What practice you encounter when you look at a photo?
How you answer information technology may reveal what you find of import in imagery.
I was in one case in a gallery at a big Arizona Academy. We were looking at a show of a photographer who had only completed his Master’due south Caste and this was the work that was the culmination of his study there.
I looked at 8”x8” prints of lawns and sidewalks with pieces of string strewn near on the ground. There was a photograph of a piece of string on a sidewalk. It was entitled; “Slice of String on Sidewalk: facing North.” I remember that title to this day. I remember that image to this day. I am guessing you know why…
I was supposed to exist seeing some sort of transformational images dealing with self-discovery and the impact of the fracturing of our social system has had on the malnourished children of teen age parenting or some such bullshit. There was a huge iii canvas “creative person argument” that I briefly skimmed over before going to expect at the images. I was supposed to read the whole affair, I guess. My bad.
I saw a piece of string. On the basis.
A few prints down, that same piece of cord was on a well manicured lawn. I am certain it was the same piece of string and I wondered how it had migrated from the sidewalk to the lawn and if that social injustice had somehow pushed it there. I was shocked to notice that the title of this piece was “Twine on Lawn: facing South”. I was reasonably sure that it was the same piece of cord from the first image, but hither it was called ‘twine’.
I wondered about the importance of the name alter. Was it the destruction of the nuclear family or the inherent racism of large industrial complexes that had forced the string to change to twine… I volition never know, I didn’t read the damn artist argument that would have clarified it all.
In front of me, there were two obvious photography students. They were attentively going from one print to the side by side and chatting in hushed tones. As I drew closer I heard their comments: “Yes, this is definitely his Rollei, y’all can see how the grain looks in the highlights.”
Well, hell… who knew. I was supposed to be looking at grain construction in the highlights for a clue as to what kind of camera was used to make the totally insipid crap photos that had earned some kid his masters degree.
Certain as hell made more sense than trying to find anything of value in square prints of string on the ground.
As I was leaving at that place was a very dapper older woman with a over-sized pocketbook and lots of piled up hair (hey, information technology was the 80’s, so cut her some slack). She was gushing to some other woman over the images that were on display. “I am so glad he is out of school. This is the final function of his masters… I know he will be coming dorsum to …”
I was out the door and heading for the motorcycle past that time. I had come up all the way across town to see this bear witness, and what I saw was not what others saw. Not past a long shot. Mom saw an end to the main’s degree. Other photography students saw grain structure and photographic camera option, and I saw a huge attempt to present a pile of excrement as art. I tin but imagine how anyone willing to rent him would accept received shots of string on the basis. Still life? Nawwww.
I do non know what y’all would have seen. I don’t even know what the other people saw who were in attendance… it was kind of a hushful audience moving respectfully through the 30 or so pieces of cord on the footing with directional titles hanging with authority in over-sized mounts on white walls in a identify of ‘higher learning’.
I had to get back to the studio to shoot photographs of some Phoenix Suns.
Now think of a photograph. It is a photograph of two people embracing. One is grin and the other plain laughing. Information technology is in color and the 2 people are dressed up. What does that picture represent to those who view it?
Near will see cypher more than a snapshot. Two older people caught in a split second of time and really of no importance. It is neither compositionally exciting, nor does it have any cool post processing furnishings. The people aren’t famous, and it wasn’t shot by anyone famous either.
It is, in short, a snapshot. Non different the millions of snapshots taken each and every day by people wanting to capture a moment. Information technology will never hang in a gallery or be included in a show.
But I honey it. It is my mom and dad, and they are grin together. Rare, and rarer still that they are hugging and laughing. And I caught it. Snap. Mine. Forever.
What was intrinsic in the photograph was unknown to whatever other viewers, and then they bring their parameters and expectations to the image. Some may want to actually check the grain structure for whatever hint of Leica…
So we get into a discussion of fine art in photography and we outset to run smack dab into what the viewer is bringing to the experience. Because what the viewer brings to the feel is so much more than the image itself in and then many cases.
If I described for you a wall with 300 snapshots taped to it. Smiling people caught in all kinds of normal activity… washing the car, doing their daughters hair, schoolhouse snapshots, concern portraits, holding their dog or cat… uncomplicated pictures from existent life stuck to the wall. Absolutely nothing near the wall or the images themselves is more than mundane.
At present I tell yous that that photograph fabricated me cry. It nevertheless does.
It is a wall of the ‘missing’ after September eleven, 2001.
Can you expect at the image again in the same way? E’er?
We bring context to the images… the context of loss and terror and the realization that all those smiling people doing ordinary things are no longer with us.
1 more – imagine this epitome with me…
A woman in a swimsuit, obviously back in time: maybe the sixties. She is smiling on the edge of the pool and looking straight at the camera. Now concord that image for a few seconds before moving on to the side by side paragraph.
Viewer A sees a hot chick in a swimsuit.
Viewer B sees a photograph of a famous actress in her youth.
Viewer C sees a photograph of a woman that was his wife taken right later she was told she had a part in a major picture
Viewer D remembers when dad took that picture of his mom, the famous actress
Viewer Due east sees a historical shot of a immature upward and coming actress before she won the Academy Honour
Viewer F sees a hateful and arrogant woman who treated her desperately when she was a script daughter
Viewer K sees a very cool retro look that she may attempt on a model she is doing makeup on afterwards this week
Viewer H sees a decadence that is forbidden in his country and hates what it stands for
Same picture… so many ways to run across it.
What did you meet before I gave the examples.
The context of the viewer over-rides the paradigm itself, which is a lovely portrait of a woman just before she became a earth famous star.
Is that important to the worth, or value we place on the image.
After all, at that place are about a gazillion shots of girls in swimsuits. About a half a gazillion are uploaded to Flickr every 24-hour interval.
Many of those are technically amend, and many have ‘better’ lighting and perhaps fifty-fifty cuter girls…
But this movie is of someone nosotros all knew. Nosotros have a history with the bailiwick, not the photographer. Does that affair? Shouldn’t a photograph alive on its own merits, without a ‘backstory’? You will have to reply that for yourself.
I can tell you that an image is an image. Photographers tin can work their magic with the limerick, and processing and all the artful stylistic affect possible, and the viewer still has to bring something to the table.
Simply we keep to effort. Nosotros do. Nosotros want that experience we felt to be transferred over somehow. Nosotros hope and long for images that tell our story and invite the viewer in to present a lilliputian of theirs. We strive for context. Elusive, adaptive, hidden in plain site context.
So tell me – what practise YOU see in these five photos?
Photo by Bruce Barnbaum
Photograph past Garry Winogrand
Photo past Helmut Newton
Photo by Ansel Adams
Photo past Stephen Shore
There are no right or incorrect answers. These are all famous and well respected photographers and these are some of my favorite images. Accept some fourth dimension to really see them and so call up most what yous expected from the image.
Was it what the image promised or did y’all bring that expectation with you?
I remember it is fun and enlightening to await at and see photographs. Have every opportunity you lot tin can to look at photography, ask yourself what yous see. And look for the context for the epitome. You may exist surprised what yous see and take away.
Every bit always, I am available on Twitter, at my Facebook Page, and I do lighting workshops all over the land. Discover out more at Learn to Lite. I am off to Florida… scout for a live circulate from somewhere in Florida Monday. See the LE Alive page for more info.
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