How do you rate photo, especially a SP photo or...

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by leslie_cheung, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. ...don't you?
    This is bouncing off E's previous "negativity" post somewhat...
    I always wanted to inquire about this. How do people rate or judge in SP. Say, how does a site, say, in-public grant so and so photo pic of the month? Or, say, how does a curator (or a jury) choose? How do you judge a street photo? Is it different than other type of photograph? Is it a feeling? Or, is it more structural, systematic? An easier, but very similar question might be, how do you edit your work? What to trash? What's worth salvaging? How do you decide? What's important to your own brand of street photography? Be as elaborate as you need, of course...
  2. Okay, in other words...what do you like (as opposed to E's hate post) in a street photograph?
    I'll start. I gravitate toward raw, mysterious, chancy yet mundane subject matters. I don't give a hoot if they are of the absurd, the wealthy, the homeless, the aged, the youth, engaged or not. I do, however, prefer photos with human element(s) in them. And I much prefer visceral subtlety over gimmicky, ironic gotcha! juxaposes so cliche in SP these days...
  3. Nuts, Leslie, your second post already says what I was going to say about what draws me in. Or at least what I tend to take photos of.
    Now I'll need to come up with something else to say. Tomorrow.
  4. For me, a photo has maximum impact when it says something about the human spirit, whether this be hate or love or whatever. I agree that 'the extra-ordinary from the mundane' is a good rule of thumb. But I find ordinariness equally valid, especially intimacy. It's a tricky balancing act, juggling intimacy with intrusion, respect with (for want of a better phrase) lack of commitment. But some shots really work precsely because of distance. It is impossible to come up with hard and fast rules, but one thing that does really turn me off is deliberate sleaziness.
  5. Do I like it or do I not. Analysis spoils the whole thing for me.
  6. I don't "rate" photos, but I appreciate and admire some.
    The "how" I appreciate photos of others, is more complicated to answer: by immediate eye-catching and then detailed analysis of theme, effects, composition and (technical) quality and traces of subjective foot-prints of the photographer. Sometimes the eye-catching turns out to be "justified"; sometimes not at all.
  7. Just a word about sleaziness, which per se, is no better or worse than beauty or spirituality, IMO. It all depends on how it's handled and what's brought out by it. There is a sleazy side of life, both out on the streets and elsewhere, and it has a truth (if a photographer can find or create it) just as other more positive truths. I'd put sleaziness up there with hate, anger, and just those negative emotions we were dealing with in the other thread . . . perfectly valid, for me.
    I agree with Stephen that it's futile and likely even counterproductive to come up with hard and fast rules for what will work in a street photo.
    Two things that come to mind first, but are hardly the only things I think about, are personality in the scene or subject (which can include atmosphere or ambiance) and point of view of the photographer.
  8. Not only do I have to quote other posters (who have nicely summed up my thoughts on this subject), but I have to mimic Lex in doing so.
    H.P. -- “Analysis spoils the whole thing for me”​
    Analysis doesn’t spoil anything for me, but I often struggle with it because sometimes it’s hard to put my finger on what it is in a photo (SP or Doc) that grabs me, keeps me coming back, or grows on me.
    Leslie’s and Fred’s comments come close:
    Leslie Cheung -- “I gravitate toward raw, mysterious, chancy yet mundane subject matters. I don't give a hoot if they are of the absurd, the wealthy, the homeless, the aged, the youth, engaged or not. I do, however, prefer photos with human element(s) in them. And I much prefer visceral subtlety over gimmicky, ironic gotcha! juxtaposes so cliche in SP these days...”
    Fred G – “personality in the scene or subject (which can include atmosphere or ambiance)”​
    Visceral subtlety, as Leslie puts it, resonates strongly with me. And, again like Leslie, the ironic gotcha!, or the so-called "decisive moment" does not. I find little depth there. The initially mundane can be deceptive. Atmosphere and ambiance are important to me also, and do not always require a human element. In fact, it can be the very absence of a literal human presence that paradoxically makes a human presence strongly felt in a particular image for me. Also ambiguity, edginess, perhaps a bit quirky. A lot of what I view (and create) is black and white, but I am not against color. A lot of that has to do with how I see the world and human moments within it. Salient elements of a moment (personal signifiers if you will) often have greater clarity for me in black and white. It has nothing to do with “classic” or “reaching for the past”, bla bla bla. I view a lot more color work than I produce, and lean more toward color in documentary work than one off street photographs. However, neither color nor black and white is a determining factor for me…so why the heck did I bring it up? Who knows.
    I lean more toward appreciating candid rather than “posed” or “engaged”. Or, if it is engaged (ie, permission or mutual collaboration) I prefer to see people going about their business, whatever it is, rather than posing for the camera. This is NOT a hidden swipe at Brad who does a lot of inspired engaged street work that I respect and appreciate, nor at Fred G. whose work, though different from Brad’s, is also often in a portrait vein. “Kiss ass!” No. I respect and appreciate the work of both men and it is important to me personally, if not to anyone else, that I make that clear. A preference for candid, at this point in time, does not mean exclusion or condemnation of engaged. One of my goals as both as a viewer and as a producer of photography is to shed prejudices, not to cling to them. If I have learned nothing else in 6 years on, I have learned to at least try to keep an open mind. I’m not always successful, but it remains an important goal for me.
    Thanks for the topic, Leslie.
  9. I'm also a big believer in the moment though I'm not sure how it'd be articulated. It's more a when leaning in for the first kiss. You just know it, and it's just momentary. And you will surely damn know, if you have missed it...
    As for engagement, nothing's wrong with it. It's often great, but I still much prefer the shots between shots, if you know what I mean...
  10. Thanks Steve… The majority of what I shoot is candid, and have found that the skills I've learned from engaging people for portraits has helped tremendously in shooting candids. My candid photos have improved just because of that. The two are very synergistic disciplines, helping each other. I started out making candid street photos, but after a few years found myself wanting to go deeper getting to know an understand people and understanding neighborhood dynamics, energy, and rhythms. I love meeting and bs-ing with strangers and over the years have made a lot of friends, given back a lot or portrait prints, and have learned a ton about the street in the process.

    Back to the question… I like street photos that reveal hidden moments unseen by others - ie, moments that would be taken for granted by others being oblivious to what's around them. Photos that withhold information and pose questions (through a variety of means), rather than supplying all of the answers are far more interesting to me.

    Couple the above with being composed with intent, exhibiting gravitas, mystery, nice light, lack of extraneous clutter, and for me most importantly, a photo having the ability to release narrative (not necessarily the photographers narrative) in a viewers mind, for me make a good street photo.
  11. Well, you can measure and rate technical elements - light, colour, somehow composition, etc. But can you rate a story? can you rate Iliad, or Ulysses, or Charles Bukowski poems, whatsoever? That small good bad and ugly pictures of ours either have a certain chemistry for you or not. The rest is just common cultural agreements, very subjective.
    So, rating is just fun game, nothing else.
    With respect to everybody, Vlad.
  12. Leslie, I’ll tell you how I edit my own street photos. To start with, for its base, it has to have all the key elements which make any photograph acceptable. Those are: decent aperture and exposure (enough light and depth of field), good focus, and proper framing. If I have those three things, then I figure it’s a “solid” photograph and I have something to work with. Unfortunately, 80-85% of my street photographs do not make it past this simple vetting stage. Like my Brother Phalayasa said, “Its small yield of keepers…” is the thing he dislikes about SP.
    So, if I get a “solid” photo. I tweak it in Photoshop to maximize the levels and color if applicable. Very rarely, I’ll get a “solid” photo that has a couple of additional elements that turn it into what I consider a good photo: Interesting context, the photo tells a story all by itself with no supporting explanation (I learned this from Ray.); Impact, either stunning or subtle display of light and shadow, color, or context…wow factor; and finally, Umami; something undefined but savory, you know it when you see it, but can’t explain it otherwise.
    Truthfully, I don’t have even one photo in my portfolio that has all of the above characteristics, but I keep going out and practicing. My Taiji teacher says that “Perfect practice leads to Perfection”…yeah ok.
    I grew up in New Orleans. And, I used to ride the Magazine street bus home from school. It passed a dirt floor bar named Whitey’s Tavern which was around the corner from the Seaman’s Union hall near the docks on Tchoupitoulas. Whitey’s was painted bright red, and had two white, life-rings flanking the entrance, both stenciled with “Sailors Welcome”. I was a little kid, and I never really understood what the men, women, and others, who hung around outside Whitey’s, were actually up to. Then, two years ago, I had some classes at the Union school up in Maryland and I met an old deck officer who used to hang out at Whitey’s back in the ‘70s. We had quite a few laughs about that place…God Bless him, he’s been clean and sober for over 20 years now; I wish I could go back in time with a camera. The sleaze there was monumental, and I would definitely try to capture it. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of life out on the street.
    BTW, I know not every likes to participate in these S&D ‘discussions’, but where else can you find anything like this on the internet?
  13. E, I think 10% and up is quite good for weird countries. Personally, I find them a bit boring. If I have to put a number on it, I think it's merely 1%. It gets a little better while traveling, at least I'm out and about exploring more...
  14. ...Never mind, E. Umami to you!
  15. Yeah, whatever the percentage is, most of mine just suck. I could have just kept it simple like that, but the spirit of Umami took hold of me....I'm gonna go have another one of those brownies.
  16. Finally I have one word I can use to express the undefinable, where I used to have to use 5 or 6 together that still didn't quite cut it. Umami. "It can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue." In relation to photography. Nice. See, I had never heard of umami before.
  17. I certainly hope it's Uma-i, as that's what I taught my kids this semester! I checked with a Japanese student before commiting to it. There goes my credibility in the classroom :-(
    Some shots are a gift- maybe one didn't make full use of it or whatever, but some are just there and you got lucky, while others are constructed. I'll post two shots to illustrate...
  18. and this one..
  19. I'm a bit lost on your two pics, Stephan. Mind a little more explanation on "gift" and "constructed" and examples are good btw, thanks.
  20. I'm no expert on SP so while I do enjoy looking at what others are shooting, for the most part I just keep my mouth shut.
    I also agree with Leslie on the awful work that the gimmicky ironic approach to SP is responsible for (It seems many photographers of this sort are big followers of Martin Parr so this may explain why). These kinds of pictures rarely work for me because there never seems to be much in the way of content once you get past the joke or pretty colors. I remember several years back when the much anticipated book "Street Photography Now" came out. What a disappointment! I was under the impression that the photographers selected for this book must be what many would consider to be the best working in this genera today. There was maybe two pictures in the whole book that I liked. I thought the rest were dull and lackluster. Likewise for the Hardcore Street Photographers forum at flickr. When I look at the critique forum on that page it seems the only positive thing any anyone can say about the photos there are that it has nice colors. Really? Is that what contemporary SP is about these days? Photographing something red or yellow with some green grass and blue sky thrown in for contrast? Some of these pictures make wonder if this is true, then why photograph at all? Get an easel, canvass, paints, and make an abstract painting. Ignoring the content (or lack thereof) in a "street" photograph in favor of color placement seems ridicules to me.
  21. I rate a street photo on content first of all, like my daughter says forget squirrel shots, pigeons and old people on benches (been there done that). I think as time goes by I look more for irony, juxtapositions that aren't corny or commonplace, interesting faces, moods, color, lighting. Something above the ordinary, although ordinary works if its well shot or technically well done such as a smoker blowing smoke while back lit (seen this one often though).
    If I like how I shot something even if its commonplace, I'll keep it if I haven't gotten a shot like it before... Lucky for me there's lots I haven't caught yet so many pictures to take and so few hours to take them. I rate pictures on PN street critique forum according to originality and technique. But for me most fall into the 3-4 range, including my own :) It pleases me to give a 5 or 6 when that rating is due. 7 is elusive and reserved lol.
  22. Techradar did a piece on "The Best Type of Camera for Street Photography" and it was astonishing. They went to a Saturday market and took photos of dolls and the like. I don't think they once even attempted to photograph an actual person. I'm sure many of the members saw it. In a way, all the dross out there gives me hope- I know I am producing decent, sometimes good images. But of course there is still a cadre of real talent out there which I might have to admit at some point I simply will never equal no matter how experienced I get. I do comfort myself with the knowledge that I'm only in my 2nd year of camera ownership, so there's a long way to go!
  23. I always wanted to inquire about this. How do people rate or judge in SP. Say, how does a site, say, in-public grant so and so photo pic of the month? Or, say, how does a curator (or a jury) choose? How do you judge a street photo? Is it different than other type of photograph?
    This a double answer question: yesand no.
    No - because at the end everything depends on conceptions of Art and Art role in general and Photography in particular, and this includes both the author and the observers whose, concepts, interests and preferences may be either coincident or opposed.
    Yes - because Photography covers a wide range of areas (subjects) and usually each person has his one preferences and sometimes doesn't even like certain categories of photographs but can concentrate his attention on a single one, loving plane spotting for instance but "hating" landscape or portraiture.
    Coming back to the focus of this topic, SP is no different and everything starts at the point where your conceptions favor two poles or variants in between - the real thing or symbolic systems.
    This concept will influence the way you value not technical aspects but also the subjects and final results. If you add time and try to consider SP "styles" within the history of this kind of photography you will see not only how to categorize things but also how far back some "new ways of expression" can go their (sometimes hidden) roots.

    Consider names like: Brassai, Atget, Kertész, H. Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, Walker Evans, Robert Frank;
    or Ed Van der Elsken, Takuma Nakahira, William Klein, Daido Moriyama;
    or Alex Webb, Martin Parr.
    A list with very different concepts and technical approaches to the respective works. And this can also happen for one single author, Moriyama being one good example if you look at his first phase, under his real name (Hiromichi) and the works signed with his nick name (Daido) from a certain period in time.
    But there are also authors that had terrible critic by the time they publish works considered nowadays as of capital importance and turning points in the history of photography, as Robert Frank and his book "The Americans". Or authors re-discovered long after their death, like Atget.
    This brings us to curators the way they value SP and possible interests or "fashion waves" - with all they technical and cultural skills maybe curator are not that different from ordinary people, and this maybe one of the reasons a curator declared himself as anti-bressonian in an interview I read not long ago.
    Finally, we have the opinion of the author and the way his work can be rate by others - it all will depend on the way they look at the images and the variables for such judgement, so I'm afraid nobody has the definitive answer about how to rate SP. But if you want to succeed maybe the way is to join a group that you're sure to have your concepts and interests - you show the pictures to the group and you'll fill great...most likely.
  24. Sorry double post​
  25. Sorry for typo in my post, pls read "and you'll feel great" at the end of the text.
  26. Marc,
    You know I like and respect your work but without getting into specific examples I think you may be
    defining good street photography a little narrowly here. It's quite subjective and taste driven, but color,
    atmosphere, and light can certainly be legitimate subjects in and of themselves. Just depends on where
    your interest lies. And color doesn't have to just be the domain of painting. I can't comment on the
    specific photographs you're referring to. No doubt I'd come to the same conclusion as you with regard to
    some of it. Yet street photography doesn't have to be content or human interest driven to the exclusion of
    pictorial concerns. I think Winogrand said something along the lines that the photographs he was most
    interested in had a tension between the forces of content and composition. (Paraphrasing very poorly, but
    it's after 1 am and time to end)...
  27. I prefer:
    • Something that's worth taking the time to look at and ponder.
    • Something that communicates emotion, thought, an interesting action, or shows a fresh perspective.
    • Something that doesn't look like random activity that could have been snapped by a camera on a timer.
  28. I don't doubt the potential of automated triggering of cameras. It's been employed to capture some great wildlife photos, for example, and it has Dada-esque creative possibilities.
    But when a human being presses the shutter, I expect that some thought went into the image that that press has rendered. Some street images appear to be entirely haphazard captures, and not in the endearing way.

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