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Author Topic: One Great Big Selfie  (Read 2491 times)

Rob C

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One Great Big Selfie
« on: September 05, 2017, 09:24:18 AM »

When I was young fashion photographer I used to enjoy it a lot (well, mostly, but greatly dependent on client), and I also enjoyed portraits. The two disciplines were kept apart, in my mind, as being different animals.

The funny thing about doing a longish stint of heads was that I realised that one could actually become a little bit body-blind, especially if not working with someone one knew quite well. As a result, the temptation was to shoot the two things rather apart, timewise, even during the same assignment, and not because of lens changes - just for the comfort of the inside of one's head. It was best getting the full-lengths over first. That was how it was most of my working life. Starting with head shots tended to enclose me in a safety zone from where the longer I shot the face, the less inclined I was to desire moving to the distractions and complications of body.

Recently, I have been attracted very much to the idea of doing portraits again, but can't find anyone that I really want to shoot (difficult, and more so every day) who wants to be shot, if you see what I mean. So nothing happens. Which of course, saves a lot of bother, one way or the other. One could consider this as being a little bit of a negative deus ex machina, if you will, something that saves me from the typist's chair and the monitor.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that for years I had been labouring under a delusion and a certain confusion of words: full-lengths, heads, portraits, when it comes down to it, it's all exactly the same thing - it's actually all a portrait of me, the shooter. I see proof of that in the body of work of each of my three most loved photographers, Sarah Moon, Hans Feurer and Saul Leiter - in no special order of merit. Each is making the same shot over and over again - probably as does anybody who has truly found himself. (I think that threesome has become a four: Peter Lindbergh has not only joined that elite group of beloveds, but also shows the same uncaring and undisguised repetition of story and obsession.)

And it doesn't stop at people. Pretty much everything at which I point a camera ends up being but a reflection of part of me, felt inside by me, accepted or rejected by myself.

I think it's safe to extrapolate here: everything any of us does is a bloody great selfie!

opgr

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2017, 09:43:16 AM »

Of course it is! Duh!

But i think you're referring to something even deeper or something more inexplicable, so i'm going to chew on this a little longer...
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Oscar

opgr

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2017, 11:03:08 AM »

I'm still chewing on it, getting stuck in the idea that one's photography is always a reflection of self.

But it does remind me of another project i was planning on executing one day. Depict every homeowner and their house/property in a single street or neighbourhood with the idea that the frontlawn/property is also a reflection of the people living there. Thereby extending a simple portrait to include a bit of context.

This might be particularly interesting for maybe english pensionados in your locale. There should be a common denominator that emerges from such a series, and if done well, the denominator should not necessarily be a reflection of self.... (Except in your case it might still be by virtue of your own background of course)
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Oscar

farbschlurf

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2017, 12:12:36 PM »

Interesting topic.
I'm too tired right now to write something reasonable in English right now, maybe later.

(One thing that comes to my mind, is a text that's in a book of late Avedon portraits, written by Avedon. Need to find the book and re-read that, first, don't remember exactly ...
EDIT: Seems I mixed that up, must be elsewhere and by someone else ... )
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 12:41:26 PM by farbschlurf »
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JNB_Rare

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 09:21:46 AM »

Inner-selfies, maybe. Soulies? Anyway, reflections of who we are rather than what we look like.

elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2017, 10:25:16 AM »

Photography's strength is that is NOT a reflection of self. Mechanical reproduction. August Sander, the Bechers etc.
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Rob C

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2017, 10:38:25 AM »

Photography's strength is that is NOT a reflection of self. Mechanical reproduction. August Sander, the Bechers etc.

You are joking.

The Bechers, in particular, brought their very own idiosynchratic pair of eyes to bear on their subjects, and even that choice of subject matter was self-driven.

Frankly, everything that somebody does, that requires personal input, can't escape personality unless you are talking about mathematics, but as I don't know much about that topic, I shall leave it to those who do to confirm whether or not mindset sets one off in a particular line of mathematical investigation.

;-)

Rob

opgr

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2017, 10:44:17 AM »

At the very least it is a reflection of what you do select to photograph vs what you wish you'd photograph. I keep reading stories about motivating oneself to get out and shoot. If you don't go out, then you clearly going to end up with a lot of interior pictures.

By the same token if you're an old geezer shooting young "chicks" from inappropriate or irrelevant angles, likely without consent, it also reflects directly on the mind of the shooter. And the conversations as a result of those pictures may very well be a reflection on the audience.
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Oscar

elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2017, 10:51:09 AM »

The best photography is an expression of the world, not the self. The self is an obstacle.
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RSL

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2017, 11:34:40 AM »

The world is full of random things, Elliot. Unless you're shooting something like a spread for an underwear ad, what you choose to shoot always depends on what you see— not what your eye sees, but what your spirit sees —  and how your spirit sees it. Rob's right. Amateur photography (and I use the term "amateur" in its original sense, meaning you do it because you love to do it), in fact any art, is a giant selfie.

elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2017, 12:55:40 PM »

'All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence.' - Andre Bazin
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2017, 01:13:04 PM »

'All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence.' - Andre Bazin
Bazin's writings (about film, not about photography in general) certainly constitute "One Great Big Selfie."

Two bits from Wikipedia:

"The long-held standard view of Bazin's critical system is that he argued for films that depicted what he saw as 'objective reality' (such as documentaries and films of the Italian neorealism school) and directors who made themselves "invisible" (such as Howard Hawks)."

and

"Bazin, who was influenced by personalism, believed that a film should represent a director's personal vision."

"Personal vision" sure sounds a lot like what Rob has been arguing.
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elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2017, 01:26:03 PM »

'The aesthetic qualities of photography are to be sought in its power to lay bare the realities. It is not for me to separate off, in the complex fabric of the objective world, here a reflection on a damp sidewalk, there the gesture of a child. Only the impassive lens, stripping its object of all those ways of seeing it, those piled-up preconceptions, that spiritual dust and grime with which my eyes have covered it, is able to present it in all its virginal purity to my attention and consequently to my love. By the power of photography, the natural image of a world that we neither know nor can know, nature at last does more than imitate art: she imitates the artist.' - Andre Bazin
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RSL

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2017, 02:26:12 PM »

Evidently Andre was good at beating his chest and posing. The statement you quoted sounds an awful lot like an "artist's statement" composed by an "artist" barely out of his teens. Unless he's willing to explain what he means by laughably vague phrases like ". . .the complex fabric of the objective world. . ." this whole quote is meaningless blather. It almost has me rolling on the floor laughing.

Rob C

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2017, 03:02:50 PM »

The best photography is an expression of the world, not the self. The self is an obstacle.

Interesting; are you then suggesting we just put the camera on auto-everything, switch on a motordrive and chuck the camera up in the air as it fires, thus removing all personal input bar, of course, location? How awkward, that last bit!

"The best photography is an expression of the world, not the self. The self is an obstacle."

Who said so, and why would anybody choose to believe that person? Without a director - the self - there is nothing, not even a blank frame. What on Earth does that mean - the world? Isn't the self part of said world; isn't one's view of the world governed by where the self takes itself and its body with it?

The self is not an obstacle; the self is both motivator and enabler; it's success or otherewise is governed by its abilities. C'est tout.

Rob

Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2017, 04:15:36 PM »

Evidently Andre was good at beating his chest and posing. The statement you quoted sounds an awful lot like an "artist's statement" composed by an "artist" barely out of his teens. Unless he's willing to explain what he means by laughably vague phrases like ". . .the complex fabric of the objective world. . ." this whole quote is meaningless blather. It almost has me rolling on the floor laughing.
Thank you for expressing exactly what I was thinking, Russ. The phrase "artist's statement" came to mind when I read the post.

Eric
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elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2017, 04:52:26 PM »

I just don't run with the idea, so often expressed on this forum, that successful photography is an expression of the self - a transmission of the photographer's thoughts and feelings as they press the shutter. It seems to me that the photographer must actually quieten his/her self in order to see clearly and to photograph clearly. This is what Bazin is saying in his famous essay. And this is what the Bechers were doing in their formulaic approach to their subject matter.

(If Bazin reads like an artist's statement, it's because Photo MFAs are channeling Barthes, and Barthes was channeling Bazin.) 
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elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2017, 05:30:17 PM »

The Bechers, in particular, brought their very own idiosynchratic pair of eyes to bear on their subjects, and even that choice of subject matter was self-driven.

The Bechers work is instantly recognisable, but does it make any sense to call it a self-portrait? Were the Bechers, as people, grey and grid-like? I don't know, but I doubt it. The strength of their work is that it allows industrial architecture to speak for itself.
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RSL

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2017, 06:56:09 PM »

I just don't run with the idea, so often expressed on this forum, that successful photography is an expression of the self - a transmission of the photographer's thoughts and feelings as they press the shutter.

Elliott, I have to conclude that in photography you're doing the equivalent of underwear ads. I'll grant you that that kind of photography usually isn't an expression of self. I hope that's true in your case.

elliot_n

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Re: One Great Big Selfie
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2017, 07:16:28 PM »

In the unlikely case that anyone is interested, a PDF of Bazin's short essay, 'The Ontology of the Photographic Image' can be found here:

https://canvas.harvard.edu/courses/8114/files/1671220/download?wrap=1
« Last Edit: September 06, 2017, 07:20:42 PM by elliot_n »
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