Mike Johnston's recent column and HC-B

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by sliu, Mar 4, 2004.

  1. Mike Johnston's weekly column "The Sunday Morning Photographer" is
    usually some inspiring reading. However, in this week's column (link
    on the
    front page of photo.net), he gave some "tips" on creative photography.
    One of which suggests "Pay somebody to enliven a scene....".

    I think that is a DANGEROUS advice to street photographers and would
    be an insult to HC-B and other honest street shooters. There is enough
    "reality TV" in our popular culture, why can't we leave photography alone?

    I also double if he had Magnum's permission to use HC-B's famous
    photo in that article (with or without HC-B's credit).

    What is your stand?
     
  2. I'm not a street photographer, thus I don't need to adhere to any code of ethics. If a 'model' can improve a photo, I'm all for it. It's about telling a story with your photo after all...

    Now, having said that, photo-journalists should not be allowed to alter reality in their photos...
     
  3. Robert Doisneau certainly didnt have a problem with it. Those two kissers in front of the Hotel De Ville were actually models he paid for the "candid" pose.

    Heck, why not just pay somebody to take the picture for you if the only thing you want is a good picture?
     
  4. I don't have problem with models and paid assignment shots. For example, one of my favorite Elliot Erwitt photographs (a boy sitting at the back of the bicyle) was a staged shot and originally in color chrome. But that is an advertise for Frech Tourist board, not a documentary photo. You can see it on Elliot Erwitt's Website under "Commissions"
    http://www.elliotterwitt.com
     
  5. I don't understand how payment to a subject makes a photo any less valuable. And sometimes it saves the photographer the embarassment of a scolding and unwilling subject. I give this guy five bucks.
    007ayH-16899684.jpg
     
  6. Niced shot, Paul. Obviously it is a posed shot. But it is not what I am talking about. I am talking about "staging" a shot that looks candid. It is not about the value of the photo but its integrity. Since Elliot Erwitt did that shot for a commerical, there is no "integrity" in it. It is beautiful (and my favorite) though. What I am against is Mike's "tip" to "creative photography". Paying somebody to create a photography is a different creativity. Life is not Hollywood.
    007aya-16899784.jpg
     
  7. There is a difference between street photograhy and journalism. Personally I can
    accept staged street photography, voluntary or paid, but cannot accept the same for
    journalism.
     
  8. would be better if you had aproached some feet, although much better than having pay them to run closer, but is it a sin in paying models to do what we want or need, certanly not although legality is not morality, but let´s keep morality and legality on a side and foucus on our work as photographers. when out chassing pictures our minds blend with the surround atmospheres faces shadows and highligths and eventualy we start taking pictures, pictures of how we react to our environment or how it influence us and our pictures. if on the other side you hire someone or set some thing to get a picture after time of working this way things get repetitive for sure, an example are the pictures of Dosneau, there is not much diversity in the deepth of their content. On the other side there are good photographers that work fine hiring models and doing pictures designed by editors, but that´s another history, not journalistic not documentary, you name it.
     
  9. >>>I'm not a street photographer, thus I don't need to adhere to
    any code of ethics<<<

    i completely disagree with this statement furthermore i think it is
    just the opposite. street photography is probably the only genre
    which rules/ethic (if there's any) is depended on each situation
    imo. i don't believe the idea of the final image is everything. the
    way inwhich the image was made/captured is rather important to
    me. having said that, no one REALLY know (except the photog)
    if a certain decisive moment was captured or **enliven** now do
    we?
     
  10. would be better if you had aproached some feet, ...
    I didn't move closer or wait till they came closer because I WANT the space that they were running into. They had been running around many times, I thought about the composition everytime they passed the same spot but I didn't raise my camera. When the ferry was about to land and I knew it was my last chance, I raised the camera. It took me less then 5 seconds to frame, wait and nail down the shot. There is only one frame of this scene.
     
  11. BTW, there is a very subtle difference between these two requests:

    1. "You are an interesting person, can I take a candid picture of you? Do whatever you usually do. Here is 5 bucks for your time ;-)"

    2. "I need a lady in red in this scene, would you mind running from here to there? Here is 5 bucks for your time ;-)"
     
  12. Well, the scan looks like it's done from a halftone. And you can get halftone HCB pics in
    any bookshop, whereas photographic prints are harder to come by. Which suggests he did
    it without Magnum's consent. Actually, I could ring someone who works at the London
    office (I was at college with them), find out what they consider infringement. But I can't be
    bothered.
     
  13. Why worry about "ethics"? How is "staging" a photo unethical, assuming you're not trying to pass it off as unstaged photo? If your street photo is just "art" what possible difference does make whether you set up the shot, or photoshopped it to death?

    Don McCullin (British war photographer) set up a shot a dead American GI in Vietam, with a snap of the guy's girlfriend lying amid some rounds of ammunition in the foreground. It's one of his most famous shots. He told his editors he staged it but that it still told the right story. It was never dishonest and it ran, and continues to run, as a commentary on the war.
     
  14. The image in question was used in an editorial context, to illustrate a point in the article. As such, I believe it constitutes fair use under the copyright statute.
    The fair use provision of the Copyright Act allows reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works under certain conditions for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching(including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research. Additional provisions of the law allow uses specifically permitted by Congress to further educational and library activities. The preservation and continuation of these balanced rights in an electronic environment as well as in traditional formats are essential to the free flow of information and to the development of an information infrastructure that serves the public interest.
    The above is quoted from http://arl.cni.org/scomm/copyright/uses.html
    If anyone thinks differently and can say why, let me know. Photo.net has a policy of respecting all copyright laws. I'm not an IP lawyer, so I'm open to comments from those who are.
     
  15. i for one know its a big no no in photojournalism. a ny times photog got fired for posing a kid after he suggested it was 'found'.
     
  16. He should have used a staged photo as an example, unless he wanted to "imply" that HC-B's photo was staged.
     
  17. I was slightly taken aback when I read that suggestion also. I don't know that I think it would be dangerous advice but any of us who have done street work know how hard it is to really capture one great moment let alone all the ones that HC-B managed to get. On the other hand, when I went to the Brassai show at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago, the curator of the show told me that Brassai also staged his shots. Others have told me he didn't. ahh, epistimology.

    The other thing that I've been wrestling with is the implication that a shot isn't as good if it doesn't have people in it or that a shot is "just" a holiday snap without that classic decisive moment. In the history of art there is plenty of scope for landscape and still life work and street photography in its broadest sense has the same range of still life like shots of buildings, urban detritis, objects and architectural bits and bobs and there was something in the way I read Mike Johnston's article which seemed to dismiss that work because it didn't have people in it.

    Last Thurs. evening I was in Soho doing some photography and in a seedy doorway at the end of Greek Street stood 3 chaps, one of whom was a heavy set man dressed in a sort of sloppy zoot-suit that you might have expected to find in a doorway of a 1920's speak easy or a cheap Havana hotel, the photo op was a perfect setup. But I couldn't get a good candid angle and I was bungling things up by staring at them through the throngs until these guys were eyeing me suspiciously like I might be "the enemy". Wanting the photo but not wanting to end up in concrete in the Thames, I just asked him if I could take his photo. He seemed perplexed, suspicous and one of the other chaps said... how much will you pay him? I pleaded poverty (well not hard work there) and said something like, "come on, I'm broke, its just for a photo, look it will look really cool". The guy said "for money", I said once more, "please?" but inside I just found it repulsive to start paying for the good shots that are out there. Just me and my 2p. YMMV
     
  18. "... he wanted to "imply" that HC-B's photo was staged."

    I can't see that from from his words nor the context. He's not implying, you're inferring.

    In any event, unless we're talking journalistic mis-representation, I don't care if he paid or not. I don't see that technique being particularly useful in the street of LA tho', but since even the homeless have Zed cards to hand out here, it might be worth a try.
     
  19. Regarding the HC-B copyright Bob, doesn't it depend on where the copyright is held? You may be ok in terms of USA IP law but what about EU IP law. Since photo.net is trans-national I would guess that the HC-B photo is protected here in the EU where IP law is sometimes different and that whole ugly swirl of cross border internet issues may come to the fore.
     
  20. I think M.Johnston used HC-B's photo to show an example of using a character in a street scene. He never implied that HC-B paid the little girl. What I read in this article is that paying/staging someone in a scene is a way one can use to create a similar photo. Nothing more.
    an insult to HC-B and other honest street shooters
    I don't understand your point. How do you define and "honest" shooter ? When you look at a photo, do you know the exact circumstances in which it was taken? There will always be some "story" behind a picture that you will never know about. So how can you determine the "honesty" of a photograph by looking at his picture ?
    Thanks for the interesting discussion.
     
  21. he wanted to "imply" that HC-B's photo was staged."

    And some of his work was. However, he still had a excellent eye...one of his mates was Picasso. That's where he was really at, Art with a brush.

    He hated having his photo taken, unless it was staged. He used a cheap p/s in his latter years,because he likes the auto zoom stuff; it's the photo what matters. Don't get carried a way with icon worship, the real man is important...lot more see, and understand.
     
  22. Sorry to burst anyones bubble but my understanding is that HC-B had
    no such qualms about staging shots and often asked people to pose/redo
    or continue to do something to get the shot he wanted.

    I could be wrong but I have heard this from a few sources over the years.

    To a certain extent who cares!

    Does how a shot is achieved devalue the final image?

    I don't think so, especially as often it would be impossible to tell if a
    shot was directed or natural.
     
  23. To a certain extent who cares!

    No, as far as the final image matters. However, it's just nice to think someone has worked for the photo.
     
  24. Sorry to burst anyones bubble but my understanding is that HC-B had no such qualms about staging shots and often asked people to pose/redo or continue to do something to get the shot he wanted. I could be wrong but I have heard this from a few sources over the years. To a certain extent who cares!
    If it was just somebody named Hank taking some very interesting photos, I'd say you were right. But considering the iconic holy grail of "The Decisive Moment", I'd say it makes a huge difference. I suppose next you're going to tell me that there is no Easter Bunny! Geesh... ;-) I personally am starting to feel very disillusioned.
     
  25. You may want to read up on this page on "Documentary" Photography. As I understand it, many of the greatest photos were to some extent posed or involved conscious interaction with the photographer. Some people assert that Dorothea Lange actively arranged the elements of her famous "Migrant Mother" photo.
    It isn't clear to me that Johnston is advocating anything DANGEROUS - asking someone to run across a scene, or take pose doesn't seem like such a life threatening procedure to me and the dishonesty depends on the level of direction, how atypical it is for the environment and how you are representing the photo. If you look at Diane Arbus' photos, it is quite clear that the subject has often engaged with the photographer at some level (their attention is directly at the camera - so arguably there is a level of posing involved). So clearly you can be a legit street photographer without indulging in HCB "stealth" approaches.
     
  26. Steve, your zonezero link is great in an "There is no Easter Bunny... grow up" kind of way. IMO the revelations in the article makes a mockery of the little tick box in photo.net galleries when you upload your photos where you have to say if the photo was manipulated in Photoshop.
     
  27. What's the old quote about 'real-life' not being two-dimensional, monochrome
    and 8x10? (I'd swear that was a Cartier-Bresson quote, actually. Or maybe
    Capa?)

    All photographs are representations of 'real-life' or reality as the photographer
    experienced it. There's no 'honest' or 'dishonest' version, there's no objective
    truth about it. The only time those come in, as others have noted, is if you're
    claiming that the photograph is completely unaltered.

    I don't care one way or the other about posing people for street photography,
    but at least that requires the photographer to actively engage his or her
    subject. I dislike most amateur street photography because it looks like the
    maker was more concerned with concealment than making the photo.
     
  28. Regarding the HC-B copyright Bob, doesn't it depend on where the copyright is held?
    I'm not a lawyer, so I can't give an informed legal opinion.
    As far as I know most international copyright law is based on the Berne Convention and "Fair Use" is covered by article 10. Most countries are signatories of the Berne Convention and have "fair use" provisions in their own copyright regulations.
    If you want to know more, you'll have to do a search or ask an IP lawyer.
     
  29. I was not exaggerating when I used the word "dangerous". Of course it doesn't mean one's life but one's mind. Directed photography is harmful to the viewer's mind as well as to the photographer's mind.

    Our tragedy is that directed photography becomes normal in photojournalism, or I shall say photo-propaganda. In my eyes, there is no difference between "The image of the flag raising over Iwo Jima", "The Kiss at l’Hotel de Ville", "Migrant Mother" and those propaganda photos by Nazi and Communist. The aforementioned three photos gave us manipulated impression of heroism, romantic and misery, although there were some degree of these in reality. If they keep doing this (because it sells), I simply won't believe what I see on the magazine any more.
    Something is normal doesn't mean it is right.

    Grew up in communist China, I had seen many many perfect photographs. And all photographs about kuomintang (Nationalist Party) are ugly and all photographs about Communist are glorious. Until a few months ago I saw a book by HC-B (from Brooklyn Public Library), "China in Transition" in which I had a chance to see real China in the year of 1949. Nothing was glorified or uglified, to many people who are used to directed photos, they are ugly because they are not directed; but to me, they are beautiful because they are real. Thanks HC-B for taking these honest pictures of this special period in Chinese history. Although it seems nobody cares about it now, whether in mainland China, Taiwan or other places in the world. I wish I could own that book someday.

    It is not only the photographs matter, but also how they made them.


    P.S.
    Posed portraits are different issue, no matter what name you call them.
     
  30. Honest is not about concealment. Subject's awareness of the photographer is one issue, photographer acting as a director is another issue.

    Of course according to quantum mechanics, zero disturbance from the observer is impossible ;-)
     
  31. One major difference - the propaganda of the Nazis was used to kill and
    enslave millions. Doisneau's staged photo(s) were used to, uh, illustrate
    magazines/tell a story/decorate modern dorm rooms.

    To even equate the two is ridiculous.

    How does Migrant Mother change if Lange had happened upon the scene
    exactly as she photographed it, rather than altering portions? What's the
    difference? Either way, she chose what to photograph and how to photograph
    it. Your quest for purity, for an absolute recording of 'the truth' completely
    removes the photographer. The images could be taken by machines for all it
    matters.

    You crop, right? You choose where to point the camera, you choose to dodge
    and burn, you choose focal length, lighting, aperture and shutter speed (etc.).
    Aren't all of those decisions distorting 'reality' to some extent?
     
  32. It is not about manipulating the image, it is about manipulating the SUBJECT. No matter how justified the purpose is.
     
  33. What's the difference? Why does "manipulating the subject" matter? What
    makes it wrong?

    If you just want to say "I don't like directed street photography" - fine. But
    you're calling it dangerous and saying that no one should do it.

    Why?
     
  34. To go back again - how is it any different to manipulate "the image" and "the
    subject"? In both cases, you're altering the presentation of "the truth" to the
    viewer, right?
     
  35. The more I think about it, the deeper it become. It is not so simple.

    I have a copy of Bruce Davidson's "East 100 Street". Almost all the photos in the books were staged, there is no way to conceal a large format camera. What amazing is that it took Bruce Davidson two year (4000 negatives) to finish that project. When I look at these photos, I see more than the staged images, something deeper. They are different from the photos on the fashion or news magazines. I have to admit they are true documentary photographs, not directed photographs. It seems that he manipulated the subject but somehow Bruce Davidson managed to reveal something that could not be concealed by the formal and staged portraits. I believe it is much much harder than what HC-B did. And to be honest, Davidson's photos touch me deeper than the iconic "Migrant Mother".

    I can't resolve this controversy myself. Perhaps someone can help me. Or I should ask Bruce Davidson himself.
     
  36. I think Mike Johnston used the HC-B's picture in the article to grab the attention of the audience. It is like the beautiful posters I see in the hair salons in Chinatown: "Do you want to have the beautiful hair as Tom Cruise? Come to our salon!". Mike's message is: "Do you want to make a beautiful picture as HC-B's, read my article! ", which means, directed photography.

    In Chinese, we call this "selling dog meat under lamb head".
     
  37. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    It is not about manipulating the image, it is about manipulating the SUBJECT.
    Manipulation of the subject is between the photographer and the subject. It has nothing to do with the viewer.
    Manipulation of the viewer is different, but that is different than manipulating the subject.
    I have set up street shots. What I find odd is that people don't see it in those, but sometimes accuse me of setting up the ones that were shot surreptitiously.
    In the shot of the running people, I think it would have been far better to set it up. It's mostly empty space (not negative space) as shown.
     
  38. Good photos are good, whether or not they're staged.

    Jeff Wall (whose early work was manufactured street photography) is interviewed in the
    latest PDN and has some interesting things to say.
     
  39. And here's another interview with him:

    http://snipurl.com/4w89
     
  40. Who can tell,manufactured, or not. Sometimes though, you have that feeling, when it's too good to be true. Does it matter? not really it's always going to be the final image that counts. But, the real life, worked for image...just a nicer thought.
     
  41. S. LIU, escuse I took your picture as a starting reference to my post, I can´t say your picture could be any other way by adding any thing, the running moment is perfect just framing is in my opinion a bit short, I just use it ot make an example of options, hope I got understood; by the way a great treat you posted, very interesting discovering what our morality is made of.
     
  42. Who can tell,manufactured, or not.
    That is what I call "dangerous". It is about the trust. At least I know which picture of mine is posed, which one is not. Unfortunately, most of the images we see in mass media are manipulated and most of us still believe they are telling the truth.
    For artists like Jeff Wall and Loretta Lux, photography is not the same as most of us think. We have to believe they are not about reality but creation of the artists.
     
  43. We have to believe they are not about reality but creation of the artists.
    Which photographs aren't?
     
  44. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    I never confuse "reality" with my photographs. I try not to confuse it with other people's photographs either. I don't think most of the people who like (and buy) my photographs care about that either.
     
  45. It is about the trust.
    Outside of photojourlalism trust might be implied, or it might be inferred, but it is not necessary or necessarily expected. Yes, many people eish that photos reflect reality, but that ignores the actual, long history of photography which negates that view.
     
  46. Roberto,

    Thank you for the comment on my photo. I understand what you mean. Any serious street photographer would remember Bob Capa's words. I just want to say that photographer does have an intention when he/she takes the photo. Had I had an advanced camera that could take 3 frames per second, I would have kept the third frame. But since I only have one shot, that is the best I got and it is about the reality. Reality is not perfect.


    All photographs are subjective, the viewer look through "the mind's eye" of the photographer and reach their own interpretations. There are many differet types of photography but my understanding of photography is that real photography is always about reality, whether the reality depicted by HC-B's snapshots or the deeper reality in Bruce Davidson's large format projects. If it is not about reality, it is just art done with a camera (and photoshop).

    P.S.
    I like the atmosphere of this discussion. The more I read it, the deeper I think about it.
     
  47. There are many differet types of photography but my understanding of photography is that real photography is always about reality, whether the reality depicted by HC-B's snapshots or the deeper reality in Bruce Davidson's large format projects. If it is not about reality, it is just art done with a camera (and photoshop).
    How is 'art done with a camera' not 'photography?
    Why isn't "Migrant Mother" a 'real photograph'? It was taken with a light-tight box and lens with the image formed on film and printed on paper. Those are all the marks of a photograph.
    Furthermore, how is manipulating the subject not a representation of 'reality'? It's a real woman in a place that existed - the photo as we've seen it is the situation as it was it was photographed.
     
  48. photographer does have an intention when he/she takes the photo.... I only have one shot, that is the best I got and it is about the reality. Reality is not perfect.
    The photographer makes the shot not takes it: he makes it in the camera, through choice of lens, film, POV, etc -- as well as in the darkroom: through cropping, levels, dodging, burning, paper choice, desaturation, montage, etc.
    Who said photography must reflect reality? Who said it ever did?
    my understanding of photography is that real photography is always about reality
    Ay, there's the rub. The subject may or may not be 'about' reality, and photography does not have to reflect reality anyway. This has been true from the very first photographs and photograms.
     
  49. I could argue against myself. Staged reality is also a reality. Most wedding photographs are staged but we can not say they are fake, because wedding photos are meant to be staged. Candid photos are not wedding photos, at least to Chinese people. (To some Chinese, the standard is even higher, they have to be soft focused and look like CD album covers of Madonna or Britney Spears ;-)

    That IS reality, not art.
     
  50. Spend some time at Pedro Meyer's zonezero.com to see a contrary view to the one that
    photography needs to be realistic and somehow true.
     
  51. Who said photography must reflect reality? Who said it ever did?

    Why bother with a camera? Buy a paint brush, do your own thing.
     
  52. Another non sequitor.
     
  53. The reality of a photograph is that it reflects reality. Alter and manipulate it, but the original reality is there.
     
  54. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    There are many differet types of photography but my understanding of photography is that real photography is always about reality,
    I see this as incredibly confused. It's not true, it's never been true. I've never met a good photographer who said something like this.
    I think it's time for a quote from a great photographer, Clarence John Laughlin, who explained it years ago:
    "The physical object, to me, is merely a stepping stone to an inner world where the object, with the help of the subconscious drives and focuses perceptions, becomes transmuted into a symbol whose life is beyond the life of the objects we know..."
     
  55. but my understanding of photography is that real photography is always about reality
    Only if you see the world in two dimensions, a narrow unchanging slice at a time, perhaps even devoid of color. Get real.
     
  56. "The physical object, to me, is merely a stepping stone to an inner world where the object, with the help of the subconscious drives and focuses perceptions, becomes transmuted into a symbol whose life is beyond the life of the objects we know..."

    Very good, clap clap. However, reality is the first step. Otherwise pick up a paint brush and create your own reality. Even then, your starting point will always be reality.
     
  57. Get real? That's the problem! ;-)
     
  58. Douglas K. What are you on about? Post some photos, show me. Stop being the organ grinders monkey;) You do create a smile, if not a photo.
     
  59. My computer crashed when I was in the middle of posting. Then I went to have dinner. I smell some gun power here. Relax and calm down people.

    Let get back to the topic.

    1. What do you think about paying someone to "enliven a scene"? It is not about portait.

    2. What do you think about Mike Johnston giving this tip to photographers?

    3. What do you think about Mike's intention of using a photo by HC-B (who by chance, not a director of photography) to advocate his "directed photography"?

    4. What do you think about the copyright issue and citing a picture without giving explicity credit. I know that picture was by HC-B because I have the book. But Mike didn't say the picture is the one he mentioned in the text.
     
  60. BTW, sometime I do "put" someone in the scene, usually that is my wife. I didn't pay her, she paid me ;-). But I didn't send her to make the scene, she ran into the scene herself and make it attractive ;-)

    I believe photographs are made, not taken and I do make decision on when and how to make a photography although I don't direct. And no matter made or taken, photography is always ABOUT reality, not our imagination.
     
  61. Enliven the scene?
    007bKl-16904184.jpg
     
  62. photography is always ABOUT reality
    Beaumont Newhall, the first photography curator for NYC's Musuum of Modern Art, and writer of, "The Unreality of Photography," might disagree. Surrealists would surely disagree. So would anyone who doesn't want their photographic artistic expression pigeonholed into representing reality only. Although photography by its nature is rooted in recording light, there have been techniques from the very beginning of photography in the 1840s which can, if the photographer chooses, undermine or belie that.
    As an aside, with regard for what you said about Chinese views on photography, here's what Susan Sontag said in a Boston Review interview: In the People's Republic of China, people don't see "photographically." The Chinese take pictures of each other and of famous sites and monuments, as we do. But they're baffled by the foreigner who will rush to take a picture of an old, battered, peeling farmhouse door. They don't have our idea of the "picturesque." They don't understand photography as a method of appropriating and transforming reality -- in pieces -- which denies the very existence of inappropriate or unworthy subject matter
     
  63. However, reality is the first step. Otherwise pick up a paint brush and create your own reality. Even then, your starting point will always be reality</ i>
    Reality as you saw and experienced it, or wish it to be. Your last sentence is meaningless - you might as well say that "to take a photograph you have to exist."
    Why the incessant "go paint," what's the point? Are there certain things that aren't allowable for a photographer? Enlighten us, what are they?
     
  64. Foreigners saw beauty in an old, battered, peeling farmhouse door because they don't live there. It is the same reason that commuters on Staten Island Ferry don't feel the excitement and beauty of New York Harbor the way tourists do. They only see the tiresome, miserable, ugly and smelly commuting every day, every week, every month, every year ... But believe me, there are people paying attention to beauty in ordinary life, in China or on the ferry. I don't want to pigeonhole other people but I strongly believe beauty in reality, not in dream or imagination.
    007bO7-16905284.jpg
     
  65. But it's not the only beauty. And it's a mistake to believe that photos you make honestly
    reflect reality, or that photos you see do either (either by their nature, or their
    photographer's design).
     
  66. </i>
    I never claim that photography could honestly reflect reality. But at least I am honest to myself and try my best to make photographs BASED on reality. That is why I used the best photography equipment and technique I can get hold of.
     
  67. See, that's fine - but there's a difference in saying what you prefer, want to do
    or how you stay true to yourself and calling "Migrant Mother" 'dangerous'
    because it was posed or altered.
     
  68. Any professional photographer would point out that the above photograph needs fill flash or a reflector and photoshop adjustment. But that is not what I saw in my mind when I took the photo.
     
  69. I am not calling "Migrant Mother" 'dangerous'. It is 'dangerous" to teach photographers and make them believe in order to create great photos like HC-B's, they could pay somebody to act in the scene. It would turn everything into Hollywood movie.
     
  70. </i> <i><b> I ... try my best to make photographs BASED on reality. </b> </i><p>

    That's fine. It is one part of photography with a set of specific aesthetic strictures. You can
    go many years within that specific aesthetic subset and never leave it. You don't have to.
    But it does not necessarily define photography.<p>

    The larger point is that your original post was about how you seemed offended by the idea
    that a scene be 'enlivened' or faked, or that non-reality (or surreality) had a legitimate basis
    in photography, but the history of photography, as well as a significant part of art,
    advertising and celebrity photography, is at least partly false or even based on unreality,
    and that there's not much wrong with that. <p>

    A few years ago the average person might have bvelieved that a photo of something
    depicted something real, the way it really existed, but given the technological leaps in
    special effects and the resulting ads, commercials, TV shows, portraits and movies we see, I
    doubt that most people still believe that. And good thing, because it was a canard to begin
    with.
     
  71. It is 'dangerous" to teach photographers and make them believe in order to create great photos like HC-B's, they could pay somebody to act in the scene.
    No it isn't. One of the greatest street photographers, Robert Doisneau, did just that -- hiring models for his most famous shots, which did not make them one bit less interesting, beautiful or compelling. S., you need to understand the history of photography and not reject out of hand something which is not uncommon, ugly or dangerous.
     
  72. It is 'dangerous" to teach photographers and make them believe in order to create great photos like HC-B's, they could pay somebody to act in the scene.
    http://snipurl.com/4wd1
     
  73. Z,

    You completely understand what I worry about. You can call me old style but the reason I take photos is to discover and record beauty in reality. If I want virtual reality, I simply buy a ticket to "The Lord of the Rings".

    Unfortunately virtual reality becomes reality in our modern life. If you live with photoshop long enough, everthing you see you see historgram and you will try to curve it. Everytime I saw dust on my wife's jacket, the first thing in my mind is the "clone stamp" ;-) I am more familiar with my wife's face on the screen than her real face.

    Good night.
     
  74. This is an interesting thread and I would just like to add my thoughts.

    There seems to be a basic point that is very important here, everyones
    reality is different.

    Yes there are certain points of agreement but in general reality is
    subjective for example.

    A US photographer in Iraq sees a scene where a sniper shoot a US soldier
    as he walks across the road a group of malitia cheer the photographer
    chooses that moment to take the picture. This shows a down soldier with
    Iraqis in the back ground cheering.

    Seconds later 4 Iraqis see the soldier is alive they run to help him, one
    takes him caringly in his arms and carries/drags him to safety while the
    other 3 continue to be shot at. The look of compasion and fear on their
    faces is clear. The photographer chooses this moment to take the picture.

    Now neither of these are staged and only one of them will be used which
    version of reality is true??

    By its very nature photography only takes a momentary slice of the
    world, it adds no context and there is no way to know what led to or
    happened after that moment.

    Just by the very fact the photographer chooses the moment and what to
    include or exclude in the frame it becomes a manipulated image.

    Most environmental images are taken to instill a feeling or reaction from
    the viewer and the photographer has that in mind whan they take the
    picture.

    Just remember one thing, there is no such thing as a totally unbiased
    image. Someone had to select the moment.

    Just look at the image of the 2 boys running above.

    Taken 1 second earlier would it have shown them snatching a ladies purse
    or 1 second later saving their sister from falling overboard or where they
    just running round in circles.

    The truth is you don't know and therefore you have no way of
    understanding anything from this scene other than what the photographer
    wants you to understand. He is in control and he creates the reality.
     
  75. Mark, you are right about that reality is subjective.

    Only the photographers themselves know whether they are TAKING a slice of reality they want to show to the viewers or they are MAKING a slice of virtual reality for the audience, consciously or subconsciously. But if a photographer is TRAINED as a director, he/she would tend to modify the subject the make the scene perfect and at the end, even himself/herself wouldn't tell which one is staged which one is not. For audience, they never tell if the photographer is skillful, as shown in the examples of Jeff Spirer.

    Mixing reality and virtual reality is dangerous to the mind of photographer. If you want to do that you'd better call yourself as a cinematographer, and mentally seperate the role of a cinematographer from that of a photographer. That is honesty.

    BTW, those two kids were just running around. They were in a group jewish kids taking a field trip to Staten Island. They were the most excited group of people on that boring ship. (It was not tourist season yet.)
     
  76. Man, somerimes things/people move so fast in the streets I had no time to pay them.;)
     
  77. sometimes.
     
  78. "everyones reality is different."

    And it's also different for the same individual depending on mood, physical condition, chemical enhancements, and so on.

    As long as what we wishfully call facts don't contradict each other I don't see getting roshomoniacal about "reality".

    Or perhaps I've just been through too many end-of-year financial wrap-ups to believe in the truth-fairy.
     
  79. In a documentary photography workshop I attend years ago, a discusion about the work of Avedon came up, every one condemn it as a non documentary work, arguing that putting a man before a withe cloth and photographing them was not documentary, it was out of reality!, for me having all this caracters, even surrounded by a white cloth and difused ligth, was a documentary work, when or where reality ends where or when documentary begins?, even Charles Harbutt prefered to leave the discusion open.

    Very important and first of all is to understand that everyone´s reality is subjective, even documentary work in it´s purest form is related to the subjectivity of it´s creator. Just make that clear and don´t let prejudices bother you.

    Very interesting point readden in this post, just wanted to add my 2 cents
     
  80. Why on Earth should journalistic standards be applied to photographs that aren't destined to be in a newspaper? Same medium, different reason for using it. Should all painting look like "authentic" court room sketches?
     
  81. </i>
    <p>Didn't Schrodinger's Cat teach us anything from physics?

    <p><b>The very fact that you are in the scene with a camera changes it.</b> I think it's
    silly to think that the Dorthea Lange Migrant Mother picture was not posed. How else
    would she get a portrait of the women that close? A camera in the face of a person is
    definitely going to change <i>"reality"</i>.
     
  82. This is an interesting discussion.

    I think that it is important to distinguish between the different purposes to which the image is put.

    The point with propaganda is that people use a photograph (picture or prose) to deceive their audience. In doing so they can use unstaged photographs. I cannot think of a good photographic example, but I can remember reading an article about school history books used in Germany and the UK in the thirties and early forties that seems relevant. The authors concluded that the German histories contained almost no errors of fact but that the facts were not representative of the events or periods the histories were purported to cover, and that the interpretation of them was largely false. They were propaganda with unstaged photographs. The problem with propaganda, advertising, and other such things is the deception or manipulation of the audience and not the technique used to take the photograph.

    This use should be distinguished from reportage and documentary photography. In these types of photography the artists (photographers, journalists, photo-editors etc) are assumed to be telling us something about the real world. I think that most people would agree that even the most sincere of these artists will fail in this duty. They won't know the whole truth and probably won't be able to communicate it. However, an acknowledgment of the inevitability of failure does not excuse such artists from an obligation to do their best to capture the truth in their art. Artists who present as reportage or documentary photographers, but don't try to capture and convey something real are really as bad as the propagandists.

    We can divide the manipulation of the subject into issues of audience's and subject's rights. The audience's rights are violated when they are misled by the manipulation of the subject. The subject when the influence of the photographer is negative. Such manipulations can be dangerous to the reportage or documentary artists cause, they should not be undertaken lightly and the audience should generally be informed.

    Wildlife photography is generally assumed to be true to its subject, but the nature forum on this site has many examples where photographs have been staged. Some photos of wild animals were really of animals in game parks, some were even of stuffed animals in a studio! In the threads I have followed, the general consensus has been that there is a need to inform the audience of such manipulation. I suspect that the magazines do not do this, because people are not willing to knowingly spend money on photos of stuffed ducks.
    (BTW this happens in painting too, in the TV series American Visions (I think) Hughes talked about people feeling betrayed when they discovered that they couldn't visit some of their favourite landscapes. The painters had manipulated the images - moving mountains and lakes.)

    The nature photography forum also contains some examples of ways in which the behaviour of the photographer can damage the subject: such as drawing a predator's attention to a nest.

    I think it is important to distinguish between the reality of nature and documentary photography, where audiences have an expectation of seeing a representative, unstaged photograph, and other types of photography.

    I think that Bill Henson's photography, which is staged, is a personal interpretation of reality, that his audience knows that the photographs are staged and that they appreciate his art for what it tells them about adolescence. It is clearly not reportage.

    (recently saw I doco on him, here is a link to some of his photos: http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/artists/?aid=18&eid=98 )
     
  83. </i> see if this closes the italics...
     
  84. Richard raised another very intereting point. For those of you who had seen the movie Winged Migration, what is your opinion about the "imprinting" technique in the documentary film? Personally I felt cheated after I found out the trick. The movie is beautiful though.
     
  85. Photogrpahy usually has little to do with "reality" or even the "truth"

    Andre Kertesz was known tat times to direct some of his most well know "street" photogoraphs (e.g. the couple kissing on the bench in the park - in Budapest I think it is). As did Gary Winogrand - for example insterting his own children into a scene that lacked what he was looking for, and telling them to "go and do something itneresting over ther". Gene Smith directed the "country Doctor" to cross that open patch of field several times until he got the look of the hurried doctor and the darkenign sky just right (exasperating the doctor in the process by all accounts)

    Are the photogorpahs any less real or authentic? I think not.
     
  86. "Our tragedy is that directed photography becomes normal in photojournalism, or I shall say photo-propaganda. In my eyes, there is no difference between "The image of the flag raising over Iwo Jima", "The Kiss at l’Hotel de Ville", "Migrant Mother" and those propaganda photos by Nazi and Communist."

    Actually, the first of those three was a genuine "caught moment". It was a second raising of the flag - with a larger one - but not for the benefit of the photogorapher.
     
  87. "The reality of a photograph is that it reflects reality. Alter and manipulate it, but the original reality is there."

    Photography always has much less to do with reality than we would like to think. Photography isn't really a "literal" medium, it only appears to be one. What it's more about is the photographers opinion of what they are photogorpahing. And how they make that photogorpah and express that opinion doesn't really matter.
     
  88. Maybe it is best to think of this in terms of communication or performance. As photographers we need an audience that is willing to look at our photographs with open minds. Can you imagine showing your photographs to someone who had already decided to criticise them ... no, to use them to criticise you, whatever their merits? Think of the power of James Nachtway's photographs of people starving in Ethiopia or Somalia, and then imagine him showing them to a meeting of white supremacists and not the shrill ones of today, but the confident ones of the early nineteenth century.

    In general we do not have to imagine such things. People tend to be moved by the things that they see, people tend to believe them. Reportage and nature photography are modes of photography that people assume to be sincere, so we give Nachtway our time and really look at his photos. If they were all staged, if there had never been any violence in Rawanda or South Africa, I think that we would all have a right to feel cheated.

    But back to the main topic, I don't think, on reflection, that I would consider the photograph in Mike Johnston's article to be deceptive or misleading if it was staged. It does not really fit into the reportage/documentary photography I was thinking about (guess I went on a tangent)it conveys no obvious message. I cannot be deceived if I don't take home a message, so I cannot really feal cheated. If it appeared in a book on candid photography? well that would be a different matter..
     
  89. People have been dancing around the point without ever hitting directly on it. All photography is subjective. A photograph is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space. The photographer consciously chooses how that space is translated into two dimensions. There are an infinite number of translations, the photographer only captures one. There is no reality in this context, just a two-dimensional image.
    I think a more important point about photography was made earlier on in the discussion by S. LIU.
    I have a copy of Bruce Davidson's "East 100 Street". Almost all the photos in the books were staged, there is no way to conceal a large format camera. What amazing is that it took Bruce Davidson two year (4000 negatives) to finish that project. When I look at these photos, I see more than the staged images, something deeper.
    He says he sees something deeper in these pictures. Roland Barthes wrote about this idea in Camera Lucida (I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I have read The Photograph, part of the Oxford History of Art series, which has a chapter that applies Barthes' theory to documentary photography).
    Barthes uses two terms to describe any photograph: studium and punctum. Studium is that part of the photograph that is studied and under the photographer's control. It is the subjectivity of pointing the camera and pressing the shutter button, but it can also include arranging objects in the scene or even paying models. Punctum is the much more important part of the picture. It is the part that is not under the control of the photographer. It is the puncture in presentation of the photograph that allows you to enter the photograph and get more out of it.
    Punctum is that deeper part that S. LIU talks about. He even says that he sees more than a staged photograph, because it is the unintended parts of the picture that open it up to interpretation.
    Take the runners for example. Even if it was staged, S. LIU couldn't control where the runners' feet were, their facial expressions, the distance between them, exactly how the would be positioned when the shutter released. At best, he could have said, "Chase one another around the corner."
    The same is true for HC-B. Even if he did ask the girl to run up the steps (I agree he almost certainly didn't), he couldn't control exactly how she did it or exactly (I mean exactly) how it would be recorded on the film. Does it matter to the photograph if he did? Really, it only matters if he lied about it.
    The majority of pictures you see out there only have studium. Ever look at a picture and say, "That's beautiful," and then just move on. It's because it's the perfect sunset/flower/girl/street scene and nothing more. Without punctum there is no engagement of the viewer. There's nothing deeper to look for.
    I suspect pictures used for propoganda have nothing but studium. We think that some photographers are great, whether they stage their shots or not, because they give us more.
     
  90. Wow:
    S Liu's thesis is that Cartier Bresson didn't ask the girl to run up the stairs so it is a great picture. But what if he did ask her (no one knows but HCB) does that change the perception of the picture? Does it change anyone's opinion of HCB's photos if they were all staged? Not at all in my mind. Most of Brassai's pics were staged (most exposures were more than 20 secs or so) does that make them less interesting. Judge the photographs on their merit not on some "feel good" opinion on honesty or moral value. They are only pictures for crying out loud. If the pic is in the paper telling me some news then I want to know that it is what the story says it is. Otherwise if it is trying to be art let it be art. Art doesn't have motives (artist do of course).
    Also, I guess that anyone who thinks Mike thought HCB staged the picture didn't read the article.

    BVA
     
  91. Reality as you saw and experienced it, or wish it to be. Your last sentence is meaningless - you might as well say that "to take a photograph you have to exist."


    You are playing with semantics my friend, not reality. Reality of an image is to do with the perceived perception of the image-maker. However, we work with a original image, based on reality. How we perceive, create that image is subject to the photographers perception.

    Art, non photographic, has no such restrictions. Of course photography with p/s is changing that reality. For the better: a individual subjective thought.
     
  92. Reality, is more defining, than pure Art.
     
  93. Anyone translate that into english?
     
  94. jbs

    jbs

    I think thats something like, " Truth is stranger than fiction."
    Too bad this wasn't in the philosophy forum....;)...J
     
  95. From Andre in Canada.
    007lQI-17158284.jpg
     
  96. Anyone want to translate that?
     
  97. I think it means something like "where's my waitress" but I don't usually do translations with English as the source language.
     
  98. jbs

    jbs

    I'll bet it's a book on photojournalistic philosophy in China. Bresson maybe. It's titled "Other China"

    ....;)....J
     
  99. "Roland Barthes wrote about this idea in Camera Lucida (I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I have read The Photograph, part of the Oxford History of Art series, which has a chapter that applies Barthes' theory to documentary photography).

    Barthes uses two terms to describe any photograph: studium and punctum... Punctum is the much more important part of the picture. It is the part that is not under the control of the photographer. It is the puncture in presentation of the photograph that allows you to enter the photograph and get more out of it.

    Punctum is that deeper part that S. LIU talks about. He even says that he sees more than a staged photograph, because it is the unintended parts of the picture that open it up to interpretation."

    An idea and a term (punctum) developed somewhat earlier by Berenice Abbott in her writings on Atget. Writing which Barthes was certainly aware of, but lets say he never obviosuly bothered to attributed this to Abbott in his own writings. That is to say the concept and term punctum was never Barthes own - even if he failed to say so....
     
  100. My stand is this, whenever we put the camera to our eye we are seeking to record whatever has impacted us about what is before us. All Mike was saying in the article was to use what we have available to create the image we see in our mind. It doesn't matter if HC-B asked/hired the girl or not. He was a "people" photographer and not an architectural photographer, therefore he would want to make the stairs significant to the viewer because of the presence of a person in the shot. Sometimes we are presented with just the right scene in just the right light, but our emotional reaction is that there should be a human presence and interaction within the image. We then have a choice to make, do we recruit someone to be in the picture and add the element missing from our concept, OR do we chose to just stay there and wait(possibly a loooong time) for someone to appear just where we want them in the frame and hope the light doesn't change. The quality of light and the static parts of the scene we have relatively no control over, but the people in the scene we easily can. Either way you are still making a photograph of a person in the environment before you. Neither is dishonest or "dangerous", because it is fulfilling the vision of the photographer. What matters is , does the image convey to the viewer what the photographer felt and saw when he created it? Did the viewer feel what the photographer felt when he was there? It is the same for all forms of "realistic" graphic art whether it's photography, painting, drawing, or any other medium that represents our vision in a two dimensional format. I have a real problem though with composites done in p-shop after the fact, when elements are added into a scene that were never there at the time the photograph was made, and then passed off as if they were. That to me is where any "danger" lies.
     
  101. The feeling of viewing Migrant Mother would have been perfect if the shot was taken unposed. The photographer would I feel also felt a much higher level of satisfaction.
     
  102. If people feel that there is no difference between a faked orgasm and a real orgasm, let them be; personally to me the "controversy" lies in those who believe that there is no difference and insist to those who do that it's "stupid" or moot to think that there is. Even worse, that one must pay for it if you can't get the satisfaction spontaneously.

    Just because I'm not a lawyer I shouldn't say that the code of ethics does not apply to me and grease the wheels of justice by paying the court clerk to get the results you can't get through the legal process.

    Whether you pay for it or not, it's your business; just don't sell it as unpaid. It's like selling a rigged election as the will of the people.
     
  103. Gabriel, I'm not sure what your sex life has to do with it all, but as an analogy it just doesn't fit (neither does the lawyer analogy) - both suck.

    The term "photographer" encompasses a huge range of practices from advertising photographer, Scenes of Crime photographers, documentarians (and those like Walker Evans who looked like documantarians but in fact only "worked in the documantary style), to medical photographers to wedding and portrait photographers, to government communications (propoganda/FSA) photographers, military photographers (also, at times propaganda photographers), Hollywood unit still photographers, fashion photographers, artists, pornographers ad infinitum

    There is no "code of ethics" or set of standards you could usefully or reasonably apply. Yet all do the same thing - make photographs. And none of them are real - all of them are constructs to a greater or lesser degree. The only thing that is real about them is they are all "real" photographs

    Far better to study what a photograph is, what it's language or rather half-language is), how it functions in society and so on - that is in fact much more universal, and not so value laden.
     
  104. Street Photography looks better when it is of something you find, not something you set up... Photographers who set up a scene are simply studio photographers who stumbled outdoors....
     

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