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Tuesday, 13 August 2013


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I've often thought that the cubicle life needs photographic documentation.

The other day I saw some poor sap digging feces out of a clogged sewer near a city sidewalk. I hope he got paid well. Didn't have my camera with me, but anyway the contest was over.

I'm not a "street" guy, probably no more than a couple lifetime that would qualify, so no people working pictures in the files. The utility co was laying pipe right in front of my house on Saturday and I walked out of the house with my camera in hand, looked around at what was happening and walked down the street to my truck, no entry. How about a sunset contest, you can't have the sun in the frame, any other direction is fine

It never crossed my mind that a picture of a street performer wasn't "directly on the theme". If you think that isn't work, try doing it sometime.

I am looking forward to seeing what you have to say about "grab shots".

Re "He could just be a guy playing his guitar" - one of my possibles was this little guy in Venice who, while walking from place to place, played the accordion, while one of his feet operated the drum on his back, and the other moved the cymbal. His hat was a very large funnel. And he knew how to work the tourists for tips. He did this every day. My wife and I, when we saw him, tried to imagine him saying to his kids as he left the house in the morning, "daddy's go to go to work now kids. I'll be home for supper."

Working is a broad subject indeed.

I remember going to a friend's apartment after school one day. It was early in the afternoon, and his father was home. I asked my friend what his father did for a living, and he said, "He's a philosopher".

I didn't think much of it until later on that evening at the dinner table, my mother asked me about my visit, my friend, and his family. When the subject of his parents came up, I mentioned that his father was a philosopher. My mother grinned and said, "I think that means he doesn't have a job."

How would you photograph a philosopher at work?

But isn't the photo of the linemen one of those that express the theme on a technicality? Those guys aren't actually working--they're just posing for a picture. If only the guitar player had been wearing a hard hat....

Yeah, I ended up not submitting, because the theme is pretty much not one I've worked on. Plus all the pictures I thought about submitting, I was unsure how well they really fit, or whether they qualified. I have some old pictures of people putting up a radio tower, but that's helping friends with their hobby, not work. Ditto for people setting up things at SF conventions. Promo pictures for a band friends are in, showing them playing music, but at a shoot for the promo pictures, not a real gig? Is that work?

I decided that if my mind was so set on finding reasons pictures didn't qualify, I probably shouldn't be there.

(My Lincoln Memorial photo that Ctein used in his Perseverance column is arguably a "work" photo -- but has been previously published, here, so that wasn't an option.)

People working is an interesting theme for me, since my own work is abstract and thus extremely hard to photograph and more traditional manual occupations are becoming less common. It was a good theme, but it was difficult to come up with something (and there are certain challenges in taking a fresh photo of people working on a saturday...)

Having to focus through a theme is an excellent idea and coincidentally something I've been thinking lately when organizing themed photo evenings for a small group of amateurs. The problem with being an amateur/hobbyist/whatever is the sheer boundlessness of the whole thing; one can play around with different types of photography, effects, styles, subjects, equipment etc. more or less freely, which is both a blessing and a curse. Having a theme brings a certain focus, which serves to improve one's photography and to clarify what one really wants to photograph.

Irving Penn was once asked why he didn't enter contests.
His comment was that the prizes were generally not worth the effort (in those days one had to submit prints), but the main reason was that if he didn't win, the loss was damaging to his reputation and disastrous to his ego.

Mike - if I could offer a suggestion - I'd love to see photo competitions on your site more often. Not because of any chance to win prizes but because I like seeing other peoples interesting work and I feel like anything you select as finalists would be worth seeing.

Apropos of "Exotic locations (non-first-world, more remote, accessible to fewer people)" \: to a man like me who lives in SE Asia, the USA is remote and inaccessible...

Working philosopher? Schopenhauer comes to my mind. Schopenhauer getting his Daguerotopie done in 1852. He is clearly thinking, or pretending hard thinking. A head burdened of so many thoughts must be propped up on an arm.

I, too, had a "People Working" photo that I'm sure would have put me "in the money", but I didn't submit it because I didn't know how many pixels across it was, and after your...ahem...P.S., I didn't want to take a chance on clogging your interweb. The pic is on my iPad and I don't know if or how the iPad would tell me the pixel count and I didn't have access to my computer to look up the properties on the "original". I do, however, have an excellent sunset picture without the sun in the frame for a potential second contest, and I should have ample time to look up the pixel count for that next contest :-) I'll stay tuned.

"A number of pictures are grab shots. We're gonna have to talk about this. I have a lot to say on that subject. But maybe that's best left to later."

Please do elaborate more on this some time.

Personally, I found this topic quite interesting, and also thought-provoking. It's not a subject that I would normally choose for myself, but I decided to get involved out of curiosity. Much to my surprise, I found myself at the end of the day having taken images of four very, very different subjects that seemed to fit.

After some thought, I ended up submitting what was probably by far the least conventional image of the four in terms of what most people consider work - primarily to see if it would connect with anyone.

Thanks for the entertainment, and breaking me out of my rut.

- Tom -

I think my Lincoln Memorial photo is a totally different and much less interesting photo without the men working, so I guess that does make it pretty clearly a work photo. Thanks for the kind words, in any case!

I missed this as I was busy last weekend, but in any case, I don't generally enter contests...though this is really up my alley, I'd feel bad if I lost and even worse if I won.

Some folks spend their wandering golf courses or the like. I spend mine wandering the NM State Fairgrounds Flea Market hunting the $25 Leica (30 some-odd years later and still no love). Your announcement of a "people working" contest resulted in spur of the moment synergy: You have a contest, there are people working at the flea market and I have cameras. It all came together.

My entry is one of the soon to be maligned grab shots. But that's OK; it was a nice day and wandering around with a contest on my mind made it a bit more interesting. Thanks for that.

"Da Judge is picking all the finalists; I get to award the prizes."

So Da Judge not only puts up the money, but does the work, and you get to award the prizes. You got it made, Mike, you got it made. :)

Having just opened a small-scale local exhibition about working miners (or maybe I should say mine workings) - https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B6rlmy81U6vPT2Q3NDdiRmIwRms I'm really sad I was offline that Saturday. Then again, it would have been a hard choice.

Oh, the link in my previous comment goes nowhere due to the closing bracket - ) - being considered as part of it..

Dave in NM wrote:
> How would you photograph a philosopher at work?

I imagine it could give something like this picture of a philosopher-looking dude, photographed by Cartier-Bresson...

A problem with the "work" theme is that our minds tend to be unconsciously blinkered e.g. by the Bible's "By the sweat of your brow you will eat" paradigm, and that a mental image of "work" thus almost automatically implies physical exertion, obligation, pain, stress etc.

This means that most of us thus tend, rightly or wrongly, to mentally dissociate the linguistic term "work" from those revenue-generating activities that have a whiff of avocation or contentment associated with their execution — e.g. the performing arts...

I wonder if I've almost met those linemen. I live in Clarksville, in the part of town most prone to power outages (we rarely get through a month without one). There was a truck fixing a transformer in my neighborhood this past Monday.

The contest lead time was not sufficent for film users. When I see a challenge like this I just cannot go through my (disorganized) negs or prints. I have to make a new picture. I have to think about what I want to portray in that picture. I would it to comment on how I feel about work. That takes time.

Anyway, several TOP had a request for submissions that would be displayed. I submitted and it seemed to go through but never showed up on the site. Some technical glich no doubt but me and computers just never have connected.

Now I'm wondering if Mike considers my photo of a painter at work to be a "stretch". After all, there's nothing in the frame to show that he paints for a living.

shooting b&w is no excuse not to shoot a sunset. some of the most beautiful sunset shots i've ever seen were b&w. in fact i think that would make a great theme for another contest: b&w sunsets – sky must be visible in the shot. :)

a sunset pic on tri-x for you (sadly i could've used a tripod here):
b&w sunset

So I'm reading along, thinking I'm just killing a little time - then I come along the "Themes in your head" bit, just an afterthought to a larger piece on a contest I didn't even enter, and POW! There it is - a project idea. All of the sudden I'm generating ideas and having fun again. Thanks a ton!

What exactly is a grab shot?

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