Monday, July 13, 2015

An Acid Test

If you're trying to decide whether some chappie who takes pictures is any good at formal composition, here's some more grist for the mill:

  • Does he use arabesques?
  • Does he use oval or circular compositions?

In general, the internet-famous guys simply don't. They're all about straight lines. Rectilinear shapes, often with a strong diagonal. Whenever they can manage it, they shove in an actual diagonal line, and when they can't, they imply the diagonal by placing stuff in opposite corners. This is all very well and good, but it's a pretty narrow palette of technique.

I use the pronoun "he" deliberately, here, because I cannot offhand name a single woman who does this stupid heavily gridded derivative stuff.

And, for reference, I am rotten at this sort of thing. But then, I am not offering any workshops.


  1. A good example of the "internet famous" would be the young man who maintains the page "Shit Jimmy Shoots". This semi-famous young, hipster travels across thew USA on his parents' money, photographing skinny 20-something girls who'll strip down to nothing, or at most, down to a pair of panties and a bra, and then Jimmy-Hipster photographs them, often with a Leica M23 and expired film. Magical stuff then comes out of Jimmy's di...err...from his camera. His followers fall over themselves, and he placed nubile female after female smack dab in the middle of 35mm film frames in abandoned buildings across the USA. His work inspires legions of wanna-be young hipsters who cannot recognize that Jimmy's so-called compositions are simply God-awful, but instead Jimmy's followers are held spellbound by the young teen- to 24-ish gals that pose nearly nekkid. Shit Jimmy Shoots is, indeed, an accurate description.

    1. Same as it ever was. Shoot naked hot chicks and the guys will tell you how great your skills are, and a surprising number of women will too. Presumably because they don't want to be seen as prudes.

      It's a shame. There's such a thing as a good nude, after all.

  2. (Not the same Anonymous as above, call me Ano2 if you like).

    Portraits and nudes are not about the model, they are about the interaction between the model and the photographer. That’s what is actually the subject of the picture and the reason why they depend so much on the personality of the photographer. For example, Ellen von Unwerth was able to take unique portraits of models, because she was one herself: the interaction was different and it shows.

    And this is the reason why women praise Jimmy’s work: they can see that he is able to build rapport with a series of other women, so they know he is the kind of cool guy they would like to meet. They don’t praise his pictures, they praise him for being the kind of guy they would strip for.

    I know because I am not the kind of guy women strip for. I tried portraits and failed miserably. It is not that I am a psycho, use the camera as an excuse to get models in the sack or whatever. Simply, in the first seconds of contacts, women decide that I may be the guy to take formal picture (e.g. identity pictures for a job application), but nothing intimate. And that’s it. I am not cool. Jimmy is cool.

    I suspect that “Anonymous”, the first answer, is not cool either. And I suspect he is jealous of Jimmy. I know I am: Jimmy demonstrates an ability that I do not have. But there is nothing I can do to change that. I could, of course, pay for models to undress. But it is not the same thing: paying for a model is like paying for an escort, you never get the same kind of rapport… and it shows in the pictures.

    Jimmy’s pictures are not about composition, lines, color theories, dynamic range or whatever. They are about being able to build rapport and demonstrating that women are comfortable about you. It is a very useful ability: I suspect that Jimmy will live an interesting life, have lots of fun and maybe run a successful photographic career: the kind of pictures where women are comfortable on screen is just what advertisement needs. Get some cool clothes and accessoires on Jimmy’s models and you’ll sell them like hot cakes.

    As to me, I simply stopped trying to take portraits. What’s the point when each image you take demonstrates that you are exactly the opposite of Jimmy?

  3. I don't actually get that from Jimmy's pictures. I see it more as Jimmy figuring out where attention-craving young women are, and going there.

    Sure he's probably got his social signaling sorted out and doesn't come across as a creep. But I think it's more about the models than the guy.

    And of course he is praised mainly for his skill in sweet talking girls out of their clothes. That's sort of the point. It doesn't matter if he's good or bad. It doesn't matter if there's obvious rapport or not, or whether he uses a Leica. The only thing that matters is: partly naked young woman.