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Wednesday, 25 July 2018


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Mike: What a treat to reconnect with Mark Hobson through these two posts. For years, I followed "The LandScapist," his previous photoblog, and while I had forgotten his name, I immediately recognized his style. Thanks for the reintroduction.

Personally I think Mark Hobson's iPhone images have more of a consistent way of processing than seeing. But anyway that does not take away from the fact that I found his gallery very interesting.

Photography is dominated by people who, first and foremost, really like cameras and lenses. Photographs are practically incidental for these folks. These are the people who are constantly looking for the next best thing, or the camera system that can "do it all", even if they never do much of anything with it. (And more power to them by the way! Life is short, if this makes you happy, go for it.)

When what you love the most is the photograph, what you used to make the pictures becomes secondary, or irrelevant. There are people like this, and they tend to be fine with the limitations of their kit.

Interestingly, I think a lot of these folks spend their whole life just in photography. They might be trying to make art, but their art is limited to what photography can do. In contrast, there are visual artists who use cameras, perhaps alongside other media, or just for a while until they move on to another medium that allows them to express their vision better. These people definitely don't give a fig about the latest and greatest offerings at Photokina... unless that new lens solves an artistic problem they're actually having.

Amen. soft focus and other lens qualities are
Where are the modern equivalents of Goerz Dagor, Percivals and the old Beach lenses?

You are right on this one Mike. Certainly the case for many seasoned photographers around me.

Any appropriate tool is used for paid assignment to fit the bill. I just bought a Profoto B2 for lighting my corporate portraits. Wonderful and easy tool, light and portable. The current Canon 5D does the rest.

But I shoot analog for myself with an meterless Leica and a old lens.

There's an observation by the great poet Robert Frost that's appropriate. His work was mostly classical in form but surprisingly modern in meaning. He was asked about 'free verse' poetry written without any attention to rhyme, meter or other poetic conventions. His response was to the effect that it was "like playing tennis without a net".
That is, the very limitations and strictures of the poetic form were essential to the art. The same notion can be applied to photography. The perceptual limitations and quirks of particular methods of capture, editing and reproduction of images can't really be separated from the aesthetic element. They're part of the art.

I think you just made the best argument yet for an OCOLOY project.

Thanks Mike for sharing. The temptation is to overwork iPhone photos (Guilty your honor!) But these are open and honest with terrific consistency and subtly worked over. A lovely example of the kind of work that TOP promotes. Bravo.

I'd put it another way: cameras these days are so good that we mostly see the flaws in the photographer's craft. Mark's excellent iPhone photos stand out to me because of his careful and considered composition: the edges of his photos are well-considered and very clean.

There are two different mindsets (an attitude, disposition, or mood) between the pro and the hobbyist.

The pros most important asset is their mind, not their gear. While the hobbyist will seek a non-existant magic-bullet to purchase and master.

OK. I am becoming irritated at these people who fail to accept the reality known to us with real cameras that one cannot take good photos with an iPhone. Just because these photography miscreants consistly take good photos with an iPhone (and make 20x20 prints!) does not disprove that known to only us reality.

It's akin to those noisy kids that think they can play on your grass. No matter how many times you yell and chase them off, they come back and play on your grass. They can't do that!

Mike said: It's not all the same equipment, but more and more it's the same, or a similar, aesthetic look. Yes, individual practitioners can depart from it deliberately, but then they can get slammed for being "fake" and "contrived" and so forth—even if the picture's just black and white!

I'm not looking for "likes" on social media sites. I'm interested in pics-I haven't-seen before, so I try my best to "think different." Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I just suck, but I always learn.

Personally, I'd withhold judgement on Hobson's iPhone-generated photographs until I see actual prints. But, in the past, I have seen beautiful prints made from Diana cameras and other looked-down-upon photographic systems.
Interestingly, the development of smart digital automation for cameras has made it possible for the amateur operator to create "... sharp, clear, detailed, correct-color, adequate-DR digital images." Such images have now become commonplace. One doesn't anymore need to hire a pro to get clear, sharp pictures.
But the personal vision of what to do with the medium still resides in the creator's imagination. A quick view of the contents of various photo-sharing websites show that imagination is in approximately the same short supply that it always has been.

Well said. All I dreamed about when young was better cameras and lenses. And now I have it, I feel less creative.

In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, it talks about how a student had writers block, until her teacher told her to write about the main street, the first house, the first brick on the left.

oI use a camera phone occasionally but find it useless when used outside. We're having a heat wave here in Ireland and I tried using the phone yesterday but couldn't see the screen properly in the bright sun light.Same reason I prefer an evf a la GX8

Very wise words.

Probably today's limitation is the internet's function as harsh lowest-common-denominator judge of everything.

Which leads to the current generic aesthetics that removes everything 'the internet' frowns upon, like lack of sharpness, saturation or any visible DOF or even noise. Even the qualities of the camera are now dictated by the internet, spelling doom on a manufacturer who dares to deviate and do something unusual.

And consider what range of wonders can be achieved, from no more equipment than 1) a piece of blank paper and 2) a pencil!

I sometimes think that this artist's ability to adapt to what's at hand, is true not just for cameras and photography but for life in general. I have often been impressed (and sometimes a bit puzzled) as to how some people seem to live very satisfying lives in quite limited circumstances; be it financial, geographic location, or something else (up to a point of course), while most of the rest of the population are not happy until the next pay rise, promotion, more time off, etc. is achieved. Could it be that the former group have an innate 'artistic' capability to adapt to life's circumstances and find more meaning by doing so?

Kenneth Tanaka: My own shortcut expression to summarize what you've said is, Wherever you go, there you are! [...Jon Kabat-Zinn —Ed.]

For what it's worth Wherever you go, there you are was made famous by the motion picture The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

@robert e: "I wonder if future hobbyists will wax nostalgic about the 'look' of vintage sensors and firmware in the likes of, say, Canon's 5D or Nikon's D40?

I already do.

Visited Mark's website, and found his body of work a subsrantial and interesting one. Their allure is heightened for me by the square format, but especially by the borders/frames he uses. Elegant, solid and unobtrusive. And however he's rendering color should be bottled and sold.

I like to think about the artist and their tools differently: engineers create new tools for artists, and they often try to made the new tools emulate the old ones, yet solve some problem or other. To use an example in music, the first electric guitars were built to increase the volume of the guitar, especially in a big band setting, but maintain the sound of an acoustic guitar. But artists found that the electric guitars, with their lo-fi and distorted sounds, created news ways to make music. Today, almost every guitar you hear in popular, jazz, rock, etc. is distorted in ways that we, as listeners, no longer think of a “distorted” or a pale imitation of the acoustic guitar.

The same is true of digital cameras in general, and phone cameras in particular: artists use the capability of those tools in ways that they could never do with film (or glass plate, or metal plate, ...) cameras.

...and speaking of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig again: "You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally."

"The absence of limitation is the death of art."
Orson Welles

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