"Photography is not essentially a sensitive medium ...”

Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#41
It might be because I go to the the NYT a lot and have used up my free articles. I am interested in what you like about his style if you do not mind saying? I found your opinion (above) of his work interesting.
I've not been on the NYT site for a while, so that could well explain it.

What do I like about Soth's style? Hmmm. In some ways it's similar (or his previous stuff has been) to Jem Southam's work. I think this is partly a factor of the choice of medium. But also the muted colours. I dug out Sleeping by the Mississippi in light of this thread and there are 'landscapes' in that which remind me of Southam's. There's a quiteness and stillness to them.

However, I have found that even using digital (any format) the imposition of a 5x4 aspect ratio alters the feel of pictures. I deliberately choose it at times and wish I still had a camera which had it as an option. I find even the similar 4x3 different.

Back to Soth. I found a short video of him today in which he mentions that he likes to keep a distance from his portrait subjects (not always, though) and I think that also appeals to my tastes. I've done something like that myself - although not consciously.

(Video where he is shooting medium format digital
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9zGLbodCyI
- An interesting series of videos about an intersting (if exclusive) project.)

To be honest I'm not too keen on analysing why I like certain pictures. It's all too easy to end up spouting airy-fairy pretentious waffle!
 
Messages
1,921
Name
Roger
Edit My Images
Yes
#47
I've not been on the NYT site for a while, so that could well explain it.

What do I like about Soth's style? Hmmm. In some ways it's similar (or his previous stuff has been) to Jem Southam's work. I think this is partly a factor of the choice of medium. But also the muted colours. I dug out Sleeping by the Mississippi in light of this thread and there are 'landscapes' in that which remind me of Southam's. There's a quiteness and stillness to them.

However, I have found that even using digital (any format) the imposition of a 5x4 aspect ratio alters the feel of pictures. I deliberately choose it at times and wish I still had a camera which had it as an option. I find even the similar 4x3 different.

Back to Soth. I found a short video of him today in which he mentions that he likes to keep a distance from his portrait subjects (not always, though) and I think that also appeals to my tastes. I've done something like that myself - although not consciously.

(Video where he is shooting medium format digital
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9zGLbodCyI
- An interesting series of videos about an intersting (if exclusive) project.)

To be honest I'm not too keen on analysing why I like certain pictures. It's all too easy to end up spouting airy-fairy pretentious waffle!
Thanks , I found the video very interesting, did not think he was as pretentious as he has been in other videos I have seen. Personally I do not rate his photography at all but it is good to see what others like about him. Thankfully we all have different tastes, which makes the world interesting.
I found your comments on aspect ratio very pertinent and I think it is a subject we do not talk about much or realise how much it affects the end picture, I might start a thread on it.
 
Messages
1,871
Edit My Images
No
#48
Still waiting to hear what the OP thinks.
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#51
Still waiting to hear what the OP thinks.
Haven't got time to think, I'm too busy ignoring you ...

Seriously - I'm still deciding what to think. I'd been aware of Soth to a modest degree, but hardly of his whole oeuvre, & for some reason had imagined that he was much older than I now know he is. His work had come across as middle-aged. That's not good or bad, it's just how I imagined it.

Regarding the recent images in question, I found them to be painterly in terms of light and composition, but also sensitive to the individuals photographed. Yes the poses were static but that was a function of the medium (equipment) used - neither good nor bad, but what it was, and sufficient to be taken on trust as an expression of his intention.

Photography isn't just about technique, is it? It requires technique, but the informant is some kind of vision that relegates technique to the mere mechanics of getting there. This is evident in the work of many a competent photographer, not just the more visionary ones.

I don't want to be Alec Soth, but I'd be happy enough if I had a personal vision equal to his in some way.

I'm generous enough as a person, but I have a ruthless eye at the same time. It's not just the fakes that you've got to watch out for - it's the ocean of incompetence too.

What, exactly, is any one of us trying to do? It's an adventure, isn't it? How can a photograph be a kind of message, or just a pointless fart into the wind?
 
Last edited:
Messages
11,534
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#52
Photography isn't just about technique, is it? It requires technique, but the informant is some kind of vision that relegates technique to the mere mechanics of getting there.
And this is a very interesting comment. I've wondered why people use stuff like large format cameras, and in some cases I'm reasonably sure that it's because the camera shapes their content and the mechanics of getting there. Using a more flexible format would require them to create the picture from themselves instead, and that's beyond their vision. There was an interesting comment in one of the videos about Nadav Kander, that moving to digital was actually seamless - it would be interesting to know if that was because his vision was strong enough to work in any format or whether he'd simply developed a pattern of working that was rigid enough not to be affected by the tools he used.
 

sirch

Official Forum Numpty 2015
Messages
7,852
Name
Chris
Edit My Images
Yes
#53
I've wondered why people use stuff like large format cameras, and in some cases I'm reasonably sure that it's because the camera shapes their content and the mechanics of getting there.
^This^

It's true in all visual arts. There are things you can do in one medium that cannot be done in another, there are things that can be done in oil paint that cannot be done with charcoal; there are things that can be done in bronze that cannot be done in marble. The artist chooses the medium and that effects the outcome of the finished piece.

I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that film and digital photography are very different things and they have been conflated because the end result can be made to look similar. This has been compounded by deliberate choices of camera manufacturers for marketing purposes to make digital cameras familiar to film camera users. There is no real "ISO" on a digital camera, there is no need for a 35mm sensor, these design choices were made to convert film photographers to digital and in doing that film and digital became seen as a continuum. No one conflates a ship and an aeroplane even though the end result, say moving a person from the UK to the USA, can be the same. To draw an analogy closer to film/digital, no one supposes that a harpsichord and a synthesizer are essentially the same thing.
 
Last edited:
Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#54
^This^

It's true in all visual arts. There are things you can do in one medium that cannot be done in another, there are things that can be done in oil paint that cannot be done with charcoal; there are things that can be done in bronze that cannot be done in marble. The artist chooses the medium and that effects the outcome of the finished piece.

I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that film and digital photography very different things and they have been conflated because the end result can be made to look similar. This has been compounded by deliberate choices of camera manufacturers for marketing purposes to make digital cameras familiar to film camera users. There is no real "ISO" on a digital camera, there is no need for a 35mm sensor, these design choices were made to convert film photographers to digital and in doing that film and digital became seen as a continuum. No one conflates a ship and an aeroplane even though the end result, say moving a person from the UK to the USA, can be the same. To draw an analogy closer to film/digital, no one supposes that a harpsichord and a synthesizer are essentially the same thing.
Film is certainly different to digital - in the look of the results and the process of picture taking. But I imagine that has always been the case with each new development. Maybe it's not a continuum but a series of step changes. With each photographic step the older process becomes largely obsolete for the original intention of photography - making readily reproducible representations of the world without having to do it manually with brush or pencil. Each change making that easier and quicker.

In the early days of digital camera manufacturers didn't stick to the traditional designs, they tried all sorts of wacky ideas out, and the earliest sensors I used weren't 35mm in size or aspect ratio. That they reverted to what people were used to was not for want of trying new approaches.

Rather than look at what the older methods can do that the new ones can't I prefer to look at what the new method can do which the older ones can't. There is a lot that digital can do which film never will. Such as taking photographs at highish shutter speeds in very dim light. There's now no need to struggle to hand hold a camera at 1/15th of a second and f/1.7 in black and white, you can shoot at 1/200th at f/5.6 in colour and get a better picture. For me film is as dead as the dodo.

Whenever I look at photographs on websites or in print the last thing that concerns me is whether they were taken on film or digitally. I couldn't care less. It's the pictures I'm interested in. Are they worth looking at?
 

sirch

Official Forum Numpty 2015
Messages
7,852
Name
Chris
Edit My Images
Yes
#55
In the Jem Southam video you posted elsewhere IIRC he says that one of his reasons for doing more with digital is that he can no longer get analogue paper that gives him the colours he wants but even then he hasn't completely abandoned large format. I agree that as viewers of photographs we may not want to concern ourselves with the process but as photographers wanting a particular look to our finished work it is surely something with which we should concern ourselves.
 
Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#56
I can't say I've ever thought about the finished look to my photographs. Certainly not before I've taken them. I value consistency within a body of work, but that's about it. For example I used three brands of camera in one project and couldn't get the colours consistent across all the photographs. Despite an irrational aversion to black and white at that time I converted them all simply to provide a uniform look.

Everyone has a different way of working, though, and I suppose there are those who prefer to work towards a target.
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#57
I've wondered why people use stuff like large format cameras, and in some cases I'm reasonably sure that it's because the camera shapes their content and the mechanics of getting there.
I'd say that they enjoy the process of seeing / making in a certain way that the equipment facilitates, and are also aware of the potential for expression of that equipment, material and its attendant processes. Differences will likely show up more in a large print than a downsampled mage on the internet.

Part of a photograph's essence is in its texture - film grain or pixels, and their scale relative to the image.

Using a more flexible format would require them to create the picture from themselves instead, and that's beyond their vision.
That sounds a bit sweeping, indeed could be insulting to many a fine craftsperson. But it's obvious that vision varies, and the test of it is in the image itself and what it reveals.

I think that you could hand any type of camera to a practised photographer and they would produce a workable image by adapting to it and realising its potential.

For instance, Tom Wood's more recent work (ref his 'Landscapes' show a few yrs ago) resulted from quite a range of equipment - mf pano film, Fuji X and I don't know or can't remember what else. Was that body of work consistent in character? No, but that was part of its charm. It was alive. Variety needn't be a bad thing.
 
Last edited:
Messages
11,534
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#58
That sounds a bit sweeping, indeed could be insulting to many a fine craftsperson.
I did also say in the same sentence "or whether he'd simply developed a pattern of working that was rigid enough not to be affected by the tools he used. " allowing for the user to be in control of the output, rather than the instrument to be the controlling factor.

Some also benefit from using multiple formats, intentionally producing work that makes the most of each. But for me, the thread of this discussion was for a photographer to produce work that was consistent across the different formats.
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#59
But for me, the thread of this discussion was for a photographer to produce work that was consistent across the different formats.
That's a bit of a puzzle. You could produce work using a range of equipment / formats / processes that was pretty consistent in the strength of your imaging, but it would vary in its realisations - even with similar film and processing, an image made with a pinhole or a Holga will be markedly different from one made with a 10x8.
 
Messages
340
Edit My Images
No
#60
But for me, the thread of this discussion was for a photographer to produce work that was consistent across the different formats.
But is that even a good target to aim at? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote...
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.
 
Messages
11,534
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#61
Again trying to keep my comments in context:

There was an interesting comment in one of the videos about Nadav Kander, that moving to digital was actually seamless - it would be interesting to know if that was because his vision was strong enough to work in any format or whether he'd simply developed a pattern of working that was rigid enough not to be affected by the tools he used.
He actually said something along the lines of it not being obvious which images had been shot on a particular format.

Personally I shoot images in a (probably slightly too) wide range of styles, but having spent a day in London shooting scenery & people using an F301 loaded with XP2, the images looked very much like the kind of images I produce with a DSLR, albeit with limitations of grain & tonal range. Is that because I lack imagination to use the kit differently or because I have a particular style I want to apply to those situation? I'm slightly reminded of a few well-known guitar players who always sound like themselves whether they play a Les Paul, Strat or flying V. Lack of imagination or personality imprinting?
 
Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#62
I'm slightly reminded of a few well-known guitar players who always sound like themselves whether they play a Les Paul, Strat or flying V. Lack of imagination or personality imprinting?
Which reminds me of someone's signature on a guitar forum, 'Great tone, no chops'.

It's all well and good producing photographs that have a certain 'look' to them but it won't automatically make them good pictures.
 
Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#63
Unfortunately Dave the link appears to be behind a paywall, do you think his new work is an improvement?
Just been to look at something else on the NYT site and got the paywall. Deleted all the NYT cookies in my browser and got through to see what I wanted with a message saying I had two free views available. ;)
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#65
Lack of imagination or personality imprinting?
That's a pretty hard thing to measure!

And is it necessary to have a 'style'? Of course some people certainly do, but to me the word implies a certain artifice and even possibly shallowness. That's maybe a benefit in a commercial realm but I've assumed that here we're mainly talking about those of us who make photographs essentially for ourselves.

If you are genuine and have something to say photographically, a perceived 'style' might arise naturally from your explorations of seeing rather than be something imposed as a target requirement. And it might be bounded by your limitations of seeing and technique thus far.
 
Messages
11,534
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#66
That's a pretty hard thing to measure!

And is it necessary to have a 'style'? Of course some people certainly do, but to me the word implies a certain artifice and even possibly shallowness. That's maybe a benefit in a commercial realm but I've assumed that here we're mainly talking about those of us who make photographs essentially for ourselves.

If you are genuine and have something to say photographically, a perceived 'style' might arise naturally from your explorations of seeing rather than be something imposed as a target requirement. And it might be bounded by your limitations of seeing and technique thus far.
I'm not sure I judge photos like that TBH, and I'm not sure that I can so much. But I'd expect people to have their own style, even if they deliberately create images in the style of another photographer, that comes through in their own work.
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#67
Personally I shoot images in a (probably slightly too) wide range of styles
You brought up the topic of 'styles' ...
I'm not sure I judge photos like that TBH
... so what are you referring to here?

I'm suggesting that a 'style' can be a statement or it can be a prison. The name of the game should be exploration, personal expression, and communication in various measure.

Referring to my last post, when I said "if you are", I could've maybe better said "if one is", at the risk of sounding a bit too regal, but it wasn't accusatory.
 
Last edited:
Messages
19,953
Name
Alan
Edit My Images
No
#68
That's a pretty hard thing to measure!

And is it necessary to have a 'style'? Of course some people certainly do, but to me the word implies a certain artifice and even possibly shallowness. That's maybe a benefit in a commercial realm but I've assumed that here we're mainly talking about those of us who make photographs essentially for ourselves.

If you are genuine and have something to say photographically, a perceived 'style' might arise naturally from your explorations of seeing rather than be something imposed as a target requirement. And it might be bounded by your limitations of seeing and technique thus far.
But to me it could equally possibly imply complexity, depth, emotionality and sensitivity.

One thing I often raise an eyebrow at is the repeated use of negative connotations couched in possibilities and maybes as a way to promote and validate a viewpoint which is uncertain, dubious to justify and difficult to effectively defend as it's just a view, just one view, and a view which could equally validly be opposed by others holding an opposite view and opinion.

Of course things might and could possibly happen and things might and could possibly be seen as limiting, negative or shallow or equally there might and could possibly be an opposing view, even a positive one.

Just a thought.

And on the statement that photography is not essentially a sensitive medium I'd stay away from that rather arrogant and dubious certainty and say that essentially it may or may not be. I think it's something that it could or could not be depending upon the photographer, the subject and the mood and motivation of the parties involved.
 
Last edited:

sirch

Official Forum Numpty 2015
Messages
7,852
Name
Chris
Edit My Images
Yes
#69
Since this thread was posted I have been wondering if any “medium” is sensitive or insensitive, beyond the obvious scientific meaning of that term? Could someone give examples of sensitive media if photography isn’t such?

In the piece linked in the OP Soth seems to be wanting more sensitivity and does that not get closer to the fundamentals, that sensitivity comes from the artist not the medium? As for process, could it not be argued that some ways of working encourage a more sensitive approach even if the outcome of such a process cannot be distinguished from alternative ways of working in the final image?
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#70
Since this thread was posted I have been wondering if any “medium” is sensitive or insensitive, beyond the obvious scientific meaning of that term? Could someone give examples of sensitive media if photography isn’t such?
The medium is neutral. It's incapable of human qualities in itself. It's just material.
.. sensitivity comes from the artist not the medium? As for process, could it not be argued that some ways of working encourage a more sensitive approach
Yes!
even if the outcome of such a process cannot be distinguished from alternative ways of working in the final image?
Not sure about this bit - I'd rather assume that sensitivity will be evident in the result. That's sensitivity to both the subject and the medium and processes.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#71
But to me it could equally possibly imply complexity, depth, emotionality and sensitivity.
Why yes, of course! But some practitioners will have style itself as a goal and contrive to engineer it in a way that's relatively hollow and superficial. This is true across all art-forms. Mantovani is not Sibelius.

As I said above, "If you are genuine and have something to say photographically, a perceived 'style' might arise naturally from your explorations of seeing rather than be something imposed as a target requirement." Style can be the content itself or can be a vehicle for the content.
 
Last edited:
Messages
19,953
Name
Alan
Edit My Images
No
#72
Why yes, of course! But some practitioners will have style itself as a goal and contrive to engineer it in a way that's relatively hollow and superficial. This is true across all art-forms. Mantovani is not Sibelius.
It's the same in any profession, skill, hobby or activity.

Some people will no doubt approach cow pat photography as the high art form it is to them whilst some will see it as a hollow and robotically soulless documentary process.

I think it's something that has to be decided by the photographer and the viewer. For example I may perceive both sunset and sunrise as beautiful events whilst your average vampire sees one as enabling their continued membership of an active and vibrant undead community and the other as a pictorial representation of their impending destruction. Both views may be valid depending upon your own culture, history, mood and / or viewpoint. Either way both events will have been photographed a billion times at each occurrence and there's only so much of a personal stamp you can put on some things and I think we're straying into arrogance when we state that things are or are not when clearly the decision is a personal one.

When I used to test stuff I could say with certainty that the voltage at point A was 5.6 volts when measures with a Oujifuji model XYZ which was calibrated yesterday but when taking a photograph or looking at one my interpretation and decision is mine and I must accept that others may have a different view and a different interpretation.

Sometimes The Pretenders Tattooed Love Boys is better than watching Vanessa-May in a short skirt and not actually noticing that she's playing a violin. Viewpoint and things like emotional depth, originality and wider art in general are personal decisions. But, we may also be open to listening to the views of others and we may change our mind...
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#73
cow pat photography
Is that in vogue at the moment? I thought it was deprecated owing to the concerns about methane and global warming?
I think it's something that has to be decided by the photographer and the viewer.
Ah yes. But 'seeing', whether as photographer or viewer, is a fluid matter, and isn't always natively present - but can be learnt.
we may also be open to listening to the views of others and we may change our mind...
Indeed!
 
Messages
11,534
Name
Toni
Edit My Images
No
#75
... so what are you referring to here?

Lack of imagination or personality imprinting?

That's a pretty hard thing to measure!
I mean that I don't try to analyse the picture in so much depth, whether the creator's output was similar because they lacked imagination to try something different, or because they wanted to make the work consistent wth other work. I don't care enough to be bothered, and it's unlikely I can even remember the style or even any particular pictures of more than a small handful of toggers.

As Alan noted, we're getting a little combative, and that's possibly not helpful - I'd rather discuss than propose and defend ideas. However wanting to speak plainly, I find it frustrating when a big deal is made of using film, as if the medium is somehow more noble than a fully electronic process, rather than allowing the image to stand up for itself. With just a very few exceptons there's not much of that attitude on TP.
 
Messages
1,921
Name
Roger
Edit My Images
Yes
#76
Ah yes. But 'seeing', whether as photographer or viewer, is a fluid matter, and isn't always natively present - but can be learnt.
All that can be learnt is the "fashion" of others, a genuine new idea or concept is very rare, we are not very good at teaching originality.
Edit. If indeed originality can be taught.
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,921
Name
Roger
Edit My Images
Yes
#77
Why yes, of course! But some practitioners will have style itself as a goal and contrive to engineer it in a way that's relatively hollow and superficial. This is true across all art-forms. Mantovani is not Sibelius.
Mantovani was certainly not as cynical as Sibelius who changed his name to sound more fashionably French. Sibelius rested on his laurels and did not compose after he had made enough money whilst Mantovani still helps composers through a trust years after his death. Of course in "art" circles elitism would possibly make anybody think twice about listening to Mantovani whilst having Sibelius on your hifi would give you kudos! So who is the contriver, hollow and superficial and who is the genuine one who simply loved music?
My point is that photography is no different to any other art, it is subject to fashion and snobbery/elitism. If I was looking for genuine talent and originality nowadays I would be looking at instagram and facebook where there is probably real raw talent, vision and sensitivity because it has not been "learnt" out of people. Just my opinion of course.
 
Messages
4,477
Name
Dave
Edit My Images
No
#78
This has got a bit too deep and meaningless for me. :LOL:
 
OP
OP
droj
Messages
3,198
Name
droj
Edit My Images
No
#79
If indeed originality can be taught.
Probably not, but a climate can be fostered in which it can develop if it's able to.
Of course in "art" circles elitism would possibly make anybody think twice
The issue is nowt to do with elitism, but about satisfaction - the presence of something that can actually be chewed on.
 
Messages
1,921
Name
Roger
Edit My Images
Yes
#80
Probably not, but a climate can be fostered in which it can develop if it's able to.

The issue is nowt to do with elitism, but about satisfaction - the presence of something that can actually be chewed on.
Actually I would question if the motivation in your analogy was not completely about elitism, what else were you trying to portray when comparing Mantovani to Sibelius.?
 
Top