Oh Boy, am I out of it!

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by troll, Apr 12, 2004.

  1. I just had a look at this month's Digital Journalist, and there was
    an article "25 under 25" of promising young photographic talent. A
    photograph (with accompaning blurb underneath) was shown for each of
    them. I didn't understand a single image!!! What is wrong? Am I
    such an antique that I've lost the ability to interpret photographs
    as they are being made today, or are the current crop of
    photographers unable to present images which stand on their own,
    rather than just illustrate some mundane facet peculiar to the
    subject? Grump, grump, grump.
  2. To each his own I guess.

    I took a look at the photos and found some that were very interesting photos
    and some that I thought were boring. Another person might have a
    completely different view of this. Art is subjective and the gamut of styles and
    tastes runs across a very broad spectrum.
  3. I agree and I don't get it either. Most of the photos look like they were taken to illustrate some fictional short story in a college creative writing review.

    The people I know who shoot for papers and magazines tell whole stories with images. You may not know the names of the subjects or the exact locations without looking at the caption, but you understand what is going on in the photographs without having to read about the images.
  4. Well all I can say is Thank You. Sometimes I look at images and think "What am I missing? Why does everyone think THIS is so great?!". I'm not saying the pictures are bad, I just don't get them, and I'm glad I'm not alone.
  5. I took a look at some of the images online. One thing I don't understand is why the B&W images are so flat.


    That photo in particular.

    Is this flatness a deliberate thing or am I just seeing the results of someone(s) not understanding how to use Photoshop Curves?
  6. << why the B&W images >>

    I should have said, "...why so many of the B&W images..."
  7. I looked at them but I'm afraid I didn't see much that I hadn't seen before. There were so many cliches...absurd juxtaposition...dead-face portraiture...self-absorption. I was struck by one thing however. What these kids don't know about photography (which is plenty considering the basic technical errors they made)they more than made up for by perfecting the 'art school' spin. They were great at putting high sounding words to half-baked concepts. For example:

    "I try to give a sense of our culture without using the traditional patriotic icons. Instead, I look at simple things-gestures, painted fingernails, the small moments that go unnoticed."

    "I try to convey this sense of unease, of things being on the verge of an explosion or disaster. Races are a controlled violent activity, and there are moments when they appear as a strange transfigured dance, a kind of feral ballet."

    "At first, I had great difficulty marrying the photographs to words and ideas about Abe's dreams. With time I came to realize that the photographs had taken on a meaning of their own. They are in part a sedimentary layer of curiosities, the objects and memories that for whatever reason stay with a person and sometimes gather beneath him."

    They were confused too!

    I remember the old Alan Alda movie "The Four Seasons" where one of the wives was a photographer who had spent the past 15 years of her life on her photographic 'vegetable studies'. A whole fantastic world out there and she p*sses away her life on shots of parsnips!
  8. Regarding the B&W images, I was willing to give the photogs the benefit of the doubt and assume that the contrast of the photos was not properly leveled for the Internet. But, even if you assume better tonality in the original images, it still isn't good photojournalism.
  9. "a whole fantastic world out there and she p*sses away her life on shots of parsnips"

    uhhh....ever hear of edward weston
  10. "What these kids don't know about photography (which is plenty considering
    the basic technical errors they made)"

    Since when does a photo have to be "technically correct" to be good or get its
    message across?? Ansel Adams may have been techinically outstanding as
    a photographer, but many (including I) consider his work to be rather boring.
    The idea of techincal perfection in photos is IMHO poison to the mind. Look at
    David Burnett's famous photo of Al Gore, it was taken with a $20 Holga, but it
    is to many a great image.
  11. Edward Weston shot many varied subjects- not just vegatables. However, I do admire Weston's sarcastic creed: "Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn’t photogenic."
  12. yes, weston was open to all things.....something meryl might want to try once and a while...
  13. I don't feel I have to "GET" everything, but I only found a couple images in the 25 under 25 piece that I could connect with at all. The piece in the same issue on Peter Turnley, however, had wonderful images so I'm assuming it's more that my tastes don't line up with the person who created the list.

    Besides, publishers love hot-lists because they're easy to create. Very little thought goes into most of them.
  14. It's sad to hear that they were considered the "BEST." The most recent issue of PDN
    had a similar spread but it was called "PDN's 30." I recently left art school, Art Center,
    because those were the type of images my fellow classmates were creating. It was
    boring, lame, and just simply awful. The images they created, similar to PDN's 30,
    seemed to have no meaning...no passion...no heart. But that style seems to be the
    trend all the young photographers are going after. I think what the problem is that
    these days young photographers stopped trying to be original/creative. All they do
    now is imitate. I think that's why the images are boring to me, they all look the
    same...with a few exceptions. I swear you could put 10 different sets of photos by
    different photographers together and they would look like they were all shot by one
    photographer. Nothing original.
  15. There are artistic decisions and there are simple dumb mistakes. I doubt that the guy who took the pictures of the race cars had some deep artistic reason for the filter vignetting seen in the corners of his example. There is no need to glorify the dumb mistake as some stroke of artistic genius. If everything is great art then where is the garbage?
  16. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I doubt that the guy who took the pictures of the race cars had some deep artistic reason for the filter vignetting seen in the corners of his example.
    But there's really no way of knowing, without talking to the person. I know people who regularly vignette corners, it's just a look in the same vein as film borders.
    I think people should read the statement by the person who chose the photos. Lauren Greenfield (an excellent photographer, by the way) has, like all judges and curators, a specific viewpoint. These represent her choices. While it's possibe that people here would choose something else, no-one was asked, were they? It's a matter of taste, and I find quite a few appealing, and some boring. But that's true of almost every group of photos I look at, except maybe the big Adams show, which put me to sleep, and the Irving Penn nudes show, which was also a bit of a yawner, and the new Arbus show, which was riveting from start to finish.
    Regarding the appearance of some of the black and white images, it looks to me like someone at the magazine messed up since there are way too many with exactly the same look to say that it was the photographer. Maybe the wrong monitor or something...
  17. Aside from aesthetic quibbles, I was surprised five of the twenty five photographers singled
    out came from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, a school not particularly well known for
    turning out art photographers.
  18. Ref Jeff's notations, I agree that it appears that whoever processed the images for posting on the Website does not appear to have their act together. The images I looked at contain enough information to allow "repairs" after which they look much, much better.
  19. << egarding the appearance of some of the black and white images, it looks to me like someone at the magazine messed up since there are way too many with exactly the same look to say that it was the photographer. Maybe the wrong monitor or something... >>

    The more I look at the images, especially the B&W ones, the more I'm convinced that there was simply no editorial control over the posting of these images.

    They look like poorly made scans slopped together in Microsoft Paint. Many of them are not lined up and have weird bits of whitespace around them as if they were sitting in the scanner wrong.

    I think the photographers emailed the images and a web jocky threw them into a table without looking at the images.
  20. Bill

    It's what the critics want to see. The critics don't applaude that what they don't want to see. And the prof's give high grades to those that give them what they do want to see.

    Have you seen the latest from "LensWork"? Some beautiful B&W efforts that says nothing more then is said everyday when one walks down the street and uses their eyes.

    It's very frustrating but hopefully you'll get use to it.

    I hope the above is found insightful and helpful.

    "Today I had an epiphany; I am grateful." :)
  21. Why does anyone think 'Digital Journalist' should be taken seriously? If this had been published by 'Aperture', then I'd be shaking my head in disbelief, and correct me if I'm mistaken, but I doubt if anyone gives serious credence to 'Digital Journalist'.

    All diplomacy aside, most of this work is not just uninspired, it's beginner stuff that looks like it came from a high school. The best work here is very derivative-- I spotted one Arbus and two Winogrand wannabes.
  22. I thought most of the work was pretty bad. Arbus and Klein clones for the most
    part. A few were interesting. Very few. What I couldn't really get over was just
    how bad they were technically. And I just don't mean bad scans. At a time
    when photography is at it's pinnacle of image quality, these images were all
    poorly done. Do they bother teaching technique nowadays? Or are they
    concerned that having some craft and technical competence interferes with
    their "vision"?

    A good analogy might be music. When Rock and Roll first came out, the older
    generation thought it was noise, however there was true musicianship and
    the ability to actually play their instruments behind their music. I think few of
    these "photographers" have the chops beyond point and shoot cameras and
    one hour phoot labs.
  23. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Arbus and Klein clones for the most part
    There's really nothing on there that resembles Arbus or Klein, except very superficially. Quite a few do seem to look like Greenfield's though, which is characteristic of a lot of judging.
  24. "I didn't understand a single image!! What is wrong? Am I such
    an antique that I've lost the ability to interpret photographs as
    they are being made today......"

    Quite probably. Let me guess, all modern music sounds pretty
    bleak to you as well - you remember the days when they could
    really play their instruments.....

    "The people I know who shoot for papers and magazines tell
    whole stories with images.........you understand what is going
    on........without having to read about the images."

    Why is ambiguity in images a bad thing? The most interesting
    photographers I know realise that they seldom know the right
    questions, never mind the right answers.

    "There were so many cliches........absurd
    juxtaposition........dead-face portraiture.......self absorption."

    Interestingly this is also an utterly accurate description of most of
    the images on photo.net.

    "........it's beginner stuff......."

    Which bit of "25 under 25" are you not understanding? Of course
    it's beginner stuff.
  25. "Why does anyone think 'Digital Journalist' should be taken seriously? If this had been published by 'Aperture', then I'd be shaking my head in disbelief, and correct me if I'm mistaken, but I doubt if anyone gives serious credence to 'Digital Journalist'." --Dave Sims
    One look through the archives of Digital Journalist should answer your question, Dave. While I also have issues with the "25 Under 25" article, DJ is a treasure trove of still images, video, and audio featuring some of the best photographers in the world. To make a blanket statement such as yours, based on one article, is pretty... well, um... stupid.
  26. How emotionally charged.
  27. After looking at the profiles, I can understand a lot of the sentiments here. I've got to admit that there's a kind of "sameness" to a lot of these images. However, I think you have you keep in mind how they are presented. These photos don't make any "sense" because they're taken COMPLETELY out of their original context, poorly scanned, and arbitrarily clumped together. In addition, each photographer has 1 or 2, or at most 4, photos in their profiles. 1 or 2 photos will not give a good representation of a photographer's work--it isn't a portfolio. Speaking of which, many of the profiled photographers have portfolios online, on their website, their agency's, or on photoserve, that will give a much, much better presentation of their work.
    As far as 5 of the selected photographers coming out of NYU, I wouldn't be surprised if there was an NYU faculy member on the selection panel. In PDN's 30 selection panel, there are a couple faculty members from SVA and Parsons, and hey what do you know, 2 or 3 of the photographers selected went to SVA or Parsons. Speaking of PDN's 30 Under 30, Digital Journalist's 25 Under 25 (geez, they were pretty original) features many of the same photographers.

    All these lists, surveys, biennials, etc., tend to have an incestuous flavor to them (e.g. lots of people connected to certain schools, instructors, etc.). I enjoy these kinds of lists and surveys, but there's no reason to take them seriously. Sure, in a few years from now, many of these profiled photographers will be "successful," but just as many might leave the field and turn to something else.
  28. Bill, I'm not convinced your supposed to 'get' it. At least not right away. What's
    wrong with leaving you with more questions than answers?

  29. Sally wrote
    What's wrong with leaving you with more questions than answers?
    Not trying to be mean in my following Sally. My comments are made in a generalize manner, as they're not directed at you. Your question generated this response in me and I'm responding in my following in a generalized, to anybody and everybody, sort of fashion.
    I think more then "What's wrong...?"; it's more along the lines of; "What were these people even thinking?". Why? Their images don't generate any questions. The images don't push the bounds of photography any further then photography was back in the late 70's. The images are along the lines of a snapshot sort of slide show about "What we did this summer." or "Here's somebody about to get their head pounded in." How quaint. :)
    Where did people ever get the idea that photographic images were even suppose to generate questions, let alone, actually doing so? And please! To whom ever. If you're gonna answer the question I posed, spare me the "Who Ha!". :)
  30. "However, I think you have you keep in mind.." Sorry, that should've been "However, i think you have TO keep in mind..."
  31. "DJ is a treasure trove of still images, video, and audio featuring some of the best photographers in the world"

    It's an opinion, certainly.
  32. Let an old timer butt in. A "photograph" as seen on a monitor does not, not look the same as the 16 x 20 (or whatever size) photo sitting on an easel. Real photos have texture, texture and depth for many B&W. No way you get the sensory input from a screen you will from "seeing" the shot. I've gone to places and shot masterpieces. Next to the real thing, my carefully set up shots look like fakes. Even I can tell the difference. I have not seen the photos being discussed. Probably never will. But they deserve at least a nod of respect for what they have been noted for. Lets see how many of them are even in Photography in 25 years.
  33. Anyone to goes to bolivia for a week and rattles of twenty rolls of crud is "key" or "vital". Re hashing family of man. Those who think Herb Ritts is "seminal" "new" and "innovative" never heard of Irving Penn. And anyone who can throw $10000 at a technical problem is bound to think the answer is worth something, and sadly many publishers agree. Don't feel bad, you're not out of it.
  34. I find this really funny. like RM L, the only photos I found somewhat compelling were Bayeté Ross-Smith's photo of the female boxer and Chana Warshauer-Baker's collage photo - at least they were interesting and different. The rest looked like ordinary snapshots to me.

    Maybe I'm a dinosaur but I always thought that good photos should have some kind of artistic value - thats what seperates them from snapshots.

    It's not that I don't get it, it's just that there is nothing to get. A photo should say SOMETHING even if it says different things to different people. I know my photos are not that good but with each one I try to say something, make the viewer think or make it visually compelling - not successflly all the time, I assure you, but getting there.
  35. Being a member of the late 70's (76 to be exact) generation, I can assure you that
    what you see in the DJ under 25 hot list really, sadly or not, is among the best stuff
    that has come out of our generation. Why? Because, a bunch of hippie, touchy feely,
    I'm OK, your OK, express youself, don't sell-out, art-house, summer of love hangers
    on are teaching us.

    At my school, York University, the photo-program's shinning light was some guy who
    took a shi%&$7ly-lit photo of a bunch of half naked people in togas standing around
    wathching a woman push an egg from her shaven vagina. (see it all here in vibrant,
    slightly-off focus technicolour http://www.excal.on.ca/
    index.php?option=content&task=view&id=645&Itemid=82 )

    Thank God I majored in International Development Studies and not shameless self-
    expression, err, fine art.

    OH, grump all day long Bill, but your generation made us what we are.

    We were rasied on TV, before someone figured out that it's bad for your brain. We
    grew up right alongside personal computers and the belief that faster is better. We
    can't spel. We were never taught, or encouraged to focus our cameras. We honestly
    believe that taking a whole day to do something is a very very large investment of
    time. We were raised without God or religion. We learned morality from sitcoms. We
    are the first generation to be fully secure in our own will to power and our own
    freedom of expression. We are the fruit of the tree of liberty, and we know full well
    how shi%$y a thing that is to be.

    In all, I'd say most (not all, some of it really does suck) of the under 25 stuff is a
    perfect reflection of my generation and where we stand in the world today. We don't
    understand emotion, who we are, how we got here, or why we deserve to live in a
    country where we can buy fresh mangoes at 3am in the middle of winter when
    elsewhere, people are killing eachother over water.

    Some of us ignore this and tuck in and go for the 'big win.' (usually through the help
    of antidepressants) Others, like the people featured in the under 25, take a more
    head-on approach and try to understand it, and how to live with it.

    If you want to understand what the generation who took these photos is all about, try
    reading Douglas Coupland's 'Generation X' or 'Life After God'....or maybe just read
    Catcher in the Rye again.

    And DON'T say that someone who's under 25 is technically naive. Mastery isn't
    something anyone can attain with a cheap course and an instructional CD-Rom, it
    takes years and years. Hmmm, maybe we're rubbing off on you.
  36. Thomas, As someone who would describe themselve as "liberal" I'd have to agree with
    you. But I think that in many cases what you see as "liberal" really isn't. It's the voice
    of people who see injustice and blindy, without recourse, take mad stabs at the
    institution which brought it down on the head of some poor sod who just happened
    to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

    IMO this is something that stems from the opinion that when something is broken,
    you throw it out and get a new one...a highly capitalistic idea. The left have their
    hearts in the rigth place, but we are just confused as all hell. You should be able to
    see that in the 25 under 25 stuff.

    I can assure you that you're rigth about college professors, even in Toronto, every
    class I took seemed to have some tie to Marx....who in turn was influenced by
    Cartesian reasoning, which, of course was thought up by the most overrated
    philosopher of the past 500 years, Rene Decartes himself. Thus, I'd have to say, left,
    right, it's all the same sh%&t, but in a different pot.

    The world is not rational, nor are the 25 under 25, thus they are true sharpshooters
    (in a zen koan sort of way)
  37. I checked out 25 under 25 and I did not feel out of it. Except for Laurel Nakadate (Girls' School) the photographer's age was not important to the subject matter. Nakadate's intimate shots of young women at a posh women's college could only be made by a peer.

    I did not find the work of these young photographers to be radically different from work done by previous generations. And that is just fine.

    My response was subjective, of course. What I'll have to say represents first impressions--a first reading. The photographers I liked best were in some way like me (surprise, surprise).

    My favorites: Bayete Ross-Smith (Female Boxers), Daniel Ramos (Working at Sloan's), Greg Halpern (Harvard Works Because We Do), Kambui Olujimi (4th and Goal), Laurel Nakadate (Girls' School).

    Of these only the last two were in color. I found myself more open to black and white in general. This disturbed me. Is there something off putting about color? As I shoot primarily in color this is an especially interesting question for me.

    The best of the lot I felt was Bayete Ross-Smith's work on female boxers. After that--Daniel Ramos and Greg Halpern.

    A lot of the shots I did not like (remembering that this is a first "reading") seemed to strain for effects. This is to say I felt b.s.ed.

    I think you can find work on this website that is as good or better than most of the "under 25" photographers. This is also a subjective judgement that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
  38. Maybe the judges simply do not see as many pictures as we do, in quantity or variety. I bet they would feel embarrassed with their selection if they saw some of the pictures on this site.
  39. I had a look at the work and some of it was quite good. The BW portraiture didn't do alot for me but then I don't care for much BW portraiture anyways....especially the ones of luminescent, wrinkled faces.

    What I did find quite interesting was what the young people were drawn to. It was more documentary of their lives or normal life around them. To me this is somewhat of a rebellion against the overwrought, oversaturated, glossy-magazine, travel nonsense. Let's not forget that being young is mainly about rebellion. It is also about spontaneity and most of the negative comments on here seem to be about the lack of polish.

    What it reminded me of are the photography year books from the 70's and 80's that I bought recently. In each edition there was a section on up and coming photographers. It was surprising at how many of them are well-known and well-respected now. Their early efforts, however, were just as free, spontaneous and 'unpolished' as the ones in that article.

    In answer to the question that has been asked repeatedly in this thread "Am I missing something" the answer is YES!!! Yes you are missing something so the onus is on you rather than photography. You're the one to blame :)
  40. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Wonderful analysis, Andy. A completely different perspective on the work shown.
  41. 90% + is pure junk. There were a few interesting images. Very few.
  42. How sad....
    These are great pictures! Remember that these guys are under 25! There are so many many portfolio's of dreary rubbish on this website.....There is a hint of stinky jealousy here...
  43. There is a bit of "I'm insecure about my tastes, so I'm glad other people hate this stuff too" there as well.

    I like some of the photos, but possibly because I care more about the content of photographs than anything else; as a documentary nut, I like most of these photographs (but I like most photographs from a documentary perspective anyway). I don't like the text that accompanies the photographs, but that's what happens when you ask people to justify/explain something that is instinctive...

    On that note, how much response would a "documentary vs artistic" thread get? The more I look at artistic photographs, the more I think/feel/suspect that they have more in common with photographer's idealised/prettifed perception of reality than the world which I am familiar with (and the more I hate lots of photos in the top-rated section, esp. ones from the "nude woman next to rock/machinery/etc." genre with lots of prententious comments).
  44. I'd like to explain just one of these images, in part. It's the last one -- from Wyatt Gallery's "Spiritual Sites-A Carribean Study". It's not well-explained in the article, nor does it appear in Gallery's own gallery of this topic.

    It has in the background pictures of two men who shared in part the same name. One perhaps stole from the other. One is considered (at least by me, as far as I know) a saint, and the other, a charlatan. And in the center is an ornate chair, for someone who would perhaps associate himself with these figures, not knowing the difference. That chair is empty. A good image in this interpretation.

    But this explanation falls short. I don't know why it was chosen. Wyatt's explanation says little. I don't even know if he recognized the men. I doubt that many would have. It's also an image that I likely would not have taken. Visually, I find it cluttered and unappealing. It is also out of place with the rest of Gallery's work from what I've seen.

    But I'm glad to have seen it. Thanks for the mention and the link.
  45. I found that image on Wyatt Gallery's web site -- under Fullbright Fellowship - Trinidad. There he had some more comments about the image. He said that it was (like) a shrine to one of the people in the images, one of many such set up to educate visitors.

    So I contacted Wyatt Gallery by email, and asked him about the chair. He was kind enough to reply, and said that the chair would have been empty. It would have been used by the person so honored, were he present, but no one else would sit there. Also, Wyatt Gallery didn't know about the person in the other picture.

    So my previous interpretation was clearly off with respect to the actual image, and to what (I now think) Wyatt wished to convey.

    However, I find that I can still use my previous interpretation, or a revised one, and that both are more satisfying to myself, based on what I think I know, than what I think Wyatt Gallery, or even the original designer of the display meant to convey. That said, there is sufficient similarity in our interpretations to resolve the differences.

    What is the difference between a saint and a charlatan who pretends to be a saint when you're an ordinary person who can't tell the difference? Well, there's a big difference, but we can't tell it. So one can hardly be criticised for honouring someone in wrong sincere belief.

    The subject is faith or the quest for faith. Wyatt Gallery was on such a quest, photographically at least, and this is a decent illustration of an aspect of it. One that I find moving, thought-provoking, and only ordinary in turns.

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