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Tuesday, 06 October 2015


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This comment belongs under the "Mastering Photographic Technique" entry, but I missed the window for comments.

I'd like to add my voice to the chorus calling for some visual technique exercises. I don't think there's any reason to feel pressured to produce a textbook or strive for completeness, but a series (even a short one) of weekly or even monthly visual exercises could make for a very engaging experience for your readers. Throw in a Flickr group (or something similar) so that readers can participate and interact with each other even more and you'd really have something.

Just my two cents...

"Click to embiggen" ? I always enjoy your writing, Mike. I had to google this word to discover it's most recent use was in an episode of The Simpsons.

Mrs. Krabappel: "Embiggens"? I never heard that word before moving to Springfield.

Ms. Hoover: I don't know why, it's a perfectly cromulent word.

Principal Skinner: He's embiggened that role with his cromulent performance.

Like the fact that you used "embiggen", love that in the Simpsons show...

I remember seeing the first book as well, and like you, I probably would not want it around, but in my case, I didn't want to pay for it either...when does the world of artistic or documentary subjects and themes, cross the line from "interesting-sub-group", to "back-stage-at-the-freak-show"?

I started my career at an advertising photography and retouching studio, and like most of those places, they needed cheap space, and getting space meant you ended up in some pretty challenging areas of a city. My boss was big on 'using' the disadvantaged of the area as subjects, and I don't think he cared about their plight, I think they just made subjects that generated a reactive emotion from people looking at the pictures. It always made me disconcerted...( I remember the photo school was in the same area, and a drunk telling a buddy of mine who had a camera with him: "..get outta here, I ain't no 'expletive' character study").

When I was in that area, I met many "hobos" "bums" "apaches" "outsiders", whatever, and what impacted me is that many of them were 'disordered', and many of them had been raised like wolves: i.e. outside of societal norms. People who thought it a valid response to the idea that someone "looked at them funny", was to break a beer bottle and attack the other person. These were people that were living in the shadow of society because they had not been given the right tools to cope with living in it, by parents who were too outside of it to even be responsible for children (or had the usual roster of psych problems and their causes).

Anyway, I take a dim view of using these subjects as "art fodder", and no matter how much someone tells me that they are "one with those people", or want to get their story to the masses; I have yet to meet anyone where that is absolutely true. The very act of publishing a book about these people makes you so far outside of their 'ken' that it's silly to claim brotherhood.

There are truly lost souls in our world that will never be made whole, and I hate the idea that someone makes them a 'subject', because it will unlikely ever help.

If a tornado hit the house, how come it is still standing?

Just asking.

When I shoot on the streets one of my "rules" is "never photograph the homeless." To me (and only my opinion) it's exploitive.
I did at one time photograph for a homeless newspaper (yes, it may still be around) but I was so unnerved shooting subject matter for it, that I made one issue and politely bowed out.
Just my two pesos.

Family is a surreal walk through Main St. Americana. The surroundings are familiar enough, but there's something very definitely broken...

I almost got Bruce Gilden's Faces, but after viewing many of the portraits, they just left a bad taste in my mouth, like some kind of mean spirited freak show- think he really did cross the line on this one (whatever line that may be).

Right now I am anxiously awaiting Joakim Eskildsen's American Realities and Ryan Ford's The Last Stop.

Hope to see more book reviews here...

We only see the roof with the tree limb. In the back is the main trunk of the tree which has landed maybe in the house. Repair the house and flog it. In the divorce there will be ghosts from both sides of the marriage in the house. And then there is the tree!
A scene of destruction both of the past with marriage and too of the present; the tree. One more reason trees should not be allowed to grow too big near any residence.

I love "Click to embiggen".

One of the other Hughs said

"When I shoot on the streets one of my "rules" is "never photograph the homeless." To me (and only my opinion) it's exploitive."

I don't generally photograph the homeless either, but the funny thing is that on the occasions that someone walks up to me on the street and asks me to photograph them, it's always a homeless person or a child.

For years I had a 40x50 inch portrait hanging in my livingroom that everyone thought was of a celebrity actor or musician but was actually a homeless man who paid me $2 to photograph him. There is kind of a long and interesting story how that came about, but I had it hanging because of his intensity and confidence.

Bye the way, I found that if you charge people money to take their picture, people who would never let you photograph them open up in amazing ways.

I'm sort of emotionally with Crabby on this, but I have to say, a lot of these street people are so screwed up that any chance that *anything* will help is worth taking. I'm married to a woman who can't pass a homeless person without emptying out her purse (and she has taken care of one guy for a decade and a half now) and so I've gotten pretty familiar with several of them. Two weeks ago I saw a guy I knew getting busted by the cops essentially for being homeless -- a truly pointless exercise that infuriates me whenever I see it -- and wound up talking to the cops and taking the guy's poor confused dog so it wouldn't be taken to the pound. I eventually got the dog to a friend of his (another person who spends a lot of time caring for the homeless) until he got out of jail. The point being, that if some exploitive jerk-off takes photos of the homeless for his own reasons, and even a few of the homeless are better off for it, I say go ahead and let him shoot. I agree with Crabby that it sorts *feels* wrong, but anything that helps, helps.

"whence a former girlfriend of mine also haled"

I think you mean hailed. Hale would be the transitive verb to haul, summon., drag, or pull, especially forcibly. Greeting, calling out, or shouting is hailing, as is declaring oneself to be from somewhere.

So unless there is something involving ropes and dragging (not that there is anything wrong with that if consensual) of said former girlfriend, I think you want hail.

Admittedly pedantic from someone who wrote Bye the way in the previous comment. Where is that button to edit your own comment anyway?

[Thanks Hugh. Fixed now. --Mike]

Apropos nothing in particular, Mike Brody and his girlfriend lived until recently in the loft above the studio where I do most of my photography. He had some copies of his first book out in a common area, but didn't display any interest in photography, and, if I remember correctly, said he'd retired from photography. I could say more, but I won't.

A hobo is a homeless person who travels and will work, a tramp is a homeless person who travels but avoids work, and a bum is a homeless person who doesn't travel and won't work.

We don't use the terms hobo and bum in England. Just tramp.

I'm glad you left "enhanced by the peculiar color palette of the film" in quotes.

Trillions of Instagram photos prove otherwise.

Is "dehance" a word?

Whilst I agree that individuals exploiting the disadvantaged is morally repugnant I'm also aware that the stories of such individuals are all too often overlooked in the Darwinian soup that is modern consumer society. It's good that such images make individuals feel uncomfortable, but for me the reason shouldn't be concern about exploitation by the photog...why should the excluded be denied a voice?

There's many routes in to homelessness

My brother in law is homeless in our city ( Manchenchester UK ) right now. He had a pretty loving a stable childhood. It was his addiction that ultimately put him on the street, he just burned too many bridges. If I was to see his face in a book, I'd give some thought to who he could have been had it not been for his addiction. But others who knew him would likely tear the page out.

His sister, who I photograph often, Would be one of them and maybe that's where the harder road lies photographically. Finding the families to tell their stories has to be a worth while pursuit. Why I haven't done it myself, I don't know. Too close to home maybe

To add on to "Crabby", anyone who's ever been raised in a blue-collar working class city, can see how easily people can run off the rails. Back in the 70's I used to do a lot of industrial photography, and I also went to a trade and tech high-school in the late 60's. There were certainly people at my school, and people I saw at those factories, that were one drunk driving accident away from a destroyed life. These were people raised without the conventional societal interplay of the modern world.

Many lived in very secluded working-class neighborhoods, and even after being in the country for a few generations, with English as their first and only language, may not speak very well, write very well, or have a litany of un-diagnosed cognitive disorders. Many barely made it out of high-school, or grade school for that matter. It wasn't unusual in a factory setting in the mid-70's to meet people in their 40's, who dropped out of grade or high school, and barely functioned, but could do 'bull' work, and repetitive and simple processes in a factory setting and make middle class money.

The sons and daughters of those people are certainly challenged, and they have a difficult road ahead of them. Even though many said the modern era was started post WWII by people going to college after the war on the GI bill, and that the 'baby-boomers', i.e. their kids, were one of the first generations to go to school en-masse; many of the blue-collar in those industrial cities had parents of marginal education and training that told their kids that they didn't need to go to "no colitch", and they could get a job down at the plant; which lasted until about 1981! A weird fact, the city I live in now, it seems like the majority of first-time college people are millaneals! They're that far behind the times!

When I look at these 'lost souls' in my environment, I find many of them to be the kids and grand-kids of those under-educated and un-diagnosed workers, set adrift in society, and ending up without the basic skills to go anywhere. These seem to be the generation written about and pictured in these books about new communes and rail-ridin' hobos. I'm disconcerted about it too, but are these books that glorify the existence, or ask for help?

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