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Friday, 17 January 2020


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Check out the work of Armando Jorge in Portugal. A series I visit every now and then as it is so well done and so relaxing to view. Canon, Nikon and Fuji - it is the images and vision, not the gear.

New York City pols can't come to grips with issues like systemic problems with it's massive school system or policing tactics, but find this issue to be worthy of their efforts. The economic and social destruction that will take place upstate is obviously not a consideration as those people don't vote in NYC. "Social conscience" is fine when all the sides are considered and everyone involved has an equal say. Kudos to the Times for doing this article.

Foie gras on its own is not a paté, it’s just foie gras. It’s a paté when its mixed with other meats... A distinction that admittedly may not impress that many people on your side of the atlantic.

My authority: I can legitimately say I come from the part of France that is ground zero for foie gras. It’s a big industry there, so any attempt at banning it could result in an uprising that would make the gilets jaunes crowd look tame. Grudges run deep in that valley.

Mike: The opening picture ("Vacant buildings...") is perhaps the exception, the weakest picture in the set, too dark and too saturated and with too much perspective distortion . . .

I’m also delighted that the Times takes photography seriously, but I think its editorial policy goes overboard in prohibiting simple corrections to perspective distortion in pictures of buildings.

The paper’s Guidelines on Integrity ( https://www.nytimes.com/editorial-standards/guidelines-on-integrity.html ) don’t explicitly address the point, but apparently that is how the editors interpret the requirement that photographs which “purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way.”

I learned long ago that if you’re going to write for publication, you must accept the publisher’s style guide whether it makes sense to you or not. But every digital photograph is manipulated (i.e., post-processed following capture), either in the camera or outside it: RGB light sensor data are only the raw material of images.

The Times’ editors recognize that exactly what comes out of the camera may not produce an acceptable image, but while they permit “[a]djustments of color or gray scale . . . limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction, analogous to the ‘burning’ and ‘dodging’ that formerly took place in darkroom processing of images,” post-processing to correct keystoning or other perspective artifacts that result in an unnatural appearance seems to cross some virtual line—which, at least in my opinion, sometimes leads to pictures which are so distorted that they really do seem unreal.

Another example of the law of unintended consequences brought about by (presumably) well-meaning government regulations. Reminds me of the time a few years back when a high tax was placed upon luxury boats. It was an inconvenience to the well-heeled and did not yield much tax revenue, but was a disaster for the employees and owners of the boat building companies, who shortly found themselves in unemployment lines.

‘The pictures don't cry out for attention and don't insist on some forced signature style—they tell the story. But they're beautifully done all the same‘

Agreed. It looks to me like they share at least a distinctive and consistent tonality (tone curve) and saturation (and focal length(s) too perhaps?). I don’t know if that amounts to a style per se but it creates visual coherence while allowing flexibility.

The composition of the force feeding shot is chilling; deft use of backgrounds and perspective all around—fundamentals matter, little else does.

I've noticed the NYT running a lot more multi-page features, with a lot of photography, in the print edition lately. The online edition of the same story tends to feature even more photos, such as Ivor Prickett's reportage on Northern Ireland in the Magazine a couple of weeks ago.

Mike, I recall you recommending the NYT as the best photo magazine, but IIRC that was partly driven by their Lens blog. That blog was suspended at the end of May 2019, although the suspended blog is still there, and there's now a Lens section. Do you feel that there are enough stories like the one you featured to compensate for the formal ending of the blog?

Mike, could you define ‘old digital nasties’?

After nearly two decades of using digital, I have my own views (as have other people), but I would love to see a summary of your pet digital peeves.

Did you know that Metzger (NY senator Jen Metzger) is the German word for butcher? And poor Mr. Leland (the NYT author) apparently cannot tell gourmet (= someone who likes to eat well) from gourmand (= someone who likes to eat much).

Moreover, force-feeding looks much more cruel to beholders than it actually is to the geese and ducks. Just look at the animals how they behave when the farmer comes with the feeding hose—they're not scared, they don't panic, and they don't try to get away. Sure, it's detrimental to their health but then, being slaughtered at the end of the process even more so is. There's MANY deficits in industrial livestock farming—especially in (but not limited to) the mass production of cheap eggs, milk, and pork—that could use public attention, outcry, regulation, and betterment more than foie gras production.

[That is certainly true. Make every citizen witness the butchering of a few hogs and cows and there would be a flood of new vegetarians overnight. Along those lines, Note that the "grass farmer," profiled in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma ( https://amzn.to/2TCMDsY ), Joel Salatin, believes that everyone who buys one of his chickens should be responsible for killing it. --Mike]

There are two schools of thought to eating meats. One is that animals are there for human consumption and our responsibility is to rear them in natural as possible environment and harvest them humanely.

The other is to eat mock meat derived from plants. Some cultures have been using soy products and gluten for centuries. Ah..but then, do we know enough about plants to say that trees and grass don't feel pain when we cut and harvest them?

And where did that roll of film come from?

See what y’all did there? I’ve never seen that Dorothea Lange photo until this post. Quite a photo. And I’ve also never seen ducks being force fed. Yes, photography requires interpretation, and yes a photo takes a perspective. But geez what a magnificent and rich mechanism for witnessing, recording, and reporting it can sometimes be. Especially when it is shared, and carefully so.

I find her images to be too contrasty. The dark areas have little or no factual content which I miss given the subject matter, and even more so/out of keeping for a newspaper.

This discussion (Johnston-Tanaka-Millier-Tanaka-(Lopez)-Johnston) is for me TOP at its very best. And I agree with, and heed, Ken Tanaka’s advice - even though (hopefully) I’ll be 71 within a couple of months.

Mike - Do I sense an affinity for photos of poultry farmers? Back in 2013 you (um, well, an "anonymous judge") selected a photo of a farmer raising turkeys for frozen TV dinners as one of the "People Working" selects found here...


The b/w photo by Dave Levingston still remains one of my favorites.

BTW, a traditionally-trained photojournalist is told to "Tell your subject's story, not yours." Much, but maybe not all, of what is perceived as photographer bias is simply a reflection of the beliefs of the people pictured. I would hope that good writers uphold that philosophy also.

Regarding "vacant buildings...", that photo caught my attention more than the others - could it be dark because it was taken at night? At least it has that look...

See also Mary Beth Meehan portraits and notes:



Mike, to prove your point, take a look at today's https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/19/us/newnan-art-georgia-race.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage exhibit of portraits of diversity in a small Georgia town, along with the story of how the residents have reacted.

I'm guessing everybody is wondering where he got the hat.

I'm glad I checked back to read the comments. Maybe a follow-up or "bump" post is merited?

There's lots of food for thought here, but I'm newly struck by how asymmetric the relationship between image and story can be. Maybe there's a spectrum, with Lange's portraits near one end, demanding context to be properly read, while a photo like "Earthrise" might be toward the other end: the power of that image is the context it provides--to just about everything else.

I'm also reminded that photographs themselves are merely accurate, as someone (Avedon?) said, and realizing that it's the reading of them that is truthful or deceptive.

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