« Technophasia | Main | World Photography Day »

Saturday, 20 August 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

There's an article somewhere about how geeks wear casual clothing on purpose, as a statement about how it does not matter.

My favorite, most comfortable footwear is sandals with socks. And that is a huge faux pas with everybody. But until somebody explains to me *why*, I probably won't change.

This rings a bell. The most difficult thing for me about commercial photography was the need constantly to find and "fix" things that wouldn't bother me a bit if I were making the picture for myself. I always told assistants that their most important duty wasn't loading cameras and exchanging lenses and carrying cases—it was spotting these little real-life details that would spoil a commercial picture.

Working for shelter magazines I had to remain conscious of which one I was shooting for. Some wanted things pretty realistic; if you're cutting a board there should be sawdust. Others wanted everything scrubbed and polished (even to painting nail heads to make them identical and perfect). Same with industrial advertising. Some clients wanted a factory to look like somebody actually did some work there. Others wanted a factory making car parts to look like a NASA clean-room.

I wonder if this snafu really hurts UA more than it helps. UA has one fifth of Nike's market share, but in this story it gets equal billing with the industry giant--perhaps even better than equal in its role as the wronged, plucky underdog. It's attention UA couldn't have dreamed of buying, and they should be working overtime to figure out how to keep the "controversy" in the news.

What's ridiculous is calling these paid advertising arrangements "endorsements". The fact that this scheme is ancient and ubiquitous, and that it works, only makes it more irritating.

I feel the same way about nature photography, especially macro. Many people shooting macro go to extraordinary lengths to find perfect flowers, perfect insects on perfect leaves, etc. That 'perfection' may as well be plastic. Life is messy and thoroughly intertwingled; fungi make spots, bugs nibble plants, birds snatch and almost miss. Holes on plants or a slightly mangled wing on a butterfly are a sign of even more life in the background, often leaving an open question of what happened this time.

Long ago my brother used to do product photography, and one month he had to hire an assistant because he'd injured his hand and couldn't change the film. The assistant was so good at spotting the little details like belt tongues that my brother kept him on for a couple of years.

I think UA will survive with a few other names you might have heard... https://www.underarmour.com/en-us/ua-roster

Headquartered here in Baltimore, by the way, where Kevin Plank has made tremendous investments in the city. He also owns Sagamore Farms, home to stakes winners and Preakness entries.

I have looked at this photo several times since you posted about it a few days ago; not once did I notice Phelps was wearing Nike pants (or trousers, as I call them).

To me this tells me that the only people who have cared about this are the people that care; for the rest of us, they were just cloth covering his legs.

But I was aware of Under Armor as a brand, so I somewhat more cognizant of brands than you are, which, hopefully to your happiness, should make you feel a tad more curmudgeonly :-)

What was your purpose in using the word "louche" ?

A significant moment in my appreciation of photographs was when I bought a book of James Ravilious' pictures (many taken within a few miles of where I now live) and realised that not only did many of them have telephone/power lines in but that that was fine: photographs did not have to be these idealised things but could represent what the world actually looked like, as seen through the eyes of someone with better visual taste than me.

Although it's perhaps a terribly luddite thing to say, one of the things I least like about modern digital post-processing is how easy it now is to get rid of various annoying-but-actually-fascinating details. (Yes I know it could and was done before the digital age: I also know how hard it was, and how seldom it was done as a result.)

Thanks for the link to UA. I live in a high humidity beach town, and I'm replacing cotton with plastic.

When man-made fabrics first came out, they didn't breath, and were too hot to wear in SoCal. Time have changed.

Your mistake, Mike, was saying you hadn't noticed. The alternative would have been to say that since he dressed that way for a shoot, you just accepted that it was his personal style which he wanted to show off. Or you could have told him that if he still couldn't dress himself properly at his age and weight, he should have brought him mother along to do it properly for him and change his nappy (as we call them in Australia, bumbum as we call them here in the islands, diaper as you probably call them) at the same time. Heh, heh.

But, look how that swoosh is positioned. Or have I been reading too much about subliminal messaging?

I'm with you completely Mike. For me anything aesthetically pleasing cannot by definition be perfect. Perfection is a human abstraction and by trying to achieve it I feel a type of superficiality is imposed instead. I had never head of UA either - or if I had I never took notice. And I never noticed the Nike logo in that cover photo either.

Visiting Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina many years ago, with lovely autumn colour just starting, I had to wait for all the fashion tragics to finish dolling themselves up before having their photos taken (this was before selfies) in front of the glacier, as if they were the subject and anyone but their fellow fashionistas would notice otherwise.

On the subject of perfection in portraits: I guess if you're more famous than the sitter, then the family doesn't argue.

One of the lessons I learned early in my photography pursuits was that humans rarely are pleased with photographs of themselves and can be hyper sensitive about perceived imperfections that are evident only to them, a portrait, even a casual snapshot to many can be interpreted as an unflattering portrayal of them to the world at large.
This I believe is the attraction of landscape, abstract,still life etc and street photography as it rarely involves feedback from the subject.

I take the attitude that all fashion trends are cyclic if you wait long enough.

Even beards (I have had one since 1980) are now all the rage. I have even gone for the full facial for the first time in 20 years, but I am enjoying seeing all the young hipsters with their manly natural foliage. I am even quite jealous of some of them.

So much nicer than the mullets, sideburns and Magnum PI 'taches of the 80s.

I am glad I'm a guy though. I think women have a tougher time being acceptably unfashionable.

Showing "a bit of a bra strap!!" Have you noticed, Mike, that tank tops with not one but two or more sets of straps showing, for the bra and several other underlayers, are de rigeur today. I should have spent world photography documentary day documenting that. I wouldn't have had to go far.


Thanks a thousand times for the belt loop story: you've put down in a short and funny anecdote (though no doubt not funny at the time) something I've experienced a lot but not pulled together somehow.

Any chance we could see the two portraits?

[I do still have both, but they're in boxes. It would require a great deal of searching, probably. Sorry! --Mike]

Someday there really will be some breaking news, and none of us will know the difference.

Your statement on why being an amateur photographer beats being a pro sums up my feelings on the subject well. For whatever reason, when I show some vacation pictures to certain people they wonder why I am wasting my time not getting paid for this crazy talent of mine?

...which makes me feel kind of awesome, in a backhanded sort of way, until I have someone over for dinner & cook a meal for them, and have them exclaim, "You should really start a catering company!" People are insane.

So is that the zeitgeist? Monetize everything, fake it 'til you make it? My suspicion is that there are so many people out there faking it these days, that if you show even a modicum of talent it blows average people away.

I have never once found myself consciously influenced in my choice of purchase by the presence of a famous person merely using a product of essentially interchangeable quality (like sweatpants). I will admit to influence on things where there are real differences between brands; I have to admit that the fact that a few very careful pro photographers were using micro-4/3rds cameras a few years ago made me more comfortable in my own choice of them. That said, I can't rule out being unconsciously influenced, and I have heard tell of conscious choices being made on the basis of endorsements. In particular, I remember a story (On NPR, maybe?) about NASCAR fans that featured multiple NASCAR fans describing how they changed brands of coffee and laundry detergent depending on whose logos were on their favorite driver's car.

I find it so baffling when clients prefer photographs of themselves in which they appear awkward and uncomfortable. I see it everywhere. On the sides of buses, billboards and in magazines are insecure, overdressed, surgically enhanced, retouched fakes telling me to trust them with my money and invest in their product or services.
Get real! No, really. Get real. Show me your true self before I show you my wallet.
I have a regular client who gave me the brief, "Photograph our team to reveal their personalities. Above all, they need to look approachable; someone whom anyone would love to sit down and talk with." And not only were they great in front of the camera, really letting their egos go and allowed themselves to show their vulnerabilities, but they also chose the more revealing photographs.
So refreshing.
(apologies for the watermark, I can't seem to disable it for embedded photographs on my CMS)

As Leonard Cohen says in Anthem, 'There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

A photographer acquaintance who was heavily involved in school/class photos once unburdened himself at length about the responses to the proof shots.

For some parents, no teenage pimple, spot, blemish, orthodontic hardware, suggestion of puppy fat or wardrobe malfunction was too small to be ignored, and the requests to clean up images came thick and fast.

'They'll be sorry', he mused. 'In a decade of so they'll be complaining that the picture doesn't look like how they remembered the kid looked', he said. 'And you know what' he continued, 'they'll be right'.

I'm 63 and still cannot believe how many people think that the brand of the clothing is important. They are all made in the same factories by the same people. It's all a show.

Yes, louche sounds a bit harsh, unless you were considering the mother's disapproval when choosing that word. Half the time, I see women wearing regular "up and down" straps with a tank top with criss-cross back straps. It may be "untidy" to have a bra strap showing, but geez, nearly every woman wears a bra, so it shouldn't be _that_ shocking. Regarding sports advertising; how did sports teams owners ever make money without selling naming rights to their stadiums. Nick Mileti built the old (no longer around) Richfield Coliseum without any tax incentives, any matching funds, any discounts on water or sewer rates. Yet he was able to make money. Harrumph.

Lee jeans? Hell, I went out and bought Diamond Gusset jeans because you said...

[I am very down on Diamond Gusset Jeans. They betrayed me and are SCOUNDRELS. They have lost me as a customer. --Mike]

I can empathize. I lost a family of friends over this kind of thing and similarly, it convinced me that I was not cut out for yet another avenue of pro photography. The latter was not as sad as the former.

I used to echo the sentiments of many who have posted here about appearances, and believe me, I'm easily in the "who cares?" camp. My stance has softened; however, because I think a great many people are inescapably mired in their schemas and their confirmation biases. These kinds of things are BFDs. That too, is sad.

Phelps' flop? Maybe intentional? Maybe he is taking a page from a certain prez. candidate's playbook? (Humor, with apologies to Phelps.)

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007