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Tuesday, 05 April 2022


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Speaking of color in photography (and cine- and videography) these days, something that I've been completely over for some time now is the teal and orange color grading. It's virtually everywhere, and its become increasingly heavy-handed in use and application. I didn't mind, or even notice, per se, it's use in Michael Bay's Transformers, but now it's so ubiquitous that it's moved from what was once a best practice to a stereotype and now, a veritable trope. It's use is not only in color grading but in costume and set design...it seems EVERYTHING is teal and orange these days, it's use is particularly egregious for actors' skin tones. Personally, I'd welcome seeing a return to the use of color to support....LIGHT , rather than as a meme. Take a look at the paintings of John Singer Sargent or Jun Yasumoto's cinematography in Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy for examples. Let's leave the teal and orange where it belongs: on the livery of the Gulf Wyer Racing Ford GT40s, Porsche 908/3s and the all-conquering 917s.

This famous one should just meet the "not 100% happy" criterion ;)

How's this for "unhappy to be photographed?"
It was taken after too much time indoors during Covid.

[If looks could kill.... --Mike]

Here’s the story of the Johnny Cash finger photo by Jim Marshall. That one-finger salute is for the prison warden. https://www.wideopencountry.com/johnny-cash-middle-finger/

This post brings to mind a book I bought very recently (after watching this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onpOTfUMc_o&list=PLCwUehuxiZuWE2ttFSWlz6LEkI0I2XL91&index=10). The book I refer to is Fearless Genius by Doug Menuez. I think you'll like it.

I was gifted with the Phaidon book Portraits

There's no way I can usefully page through over 490 portraits in a day, or even a week.

Working through it at various times, I think it reveals a few things.

Afghan Girl was posed; she was not an unwilling participant. This is clear from the second photo of her on the back, obviously from the same session. [BTW, one or the other is reversed.]

It seems to me that most of the portraits are posed. In addition to the obviously self-conscious, the many repeated poses, compositions, even expressions, strongly suggest direction by an experienced portraitist.

Going through lots of them in a row gives the impression of endless repetition. Sure, a few are different and/or stand out in some way, but people from all over the world somehow become part of a sameness.

Winnow it down to no more than 10%, and one might have a very impressive set.

A talented photographer who is also good at self promotion.


About subjects not happy - the Karch/Churchill example is qualitatively different to me. In the other examples you mention, the power is on the photographer's side. In the Karsh portrait, Churchill clearly was a more powerful figure than the photographer. The quality of exploitation is quite different.

I just went through my copy of In Search of Elsewhere again, and I too find it uncharacteristically underwhelming. I don’t have much disdain for the print quality, considering the book’s reasonable price, but the content is sorely lacking. There are a few gems, but many (most?) images are simply far below what one expects from McCurry. McCurry’s Kodachrome work, and early digital, was the apparent height of his career. Much of his recent work lacks the “magic” he is known for. If there’s widespread Photoshopping being performed, then he’s really off his game.

However, Steve McCurry: A Life in Pictures by Bonnie McCurry is excellent. The printing is a bit better, although still matte, but the content is tremendously better. The text adds so much richness to the images and mythology of McCurry, even if there’s no mention of recent controversies (a considerable oversight, in my opinion). If one is even a minor McCurry fan, A Life in Pictures is worth consideration.

Tony Northrup is a photo gear reviewer known for click-bait videos. To say he "reported" on details of Steve McCurry's most famous photograph is incorrect. To say that he was "conscientious in his reporting" is even further from the truth.

Tony claimed to be reporting the "true story" of the Afghan Girl photo, but he did no actual journalism as far as I can tell. Rather, it appears he simply looked at the Afghan Girl photo and misread the Wikipedia article about it. He then used his own errors to make the photographer look like a menace, exploiting both the fame of the photo and the power of an implied "MeToo" exposé.

Among other things, Tony was wrong in claiming:

1) “According to Sharbat, she’s scared to death". Nope, she didn't say that. She told National Geographic she was angry, not scared to death.
2) Sharbat was pressured to "remove" her burka. Obviously untrue, because she wasn't wearing a burka.
3) "The outfit she was was wearing revealed her eyes but covered her face". Untrue. She was wearing a headscarf. A headscarf is not an outfit that covers the face.
4) “He poses her like an 80's glamour shot". Wrong because there's no glamour in it. She's just sitting. There's no evidence that Steve suggested anything other than a spot near the light, with a simpler background.
5) “Steve composes the shot with negative space at the top of the frame to allow it to become a magazine cover”. Obviously untrue. There's no negative space in the photo. That's why the magazine's logo covered Sharbat's hair and scarf, instead of hovering above her head.
6) "This photo does not represent journalism; it represents unpaid modeling". Wrong again. She isn't modeling anything. The photo is a portrait. Photojournalists have made portraits throughout the history of photography.

To understand Tony's methods, his video includes a portion of Sharbat Gula’s interview on Afghan TV that made Steve McCurry look bad, but he cuts the interview just before she expresses positivity about the famous photo being taken.

It's terrible that some people were fooled by a superficial clickbait video disguised as journalism. It's sad that the video continues to harm Steve McCurry's reputation.

New book by Stephen Shore you might be interested in…


I'm really amused by competitions stating that winning photos must supply releases for "each recognizable individual" if requested. A street photographer's joke, nightmare, whatever...

You might reject this as crass, or too much effort, or both, but many blogs set aside a "store" page, which is just a page of affiliate links to particular items. And this, you could have a permanent link to. (It could be an expansion of your "Purchase through..." page.) Plus, it might be handy for readers looking for a past recommendation.

Has the idea of consent changed in a time when any face in a photograph online or in print can be identified, often geolocated and the knowledge used for any purpose--legitimate or not--without the subject or photographer's knowledge, let alone permission? Put that picture on social media and half that work will be done automatically. Even with no photographer around, that face may be photographed a dozen times that day by surveillance cameras or caught in a casual snap of somebody or something else that'll end up online.

Dason wrote: “ It's terrible that some people were fooled by a superficial clickbait video disguised as journalism. It's sad that the video continues to harm Steve McCurry's reputation.”

I’d never heard of Tony Northrup prior to Mike’s post and I agree that his video appears to be sloppy—though i don’t agree that it was cynical clickbait. But I don’t think it’s very important. McCurry has destroyed his reputation all on his own by misrepresenting his work for decades.

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