Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photographs You Don't Like

I was reading TOP (the online photographer) today, on making snap judgements on whether images are anything from wonderful to crap, and the response from one reader that the best images all were of the same style/subject that he photographs.

This got me thinking. How much can you learn from looking at images similar to yours? You might well improve your composition, tonalities, lighting, or even sharpness, but there is unlikely to be any quantum leap in your abilities as a photographer.

If instead one were to take some images you definitely don't like, but which are consistently recognized as wonderful and spend some considerable time with them, just perhaps that quantum leap in abilities might just happen.

Apropos this, I can't help but read the reviews of my books on Amazon, and of late there have been several extremely negative reviews of both my writing (which is fair enough) and of all the photography in "Why Photographs Work" which is frankly pretty darn stupid. In the end, these kind of negative reviews "I only saw three or four photographs I liked" say far more about the ignorance of the writer of the review than it does about my book, or for that matter, any book.

What they are saying, in essance, is that they don't see any redeeeming worth in the photographs of Ted Turner, Bruce Barnbaum, Michael Kenna, Beth Moon, Elizabeth Opalenik etc.

Given the multipublication of their work, the numerous books they have in print and the general respect  in which they are held, it would behoove the photographer who feels that way to spend some time studying these and other famous images they don't approve of and if over time they still can't see the worth of such images, should sit down with someone of experience who does.

One of the great joys of exploring the world of art is to find new great artists and to learn to appreciate their work.

Since the development of youtube I have 'discovered' the work of Queen, and its leader Freddy Mercury. I'd heard the name, never knew the work. It's been a fantastic trip, and such a tragedy to lose someone of his talent 'before his time'.

Anyway, I was giving a talk on photography last weekend and used a couple of music analogies, including a short clip from Queen, which not one person in the audience of more than 100 was able to identify.

You can look at this as sad, that they have been denied this great music, or alternatively be glad for them that they can come across Queen's work for the first time. Where was I when Queen was at its height. Wasn't I ready for it at the time?

Give yourself a chance to make new discoveries, and should your reaction be negative where many you respect feel otherwise, give yourself a chance to warm to the images.


TJ said...

After reading your book and Alan Briot's, I somehow tuned myself. I remember one guy said to me once "HDR is for children" just directly like that without even saying anything about the composition, I simply said "ok, thanks".

I wrote a review about your book and before I do so I did read indeed some of the negative reviews and apparently, lot of them didn't know what they are reading. I remember in your book you constantly mentioned "studying other photographer's work," and those people simply mentioned how the author (you) only discusses his images. Apparently, some people think it is a science part and not art, or maybe it is something should be given by the spoon like in most of today's educational systems.

I'm not a professional photographer, but it is always an experiment to me and in every session I do, for single shots or a panorama, there is always something new for me to learn, to do, and errors to overcome. For me, I can say there will be no quantum leap in my abilities; but smooth curve if I should say.

Sandy Wilson said...

Hi George,

I guess the word PHILISTINE Comes to mind when referring to these people.

The influence music has had on photographer's is really quite significant. Examples Bruce Barbuam, Ansel Adams Paul Caponigro, Charles Cramer to name but a few.

Although I do not have any of Freddie Mercury's records, his music is really great and an inspiration to listen too.

Check out Brian May another member of the Queen band. He is an accomplished qualified astronomer.

It seems to me that all the arts should be embraced to help enlighten us and improve our photography.

John said...

I've read your book "Why Photographs Work" and enjoyed it a great deal - I didn't always agree with the photos, but that's just a matter of taste, the explanations you gave for their inclusion were excellent. I especially enjoyed the photo of the, I believe, Buddhist flags in which you said you saw a lot of different things in it. Apparently, you didn't see what I saw - that being a parking meter as a sort of ghostly overlay on part of the picture. I assumed it was a multiple exposure, until I flipped the pages back and saw the photo of the parking meter prominently displayed in another photo.

I guess it was sort of a "bonus" image.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book and plan to purchase your book about reaching the next level.



Tim said...

I've not (yet) read your book, but I can approach it from another angle: when presented with an "open" competition, photo-club judges, especially those claiming unbiassed neutrality, choose their own subject-matter. I've pondered long & hard over that and come to the conclusion that it requires a rational, conscious, step of assigning a category first; not necessarily a genre - throw those options open, but work should be judged by its peers, which are those sharing the same "what kind of thing is this?" classification. Failure to spend time establishing that, or looking to appreciate work for what it has to offer, are two things that lend to disliking work.