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Old 17th September 2010, 07:38 AM
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Post What is wrong and right?

Hey guys, I have a question regarding to photography as a subject. I am a student and I must admit that sometimes I struggle because I donít get the real point of photography. Over the years Iíve been doing photography I think Iíve learnt to recognize a good photograph but mostly it just means visually nice picture. The real problem for me is that I donít know what creates a great image and none of my tutors at school ever talks about that. Of course I leave behind advertising photography or any kind of photography which uses camera only as a Ďtoolí and as such can easily create nice image only with the help of creative mind and technology. What I mean is the kind of photography which wonít let you sleep at night, the kind which will make you spend hundreds of pounds on films and waste hundreds of hours a year in a rain, cold, heat and sweat and the same amount of hours in darkroom or in front of computer trying to create something special. At the end when from all your best work you select the top one or two photographs and show it to some other photographer or some - in art educated Ė expert he tells you to throw it to the bin because it is just a piece of garbage. I am not trying to justify any bad work (it didnít happen to me) but I would like to know what is it that makes the specialist say that this is a great piece of work..?? I think I also need to ask what the point of photography is; again, I donít mean the pleasure of taking photographs, but why do we create images at all?? Is it to freeze time? Or for the pleasure of looking? Or just to record something we are attracted to? If so then who is to say what image is wrong and what image is right? - I am aware that this sentence could easily be abused to justify any bad work but this is not the case. I really would like to know what you think about this because it bothers me a lot; not just that I donít know what the point of my work is (apart from making me feel good) but also it makes my life at school hard; when we meet for our group critique one of us presents his or hers images and our tutor pick someone and asks ďso what do you think?Ē Lately I donít really know what to tell him anymore because I either like the image or not; but if he wants me to look for some hidden ciphers in there I think he picks the wrong guy. Tell me please what your opinion is and if you think I do something wrong.
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Old 17th September 2010, 08:26 AM
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What sort of photography are we talking about here ? Applied, Contemporary, Visual Art, Creative, Sport, Portrait, commercial etc, etc ?

In my experience Contemporary, Visual Art and Creative are the hardest to define as it is all down to personal interpretation and how you see things. To complicate matters further you can also have a creative sports image, a contemporary landscape or a portrait made with visual art in mind and many other combinations as well. Like most things in the art world there is no magic formula for a successful creation - if there was we would all be extremely successful in our chosen form of photography.

One thing that runs true with most art work (visual and performing) is after a while you develop a style that is unique and people start recognising your images or performance before they learn that you create the work.

If you provide some more information on the type of photography you are talking about I am sure you will receive some very worthwhile responses to your question.

Neil.

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Last edited by B&W Neil; 17th September 2010 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 17th September 2010, 08:33 AM
Kev M Kev M is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akyiia View Post
Hey guys, I have a question regarding to photography as a subject. I am a student and I must admit that sometimes I struggle because I donít get the real point of photography. Over the years Iíve been doing photography I think Iíve learnt to recognize a good photograph but mostly it just means visually nice picture. The real problem for me is that I donít know what creates a great image and none of my tutors at school ever talks about that. Of course I leave behind advertising photography or any kind of photography which uses camera only as a Ďtoolí and as such can easily create nice image only with the help of creative mind and technology. What I mean is the kind of photography which wonít let you sleep at night, the kind which will make you spend hundreds of pounds on films and waste hundreds of hours a year in a rain, cold, heat and sweat and the same amount of hours in darkroom or in front of computer trying to create something special. At the end when from all your best work you select the top one or two photographs and show it to some other photographer or some - in art educated Ė expert he tells you to throw it to the bin because it is just a piece of garbage. I am not trying to justify any bad work (it didnít happen to me) but I would like to know what is it that makes the specialist say that this is a great piece of work..??
Part of the answer will be why you took the photo in the first place. Essentially it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks (unless you're trying to sell it to them) providing you are happy with it. I've got photos hanging on my wall that would be mocked at a club competition and slaughtered by an "expert" but frankly I couldn't give a toss. I like them, faults included and that's what counts.

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I think I also need to ask what the point of photography is; again, I donít mean the pleasure of taking photographs, but why do we create images at all??
Don't dismiss the importance of just being out with a camera. I like collecting things, I like understanding things and I like spending time on my own. Photography meets all of these criteria. I went out on my own to the National Memorial Arboretum the other week with some specific shots in mind (and it's not very often I have an idea before I set out) and it was pretty much a disaster from beginning to end. I forgot the take up spool for my film back so had to waste one roll of film before I'd even started. I got wet from the rain, I got sore feet from walking around, then I went home and developed one of the two films which turned out to be trashed, either at the taking stage or the developing stage (was trying a new developer and I've been too scared to develop the other because of it). But none of that really takes away from the fact that I had a very nice day out with my camera which gave me a lot of enjoyment and helped me relax.

Quote:
- I am aware that this sentence could easily be abused to justify any bad work but this is not the case. I really would like to know what you think about this because it bothers me a lot; not just that I donít know what the point of my work is (apart from making me feel good) but also it makes my life at school hard; when we meet for our group critique one of us presents his or hers images and our tutor pick someone and asks ďso what do you think?Ē Lately I donít really know what to tell him anymore because I either like the image or not; but if he wants me to look for some hidden ciphers in there I think he picks the wrong guy. Tell me please what your opinion is and if you think I do something wrong.
I feel your pain. I look at a lot of photographs online and in magazines and think "so what?" yet they're winning £20,000 prizes. I like images that I can understand and get pleasure or pain from immediately, I really can't be bothered with trying to think too hard about some surreal hidden meaning. Then again, perhaps I'm just an uneducated Luddite.

When you're offering critique you're only offering your opinion which is neither right nor wrong, it's just yours and don't be afraid of offering it.
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Old 17th September 2010, 08:36 AM
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Originality.

One of the main criteria for judging work is how far the artist is pushing the boundaries of that particular medium.
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Old 17th September 2010, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by B&W Neil View Post
What sort of photography are we talking about here ? Applied, Contemporary, Visual Art, Creative, Sport, Portrait, commercial etc, etc ?


.
Unfortunately it is mostly Contemporary and Creative photography; the way it works is that our tutor gives us some topic and we have to produce series of images. I, for example likes to create photographs based on and my own experience and momentary feelings; so in a way I think it is art/creative photography. Just to show what we have to do: our very first project was called 'city spaces' and this was divided into 3 parts. 1 - interaction, 2 - transformation, 3 - inhabitation. The main point was to do research and then get ourselves to the city and produce some work. BTW, the interaction was real pain because we actually had to interact with strangers in streets (and take their photo) and it was really hard because most of them just told us to be fruitful and multiply (not in those words) So in a way our school give us a great freedom and it is up to us but on the other hand it is very hard to pass any judgment on other people work because we basically are not connected to their work.
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Old 17th September 2010, 09:40 AM
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This is one of those questions which has many answers, ask a 100 people get 100 different answers.
If we are talking fine art photography and particularly photography to get recognition on a degree course. Then it seems at this moment in time, what is required to keep most lecturers happy, is an idea that is well thought out (no matter how mundane or minimal, though it doesn't have to be!) and you show that you have researched your subject, and have a clear idea/direction of what you want. They like you to show your thought process, from inception of the idea, through the research of that idea, to completing the project. It certainly helps if you are positive about the work you are producing, if when questioned about your work you show any doubt about the outcome of that project, you tend to be marked down or given a not so complementary critique.
I have seen people enthuse about a project photographing house bricks, and who could tell you their reasons for undertaking such a project and the meaning behind it. This type of photography is not for everyone, it is not something that floats my boat, but I can appreciate the work that has gone into producing the work.
Confidence and belief in what you are producing are the most important things, the best person to photograph for is yourself, if other people like the work it is a bonus. That is easy to say but harder to follow, because most of us like to produce work that is liked, admired or appreciated in some way. It is certainly more enjoyable when you have positive feedback than negative, but the latter should never stop you doing what you prefer, trying to please others doesn't usually pay off financially or spiritually.
Don't over analyse what your doing it usually kills any creativeness. We can't be brilliant from word go, its a journey that takes time, and part of that journey is the not so successful projects as well as the successful ones.


I hope this makes at least a bit of sense but even if it doesn't, it does to me and thats the point


Neil
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Old 17th September 2010, 10:04 AM
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This can be a maddening aspect of photography or any other artistic path I guess. I suppose you decide what your subject/approach is going to be and then find an audience that will appreciate it. I used to be keen to impress camera club judges but now I am getting more interested in the contemporary approach, but where is the audience for that style of work (certainly not at my camera club)?

Les
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Old 17th September 2010, 11:59 AM
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I think the whole reason I photograph anything is self-satisfaction (no matter how momentary). I get extreme pleasure from it, and not just the taking of the picture but the developing and printing stage. I like to record the world I see around me, and that is linked to being interested in the world. It can be landscape, urban, people, anything that I find interesting to look at. I frankly don't give two hoots about what anybody else thinks about my stuff as it is really just for me - I finance myself, have no interest in sales or exhibitions . . quite a monastic approach actually!
With regard to surviving educational courses in the subject, I am firmly convinced that if you can firmly and comprehensively talk the talk and come up with an outstanding bit of artspeak, you can get away with [I]anything[I]! And when they ask you why you like or don't like a photograph, always preface your comment with rubbing your chin, raising an eyebrow and launching into a ponderous " . . . .Well . .. ."
That being said I rather like Gary Winograd's quote:
"I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs."
If you really want to delve into the why's and wherefores, some of the interviews on the American Suburb X site are really excellent.
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Old 17th September 2010, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by les dix View Post
This can be a maddening aspect of photography or any other artistic path I guess. I suppose you decide what your subject/approach is going to be and then find an audience that will appreciate it. I used to be keen to impress camera club judges but now I am getting more interested in the contemporary approach, but where is the audience for that style of work (certainly not at my camera club)?

Les

The RPS has a thriving Contemporary Group. I am not recommending it as I am no longer in the RPS - but it is there if you want to check it out.

Neil.
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Old 17th September 2010, 12:44 PM
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Unfortunately it is mostly Contemporary and Creative photography; the way it works is that our tutor gives us some topic and we have to produce series of images. I, for example likes to create photographs based on and my own experience and momentary feelings; so in a way I think it is art/creative photography. Just to show what we have to do: our very first project was called 'city spaces' and this was divided into 3 parts. 1 - interaction, 2 - transformation, 3 - inhabitation. The main point was to do research and then get ourselves to the city and produce some work. BTW, the interaction was real pain because we actually had to interact with strangers in streets (and take their photo) and it was really hard because most of them just told us to be fruitful and multiply (not in those words) So in a way our school give us a great freedom and it is up to us but on the other hand it is very hard to pass any judgment on other people work because we basically are not connected to their work.

OK, you are in the creative arena and you need to show originality in the interpretation of the project / subject your tutor has asked you to do. Also as been said previously you need to be able to convince others, or at least have a good go at attempting to do this, why exactly you made the images in the way you have. Being positive and enthusiastic in the way you tackle this will help.

I remember when I was once out with a friend on mine who is a contemporary photographer and he spent the whole day making images from sections of many different drain hole covers. After a while I asked him to explain his project to me. He started with an explanation of what contemporary work was all about (done probably because he thought I hadn't a clue) then went on to tell me about his project on drain hole covers with a lot of belief and enthusiasm. He convinced me it was a good idea and I could then see why he was doing this. I often feel - especially with contemporary work an explanation is needed to help people understand. We have several good contemporary workers on FADU and I am sure in time you will get some useful response from them.

With creative work ( the word says it!) try to be as original as possible. Even if the subject is a well-hacked look for a different view-point, shoot it at night or try an alternative process or technique. Your tutor is trying to push you which is good so it is up to you to step up to challenge, put on your thinking cap, drum up your enthusiasm and give it a go!

Just a bit of advice I can give when photographing people in the street. You have to be polite and confident when you approach them, show them your student card (or some other ID) and explain why you want to photograph them. If they say 'no' don't get upset just respect their wishes and move on. Extrovert characters quite often are the easiest to get as they want to show off their, dress , body piercings, mad hair style or whatever they are extrovert about. Also consider having some photos with you to show what you can do and consider even offering to give them a set of photos if they agree to be photographed.

Neil.



Neil.
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Last edited by B&W Neil; 17th September 2010 at 01:19 PM.
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