working with the Salton Sea: unlike portrait sessions, a visit to the Salton Sea demands many cameras to be brought. each camera has a given function of format and viewing angle. handy all the time is the phone, and the ease to work with phone apps means that the photos are ready first. these are such photos. they hint at what the other cameras were seeing.Read More
« The severe portrait that is not the greatest joy in the world to the subject may be enormously interesting to the reader. » — Irving PennRead More
below the classic arguments in an internet forum of Canon vs Nikon, or PC vs Mac, it can be said that the use of watermarks on photos is well-placed. not too distant from watermarks is the way that photo-hosting social sites should do for photographers — for example: An Open Letter to Vic Gundotra and Google+ [link]. these two topics are related in terms the attitudes and goals that people have.
from long ago, it was a comment on a flickr group that I read how people would join a group and then ask that rules be changed according to their prerogative. this was insightful: flickr has it that anyone can start their own group with the rules as one sees fit, but of course, this does not satisfy the underlying need, quite possibly generalized as:
" I want to share my photos here because there is a large audience, but I want it to be comfortable to the way I think they should be shared (or things ought to be). "
— not said by anyone in particular, or literally
it is not unreasonable for people to provide feedback to sites on features, and perhaps even on the underlying behaviour possible. this takes on a greater aura by sites that depend on users to provide content, and there is something to be balanced there. however, it is always a site's decision based on their entire user-base and their assessment of users gain/lost.
the most absurd request is to prevent users from downloading a photo. well, it is the fundamental workings of the internet that the photo has to be downloaded in order for anyone to see it. these days, with bigger-is-better, sites are encouraging to upload big-sized photos. yet, the controls demanded by content-providers to popular sites can include such requests.
the consequence of this lack of control is that some people will watermark their photos. like all things internet with photography, the dials are set to "11" and watermarks can be rather intrusive when looking at a photo. this brings a backlash from photograph viewers whose enjoyments is being disturbed, or for whom watermarks signifies a misunderstanding of creative work and sharing. parallels are then drawn to many uses of art, and forum discussions get lively.
I do watermark my photos**, but not as a deterrent against people grabbing the photo and re-uploading elsewhere. my consideration is that most people are lazy and will not remove the watermark. then, the watermark is a "message in a bottle", for the rather rare chance that someone wants to look up the photo creator and then is able to track me down.
since my uploaded photos are not going to pop-up in some stream of gorgeous photographs with a sudden disturbance to the viewer of my photo with a watermark, but rather, it will be that they see a page with only my photos on display, they can easily click away if so shocked/disturbed/annoyed. alternatively, a photo print without a watermark can be ordered.
as for sites? instead of demanding so much care for one's photos, just view the internet as an ocean and the photo as a bottle tossed into it, and the watermark is the note inside. however, we can create the bottle: make it 800 pixels and use the JPG compression as severe as possible... and then it is gone forever. it is the gift to the internet.
changes to a site are a bucket of water tossed to the ocean. companies and teams that create the sites are well aware of how the internet works, how the users behave, and what draws the users to the site. the onus is on the user, and potential content-provider, to determine if the site is for them, and not to request that the site changes for their perception of fairness.
[ link ] public post on facebook to comment within facebook
** an exception is VSCO Grid, since the uploading to the Grid is directly from the app, and the extra steps of watermarking is something that is not worth doing given the controls VSCO provides against the casual image downloader: screen caps is the easy thing to do.
from nothing to nothing, the journey is celebrated for its imperfections, and in some way, the transitory markings we make, or impact upon, other people and things. within this impact, one can realise the concept of Mono No Aware, or the pathos of things [ link ].
« The phrase is derived from the Japanese word mono (物), which means "thing", and aware (哀れ), which was a Heian period expression of measured surprise (similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating roughly as "pathos", "poignancy", "deep feeling", or "sensitivity", or "awareness". »
Japan is not the only place to observe the impermanence of things, though it offers a contrast to Western art and design, where minimalism and perfection are intertwined.
these days, it is not a foreign concept that any given culture is going to discover everything it needs, nor is it going to have all encompassing definitions. rather, we are born into our personalities, and in some cases, elements of ourselves must find a definition outside our native culture and/or language. intuitively, we can understand a persence, or a way we do things, which have yet to be described properly. we can successfully go through life without finding out these succinct terms, or definitions, and appreciate when we do find them in greater measure with age. in language, we readily adopt foreign words to describe succinctly a modern emotion, action, or term.
in visiting Japan, and coincidentally beginning to watch movies by Yasujiro Ozu, the terms of wabi-sabi and mono no aware were as innate as the concepts of breathing and drinking water: they just needed to be alerted, recognized, and then conveniently found in the same physical location. once recognized, it provided a means to offer an imperfect description of such an implicit understanding present throughout life. thus, Japan is a protagonist in this book project in how it offers impermanence and imperfection in everyday objects.
more importantly, it becomes a form of "street photography" in which the presence of people are photographed for their indelible mark and implicit presence; all the while the emotion of that transitory — even fleeting — presence is sought to be represented in a photo.
what is harmonious in Japan, as attempted in these photos, can be seen as highly contrasting elements in outside cultures. this contrast is then an underlying concept in the sequencing of photos, which is best approached in book form. as many other cameras were used during the trip, it is the case that more photos need to be integrated and/or replaced in the project as it stands right now. thus, the gallery samples photos in this project are curated from a mobile photography perspective, and all selected photos available Dunked.com site [ link ].
the not-so-greatly-named iPhoneography was great while it lasted. the problem? stagnation. but what about the Megapixels? inorite?
long live mobile photography!
mobile photography did bring about a new way of carrying about with some aspect of photography: mobility, self-contained and social interactions. in effect, a compact Polaroid system with replication for sharing among people. beyond Polaroid, it offered many ways to present/process a photo to make it "warm" by applying processing that made it be more like film. one fallacy of new technology, for a while, is to think it terms of replacement: dSLR replaces SLR, and digital sensor is a replacement for film... and it takes a while to think of the new technology as something new with different limitations that are inherited in our minds by the imitated medium.
the issue with iPhoneography is that the platform moved into other brands, so one could argue for Phoneography instead, but even that is not that appealing. yes, one can pursue a photography that is enabled by one tool: a film camera with a single lens (e.g., Leica with a 35mm, or a Hassy with an 80mm, or a Rolleiflex with 75mm), and we have the work of Daido Moriyama with a compact camera. but for most, photography is about flexibility and being able to take the best photo at any given moment.
the appeal is greatly based on the speed of photography offered by something like a phone's camera. snap the photo, and process it within in the camera. for the most part, compact camera makers have forgone this revelation as to what is popular with people. instead, the compact camera remains a photo, upload, process and share. these days, the ability to upload from a compact to a mobile platform, as in a phone or tablet, is becoming much more easier. for some people, for varying reasons, the speed has to be nearly immediate — snap, app to process and upload.
I personally do not have such speed requirement, though I do like the disposability of mobile photography to approach photography in new ways. such is the case with photography styles and subject matter that I would not otherwise consider when focused on a project with "the better cameras." I also like the processing limitations of a phone/tablet to get me past any push to make the most of the photo via post-processing.
however, iPhoneography stagnated. just like compact cameras failed to move into the closed system of a phone for snap/processing/sharing, the phone cameras have remained stagnant in low-light performance, and more importantly, fixed lens**. (there are kludges to change field of view.) with mobile phones migrating into data devices, and less about talking, then solutions (if physically possible!) that offer some variations on the lenses would increase the versatility of phones in photography.
Sony has offered their QX-10/100 devices to keep the phone connected/interactive with an improved lens/sensor, and this may be the first step into improvement of the usefulness of a phone.
by considering mobile photography, and not thinking just of a phone, one can use the convenience of a phone and the greater flexibility (and performance) of a compact camera. the idea remains that "mobile photography" is about the speed of snap/process/share, and the compact camera retains that ability.
in that sense, the phone camera is now for me about "social" sharing, rather than considering photography, and I have embraced the compact camera as my mobile way of recording photographs, and using the phone/tablet for the mobile photography constraint.
with that in mind, I have done the un-mobile thing, and uploaded the iPhone photos to Lightroom, made corrections to distortions, and processed all photos using VSCOfilm. in a way, it is a means to give these photos a final respect and to think of the phone's camera as being on par with any other camera, rather than a disposable/ephemeral usage. the slide show contains highlights of these photos.
while iPhoneography now settles into its limitations — which can still serve a purpose, and its nearly-fixed perimeter remains a means to enjoy photography + social interactions — mobile photography is really the next step into widening a photography that is convenient and offering much more overlap with what was previously considered "serious photography."
iPhoneography 2007 - 2013 (selection)
iPhone photos 2007-2013 by Kodiak Xyza
the use of Lightroom was limited to the Basic Module sliders and applying automatic perspective corrections, which are not (readily?) available within mobile platforms. this way, one of the major drawbacks of the iPhone lens made some photos — especially architectural ones — become sensible in terms of quality. noise reduction was also key, due to the poor noise vs. ISO performance of the phone. nothing could save the pixelation of night shots, so those are best left as ephemeral social-sharing photos. VSCOfilm helped to keep the processing to nearly as fast as can be done in a mobile platform.
[ link ] iPhoneography 2007-2013 at Dunked using Lightroom + VSCOfilm
(sectioned by USA/California/Europe/Japan/Abstract/NewTopgraphics)
[ link ] iPhoneography 2007-2013 at VSCO Grid using VSCOcam phone app (ongoing)
** there are physical limitations, with current technology and perceived form-factors, that would limit these features from being implemented in phones.
in the previous entry, I closed with this aphorism:
« quite simply: the idea of the photographs is not to tell a story of the scene, as most people like to praise a photo by such an accolade, but for the photographs to tell a story of how the photographer sees the world. »
and in the documentary by John Walker Paul Strand: Under the Dark Cloth [ link ], he quotes Paul Strand as saying:
« you have to have to say something about the world. »
— Paul Strand
which is a one way to look at why one wants to take a (series of) photograph(s). this also calls for a selfishness which may not suit a social-photo site's best use.
however, there was another comment in the documentary about Strand's photos in Taos, New Mexico. the photos were about the New Mexico light. principal among the photographs from Taos from Strand is the church wall, which I consider among his best and most inspiring.
the Taos church photograph has some relation to some of the photos presented within the New Topographics genre. many examples can be found within Lewis Baltz's work, in which New Topographics propels the photographer(s) to say something about the world — perhaps in a collective quasi-anonymous sense. the work from Bernd and Hilla Becher also promotes a composition similar to the Strand photo.
it strikes me that, by looking at many photos in the New Topographics style, that "the light" is not of great concern, and that more commonly, the photo is very bright and shuns the presence of dark shadows, with some shadow welcomed to highlight the geometries present. (examples can be viewed in this tumblr blog
[ link ] .)
the contrast of Strand's "typographic" work to anything similar from New Topographic has been a question that has propelled me to find a way to photograph in that style. particular to their respective styles, Strand's are more emotive — in the same way that Orson Wells and Gregg Toland brought composition to Citizen Kane — while New Topographics are very cold and not engaging, with a heavier emphasis on information.
"mobile photography" was/is a great means to bring out the intuitive ideas, by thinking of disposability and constant access to a camera to enable new styles and ways of seeing the world. while this was done with many phone-snapped photographs.
it was not until a few days in Kyoto (and Tokyo), in which this way of looking at city topographies: combining the idea of the compound of time by manmade, and/or arranged, objects and the proper distance/magnification that a consistent result was to come of it. while mobile photography is meant to be prompt and mobile in its creation, there is also a need to revisit the work after some time, and with greater care. still, the idea is not to linger too much in the processing, and to that end, I used VSCO Film set of presets to carry most of the weight in finishing the work within a short amount of time.
the title for this latter collection Impermanence comes from a Wabi-Sabi notion, and what is seen in the photos. further to this concept of impermanence, it is an attempt to voice the play of this impermanence as it interacts with the surroundings: be they objects or "panels" which co-exists with the main focal object/panel. like with Strand's work, the hope is that the impermanence of the object(s) bring about an "pathos of things" to the viewer.
in the context of Strand's suggestion of "having something to say", this series is not designed to say something about impermanence before they were taken, but rather, like Wabi-Sabi, it is about finding more concises/known terms that describe how I have been seeing things all along and are converging into something more intuitive and innate.
[ ps ] a newer post delves into the work on Impermanence [ link ]
the democratization of photography via digital cameras is not quite finished, as people move from compacts into dSLRs and/or phone cameras — for example. it would not be a stretch to think that most people in this wave, myself included, did not do a formal training in photography. nor its history.
when I started, at the end of the last century, there was no easy way to view a vast amount of photographs. (books! but you know, I am busy learning the gadget I just bought.) actually, I did not start looking at photographers until the later part of the last decade. yes, some photos are famous beyond the art, but I could not name photographers, let alone know about styles and famous photographers. to this day, this is a big gap in all things photography for me.
while I took photos at the beginning of the last decade, I would post some photos in Livejournal, and then I made the move to flickr in early 2005. when I got to flickr, it was a huge shock in two ways: I could see what others were doing in vast amounts of photo being served, and what I thought was my not-too-common way of viewing the world was quite clichéd. I mean, the raindrops on glass, and so many others. with time, flickr was a teaching tool that was missing... on what not to do.
people wanted to "develop a style", and have unique photographs. but it is rather obvious that photographs are hardly unique when it comes to some styles. long exposure minimalism? New Topographics? overly-yellowed portraits in an open field? most famously: wide open ƒ1.4 lenses bokeh photos. photographs to be enjoyed, but hard to escape them on the site.
it was hard not to imagine that all photos were taken already. so what to photograph?
except, that is the wrong view. the problem is not repeating photographs, but immersing oneself in anonymity. whoa! how can that happen? one can look to New Topographics, and the minimalist long exposures, to see that, for the most part, it is very difficult to discern who took the photo. that is, the implied rules/aesthetics of the styles govern the photo's composition and printing/processing that it is (generally) difficult to discern between photographers immersed in that style. in some instances, one can discerns the photographer if one is presented with a series, but a single photograph makes it difficult — unless one recognizes quirks about the photographer. in some ways, I think I can discern some photos by Lewis Baltz [ link ].
these two photo styles can be readily "plagiarised" with some equipment knowledge and placing the camera in the another photographer's "tripod holes". there was the case of David Burdeny versus Sze Tsung Leong a few years ago. (many links to PDN and other sites are now 404 Errors.) is this a problem? I do not think so, as it is more indicative that photos are not unique, and some styles more than others are susceptible to "plagiarism." the market/internet will deal with how acceptable plagiarism is tolerated.
aspiring photographers would become popular on flickr by servicing a consistent style. to me, this was not a style that was presented, but a persistent photograph and/or post-processing and/or theme — something new for the internet age in terms of frequency and almost industrialization of the results. flickr users seem to love that consistency and flock to the account to provide (mostly) platitude comments — which rarely exceeds three words — and rack up the fave/like count. this social currency is quite effective to move into a commercial realm of photography, so it is not to be dismissed. now we can see the same behaviour in Instagram and 500px. in the latter, the "style" is pervasive through the entire site, casting a sort of anonymity to the entire site.
ok, so we take photos others have taken... and?
the refuge for others is to take the photos that we want, and realize that what is missing from most of these trends in photography is an indelible mark that, after some time, makes an impression on the viewer of who the photographer is. this is not unreasonable, as we can consider that if we converse with someone, we need to speak for some time before the other person gets a sense of who we are.
quite simply: the idea of the photographs is not to tell a story of the scene, as most people like to praise a photo by such an accolade, but for the photographs to tell a story of how the photographer sees the world. to some extent, some photographers in long exposure minimalism and New Topographics achieve this mantra.
encapsulated in time, the B-movies posters from the 1950s can be comical in today's context. it is a time capsule, and one can enjoy their exaggeration in their bylines. yet, today we are being hit with the same approach to internet "articles". it used to be that blogs were meant for personal pontification and make claims as one would see fit. now they have gone mainstream and there is an impending overriding need to have it go viral by means of trolling. in all cases, these articles lack the heft to make the headline worthy. at least in B-movies, we could be entertained.
the headlines are part of the daily dosage of articles served by Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Petapixel. however, The New Yorker has now come to the same disposition in as far as one of their online articles: Goodbye Cameras by Craig Mod [ link ]. The New Yorker is a magazine with infallible reputation for fact-checking and context. that does not mean agreeing with the articles, but that they carry a certain weight when published. maybe this is not to be the case for their online-only articles. about Mr. Mod's article, one comment summarizes the state of affairs in discussing cameras:
what is unique to the present times is the explosion of camera use, and its rapid evolution in digital capabilities. thus, of course, there is going to be consequences to fad, and what kind of camera performance is required by the masses now involved in taking photos.
a good parallel is to the music industry. in the last decade, the music industry pushed hit-wonders, with very weak albums. consequently, the advent of single-song download purchases brings down albums sales, and the catalog of albums in the rock era become essential to sustain a business that was feeding faddish music and anchoring industry growth on it. likewise, business decisions in the camera business were propelled by the explosion of compact cameras, and the margins of dSLRs that were sought by people beyond the professional user. so then, we have an article like Camera makers are desperately trying to stay a step ahead of smartphones—and failing [ link ], which has a bit more relevance in content to the title, while the use of "desperate" may not be based on any facts.
the fact that the internet can offer more voice to opinions does not mean that the number of people able to write well-opinionated articles has magically increased. this is the same reasoning that applies to photographers: the democratization of cameras does not increase the percent of the population that have an artistic talent for photography, and the internet only amplifies this ratio instead of making it better/easier. it seems that among all the articles, which includes a prognosis for the death of Olympus this year, a well-written piece can be found in The Online Photogrpaher [ link ], authored by Thom Hogan.
people in the market for camera and photography can be spectators to the mechanics of the industry, but we are mainly governed by a simple (and simplified?) dichotomy of photography:
• if you see a photo that you want to take, reach for the most suitable camera and compromise the result because of camera shortcomings; OR,
• if you want to use a camera, then compromise the photos that are possible because not all photos can be taken with a single camera**.
and thus, we just need to be aware of what cameras are being manufactured, when they are available, and how they fit into what we like to do photographically. the trends in photography are of little consequence, because I cannot dictate that, for example, a Micro 4/3rds system be designed for my needs. I am still waiting for a sensibly priced digital camera with a B&W sensor, but I will not get any company to make it for me.
** this second part is what most blogs, including the entry by Mr. Mod, has to offer. he wants social media immediacy? a camera to always have with him? then reach for that mobile device... and the implications are nil for the rest of the world. so then, why make it into an article and/or pontification, if it is just relating an experience.
« that camera must take nice photos »
when a camera plus lens looks to have some heft, or just be big, then it seems to solicit this unasked assessment of what it can do. the retort may be along the lines of « I quite enjoyed your meal, and the oven makes very delicious dishes. »
despite all the snark, retort, and stares one can give to such a silly comment, there are instances where the retort should be « yes, it does, and it liberates me to take photos that you can't with it ». ouch. ok, save that for some rather unsavory characters.
for other people with a genuine interest in what is being photographed, at that moment or later, then perhaps this anecdote from Deborah Turbeville can make photographers think of another way to interpret the comment:
« She began taking photographs on her own in the 1960s, and in 1966, having had no previous instruction, enrolled in a six-month workshop taught by the photographer Richard Avedon and the art director Marvin Israel.
“If it hadn’t been for the two of them, I wouldn’t have taken my photography seriously,” Ms. Turbeville told The Times Magazine in 1981. “It was so out of focus and terrible. The first evening in class, they held up pictures. They said, ‘It isn’t important to have technique, but you must have an idea or inspiration, and we feel the only one who has is this person who’s never taken a photograph before.’ I became very unpopular in the class.” »
— New York Times, Obituary [ link ]
this anecdote clearly highlights something that was true before the democratization of photography in the last decade: the rarity of the photographer.
while digital cameras, and relevant software, have further democratized the ability to take competent photographs under most normal conditions by a greater number of people, the talent of a photographer is a gift that has not changed because of any advancements in technology. technology does not change the percentage of people that has a given talent/gift, and that is a simple fact that seems to be trivialized/forgotten about photography — along with so many other trivializations of photography, in contrast to other art forms.
what has changed is that such a talented photographer can, at an earlier stage, realize their potential, and when confronted with the the puzzling statement, give a very sensible answer that highlights a talent:
« yes, it takes wonderful photos, and with great effort by me,
and it can take a wonderful photo of an idea. »
and this was the case for Deborah Turbeville.
she took photos such as...
and, other styles now rather more commonly found than at their time of their publications. her approach to stressing the photograph's negative is now much more readily done with software.
the quote is from Harry Callahan, and it is in the context of working within limitations. in his case,
« the diminution of the silver content in the paper made for, in most peoples’ mind, less beautiful prints — the darks just weren’t there. knowing this, Harry started to making pictures that would exploit the diminished values of the papers commonly available. [ ... ] the point is that when there were limitations, Harry worked right through them. as he said, “don’t you worry, I’ll photograph my way out.” » — Peter MacGill. 
in terms of searching for creativity, photographers may seek limitations as a way to notice scenes differently, and thus, promoting a direction to take from their current status: either drastic, or ever so subtle. one can think of instant film as a limiting medium: if one considers the aspect ratio, and colour shifts inherent in instant film, and in some cases the overall softness.
a modern take on these limitations is “phoneography”. by restricting the recording and processing to be within a phone, and a (false) sense of urgency to share a photo, then phoneography definitely can alter a photographer’s way of looking at scenes or moments. while digital, there are the limitations of lighting, dynamic range, long depth of field, and a fixed (typically) 28mm-e focal length. in a way, the phone became one “complete camera,” the way that Polaroid was, and unlike an SLR that requires the uploading of photos to a computer for processing. other advantages for finer work presentation are available with this SLR approach.
while on a recent trip, the narrow streets and the expansive canvas of what I seeing — regardless of camera — translated into an increased frustration with the phone’s camera. the lines were distorted, as the usual way of working with a square-frame restriction was not a good aspect ratio, and working with the more sensible (for these photographs) 16:9 aspect ratio meant that the lines were very distorted.
the “style” to be pressed upon all that I was seeing was a sense of panels, either geometrically flat, or “3D”. the phone camera became woefully inept at acquiring the proper detail and angles I was seeking.
however, I still wanted to retain the small-camera size/weight — as I could return later with other cameras to retake the photos — and I wanted to get to the envisioned result with the least amount of hassle. for this, it was still very much appealing to process the photos with the phone and/or tablet. also, the vast number of apps for processing photos was pretty much reduced to two: Snapseed and VSCOcam.
that’s it: I photographed my way out... to what mobile photography should be for me. photograph with a compact — which I had never purchased before — and a sensible speed to sharing results online. though more importantly, a quick route to results that help me consider a more “serious” return to the scene for re-shooting. (it must be said that, by the very nature of the city's layout, and other factors, it was impossible to find my way back to some locations, or they had an ephemeral element to them.)
consequently, two series (so far) stemmed from this pursuit/rework. mainly, the Lines of Japan, which has a result that would have never been possible (for me) from a camera phone like this first photo below...
and night photography, which otherwise would be riddled with bad results from a camera phone, such as the second photo below. this second photograph is based on a pre-conceived observation that was borne by the constraints of camera phones: New Topographics, in particular, the work from Lewis Baltz [ link ]. these other photos are collected in an on-going project called Topographies of Japan.
another consequence is a shift from 1:1 aspect ratio with camera phones to a predominant 16:9 with this new style of mobile photography.
•A Shift In Workflow
in the first part [ link ], it was noted that the old way for many to work their photographs through a system/workflow for feedback, or understanding , was (effectively) no longer valid. for many, flickr was the sole source for many functions and results in sharing a photograph online. the decline of flickr, and the rise of mobile devices and apps-based photography, along with other sites picking up on disenchanted flickr users, meant that some sort of change was required.
one of the negative aspects of internet sharing was the urge to get a photo up and ready to share: maybe one per day, to maximize comments and activity on the photo. not surprisingly, this is not really a way for someone to take photography serious, never mind the distraction from social quid pro quo.
then, a new of thinking of how to use the internet for a photographic workflow is required. this new way has to be much more independent, to remove the dependency on one site, and perhaps shed the urgency that social-sharing brings into the selection, and processing, of a photograph — among many other issues affecting the process.
this also means that one must begin to rely on repeated viewing of one’s own photographs to see how well they fit into the current vision. this is not too different to listening to music, and with time seeing how the song details come into our way of hearing details, or it just is a “flash in the pan.”
since there is no urgency to post photos to the internet, it is good to work the photos all at once. that is, all of the photos constituting a potential project are gathered to consider which ones are suitable for further work on them, if any of them are needed. a lot of deletion should occur here, but it is only a first step. if some photos are just “soooo good,” then one can still do as before, and process one or two and post them in the process of the first step noted below.
•Use The Entire Internet
the steps, or segmentation, would be something like:
- post photos to fish for interest
- revisit sites to reconsider the work
- group the work into projects to “kill your darlings”
- complete the projects via book product and/or portfolio website
- shake up the process with Mobile Photography
for Step 1, the many social-photo sites are not as active in commentary about photography. just presence-actions like faves/likes, posting to groups (if available), and short 3-word comments are the norm. however, search engines and search through tags offer a way to put photos to bait for additional work, and the rare useful feedback. this step also offers a way to get some photos out while the entire project is being edited.
consequently, one can post one’s work to many sites — flickr, 500px, Instagram, etc. — without increasing one’s energy put into such endeavor. especially since editing software now has automatic uploads to many of these sites.
because of Step 1, or because of Step 3, the biggest benefit is to look at one’s recent work against the old, and repeated viewing in varying context to reconsider if the photo is in final form. this is Step 2. perhaps a heavy-handed processing is noticed, or a change in composition to improve the impression comes as a result. in a way, Step 2 is on-going through Step 3... all the way until the end of Step 4.
the hardest element of photography is editing one’s work. not the presentation, but removing/deleting seemingly favorite photographs from a set to make the collected work stronger. Step 3 is about this process, through repetition and reconsideration. the repeated viewing that leads to re-editing the photo’s presentation also brings about a consideration of its strength in a group. it also becomes apparent how a body work “hangs together” and/or can be subdivided.
Step 4, while it is just about making a final selection of the photographs in a project, and giving them a portfolio — or final resting place — it is perhaps the most difficult of steps. this one is much more personal, and up to one’s personal demands on phoography. this step can be complemented, or substituted, by proceeding with a book project. the book forces a process of selection, flow, and possibly writing, which can be very enriching — even if the book is not to be a “big seller.” actually, it is best to make the book for oneself, rather than for an audience.
•For Example... Kodiak Xyza on the Internets... woo hoo!
for Step 1, I post photos to flickr and 500px, though I do not care to post all of the photos to flickr, and posts a bit of the strong ones, once the project is near completion, to 500px since I am using the site as an intermediate portfolio. consequently, I post the photos in different sequence to each site to keep looking at the work.
the projects for effecting Step 3 are uploaded to Dunked [ link ], where they get revisited, and perhaps some subdivision of the projects take place. along with the project segmentation, it is good to write some words that would go with the photographs in a book.
for Step 4, I have a “resting” place for projects: A Touching Display [ link ], of which Wedding Photography is a very quick process to get to it — this is because the project is dealing with a client, and there is nothing to write about it.
it is good to shake up the normal process as well, and two ways is to look at photographs from other photographers, and pursue a Curation project. there are many sites to pursue this curation, especially if one wants to blog about it. I want to keep it simple and use tumblr: Moments After A Dream [ link ]. however, given the awkward “dashboard” in tumblr, there is no attempt to make a connections to other tumblrs, as the site is usually used just like twitter and Instagram: the idea of following and presence-interaction.
in some instances, one can see a scene in different ways that is dependent on the camera used, and I like to carry a couple of cameras, and one of them constitutes the mantra I am pursuing for Mobile Photography. (an article on this is soon to be posted, for now there is a preview on Dunked [ link ].) in this case, it is a way to shake-up the more contemplative approach to photography, and quickly decide on a preset, in my case from VSCOcam, and upload to VSCO Grid [ link ]
I quite like that Dunked and VSCO Grid are not social, and merely allow links to be provided to direct people to the work: people can look at the work as they wish, for however long they wish, and there is no need to make a presence-interaction of any kind.
yes, paintings was the medium that informed photography in the early days, and perhaps would choke it to death, but for some photographers at the turn of the 20th Century that said... “hey, discover this.”
in a simplification for the internets, and my bias of photography, these trails were dominated by Edward Weston [ link ] in one direction, and Paul Strand [ link ] in another. outside America, André Kertész [ link ] would be another force in this movement away from the grips of the painterly... and to “hey, discover this”.
perhaps for many in my generation, it is easier to watch movies throughout a longer period of life, thus an earlier start, than it is to be educated into the canon of photographers that began what we know as photography today.
in my case, Orson Well’s Citizen Kane made me take note of composition, and since I could not go after a movie camera, the question became: can I do that with photography? the magnificence of light, and Black and White tonality, would come at a later date. for now, I was tranced by the composition. in particular, the entrance into this scene:
perhaps it would have been Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc to offer the composition knock out, or German Expressionism since Fritz Lang’s « M » was also a knockout. however, silent film and early talkies were not something I sought in movies until recently.
many years passed since Citizen Kane until I was to be as shocked again about movies as inspiration for photography, though certainly many movies were appreciated for their cinematography in the interim — not the least The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner — despite the growing loudness and in-your-face approach taken by Hollywood; this loudness and obviousness is not only visually, but also with scripts/dialogue.
then, a one two punch with The Double Life of Veronique by (the much missed) Krzysztof Kieszlowski [ link ], and In The Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai. for the first time, colour was revealed as a useful tool in a photograph, that is, used as a language that felt rather intuitively correct and emotive. in a way, colour was not illustrating the frame, it was offering a layered translation over the composition and use of light: colour, like composition and tonality, was an emotive element in synch with my view of a frame.
meanwhile, from the late 1920’s, Yasujirō Ozu [ link ] in Japan was beginning to develop an impressive body of work, starting with silent movies in the late 1920s. a total of 53 films were made by Ozu, and 26 in his first five years.
fast-forward to Ozu’s Floating Weeds, itself a remake from his silent film era, and one of his four colour movies and done a couple of years before his death. then there is this scene:
which can be contrasted, many years later, to Wong Kar-Wai’s:
Christopher Doyle (cinematographer for In The Mood For Love), presents an insight that can apply to both cases:
« what happens in Western Cinema is “look at this, you are so stupid, you don’t know what we are trying to tell you, let me tell you something”... and we say “hey, discover this”. » — [ link ]
this idea is relevant in spite of Doyle having a completely opposite attitude towards camera placement/movement to Ozu. since Ozu controlled the direction and composition, as well as co-writing the script, more of his vision makes it into the final frame. two key concepts seem to be often referenced to Ozu’s work.
Kieszlowski practiced these Western Cinema values, but Ozu cinematically propelled, in his movies, the photographic composition — via a stationary camera — and the idea of mono no aware ( “the pathos of things” ) [ link ] in a patina of wabi-sabi [ link ]. a stationary camera/scene has an immediate impact to a photographer seeing his movies — a non-photographic mind my relate to a fixed scene as what happens in a theater.
these teachings from Ozu then inform a longer journey into one’s own photography, which perhaps started with a big bang of Citizen Kane. the idea then evolves into achieving a shift from “omg, look at this photo!!1!1!” to a more calm “hey, discover this photograph,” which is proxy to discover the photographer: a much richer experience, most certainly.
though the question is: was it ever alive?
the answer is yes, in that flickr had stumbled upon facilitating such a situation. Social Photography is facilitated by a site where the user has a photo used for currency, and people can act in a social manner on the photo. typically, this is by views, faves/likes and comments. subsequently, there was a curating effect, self-serving or altruistic, via invitation to groups.
that social photography was a success in furthering photography, or perhaps trivialized it, is to be another (long) conversation; or even that social photography was engaged by a significant number, or a critical mass, of "true" photographers is yet another conversation.
social photography thrived through the rise of flickr and its peak, before an anecdotal decline — and many reasons seem to contribute — which allowed other sites to rise and be noticed. this period was from 2005 to about 2007, or 2008 at the latest. there is no clear demarcation of when social photography "lost it", and this is not of great concern, though it is sensible to argue that the rise of Instagram marked its death. the change in platform, from flickr's desktop to Instagram's smartphone, propelled the change in what a photograph is among people.
someone may think: « but Instagram raison d'être is that of social photography! »
not quite. Instragram is not social photography, because there is no engagement about photography. yes, a photograph is created for the purpose of a social interaction, which is in line with previous mechanism, albeit at a much smaller scale and perhaps not involving so many strangers. thus, there is nothing photographic of merit in Instagram. that is, aside from the photographer putting as much, or little, effort into taking and processing the photo — in third party apps — but not in enriching that experience through a social interaction. while Instagram had to solve a photograph-storage/servicing engineering problem, Instagram is about sharing/connecting and not photography — this according to one of its founders. still, we must remain aware that despite a company's intentions, people can morph the intent of a website to their needs. this clearly happened with flickr.
while this generalization can benefit from a longer discussion, and definition of terms, the important observation is that it has created (at least) two notable groups: the Social Photographer, and the Longform** Photographer. ( a person can fit in either, or both.)
the Social Photographer is working the social sites, notably tumblr and Instagram, and amplifying it through social networks, notably twitter and facebook. the interactions of faves/reblogs, short platitudes — such as the infamous "great capture" — and comments is the gained currency from mining the right photo. there is much to be enjoyed in this realm, if one finds the proper content generators. the photographic qualities of the photos are secondary, or non-existent.
the Longform Photographer can be working within the social network tools, but seeking a different way to communicate — perhaps often frustratingly so — and requiring more than mining socially-appealing photographs to build an audience. actually, an audience is required by any photographer type, but the required audience count threshold may be lower. this Longform Photographer may reside somewhere in between the Social Photographer and the traditional art-world photographer.
clearly, the author is in this latter group... and in the process of learning, and figuring out how to use the internet to help a photographer's, and a photographic, pursuit. the audience is less of a concern at the moment, since much is to be figured out. this site is an aid towards that pursuit.
** a commonly used term in online journalism is "longform journalism" , and The New Yorker has references to "longread" articles.