Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Once again, Mike shares a wonderful bunch of insights with us. If you find my blog even slightly interesting, you owe it to yourself to read this post over at ToP:

The Old Question, Revisited

Monday, March 2, 2015

One Weird Trick!

Dozens of photographers are using this one weird trick to improve their DSLR images.

Open your god damn eyes

What Moment?

I have noted in the past that a photograph is, perhaps above all else, a moment, a "now" snatched out of the stream of time and preserved. This is not new, this is not original with me. Perhaps its weight is under recognized, I suppose.

There's a curious thing we do with these. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes we pry the moments loose from their anchor and set them adrift.

In portraits and "lifestyle sessions" and other retail photography, lights, makeup, and digital editing are used to make the young look older and the old look younger. The moment the client gets is, of course, "now" but the moment they want is the one when they were 22 years old and beautiful.

Photography apps of all stripes now come with filters, as we all know, and among the mandatory set of such canned post processing effects are vintage looks of various stripes. Aged prints, Polaroid, damaged prints, black and white, sepia, and so on.

We are thus confronted, this, with teens photographed 10 years in the future using "film formats" that have not existed for 10 years. The teenager indubitably graduated last spring and paid far too much for some trashy photos, but the referents on the pictures are all wrong.

Of course, this is mostly just social norms. She likes the pictures because they look the way they should, the way her big sister's pictures do, the way her best friend's do, the way the alpha girl's do.

But why do we want a picture that looks like that?

There is implicit in this some sort of sympathetic magic, perhaps best encapsulated in the reaction of others when they see a really flattering photograph of us:

You look great!

We don't look great. The person in the photograph looks great. But somehow, by some sort of alchemy, it feels as if we also look great, or at least did. We are flattered and pleased.

In the same way, perhaps, the vintage look in a photograph transports us to a previous time when (as with all previous times) things were carefree and wonderful. We can, perhaps, visualize ourselves then, when things were better, or at any rate different.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Urban Photography

I shot this thing on the way back from the YMCA where I had taken my daughter for a swim lesson.

I am reasonably certain it would do well on certain internet venues, especially if I claimed I'd done it on film.

Of course I didn't use film. I used my phone. The observant reader will also note that it is facile and stupid. It's a 'cool thing' of the sort every city is littered with.

It ticks off several boxes on the 'street photography' bingo card, though.

Any fool can bang this crap out all day long by the simple expedient of opening his or her god damn eyes. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Short Form

When your work is good, you'll know. At some point you'll just know that what you're doing is good. You will no longer care much about feedback from other people.

Congratulations. You are now an Artist. Or a monomaniac.

Not that there's a lot of difference.

Short Form

A photograph is whatever is in front of the lens at this instant

If you manipulate the objects beyond certain limits, you destroy what it is to be a photograph.

But, you can manipulate the apparent instant arbitrarily.

What power!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Photography as Art

I admit it. I am fascinated by Ming Thein's blog. Well, more by his legion of fanboys. Mr. Thein is just chugging along thinking about stuff and writing about it. Obviously I have no particular problem with blogs that contain half-formed thoughts, or poorly assembled ideas, and so on (e.g. this blog).

His fanboys seem to think that he is issuing wisdom from the mount, however, which can be pretty entertaining. See, for instance, this thing which is about equal parts gibberish, incomplete statements, and perfectly correct statements. But the comments, my word. You'd think someone would step up and point out some of the dumb.

Anyways. That's not what I'm writing about today, not mostly. It's this other thing Mr. Thein wrote. I think it's sort of silly, but that's just me. More to the point, it's an interesting thing to ponder, and opens up some questions, and so I thought about them a bit.

I've actually written about this a bit, right here, and I managed to get it at least partly wrong. I'd like to spend 1000 words trying to rationalize why my wrongness is actually rightness in disguise but.. meh. I dropped the ball.

Mr. Thein's assertions include, as I read it, that photography is unique in that it is a direct representation of a real thing, unlike, say, painting, and unlike all other art. I have said essentially the same thing, and we're both wrong. Duchamp's readymades (and legions of more recent artists doing essentially the same thing) do photography one better. They're not a representation of a real thing, they are the real thing. Don't photograph the urinal, pry the urinal off the wall and declare it to be art. Go in any modern art museum and you'll see similar pieces.

But more than that, Mr. Thein (and perhaps this author) seem to assert that because photography is of real things, this separates it from the rest of Art. It does not.

Sculpture creates a real thing. A piece of music performed is another real thing, albeit not usually one you can kick. A painting is (sometimes) a visual representation of a thing, as interpreted in paint by a painter. A readymade is a real thing. And a photograph is a.. photographic copy of a real thing. And so on.

It's not as if all of Art is huddled in one corner, and photography huddled in the opposite one, because it dares to begin as a literal representation of the real.

They're all huddled together, partaking of reality in different ways. From their individual characteristics, they derive their strength.

Obviously a photograph derives its power from the fact that it is -- or at least began as -- a representation of a real thing. It is the nature of photographs. If a photograph is to have power, strength, where else shall it derive this from, except from its own nature? It is almost silly to say it.

Photography can certainly be Art, this isn't even a question any more.

But also, it's not a special category of Art. It's just Art.