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Author Topic: Its all about the small details  (Read 37741 times)

Broomways

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #40 on: February 20, 2012, 05:22:47 am »

It seems to me that this second article makes a whole lot more sense than the first; at least I could understand the thrust of the message and the arguments put forward. The language is far less airey fairey this time.

The use of HCB and Ansel Adams was very interesting, but actually seemed to be counter to each other. AA may well have considered himself a photographic artist and spent much time in post-production (as well as the taking processes) to achieve his 'art'. HCB on the other did not. He is well known for not wishing participate personally in developing his film or printing; that was all carried out by others. Neither did he spend time agonising over cropping, insisting that most of his photographs were published with borders indicating that no cropping had taken place. The impression that I have is that HCB did not consider himself a photographic artist; that is a label given him by others. As he started off as a proper artist, in drawing and painting, and ended up doing the same after quitting photography, one must assume that he felt photography was not a methodology for producing true art.

If you haven't guessed already, I am firmly in the HCB camp. Don't be too quick to press the shutter, fine. But once done, don't use up my four score years and ten agonising over the image with Photoshop. Then again, I don't photograph to sell, maybe that's the difference. Perhaps people won't buy work unless they feel the photographer has spent 10,000 hours fine honing his 'art', has shed blood over fiddling with masks and layers, to dimple in snow or not to dimple, and so forth.

One last thought. Jobbing masters like Gainsborough, Constable, Hogarth and others, often worked fast. The quicker they finished a commission, the quicker they could move on to the next. Paintings were regularly delivered to exhibitions still wet, or not yet finished (they often finished them on the wall!). They were in such demand as artists that they couldn't afford (literally) to dither. They used their 10,000 hours of experience not to prolong the process of their creation with endless changes, but to get the job done as quickly as possible. I would argue that HCB is more like the past masters than AA. Pragmatism and art have always been synonomous and I think that photographers sometimes get a bit too precious about a process that, to HCB anyway, ended in the sub-second opening and closure of the shutter.
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NikoJorj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #41 on: February 20, 2012, 06:30:14 am »

The impression that I have is that HCB did not consider himself a photographic artist; that is a label given him by others.
That could be better studied in a Art History thesis ; but some elements, as his famous quote "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." could lead me to think he considered himself doing a form of art, even if he did certainly not use the same kind of craftmanship as Ansel Adams did.

The reference to Henri Cartier-Bresson is indeed very interesting in Mark's essay, as it seems to me that HCB, while on the one hand agonizing over the composition and timing of his images, did not care so much about some others technical details, eg optimal sharpness (eg this one, and more generally the compromise of using a small-format camera).

Is it that all of the small details count, or some small details count depending on what you intend to show?
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Dave Millier

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #42 on: February 20, 2012, 06:53:39 am »

I think that it would be more appropriate to state it as the 10 year rule? After all who would be able to count all the hours.  

No one seems to have quite got this 10 year/10,000 hours idea right so far. There's an additional factor: the 10k hours aren't just hours spent practicing, they have to be hours spend pushing the envelope, going where the practioner hasn't been before.

One of the better illustrations I've seen of this is the example of amateur golfers. It is apparently quite common for keen, determined amateur golfers to quickly rise to a decent standard then get stuck. The obvious explanation (normally assumed) is that they improve to their natural limit. The 10,000 hr proponent's interpretation is quite different and goes like this.

At the beginning, when motivation is very high, the newbie golfers practise intensely despite the obvious difficulties of starting a new skill. They improve rapidly at first. Then, when they reach a certain level of proficiency, they stop improving, quite suddenly.  However, it's not that they stop practising. No, they keep that up, and likely still feel they are working hard to improve but they make no further progress. At this point is quite normal to get frustrated and blame the lack of development on the limits of talent.

What the 10,000 framework says is what has happened is a subtle change in their practice regime. Instead of constantly pushing beyond their skill level, they start repeating the things they can already do.  And that is apparently the key factor of the idea: it's not practice as such that is important, but practising what you can't currently do...
 
The reason this happens to people is primarily motivation limits not talent limits. Because they reach a level of skill where they can play well and have enjoyable competitive matches sub consciously they relax because they are satisfied with where they are. On the conscious level, they still recognise that practice is necessary but because constantly pushing the envelope is mentally and emotionally demanding the young golfers take the easier route of practising what they can already do instead of slowly learning new skills. And that is why they stop developing.

With the photographic field, the idea there is "talent" that cannot be achieved by practice translates into "a skill that can be achieved but only by people who are prepared to put the effort into working on things they can't currently do, inch by inch, remorselessly for a very long time...".

That is not to denigrate the existence of raw, precocious talent, it is certainly around. However, it is quite rare that precocious talent translates into world class life success, as many long term studies of "genius level IQs" have shown. People tend to romantically imagine there is no substitute for natural talent but the real world usually shows that there is really no substitute for obsessive determination...


EDIT: Sorry, should have read ALL the posts before pontificating.  Gladwell's ideas are obviously reporting prior research but yes the term I was looking for was "deliberate" practice.

« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 06:58:48 am by Dave Millier »
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Christoph C. Feldhaim

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #43 on: February 20, 2012, 06:57:43 am »

The shocking truth:

The human race is inherently lazy ..... by nature ....

32BT

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #44 on: February 20, 2012, 07:46:28 am »

The shocking truth:

The human race is inherently lazy ..... by nature ....

+1

I think the true artist differentiates himself or herself, not because of mere practice in combination with some innate talent, but primarily because the true artist knows what they are looking for. And know what goals to set. And then of course to have the proclivity and persistence to actually try to achieve those goals.

Practicing 10000hrs may be required, or it may not. But one thing is for sure, obsessing over 1/16th of an inch is not an example of meticulous craftsmanship, it's simply indecisiveness, possibly because a sharp image of a fuzzy concept can never be cropped properly…
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PierreVandevenne

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #45 on: February 20, 2012, 08:46:44 am »

No one seems to have quite got this 10 year/10,000 hours idea right so far.

But of course you did  ;)

That's probably because it's just a memorable shortcut for a vague notion for "a lot of work for a long time for most people _if_ they can achieve anyway".

Anyway, this, the HCB  quote and the AA quote are just there to enliven the piece: this is an opinion piece, not Wiles demonstration of Fermat's last theorem. And even if the HCB quote sounds even more unrelated to the  issue and ambiguous in French than it does in English - it's the kind of open ended stuff recognized artists often say to journalists in order to leave room to interpretation...

I believe we should cut MD some slack: his article is a perfectly reasonable and moderate (compared to previous ones) opinion piece.


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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #46 on: February 20, 2012, 11:19:20 am »

this is an opinion piece, not Wiles demonstration of Fermat's last theorem.
Ooh! I'd love to read whatever Mark might have to say about Fermat's last theorem!     ;D
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #47 on: February 20, 2012, 12:35:25 pm »

AA may well have considered himself a photographic artist and spent much time in post-production (as well as the taking processes) to achieve his 'art'. HCB on the other did not. He is well known for not wishing participate personally in developing his film or printing; that was all carried out by others. Neither did he spend time agonising over cropping, insisting that most of his photographs were published with borders indicating that no cropping had taken place.

Yes!

It's so well known that it's reported in The New York Times obit - "He insisted that his works not be cropped but otherwise disdained the technical side of photography; the Leica was all he ever wanted to use; he wasn't interested in developing his own pictures."

If there's still any doubt about his lack of interest in developing and printing, we can just watch Cartier-Bresson answer when Charlie Rose says You never printed your own photographs? (@04:55)

The real Cartier-Bresson is being re-shaped to fit the "Everything matters" slogan.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 01:00:29 pm by Isaac »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #48 on: February 20, 2012, 12:36:07 pm »

so we can keep Slobodan Blagojevic happy.
...

I think that would take more than 10,000 hrs? :) ;)



Ha! You got that right! I spent definitely more than that, my whole life journey practically, and have not gotten there yet. Admittedly, there were some shortcuts I took, some forks in the road, brief stops and detours that, for a moment, I thought will get me there, but, alas, it turned out to be just another mirage.  ;) :D ;D ??? >:( :'(

On a related note, isn't it quite amusing that the Spanish word "ilusion" actually means "hope" in English?

And on an unrelated note (to my happiness, that is), here is a corollary to my 3rd kind request to posters using quoting:

Please note that a quote has the beginning and the end, denoted by the following convention: [ quote ] ...[ /quote ]. Omitting either one will just blend the quote with your own text.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 12:43:12 pm by Slobodan Blagojevic »
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #49 on: February 20, 2012, 12:54:10 pm »

... some elements, as his famous quote "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." could lead me to think he considered himself doing a form of art, even if he did certainly not use the same kind of craftmanship as Ansel Adams did.
Yes, Cartier-Bresson doesn't seem to have been fond of labels - neither photographer nor artist but just a sensitive receptive human being (July 6, 2000 interview @08:08).


The reference to Henri Cartier-Bresson is indeed very interesting in Mark's essay, as it seems to me that HCB, while on the one hand agonizing over the composition and timing of his images, did not care so much about some others technical details...
Perhaps not agonizing but "perpetually evaluating" - "A photographer’s eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of the knees. By placing the camera closer to or farther from the subject, he draws a detail. But he composes a picture in very nearly the same amount of time it takes to click the shutter, at the speed of a reflex action."
p385 Photography in Print, excerpt from The Decisive Moment 1952


Is it that all of the small details count, or some small details count depending on what you intend to show?
iow Cartier-Bresson is a counter-example to the "Everything matters" slogan.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #50 on: February 20, 2012, 12:59:32 pm »

... I disagree with one part of Mark's essay - the image on the white background looks more contrasty to me, see Bartelson and Breneman (1976) who observed that perceived contrast not only increases with luminance levels but also with the lightness of the surrounds. (From Color Appearance Models by Mark D Fairchild, 2nd Ed, ref 6.9.)

Indeed Nick!

Funny how nobody else spotted that, but everybody noticed power cables (in the first installment), although getting this right (i.e., human perception) is so much more important for photographers.

But I think it just might be an honest mistake (i.e., writing "on the right" instead of "on the left"), in which case he should correct the article.

And for the reference, in addition to Nick's source, you can check "Perception and Imaging" by Richard D, Zakia, page 132, 3rd edition.

lenelg

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #51 on: February 20, 2012, 01:08:51 pm »

Research on "expertise" comes down strongly on the side of the ten year/10 000 hour rule, rather than native talent. For a pop version, see http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/110/final-word.html
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #52 on: February 20, 2012, 01:15:46 pm »

Research on "expertise" comes down strongly on the side of ...
Which research? ;-)     "Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters"
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Lost

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #53 on: February 20, 2012, 01:35:41 pm »

It is not, as others have rightly pointed out, a measure of talent, but rather competence. A mediocre photographer in his 11,000th hour will produce technical stellar but boring imagery.

I disagree fundamentally with this.

If you spend your 10000 hours playing with the mechanics of the camera, then yes, this is what would result. However, if you spend your 10000 hours taking photographs - looking and thinking about the image and how to improve it, you will produce "better" photographs, where "better" depends on what your interests are.

Fundamentally, the quality of the photography depends on the amount of time spent in concentrated effort and the feedback channel used to assess the result.

I also disagree strongly with the notion of inherent talent dominating everything. In my experience, what people call talent is largely down to an almost obsessive interest in a subject. In visual art, that does not just mean "time spent clicking a shutter" - it means time spent using your eyes and thinking about what you see in terms of its visual impact.

David Watson

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #54 on: February 20, 2012, 06:14:57 pm »

Research on "expertise" comes down strongly on the side of the ten year/10 000 hour rule, rather than native talent. For a pop version, see http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/110/final-word.html

Yes agreed but only in respect of expertise being defined as craft and not talent
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David Watson

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #55 on: February 20, 2012, 06:21:39 pm »

I disagree fundamentally with this.

If you spend your 10000 hours playing with the mechanics of the camera, then yes, this is what would result. However, if you spend your 10000 hours taking photographs - looking and thinking about the image and how to improve it, you will produce "better" photographs, where "better" depends on what your interests are.

Fundamentally, the quality of the photography depends on the amount of time spent in concentrated effort and the feedback channel used to assess the result.

I also disagree strongly with the notion of inherent talent dominating everything. In my experience, what people call talent is largely down to an almost obsessive interest in a subject. In visual art, that does not just mean "time spent clicking a shutter" - it means time spent using your eyes and thinking about what you see in terms of its visual impact.

This is total BS.  A talented photographer will take great pictures if they have a high degree of craft skills.  They make take great pictures without any craft skills.  An untalented photographer with craft skills may occasionally be lucky and take a great photograph but it will be only luck.

Photography is an art form that is enhanced by craft. It is no longer a craft that is enhanced by art.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #56 on: February 20, 2012, 06:32:30 pm »

... Photography is an art form that is enhanced by craft. It is no longer a craft that is enhanced by art.

Ah, the seductiveness of wishful thinking!

John Camp

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #57 on: February 20, 2012, 07:28:31 pm »

Most people who disagree with the 10,000 hours concept (and it's only a general concept) will cite examples of people who allegedly have this inborn talent, like the guy earlier in this tread who mentioned that his father was an excellent draughtsman at 14. Well, Picasso was allegedly a fine draughtsman even earlier than that, and because Picasso is so well-known, and obviously some kind of genius, his career has been traced back to its beginnings. And what do we find? That his father was an art teacher, and that Picasso had art training that went back to the time he was a baby. You see that all the time in instant, over-night, youthful success. Tiger Woods went on a national TV show, with a golfing demonstration, when he was *two years old.* Do you think that he organized himself into such a show? No: he was trained to play golf from the time he was a baby by his obsessive father, Earl. By the time he won the masters, he'd been handling golf clubs for two decades. Or look at the history of Michael Jackson, who became a leading member of a national music act when he was six years old -- and who said later that he'd been physically abused by his father (who played in a part-time R&B group) when he didn't perform adequately during incessant rehearsals.

If there's such a thing as inborn talent, then why are the paintings of western Europeans so different than Chinese paintings? Is there some kind of racial "talent" that changes an appreciation of the laws of perspective? No, there isn't -- the art forms are different because the Chinese training is different than the European training. Not better or worse, just different.

I can even tell you how it happens. A kid picks up a crayon, and his parents say, "Ooo, he's talented," and encourage him, and he works more with crayons and pencils. He finds himself distinguished from his school mates by his ability to draw, and so draws more, and becomes known for his drawing skills. Then, at some point, because of personal discipline that it is instilled in him, a personal drive, he begins the disciplined practice that results in what is often called "talent." He gets it the same way young obsessive "nerds" find friendship in computers and become obsessive computer users, and eventually brilliant programmers. They're not born with a talent to program -- you can actually watch it blossom. (I should add here that I am of the school that believes that very little worthwhile is accomplished by people who aren't nerds. You show me a genius in anything -- or even just a high-level performer -- and I'll show you a person who carries a strong strain of nerd. And that includes great athletes.)

But the idea of an inborn talent is simply laughable. I inherited a gene for photography? Where did that come from, in the past million years of human evolution? From primeval Leicas?

JC
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 07:31:08 pm by John Camp »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #58 on: February 20, 2012, 08:21:12 pm »

... I can even tell you how it happens. A kid picks up a crayon, and his parents say, "Ooo, he's talented," and encourage him, and he works more with crayons and pencils. He finds himself distinguished from his school mates by his ability to draw, and so draws more, and becomes known for his drawing skills. Then, at some point, because of personal discipline that it is instilled in him, a personal drive, he begins the disciplined practice that results in what is often called "talent."...

A concept known as "cumulative advantage", also mentioned (but not invented) by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

ndevlin

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #59 on: February 20, 2012, 09:08:19 pm »


Great photography is a coincidence of many factors.

Take Moonrise Hernandez (since Duby's failed to spark a flame war with this article, let me posit that this is the greatest landscape image of the 20th C.  :P).

The creation of that masterpiece required: (i) hardwork/luck in being there; (ii) talent in seeing and then composing the image and (iii) the technical mastery of the 10,000 hrs to capture it on 8x10 film in a handful of seconds.

- N.
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