Our photography's major missing link

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by nianys, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    I read a very thought provoking post on my favorite blog yesterday, by portrait master Kirk Tuck, at The Visual Lab.
    Kirk was regretting the excessive emphasis put on the technical side of things. We all have the gear to produce perfect images, he wrote in substance, and many of us as worked up the skills as well. However, nobody seems very invested in content anymore, there's very little message or invention.
    I both agree and disagree.
    On one hand any current mirrorless or DSLR, and even some competent compacts, are capable of technically flawless images. What's missing to the vast hord of aspiring photographers is a keen eye and interesting subjects.
    On the other hand, I disagree with Kirk that every photograph should have a meaning or be ground breaking of heart stopping. A pretty picture is good by me as long as it holds decent visual appealing, is not technically completely botched, and was done with a sincere heart. You might conclude I have low expectations for us as amateurs. It's far from the truth.
    To be continued...
  2. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    I'll agree on the gear aspect. I'm trying to simplify my photographic life so I can concentrate on taking pictures. I've discovered since owning the 5N that I really enjoy manual focus. Couldn't do it with a dslr like I could with a slr lo those many years ago, but with focus peaking I'm back in the game.

    Some of my favorite pics are horrible technically. But they evoke a memory or an emotion, and isn't that really the whole point of taking pictures? :)
  3. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    That's the difference between personal and commercial use isn't it?
  4. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    You've never seen a magazine ad with a totally OOF background shot with text overlaid on it? :)
  5. kevistopheles

    kevistopheles TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 18, 2012
    Same here. I think it's easy to let all the really cool toys sidetrack you (at least it was for me). I have purposely simplified myself to the point where I work pretty much all manually (although I do have one AF lens) in an attempt to force myself into being more involved in the entire process. The main reason I went with digital over film is that it's a lot cheaper when you figure in the cost of film, developing and prints.
  6. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Kevin I agree with you, but that was not quite the point of Kirk's post. His main gripe that was while everybody was agonizing about gear and had, in fact, become techically very capable, little people were able to concentrate on actual creation. On photography as a mean of art and innovation. That we had forgotten the content aspect. He was wondering were were the Richard Avenon and Diane Arbus of today ?
    Well, while I admire their work very much (I actually rever the former, he's my hero photographer figure), I think not all pictures have to be work of art. And I personally have been emotionally moved in the past by kids or pets pictures, why not. The emotion comes when the photographer is sincere about what he shoots. That's why Kirk's portraits are so good to start with, he cares about the people he photographs. I think if everybody stopped a minute to think about what really floats their boat, and went out and shot THAT, we'd have more many great pictures to look at.
    I agree that there has been a much excessive emphasis on gear/technique since the rise of digital, maybe just because it has opened the craft's door to geeky types who normally wouldn't have been attracted to photographic creation, without the electronic component of digital.
    However, photography is a hobby for most of us, without the pretention of art. And, personally, in the genre that I'm sensible to, portraits, I feel a good portrait is never quite without a content.
    We all strive to find our style and a genre where we can express ourselves best. Yours lies in revealing the aesthetics of detail, mine in exploring a happy childhood to come to terms with my own, etc. Pondering over why and what we shoot should be a part of our photographic learning process as much as mastering exposure or framing.


    I repost my challenge entry for today as a signature of who I am as a humble hobbyist. I have no pretention or ambition of greatness. I just go on learning my craft and enjoying myself immensely in the process. And that's good enough for me.
  7. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    I agree with Kirk, with a caveat. I will just say from my perspective, I'm one of those idiots with gear but no time, because gear is always an easier stop-gap than skilling up, never mind trying to find content. Interesting content is by far the most time-consuming. I've shot all around my house and neighbourhood (both pretty small, and being public housing not a ton of character unless you like geometry, I don't), so it means going further out to get what "interests" me. And unfortunately I can't do that easily with a 6-month-old and first time mother who need me around. Even when I went to Brunei a couple weeks ago, it was all conferences, barely had time to go out, and when I did it was with people or my family so I couldn't really go lose myself in photography. Sadly, the pictures showed it. In two weeks' time, I'm going to Brussels on my own... I hope then I'll get some real time out after work, but again I fear I will be too exhausted and it'll be too cold (I live in the tropics!) and all kinds of other excuses will surely show up. Photography really is a solo game, and sadly very hard to find that solo time in this period of my life.

    But of course, the reason I got a camera in the first place was to track my daughter growing up. And yeah, the content is probably boring to anyone but me and my wife, but on that grounds, I'm extremely satisfied with what I've got. I've become a better photographer, I've got some fantastic shots (so has my wife!) and we pretty much have a week-to-week record of her growth in photos. I've found that when I take "arty" photos, they rarely evoke memories, when I take my daughter doing whatever it is she's doing, no matter how "boring" the shot looks technically, I love them. My cousin is a 5D shooter and he has far more experience than me, published printed books and everything. But when it comes to his daughters, I've only ever seen a few, and often they weren't technically great, but they were special even if not Cartier-Bresson quality. And so I think I'm not terribly far from where I can get realistically with my levels of time and skill, and with my limited time I have to concentrate on storing memories rather than making art.
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Photography has been around for a long time and is centered around the concept of recording images of the world around us. It is essentially documentary with a bit of art thrown in for good measure. How do you make a fundamental change to the images created through photography when it is based around recording real life in the real world? In 2012 it is hardly a case of "put down your cameras, all the good photos have already been taken". Photography changes because people change, the world changes, and the equipment that we use to record and view images change.

    My opinion is that a photographer is more historian than artist, which means that there is always fresh material waiting to be captured.
  9. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 9, 2011
    Weird to hear Kirk downplay gear when he himself has bounced around gear wise....
  10. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    My point of view is that the very rare times I came close to "art" was when I shot what is dear to my heart and which I do best : my kid growing up. That was my whole point, I guess. You don't have to travel far or do street or war jounalism to get worthy shots (unless it's what resonates with you). What will bring you the best shots is what is close to your heart.
  11. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    I like what Michael Reichmann (Luminous Landscape) has to say. He believes that the photgrapher should be able to say what his or her picture is about -- why he or she pressed the shutter release.

    Once you know that, you can decide whether it worked.

    As to art: If a picture reveals to others your vision of that piece of the world at that moment, then it's art.