Do subjects get "used up" in photography?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by unrealnature, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. Does subject matter get "used up"? Is this peculiar to photography?

    Think of the most common overdone subject matter: sunsets, babies, pets,
    vacation/travel snaps, flowers. But also think of green peppers, nautilus
    shells, urban ugliness, the Half-Dome, nudes in traditional poses [add your
    personal list of overdone, or "claimed" generic subjects]. With 2 billion
    images on Flickr, with more people making and more people looking, will fresh
    subject matter become ever harder to find? Where does this lead?

    While it is literally impossible for a photographer to take a perfect
    recreation of the subject of an existing photograph, it's nevertheless, very
    easy to make something that qualifies as an imitation -- and which will be seen
    as an imitation by viewers. While light and timing are **the** creative tools
    used by photogaphers and are what makes a picture bad or good, nevertheless,
    what he primarily gets credit/blame for is the generic subject matter and its
    arrangement in the frame.

    In photography, it's relatively easy to imitate.

    A technically savvy photographer is probably able to do an adequate imitatation
    of just about any great photographer. After all, they both use cameras, both
    understand technique (from exposure, to lighting and printing), and both have
    access to the same subject matter.

    Conversely, it's quite hard not to imitate.

    If you happen to want to do the same subject matter as has been famously done
    by some other photographer -- without having your pictures being seen as
    imitation, what can you change? You can't give up the camera, you can't do too
    much with technique without getting into manipulation, and, in photography the
    subject matter is what it is.

    This seems to lead to the photography of ever more weird subjects, and also to
    a lot of different-for-different's sake pictures which are, paradoxically,
    therefore still responding to (caused by) an awareness of "used up" subject

    Of course, there are some subjects that never get used up. Such as puppies.
    Preferably, chubby puppies.

    [who has escaped this question by moving into compositing]
  2. I'd question the premise that lighting and timing are *the* creative tools. And I think it depends on the kind of photograph you're talking about.

    Photos of babies and brides will always be important, because brides and babies are unique as well as universal. Family albums will remain filled with them, an important use of photography, because it's the particular bride and the particular baby that will always be important.

    Imitation and representation are not the limits of photography, creation is, as in any art form. Lighting and timing are not the only tools. When subject matter becomes a tool, photographs become interesting. What gets boring is when the same subject matter is the *end* in itself over and over. But if the sunset or pepper is the beginning of something, I'm interested.

    Lighting and timing are two of the significant aspects of photography that are used to tell stories and express feelings. We may run out of new subjects (don't worry, we won't), but we won't run out of stories or feelings.

    Photography is too easily seen as just a mirror of nature, thus words like "imitation" and "representation" are used. Add *imagination* and we shouldn't worry about good, new photographs running out. It's in the imagination that subject matter can both be itself and transcend itself.
  3. jtk


    I think the notion of "subject" inherently causes a forced perception.

    Forced perception is perfectly kosher if the point is to represent (someone or something or some phenomenon). "This is my motorcycle."

    If, however, the photographer's hope is to indirectly or suggestively convey or hint something, that something is probably so ephemeral that it's not nearly as likely to get "used up." On the other hand, it's much more rare, and much less likely to be my experience.
  4. That's just the problem I'm grappling with right now as I plan my entries to a rather prestigious art show. Hoping to get some guidance, I asked a prominent artist (watercolorist) to critique my proposed entries from the perspective of someone not steeped in photography.

    Naturally, he commented on composition, use of space, color and those factors with which he was very familiar and, on coming to a B&W portrait of a sad-looking elderly woman in a public market said,"I think the judges will say either 'it's been overdone as a subject,' or it'll knock their socks off emotionally."

    In the realm of landscape photography, it's a real challenge to bring anything new to the party, considering how many years the popular subjects have been done and redone but, as John said, perhaps the key to remaining fresh and interesting is the exploration of the subtle nuances of a subject rather than plunking your tripod's legs into the time-worn sockets in the canyon's rim where thousands have gone before.
  5. Just remember - Any that can be photographed/painted/written about, already has, and has been for a long while

    and have you seen a good image, painting, book recently?
  6. ooops typo
    "Anything that can be..."
  7. Do subjects get "used up" in photography?<p>
    A short answer: Yes. Unless you're a very good artist, with a distinct and unique vision.
  8. Personally, I really never need to see another photograph of a mountain reflecting in a lake....

    But, I don't maintain a database of stock photos for sale either. I have a friend who is a wild life photographer and sells a variety of stock photos. He approaches subjects with the idea that "he needs one of those" in his stock photo database.

    So, he regularly travels all over the world taking photos you've seen at least a hundred times from numerous photographers. Whales, grizzlies, polar bears, wolves, birds, bobcats, African big game, sunsets, sunrises, mountains, etc., etc. he's got them all.

    All well photographed, but few with a personal point-of-view.

    I think that's what is difficult no matter what the subject - how do you see the subject uniquely?
  9. They get used up by individuals -- you can work it till you feel you've exhausted your well of creativity and move on to a new subject. Sometimes photographers will work on a subject for decades , coming back to it as they feel a need to revisit it.

    And of course you as a consumer of images may also lose interest in seeing any more of a subject.
  10. "Just remember - Any that can be photographed/painted/written about, already has, and has been for a long while"

    I don't think that's true at all. Part of seeing is finding things that haven't been photographed.
  11. Check out Geoff Dyer's book "The Ongoing Moment". I'm reading it right now.
  12. I agree with Steve; there will always be new subjects simply because the world is changing. We are changing, society is changing, the environment is changing, etc.

    I also agree with Fred that personal pictures will never be "used up", and with Steve that stock work generally intentionally goes after subjects that are recognizable/familiar/generic.

    What I'm interested in is the exhaustion of existing subjects for artistic photography, and whether this is peculiar to photography. What other artform spits out so much so easily with so many people seeking to attract attention -- and customers? The Flickr stat, right this moment, says 3739 photos uploaded this minute. If you figure that maybe 10% of that is art photos (as opposed to family/travel/pet snaps) and that Flickr gets about 5% of the pictures made in that same minute (I'm making these stats up...), then you do the math.

    If instead of shooting whatever, wherever, we could get all 2 billion Flickr photos to be of green peppers, can we agree that at some point well before that total, we would have "used up" the subject of green peppers even if we are all very good and can do as John suggests and search out all the deepest correlations to green peppers?

    If, instead of peppers, all 2 billion were of a person, say me or you, and they covered our lifetime from birth to death (hopefully not today), would you agree that they would have pretty thoroughly used up the subject of "person of this type"?

    I think there is a limit. Maybe it is incredibly large/high, but I think there's a limit to any subject. If we are kicking out 3,739 pictures per minute, some subjects are likely to get pretty darn old.

    I do agree with Ellis that the used-up-ness will vary with each person's exposure to photography. There are still wonderfully innocent people out there who are making their first sunset photo and loving it. Bless them.

    Matt, I will have a look at "The Ongoing Moment".

  13. Saying that everything has already been done, is like Fred Hoyle (the astronomer) saying that all the main facts about the universe were known and the rest of science would just be tidying up the details--in the early 50s--just before the Big Bang theory and the whole revolution in Astrophysics occurred.

    There will always be new ways of seeing things, and if we could anticipate them we would be like Picasso in doing the future instead of wondering about what it will be.

    On the other hand, some topics are like the Dilbert cartoon, to be sure, where Catbert is commenting on a million monkeys taking so many years to recreate Shakespeare on their typewriters. When faced with Dilbert's work -- he comments "three monkeys, ten minutes"

    I'm afraid it will always be the case that most of us will fall in the "three-monkey" category.
  14. With no malice intended, I think that sometimes we can get too concerned about doing something that no one else has ever done before. I'm a fan of photographer Jim Brandenburg. He told us near the end of one of his seminars that we should go out and enjoy making images of those subjects that most deeply stir our passions. If they sell, receive awards, are published, or not, is secondary. Jim takes many of the subjects listed in earlier posts within this thread to heights of visual pleasure and understanding that are Jim's own. Imagine him saying, "I guess I'll stop shooting wolves, because it's all been so overly done before." New images are always possible. For some, they might be cliches, but not for others.

    I continually go back to the same places and subjects and shoot them again and again. So much changes with each visit, different time of day, different time of year, different mood or approach, etc.; the only limitation is how I approach the task, my own creative vision, and some degree of luck. It becomes progressively harder to improve on my previous efforts, but sometimes something compelling to me emerges and I dutifully chronicle it. One of the reasons we photographers tend to become "lensaholics" is that using a different lens with a different focal length and different characteristics changes the outcome of the photograph.
  16. My subject for photography is Romanesque church architecture in France. My favorite
    single church is Sainte Madeleine in Vezelay. I have shot there at least ten different times
    and every day it is different; I see things that were missed every single time prior. The
    more I understand about medieval vaulting, the more I understand about the building,
    which affects the way I perceive the building, which affects the way I shoot the building.
    To someone on the outside, looking at my hundreds of shots of Vezelay, they may think
    that I have "used up" the basilica. To me, looking at the dozen shots that begin to capture
    what I see, I have barely started.

    And all if this is independent of time of day and time of year. It is the structure itself. Like
    some people may be fascinated with the structure of a leaf, or of a flower; to me, the
    stones speak.
  17. Dennis and Dick (who posted earlier), and all who have referenced their own work in this thread, I hope I have not implied that I in any way devalue work that features a popular subject.

    A billion pictures of green peppers would not make Edward Weston's green peppers any less lovely, or Dennis's churches less fascinating. Also, I don't think it's possible for one person to use up any subject. I sure hope not becuase I shoot the same thing over and over and over.

    I guess what I'm worried about is viewer fatique and also photographers' ... anxiety (searching for the right words) about shooting a subject that they have seen done by masters, or by millions -- already -- to the point where they avoid the subject. As Dick and John said, one could search for something more, but sometimes there's not much left.

    In which case you can do as Anthony says and shoot for your own pleasure, without an eye to history. But that concedes the wider audience.

  18. Julie, I took no offense whatsoever. Was merely trying to say that we can really only shoot
    for ourselves and a select group of people who choose to respond to the work. I
    remember when I first joined this site, I was struck by the number of glorious shots of
    coastlines at sunset ... rich, saturated colors, long exposures, etc. But now, no fault to the
    photographers, but I barely see them anymore. It takes something extraordinary, like the
    work done by Teresa Zafon, for example, to catch my eye. The work of the others is still
    wonderful, when I SEE it, I still enjoy it. But I have become inured to it.

    I don't see pictures of cats and dogs except on rare occasions, children once in awhile.
    But a great street shot will always grab me, fine architectural work, and things like Carsten
    Ranke's landscapes. These reach out and grab me still. Some photographers are just flat
    out amazing and you can spot their shots a mile away ... Michael Ging, Richard Hans, MG
    Lizi, Pnina Evental, Claire Gray, Tim Holte, Judy Ben Joud (when she posts), Pulok
    Pattanayak, Wilson Tsoi and others.

    Others show an artistry in the visual treatments of the shots that I can't resist ... Mikel
    Arrizabalaga, Hekate Hek ... I could go on, there are more than 120 names on my
    "Interesting People" list.

    Other times, however, I just try to concentrate on a single portfolio and see what the
    photographer is trying to do ... someone like Jack McRitchie, John Crosley, Stefan Rohner,
    and others ... and then I really try to look.

    One of the me's looking is just a guy seeing what's out there. The other is a photographer
    trying to see inside another photographer. That second guy has a much tougher job, but
    one with great rewards.

    So to cap off this exegesis, for which I apologise, one of me will be saturated with imagery.
    The other will always try to see into and through the shot.
  19. Thinking about pre-photography-era artists, Rembrandt painted himself throughout his lifetime, Vermeer's subject throughout his life was light, Monet stared at his water lilies into his old age until they dissolved into patches of colour.

    As Ellis says the individual can exhaust a subject and move on but it can take a long time to get that point.
  20. When I had a Chinese art history class, one of the Chinese art concepts that I found interesting was the idea of the "master artist."

    In the case of painting (as an example), a Chinese artist would be classified as a master painter; and every painter after that would make exactly the same type of paintings for the next 1,000 or so years.

    A master painter would develop a style that had a high fore ground, and for the next 1-2,000 years all paintings had high fore grounds - until the next master painter developed paintings with low fore grounds and the cycle repeated.

    In some ways, you find that in all of the arts. People want to emulate what is "successful," "beautiful," or what they see as interesting. It's almost as if by copying or manufacturing an image that meets specified criteria they are emulating the master, style, or image type they most admire - I'm not sure they're "using up" the subject as much as replicating the Chinese master artist paradigm.
  21. A reporter friend of mine once said to me you must get tired of shooting in a small town, shooting the same things over and over again. I bet you would
    really prefer shooting up in the mountains taking nature shots.

    I had to laugh. i told him, "Day I can not find something to photograph by just walking in the town is day I hang up my gear. Besides I suck at nature

    I am finding more and more the subject is less important than what you bring to it. We all see things differently and approach them differently. I am lucky
    that I am in a profession in which I can see what other people bring to a shoot and learn and expand my skill set from.
  22. Julie, I think a correct definition of artistic photography (or painting, or art using
    other media) is that which is unique.

    Copying rarely leads to art, nor does the creation of technically impressive images
    labelled fine art but which have little emotional or intellectual impact on the viewer.

    I used to be amused by photographers of my one-time camera club period stating
    that they had done everything and were leaving the medium. Knowone does
    everything and a true artist has no interest in doing everything but doing only what
    he is driven to do, either consciously or (more often) unsconciously.

    "Subjects" get used up no more than "life" gets used up. Other than facing the
    presence of our mortal constraints, we can never be entirely happy with a notion that
    everything has been done in our life.

    Copying gets used up (whether of peppers, of standard images of cute puppies or
    whatever!), but art subjects are never limited, even though they have been treated
    differently by those befopre us. Unique art creativity assures that.
  23. jtk


    The only obstacle to finding profoundly important new books on a weekly basis is the lack of time. I'm reading Doris Kearns Goodman's "Team of Rivals" right now: Abraham Lincoln's political career and his presidency. I'd never previously understood how gifted he was, or anything about his value system.

    The same applies to wonderful new movies: I think I link one here just about every week.

    Steve Swinehart's point about imitation of masters is important, and I'll add that there's nothing wrong with that.

    But we're talking about photography it may be that our "master" is a dancer or politician or registered nurse... isn't fundamentally about graphics or beauty or emotion, it's fundamentally about instants. The further it drifts into post production, the further it drifts from photography. IMO. That's not to say its kess fabulous, of less value than photography.

    Flickr is overflowing with brilliant work from all sorts of photographrs, some of them very young, many using minimal digicams and cellcameras, with no post processing at all.
  24. John, I couldn't disagree more regarding your point that photography is an instant.
    Yes, it could be 1/1000th of a second exposure or 30 seconds, but the actual
    consideration of the image, be it prepared (lighting, angle of the photo, timing of
    various objects or subjects entering the frame, actively composing a composition
    before making the image, and so on...) or subsequently modified under the projection
    of an enlarger or other device, photographic imaging (creation) is definitely a non
    instantaneous process.

    These facts alone can also assure that subjects do not always get "used up",
    especially in the hands of an artist-photographer.

    You are no doubt right, though, that some fine photographs are being made with
    point and shoots and cellphones and sometimes by persons who are not normally
    blessed with a "photographer's eye". Certainly they are sometimes more appealing
    than many over-worked Photoshop images that may excite the eye at first view but
    often do not linger in the mind.

    Perhaps an argument in favour of some subjects getting "used up" and the dregree of
    copying of Amsel adams or others is the fact that quite a few images illicit no more
    than a ho-hum. I know. I have made these too, but am happy to work against that.
    This is pehaps what many years of photo competitions teaches us and why we
    eventually throw aside all this stuff for a more personal approach.
  25. jtk


    "As Dick and John said, one could search for something more, but sometimes there's not much left."

    I think Dick and I both seek something more than new subjects. Photography appeals to me substantially because the potential seems infinite. I fail more than I succeed, but I do very occasionally succeed... the psychologist in me (learning theory) calls that a recipe for persistence.
  26. Subjects never become used up- it is the approaches which become stale and lifeless- used up as you put it.
    What if the man who photographed Martin Luther King in the sixties
    had said, " no, i can't be bothered photographing him or going to the event. Its been done so many times before" .
    What if the guy who took his video cam to Texas
    the day J. F. K was shot had the same attitude?
    Successful artists and photographers ALWAYS find new approaches and angles which give their work fresh dynamism.
    As someone once said of Monet, "ah , but he does not breathe
    the air WE breathe! "
  27. jtk


    Arthur, let me put it another way. The factor that differentiates photography from other image-making is the instant.

    Everything in life, including breathing, involves preparation time. To argue that its preparation time makes photography less a matter of the instant seems specious.
  28. Going back to the OP comment, "light and timing are **the** creative tools used by photographer" ... Dick, Arthur, and Mike discussed composition in a way that supports it as a fundamentally important creative tool in photography. As Arthur mentioned, it can be planned, ie. used independently from light and timing. New composition is an integral part of the fresh eye and offers hope towards persistence.

    The payoff of composition is perception, which is partially independent from the subject. To use artistic language, composition affects shape, and as such can be used, for example, to produce images that are entirely unrelated to the subject. The viewer may be concious of these mentally-synthesized images or the perception may be subliminal, producing novel emotion just the same. And this can happen even with landscapes.

    If you are tired of a subject, yes, put it away. Maybe revisit later. You won't likely have the innocent sunset experience again, but you may be refreshed partially.
  29. Because a photo is made by a more or less instantaneous exposure, we dwell on its
    instantness. Baloney. Well, I admit at least that in some cases that may be true. But all
    the intrinsic preparation (meaning perhaps decades of thinking, instruction,
    experiences and photographing, which have a conscious or unconscious impact on
    the result) and the "theatrical" preparation (light arrangement, timing of dynamic
    subject elements, arrangement of angle or objects that affect the composition, etc.,
    etc.) have an impact on the image, notwithstanding that it is actually captured more
    or less instantaneously.

    But specious or not, this is what makes the photograph, as well as the post exposure
    manipulation which is used to either (1) save the image, (2) enhance the viewpoint of
    the photographer or (3) add new elements of light and tone and composition
    (reframing) to the conceptual latent image.

    I like the phrase "latent image". It can refer to the excited silver molecules before
    their development (usual interpretation in a pre-Boolean electronics world), or it can
    refer to the potential, oftimes artistic, of the image., both in the head of the conceiver
    (photographer) or as a challenge to the darkroom photographer (or lightroom
    photographer) in transferring the in-camera image to a final print.

    Chip and John, planning does indeed involve light. How many times have you chosen
    to make your photo under different light conditions (clouds do move) or different
    times of day (colours do change) or with reflectors, light absorbers or other
    techniques that, in addition to angle of view, can impact heavily on the perceived and
    photographed image?
  30. I live in the Monterey, Carmel area and I think people are nuts trying to reproduce what
    Adams and Weston did. They will never even come close. Those guys had bigger cameras,
    clearer weather 50 years ago, better technique, and try and find a misshapen pepper in this
    day of perfectly shaped, genetically engineered fruits and vegetables. What they did can
    never be bettered. Best to move on to other subjects.
  31. jtk


    Sanford, there's little in common with Weston and Adams. Weston got laid by interesting women and had interesting friends, wrote well. Adams didn't(as far as we know). That screams out from the work they've left us. I think Weston was a better printer than Adams during the same era.

    There's plenty of reason to ape Weston. Somebody else might feel safer with Adams.

    If you're confining your comments to their prints, I think you left out the most important difference between them and us: history.

    My own interest is generally some kind of low key story-telling, along with low key oddities I may notice, maybe something graphic. It's been that way for decades.

    I wonder how you'd describe your photographic interest? It appears to involve brightly colored objects in strong sunlight...
  32. You got that right John. I haven't seen the sun for a week here and I'm getting anxious get
    out there and photograph something with bright colors, and preferably black shadows.
    Maybe tomorrow if I can believe the weather reports.
  33. ... there's joy in repetition
  34. You must be in Oregon, cause I haven't seen the sun here in months. Pulled out my B&W
    kit for the effects. I went through Death Valley the other week (to Vegas) on my way back
    to Oregon (Grey!) and noticed that some flowers were already coming out! (Hope!) There
    is no such thing as " used up subject matter" just used up "attitudes", find something that
    compels and work it through! The images you create should be for you, and you alone, if
    and when you feel you created something unique then please share it..
  35. Arthur, yes I agree lighting requires planning, although perhaps I should have made that clear here (and I don't think I refuted that). My point was to clarify composition as its own distinct creative tool in photography which can be used independently.

    C'mon, enough geeking out...time to check out Julie's chubby pupppies!
  36. Fred and Chip, when I said "light and timing are **the** creative tools used by photogaphers" I should have also included "as opposed to painters" (photographers and painters make comparable use of subject, arrangement and emotional input). I had that in my mind -- because I think this issue of using up subjects does not apply to painting and wanted to describe why -- but I guess you guys can't read my mind (I hope not).

    Also want to stress that I don't think we will ever run out of subjects; just that some subjects will get ... tired. This won't happen because of one or a hundred or a thousand photographers working on the same theme. It's when you get to the billions -- 3739 per minute -- that I get worried.

    Nevertheless, all of the postings have not been in vain. I will agree that unexplored territory will remain for any given subject. I think (as several people have pointed out) that this is because the thing does not define the limits; ones creative mind is the source and therefore the only limitation on what can be done.

    But, but, but ... that is not really what I was after in this thread. If a tree falls in the forest ... and I'm the only one there to hear it (crash, thump!), it's a nice private experience that I can cherish. However, if I make a career out of hearing trees falling in the forest, eventually I'm really going to want to share my crash-thumps with other people. Problem is, 2 billion other people have crash-thump recordings that they want to share.

    Or, suppose, having been inspired by all of the (sincere) advice about finding personal satisfaction in my work and seeking for deeper meaning, I have made a lovely picture of a green pepper (not really -- I hate green peppers; they make me burp). Now, can I get anybody to look at it? Any volunteers? I'll throw in a dozen pictures of flowers and another dozen of sunsets.

    Even if there was a patient and receptive audience out there, it's not possible for them to look at even a tiny fraction of what is being done. Therefore we all filter -- heavily. This is what I mean by subjects being "used up"; not so much the shooter as the viewer (though, therefore and in response to the reality of the 'market', the shooter has his audience in mind so its circular). I think endless exposure leads to deadened or non-response. Nothing controversial or unusual about that.

    The odds of even a perfect picture of a commonly or famously photographed subject being seen, much less recognized by someone who can promote it are incredibly long. You have a better chance of winning the lottery.

    Chip, don't start me on chubby puppies. I can't help myself...

  37. Julie--

    I imagine there are many who feel as you do and many who feel differently. I imagine there is someone out there whose challenge it will be to do a green pepper that everyone will notice. Look what Andy Warhol did with a darn Campbell's Soup can. That right approach to the green pepper, especially because it is already such an icon, is just waiting to be found by the next Warhol or Avedon. There are billions of snapshots of folks who live in the parts of the country Avedon liked to explore. How did he do it? How did Bach build upon a genre of music, the world of Baroque, that had been around for decades, and transform it into something so fresh and new?

    On the other hand, you are more likely to find something different to pursue. Maybe look for more different subjects or less familiar ones. Like it or not, that's likely what led Jock Sturgess and Nan Goldin did by taking controversial photos of children. Just like our vocabulary has increased to accommodate new words for things like "google" and "cursor," our photographic vocabulary is likely to keep increasing and changing. Photography is a means of expression and communication. It's tools, like language, are symbols and meaning. Those will never fade.
  38. Julie human life are and never will be dull.Imo what a photographer needs is developing its vision( seeing), as matterials are everywhere. what is needed beside well understanding composition, light, right time,right place, is the skills of especially OBSERVATION, imagination, good "gut"feeling/perception. I think that with all these qualities present, even used subjects can get a new flavor.
  39. Julie, when you said, "In which case you can do as Anthony says and shoot for your own pleasure, without an eye to history. But that concedes the wider audience." I feel you've struck a chord that resonates for those of us who make photographs essentially for our own pleasure -- stop worrying about whether anything's been overdone because at this moment, you haven't done it yet. Using peppers as an example, though the subject's been arguably overdone, even I have succumbed to temptation and added my own version. However, it was done just for the fun of doing it, has been shown only in one local gallery and will probably never reside on anyone's cocktail table. But, it's my pepper and I like it and that's all it has to do. If I were a pro and concerned about filling a market need, I probably wouldn't have made the picture, but I'm not and I did. Thanks, Julie, for helping me get this straightened out in my mind.
  40. jtk


    Dick, nice. It looks exactly like a professional's portfolio shot (humor is very common in portfolio shots)...a professional would have asked his food stylist to find peppers without that much character...I know mine did :)

    I like your "creation" joke...or maybe it's a pornographic moment involving two races of pepper :)
  41. Julie, thanks for catalysing an interesting, possibly even a personally cathartic
    discussion (for those taking part). It confirms what a lot of us believe, that, like
    painting or sculpture or architecture, photography is a fascinating medium and the
    imaginative use of it (still) knows no bounds.

    "The odds of even a perfect picture of a commonly or famously photographed subject
    being seen, much less recognized by someone who can promote it are incredibly
    long. You have a better chance of winning the lottery."

    Sure, you are right there. But that is not of much concern for the artist, as there are
    so many new subjects out there, or to be imagined. Becoming famous is secondary.
    My humble sales of photos are not far into the double digits in number in the past
    few years, but when someone plunks down the 200$ or so for a print, he or she has
    made a very close attachment to it and will hopefully continue to get pleasure from it.
    In fact, I am greatly embarrassed that a genius of the likes of Van Gogh sold nothing
    in his lifetime, yet a small photographer writing this note can find an audience in the
    seasonal galleries or commerces in his region.

    Live for the aesthetic challenge and pleasure! Fame is but a wild variable, and as you
    suggest, often no more controllable than a lottery result.
  42. I like to photograph the same objects. I like to take a research on one object, often coming back at the same place with different films in a camera. And it is the same with people, having the same one. Also, capturing myself, rather practicing on myself.
    I'm enjoying studying different natural lights how it reflects on one object. I Connecting an old camera Olympus OM1 with the modern dia Kodak E100 (which gives a blue transparency) is very interesting bond, giving an interesting results. Specially now at winter time.
    In short, I like to study for a long time with one equipment, with one object.
    People like when I'm capturing them. I have good relationship with them via camera. But I most prefer an objects. Well, for now.
  43. With 2 billion images on Flickr, with more people making and more people looking, will fresh subject matter become ever harder to find? Where does this lead?

    Does it really matter if a billion people take an image of exactly the same subject? It's the individuals " take " that matters. And why would it matter what others are doing, or, have done? All subjects are fresh if we use our own mind in different creative ways.
  44. Dennis Aubrey connected me to this 'thread' about 'used up' photographyt. I defy anyone to look at a substantial portion of my work and decide that it's 'used up'. I shoot, most often, people, and even a slight nuance can make or break a photo, a blur here or there can take on great meaning within a composition, desaturation (or not) can help (or hinder), but most of all when you look at my photos (other than the portraits of unusual people or people looked at -- I hope -- unusually -- in the 'better' folders, I hope you see that they are not copies of anybody's work -- they are entirely original and almost every one is unique -- they are not copies and you have never seen them before and probably will never see them again -- they are unique to a place, a time and a circumstance. Even if I wanted to (which I don't), I couldn't replicate them -- I just go out and take new (and I hope very interesting) photos.

    That's my ultimate goal, to take 'interesting photos' -- anything else is less than my goal (sure I post a cliche from time to time, and also post less than my best, just to try it out, and it'll end up in a lesser folder, just to have some fun -- there are way too many serious people here and in photography in general -- with their noses in the air -- thinking -- this is art -- it makes me 'feeeeeel' and this is not art it's a cliche, but one person's cliche may be another person's art, and a person may move along a continuum as one's exposure to photography (and other arts) progresses.

    I think among some there's far too much pretension (and thank God, they're the persons who'll pay $100,000 for a series of photos of a guy masturbating (truth) or a the same guy smashing a wall then plastering his head inside, while the photos are taken by his assistants.

    Where would the financing come from if some didn't take this craft/art ultraseriously -- and call it, however speciously, 'conceptual art' at that level?

    For me, it's all about 'the photographic, the moment, and the composition, and not 'the concept'. That's for the elitists to worry about . . . I just am a guy who likes to take interesting photographs, and I think a look at my best work will reveal few works that are like my best (or recent best).

    And that inclues my captures even today where I took at least 20 good ones - ones that an old friend photographer who happened by looked at on the cameras and had wonderful words of praise for - scenes he had passed by, too, and he was amazed I got such wonderful shots.

    (posting probably starts today or tomorrow, but maybe in a week or so, if delayed).

    My thesis is if you're shooting Bryce Canyon, much of what you'll shoot will be a cliche, and the same with 'The Wave' in Utah, but if you shoot people on the street, there's not so much chance you'll end up repeating anybody, if you keep your eyes open.

    Take me up on my challenge (but don't expect every photo I post to bear out my thesis - I post less than the best lots of times.)

    John (Crosley)
    (thanks Dennis Aubrey for the link)
  45. JDM von Weinberg-

    Your is the best post I've read in a very long while! Ditto.

    Catbert, Evil Human Resources Director
  46. jtk


    "For me, it's all about 'the photographic, the moment, and the composition, and not 'the concept'. That's for the elitists to worry about . . . I just am a guy..." - JC

    JC, you seem anxious that many of us are interested in ideas, find something ephemeral in some photograhy (fyi this Forum addresses Philosophy).

    Hostility to "elitism" is nothing more than the effort to divide and dumb-down.

    The Reds cynically cried "elitists" when they first invaded Poland (read Isaac Babel's exciting "Red Army"). The Nazis, Pol Pot and Mao all relied on that polarizing label. Blue collar folks are trained to despise "yuppies," yet their parents hoped they'd aspire beyond Homer Simpson.

    I've visited your gallery. It looks exactly the way you said it would look. Nice work.

    Almost everybody here does nice work. You're more of an elitist than you know.
  47. Blue collar folks are trained to despise "yuppies," yet their parents hoped they'd aspire beyond Homer Simpson.

    Of course there are always two sides to any coin.

    White collar folk are trained to despise those who do menial work "grunts" yet their parents aspire for them to be happy in their lives regardless of their ability or choice of career...not all folk are entrepreneurs, or , are particularly clever...does that make them inferior to others? or, some sort of sub-human class of a human being. Perhaps there parents would like to think they can look beyond Dallas.

    Generalisations methinks, but just walking a path that someone has trodden.

    Most, so called, "simple common" folk i have met are kind genuine people....not like a little egg cup filled with an over inflated ego because they have a read a book.
  48. Something ephemeral in some photography Truism Perhaps the conscious shaking hands with the subconcious or something else.
  49. Lives....
  50. And they always travelled on the same railway track....

    And they always travelled to the same place; they could not image any other view....

    Because they had long forgotten they had a mind but only wanted to suck others views......

    The sea was their vision, their only view...
  51. and...all the good books have been written and all the good movies have been made
  52. jtk


    "...not all folk are entrepreneurs, or , are particularly clever...does that make them inferior to others? or, some sort of sub-human class of a human being."

    Allen, relax. Nobody but you came anywhere near that idea.
  53. jtk


    "Perhaps the conscious shaking hands with the subconscious..."

    Allen, yes. Photography certainly can help that along sometimes.

    Your exceptionally fine photo does (old lady, excited young ladies with legs and ring , young mother with responsibility).
  54. Allen, relax. Nobody but you came anywhere near that idea.

    I did not say they did, John. I just like to add a bit of Theatre, entertaining;)
  55. Have all the subjects for songs been used up? How many songs about love, betrayal, and lost love are out there? They will continue forever just as will photos of sunsets, babies, etc.
  56. "... there's joy in repetition"

    I have decided that this is the single most valuable response in this entire forum...and wonderfully concise. Jim Horton gets a very close second, with an important reference to music.

    The answer to the OP, therefore, is a resounding, "no".
  57. I forgot all about music. Of course all the good music has been written long ago. This is especially true of blues and blue grass which are based on two or three basic sounds.
  58. Something ephemeral in some photography

    A while back, on the Leica forum, someone posted a photo of a pipe. How exciting, a photo of a pipe! But it it had a ephemeral quality to it, which i could not put into words. I thought it was just me, but several other, respected photographers, had the same take.

    How does it go "truth is stranger than fiction".
  59. Allen--

    How does "truth" play a role in the "ephemeral" nature of photography?
  60. I'm not really sure where you are going with that question, Fred.

    I suppose in that transient moment the mind finds its own truth from the stimulus received. How you would define that truth I don't know, unless we take a walk into the world of Metaphysics or such like.....
  61. jtk


    Allen, you're on a roll here.

    Perhaps "truth" is simply a sensation. It doesn't seem to be a concept.
  62. Allen/John--

    Allen, I was inquiring why you seemed to be equating "ephemeral" with "truth," because I thought it was an interesting direction and wanted to hear more.

    John said that photography is fundamentally instants. Important. Natural. Inclusion of the caveat that it is fundamentally NOT emotion detracts from the insightfulness of the observation.

    I was quick, myself, at first, to disagree about photography and instant. I thought about the prep, the greater meaning, the story, etc. But what gives photography so much of its life is that, undeniably, it captures and is dependent on the instant (then there is more, too).

    That's why movement, when expressed photographically, is so special. That's what allows good storytelling in a single image to have such impact. It's the instant and the transcendence of the instant that is key. Phylo raised paradox in another thread. John highlighted its relevance.

    The Western mind tends to think of truth as unflinching, as steadfast, solid, eternal, a correspondence between thought and reality. The notion that it can be sought in the ephemeral would be a welcome radical shift in our thinking. It would allow for context, perspective, and relativism to be given their due.

    When many speak of "truth" in photography they are considering some sort of adherence to the real-world experience by the resultant image. Many seem bent upon assuming that truth in photography is about accurate representation. Truth as static. On the other hand, the kind of truth that may be found in fleeting instants, captured in glances and glints, in momentary passages of shadows, in the quick darting of an eye, the sudden ironic juxtaposition of two elements, is the kind of truth that has meaning and, as John suggests, FEELS like something.

    It was the empiricist David Hume who said that belief is a thought with a stronger feeling behind it. Take it a step further. There is also something we consider stronger in the idea of truth than in the idea of belief. John, "sensation" is a good start. I'd add "sensation" with some kind of consensus behind it. A common feeling.

    I think the kind of truth we experience when looking at or creating a good photograph is akin to a sensation which connects us in some way. It may be when we realize not just that I am having this feeling but that some kind of we is having this feeling that we become aware we are experiencing truth.
  63. There is an infinite number of possible photographs. That we fail to avail ourselves of some of those possible photographs suggests complacency. That said, it is enormously difficult to find a new aspect on the frequently photographed.
  64. one of the firsts pictures i fell in love with was Weston's nautilus. i once bought myself one
    of those shells and photographed as a homage. the picture came out rather nice and is
    hanged on a wall in my home. right now, i am trying to locate the exact same palm tree
    Weston photographed here in the city where i live, and i want to make another one from the
    same angle.
  65. It is certainly a great challenge photographing one of the great images of the world... the Eifle Tower, or the Taj Mahal. Give 100 good photographers the challenge, though, and you'll always come up with some fresh perspectives.
  66. Would it be right to walk away and ignore a subject just because someone else has taken a photograph before you?
  67. Subjects never get "used up". We grow blase. Compare: do kisses get used up? Getting tired of walking in the mountainside at sunrise? I doubt it. What it takes to avoid "used-up-ness" is a truly childlish (i.e. unspoiled) attitude to subjects.
  68. I don't think there is any subject "used up" in photograpy. Any person is different, any animal, flower. Any subject can be viewed from a different angle or vantagepoint. Every sunset or sunrise ( my speciallity) is different. Anyone with a camera in his or her hand is a potential photographer, and shows us his or her view, and thanks to digital camera's, people make more and more pictures then ever, and thanks to sites like Flickr or this one for that matter, we all are able to see them, good or bad. Any person who takes a picture is proud of it's result, good or bad. So I don't think there is any subject "used up".
  69. "With 2 billion images on Flickr, with more people making and more people looking, will fresh subject matter become ever harder to find? Where does this lead?"

    In a way, you got a point. There is a limited amount of subjects we can shoot down here on earth, unless we decide to build a spaceship an visit other planets. It's not the subject that is the problem, but the way we shoot them. I try to avoid the cookie-cutter, 'cliche' look myself, but sometimes it's inevitable such as when shooting portraits. Think of a photo as a song, most of them say the same thing, but then you got your top 50 hits, why is that ?
  70. Julie, I think subjects get used up by people with not enough abilities to "look at the world and life". Today I was talking about photography with a friend of mine that told me she decided to give up taking pictures. She realized that the very same scene photographed by her and by other people with more "eye" just turned out to give very different results. I believe that, reality is the same for everybody, doesn't change by itself in a short period of time, but it's the way we look at it that can create different worlds. Cartier-Bresson said that taking photographs is like learning to understand life. If one is inspired by the photography of a certain artist and does not take that inspiration as an opportunity to understand and learn but only tries to imitate his style and subjects, of course the results will be poor copies of the originals. However, if we learn from the experience of the past in order to better understand and develop our talent and sensitivity we will be able to create something unique from a scene that has been photographed a thousand times. Also, I believe that photography should be totally spontaneous and unexpected. It should be our ability to see something that makes us feel the whole world in the split of a second and be able and ready to capture it. For this reason I don't believe in huge equipment, telephoto lens, organized trips with the idea of what you are going to capture already in your head before you leave your house. We cannot see the future and what's awaiting for us. I like to be surprised by life and it's a great challenge for me to be ready and able to see and feel something amazing when that happens before my eyes. I don't want to sound full of myself but there is a picture of mine that I am so proud of because I haven't seen anything similar to it yet, nor something that can recreate for me the same visual effect I get from mine. The subject is nothing new, just a shadow, and it was taken with a point and shoot camera at 5 mpx while I was rushing to keep up with my wife and a friend walking in front of me. I had no Idea I was about to take one of my best shots ever but I am proud to have seen it and captured it. God knows how many incredible simple little moments I have lost because I had no camera or I wasn't ready and quick to capture them! Best regards
  71. I haven't seen anything similar to it yet, nor something that can recreate for me the same visual effect I get from mine I feel the same about this photo. Ha, you are a photo man...the courage to post your photos.
  72. Antonio,

    I think almost everybody has agreed that one can always find new ways to see and shoot a commonly photographed subject.

    The other half of the equation, however, is whether you want to look at other people's pictures of very commonly photographed subjects. You've already seen it done a million times. Do you want to see it again? With a cherry on top?

  73. Julie, it all depends on what we are talking about. If we are looking at pictures of seascapes at sunset just pure and simple they can be quite boring, even if we add the silhouette of a girl walking on the beach for example (very typical image we have seen a thousand times...). But if we add some interesting object and we catch a special light at the right time the boring and already-done-a-million-times scene can become new and magical. The following image is taken from my "experimental" period after I switched to a DSLR from a P&S. Here you can see how there is absolutely nothing really interesting that can grab your attention, besides the birds and the beautiful light. This is one of those images that I don't look at anymore but I had to take it to understand how I was supposed to approach that light with my new camera and those lens. Following this message I posted another one with a sunset image attached that, in my opinion, talks about a whole different world. It's still a sunset but there are elements that make it interesting. Check it out and feel free to let me know your honest opinion.
  74. Down below I have attached the favorite sunset image from my collection. I called it
    "Never-Never Land". Many people have mistaken it with a moon shot and that already is
    an element of interest. I hate to comment my own pictures but I really want to express this
    concept. I didn't take this shot to catch another beautiful sunset but to create the idea of
    seeing Peter Pan's Island from above. That low cloud turned out perfect to give the wrong
    sense of space and distances. I used a tungsten filter to get the blue and add an idea of
    cartoon-like atmosphere or something like that. Now, I didn't plan all this but as soon as I
    saw that little rock the idea of a little island popped up in my mind and that's how the
    whole image was born.
  75. Forgot to attach the pic, here it is...
  76. Antonio, Your photos of a chain, sunset and Never-Never Land are very beautiful. They are not an average neither the one of a Sunset. I like your variation on Peter Pan very much.
  77. Kristina,

    thank you for your appreciation. I feel bad to expose my pictures on the forum but since
    sometimes it's difficult to express a concept in words only, I use my images. That's what
    photography is about for me, showing your vision of the world to others, communicate by
    images instead of words. This way I also show that I really mean what I say and I'm not just
    taking for the fun of it... Thanks again, I'm glad you liked them in a "non-average" way!
  78. mg


    "Do subjects get "used up" in photography?"

    No. But the ways to deal with these subjects do.
  79. Photography is about capturing life. Does life get "used up?" I do not think so. The challenge and fun for the photographer is to take images of life and them different, great, special, wow, etc. There will always be sunsets, babies, kitties, good, bad, beautiful and basically life. That is why human beings are endowed with IMAGINATION. Let's keep using it.

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