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Friday, 27 July 2018


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I'm betting the hat-wearing folks in the foreground got better images than the folks behind them. Maybe they should have taken turns standing in front. 8-)

Ansel's image is hard to top.

Hats & Half Dome
I have found that I was more opinionated when I was younger.
The more I learned, the more I realized there is more room in the tent of good Photography than I once believed.
Just when you are sure something is a cliche' someone comes along and makes it new.
I like that, --it keeps me humble and makes me think twice before I reject something out of hand.
I think this growth also comes from the realization that the only person it is important to please is yourself. And as you say above it helps to make it your own. If lots of others see tour work as good, that's a bonus.
In Paid work there are two people who must be pleased, --the client and you. I don't believe that you can succeed by only pleasing the client. For long term success you have to find a way to produce work that the client likes and that you are proud of.

So when I view the work of others, I no longer think in terms of good or bad, but rather it speaks to me, or it doesn't. It's what I call 'Dive in, or Move on"
I never get hung up on stuff I don't like, I just move on and look for work that invites me to 'Dive in'
My only rule is to keep making pictures, and print some of them.

Although most of your readers know me as a street photographer, one of my favorite motifs is a classic: portraiture. Every portrait is essentially the same (i.e., a headshot) and there are only so many ways you can pose someone. The variety comes in who you photograph, where, how they are dressed, lighting, expression, etc. Anyone who thinks producing a great portrait is easy or rote should try it sometime.

Mike said: ...digital "makes everybody's pictures look the same"

If I use a Zone Sieve, mounted in a Copal 0 shutter, with my 4x5 Toyo film camera, then it would take a lot of futzing in PShop to duplicate the look with a digital camera. If I used a Zone Sieve with my Canon 40D instead, it would take a lot of futzing 8-) Creativity lies between the shooters ears, not in a cookie-cutter-camera that they have mastered.

BTW How do you convey ...personal meaning for you with a still. Maybe it would be easier using voice-over in a slide-show video.

Haha, @insta_repeat made me laugh. I, too, have seen many similar-looking photos on Instagram. However, even if two people on the same trip take (practically) the same photo side by side with the same camera/lens settings, I'm sure each one of them experiences the moment differently.

Quote by Chuck Close

From "Fixing the Shadows", BBC series on the History of Photography aired on Ovation TV, December 2007.

Here's the dilemma and the strength of photography: It's the easiest medium in which to be competent, but it's the hardest medium in which to have a personal vision that is readily identifiable. There is no physicality to a photograph.There is nothing there, some silver that got tarnished in the development process or some dyes in a color print. There is no physicality. There is nothing you can point to and say this is the work of this artist's hand. So, how do you make a photograph that everybody immediately knows is the work of a particular artist? Well, that is a very difficult and complicated thing to come up with. And when someone really ends up nailing down a particular kind of vision to such an extent that they really own that vision you know they have really done something.

Lovely post!

The two most important innovations of the digital age:
1) PHD (Press Here Dummy),

The best use of #2 should be at least 1000X that of #1.

How many photographers does it take to change a lightbulb? 50! One to change the bulb and 49 to say "nah .... I could have done that!" (and many variations on that gag). Looks like the other 49 went out and found their own lightbulb. On a more serious note, the problem I have with @insta_repeat's compilations is that there's no way of knowing which images were simply imitations and which were just people taking the obvious shot for their own pleasure. No harm in the latter. It's hard not to be tempted to do the former sometimes. One suspects that on Instagram there's a lot more imitation than people are prepared to admit to. But then uniqueness is hard to achieve and transitory at best - in both style and content.

Guilty as charged!


I could say with the 12 photos of heads with hats that the title could be
"Heads Up"

May composition transcend motif, even, perhaps, cliché?

I agree that increasing perfection is homogenizing
Social Media is also homogenizing, it is a place of trends, and fashion and indeed imitation.
Our feedback loop has been vastly shortened, we also See, far more stuff.
Look at how many Photographers who gained their reputation by doing good work, now make the bulk of their living through blogs & seminars.
Look at how many signature lighting gizmos there are.
Everyone sees every variation of everything instantly.
All this is neither good or bad, it just IS.
Like comparing great athletes from the 1950's to those playing today, in those conversations we usually get to "You can't really compare, because it is a different game now"
We seem to be applying the metrics and judgements we grew up with to a photographic landscape that has changed Technologically and socially. Photography used to be an event, now it has also become an extension of language practiced every day by nearly everyone.
Some things remain, most are different and the pace of change is accelerating.
The result is some dislocation for those of us who learned to understand photography before digital creation and display was a thing.

I wish I had a smart and pithy conclusion but I don't. As far as I can tell I'm not alone.
But we all have our take on what it means for us personally, and sometimes, that has to be enough.

vemödalen: This post reminded me of your post 07/06/2016 http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2016/07/the-dictionary-of-obscure-sorrows.html, which sent me to The Dictionary. Which has a link to a 2014 video on a similar theme. Just thought it might be relevant.

The medium is, in fact, homogeneous- so concentrate on the content. To get something "unique" of the same tried and tired subject, particularly a tourist hot spot, one can: choose a different light or weather, incorporate the tourists themselves, or even turn the camera 180. So many times I can't believe how no one has noticed photographic possibilities right on the periphery of where everyone has their camera pointed.

Re Mark Power's comment and your reply, I have an alternate guess:

When I shot film, especially in the days before I learned how to work in a darkroom, I was always conscious of a) the cost of the film, and b) the cost of developing and getting prints (from the drugstore, of course). So, I was a bit parsimonious with how often I tripped the shutter. A roll might stay in the camera for months. Perhaps it was that back-of-the-mind thought that, "this will cost something" that motivated me, and perhaps thousands of other snap-shot-ers to be somewhat careful with subject and composition, and to only take pictures of something worthwhile?

'Character' to some is technical imperfection to others. The obsession with sharpness and resolution on the Internet (in forums and in technical test sites) has skewed our priorities. If you look at old copies of National Geographic, the photographs were not necessarily particularly sharp or free of grain, but they had content. I went to a presentation on Friday of some competition-winning photographs here in Singapore. Among the winners (I'm pleased to say) were some powerful social-commentary images of India that would have been slaughtered for technical reasons on most forums ...

All that said, I have been spending some time going through hundreds of 35mm slides taken in the 60s and 70s. To be candid, most of them were pretty dreary content-wise, and not that great technically. So lets not get too sentimental about the past.

Stan B took some words out of my mouth. Faced with a far less dramatic clearing storm than St Ansel, I turned around, walked up a few steps,and found this.

Not as fabulous as Clearing Winter Storm, neither subject nor photographer in that league, but I'll bet the ratio of forward shots to this rearward one is in the realm of billions to one. \;~)>

I'd like to point you to the work of Harald Mante who is well known in Germany for embracing the idea to create such collections of photos with the same motif in different variations.

Best regards

Photography has been richly laden with mimicry and outright rip-offs almost since its invention in the 19th century. What’s new is the ability to easily gather so many examples so quickly. Several years ago Michal Raz-Russo, a good friend and museum curator, mined an enormous collection of anonymous photos spanning the 19th and mid 20th centuries to create a wonderful show and catalog titled The Three Graces. It presented a very vivid example of how photography has been used to represent oneself to the world, long before social media. And just how much mimicry has been common for so long.

Separately, anyone remember the fellow who composited hundreds of snaps of the Eiffel Tower (and The Great Pyramids) some years ago? They just looked like single blurry images

I think what we"re seeing on instagram, its proliferation of seameness, is conformity in action. The compulsion to conform is a powerful one, especially where it meets no resistence.

The similar look of digital pictures in general is probably down to the ubiquity of Adobe software, but when it comes to the remarkable rarity of aesthetic value among the billions of images produced, I think you're definitely onto something with Benjamin's bearpaw casting thing. Digital imaging is predicated on a pragmatic idea: add enough pixels and the simulation bcomes indistinguishable from the real. But as we now see, there is a lot more to reality than bits and bites and pixels, and no amount of them can change this.

See Geoff Dyer's fine book "The Ongoing Moment".

Mimicry is not creative. A picture of a person is not portrait. A selfie leaps past waiting around to be selected by a photographer.

While digital capture is so immediate to so many, it is not the source of the blandness. It is because they are not produced by photographers; just people with cameras, a very different beast.

The ubiquitous insta-imaging depends upon some limited exposure to an icon of a subject-type. It relies upon a safe definition within a pubic narrative but lacks the commitment to really developing the capture moment. That is why they can seem so empty and monotonous.

Mimicry is exhaustive. It is the repeated exposure to dross that undermines an understanding of insightful and skilled capture.

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