Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pictorialism Meets Gearheads

Note to Anonymous commenters: Random name calling by an Anonymous commenter is likely to be attributed to mrca, who has been banned from commenting (with one exception noted below) so if you're just some other random dolt, that's where your comments are going. Sorry.

I made a little page just for you clowns hate-reading me from The Photo Forum. Fuck off, stop reading my blog, there's nothing here you idiots are going to find interesting. I will try to link to this page each time in future I refer to your forum, so you morons have some context when inevitably your little spies alert you to the Mean Blogger.

In my occasional wanderings through the seedier sides of the internet (no, no, not the MFA people god forbid, just the forums) I happened across this interesting thread, which you may peruse or not as you prefer.

In this thread (there is a history of these dolts harassing me with DMCA takedown requests, so I won't be posting the picture here) we start with a photograph of a man holding a Mamiya RB67 in the manner of Hamlet interrogating Yorick's skull. There's a HUGE pile of text that explains in laborious detail why the picture is so great, followed by a number of comments agreeing that it is extremely great. The point of the picture was to show how wonderfully sharp the Nikon D850 camera paired with Zeiss lenses is, an exercise in absurdity because you can crank out just as pointlessly crunchy a picture with practically any camera and lens today.

Be that as it may, the point of the picture is to show off technical chops, and by god it does that. Well done, whatever your name is.

Following down a little we find the spoiler. Some other poster remarks that with all those goddamned lights the result is kind of flat. To this I will add that the subject appears to be floating, or glowing, because there's so much light splashed around on him against the relatively dark background, and also I don't believe that you intended the specular highlights on the camera to look like that.

This is of course met with fury and vitriol, which is pure delight to read.

Anyways, the spoiler is perfectly correct. While this thing is a technical tour-de-force, it looks outright weird when you stop admiring the rim lighting and whatnot, and actually look at the picture. This is a picture photographers love, but nobody else does. To everyone else, it merely looks "sharp" or possibly "clear" and a bit... off.

Stepping back slightly further, we can examine the idea. Yes, yes, the lighting hero has some story about an analogy between Hamlet's contemplation of his own morality[sic] and the dominance of digital photography over film, but that's pretty forced and wrong-headed. He's just sticking a literary reference in there to be cute, and to borrow some of Shakespeare's mojo for his own. Obviously it worked, the picture is Award Winning, after all! But I am not buying it, and neither should you. It's just an arbitrary random reference signifying nothing, it has no more weight than name-dropping Roland Barthes in your essay about photography.

This is exactly the sort of thing the Pictorialists were rightly panned for. Rather than having any ideas at all, let alone photographic ones, they would simply stick in a literary or mythical reference, and hope for the best. Look, this isn't just some naked chick, it's Aphrodite! Indeed, I would be astonished if you could not relatively easily find some gum-bichromate mess from the late 1800s with pretty much exactly this scene in it, albeit with a skull. Possibly a teapot, if you stumbled across some would-be wit.

So, this particular photograph is fascinating because while it is essentially just some gearhead flaunting his gear and his lighting skills, it nonetheless is essentially a near-perfect example of the errors of Pictorialism. While it is vaguely painterly, no painter would ever have so grossly misunderstood how light falls, and indeed neither would any Victorian-era Pictorialist. It was left up to modern photographers, with their baskets of lights, to mess up the fall of light to thoroughly.

This all suggests to me that the errors of Pictorialism are basic just human errors. Most of us simply aren't clever enough to say anything particularly interesting, so we reach for the same gimmicks regardless of era. Photographers still ape painters, badly, and still borrow cheap references in lieu of anything interesting 100-140 years later.

31 comments:

  1. The Milkmen of the Web are coming for us all. Beware as glowing orbs detach from leathery necks to haunt you in your dreams. They will have their 51 pounds of flesh, oh yes they will.

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  2. Oh my god, I went and read all that. You could see the response coming from the original post. I had to hide from the words, the words in the walls. there's a copy of HP Lovecraft on my coffee table, btw.
    I don't have a problem people quoting things at all as it's what post modernism lives off and, to go refer to your previous post, at least doing so is acknowledging other art. The question is, always, how well?

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    1. Oh, quotations are fine. Hell, it's hard to avoid them if you're doing anything of substance, right? Po-mo is right about that, it's all just a pile of ideas defined in reference to other ideas.

      It's quotation to no purpose. Like every nitwit namedropping Barthes. It's all "Ah yes, you know, the punctum. Barthes. Wot wot?" without ever going anywhere with the punctum, the studium, or anything else.

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  3. In this case, I feel mrca (the OP in the referenced thread) misunderstands the soliloquy, compounded by an unfortunate typo, if typo it was. I don't think a Mamiya works as a momento mori.
    Is your mentioning Barthes to head me off from name dropping? (giggle)

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    1. Exactly so!

      I just use Barthes because he is an almost 100% accurate tell that the essayist has nothing to say. Which is pretty often.

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  4. I confess! I am guilty of dropping Barthes into comments. And puddles.

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    1. Punctum is when you yell THIS! IS! SPARTA! and push the essayist into a pit.

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  5. "I don't follow rules, I make Art". That's another tell.

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    1. To be fair, I don't have much truck with rules either. But I do try to step back and look at what my pictures actually look like.

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  6. The nutter that produced this picture is evidently not self-aware. Sad!

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  7. Hey jackass, this is mrca and I looked at your photos. Pure crap. I took better photos than that with a box camera at age 7. I see you don't KNOW how to use lighting since you don't use it yet think you can critique things you wouldn't understand if I explained them. I know, you are a "natural light photographer." That's what we call someone who fancies themselves a photographer but doesn't have a fn clue on lighting. I'm sure my"fury and vitriol was a sheer delight to you, a loser who seems to enjoy provoking people. Perhaps a case of LDS? Little dick syndrome? Also, I am not some math computer geek, my DEGREE is in literature and creative writing so I actually draw from that knowledge as well as western art and incorporate it my work. I don't walk about taking snapshots of people walking on sidewalks or other crap b&w that apparently you think makes it art. You might learn how to crop while you are at it. But then, you are a blogger so know sooo much, just can't put it into practice. A tell for me is you photo, your photos, none of humans you actually know. A typical 30 something living in mommies basement with no friends or human contact. Same for your dweeb readers all 3. You can delete my post now then go cry to mommie about how mean I am.

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    1. So much anger. Here's an idea: don't read my blog. You'll feel better.

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    2. I will note in passing that the reference to "dweeb readers" technically violates my comment policy, but since it wasn't directed at a specific person I'm going to let it stand. It's comedy gold, it's an exact and usefully referencable case of "I hate you! Let me see your pix .... yes they suck!" and also, at the end of the day, I have no problem with anyone speaking their mind whether they agree with me or not.

      You have made many guesses about me and I think that every single guess was wrong, which may be a record.

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    3. I actually giggled like a schoolgirl when I read your response - it's sublime. I have to say hats of to amolitor and his writing - like a laser guided poison dart to the jugular.

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  8. Five lights? My first year instructor at Ryerson was known to growl "How many suns are there?" when commenting on studio lighting. (This was in the mid 70s)

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  9. You can bet I won't read your blog. As I expected, I checked back and you had no facts to contradict my post, just ad hominem attack. Kiss my ass on the "hate" crap. More lib fudge packer evasion and slander. I wouldn't waste the energy to hate you, I don't like or tolerate personal attacks, whether you hate me or not and not being a lib, I won't play that card on you, especially when you don't have a fn clue on photography. I respect your right to have your "policies" but like a Washington lib, your rules apparently don't apply to yourself when you attack me. You say you like the area around the museum in SF, I would have guessed you prefer the Castro. I posted a response on the original site but you didn't have the balls to respond. Another poster warned me you are a well known troll. Coulda fooled me. Exactly what I expected when I read your text. And Steve, that it must look like one light is another tenet of either ancient or untrained photographers. Learned it from a professor? Those that do photograph, those that can't teach. I have trained with people like Denis Reggie at his mansion in Atlanta and Joe Bussink from Hollywood who charge more for 2 weddings than a professor makes in a year. I listen to them. Came back from Atlanta and won best in class, best in show in a PPA competition that was one of the 10 best of the year.
    Should I not use photoshop either? That comment is exactly what I see here, folks that don't have a clue. I know another gwc, guy with a camera, who fancies himself a photographer and also has a blog filled with adolescent snap shots. The problem with photography is anyone with a camera from costco thinks they are a photographer and can fool some people. Try buying a baseball bat there and facing a major league pitcher. It's called being out of their league.

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    1. And that's enough from you, you sexy little bitch.

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    2. Anybody wants to insult this tight little closet case, go for it. No rules.

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  10. I don't really see the point Andrew - he's doing such a good job of it himself. Whatever the merits or not of his photo, and his ranks of exalted teachers, he is doing an extremely good job of portraying himself as an extremely narrow minded photographer, and above all a thoroughly unpleasant person.

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    1. He is not a man well equipped to read his own critics, that much is certain.

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  11. I just deleted my initial comment, as after i re-read it, I found it unkind.
    I wouldn't mind to hearing from mrca why he thinks a mamiya makes a good memento mori. I don't believe it does. A to the point discussion could be edifying.
    Then again, I have a photograph of a ham sandwich as a memento mori, so I may not be the best person to judge. That was a very personal reference, as at the time I had asked a bankrupt photographer (being bankrupt in Germany is a bitch, it can go on for 20 years) to mentor me on lighting and we had discussed lighting food, he'd given me an exercise to do, which I had, we met once more and then he died. I didn't go want to re-shoot it, leaving it as a memorial to Peter.
    I still find myself wanting to steal Peter's camera gear. I think he'd appreciate that.

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    1. You are a gentleman!

      mrca: if you choose to reply here, and can manage to do so without mentioning penises or homosexuality, I will moderate the comment through.

      Would stealing your friend's gear deny it to his creditors? That's something I could get behind. Do you need a getaway driver?

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  12. " Try buying a baseball bat there and facing a major league pitcher"

    Photography is many things. I don't think I've ever heard it compared to a sport, though. Let me guess: you're the guy who throws the bat after he strikes out, and beans somebody with it.

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  13. Poor mrca. If he had any interest in becoming a better photographer, he’d actually think about the criticism offered, even if he didn’t agree with it. But since he Already Knows Everything There Is To Know, all he can do is lash out at those who question his Obvious Excellence.

    I propose a new internet law: the likelihood that you’re actually Making Art is inversely proportional to the amount of effort you spend proclaiming to be Making Art. Call it the Uncle Bob Law.

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    1. It is certainly my experience that a bunch of PPA branded awards and certifications doesn't correlate with anything good. www.frankfrost.com is a place I've noted before, and he cites a bunch of PPA and WPPI stuff.

      Apparently his photography sells well because he's apparently making a living, but it's pretty horrifying.

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    2. Certificates in that context aren’t any more complicated than, “Pay us some money, take this 20 question multiple-choice test, and Great! Here’s your certificate!” are they? Awards probably not much more involved.

      I see that there are some people over at that forum who don’t understand how you can see the photos there, since you’re not a member, and that you’ve been stalking some of them. That’s bad, you should stop doing that, m’kay?

      Jeezus, looking at photos on the internet is “stalking”...

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    3. Oh dear god they're talking about me? Usually when that happens some of them cruise by and leave "clever" comments.

      I hope they don't find out that I am a l33t hacker using my sekrit hacker tool (called a Web Browzer) to read their forum. I mean, to stalk them.

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    4. Given that I have mentioned The Photo Forum in, I think, a grand total of two postings in the last.. year? or two? and that both times they've "discovered" my "trolling" it certainly appears that SOMEONE it stalking SOMEONE here.

      Now, mine is a little-read blog of personal thoughts, and theirs is a widely-read open internet forum, I guess it could go either way.

      What. The. Fuck.

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  14. Just one more thought about mrca, and then I’ll stop: all that literary pretension, but he doesn’t know how to write in paragraphs. It’s like he’s never read a book.

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    1. Well, he made it clear in that thread that went off the rails that he's simply too busy to press the return key.

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  15. Well, with absolutely no training in psychology whatsoever I'll just offer this observation: it is a well known fact that extremists of any shade and color lack humor. It is a sure-tell sign as they say.

    Thanks for your always intelligent and entertaining writing Andrew.

    All the best/Mattias

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