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Author Topic: This has been said before  (Read 706 times)

TomFrerichs

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This has been said before
« on: August 08, 2017, 04:27:37 PM »

I know this post echoes remarks made here before, but I thought it was well written.

Quoting from his initial paragraph: What I want to write here is that I think the field of photography by those making art is changing in a disturbing way.

http://www.nealrantoul.com/posts/a-disturbing-trend

Tom Frerichs
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Rob C

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2017, 06:02:05 PM »

Thanks for the link; it makes good reading and also opens my eyes to an interesting new site.

I rather enjoy the fact that he's perhaps a bit too aware of his age - for the age he is - and that the real questions might come for him a decade or so later... In the meantime, I'm happy to read and enjoy.

This sudden concern about the actual value of making photographs these days is more widespread than might generally be appreciated. Spending too much time on the Internet, I come across the same thought quite a lot.

This could be an existential moment that we of the artistic bent are living through... perhaps we are sensing the ultimate extinction of our kind as what we do slips slowly away from us, to be replaced by some benign app that all can buy, and that will churn out a reasonable stock image of anything we can think of at least as well as can most photographers. We have no real reason to think otherwise.

Rob
« Last Edit: August 09, 2017, 03:55:17 AM by Rob C »
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luxborealis

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2017, 07:46:21 PM »

Timely, given recent discussions here.

I, as well, agree with much of what Mr. Rantoul says, including:
Quote
The titles of the work were usually the place and the year the images were made.That was it. The expectation was that the photographs stood on their own, were to be viewed and understood on their own terms, usually as single images sitting next to other single images.
and,
Quote
I find the story, the text mostly boring and condescending, telling me how to look at the photographs rather then letting the photographs do the talking.

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Cornfield

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2017, 02:49:30 PM »

Having read the piece and viewed a number of galleries on the author's site I'm left feeling lost.  In my opinion, his work is extremely mundane.  I don't get any inspiration from viewing his work.
 
I agree mostly with his comments about the work from the graduates.  Technical competency is sadly lacking in the work I have seen in recent years at degree shows.  It's now easy to produce images and quickly, manipulate them and call it art.  If the graduates had to produce photographic art using film and time in a darkroom we would see less of the banal "work".  In my view, great photography comes from a sound knowledge and application of technical skills combined with a vision for strong well-composed images that stand on their own with minimal words. 
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RSL

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2017, 04:00:53 PM »

Oh dear. First, a nitpick: Mr. Rantoul is old enough, though from my own standpoint he's just a kid, to know that the past tense of "sing" is "sang," not "sung," which is past perfect. But beyond that bump in the road, if he thinks what's happening to photography is isolated from the rest of art he needs to spend some time with painting, poetry and music, and if he thinks the young are more fatuous today than they used to be he needs to read Brooks Jensen's hilarious Letting Go of the Camera.

But beyond that, he starts to echo Brooks's April 27th LensWork magazine diatribe about the horror brought upon us by easy to use photographic equipment. See my The Horror of Technical Excellence. He says ". . .the practice of making pictures used to be hugely craft based." That's Brooks's argument too, and it's horse hockey. The practice of making pictures always has been based on, as Cartier-Bresson put it: "looking."

Bottom line: the problem isn't with the equipment or even with the youth of the practitioners. It's with the culture, which gradually is descending into babel. But not to worry. Somewhere down the line there'll be a crisis that will jerk things -- whatever things are left -- back onto the tracks.

So it goes.

Rob C

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2017, 05:46:14 PM »


But beyond that, he starts to echo Brooks's April 27th LensWork magazine diatribe about the horror brought upon us by easy to use photographic equipment. See my The Horror of Technical Excellence. He says ". . .the practice of making pictures used to be hugely craft based." That's Brooks's argument too, and it's horse hockey. The practice of making pictures always has been based on, as Cartier-Bresson put it: "looking."

Bottom line: the problem isn't with the equipment or even with the youth of the practitioners. It's with the culture, which gradually is descending into babel. But not to worry. Somewhere down the line there'll be a crisis that will jerk things -- whatever things are left -- back onto the tracks.

So it goes.

Yes, looking, but also seeing not only the physical "there" but the possibilities within that space under consideration.

I'd suggest that that's particularly the case today, with digital processing. It's certainly how my own stuff has gone: what exists in front of the lens is but a starting point. I still make a negative (file), yes, but less a negative in the "wet" sense, which suggests a definite, preconceived general end result, yet more than such a negative by offering a lot broader potential interpretation later on in the process.

Also, as I no longer have to come up with some specific shot to illustrate what someone else requires of me, I have a new freedom to experiment and to look at a much wider world and investigate it as I please. That means that I shoot in a far less constricted way, and have the opportunity of shooting something that seems to offer promise but may not really have it to give to me, but it doesn't matter. Nothing is lost, and as sometimes happens, that dud becomes background to something quite else. I'm slowly building up such a little gallery as one would a set of props for the studio.

If there's a problem today, part of it - for older photographers at least - is the ability to let go of the past and get into the new today. That doesn't for a moment mean forgetting all that's good about the past, but trying to make the most of what's additionally useful today. Nobody has to abandon their existing sense of values, just allow for its expansion. And it's not always an easy thing to pull off. I battled with myself over that for years, but such fights lead nowhere, and can cost you much hair.

A further point to make is this: subject matter/genre has a massive input into the range of possibilities you allow yourself. It also affects the ability of the final picture to have or not to have power to excite or otherwise interest. But that's a whole other can of worms!

Rob

RSL

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2017, 07:52:51 PM »

Right on, Rob. What you're saying makes me wonder how HCB would have approached things in the digital world. How much would his approach have changed?

StoryinPictures

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2017, 04:04:56 PM »

I think the ability to see is as difficult as ever.

But I don't think the craft aspect is completely easy quite yet. Easier, yes. But easy?

Masterful lighting (e.g. Dan Winters, Erwin Olaf...), not an everyday occurrence. Digital feedback helps reduce the learning curve and there is no Polaroid budget, but we still have a limited supply of master practitioners of the craft of lighting.

Masterful printing is still an elusive craft. If you have worked at it, you will understand. If you have not, there isn't much to say :). But, again, master practitioners are rare.

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Rob C

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2017, 05:01:14 PM »

Master anything is rare - always was.

Lighting is a sore point: how much is overkill? I always, in such matters, think of one Sante D'Orazio who remarked that whenever he sees a lot of lights on a gig he feels oh-oh! that's a bad sign! I tend to agree, and if anything, it's a blessing that digital has given us: we really do have a better chance to catch natural atmosphere. Of course, some studio work is totally outwith this kind of subject matter/natural treatment opportunity. (God, that sounds like a modern salesman!)

Then there's one of my other top guns: Peter Lindbergh. Looking at his making-of videos I get the distinct impression that he loves to create tents on beaches, bring along trucks of lights, and then do it all available without a tripod, often against black canvas that could just as easily - much more easily - have been strung up in the studio. Great stuff: impress the clients but get great pictures your own best way! ;-)

Wet printing was an art as much as craft: if you did enough of it every day, and I mean in the hundreds of hand-made prints a day, you soon, say within a couple of years, developed an instinct for both exposure and development. It became second nature and you could chat with other printers about something totally else and yet make good work without consciously thnking about it: you just were able to do it. I never did spend the same time on digital priniting - it came along long after I'd stopped printing anything seriously. So, when I did begin to play with it, I was rather disappointed. I could make very minute alterations that would have been absurd in the wet, but the thrill was gone, and art replaced by simple mechanics of try until it's right on the monitor, then tweak after that when it's dry. Which was also true of matt wet prints, if you were unlucky enough to have to make them sometimes.

So yes, you're right, except for the ability to see: it isn't something that's easy or difficult: you can or you can not, is all that's to it. Just like my broken, musical heart stuck within a non-musically-able body. How it goes, is all.

Rob

drmike

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2017, 05:30:58 PM »

... That's Brooks's argument too, and it's horse hockey. The practice of making pictures always has been based on, as Cartier-Bresson put it: "looking."

Bottom line: the problem isn't with the equipment or even with the youth of the practitioners. It's with the culture, which gradually is descending into babel. But not to worry. Somewhere down the line there'll be a crisis that will jerk things -- whatever things are left -- back onto the tracks.


I agree with you Russ, equipment, the tools of the medium are not the issue at all, personally I'll take all the help I can get from technology, so that I can just look and hopefully see. I also agree the noise level is very high but surely there is still quality being created although perhaps swamped by the noise.

I'm not so sure anything will create that jerk back onto the tracks - are those tracks still there? I think society has moved on and changed - worse, better or simply different?

I was a little depressed that he valued the craft of film technology so highly although the technology itself often forced care and reflection due to cost in monetary terms and perhaps more significantly time. Film is/was slow. The same care can be invested via digital. You don't have to have the camera on P in machine gun mode and I'm sure many photographers don't work that way and do think carefully before pressing the button.

Mike
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Rob C

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2017, 06:16:57 AM »

Having brought Peter Lindbergh to this thread:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXx1ol5rzls

Rob

GrahamBy

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2017, 09:16:45 AM »

Having brought Peter Lindbergh to this thread:

I notice the models are wearing shoes that are far too sensible to be allowed on a catwalk... too much risk of injury?

I also note the typical insolence of a smoker who believes that the world is her ash-tray. Maybe the city could slip a fine in an envelope for that butt left squashed on the sidewalk?
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Rob C

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Re: This has been said before
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2017, 06:18:50 PM »

I notice the models are wearing shoes that are far too sensible to be allowed on a catwalk... too much risk of injury?

I also note the typical insolence of a smoker who believes that the world is her ash-tray. Maybe the city could slip a fine in an envelope for that butt left squashed on the sidewalk?


Guess they must have been the rage when the thing was shot...

Duffy used to have notices in the studio discouraging bad ash habits. Apparently, one especially naughty model ignored it too long. Duffy had collected all the ash and ends, and as she was leaving, he told her she'd forgotten something, and he simply took her bag and emptied the crap into it. Nice.
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