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Author Topic: Its all about the small details  (Read 38704 times)

jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #60 on: February 20, 2012, 09:40:55 pm »

Then Vanessa-Mae argues against the views of John Sloboda that musicality and interpretation can't be trained but must be genetically inherited, according to her views. Sloboda answers that he believes we all have these capacities and that somehow only a few mange to unlock these. He estimates nurture and training to be 75 % over nature. Vanessa-Mae rejects, saying that music is about emotion and that we are not robots, she says: 'I think it is belittling that a player is here, only because of the hours spent practicing.'

This reminds me of a cyclist I know. He once commented that if it was just a matter of practice, everyone could be as good as him. He's a World Champion downhiller BTW.
When you see him flow smoothly over technical terrain that others fumble over, you realise what a huge talent chasm there is between those who have the skill and those that don't.

I do however believe many people can become quite competent with practice. However being competent is a long way from being good and a heck of a lot further away from being exceptional.

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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #61 on: February 20, 2012, 09:54:27 pm »

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.
You would be driven insane if this forum was also done by email, as say the Adobe Pre-release forums are. Not only is the quote formatting all over the place but posts often have all the email add ons too and to cap it off there's the 'sent from my...' nonsense as if anyone cares.
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Dohmnuill

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #62 on: February 20, 2012, 10:11:11 pm »

Broomways' views are very similar to mine, and coincidental where he refers to Gainsborough. Not of major importance but an ancestor of mine commissioned Gainsborough to paint his family - the job, according to the records, was done in remarkably swift time. Unfortunately, the painting was sold about 100 years ago to fix up a gambling debt...oh, well.

His thought that, " photographers sometimes get a bit too precious about a process", is one I've often harboured. The "dimple in the snow" tale from Mark (and yes, I enjoyed his essays and hope Michael will find room for more) is a case in point. It seems to attach a whole quantum leap in the Importance of a shot to claim the success of an image revolves around one physically small detail.  It's as if taking out an impurity (perhaps only seen with the eagle eye of a Master..) then allows perfect crystal formation into another masterpiece. Wow. Such insight, such initial recognition that the scene was ripe for crystallisation.

Ndevlin mentioned hard work/luck in regard to "Moonrise at Hernandez". I read that AA had often travelled that road and had considered such a shot. The late and brief afternoon light on the stones was the eventual clincher.
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BJL

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Re: Its all about the small details and young Picasso
« Reply #63 on: February 20, 2012, 10:24:52 pm »

It is strange that so many people take the extreme positions of "it's all about innate talent" or "it's all about long, hard work". I see so many examples where talent showed young, but was then vigorously nurtured, and/or the talented child enjoyed the early accomplishments and so was naturally inclined to pursue that activity vigorously. And I happened to see an exhibit with some early Picasso drawings recently ... very good for a child, but his subsequent energetic studies and parental support certainly added a lot over the following years. Including some simple things like errors in proportion that any mediocre art teacher could fix, and did of course.

And of course there are other examples where clear early talent does not lead to much, due to lack of effort.
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #64 on: February 20, 2012, 10:32:57 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.
Oddly enough I completely disagree with you.  ;D
One innate talent you may have overlooked is the ability to learn [as is the drive to work hard]. Some people are very good at learning and those without that skill, tend not to do the good practice needed to excel at something.

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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
And there are those who can create great art, take wonderful photos almost as soon as they work out how to use a camera.
I'm pretty good with a camera, yet have had very little feedback on my work as such as I'm self taught and I am my main critic. One thing I did learn was that feedback may mean next to nothing about my work, as it was nothing more than a very personal opinion. I was once told that my colour work was great and should give up on the B+W by an art director, yet at the next magazine I visited that day, their art director said exactly the opposite.
Van Gogh famously struggled to sell his work and the Beatles were told guitar music is passe. Imagine if they had taken their critics advice and done something sensible. I also seem to recall that part of why the Beatles made the interesting music they did was because they didn't know the rules as they, like so many other successful bands just made it up as they went along. BTW I'm not comparing myself to either of these great artists - who aren't really to my taste either.

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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.
Did you ever consider that those who are talented at something may be fascinated/obsessed by the subject? I'm also seen many obsessives fail to be anything other than boringly competent. I think with creative endeavours, you either have that spark or you do not. You cannot teach flair.
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #65 on: February 20, 2012, 11:35:42 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.
His father being at art teacher is indeed significant as you normally tend to have to be quite skilled at art to do that job.  :P  So Pablo may simply have inherited that ability from his dad, which was then nurtured and not simply created by being taught art.

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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.
But what you fail to see is all those other kids who were also forced to do stuff from a young age and failed to become great. Also note Woods Sr was an athlete at college himself and Jackson Sr was also a musician. So sounds very similar to Picasso's background. Plus the offspring may have inherited the father's drive which is a key part in success.
I should also mention I followed in my father's footsteps in parts of my life too. In ways that were not learnt from him as I was completely unaware of this behaviour and did so in ways that were in my time culturally unusual. So not just coincidence either.

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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.
Ever heard of fashion? Art is just as fashionable as clothes, hence the stylistic differences. Which will then influence any teaching too.

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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." .......
Most parents think their Johnny is wonderful and encourage him, but no matter how much my parents would have encouraged me to draw, I would never have been any good. Oh and I was obsessed by comic book art and could recognise any artist by a couple of brush strokes. Never rubbed off on me though. In fact I was so bad at art [i.e. drawing/painting] it was dropped as a subject as soon as possible.
And yet despite nearly all parents thinking their kid is gifted, very few of us in reality are special.

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......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.)
Many good photographers are anything but nerds. Many very creative people are anything but nerd like. Website design shows up this difference really well, the nerds do the coding and the non-nerds do the pretty stuff. My observation in several different areas is that nerds can be very competent but rarely have the artistic flair that makes one stand out in the creative fields. As they are well...nerdy.  ;)
Personally I learn enough technical stuff, so I can then not think about it when taking photos.


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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?
I don't think you quite understand evolution. There is no gene for photography per se. A photographer as opposed to a GWC [guy with camera], simply has an aptitude that can be expressed through photography. I fell into photography completely by accident at 17. Never taken a photo before, but I had always been interested in visual arts and not through any adult pressure, it was simply my choice. As was photography.
Hard to say if you have an innate talent or not with regard to photography, as I do not know what your work looks like.

Another thing to think about is the higher than average number of left handed people in the creative industries. If you were to go by the number of lefties you see on our screens, you would never think that a mere 10% of the general population were sinistral. Were the people taught to act also taught to be left handed?

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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #66 on: February 20, 2012, 11:39:41 pm »

It is strange that so many people take the extreme positions of "it's all about innate talent" or "it's all about long, hard work". I see so many examples where talent showed young, but was then vigorously nurtured, and/or the talented child enjoyed the early accomplishments and so was naturally inclined to pursue that activity vigorously. And I happened to see an exhibit with some early Picasso drawings recently ... very good for a child, but his subsequent energetic studies and parental support certainly added a lot over the following years. Including some simple things like errors in proportion that any mediocre art teacher could fix, and did of course.

And of course there are other examples where clear early talent does not lead to much, due to lack of effort.
I don't think anyone is saying all you need is talent to succeed. Hard work is still absolutely necessary, but some people are thinking it's just the hard work that gets you to the top.
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theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #67 on: February 20, 2012, 11:54:26 pm »

Nature vs. nurture. To prove your point all you need to do is separate one from the other. The truth will most likely be somewhere in between.

But one thing is true, all generalizations are false.
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #68 on: February 21, 2012, 12:33:11 am »

Nature vs. nurture. To prove your point all you need to do is separate one from the other. The truth will most likely be somewhere in between.
Except you cannot nurture what nature has not provided.

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But one thing is true, all generalizations are false.
;D
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daws

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #69 on: February 21, 2012, 12:51:21 am »

But the idea of an inborn talent is simply laughable.

Meaning no offense, you really-really-reeeely need to read Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit: The Origin of Creativity and Belief, by the archaeologist, anthropologist and leading rock art expert, David S. Whitley.
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Lost

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #70 on: February 21, 2012, 01:10:30 am »

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.

You did not read what I wrote. The point was that the effects of obsessive practice applies to more than just the technical aspects of photography, and that it need not even use a camera in order to be relevant to taking effective photographs.

Fundamentally, the human brain is an amazingly plastic entity, particularly when young. When people refer to innate "talent", it is almost always because they are not aware of the myriad of processes that lead to the observed work. While there are inherent biological reasons why someone may be better at something than another, photography is a field in which utilises those inherent facilities that are most freely adaptable in people. Studies of musicians suggest that the most important characteristics for "success" (the definition of which is a whole different subject) are, as noted previously in the thread, down to practise. In music there are also physical constraints that affect success, such as dexterity and physiology (for example, jaw shape influences ability to play specific types of wind instrument). In photography, most of the things that matter are things that are amenable to learning.

The original article(s) make a very valid point: small details really do matter. However, I think that the examples given show more of the thinking processes of people who are completely absorbed in the photographic process than the importance of detail itself. Surely if someone was really talented he would not need to spend ages agonising over a few mm difference in framing - he would just mysteriously know what is correct...

Unfortunately, the entire concept of who or what is defined as "talented" or "successful" is mired in (like the article) personal and every changing cultural context. Rhine II, for example.

C Debelmas

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #71 on: February 21, 2012, 02:21:08 am »

The point is that we were not born equal (even though we are supposed to have equal rights - but that's another story). We are all different. And not only physically. And a difference when combined with an other may yield different abilities or behaviours. These differences may be ironed out by cultural, educational environments, practice, etc. But they may develop under the same conditions.

Nothing is white or black: it's all grey.

What could be proved as to whether talent or pratice prevails, should be proved statistically, on a very large basis and even so, only some correlations and trends might be revealed. So, please stop trying to prove anything with individual examples, be it Picasso, or Ansel Adams: it's nonsense. They can't even be true counter-example since they are never "pure" enough to be valid.
It is so intricate that there is no easy answer, easy in the sense that non specialists in an internet forum about photography could get THE answer.

Once it has been said that hard practice goes in the right direction when it comes to improving one's craft well above average and that some persons are better photographers than others, then maybe we could stop squabbling over personal beliefs and move to other aspects of MD's article?
For example, am I the only one who gets bored by the teacher's tone of the article? Who would prefer MD to tell us about his own experiments and pratice in such or such case? Or what kind of details are important to him when it comes to HIS way of making photographs?

Thank you in advance.

Christophe
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John Camp

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #72 on: February 21, 2012, 02:22:44 am »

In one of the books about talent and nature/nurture, a Hungarian guy named Laszlo Polgar decided to attempt to prove that nurture was more important than nature. So, he advertised for a wife who would be willing to go along with his planned experiment on his children, found a woman who was willing to go along with it, and they had three daughters. He then, from a very young age, had them heavily --- obsessively -- trained in chess. One of the daughters, Judit Polgar, is the strongest woman chess player in history, and has been rated as high as eighth in the world. She is an International grandmaster, and both of her sisters are highly rated players...grandmaster and international master, or something like that. Their mother had little interest in chess (she was a school teacher.) Polgar himself is a chess expert, but not a great player.

As far as such skills like downhill bicycle racing are concerned, those are physical skills. There's a limit to what you can achieve physically without inherited physical traits, just as there may be a limit to what you can achieve intellectually without inherited intelligence (this is less apparent, IMHO, than with the physical skills situation.) But neither of those inherited things can be called "talent." Talent involves achievement, and it's absolutely possible for a person with a genius IQ to wind up as a homeless alcoholic, and for a person with great athletic potential to spend his life as a couch potato. Inherited traits guarantee nothing, but open the door to certain possibilities.

I once wrote a book on plastic surgery, and ever since have been haunted by the question, "Can appearance be considered a talent?" In many ways, starting with what is essentially an inherited trait, appearance is cultivated and worked by some people much like an art form. How else to explain Marilyn Monroe?  

 
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Craig Arnold

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #73 on: February 21, 2012, 03:36:52 am »

Note that Gladwell does not suggest that all human activity is amenable to the 10,000 hours effect.

Some things clearly are: playing a musical instrument, or golf for example. These easily identified items share some very obvious characteristics; there are fairly easily measurable standards - often grading systems in every country, the yellow pages are filled with coaches, etc.

At the other end, some things are clearly not: for example using a light switch. Once given a few seconds instruction the principle is mastered and no amount of practice can ever make you any better at it.

The craft of photography is clearly more complicated than flicking a light switch, but is it amenable to the 10,000 hours effect? I suspect not. Once the principles and basic practice with the equipment is mastered I am not convinced that any more practice can make any meaningful difference. Perhaps one's skill with a Leica might be I suppose, never having to think about focus, never having to think about metering, etc. But as mentioned, that may not lead to anything more than perfectly sharp pictures of fuzzy concepts, and by purchasing a Nikon D4 most of that stuff is achievable by a novice with only a few weeks of instruction.

The art of photography is not obviously or unequivocally amenable to the 10,000 hours effect, even in principle. And if it is then it is not at all clear that practising photography is the best way to learn it. I am open to pursuasion, but I have not yet heard any case made as to how it could be.

The art side is clearly not an easy case - there are no recognised standards for measuring excellence, teachers of the art (though not of course the craft) are hard to find.

I suspect that the best and most interesting art emerges as the product of disordered or borderline minds, not outliers of performance.

(Actually this makes me quite hopeful for my future efforts; all I need to do is let go of my fingertip grip on normality and see what emerges.)  :)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 03:47:54 am by Craig Arnold »
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Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #74 on: February 21, 2012, 04:28:20 am »

(Actually this makes me quite hopeful for my future efforts; all I need to do is let go of my fingertip grip on normality and see what emerges.)  :)



Let me vouch for that technique's efficacy!

;-)

Rob C

Rajan Parrikar

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #75 on: February 21, 2012, 05:15:51 am »

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.)

A similar situation obtains in music, in Indian ragas in particular.  Expression (and hence the emotion associated) of a 'note' is a function not only of the central 'note' but of what follows, precedes, surrounds it.  I put 'note' in quotes because there is no satisfactory English translation for the Indian term "swara."

hjulenissen

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #76 on: February 21, 2012, 06:35:29 am »

Yup, I read the book and I disagree with my good friend Malcolm on the expansive definition of "10,000 hours" to gain expertise.  True for some areas but not others.
Can this be posed as a kind of "economic" question? Photography can never be "good enough", unlike aviation (always landing in time and not having an accident is perhaps "good enough"?).

If only the top 1% of photographers will ever be counted as "excellent", then no matter the advances in technology, one might assume that those top 1% will have to have extraordinary talent and/or stamina, or some other magic ingredient that the others lack. If 10.000 hours was needed to master photography in the 1950s, technology may be able to shave off hours to produce similar images today, but then peoples expectations rise, and you still have to put in those 10.000 hours (or some other scarce resource) to sell your work.

I think that talent and sheer luck can replace training. If the goal is to impress other people and/or sell your work and/or make a name for yourself in history, this can be done early in your career for some.

-h
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Dave Millier

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #77 on: February 21, 2012, 07:58:19 am »

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.

Yes, some of the 10,000 hours obviously needs to be spend on the craft side, so the photographer can so stuff readily without being consumed by the something as simple as focusing etc. However, the bulk of that time will need to be spent on identifying what photography you want to do, working out what makes it work (for you), practising so you get good at it, then pushing to the next level by adding something new or extra or trying for a slightly new approach etc etc.

There are presumably many ways to practise photography, mastering whatever techniques are pertinent, but one thing that can be practised by anyone (especially in these internet days) is to really look  at other people's work and try and figure out what are the common features of photos you like.  For example by doing this, I have gradually discovered (quite by accident) that I am strongly drawn to monochrome photography. Not just B&W but colour photography that is largely monochrome. I think pursuit of any pastime or profession is made a lot easier by understanding yourself first: what appeals to you and what you want to do. That way you can concentrate your efforts.

Are there many photographic masters that are equally regarded in multiple fields. I don't remember Ansel being well known for his sports photography nor HCB for his still life of graffiti but I guess there must be counter examples...



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Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #78 on: February 21, 2012, 08:38:13 am »

jjj

Remarkable, but as far as your recent input in this thread is concerned, I have to agree 100%!

Lot's of false arguments have been raised here to discount the worrying concept of talent; worrying, because it implies the existence of something that can't be bought or attained or derived from repetition. In other words, it's not egalitarian and must therefore be denied.

As I've said ad nauseam, photography has to be one of the easiest, most simple processes to learn: an ape could do it. Hell, even I managed that! The divide between photo-mechanics and photo-philosophy is vast. As for Picasso, if you look at his early work and then switch to the stuff he was doing when fame arrived, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled onto one of the greatest sell-outs in history. But that's probably not a popular argument either.

If you seek photographic examples of technique killing creatvity, then for my money, look no further than the classic Playboys! What did you find? What you discovered was beautiful freestyle glamour in the editorial pages contrasted with stillborn pyrotechnics in the centrefolds. And so it plays, time after time.

Rob C

John R Smith

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #79 on: February 21, 2012, 08:56:11 am »

Lot's of false arguments have been raised here to discount the worrying concept of talent; worrying, because it implies the existence of something that can't be bought or attained or derived from repetition. In other words, it's not egalitarian and must therefore be denied.

That is exactly correct. There are some things which simply can't be learned, or purchased, or, sadly, attained through hard work. Even 10,000 hours of hard work. I could give many examples from my own experience of wonderful and also not so wonderful musicians. Some people just have the "touch", and always have had it. My brother has always had this almost miraculous ability to pick up an instrument - any instrument - and not only be able to get a tune out of it, but also to sound good straight off. I think this ability is pretty much the same thing that makes a good photographer great. Ansel nailed it when he described "pre-visualisation". My brother can hear in his head what the music should sound like before he plays it. A great photographer knows what he wants the image to be before he even gets the camera out of the bag. This ability to create and conceive a picture in the mind - and then go and find it - is what it is really all about.

John
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