answer.

I'm in the camp that thinks that Capa's D-Day photos are not very good—in particular, that it's a tragedy that they were ruined in the lab, and the few pitiful remnants seen today are all we have left. It's D-Day that's important, and those are a surprising amount of what we have left of it, and that's a tragedy.

Ctein's older than me, so D-Day was closer to him than to me in simple temporal terms. But my father's side of the family is English, and I'd met them and been there before I ever went to school, so this may have made D-Day mean more to me. Also, my father was there (not the first assault) and with the army through France until VE Day; so it was his war.

I wonder how this trend towards ultra-processed, conceptualized photography fits in with the current popularity of action and fantasy films that make heavy use of computer generated imagery. It seems to me that they are different branches of the same tree.

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