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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> The Wow Factor
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12/05/2013 08:29:16 PM · #1
“If you want to be an artist, you go to an art supply house and get some ink and some paper and pens, and a calligraphy brush and charcoal, and aim at virtually whatever is in front of you, the subject matter is not that important. And then try and cheat and deceive and lie and exaggerate and most particularly distort as absolutely, as extremely, as you can. And after some six months or a year, or usually in a state of intense frustration, you’ll see something that you truly have never seen before, and that is the beginning of yourself, and that heralds the beginning of difficult pleasure.”

Brett Whitely in Difficult Pleasure: A Portrait of Brett Whiteley (1989)
12/02/2013 12:28:19 AM · #2
Originally posted by ambaker:

Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

I let the cat out... Now he thinks he owns the place...


It changes everything. The images go from being unknown to known. From being art, crap and everything in between to everyone to being a known quantity to all who see them.
12/02/2013 12:27:50 AM · #3
Originally posted by ubique:

Originally posted by Ann:

... I would argue that in this day and age, black and white is a pretension ...


I'd argue that b&w is to colour as drawing is to painting.
Done with purpose, b&w is a reduction; a distillation. It emphasises, amplifies, isolates to reveal the essence. Some people prefer oils, but I prefer charcoal. It's not a pretension if it facilitates the intent.

That's an excellent analogy. Thanks for gifting it :-)
12/02/2013 12:26:34 AM · #4
Originally posted by jomari:

Originally posted by Spork99:

Originally posted by ambaker:

Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

I let the cat out... Now he thinks he owns the place...


Just like until you look in the box, the cat is both alive AND dead. The pictures are both art and crap.

Until they have an audience, then they are one or the other.


If they have an audience of more than one they might still be both art and crap.


Exactly, but to each it will be one, the other or something in-between. When it's in the box, sealed and unknown, it's all of those things at once to everyone.
12/02/2013 12:10:57 AM · #5
Originally posted by Ann:

... I would argue that in this day and age, black and white is a pretension ...


I'd argue that b&w is to colour as drawing is to painting.
Done with purpose, b&w is a reduction; a distillation. It emphasises, amplifies, isolates to reveal the essence. Some people prefer oils, but I prefer charcoal. It's not a pretension if it facilitates the intent.
11/30/2013 11:06:50 PM · #6
Originally posted by Spork99:

Originally posted by ambaker:

Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

I let the cat out... Now he thinks he owns the place...


Just like until you look in the box, the cat is both alive AND dead. The pictures are both art and crap.

Until they have an audience, then they are one or the other.


If they have an audience of more than one they might still be both art and crap.
11/30/2013 11:01:32 PM · #7
Originally posted by ambaker:

Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

I let the cat out... Now he thinks he owns the place...


Just like until you look in the box, the cat is both alive AND dead. The pictures are both art and crap.

Until they have an audience, then they are one or the other.
11/30/2013 06:40:03 PM · #8
Originally posted by ambaker:

Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

Heck, the paper they're printed on doesn't even exist: nobody heard that tree fall in the forest :-)
11/30/2013 06:37:14 PM · #9
Originally posted by Spork99:



Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?


The photos are what they are... Opening the box won't change anything.

I let the cat out... Now he thinks he owns the place...
11/30/2013 03:24:51 PM · #10
Originally posted by PennyStreet:

Originally posted by Ann:

Originally posted by bvy:

What the artist makes is not art unless/until he shows it to someone?


Actually, yeah. It's kind of an "if a tree falls in the forest..." scenario, but art is an interaction between the artist and the viewer. If there's no viewer, it's a hobby. In the Vivian Meier example, before the photos were discovered, she was a hobbyist with a camera and a box of photos. Once someone found the photos and we all started looking at them, she became "Vivian Meier, eccentric artist", and they became art.


Just because no one had found them yet made them less art? And then somebody opened the can of worms. Ha!


Exactly, undiscovered works are like Schrodinger's cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Are the photos in that box art or crap?
11/30/2013 03:08:45 PM · #11
Originally posted by ubique:

Originally posted by Ann:

... Ubique, you use the example of slice of life type family snaps as being true photography, then show an example of uber dramatic, Capa-esque black and white photojournalism. I would argue that in this day and age, black and white is a pretension ...


I thought at first you were kidding, but second thought said perhaps not. If the distinction between this or this versus (for example & ease of reference) the front page of DPC on this day or almost any other, isn't self-evident then I can't think of any way I can make it more apparent. But I'll try.

Pellegrin's photos are children of their circumstances, with B&W an inevitable consequence of same; they are black and white moments, and nothing else will serve. Nick Hinch's photos are quite simply inspired, and lie beyond the reach of pretenders like me. Each illustrates what I'm arguing; that 'snapshots' and documents are the only real photographs. And that 'Wow Factor' photographs are hollow and meaningless.


I actually think we're basically in violent agreement. Pellegrin's work is outstanding, the emotion they convey is palpable. I personally think they're strong enough both emotionally and compositionally that whether they're in color or not is irrelevant. But isn't the heightened drama they convey another sort of "wow?"

I spent a bunch of time in the past 10 years or so sorting out the photo collections of elderly or recently deceased relatives, and I agree that the photos that have lasting power are the family snaps like Nick Hinch has in his portfolio. I threw away a lot of pictures of mountains and sunsets, and kept a lot of pictures of kids sitting on Granddad's lap and parents holding new babies. But where I think we disagree is that I think that photographic tradition is still alive and well. It just isn't what people put on the internet when they're trying to get attention.
11/30/2013 01:45:45 PM · #12
Originally posted by Ann:

... Ubique, you use the example of slice of life type family snaps as being true photography, then show an example of uber dramatic, Capa-esque black and white photojournalism. I would argue that in this day and age, black and white is a pretension ...


I thought at first you were kidding, but second thought said perhaps not. If the distinction between this or this versus (for example & ease of reference) the front page of DPC on this day or almost any other, isn't self-evident then I can't think of any way I can make it more apparent. But I'll try.

Pellegrin's photos are children of their circumstances, with B&W an inevitable consequence of same; they are black and white moments, and nothing else will serve. Nick Hinch's photos are quite simply inspired, and lie beyond the reach of pretenders like me. Each illustrates what I'm arguing; that 'snapshots' and documents are the only real photographs. And that 'Wow Factor' photographs are hollow and meaningless.
11/30/2013 01:19:14 PM · #13
Ha, mike is back from the Wow, good news.

How to take the beauty out of a wonderful scene: stand and think about it instead of living it. How to take the art out of art: have a discussion about it.

Message edited by author 2013-11-30 13:27:27.
11/30/2013 11:53:18 AM · #14
Hey Mike, welcome back!

Back to the issue at hand, I'm not sure I get it. Ubique, you use the example of slice of life type family snaps as being true photography, then show an example of uber dramatic, Capa-esque black and white photojournalism. I would argue that in this day and age, black and white is a pretension. Black and white requires extra thought and work that goes against the snapshot ethos as much or more than applying that silly Instagram filter.

Much of the communication on the internet isn't really communication at all, but someone shouting "Hey! Look at me!" One of the mediums people use to do that shouting is photography, and hobbyist photographers use whatever tricks they have available to try to get noticed on the internet. That said, it only takes 5 minutes on Facebook, or five minutes looking at what my friends put in their digital photo frames, to see that there are vast amounts of unpretentious snapshots still being taken. With the rise of camera phones, I would argue that there's more than ever. It's just that the people taking those kinds of pictures aren't trying to get noticed on the internet, because they're too busy living their life outside of photography.
11/30/2013 11:32:01 AM · #15
Magnum's members include photojournalists and documentary photographers from across the world, who have covered many historical events of significance.

I find it curious that when the discussion turns to discussing anything non-technical about photography, the word "art" is used.

I had never heard of the tall poppy syndrome. What a strange idea.

Message edited by author 2013-11-30 11:32:59.
11/30/2013 09:46:26 AM · #16
Mike! So nice to see you again! Salut!
11/30/2013 09:08:35 AM · #17
you guys are still arguing over this?
11/30/2013 08:12:34 AM · #18
sigh..I'm going out on a limb here

I think a component of this is wrestling with the tall poppy syndrome, maybe if this link is active it is worth a listen. It's a an aspect of 'the other' that Australians can't or don't want to reconcile. It made me understand a cultural difference that I was always aware of but never quite had the perception to articulate because it was so obvious. I understand a lot of you will feel this trite or too subtle a distinction, so ignore it and life will remain the same. For those who want to understand, Paul's link is a great example of opportunity and frame of reference. Bloody Italians, so poignant and individualistic realists.
11/30/2013 06:30:02 AM · #19
We are way off track. I started this thread in protest at the extent to which style-over-substance is subverting photography. Not subverting DPC which is a forum for digital camera enthusiasts and is comparatively irrelevant to photography. And not subverting art, which is entirely irrelevant.

Photography, real photography, is snapshots. It's travel pictures. It's the kids' soccer games. It's Thanksgiving celebrations, birthdays, graduations, new houses, pets, and holidays; it's cherished moments isolated as iconography. It's documentary photography. Professional photographers - 'serious' photographers - used to be the people who most misunderstood or at least misrepresented the essence of the photograph. But now that everybody can appear plausibly professional, it's everybody who is spitting in the soup with the stupid bloody Wow Factor.

Ironically (at least I think it's irony), it's now mostly the few surviving genuine professional artisans who are trying to reclaim the photograph as an object.

ETA an example of the latter.

Message edited by author 2013-11-30 06:54:01.
11/30/2013 04:20:21 AM · #20
Originally posted by pixelpig:



Thanks for the comment. I'll try to explain

The audience is ever-present, & very demanding.
For the photojournalist, the audience provides the point and purpose of photography.

Take a moment to read the NPPA Code of Ethics for photojournalists. It makes the audience expectations very clear.
Number 5 sums it up for me: "While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events." Also #3 "Recognize and work to avoid presenting one's own biases in the work." In other words, the audience demands that the photojournalist put aside personal ethics to serve the needs of the audience. Without the audience, there is no photojournalism.

Without the audience there is only the photographer. The photographer's own morals & ethics motivate & inform the work. The work has to find, or fail to find, its own audience on its own, without the photographer, sometimes after the photographer is dead. It's a small change, but important to me.


Lots of interesting comments. I wouldn't agree that all art should be created in a vacuum. Art is oft used as a mechanism for realization. Working in a vacuum precludes the ability to effect a point, as you've no ground to begin upon. But I see where you're coming from, that perhaps it isn't best to be the sole determinant.

Bear's point is curious, too; but I'd argue the interest, the drive, the need to create an idea should perhaps be primary to the secondary need of being recognized. To me, yes, the audience is supremely important to art. But at the same time, artistry is saying what needs to be said regardless of if you're being paid any attention. Art (to me) is about the connection of maker and viewer, be they agreement or disagreement. Art is evocative.
11/28/2013 08:22:36 AM · #21
Originally posted by Spork99:

Originally posted by pixelpig:

Originally posted by ubique:

... It's strangling photography.


The audience is not, & should never be, a part of the photographic process.
Photojournalism is the one exception.
The ethis of photojournalism dominate photography.

Is it possible to use photography as an instrument of self-expression?
Can you dance like nobody's watching when you're on stage in front of a full house?
It's worth it to try.


The audience is the whole point of art. What's the point in saying something if there's no one to receive your message.

Without the audience, you're just the lunatic muttering to himself as he wanders around.


Thanks for the comment. I'll try to explain

The audience is ever-present, & very demanding.
For the photojournalist, the audience provides the point and purpose of photography.

Take a moment to read the NPPA Code of Ethics for photojournalists. It makes the audience expectations very clear.
Number 5 sums it up for me: "While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events." Also #3 "Recognize and work to avoid presenting one's own biases in the work." In other words, the audience demands that the photojournalist put aside personal ethics to serve the needs of the audience. Without the audience, there is no photojournalism.

Without the audience there is only the photographer. The photographer's own morals & ethics motivate & inform the work. The work has to find, or fail to find, its own audience on its own, without the photographer, sometimes after the photographer is dead. It's a small change, but important to me.
11/28/2013 04:26:58 AM · #22
Originally posted by ubique:

Art is not subjective. It only seems that way because what most people think is art, isn't.

examples please.
11/28/2013 04:15:42 AM · #23
Originally posted by bvy:

What the artist makes is not art unless/until he shows it to someone?


Originally posted by Ann:

Actually, yeah. It's kind of an "if a tree falls in the forest..." scenario, but art is an interaction between the artist and the viewer. If there's no viewer, it's a hobby. In the Vivian Meier example, before the photos were discovered, she was a hobbyist with a camera and a box of photos. Once someone found the photos and we all started looking at them, she became "Vivian Meier, eccentric artist", and they became art.


So what if it's a hobby? How does that take anything from the composition, the intent to convey the thought, vision, whatever, but not for public consumption. To a certain degree, I don't give a rat's ass whether someone likes my images, but did they get anything from them? Personally, ever since my photography became a hobby, and I stopped trying to either pander to a score, or "perform photography properly" that the end result is only what someone else perceives it to be, the happier I've been. Do I care what people think of my work? Yes, and of course it pleases me if they like it, but the reaction, impression, whatever to me is more important than what category they feel it fits into. I shot the image to capture the essence of something that was mine.......if you get what I meant, cool, but if you don't, that doesn't make it any less real, or momentous to me. It doesn't change what and why I shot it.

Truly, someone who's been "discovered" later on to have been an artist without the violation of others' opinions at the time could be considered to be an artist of the truest form.
11/28/2013 01:29:00 AM · #24
I loves tayders
11/28/2013 12:16:18 AM · #25
four times half baked but full of p and v. nonetheless.
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