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Tuesday, 22 March 2016


Images that don't immediately reveal the technique behind them is probably number one for me (I'm glad to see that super-DHR seems to be dying away, but maybe it's just being replaced with excessive use of the 'clarity' slider...'), followed by consistency; I err towards muted over the hyper-real, I think.

I very much like the colours - and use of colour (this is perhaps key) of Niall McDiarmid's portrait images from London and the UK: http://niallmcdiarmid.tumblr.com/

BTW, if you want to see color skillfully deployed in quiet photography take a look at fellow TOP reader Joe Holmes's work. Look at his "Workspace" and "Urban Wlderness" works.

Now dat's wut ahm talkin' 'bout!

My personal favorite is Alexander Gronsky's subtle use of landscape color, and the way he will accentuate a particular slice of the spectrum for artistic intent:


Since I didn't actually answer your question in my comment yesterday, I'll take a stab here:

I want a photograph to show me beauty I don't see otherwise. There are many ways: take me to the moon; allow me to really really stare at a face, or a rock, until I understand how beautiful it is...

That goes for color, too. It's why I love Eggleston's color photography--much of his work seems to be about the beauty of color--the colors that grace us every day. Those works let me stop and appreciate colors to such an extent that I can almost touch and taste them, which I can't do in the "real world" (at least not without chemical assisatnce, though I suppose photographs were chemical too, once upon a time...)

Do I expect all color photographs to do that? No, but I like best color photographs that at least understand what a wonderous phenomenon color is.

In an earlier post I just stated I prefer 'Likeness' and linked to another Times Lens post.

If I had to signal out just one photographer that matched what I like in a color photograph it would be Martin Parr.

Here is a link to a recent post on Parr's site: http://www.martinparr.com/2016/matheran/

I know this is not a contest, but Jim Natale gets my vote.

Totally unposed photo. https://flic.kr/p/xp6QF

For Cartier Bresson, unless the color was the subject, it was merely a distraction.

P.S. I just noticed that you mentioned Daniel Berehulak. He took the photos in that other NYTimes Cuba photoessay that linked to above and yesterday.

i guess i kind of answered this question already, in my comment on the previous post, while in that previous post i never quite answered its proper question of ‘what do i want color photos to look like?’. for the sake of symmetry i will answer that other question in this post: i generally want color photos to look like they were taken on portra 160, if they have any people in them at all, or ektar if they do not. i enjoy the solid-black-shadows look of classic slide films as well, but i almost never process my own digital photos that way (though i used to use slides a fair bit, i now use portra almost exclusively in my film cameras, or tri-x for bw). part of my reason for feeling that this is the way color photos ‘should’ look is that it is consistent and ‘reads’ comfortably, by which i mean that it is simple to relate how those films render to what was in front of the camera.

that may sound like i should fall into the ‘likeness of reality’ camp, but i actually don’t like how the dichotomy ‘fidelity<>transformation’ structures the question at all. as i tried to express previously, i want my photographs to be photographic, which means that the thread connecting the picture to the scene through a lens ought not to be completely severed. i want a photograph to push back against both the viewer and the photographer, to insist a little bit at least on its own point of view.

i don’t think that this dynamic is exclusive to photography; the materials any artist uses push back in their own ways, oil paint a little differently than watercolor, and so on. in addition to photography, i had a spell as a ceramic artist—clay pushes back at you rather literally, especially when you use a potter’s wheel. i don’t really view art (photography included, of course) as the transcendence (removal) of that resistance (though it often involves pushing that resistance back to a new frontier). the really interesting part—the human part—to me lies in what one does with the medium. and that is exactly the part about the digital age in photography that poses the problem: it removes, rather than merely stretches, the limits of the medium. yes, that may mean it transforms itself into a new medium, but i love photography. it’s special. i don’t agree when people say that digital is nothing new, since people have always manipulated photographs. it isn’t the same: the photograph no longer pushes back. the pictures digital artists make seem more about what they (already) know they want to see, and less about the relationship between what was really visible, and what was really there. for those who feel that knowing what you want to see is the same as having an artistic vision, i don’t necessarily disagree, i just don’t really consider that to be a *photographic* vision. may not matter to some. (my ceramics teacher sometimes applied paint over his works after they were fired; similar sort of transgression. i would never do that, though his work [no longer ceramic art, imo, but mixed media] was quite good, and gained some impressive recognition and sales; usually people never noticed certain portions weren’t glaze, but paint). some of those old squabbles over whether photography was art or mere craft missed the mark entirely, imo—all true art, i think, exists in relation to its medium, not abstractly. that is the reason for the multiple meanings of ‘art’—as artifice, as craft, as genius: they truly cannot be separated from one another, however much we might try.

Very interesting. I read the blog regularly but never commented before.
Very interesting because this goes directly to the centre of the issue I have with digital. Digital pictures, in my hands, end up looking a lot like ransom notes, as someone suggested. This is why I still mostly shoot film. Once I know the materials, I know how to get to a result that I can recognise as mine. I am very jealous of those who can do that digitally, it seems much handier to me. I guess it takes quite some training with adobe & co, which I never managed to digest.
Ironically, I work with computers every day...

"Actually there are no Vermeer sketches extant and we don't know how he worked, but I take your point."

It's possible, likely, even, that he was the world's first photographer. Thus, there simply were no preliminary sketches, any marks on the canvas to guide the painting, nor any painted over false starts.

I won't try to explain. Watch the documentary movie Tim's Vermeer, fascinating.

'I think it was Peter Galassi, the former Curator of Photography at the MoMA in NYC, who said: "Photography always transforms what it describes. The art of photography is to control that transformation."'

Nothing new:

"Many consider my photographs to be in the "realistic" category. Actually, what reality they have is in their optical-image accuracy; their values are definitely "departures from reality." The viewer may accept them as realistic because the visual effect may be plausible, but if it were possible to make direct visual comparison with the subjects, the differences would be startling."

—Ansel Adams, The Negative, from the Introduction

Apologies for linking to a picture I took myself, but it explains my point better than I can describte in words:


My answer would be this picture, that I took last week of our cat resting its paws against my son's trousers.

I really do appreciate good black and white imagery. But to me it's like saying: I love the Russian language, although I can't speak nor understand a single word of it. Black and white will always remain alien to me. To me, an effective colour image is a photograph which would make no sense at all in black and white. I'm posting this picture as an example. The way the burgundy of the trousers plays off of the dark blue of the sweater, held together by the white of the cat's paws, only works because the burgundy is 'just so' and the dark blue is 'just so'. In all its simplicity it is precise and deliberate, without any post-processing in Photoshop whatsoever.

I've just been teaching a photo class (..on the Isle of Wight, UK..) and when we looked at the photos which students had taken they said "look at those greens in the sky.." ..? I'm rather red/green colour-blind, and I know what I like, and I know some of what I don't see - red buds on a tree of green leaves, for example. But I really don't see fine shades of green, nor see turquoise, and often can't distinguish between blue and purple, and - in many cases - what I see as green or red turns out to be the other colour ..or just looks like brown mud! (..The paintings of Emil Nolde, for example.)

I know (..I think!..) about photography, and what I want to shoot, and how I want the colours to turn out ..but I can teach only the general basics to others, as I've no idea what colours they're often seeing ..things which pass me by completely.

One in seven men - so I've read or heard somewhere - is colour-blind, whereas (generally) women aren't. I know what I see, but what I see is often not what you or others see, and what you or others see is - often - not what I see!

I've just bought and downloaded Pavel's book, as it looks so interesting - many, many thanks for the link! - and I'll read it with great keenness. But - as a photographer - there are so many colours which I just don't see (..I see mainly contrast, chiaroscuro, texture, swathes of colour without fine gradation..) that my pics may appeal just to me, and others may find them to be not nearly as "involving" as I find them myself.

I suppose I miss half of what my students see in their - or others' - photographs! I can explain about light and shade, perspective, emotion, white balance, intention, clutter, symmetry, technicalities and choosing which lens for what, but I cannot give any help with colour ..because it's simply beyond my ken.

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