Photo journalism and personal bias

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by gerrysiegel, May 28, 2010.

  1. A gedanken question.
    You are a successful magazine photographer for Vanity Fair or in day's past, Life weekly. Let 's say you were somebody on scale of Alfred Eisenstadt,whom all know and admire.
    You are asked by the editor who trusts you without qualm, to photograph, in a "safe venue" like the American consulate for the overseas shoot, one of the following folk. Ahmoud Amadinejad. Hugo Chavez. Ann Coulter. Rush Limbaugh. Bobby Jindal. Marlon Brando,-lets say he is still with us.
    Could you,or better yet, would you, clear your mind of personal poltical or moral repugnance and just " do photography?" And if so,how would you frame your job as a photographer of a notable figure. No glib answers, please. thanks.
     
  2. First off, other than his sphericity, what's the matter with Marlon?
    Gerry, what you describe is a component of professionalism. Doctors and lawyers have to deal with this, and probably priests and the like, too. The question can be paraphrased: can you act dispassionately when your subject is someone you despise? I think a true professional can, although not all do, and for some, it's no doubt just a job.
    It is a cheap solution to portray these characters as one-dimensional villains or monsters, but I think that is often what the news editors want. In the days of USA Today and the 10-second soundbite, they rarely miss an opportunity to take the low road, if it will mean selling papers, or advertising minutes. But the greats of photography would be able to winkle out the essential character of the subject, and make it come through in the photo.
    One of the more puzzling photos I've seen recently is a snapshot of Saddam Hussein, out on a picnic with his family. It's disturbing because the Great Scumbag, may he rest in peace, reveals himself to be an ordinary schmuck, sitting with his over-makeupped womenfolk, and wearing a ridiculous fedora. The Hussein photo is one of a very few pictures that show the man as he is; practically every photo released in his political lifetime was taken to portray him as a hero, or a one-dimensional monster. (Incidentally, perhaps a better example than any of your list would be AH himself, but I digress and, dammit, now I've Godwinned the thread.)
    Hannah Arendt coined the phrase 'the banality of evil' when she was writing about a different scumbag 50 years ago, and maybe that idea fits in here somehow. I think we find it troubling to know that these pariahs share our DNA, and they eat, drink, put their pants on one leg at a time, and love their dorky families the same as we do. It's easier for photo editors to go for the simplistic message, but I believe the image-makers should keep the tension up. Creating that depth is, IMHO, one thing which distinguishes the professional from the guy who is just doing a job.
     
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I could photograph Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh in ways that it would make it clear who they really were. They wouldn't like them, and whether or not I could get them published...well that's another story.
    Marlon Brando could look heroic in photographs, my kind of model.
     
  4. Well I guess no Eisenstadt would have made it to Berchtesgaden as a weekend photo op shooter, huh, Der Feuhrer is nicht off limits to me either. More than Leni R ,back then, eagerly sucked up to Adolf and he was mesmerizing I give him that..
    Marlon Brando, inreresting case. Which Marlon is the question. More I read of Marlon,he became pure kooky in his later years.
    Read if you will anecdotes of how he treated publishers who sought his memoirs and his interviews with press. Vulgar, brilliant, enigmatic, arrogant and totally off the wall fruitcake say some folk.
    Reference re Brando is Vanity Fair/ The Atlantic/ London times writer and publisher Evans in his autobio book "Paper Chase,. " True I guess he did some real good on Indian tribal treatment when he was lucid. No one is all pure repugnant,true so where does that leave the photo interpreter?.
     
  5. I could not keep my own feelings out of the issue.....which is why I do very little work that could be considered journalistic. I have worked hard for many years to get emotion, expression, feeling, opinion, personality etc., into my images....that's what I sell.
    So I do, and have, turned down work on that basis. Robert...
     
  6. "Ahmoud Amadinejad. Hugo Chavez. Ann Coulter. Rush Limbaugh. Bobby Jindal. Marlon Brando,-lets say he is still with us."
    I'd want to photograph them in a plain and straightforward way, to see the person and not the role they play for pay. Better yet would be a portrait that captures both, if I were that good. Their celebrity or fame is not important and their opinions or politics have nothing to do with photographing them. Limbaugh and Coulter...Uncle Bob and Cousin Millie, I think. Chavez and Amadinejad seem lively, even vivacious; they seem like guys who like to talk and attitudinize. I think it would be a rewarding experience to photograph them. Brando at any age would be the most difficult and least rewarding for me. He was a consumate actor, always on. It would be difficult to get behind his performing. I don't know who Bobby Jindal is.
     
  7. A la Marlon Brando:
    It would be difficult to get behind his performing​
    Exactly correct. No one ever could. Consummate performer. Never out of his make up.
     
  8. Please to erase on list one XXX Bobby Jindal XXX. Add this name instead. We are doing a double spread shoot of the handsome and accomplished Tiger Woods.
     
  9. jtk

    jtk

    I would have no trouble keeping my preconceived (pre-felt?) feelings out of the issue (I think of myself as relatively kneejerk-free), but it might be hard to photograph some folks, assuring the art director/photo-editor that Ann Coulter, for example, wouldn't look skeletal, or that poor old Marlon would still remind viewers of the Marlon in "Streetcar..."
    In other words, I think of myself as a photographer.
    Avedon made handsome portraits along with scary renditions. at the same sittings (Ike, Billy Graham, George Wallace etc).
     
  10. Were I photographing Brando, I'd not necessarily want to deny or negate his performing. Since his acting is so much a part of him, I'd be inclined to work with that . . . and him. Our public faces are no less ourselves than our private faces. I prefer not to separate people from the roles they play so I'd likely keep in mind the public personnas of all these people. I'd also keep in mind my own feelings about them and work with and against those feelings, as I generally do. By acknowledging, I can transcend what I might feel I have to. By denial, I often accomplish less.
     
  11. How about the photographer that did the saturnine picture of the Krupps arms magnate on a cover that became a symbol of German war machine and arms industry.
    Was Holbein, brushes and pigment, even in his day, kind of able to sneak in some artifact that was revealing of the subject and a kind of insider hint at the personality. I ask because I really don't know.
    Was this a kind of a subversive artistic license OR do all superior portrait artists, and I now limit that thought to photo artists of portraiture- relish/ nourish that kind of license or freedom of expression. Somehow pulling off the commision and still doing their thing...
    Case in point. When Karsh pulled the cigar from Winston he knew what he was doing and was beyond a' Rupert Murdoch' kind of puppet master control...
    When i posted mot so long ago the cover photo of Rudy Giuliani for Times weekly magazine, by the in- your- face /all warts out there- artist ,Nigel Parry ("Sharp") someone wrote that Rudolph looked 'just like the mean bastard he is.'
    Maybe Giuliani was complicit in that one and loved it. A self revelation and reflection by a bold other that actually made him feel stronger and more confident. Rather than an airbrushed view like the one of Napoleon with ermine robes, hand in jacket, neo classical pose. Seems almost part of the 'calling' so to speak of it as a calling if one dares.
    A photographer,if you like even showing the 'taro cards to his or her subject . Maybe. maybe too far and too poetic an aspiration.
    And yet maybe we all of is have a litle of that in us if we aspire to be very much better than we are...again I ask and don't have a parboiled answer for myself...
     
  12. I worked as an active stringer for a local paper for several years. You bet I editorialized. I liked to do politicians ala the Giuliani you mentioned. I softened the elderly as best I could. When you get a murderer on a perp walk you don't try to soften the image. I tried to keep the gore out of car wrecks. I loved getting grimaces on athletes in motion. I like to shoot tight which is great to bring out wrinkles and blemishes when you want to and render a realistic image of your subject. If I were to shoot the above I would certainly bring my biases. I have some flattering pictures of Al and Tipper Gore, John McCain and some others. The light was soft in these and the pictures just came out that way. I did PR work in my studio where I really tried to make people look good. That was not always the case with my journalism. The purpose of knowing a lot about the use of light and flash is to get the effect you want. The really good photographers I admire do that. Anytime I begin to think well of my work I go look at Karsh and really understand how inadequate mine is.
     
  13. I have no experiences, so just theoretical ponderings here.
    Seems to me there are 2 questions:
    1. Can you leave "your agenda" behind, yes or no?
    2. What is the possible impact of how you depict them; what do you want to achieve?
    The first question would be about trying to objective. Which sounds like a rather undo-able thing, and a personal consideration, and one you'd make for each case seperately. Tiger Woods, Marlon Brando - flawed humans.... completely different stories than mass murderers.
    The second, to me, photographically, is more interesting. I find a picture of a loving, caring man in an article that describes a near monster more scary than the standard portrait-as-murderer. Those are cliché and add nothing. For example, the movie Der Untergang was to me a more shocking way to display one of history biggest monsters than displaying him as a raving lunatic. It opens up other perspectives, encourages more to think about who this monster really is. But it does mean your audience will have to know who it is, to get this 'alienating' effect.
    Anyway, 'making look good', I think, does not necessarily mean you have closed your eyes for who they are and what they do.
     
  14. "do all . . . portrait artists . . . relish/ nourish that kind of license or freedom of expression." --Gerry
    I relish the dynamic I often feel between license and freedom of expression on the one hand and the kind of relationship, both personal and photographic, I develop with the subject of a portrait.
    I am interested in the subject and who the subject is will help determine what I want to or choose to express. A lot will depend on the situation of the portrait. Often, the subjects of my photos are lending themselves to me precisely in order for me to express myself. That will go somewhat differently from a subject who has asked me specifically to do a portrait or one who might pay me for doing one. I will not be untrue to myself but much photography is a matter of compromise and choices among rarely-perfect alternatives. Even when trying to please a client, I try to form a vision that's personal to me. I seek clients who are appreciative of a personal vision rather than generic fare. It's worked out OK so far.
    I think one can flatter (if that's part of the deal) while also getting a little extra, something that's real about the person. Sometimes flattery itself is very real. As for subversion, it can be great or appalling and sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes not. I take that on a case by case basis.
    Sometimes the most rewarding sense of freedom (of expression) comes in the tension between my own needs and the needs of others, or at least in my own sense of conflicting things pressing on me to express. What to express and what I've got in me to express is not always so clear that it's just a matter of exercising my expressive freedom. It's often as much about commitment as freedom.
     
  15. The first question would be about trying to objective.​
    However I go into the project, for me I think, several thing seem to happen. I know I would try to portray in a good light technically to satisfy and fllatter of feed my needs. Flatter maybe,not deflatter to coin a term... Secondly,the subject can seduce with their charm. And I think all of the ones I mentioned have that power. I would have to decline shooting a cover photo of Glenn Beck. I would probably show him in a pleasing way,rats and double rats. I think. (That might make me a lousy photojournalist of course...I can live with that thought.)
    Wow, Karsh was something else wasn' he. Gave a lecture here once. And while in college, Eisenstadt was in our library doing a feature for Life. (It' s ok you may touch me :)) Well it is an imponderable. And so are most of such things that get at reflection of one's temperament, artistic and otherwise.
     
  16. Hi Gerry....I knew Karsh and participated in a couple of his seminars.....I think that not many understood him all that well......as for Glenn Beck, what's wrong with him? He is pretty upfront, he never offers facts you can't check out for yourself.....we could do with him up here! Regards, Robert
     
  17. "as for Glenn Beck, what's wrong with him?"
    He's a raving lunatic.
     
  18. jtk

    jtk

  19. jtk

    jtk

    Interesting OT.
    Krupp's portrait was made by Arnold Newman, who did his work intentionally, view camera on-tripod, making heavy use of props and background. His simple lighting (mostly cheap reflectors and bulbs) usually looks conventional, clean, attractive, is relatively uncommunicative...but in Krupp's case he used primative theatric lighting and Wagnerian factory background intentionally to create an image of a monster. He could have made the old man look less terrifying, but had another obvious intention.
    Krupp was just a politically opportunistic industrialist like those of CIBA and Volkswagen, no more monsterous as an individual than executives and political enablers of ENRON, Blackwater, Halliburton...BP... The Shoa factor (!) is interesting re Krupp and Newman's Judaism, but perhaps modern executives/politicians are just as evil.
    ... given the access and money, would any of us intentionally do a Newman-Krupp job on our subjects? I'll bet those grandfathers are all cut from the same cloth, pleasant-enough, perhaps socializing comfortably with photographers who will add handsome portraits to their portfolios..to get more work...
    Eisenstadt was wonderful but didn't take risks like Newman did with Krupp, Karsh was successful because he intentionally made everybody look heroic (advertised that in New Yorker Magazine side bars, along with the Greek-fisherman-style hats, junk jewelry, and steamship tours)...Avedon had a sort of bipolar photographic integrity, required that his subjects allow him to show multiple sides (eg of Ike as hero and Ike as exhausted and near collapse).
     
  20. jtk

    jtk

    oops... by "re Krupp and Newman's Judaism" I meant to contrast someone Jewish with someone who drove Nazi manufacturing industry...

    I wonder what what Krupp thought about Newman and his portrait?
     
  21. So many photographers of stature were Jews or of Jewish heritage. Cornell Capa. Eisenstaedt. Margaret Bourke-White. Joe Rosenthal. Nat Fein. Ralph Morse. Annie Liebowitz. I am sure an essay could be developed to connect the social photojournalism awareness of Jews. And their ability to put aside the very personal in the display of their talent to do the right thing by their portraits. I don' t know how far one can push that. It may be that Jews feel strongly about social issue, but stronger about the primacy of art for art's sake. Arts gratia artis.
     
  22. OK Fred.....it's not enough to call someone a "raving lunatic" without backing it up. So, why do you have that opinion....specifics please....thanks, Robert
     
  23. Sorry, Robert, wouldn't be fair to this thread's topic. Another place, another time.
     
  24. Thanks Fred....fair enough...R
     
  25. I force myself just as an exercise to watch Glenn Beck, between 10 minute sequence of dumb Fox commercials.
    Yesterday he seemed to be defending someone who was was castigated for diminishing the Civil Rights Act. I think it was the libertarian fence straddler, opportunistic sort of guy,Paul Rand on a Rachel Maddow interview which I missed. His (Beck's spiel before another potload of commercials made me turn him off) was great theater only. Line up a group of black pundits along with photos of black historical figures like Booker T Washington on a nice set.
    Beck comes in with a slick mellifluous and vacuous patter about the government really responsivle having done in the blacks in this country's history and still doing them in....
    Glenn is a complete unvarnished idiot, ashameless panderer who is in it for money period. No ideology that makes any sense.
    Qualfies as a raving lunatic with a midas touch, no inconsistency there is there? Fred, I done said, and I stand by it,

    BUT getting bact to OP,
    if I had to photo him I could not but be influenced by his theatrical charm and down country folksy way and cute buzz cut. I am a photographer.
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    Sticking with Beck for a moment longer...some here have bought totally into his act, pro and con, which is exactly what he wants.
    His act is his money-maker, after all: responding strongly one way or another simply makes him richer (Limbaugh says the same thing about himself, and openly). Love Beck or hate him, it's cash in Paul Rand's pocket, along with Sarah P's and the GOP's (unless you actually think Tea Party isn't GOP).
    As a performance artist, Beck would be a brilliant charmer or demon subject, depending on what the photographer's market wanted. I doubt many photographers could make him seem "normal" or catch him unaware. Ka-ching!
     
  27. Yes. Some of us are less distanced than others.
     
  28. What's the editor want? You're on his dime. If you want to play games, then you're not a real journalist, you're just another paid for entertainment or controversy commentator.
     
  29. jtk

    jtk

    I don't think this has to do with "distancing" oneself from feelings/values, rather it's a matter of photographic integrity.
    Intentionally making someone look good or bad according to non-photo values doesn't seem honest...though I'll cut a little slack for Newman/Krupp because I admire the rest of his portraiture so much ... and what he did to Krupp was so evocative. Lost integrity was evidently the price that cried out to be paid.
    I admire the work of Robert Capa (another of Gary's Jews). That he didn't try to make the French army, retreating in humiliation from Vietnam, seem either good or evil showed the integrity most of us expect from photojournalists.
     
  30. "Sticking with Beck for a moment longer...some here have bought totally into his act, pro and con, which is exactly what he wants."
    This was the distancing I was referring to. Remaining passionless. Nothing to do with photographic integrity, which makes sense only when applied to a photographic situation.
    Intentionally making someone look a certain way is honest and doesn't automatically show a lack of integrity, especially if that's the way you feel and that's what you want to express and you are in a position to do just that. Some will judge you for it, but making a genuine photographic commitment overrides those kinds of judgments from others. Making photographs is not always pretty.
     
  31. jtk

    jtk

    "Some will judge you for it.."
    Yes. That judgement distinguishes propaganda from journalism.
    If we're talking about advertising or some other type of photography that doesn't pose as journalism that judgement isn't necessarily appropriate. For example, we don't expect papparazi to tell us truth.
    Carelessly engaging certain types of manipulators can do more harm than "good" if we imagine that we see through them by bringing the happy wonderfulness of "the way you feel" and "what you want to express" to the task. Narcissism isn't inherently a bad thing, but it can be a problem if one forgets that "the way you feel" and "what you want" doesn't reliably serve well, ethically or politically. We might also remember the distinction between "feel"/"want" and "intend"/"have-the-capability"
    My perspective has partially to do with work experience involving literally crazy people...fascinating, deceitful, and genuinely evil...with a certain glitter in their eyes that may or may not warn one adequately to avoid their games.
     
  32. Why assume carelessness or narcissism in self-expression?
    Portraits, even journalistic ones, serve many tasks. The task of a portrait is not singular, nor is it pre-defined in the abstract. It is on the table when the photographer takes up his camera in the presence of his subject. The photographer will decide genuinely what goes into the task. A rule book will not determine how the picture is to be taken or not taken. If it were to be decided based on pre-defined rules, the camera might simply serve as a recording device. The rule book gives the photographer an out. Someone else would have determined what should or shouldn't be done.
    Commitment requires something else of me. I make the photographic judgments when I take the photograph. Others may have influence or sway, and they may judge what to use of my work and when to use it, but I don't become an arm of someone else's machine.
    Journalistic integrity may mean objective detachment but it doesn't mean indifference. That can mean channeling one's feelings and ability to express, not dismissing or trying to deny them.
     
  33. Addition: Were I to pretend not to dislike Glenn Beck I would risk being disingenuous in making his portrait. By acknowledging my dislike, to myself, I have a greater chance of using that to create something I can commit to. It doesn't mean I will photograph my dislike, by any means. And even if I could, my dislike might well translate through photographically to something of greater significance than that dislike. I may say I photograph my feelings and I may say I photograph with them. And I photograph honestly. I won't objectify Beck by making him into a generic or abstractly-approached "photojournalistic" portrait. He's flesh, blood, and more than just lighting and props. I will use my dislike to dance with him.
     
  34. I will use my dislike to dance with him.​
    A good way to think of it, Fred.
    I managed to work with some folks in the DOD agency I did not much admire as people. And a few I did not admire as professionals and we accomplished work together.
    I guess I may have cultivated a way of compartmentalizing things when I interacted with them. Now I have more freedom, (and as I wrote there is no editor behind me to pull strings,) I can do the dance thing. Or if I choose to, do the dance thing.
     
  35. Could you,or better yet, would you, clear your mind of personal poltical or moral repugnance and just " do photography?" .
    That's what it is about really that simple to undestand.
     
  36. jtk

    jtk

    I do understand and appreciate Fred's view, and referring to "narcissism" isn't as negative as it may appear. Narcissists are sometimes stellar..take Proust for example. "Narcissistic" is however an easily defined and standard way to describe the certainty that some "feel" about their way of relating to the world.
    Narcissists revove most of their expressions online around the word "I", for example..that's pretty standard. Rastafarians are well aware of this dimension, so they avoid referring to themselves as "I," using "I-man" instead to refer to themselves as individuals. Authoritarian religious leaders (no names or titles here) are by self-definition ultimately narcissistic. So are "progressives," "tea party-ites," and self-satisfied conservatives.
     
  37. jtk

    jtk

    Does someone here actually know Mr. Beck?
    I'm not into TV, have avoided cable, only see moments of GB sans sound at the gym. He evidently does have TV-watchers twitching to his beat, which would be interesting except for their two-note songs and the fact that yes, they do evidently waste life watching him.
    Is it likely that Beck lovers/haters have the personal abilities to photograph him in ways he wouldn't approve, by which he wouldn't benefit?
    Maybe make him seem addled or focused, shallow or deep, a hero or monster. What else is new? How about insight into his lonely soul (I'll bet he's an "artist!").
     
  38. John's list is too short.
     
  39. To me, it's kind of awkward the list is quite US inspired. Most of the names mean nearly nothing to me. Add Berlusconi to the list, and I'd be back discussing. But I think the names are not what the thread was about anyway. So allow me to skip that part.
    Gerry, I'm not sure whether you meant it as a question back when you quoted me on trying to be objective. If yes, apologies for not coming back earlier.
    Journalism does uphold this banner of objectivity, but the question is: do we believe in this objectiveness, and do we believe it is even possible? For me: no, and no. Pure objective would mean you can completely shut down your emotions and personal ideas, which already is a complicated thing to ask. Next you'd ask somebody to do something creative, while doing that... now that really seems to bite. And most news coverage is showing opinions, so whoever pays the bill for the photoshoot also has a say, which is not an strictly objective one either.
    The second question I asked in my first post piles on top of that. The "totally objective" photo would have no intent beyond showing a person. Like a photo in a passport. No more. No context, no implications, no external references that could be judgemental in any way, shape or form.
    Really a picture worth hiring a good photographer for?
    So even when you would be able to shut down yourself nearly complete, I'm quite sure you would portray the person as something, as a somebody, giving the photo an intent. That could be a cliché look, confrontational or highly ironic. Any choice has its implications and will reveal it being more than just a portrait. The photo will pass a judgement.
    Unless it's the passport photo.
     
  40. jtk

    jtk

    See Platonphoto.com, especially the CNN interview .... he avoids kneejerk responses to subjects....I doubt he'd impose anything on Beck or Berlusconi, would rather deliver his best as a particular kind of photographer...
    Platon has talked about photographing from very low angles, even laying on floor and shooting up, specifically to avoid positioning himself as more important than they...he seems too humble to make judgement calls about celebrities who are, after all, fellow humans. You can see this in some of his New Yorker B&W work.
     
  41. I sometimes like to get down on the floor to shoot. But sometimes it messes up my clothes. ;)))
     
  42. jtk

    jtk

    "The "totally objective" photo would have no intent beyond showing a person. Like a photo in a passport. No more. No context, no implications, no external references that could be judgemental in any way, shape or form." - Wouter W.
    "Total objectivity" has never been pretended-to by journalists. Journalism schools go to great lengths to crush that idea. It's a deceitful concept, like infallibility.
    Journalists do mostly try to stay relatively neutral, within the ranges of human practicality and possibility. Editorial writers and papparazi aren't journalists. Videographers documenting the horrors on ships off Gaza couldn't avoid being used by one "side" or the other, but he/she did something photographically honorable...evidently did stay "neutral," didn't attempt to intrude her/his "feelings." The venues (Fox, Al Jazeera and the like) are another matter.
    The "balanced" idea touted by cable TV was contrived specifically to dumb-down and hot-button-target the conveniently selected pre-digested "issues" they peddle...viewers are supposed to accept issues as left/right, conservative/liberal in order to inflame the marketing messages they are paid to deliver.
    People who love or hate Beck (or Oprah, or LA Lakers) respond in their favorite ways and the marketers know who's been trained to respond which way (one or the other), and they win advertising $$ both ways.
     
  43. What John wrote. "Total objectivity" is a straw dog.
    From the Urban Dictionary.
    In business, something (an idea, or plan, usually) set up to be knocked down. It's the dangerous philosophy of presenting one mediocre idea, so that the listener will make the choice of the better idea which follows. It backfires with some frequency, as the listener (out of sheer perversity) will insist on the straw dog.
     
  44. I agree that "total objectivity" is a straw dog, though I don't think it was an intentional one asserted by Wouter.
    I also think "he avoids kneejerk responses to subjects" is a straw dog. It suggests that others' personal responses to or feelings about Glen Beck or whoever is the subject of the portrait is dismissible as knee-jerk, as airy-fairy or media-imposed rather than considered. "Kneejerk" is a setup and an extreme when talking about personal responses to people.
    I do agree that Platon's approach is objective. It's also very much about his photographic style rather than the person who's the subject of the portrait. While I may be shown the skin and surface of his people, information that shows me what the person looks like, I am not captivated enough to know something about them that's more significant than that. Platon's objectivity is a photographic style and that style becomes the subject. In that sense, I see it as I do fashion photography. The people themselves seem interchangeable. Platon tells me about Platon's shooting. I agree that Platon doesn't make his portraits about himself, he makes them to an almost exclusive extent about his photographing.
    This is not as much about photojournalism as it may be about preference and taste: what compels you and what compels me. I will use my own feelings and relationship with my subjects to draw the viewer in, to get you, the viewer, to feel something or know something about the person's personality (or to want to feel something and know something), not just his/her looks and where he/she went on a certain day. I won't tell you what to feel about the person but I will put you in touch with the person. Platon puts me in touch with photography, not people.
     
  45. OK, choice of words was wrong. Total objectivity... let's replace it with neutrality, and most of my post stays content-wise as it was....I think it is a bit a waste to now rotate around a rather lousy word choice.
    I do agree with Fred's assessment on Platon.
    And Platon's photos do prove me wrong, though. The portraits to me look detached from the subject, and not very engaging. Too well made to be passport photos, but emotionally, to me, the same level. However, that's just my taste probably.
     
  46. The Platon link is probably a Flash site, but I don't have Flash on this box so the pages are blank. I did an image search and I came across a portrait of his that was not captioned. After awhile I decided it might be a portrait of Putin. I'm not sure. Whoever it is supposed to be, it doesn't appear either "objective" or "neutral". Reminded me of whatisname's Krupp photo.
     
  47. jtk

    jtk

    Nobody is ever "objective." Objectivity is a lie. Journalists have always been open about that, but people ignorant of journalism pretend it's an issue (due to TV's intentionally anti-journalistic "balanced news").
    Platon's relationships to his subjects sometimes strike me as personal to the point of being awkward or crazed. I'm thinking of his New Yorker portraits during the Obama inauguration...they initially disturbed me but have slowly sunk in.
    That some of Platon's work seems "detatched" may be eye-of-beholder, as some of his work is for me heartbreaking (New Yorker portraits of civil rights heros).
    Maybe "detatched" mean un-manipulated in the eyes of some. I just saw Chekov's "Three Sisters" acted by a cast with strong, sometimes comic character actors. Loved it. Previously I'd seen it presented more "seriously" and it put me to sleep.
    Platon's work seems erratic to me... some of his B&W was initially downright unattractive for me vs conventional B&W standards. I actively disliked that work at first, but of course "liking" someone's work is as meaningful as claiming it's "not engaging." Rewards may surface if we notice what's there before our egos bury them...that's been my experience.
    Photographers do sometimes righteously believe they're accomplishing miracles...Fred, for example, says he will "put you in touch with the person." Perhaps that's not just a brag or figure of speech...he's a fine portraitist of a particular sort...
    ...still, I doubt someone as overtly hostile to Glenn Beck as Fred reports being is likely to do much "in touch" putting :)
    Don E, your admitted technical inability even to view the photos in question contrasts amusingly with your announcement that they are not something they were never intended to be (Platon doesn't claim to be "objective" or "neutral").
     
  48. John, I was not claiming anything about his photos, just the one I saw. And not about anything Platon may have said, but this discussion of "neutral" and "objective".
     
  49. jtk

    jtk

    Don, the discussion has NOT been about "neutral" or "objective"...it's been about "personal bias" particularly in photography of celebrities. Several have defended what seems to me to be a desire to employ their bias against (or in favor of) subjects they may know only from daytime TV.
    In defense of bias, some argue that it's OK because journalists fail to be "objective" ...despite the fact that they rarely claim to be...and they assert that non-propagandistic portraits are "neutral" "passport photos," evidently ignorant of many of Eisenstadt's.
     
  50. "t's been about "personal bias" particularly in photography of celebrities."
    Thanks for the correction, John.
    Does Platon photograph anyone besides men in positions of power from a low angle with their legs spread wide?
     
  51. jtk

    jtk

    Don, your computer is handicapping you.. your library surely has better..or look through that library's 2008/2009 New Yorker Magazines (weekly magazine for which Platon shoots assignments, as did Avedon).
    I mentioned Platon's photos of civil rights heros (elderly black people, not celebrities, not "men in positions of power"). In 2008 he did an extended photo essay about young soldiers and sailors. I didn't initially find that work as "engaging" as his other work...my failing, not his. His subjects seem to be women as often as men. Yes, he also photographs celebrities...some folks don't respect his open pride in that (a taste of jealousy?). Amusing to see the same folks yearning to photograph celebrities (eg Beck) for themselves :)
     
  52. I've got six computers. The one I'm on doesn't have Flash installed. I understand you to mean the style of Platon's photos of the three presidents (Clinton, Obama, Putin) is not evident in all his photography. Both the Clinton and Putin photos are, to be blunt, 'crotch shots'. The Obama one has the subject's legs crossed in the 'man' way (ankle on thigh, legs open) and the crotch in shadow. Also Obama's face is 'forward' in the frame, while Clinton's and Putin's recede and the crotch is forward.
    One half of the equation in this thread is "personal bias" and the other is its opposite "neutrality". What is Platon expressing in these three presidential portraits? What does he find similar about Clinton and Putin, different about Obama? Is he revealing something he saw at the moment? Is it expressing his personal feelings or politics?
    The OP is not only about celebrities: Ahmoud Amadinejad. Hugo Chavez. Ann Coulter. Rush Limbaugh, and I suppose (I don't know) Glenn Beck have power, social or political. Suppose the question was how would you photograph Clinton, Putin, Obama? I wonder if anyone would have made Platon's choices.
    Were they just another 'day at the office', something he saw in them, or an expression of personal bias?
     
  53. What you described is will the photog act as a professional or an advocate. And that's what you described. In cases like this, you do the job or refuse the assignment. If it's a set of Leibowitz-type portraits, just do the job as you would with anyone else. If it's a documentary, just do the job as you would anyone else.
    Would a doctor in a an emergency room refuse a case of someone because of political bias? When an attorney gets a case he doesn't believe in, he refuses to take it; but if a judge says take it, he still defends whomever. The doctor who gives medical care to a child killer in prison actas as a professional.
    If you're going to be a pro, nothing is more important than doing the job. And the job you described is the job of journalists: to make a record. What's the point of recording only those you like? That dismisses the publication, the work and even the journalist. So you have to be stern with those you love and stern with those you don't love.
    If your editor says do it and you can't refuse, be a pro and do it. The truth will last longer than your personal opinion.
     
  54. jtk

    jtk

    "I wonder if anyone would have made Platon's choices."
    That's precisely why he was attacked as soon as he was mentioned: He didn't respond with enough conventional ("anyone") bias, which was evidently threatening. He seems to be a photographer rather than a set of TV-authorized opinions.
     
  55. A piece in a recent news article got me thinking of our personal blinders and biases:
    Which makes me wonder: what are we missing? Like the birds — like any organism — our sensory system defines the way we perceive and interact with the world, and it is limited in important ways. As I said earlier, our sense of color is not as vivid as that of most birds. As mammals go, our sense of smell is poor. We hear a limited range of sounds: unaided, we cannot hear much of the conversations of elephants, or of bats.
    True, we have invented machines to detect many aspects of the world that are invisible to us, but most of these are kept in fancy laboratories and are not available for daily life. If another organism, a dog say, were watching us, what “obvious” problems would they spot that we are oblivious to? (My guess is that dogs often have moments when they look at us and wonder, “Why don’t they notice?” For dogs are often able to smell things about us that we cannot. Many cancers, for example, change the scent of our urine and our breath. Without special machines, we cannot detect this — but dogs can.)
    And in a more metaphorical way, the sight of the cuckoo chick makes me wonder what we miss by our routine habits of thought. To what extent do our preconceived notions narrow our perception of the planet, and ourselves?
    ........ part of a longer article on evolutionary biology..... Sort of gets me thinking in wider scope way to the idea of bias in general as being not a limited focus on some thing but an undeveloped sensory capaciyy or lack of ability to sense broader things . To see beyond superficial appearances and the boundaries of our accustomed way of looking at a person or thing. Olivia could be on to something that applies to the average artist limits and not to the "extra sensory perceiving" artists among us. Who can set aside conventional baggage or augment it...
     
  56. I've shot bodies dispassionately. I can shoot the living as well.
    Having feelings about someone isn't prone to pushing its way into the photo process.
     
  57. The important thing to me about photographing people (ones that are alive, Tom) is capturing something about their personalities. It is to get an emotion, a little bit of a look inside or the person doing something interesting. When I was doing portraits it was to get them talking, stand away from the camera and start taking pictures as they relaxed. Capturing real spontaneous emotion has always been my objective in weddings also. I am biased in many different ways. I have tried to capture venality in politicians, intimacy in weddings, delight in children etc. I hate lifeless expressions. I am loaded with biases that I have nurtured and developed over many years. I cherish some of them and feel guilty about others. Sometimes I go against my biases to get what is needed in a picture and sometimes I totally give in to my biases just to prove my own editorial point. I am human and petty sometimes and I let those petty biases get in the way but sometimes they have led to some expressive pictures. Sometimes biased or not I make some pretty bad pictures. I don't believe assertions of total impartiality.
     
  58. I guess when it gets down to bias, I have to confess to genuinely liking people... and enjoying the interaction. So shooting someone, I prefer to shoot while in casual conversation, instead of face buried behind the camera. Within that scenario, almost regardless of politics, preferences or situation I tend to find some connection with the other person, and try to let that show.
    Otherwise, I'm event-shooting or ceremony-shooting and lacking the connection, in which case they might as well be bottles and fruit, just objects enveloped in light.
     
  59. I guess when it gets down to bias, I have to confess to genuinely liking people... and enjoying the interaction.​
    Me too. And if I have a bias or an energy to put forth to the interaction it is to bring out the playful quality if I can find a glimpse of one in a sitter. In that sense, shooting people,for me, follows a loose script that gets written during that interaction. I guess what I am trying to verbalize is that everyone has a persona on display at a given time and space.
    I am not,in my casual work with people pictures, out to develop any real portrayal of some intrinsic character but the character that I can get revealed at a given time and space.
    I guess my conceit is to not have a real preconception that gets in the way of me having fun with the interaction sittimg. (I add only that the playful cum unmasked quality in females comes out best around the ages of 18-21.) More of a tabula rasa.
    Amateur sitters I speak of.
    If it were some posh celebrity, that playful quality would be gone, and there would be only the professional face of the trained seal. Some real people like Karsh learned to unwrap that, not me. That is why Karsh was Karsh...

    Yet truth be told,Tom, I expect I would refuse shoot a portrait of Newt Gingrich--- unless maybe it included a Lamborghini and even then I doubt it...
    I think Newt is a real loser and beyond just a money grubber , he plays w a loaded deck and is despicable...Newt would be beyond the pale,sorry and I could not help but heave a sandbag.
     
  60. Gerry, as far as "famous" personas go, I suspect they are all money-grubbers.
    I had the experience of coming upon the newly-elected governor of Arkansas - Frank White - many years ago, the only guy to beat Bill Clinton in an election in fact. The election was a surprise to him (and everyone else). Since I recognized the guy from the media, when he walked in the room my face lit-up and I stuck out my hand to shake hands. His response was genuine, his face beamed, he smiled - until he realized after a moment that he didn't know me from Adam, and he found a proper "public" face.
    And having chatted with Bill Clinton one-on-one for about a half an hour, I have to admit that his public persona is so accomplished that he comes across as completely sincere. Brings to mind the Woody Allen quote about faking sincerity.
    Would I refuse to shoot a person because of how I felt about them or their politics? Probably not. On the other hand, I doubt my services would be sought after either, as my primary concern continues to be the figure enveloped in light... which can be a harsh mistress and very unflattering. I'm not a portrait photographer. I just document what's there...
     
  61. jtk

    jtk

    The problem I'd have with Newt wouldn't be bias (pro or con), it would be my personal inexperience with faces like his (flabby jowls etc). It'd seem wrong to learn the necessary chops with such a high profile subject, so I'd have to practice with a stand-in :)
    Platon's B&W approach to lighting and interaction might serve for Newt, with very tight framing (no hands, no desk-top, minimal environment). I'm envisioning the face barely emerging from darkness...a common way of visualizing for me. Perhaps overly theatric, but there you have it.
    I'd be more anxious about Beck because I might fall into the same approach/relationship as with Newt... the problem is that I think of Newt as a person of intellect, flawed character, and contradiction (like Bill Clinton), whereas my Beck bias is that I suspect he's simply a shallow manipulator, politics aside. Photographing Beck, I might invent more in him than he possesses. Not knowing either man I don't significantly "dislike" them, though I think Newt, unlike Beck, is usually "well intended." I might do well with Newt, poorly with Beck.
     
  62. jtk

    jtk

    Here's Parry's photo of Newt, and Arnold Newman's of Krupp. My notion of Newt is probably photographically similar, but not as playful...IMO it's interesting to contrast that playfullness with Newman's probably-immortal photographic assassination of Krupp.
    If Parry intentionally knocked-off Newman I'd be surprised...I think we do forget influences, and this image of Gingrich, which I admire, has surely got a lot to do with my vision of the man.
    http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2009/02/28/nytimes-magazine-gingrich-cover/
     
  63. From the few pieces I've seen about/involving Beck, I'd think it would be hard to get him to hold still long enough to shoot anyway - seems hyperactive to me. Getting him to sit would be difficult.
    Outta my league.
     
  64. I want to set the record straight- as a home grown equal opportunity refuse to do the portrait shooter, folks. I think I could not handle Bristol Palin . And I of course could not afford the 15 grand tab I understand this 22 y/o now commands for press coverage. Not my galatea for picture takin' i am a thinkin..sorry, I get ahead of myself as usual...
    (-thanks John for that link on Newt, perfecto, and I bet he loved the cover. He has a new book out, you know , will rake in big bucks for those who casually forgot his past hypocrisy or maybe because we love to love chutzpah . Chutzpah is in this year.
     
  65. I thought of a tough one that might throw the issue up for deeper reflection. Maybe anyway.
    You are doing a formal portrait of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. We now have a challenging mess of things to deal with. Well maybe not, not for some...
    Do we mere mortals, not your Annie Liebowitz types, dodge it by finding out what Clarence and I have in common. Maybe you both love Puccini operas? You are a professional or aspiring professional, so you aren't going to discuss his philosophy of strict construction, or his high tech lynching day on the committee.
    You might want to see if his current situation as the only black on the court makes him feel any special sense of obligation or privilege or whatever. And get some reaction to the stone face...
    Or,taking a rote method you have done many times before, you could just set up the lights, show him a picture of one of someone he admired on the bench in robes, set up your lights and fire away. It would not be a Times cover but it might be framable.
    Choices on dealing with bias and pre conceived opinion still prevail, I have a sense but no certainty of how I would deal with my multiple "biases" and preconceptions re Justice Thomas. I think, would likely be a play by ear but not completely sure. I know I could deliver something he would accept and I would accept and maybe that is enough to settle the question- if, big if- one sees it as a question of course.
     
  66. A little humor always helps.
     
  67. Clarence Thomas swore me into the Senior Executive Service. I have a picture of him and me. In person he is a very relaxed down to earth individual who would be very easy to photograph. I could probably conduct a very relaxed portrait session. Understand, I am not speaking for his politics.
     
  68. jtk

    jtk



    "...finding out what Clarence and I have in common." - Gerry S
    What Gerry S and Clarence T (and I) "have in common" is obvious: it's what I'd photograph.


    Reasons I don't "like" Clarence T, for what that's worth: 1) His perspective on the Constitution seems political and poorly-informed regarding the Founders' intentions. 2) His reportedly bitter ingratitude for what the Civil Rights Movement dropped in his lap seems a character flaw (don't character flaws add interest?).
    Given the opportunity to photograph Clarence Thomas, success would be what we accomplished together. I'd try to set things up so we'd accomplish more than "portrait of a judge." No robes, no office, no Washington DC.
    Thomas is a handsome, evidently conflicted man: tremendous photographic potential.
    Since I'm fanatasizing, I'd photograph him somewhere inconsequential (eg a secondary strip mall's parking lot, no big brand name signs, no natural beauty), dressed casually, hoping to see the individual rather than the official.
    Clarence Thomas seems genuine. The Beck seems artificial: it's lights are on, nobody's home. Photographing the Beck would be a "conceptual art" project rather than portraiture. I don't relate adequately to conceptual art.
     
  69. Gerry, I think you are making all this too complicated. You are just taking someone's picture even though they may be notorious or famous. The idea is to get something interesting by bringing out an amorphous instantaneous perhaps subtle flash of their personalities like Karsh did with the cigar. It is not to delve into the zen of their politics, sins, and character. I certainly have made instantaneous character judgments when photographing certain people but unlike others here photographing somebody does not require enormous background study, nervousness and planning. You just take their picture hoping to get enough shots to pick a couple of good ones or when I worked for the paper just one usable picture. IMO opinion there are important people and self-important people. You find most of them, and I dealt with a few while working in DC. are fairly easy to get along with and react on a human level. Some don't, but then they make some interesting photographic opportunites. To me, photography is catching what's there, not but manipulating what's there by conversation or posing someone. Having spent some seven years working for a paper after I retired from DC I still keep a camera bag packed to pick up and go take an unplanned picture. It matters not who or what I am photographing.
     
  70. jtk

    jtk

    There's a difference between photographers who work routinely and professionally with celebrities and government officials, versus people like me, who rarely even fantasize about it.
    Question: Why would one want (other than $$) to photograph famous people, like Justice Thomas, more than common men?
    Hypothesis: Has something to do with Thomas's dramatic complexity, leveraged by fame beyond a common man's personality.
    As a 99% amateur who's done very few conventional press/PR portraits (no suits in office buildings) , I'd want to accomplish something other (not "better") than what Dick Arnold does. My goals would be different (not "better").
    Karsh was mentioned. Liebowitz was mentioned. Frequent work with Washington DC officialdom was mentioned. That does relate to the "bias" OT: biased toward making the subjects look the way their subject's public expects/wants them to look, biased by money (honorably pays the bills, right?). Seems conceptually different than the types of bias many here have been addressing.
     
  71. John, great question . . . Why would one want to photograph famous people?
    I was just thinking last night that I don't think I would, though I don't know that I'd pass if given the opportunity. In my heyday of Dead-head-ness, many of my friends were seeking backstage passes and a good friend of mine even went out with Jerry for a while. I was never interested in them that much as people. As a matter of fact, from what I knew of them, I really hadn't much desire to know them personally. Their music sufficed. It's how I feel about a lot of personalities, famous people, politicians. They come to me through their public personas and that's what makes them significant to me. So, I probably would photograph Clarence Thomas in his robes. His persona is significant to me and many others. I do understand your wanting to photograph him outside that and probably the two different portraits together would tell us more about him than either individual one. As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps I'd want to try to more than one photograph, a series, both the public side and the private side to explore both territories and come up with a full picture. You know I've said before that I think our public personas are very much a part of who we "really" are. I don't think the pics of us having fun with our kids in the backyard behind closed doors necessarily tell more or are more genuine than the pics of us wearing suits and playing our roles when we're at work.
    Getting back to your question, I find most of the people that I photograph complex enough for me. (They are mostly non-famous . . . I've got a few of local heros, e.g. Gavin Newsom, not posed, in public.) Each has some qualities I may find common and some qualities I find more individual. I notice the common features often much more focused on -- wrinkles in old people, smooth skin in young people -- than things that individualize them. That's why many more photographs are clichés than are personal. I got a comment from someone when they first viewed my photographs from my nephew's special needs community: "But I don't know any of these people." Photographs of famous people rely on us "knowing them" already. That can be used to advantage and you've mentioned several photographers, Platon, Leibovitz, Karsh, who do it well. Portraits of unknown individuals, for me, have different potentials precisely because we don't know these individuals. We, as viewers, probably have less preconceptions and expectations and can let the individual speak a little more clearly and photographically. We are not matching the person photographed to the person we know or think we know. We are accepting the photograph.
     
  72. Can't people just answer the question without keeping their personal political opinions and biases to themselves?
    To answer the question, no...I would not be able to photograph someone I find to be repugnant, I would refuse the job. By the way, the list of repugnant people is a little one-sided in my opinion...where is Chris Matthews, Keith Oberman, Obama or even Kobe Bryant's name?
     
  73. Gerry, I think you are making all this too complicated. You are just taking someone's picture even though they may be notorious or famous. The idea is to get something interesting by bringing out an amorphous instantaneous perhaps subtle flash of their personalities like Karsh did with the cigar.​
    I agree with your point of view, Dick (or I would have taken up golf long ago vs photo stuff).
    But in Karsh/Churchill case he was surely after something. Or was it a spontaneous burst that only later on did the commentators decide it showed the sturdy face of Britain facing the Hun after Dunkirk.
    Seems like he knocked off some other exposures as I recall, before that one, which were more conventional and even bland. He was after something he had in his head. Or was it just a whimsy.
    (Dick,my struggle not so much a nail biter in real life; as mentioned, a hypothetical and by nature no clear common solution for all of us )
     
  74. I am always asked when I raise a question, that I need to 'concretize more' . I will.
    I did a shot once, really a snapshot, ..one I keep going back to when I get told to find out what is there about a portrait and what it says to me although it is someone I knew pretty well already.
    So, with your indulgence so common in PofP what can you detect about the model. (Sorry,he was only a little prominent in a small agency I worked for)
    More relevant, can you tell anything about what somone called the interaction process shooter to subject if any can be discerned?
    00WbrI-249459584.jpg
     
  75. jtk

    jtk

    Gerry...early Sixties (note collars and tie). Glasses left over from ten years previously (or military issue).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU0yJ3benb4&feature=related
    He seems almost earnest, a little drunk, waving what he might call a ciggie, carelessly in your face. Brandishing a ridiculously small old-fashioned. What kind of joint serves old-fashioneds in a glass like that?
    He's lean-looking, no athlete...is he dying?
     
  76. Gerry...I would say this dates from somewhere between 1968-1974. I think from what I can gather, he is a somewhat guarded man, but probably trusting of you or at least comfortable with you because he is making good strong direct eye contact; also I pick up on some warmth coming through in his expression. He is leaning forward so it looks to me like he is a cooperative man...this pose is not natural because no one leans forward with both hands in the air unless prompted, just too uncomfortable to do so naturally. Just my opinion.
     
  77. Sometime in the eighties,John as I recall not as old as you think, must have been a wide tie resurgence,have to look up the slide . At local watering hole in a hotel in Rosslyn, VA,just outside D.C. .
    Best idea salesman in our office, to promote and sell a big new project. (I think he drank Manhattans,that sure is not an old fashioned glass John old chap). . Deceased.
    A robust and full life. Great orator and raconteur . Here,most likely capturing my attention across lunch with some yarn,and a yarn with a real point and lots of background details he could reel off.. He held me rapt and I like to think that came across a little in this photo which he said he loved. (Next day all his front teeth were extracted he later said.).

    Keith Oberman?, Yeah, too flamboyant for me, Trisha. ( LIke If he threw his notes at my camera I would get slightly teed off and walk away :) But I think Keith nails Beck by calling him "Lonesome Rhodes." A perfect fit actually, if you ever caught the movie "A Face In the Crowd."
    Lonesome was a home grown,folksy demagogue with style and little factual substance. In the movie, a dangerous provocateur at the end who is rejected by all his pals. I speak only of the Andy Griffith character in that oldie but goodie film.
     
  78. I think in addition to flamboyance and bluster (which Keith Olbermann certainly has to a fault) one has to judge the ideas being put forth. While Beck and Olbermann may be on a par in terms of their personalities and the way they express their ideas, the ideas being put forth, the interests being represented, the basic principles being asserted, are not in any way equivalent.
    Trisha, for me photography isn't separable from ethics, politics, social consciousness, and aesthetics. Many of my photos have social, ethical, and even political ramifications. Many of those posting here are in the same boat. Why not make references to our specific biases and political opinions, especially on a topic such as the one Gerry started here? Those things are very front and center in a lot of our photographing and, even if they're not recognizable in our photographs, they inform the subjects we choose, the environments we shoot in, etc. I disagree with you. I actually think we don't hash these things out enough in a photographic context on PN and we're way more concerned with playing nice with each other than we are with getting real with each other. It's by getting real, not by avoiding uncomfortable or disagreeable discussions, in my opinion, that we bring ourselves closer to each other.
     
  79. Fred, I respectfully acknowledge you disagree with me. My point was just to say that while some names were offered up as repugnant, they were one-sided and not everyone feels those people are repugnant. Second, seems everytime I bring up an opinion (on other websites in which I have discussed my political view points) I have been met with rediculous insults, not discussion. Politics or any subject which people feel impassioned about often lead to harsh comments...I read some of them before I responded and that is why I responded. I try to keep my politics out of this site but sometimes it gets the best of me. I don't mean to dissuede you Fred from speaking your mind (and I respect that you have one), but some people are known to only see things one way and are quite disrespectful to others who see things differently...they are unkind, brutal and insulting which I find difficult to accept. As far as getting real, I am quite real but not at the expense of being called a c*** or "man-basher" on some website because of my opinions. Perhaps I should have stayed out of this discussion...
     
  80. "Perhaps I should have stayed out of this discussion..." --Trisha
    Not at all, Trisha. I'm glad you spoke up and we aired it out. I get to know a little more about you this way. Some very close family members of mine have what I consider to be repugnant political views and they are good people, have always been good to me, and I love them dearly. Same with friends of mine, some quite dear friends. I have similarly experienced the brutal and insulting. I think something about the anonymity of the Internet gives people the license to be boorish, and that's a shame. I can completely understand your not wanting to deal with it!
     
  81. "I am quite real but not at the expense of being called a c*** or "man-basher" on some website because of my opinions. Perhaps I should have stayed out of this discussion..."

    Hey, you need champion, a white knight. No tower or wizard is beyond my valour... so lady do not fret.

    Old Fred is past it and other paths he treads; but my blade is still bright and keen ...i will carry your token, if it graciously given, and Dragons and Black Wizards be gone.

    So there.
     
  82. A photographer takes photographs of the world as it is.
    Anything less you are not a photographer but something else.
     
  83. Trisha, thanks for joining this discussion,.... rant.....whatever it is. Many vessels of much sound to be sure but please, never hesitate to join in. Your seasoning is a welcome spice to what is, often, a frantic stew indeed....Robert
     
  84. I didn't think "politics" was being discussed. The OP selected persons as subjects who would be "hot button" types likely to draw out "personal bias" one way or the other in the respondents in the context of "photo journalism" which implies a consideration of objectivty and neutrality. That's what the thread is about.
     
  85. I have no idea what Tiger Woods's politics are. I listed him as afterthought. I know some of his behaviors. Clinton was mentioned and he is one political chameleon IMO.
    Now, take as a suvbject, Ralph Nader,he would have been one to toss out. Some call him 'the spoiler' and a fault finder and a nag and he is neither D nor R nor libertarian..
    Trisha, add me to the list of supporters and upholders to the death to hold your views of diversity in whom we decide to find repugnant and maybe a challenge to photographically approach cleanly.Did I say that right, hmm,well you know what I mean. aloha, gs
     
  86. A very good question.
    "Could you, or better yet, would you, clear your mind of personal poltical or moral repugnance and just " do photography?" "
    "Could you" would depend (1) upon the reasons the editor asked you to undertake the project. Assuming you have free choice and not specific media imposed limitations, "could you" would then depend upon (2) whether you have enough time to get to know the person well enough to photograph him in what you might consider a significant manner, discovering his true nature rather than his public persona. Assuming you have the few hours necessary to do that (you might be aided by the presence of one of his friends or children with whom he would reveal his real nature), the third aspect of "could you" will be the (3) degree to which he might allow himself to step "out of the normally projected mold" for a short time.
    "Would you" clear your mind of personal preconceived notions or opinions of the person is difficult, but I think that someone like Eisenstadt would do it. I would certainly try for that. But you would have to do that on a very human level, and that isn't easy, even for great photographers. The temptation can be to go for a preconceived "effect" that the photographer would impose on his subject. Karsh, in photographing Churchill during, or just after, WW2 interrupted his shoot to (as politely as possible, with a spontaneous "excuse me sir...") to yank the cigar from Winston's mouth, thereby capturing the anger look that characterised his subject's resolve in stopping Nazi advances in that war. Impressive action, perhaps, and a fine and revealing image, but the pre-conceived approach did not enable a completely natural recording of his subject. Would the photographer be able to be free of pre-conceived ideas about his subject? Another difficulty would be that imposed by the subject, who may be refractory to a personal photography session and not loosen up, even with the "catalyst" of a friend present to warm up the subject. Also, a successful shoot will depend upon the empathy between photographer and subject. That would come, or possibly not, in the few hours of shootingtime necessary to undertake this demanding assignment.
    Knowing a bit about the personal nature and biography of the subject, beforehand, via published information, or from a third party, certainly wouldn't hurt in successfully carrying out such a shoot.
    Not sure if this has any value, Gerry, as I am not a very good portrait photographer.
     
  87. jtk

    jtk

    Gerry, you're right, undoubtedly a Manhattan... nobody would stoop to putting an Old Fashioned in a crappy little glass like that :)
    According to the Bible, a Manhattan belongs in a Martini glass.
    http://www.crownroyal.com/recipe.aspx


    I can't remember anybody in my Western universe drinking a Manhattan (or wearing a tie and shirt like that with blazer). Too bad about the smoking (that was the death clue). Marginally employed by a government contractor in VA/DC?
    Looks like he's leaning on his cigarette elbow, hinting how far he is into the sauce, not striking a pose. No, his eyes don't seem intense to me, they look watery...maybe that's due to thick lenses?
    Cheers to Rafael Nadal! Rafa's the man!
     
  88. jtk

    jtk

    ...thinking of Rafael Nadal , and someone's earlier slur on Kobe Bryant, how many photographers are artistically anywhere nearly as worthy as such athletes?
    Can the flood of snapshots of flowers, and kitty-kats, or the zoom-ripoffs of homeless even approach the artistry of reasonably well-played teen-age football/soccer?
     
  89. Arthur, yours is an intelligent analysis, it strikes me. Even doctors and lawyers, or nurse professionals,mentioned in some related context by Dick as examples, as I recall, must have visceral/ subliminal responses to look, dress. composure of the patient and or client. Though well trained to put all that pre judgment aside Even to odor that may emanate from said patient ( we all have them good or bad. See Nuvea body spray ads..), It is something one might want consciously dwell on a just little. At least as Pof P. cheers.
     
  90. jtk

    jtk

    "Portraits of unknown individuals, for me, have different potentials precisely because we don't know these individuals. We, as viewers, probably have less preconceptions and expectations and can let the individual speak a little more clearly and photographically." - Fred G
    Yes. Gerry's fine photo of an unknown person evoked several of my biases, but I doubt I'd have brought them to that shoot, just as any biases Gerry might have had didn't seem to show up.
    Gerry's humanity helped him make a respectful, evocative photograph. Dealing with a celebrity or politician, one may not be facing a human so much as an act. Distinctions can be made...as I did between Newt Gingrich and the Beck
    I highly recommend renting "Frost/Nixon" in this context.
     
  91. I've seen it twice. It's a great movie. Their interactions reminded me of a good chess game.
     
  92. John,
    As the one who made the mention of Kobe Bryant's name being added to the repugnant, I must say I rather prefer photos of flowers and kitty-cats to that of Bryant. I see no reason for photos of the latter except for the use as a dart board...just my opinion. Bryant may be a gifted athlete but that is as far as I'll go on that. I don't think of myself as a photographer, I think of myself as an artistic person who just likes to take pictures...I express myself mostly through writing poetry and books.
    Gerry,
    If my job were in the medical field (trained to be a nurse, switched to accounting) then I would have no choice but to treat anyone who came in the door, but if the choice is given, just as in voting, I will not vote for, work for, or photograph someone whose viewpoints I find to be reprehensible (actions are often a symptom, but even good decent people can do stupid things).
    Allen,
    Thank you so much for your valiant response; I am happy to know chivalry is still alive in some, but I have learned to be cautious of men who ride up in horses to slay my dragons...the last one broke my heart (yet I wait with bated breath for his return).
     
  93. "A photographer takes photographs of the world as it is.
    Anything less you are not a photographer but something else."
    Allen, apart from the thorny question of what is "the world as it is", some of us strive in photography to show the world as it isn't, or as it isn't often seen, or as it might be. Perhaps you could call those photographers (of which I am one, at least some small part of the time) artist-photographers or even artists, but I would sill use the term photographer because I use a camera. Much photography in wartime was done for propaganda reasons, on both sides. The photographers didn't always want to show the world as it was. In terms of the question regarding the photography of persons you don't share values with, it might be difficult to photograph the real person behind the persona, if that was your objective.
     
  94. jtk

    jtk

    re "Frost/Nixon" (the film), Fred G said:

    "I've seen it twice. It's a great movie. Their interactions reminded me of a good chess game."

    Yes...and even more: Frost/Nixon depicts a sort of salvation for two people, one who thinks himself lite, wanting to be taken seriously, the other closed and dark, needing to confess. Together they create the opportunity to go beyond their previous limits. Something like that, anyway :)
    Photography offers that kind of potential, and not just when the subject is a person, although that's been important to me. For example, I'm starting to appreciate a part of my state that I've ignored for a dozen years.
     
  95. The important thing about the Frost - Nixon interview is that Frost, the apparent lightweight but extremely well seasoned interviewer (any of you who caught his ground-breaking 1960 series in England, "TWTWTW", do not need an introduction to that), approached his subject skillfully, and got something from Nixon before the latter even knew he had confessed. In the context of Gerry's OP, Frost approached his subject without apparent pre-conceptions, won him over, and you know the rest. Of course, it can be argued that Frost knew all along where he was going.
     
  96. Frost /Nixon was a duel. A good movie it was. A portrait session ought not to be a duel.
    As to the doctor analogy, Trish, I am more and more persuaded that an MD and RN response is no less blinkers free. Does a patient get the full test battery and two doses of two separate antibiotics, or just one pill and a bill. Cynical, true admittedly. Doctors like to think they don't react and respond in variety of treatment and followup, but I know and they know they do based on like and dislike.
    Sorry some guy left you bereft. And that some goofus on line had to be so smartass and show his prejudices in a vulgar way.
    NOT in THIS nice forum ! ("Here in Anatevka we now live in simple peace and harmony.")
     
  97. "A portrait session ought not to be a duel." --Gerry
    I implore everyone to reconsider all these oughts. There seem to be a flurry of them lately in these threads. Is it really the way to explore the potentials of making photographs . . . telling us what ought and ought not be (not just you, Gerry, as far as I recall you rarely do the ought thing, perhaps just a slip in this case). A portrait session, in the right hands, and with the right photographer and subject(s) can be ANYTHING and make a good photograph. Why not a duel? Would be a great dynamic to work with. Beds of roses also have thorns!
     
  98. Gerry, I think that it would be easier to do a "neutral" portrait session with a person whose values one detests than to interview the same kind of person. Asking questions (unless they are about banalities) almost forces one to come to grips with one's differences. I am not sure that the same confrontation necessarily inheres in photography. On the other hand, if I were doing a portrait of Hitler and the light was not favorable, I do not think that I would try very hard (if at all) to make it into a flattering portrait.
    Against less despicable characters, I can imagine that I might be able to approach the shoot as a technical problem of lighting and composition, although which mood I might try to evoke and capture would surely depend upon how I felt about the person. Back to Hitler for a moment, I think that in reality I would have tried to engage him in discussion and get him in the middle of one of his famous rants, and then try to capture that horrible anger of his on film. I don't think that I would have tried to capture the human side by asking him to talk about the charms of, say, Eva Braun.
    I think that in some ways I would have more trouble with Bill Clinton, since I would probably wind up trying to get beneath the slick veneer to the man himself. I like Clinton, but nobody who could get to that level of power could possibly be the "good ol' boy" that he made himself out to be, at least not ALL THE TIME! Hillary's steel showed. Bill tried to overwhelm us with what a nice guy he was. If one could get him to show some of his own steel, that would be a photographic coup of sorts.
    --Lannie
     
  99. I implore everyone to reconsider all these oughts.​
    I hear you, Fred. Persons ought not to use all these oughts; persons ought to abjure prescriptive language completely.
    The ethical questions loom, Fred. I would challenge Gerry with the opposing "ought," however: one ought to come to the shoot prepared to do mortal photographic combat with a demonstrable world class villain if one had the opportunity. Get past the charming mask. Make him or her show the true self to the world.
    --Lannie
     
  100. "Persons ought not to use all these oughts"
    Yes, ironic, isn't it? I guess I'm in good company. It was Neils Bohr who said "the opposite of any great idea is another great idea." Gödel dealt with the logic of these kinds of statements that fall into themselves and seem to lead to absurd conclusions. He brought M.C. Escher into it, who made such circular reasoning visual in his prints. People who assert there are no absolute truths get accused by modern day Zenos (he of the famous ancient paradoxes fame) of asserting just the kind of absolute truth they're denying. It's a fun game to play, and usually misses the intent of the original point neatly.
     
  101. Well now you all got me painted in a corner with der fuehrer as a subject. I got to say that, if I had had a chance to shoot the Reichchancelor, I would have "shot" him bang bang and taken the scalp. Paid the supreme price for the job. As I think I'd really ought. No qualms, no navel gazing, w/ no equivocation, frankly.
     
  102. 'Ought' need not be used prescriptively, Fred. Or restrictively if that is the problem one sees. It can and is used by me as a normative thing. Or a felt sense of some thing. I ought to go out and clean up that mess in the tool shed." or " I 'ought' to spend more time with my kids and less time on the computer. I must be missing the "sand trap" in that word ought. Except if we are getting nowadays picky picky about casual word usage on forum chat.
    Anyway I am sure there must have been been a history of sloppy prescriptive usage in Pof P which fenced in discussion. I may be wrong.
    Now to Lannie. "Mortal combat with a portrait subject," Lannie?. Wow. Tell us when you had that opportunity, and how it ended in a creative sense. Or whom you know that slugged their way to something valuable and creative for public consumption. In a classroom sure happens all the time in the section meetings and seminars or faculty lounge.... With respect,..I think you are shooting from the hip on that point, Lannie.
    I seek personal experience if anyone else can relate same. I reaffirm my own self- imposed mandate, i.e. to 'concretize more.'
     
  103. Now to Lannie. "Mortal combat with a portrait subject," Lannie?. Wow. Tell us when you had that opportunity, and how it ended in a creative sense.​
    Yes, I remember the day well, Gerry, though it was in a previous incarnation. Adolph sat directly across from me and tried to be as charming as possible. I took a number of shots before I began baiting him with questions about the "Final Solution," which caused him to immediately become agitated and start shouting at me. (Modesty prevents me from saying precisely how fluent I was in Deutsch in that previous incarnation.)
    In any case, I only sent one photo to the Times, and it was not one of the more flattering ones, to say the least. You have no doubt seen it, with the Leader himself shouting as if he were speaking angrily to a rally of the Daughters of the Third Reich. In any case, that photo has made me what I am today.
    Let me know if you have never seen it, Gerry, and I would be happy to send you a link.
    --Lannie
     
  104. Gerry, for me, I "ought" to clean up the garage and "a portrait session ought not to be a duel." are two different things. The first "ought" gets the job done. The second "ought" limits the ways in which the job is done.
    I've had portrait sessions where there was quite a bit of tension for one reason or another, even sexual tension. I can use emotional or intellectual sparring to my photographic advantage. Discord can make for as compelling photos as harmony. A bunch of us are in a heated political argument and I drag out my camera and catch a little passion. It's funny how expressions of passionate anger and passionate lovemaking have some similarities. Sometimes, I photograph the passion, which seems broader, and can be more significant and suggestive than the love or hate.
     
  105. Fred. . . later. Gotta go talk about Civil Liberties this a.m. in a summer school class (for real).
    This "ought" thing is getting out of hand. It is the preachy tone that is revolting, not the word. You have avoided the latter, but not the former.
    Yes, Bohr was right, but his examples made more sense for Newton v. Einstein and Planck, not Lannie v. Fred. Tell it to Hillel: "You ought not to use 'ought,' Rabbi!" I would love to be there for that one.
    --Lannie
     
  106. Gerry, I will give you a more concrete example later with a link to the "Look of Love" that I captured on my ex-wife's face back in 2002, four years after we split. (If looks could kill. . . .)
    Oh, Lord, did I have a way of bringing out the best in that woman, especially when I stuck a camera in her face!
    It's a gift.
    --Lannie
     
  107. Lannie, check a dictionary for the difference between "I implore you" and "You ought."
    Gerry, no, it's not about pickiness over the word. It's about a variety of approaches to portrait making.
     
  108. Lannie, I'm finding our back and forths unproductive. I'm sure others find them distracting. I'm going to stay away from you in these discussions.
     
  109. "Why would one want to photograph famous people?"
    In the context of this post? Because it's their job. Outside of that, it's a good question.
    ____________________________________________
    If an editor chose me to photograph a celeb, it would be because s/he already knew my style, and unless there were specific instructions, I would feel fine photographing them my own way. I do not often work deep in the "directorial mode" and tend to direct/pose with a light hand, though I may stream-of-consciousness talk, shift towards (and thus spatially manipulate), or just steer the subject's mood with a little talk and/or moving around. I often make a conscious effort to tire them out, sometimes deliberately establishing a random staccato on-off focus towards that end.
    I trust one of the things photography does best, and another people constantly do: Photography describes very well. Second, people are going through a repertoire of facial emotions and body language subconsciously (read about the psychology behind Israeli airport security) rapidly, as an over-or-underlay of their conscious projected self-image. A competent photographer with honed reflexes can carpe those moments. If relaxed, distracted, given enough time, rope, surprised (Karsh's cigar) or nebulous instruction, subjects reveal themselves. The challenges come when one has little time to get the shot, and/or the subject is keenly aware of the image s/he projects.
    ________________________________________________
    "A photographer takes photographs of the world as it is."
    I'd say as s/he sees it.
    "Anything less you are not a photographer but something else."
    Human.

    "Hey, you need champion, a white knight. No tower or wizard is beyond my valour... so lady do not fret."
    What was it Germaine Greer said?
    "...like a fish needs a bicycle."

    _____________________________________
     
  110. Fred, on June 6 at 11:55 p.m. EDT you responded to Gerry with the following:
    I implore everyone to reconsider all these oughts.​
    You seem particularly antsy about my "oughts" for reasons that escape me, and now you are spooked by my very harmless comments above.
    Here is a quote from an e-mail from you to me on Saturday, June 5:
    I do think you acted unethically by making a private email public without asking me, though I don't think you said anything to offend me. (Bold-faced emphasis supplied.)​
    So, you will not tell me that I ought not quote anything from a harmless e-mail, but you will accuse me of being unethical for citing the same harmless e-mail?!
    The e-mail in question was in no way personal and was appropriate to the forum topic. The full quote on that forum topic from your e-mail to me was as follows:
    I understand that our fundamental difference is that you think in terms of universal virtues and I don't. That's why we disagree so often about many, many things. I don't find that at all hard to understand. I think it's a rather basic difference between us.​
    That is pretty darned innocuous stuff, but I am NOT responding to clear myself of the charge of being "unethical" in quoting such a harmless portion of a missive from you. Rather, I am wondering why you are so hung up on not using the word "ought" at the same time you have no compunction whatsoever about calling me "unethical." No offense, Fred, but that is positively weird.
    I find "should" and "ought" to be marvelously useful words, especially in that major field of philosophy that we call "ethics." So. . . you are trying to make ethical and other judgments without using the words "should" or "ought." Good luck on that dubious undertaking.
    If I say that you ought to use a different kind of lighting on a photo, that is certainly a lot milder value judgment than saying, "Fred, it is unethical of you to use that kind of lighting on that photo."
    So, what have you got against this marvelously useful word "ought"?
    Yes, I am aware that I just quoted an e-mail from you again. I am totally unrepentant at my obvious "ethical lapse." I am not even going to say that I should not or ought not have done it.
    Now, where were we on this thread before you derailed it momentarily by your tirade against the word "ought"?
    I am not a vicious person, just a bit puzzled that you think that we should ban the word "ought" from the English language--and from a philosophy of photography forum.
    In any case, if you want no responses from me, then I suggest that you stop posting. This is a public forum, and this thread is a particularly good one. Now that I have exited my own long thread, I will likely post again. I am breaking no forum rules.
    I trust that the moderators will let this exchange stand. No insults have been exchanged, and philosophical issues involving the use of language have been addressed. Such language is of wonderful utility in discussing many things about photography, but especially about this thread. We do well to self-consciously reflect on the language that we use from time to time. Indeed, a good bit of philosophy is about the clarification of terms.
    Thanks for your time. If you choose not to respond, I will certainly be respectful of that decision, and I will not be insulted in the least.
    --Lannie
     
  111. Well now you all got me painted in a corner with der fuehrer as a subject. I got to say that, if I had had a chance to shoot the Reichchancelor, I would have "shot" him bang bang and taken the scalp. Paid the supreme price for the job. As I think I'd really ought. No qualms, no navel gazing, w/ no equivocation, frankly.​
    Thank you for that one, Gerry. It made my day--and I'm a pacifist!
    Yet, even a pacifist ought to have the guts to say, "Adolph, I really think that you ought not be doing these ugly things you are doing to some very nice people."
    I also think that Leni Riefenstahl ought not have propped up the Leader's image in such a way as she did. Better to photograph him in a bad light. . . which in his case would have been the correct light.
    --Lannie
     
  112. Lannie, forgive me if I slightly offend, too. You garner attention and stir reaction by moving far far out on the tree limb of discussion. Sometimes one does now and then cut the limb off behind one... (Others are there to catch. Not yours truly, not agile enough these days). Peace.
     
  113. I seek personal experience if anyone else can relate same. I reaffirm my own self- imposed mandate, i.e. to 'concretize more.'​
    Well, Gerry, here is a fairly concrete one: the look of love in my ex-wife's eyes when I want by her place of work back in 2002. Can't you just feel the warmth that I managed to evoke with my inimitable photographic style?
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11103451
    --Lannie
     
  114. Lannie, forgive me if I slightly offend, too. You garner attention and stir reaction by moving far far out on the tree limb of discussion.​
    No offense taken, Gerry. I was just inching out to try to rescue you, very much in tune with the discussion.
    I'm still trying to figure out how Neils Bohr got into the discussion. He left me on turn number two.
    Down South we would call what I responded to a "hissy fit."
    Cheers.
    --Lannie
     
  115. "A photographer takes photographs of the world as it is."
    I'd say as s/he sees it.
    "Anything less you are not a photographer but something else."
    Human.
    Well put. My thoughts as well, Luis.
     
  116. jtk

    jtk

    "Frost /Nixon was a duel. A good movie it was. "

    1) I don't think that was a duel. It depicted something closer to a mating of extremely different individuals, in which each gained profoundly. The greater the differences the more rewarding the mating.
    2) More than a "good movie," it has great historic importance because it does reportedly accurately reflect the conversations and, as accurately as any purportedly "pure history," it put the factoids in context.

    "A portrait session ought not to be a duel."

    Without commenting on "ought," I see no reason to avoid duels if no alternative seems to have as much potential. The worst thing about actual bloody duels was that one party was sometimes carried away in permanently crippling agony.

    Frost/Nixon, considered as a duel, elevated both: David Frost, no longer a celebrity-chaser-lite, and Richard Nixon, suddenly a genuine, morally flawed human being (who, not incidentally, opened China to the West), no longer just a bitter recluse.
     
  117. "It was Neils Bohr who said "the opposite of any great idea is another great idea." "
    Fred, this comment does make much sense, and likely made sense to physicists who were struggling with real difficulties in understanding the mathematics, physics and chemistry of what they could hypothesise but not easily see or prove. It took many years befor Einstein's relativity theory could be substantiated and meanwhile incited opposite theories of considerable power (including Newton's, whether you call it a theory or a law, depending upon what you apply it to). Consequently, like a philosophical discussion, there are no great ideas that cannot be challenged by an opposite great idea or view.
     
  118. There is something to what Fred says, Arthur, apart from the issue of its relevance to the discussion of "ought," which will no doubt remain unresolved on this thread.
    A pragmatic criterion of truth is that theories are not absolutely true or false, but merely more or less useful. I think that Newtonian mechanics is a case in point. It is still useful for phenomena that have no measurable (or scarcely measurable) relativistic or quantum effects. We can still use Newtonian mechanics as "good enough" to (usually) predict with sufficient accuracy trajectories of planets, spacecraft, etc., much less ordinary trips to the supermarket.
    Technically, of course, there has been what Thomas Kuhn referred to as a "scientific revolution" between the time of Newton and the time of Planck and Einstein.
    Notwithstanding that "revolution," equal in significance to the superseding of the Ptolemaic view by the Copernican view of the solar system, the continuing utility and therefore "truth" of the Newtonian world view is rather astounding in this "post-Newtonian age."
    Both Planck and Einstein will surely also be superseded in the future as other theories and theorists come to the fore. In the meantime their theories are "truths" in the pragmatic sense. They are currently very useful--enormously so.
    Whether we should call such grand theories "true" is the hidden issue. What Bohr was saying is actually quite insightful. I am reminded of another great exchange in which Bohr was a participant. Einstein had said, in consternation at the idea that quantum theory was the end of the matter, that "God does not roll dice with the universe!"
    Bohr famously replied, "And who is Einstein to tell God what he can do?"
    You probably know all this, but in deference to Fred's very real contributions, I feel compelled to comment here.
    Sorry for yet another digression, Gerry. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  119. I can bring this all back to bias and perception and portrait taking. If less lofty and more earthy.
    Q: How do you/did you/would you react to a subject, an adult woman, who comes to your sitting with all kinds of visible tattoos? Recognize I do the reality that almost any female (men too obviously) under forty can now be assumed to have tattoos and quite a few piercings.
    How do you react, or would react or get influenced? Any sense of stereotyping ?
    I obviously have a reason am interested in this bunch's thinking. As an amateur people photographer, who seeks out models, now and then, for portfolio enhancement and for just fun, still it is serious fun like what else could there be when we arm with camera and lights and crap.
    Pro, con, or totally indifferent and beneath a second's reflection for you? Honesty, not political correctness or homage to fashion, I implore.
     
  120. jtk

    jtk

  121. jtk

    jtk

  122. jtk

    jtk

  123. jtk

    jtk

  124. How do you/did you/would you react to a subject, an adult woman, who comes to your sitting with all kinds of visible tattoos? Recognize I do the reality that almost any female (men too obviously) under forty can now be assumed to have tattoos and quite a few piercings. How do you react, or would react or get influenced? Any sense of stereotyping ?​
    Gerry, a few years back I would probably have had a rather severe (though private) negative reaction. Nowadays I hardly bat an eye at tattoos, and I certainly no longer am prone to think poorly of persons who choose to wear them.
    At the same time, however, I still prefer the natural human body. If I were doing figure studies of the nude form (I do not), then I would especially find the proliferation of tattoos more than a bit off-putting. One reason would be that those bodies completely covered with tattoos look positively clothed (well, almost. . . .), and the whole point of the "natural nude" would be, well, the natural form itself, which in my mind the tattoos would interfere with.
    Most of my esthetic bias, however, derives from the fact that I simply prefer the natural body over most all of the "improvements" to it by tattoo artists.
    In less "total" cases, as when a tattoo forms a "bracelet" or an "anklet," I am much less turned off by the presence of tattoos. I think that now it is for me more of a matter of degree. In any case, I would not now let my esthetic preferences spill over into a tendency to judge the person. The younger me might have done that, tending to think of lot of tattoos as making persons look like circus freaks, or worse.
    Although my days of stereotyping on that issue are over, I still actually prefer the absence of tattos, everything else being equal. Kent Noble on this site has one of the more extensive displays of tattooed persons:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=553384
    As for body piercings, well, I simply do not have much use for them, but too many nice people have them for me to judge them in any way. I do have to question their esthetic sense, but people like what they like. . . .
    Here is an area of value theory that does not force me to invoke moral imperatives or "oughts" of any kind. I am content to say either, "I like that" or "I don't like that" without there being any moral judgment, express or implied. Some things really are just a matter of strawberry or chocolate.
    --Lannie
     
  125. Regardless of what I just said, I rather like this one:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/4530818
    Maybe it has something to do with the part that is peeking out, not as yet tattooed. I'm not sure. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  126. John, that acoustic treatment of "My Baby Whistles When She Walks" is out of sight. Thank you for that one.
    As for "I Married Up," well, I did, too. Hmm.
    --Lannie
     
  127. Discovered my daughter was into getting "tats"... kind of a surprise when she hiked her shirt to show me her entire back covered.
    How do I react? Well, they ain't comin' off, so it's fait accompli... so you deal with it & shoot.
     
  128. I managed to go through a lot of generational things without adverse reaction, Tom. The transparent blouses and no bras. Puka shell necklaces for guys and gals. Earrings are fine with me. Tats drive me crazy still on a prospective model. I know where the prejudice springs, but can't seem to manage it as well as Lannie has done with his students I guess. I keep thinking I guess of two things. Religious proscription as a youth on body art. And later, there were the old second classe Boatswain's Mates, on the deck force on ship. ( One had a tattoo on his lower abdomen, proudly declaring " Beware of swinging boom." Really. It goes with drinking and carosing in my mind and bar hopping sailors.. Now I guess, from the ads, they are a little more fancy and artsy and hygienic, fingers crossed.
    Yet, I got a hard time dealing with tats. Tongue piercings drive me totally bonkers..What immersion therapy is there out there for the likes of us oldtimers. Provincial, at times,and I want to accept with grace... ?:):
     
  129. jtk

    jtk

    How about the photos that have recently illustrated the Helen Thomas excommunicaton/lynching/professional suicide/whatever?
    Not an "pretty girl," but an aggressive and sometimes abrasive reporter with difficult features. Making her look "nice" might be tough, but the photos I've seen recently seem intent on making her look terrible.
    Do I see editorial bias, photographers' bias, or unavoidable photojournalistic truth?
    full disclosure: I'm particularly interested in how one respectfully photographs conventionally unattractive elderly people...without making them into caricatures...the beaten-to-death "hairy old sea captain with pipe" syndrome.
     
  130. Gerry, at best, I just barely cope with being an old fogey. I try to remember that who we are is what is inside, the spirit that animates the flesh, not the flesh itself. So I just try to keep focused on that, and photograph the light that envelopes the figure, trying to see beyond the flesh and into the spirit within.
    John, I'm not certain that Helen was intentionally poorly portrayed... from what I've seen, she'd need a careful sitting with some care taken with lighting to spruce her up a bit, otherwise she tends to look a lot like Rod Stewart, expression and all.
     
  131. ...without making them into caricatures...​
    the beaten to death sea captain,etc
    Not hard. Wrinkled old guys get to have "character." Women of 89 are just women of 89. It can't really be helped and no photoshop plug in that I know of. Some aging actresses try via surgery, and some just let it go. Check out Angela Lansbury. Susan Sarandon. Jacqueline Bissett. I would gladly seek them as subjects. Joan Rivers, no, sorry, too much masklike and weird looking. Gets off into Western idea of beauty and a whole other topic. Not today.
     
  132. jtk

    jtk

    "It can't really be helped and no photoshop plug in that I know of." - Gerry S
    For portrait (vs PJ) purposes, carefully/slightly reduced Lightroom "clarity" (almost up to Softar 2 equivalent ) can help without becoming obvious/Botox. By "help" I mean the 89-yr-old can shed a half-dozen yrs, fwiw.
    Angela Lansbury is undoubtedly a makeup expert, but an elderly female scientist/engineer/novelist/politician etc wouldn't likely be... might be risky to have someone less familiar with the face of a non-media-figure attempt the job.
    This issue will become very important as we turn political offices over to the wimmen (and the sooner the better).
    An old British stringer-PJ who covered WWII on two fronts (captured in Burma) told me General McArthur traveled with two personal photographers and a makeup artist. Wouldn't be surprising if President RR had his own makeup person, given his Hollywood roots.
    Better studio portrait photogs routinely had assistants to do makeup in film era, some still do. Negs were often retouched, right up until Photoshop...one of the justifications for Mamiya/6X7 in portrait studios, vs the 6X6 and smaller favored by commercial photogs (who didn't usually pay the rent by selling prints).
     
  133. "how one respectfully photographs conventionally unattractive elderly people" --John
    Treat them as people, not just faces, which I assume you would. Taking a few steps back can help. A portrait doesn't have to be a head shot. Providing context, environment, even just space adds dimension and depth that will often help make the subject of the portrait more than surface skin and aged blemishes. They can have a life and a sense of place, character not caricature.
    Do I want to see Granny in her living room, surrounded by the furniture and props she's amassed over a lifetime, perhaps walking in her garden, or do I want to see only the story I can "photographically" write on her face with every close-up pore and wrinkle? If the living room or garden feels like as much of a cliché as the pipe or cigar, discover her interests, her lifelong pursuits, and suggest those in the portrait. (Perhaps think a little like her grandson might, as well as her photographer.)
    This is a different kind of "soft focus."
     
  134. Excellent suggestions Fred. I have long admired those portrait artists who specialize in environmental portraits. I think I don't do them myself, or really few, because they are so much harder (for me) to do. That is, one has to take a little longer to set up lights and actually, are you ready,get to really know the subject.... Did I say a little longer on lighting, hah, it takes a lot longer to do it upscale and frame worthy. In my limited experience and from my limited book reading on "Environmental Portraiture. "
    Most of the time I get to use one on camera flash indoors in,say some in someone's workshop. Another thought, Outdoors is often nice but not representative of that person's prototypical environment. That people are more than faces is a valuable thought and now we come to idea of what environment we decide to show and how we may be influenced by pre conceptions. I can't imagine anyone shooting a photo of Director Hitchcock would do a head shot and the environment chosen would likely by "whimsical' and stereotypical, like stuffed birds or whatever...
    00WdX1-250597684.jpg
     
  135. "... how one respectfully photographs conventionally unattractive elderly people...without making them into caricatures...?"
    Respectfully. One could stop thinking of them as "attractive-unattractive", not to mention caricatures. As portraitists, we're only going to be able to photograph what we see, which is only a reflection of who we are.
    Look through these photos of Helen Thomas. They are not all caricatures, though many are.
    http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&q=Helen+Thomas+pictures&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=ErgPTI6DOsP38AbZl9DdBQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCkQsAQwAA
    There are no bad subjects, only the limits of the portraitist. Throwing in the environment to de-emphasize the face is a makeshift solution, but not the only one.
    Here's photographs by Joyce Tenneson from the book Wise Women, many of whom are elderly, and/or what someone might term "Not (sic)an "pretty girl," :
    http://www.thefrasergallery.com/artists/Tenneson-Folio/Tenneson-Folio.html
    http://www.tenneson.com/ww/ww_book_1.html
    And these are studio portraits, with no "environment" to "solve" the problems of the face.
    John Kelly's friend Imogen Cunningham did a book titled After Ninety, and there's no caricatures in it.
    http://www.amazon.com/After-Ninety-Imogen-Cunningham/dp/0295955597
    As with everything else in photography and in life, the limits are our own.
     
  136. jtk

    jtk

    Thanks Luis...the Joyce Tenneson links are directly to the point, even without the "fame" element.
    Arnold Newman worked the environmental portrait approach brilliantly, but I actually do favor tight shots (thanks for your thoughts on that Fred)... for me "environment" is a bit too symbolic, distracting, even though it may add information. I'd rather add a written appreciation (in fact I do).
    I much prefer Avedon's approach to Newman's (or Karsh's)... he had an ultimate sort of faith in a pure approach to photography as well as an appreciation of something about the equality of people. But Avedon's approach is his...
    humble correction: Imogene was an acquaintance from San Francisco hippie times (see her photos of Haight Ashbury)..I'd have been honored if she knew me well enough to do more than occasionally smile at me, but she surely smiled at hundreds of us by that time. I was just one of many who knew and admired her for her photographic tenacity in old age, not to mention the brilliant flame of her politics.
     
  137. May I just say that to think of elderly people as unattractive (conventionally or otherwise) and easily turned into caricatures via photography is just plain insulting and maddening. Why not think of people as human beings with intelligence and wisdom, with grace one can only attain through aging...with beauty still present. Forgive me my rant, but I am so sick of people (especially women) being treated with less regard as they age...treated as if no longer sexy or lovable, intelligent or current! Just look at many of the "nudes" here on PN depicting nothing but young women with their legs spread apart...they are so cliche, boring, distasteful and disrespectful. Of course that is my opinion...but I am a woman and I find it degrading. Of course anyone can look good with the right lighting and being 20 something...but I assure you the older woman is still beautiful with or without clothes on. To say that a woman of 89 is just a woman of 89 is one of the most insulting things I have ever heard. My mother is 81 and has always been beautiful to me and even more so now; she is a natural beauty, she exudes life, she is full of wisdom, she is loved and loves immensely, she loves life, she is active, she takes care of herself. My mother taught me to love what is inside a person because the outside is just a shell that protects the soul. My mother is sick with cancer right now and everyday she gets up, puts a smile on her face and carries through the day with the utmost beauty, grace, humility and love. No woman (young or old) could be more beautiful!
    This youth oriented society might want to widen its narrow vision a little and maybe that can be done by starting with changing a mind-set which views older people as having less value or less beauty.
     
  138. jtk

    jtk

    Trisha, IMO you're right in every way, particularly in your anger.
    However (you knew that was coming), the reality is that we (men and women) do make those nasty "appearance" observations. We "notice" that someone dresses badly, is fat, has bad hair, warts, bad teeth, doesn't "take care of themself," seems "strange"...etc... How is that diffent from the matters you're complaining about? Serious question.

    Some of our compatriots even go so far as to show pride in their beautiful bridal photos :)
     
  139. Here is a shot of my mother almost two and one-half years ago when she was only eighty-eight. She is now ninety. She has aged, but I can still see both the inner and outer beauty:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/9405041&size=lg
    I am not enamored of those shots made of older persons which are intended simply to show how much wear they are showing on their faces. Whenever I shoot anyone, I work pretty hard to bring out the real person underneath.
    --Lannie
     
  140. jtk

    jtk

    Lannie, that's a fine photograph of your mom. Only you know if that's THE "real person," but it's easy to see that you did bring out A real person.
     
  141. John, yes I knew someone would respond as you did. I will answer your questions as sensibly and legibly as I can since I (again) am feeling the blood begin to boil beneath my skin.
    Of course we all see superficial beauty and are drawn to what we consider attractive in others...that is natural but that only goes so far. I know some people who by most standards are considered to be very beautiful, until they open their mouths and speak their minds and reveal themselves to be selfish, shallow, judgemental, hypocritical and vain people. Unless you knew these people you would probably perceive them to be beautiful. My main gripe of my rant was how people no longer value or find older people to be beautiful based on those standards of youthful beauty. I think it is absurd and as long as this image is being projected, society becomes more and more immune to it and people will keep pushing the elderly aside, disregarding and devaluing them even more - continuing the chase for the fountain of youth or their unrealistic ideal of beauty via the plastic surgeon. If someone really wants that (plastic surgery) and has a sound self-esteem then that is fine, but I think alot of people buy into this unhealthy image of having wrinkle-free expressions and air-brushed thighs. I am not particularly happy with my thighs, but God gave them to me and so I will live with them and be thankful I have them. We can age gracefully, we can still be beautiful (both inside and out), we can still have value and contribute to this world - my mother is a prime example of this possibility.
    Mostly what bothered me was the way in which the question was phrased using descriptions such as "conventionally unattractive", "caricatures", and also the statement "a woman of 89 is just a woman of 89". In who's opinion is this elderly person conventionally unattractive? A 20 year old? It's all relative...a 20 year old is not going to find an 80 year old "hot", but another 80 year old will. Youth does not have all the answers and if they were wise, they would look to the elderly for some well-earned advice about what truly matters in this life. To say an elderly person appears as a caricature is just rude, narrow-minded and insensitive and maybe a photographer who thinks like that is in the wrong business because he/she is not doing any of his clients a favor. As far as a woman of 89 being just a woman of 89...that one is so low I can't possibly explain my feelings about that one...I think I already tried.
     
  142. Trisha, Noone could argue against the virtues of what you say or misunderstand the exceptions to what was implied re older women.
    That said, what would I see if I looked at an early,before his Fall of our candidate John Edwards? Compare him to someone like McCain on the other ticket... we fall for the same stereotype with the guys and it colors our judgment and stops our analytical skepticism.
    I don't think it is necessarily abnormal, inhuman or self indulgent, Trisha.
    I also happen to believe the sociobiologists would argue with some logic that we (guys) are hard wired to look for healthy childbearers. (Women with large hips and bust and really young are most likely to be fertile and best child bearers and carry on the seeds we sow.). Makes sense to me.How about you?
     
  143. Gerry, I understand what you are saying regarding the studies of sociobiologists and I am familiar with those studies; that is not my objection and in fact I agree with that. Did I not say a 20 year old would not find an 80 year old physically attractive? However, an 80 year old would find another 80 year old still attractive. Still, that does not mean the 80 year old no longer possesses beauty! I see it in my parents when my dad whispers in my mom's ears that she is still the cutest girl in the room and when my mom's eyes light up when my dad walks in the door, or when she tells me how cute he is or what great legs he has.
    If you were to rephrase your question to where I were given a choice between two men I did not know; one being a young man in his late 20's and one being a man in his 40's or 50's, and asked who I would find more attractive I am sure I would choose the older man simply because my perception of his life experience would make him more attractive to me. I would only really know as I became more familiar with him if he was worthy of my initial attraction. We are as human beings programmed to be attracted to those who fall into our own ideas of what is attractive or beautiful. I don't argue that. What I argue is this misplaced value on beauty standards in our society and the disregard for the elderly and their value in our lives; the insensitivity or shallow belief that one is no longer beautiful when one reaches a certain age when that is simply not the truth!
     
  144. I agree in principle with all you write and I did apparently misunderstand the nature of your argument.
    I like to think that as we age our idea of beauty rests less on the outer skin and more on deeper qualities.
    It is though, a poetic notion. And like all poetic notions, an ideal. Although we could debate that until the cows come home.
    I was just watching a movie I checked out of the library, ca 2000, I thik you would really like. Called "In Her Shoes." Cameron Diaz , Tony Collette and Shirley McLaine star. Deals with aging and love and the ties that bind. Physical superficial attraction, aging and discovery of personal and the deeper qualities and what happens in Miami with the oldsters there. Good stuff. If you missed it I mean.
    Anyway, thanks,Trisha, for an interesting perspective. aloha, gs
     
  145. jtk

    jtk

    Wedding photographers typically share conventionally good-looking couples in attractive locations in their online portfolios.
    They don't show weddings done in offices of justice-of-peace, piles of paper on military surplus furniture...but those weddings do get photographed.
    They may include "scenic" and "flower" photos, along with their weddings, maybe some cute kids at play, but they don't typically include character studies of "unattractive" aunts and uncles who attend only out of courtesy, or the pierced, adolescent louts who were forced to attend. Wonder why that is?
    What about the possibility that those aunts and uncles and louts are, and will always be, better people in the absolute sense, than the beautiful B&G? Or that couples who fight (rent "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf") are better people, in the absolute sense, than one's romanticized parental lovebirds?
    Is untroubled beauty even among the most worthy photographic goals?
    The OT had to do with personal bias in photojournalism: wedding photographers often call their work "photojournalistic." Do biases exclude the inevitable unattractive aunts, uncles, adolescents from their portfolios?
     
  146. ......romanticized parental lovebirds?​
    Careful, John. You are begging for trouble ...
     
  147. jtk

    jtk

    Gerry, oops.
     
  148. Gerry, thanks for the movie suggestion, it sounds like an interesting one and I will surely check it out. By the way Gerry, I am a poet, so I guess I may have more poetic notions than most, but still I feel strongly about my beliefs...forgive me if I do not wish to debate them until the cows come home. Besides, poetry isn't all wine and roses either...a lot of my poetry deals with the effects of violence and abuse (yes, I have been through some ugly times).
    John, thanks for the suggestion of Viginia Woolf...familiar with the play but not the movie so I will be sure to see that one too. I believe love doesn't just exist in the ideal relationships and even the ideal ones have their moments. I hope your comment about the romanicized parental lovebirds is not directed toward me, because those are fightin' words, and trust me, you don't want to fight with me on this issue.
    Have a good day gentlemen and Gerry I am glad you understand my point now. :)
     
  149. Trisha. Incidentally, and unrelated to much of anything relevant, I have glanced at some of the subjects in your portfolio that you find interesting... I know you will actually love the movie that I recommended. Shoes from the title is handled metaphorically , in a way that is beautifully captured by the writer and director. ( Let me know if you have time, what you think of it.)
    I am a cinemaphile, as most here know. ( Not the likes of Dreck-Shrek Forever After. Which I haven't seen, but might rent if desperate some day.) Thoughtful human relations stuff my thing. That "In Her Shoes" film ends with a touching reading of a poem by e.e. cummings, very moving .even to this old bird...
     
  150. jtk

    jtk

    Trisha, it's Burton & Taylor, hammer and tongs :) Exhausting. I've seen a twice on-stage as well...interesting to see how actors develop the play...instructive to see how plays depend on actors to do much more than perform the script. Saw a couple of Chekov pieces recently...even more dependent on the players. Same with Mamet, maybe less so with Willy S.
     
  151. That Albee play and movie, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" was an incendiary film for its time. Arguably Liz Taylor's best screen performance since " A Place in the Sun" and " Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Another dark film which deals with marriage and sexuality and illusion, (all themes in "Woolf") is the little seen movie, Ken Russell's " Crimes of Passion." See how much good stuff is on the back shelves and not at the multiplex?
     
  152. jtk

    jtk

    Gerry, yes. Those. And "Reflection in a Golden Eye." Not to overlook film noir (enlightening to see what cinematographers did with B&W, while still photographers were obsessing on mountains, ice, rocks and blurred water).
    I don't know how anyone can have insight into the emotional potential of individuals without the help of playwrights like Albee. Especially Albee.
    Shakespeare was almost the first to pursue matters along those lines, kick-started by Marlowe ...who thrilled English-speaking humanity with their first on-stage bloody violence for bloody-violence's sake. Marlowe's death deserves a film noir treatment.
    Our romanticized memories of lovebird parents are perhaps not harmful, but if they didn't let us see complexity and nasty bits should we thank them for their successful sham?
    ...and, if our photographs memorialize smiling shams, have we actually made portraits or have we made something more like our elementary school red-hearts-and-doily valentine cards? (not that there was anything wrong with those cards...perhaps they led to gratification of early adolescent urges)
     

Share This Page