Sunday Musings: Your wedding is not important so quit taking pictures already!

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by kdghantous, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. I like collecting old photographs. There are several reasons:

    - I don't like to consign social history to the round file.

    - There were fewer photos (and other media) taken in the past than there are now, so images of ordinary life are
    rarer.

    - There are some periods and events in history which I like over others (I once had the privilege of looking at
    prints of images taken by one of Hitler's photographers given to an acquaintance as a gift).

    Most of the photos that I collect are of historically insignificant people. Yet I consider the photos worthwhile
    keeping, especially if they're about significant events.

    Nowadays, photography so cheap and ubiquitous and many photos are just happy snaps. But let's forget that and
    look at the average wedding. Most folks, whatever their income, will go to lots of trouble to get a well made
    wedding album.

    But for what? All that money and effort for what? Is your life that important that it needs that level of care in
    documenting it - or in documenting it at all? You think your descendants will care much? They'll have wedding
    albums of their own to pass down to their descendants who will have wedding albums of their own...

    It isn't that photographs are taken at weddings that's at issue. It's how and why they're taken. Whatever the
    event, no matter how trivial, a good photo is better than a crap one. We all would like to look back at our lives
    now and then. But surely we don't need to spend thousands to do this? I guess some people see it as social status
    (read vanity) to have an expensive photographer at their wedding.

    For me the image is most important. The subject serves the image. So the trivial can be made great via the
    camera. Whatever the subject is doesn't matter: it's raw material for excellent photography.

    Perhaps our desire to be immortal is responsible for our outlandish spending habits (weddings at least are for
    the living, but can't the dead at least be dead in peace?).

    So what say all of you?
     
  2. My personal view, based on observation of a far from scientific sample, is that the photo album is too often the important thing - the wedding being simply the means to produce the album. The marriage thereafter is a pale shadow of the performance art event which it evidences.

    But I'm probably just a cynic!
     
  3. But for what? All that money and effort for what?

    Karim, have you concidered asking "THEM" instead of "us" ?
     
  4. My wife and I sometimes look back at our wedding pictures and reminisce. For various reasons, we had a very cheap photographer, and it shows--technically the pictures are not particularly good. They sit in a regular flip book. We have only one large print: a snapshot taken by my sister before the ceremony. Occasionally I wish we had hired a better (more expensive?) photographer. But the pictures do serve their purpose well; they remind us of the start of our marriage and where we were. Great events (at least to us) make trivial photography into great photography.
     
  5. I think that weddings satisfy some primal need for society, something about uniting the couple (and I don't think it needs to be monogamous), families and friends at large. As such, the documentary evidence of same is an important reminder of that ceremony, the pledge, and, most importantly, the sharing. The price paid for the documentary evidence however, satisfies another primal need, that of keeping up with the Joneses...
     
  6. You've really got nothing better to worry about other than whether folks happily enjoy their wedding albums? You don't want one? Don't buy one. I imagine I could look through your life and possessions and find things I would feel are trivial and meaningless. You might disagree.
     
  7. Doesn't your argument contradict itself Karim? it sure seems to,
     
  8. Over half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. Many of those wedding albums end up in the trash can.
     
  9. jtk

    jtk

    Chastising Karim for expressing his ideas so well, and for daring to ask amusing and perhaps inconsequential questions (or maybe they're important) shows our era's dominant mantra: Don't express wonder or uncertainty. Click your heels and ignore.

    Wedding videography is obviously supplanting wedding photography. It's at the center of high-end wedding businesses. But will the couple really sit through the results when they're 50-years-married? Or even after a year? Perhaps. My local newspaper's practice of showing 50 year anniversary portraits next to wedding portraits is enlightening. Nice to see how well lovers seem to bear the effects of age.

    One of my favorite Minor White-student couples was married by Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center, along about 1968. Hubby and wifey were both fine photographers. He showed in significant galleries, she was already a successful painter as well (selling well at 24). Their wedding photo was a simple 4X5 B&W of themselves with the broadly grinning priest. One of the guests used the wife's Minolta TLR (120) to hold the moment. They displayed that print in their home studio niche for at least a decade, sometimes with a flower or incense. Eventually they parted, as many couples should. I don't know what's happened to them anymore, but I do remember that photo. I doubt I'd remember a video...because videos don't commonly sit quietly in niches, waiting 24/7 to be noticed.
     
  10. The two most important photographs I own are my parents' wedding photo and my grandmother's portrait taken at the
    time of her high school graduation (with a little hand coloring added at the time).

    When a photo preserves personal history, it often goes beyond adjectives like good, tacky, overdone, cliche. Family
    snapshots, wedding pictures, Bar Mitzvah albums are often about love, memories, experiences heard about but not
    witnessed, elders long gone sharing joy, generational connectedness, roots.

    "For me the image is most important. The subject serves the image."

    While I imagine that to be the case in many instances, it's rarely the case for me. I very often have a hard time
    separating subject and image in terms of my emotional involvement with photos, both my own and others.
     
  11. I did not take pictures at my wedding, except one. I put a pinhole camera in the corner and opened the shutter for several hours. Everyone else was snapping away. Some of them sent us pictures. They were so bad that I don't like to look at them. I agree, my wedding was not important (except to the two of us).
     
  12. I am commenting on the statement "You think your descendants will care much?" some people are sentimental, including me. History is interesting, especially when it is our own history.
    I have alot of old family photos and I do genealogy as a hobby, I would love to get ahold of my ancestors wedding photos.

    I didnt have a photographer at my wedding, just regular snapshots....they are crappy but I do love them anyway :D
     
  13. To some people, yes, their wedding is that important. My parents are a good example:

    My father and stepmother couldn't afford a professional photographer at their wedding, which was a low-key affair
    held in a friend's home. They each handed their cameras to friends and got the best photos they could afford.
    These photos were mounted in an inexpensive album that had pride of place in their living room for 20 years. As
    a 20th anniversary gift, my father had a professional album made for my stepmother, with new prints scanned from
    the negatives and bound up in a beautiful white leather album. In essence, he gave her the album he wished he
    could have paid a professional to make in 1983. Yes, they would still be married even without the album, but I
    know they curl up on the sofa together and page through their wedding album fondly, even after 25 years. Not bad
    for a second marriage.

    On the other hand, my mother and stepfather were married by a justice of the peace and had no honeymoon, no
    guests, no money, and no reception. Obviously, no photos were taken. Twenty years later they're still together
    and regularly request I bring my camera for visits, because I seem to capture them at their best together. They
    wish -- often -- that they had more photos from the early years of their marriage, and had they been able, yes,
    they would have had a professional photographer as well.

    I tend to frown on extravagance in general, but I also consider it none of my business how people spend their
    hard-earned money. Those professional albums and photographers charge a lot because they're judged to be worth it.
     
  14. "over half of all weddings end in divorce"

    Probably would be interesting to see a "Divorce Album." Here's you cheating on me. Here's me letting the dirty dishes pile
    up. Here's your umpteenth parking ticket. Awww, there's our first look at our credit report together. Look at that shock,
    wasn't it adorable? ;-)
     
  15. The truth is that events considered important in cultural terms are never really important events in your life: ie. they never really change your life in any significant way. True life changing events are always approached as being unimportant and insignificant, yet their consequences are the ones that change the course of your life.

    My marriage was not nearly as important as where I chose to sit in the Sociology class that day I first met my wife. We have been together for over 40 years and married for 38.

    Our wedding was just a formality that needed to be done. We were already living together and had made promises to each other that the wedding vows just repeated. Nothing changed.

    But that decision to sit next to a friend that resulted in the introduction to the young woman who is now my closest friend was life altering. The question to me is, how can I manage to recognize those truly life changing moments and get pictures of THEM? I think that's why old snapshots have such meaning. They are often of trivial events, but they actually do remind us about and metaphorically represent what we know to be truly important: life's little, insignificant acts of kindness and of love.

    We actually have very few pictures of our wedding, and I don't think they have been looked at in years.
     
  16. My in-laws paid for our wedding and they had a fine one as we did our duty at the altar. We have an album full of wedding pictures, but I can't remember the last time I looked at it. This year it will be 40 years of marriage.

    Customs change as the years pass. Now if you don't have a full blown wedding with all the right stuff, you're not keeping up with the Jones. Peer pressure is a strange thing, especially when it continues into adulthood. Now folks want video and stills of the big event. The stills will last, but how well the video? I've seen DVDs degrade in a couple of years.
     
  17. I took my own photos on my wedding day. Photography is simply too ingrained into my life to be any other way. For the ceremony, I handed out every camera I owned to anyone in the audience who I thought had an ounce of composition skill. Along with my photographer friends who were in attendance (and who brought their cameras because they wanted to, though I didn't ask them to), this created a record of the day that couldn't be bought at any price. For me, the memory of making images of my wedding day is as important as the result. But then again, that has always been the point for me. I enjoy making images. I leave the displaying up to others. If a friend or family member wants to display an image of mine, that is just great. But for me it is enough to know that they exist. Those of you who are married to non-photographers will understand how this puts me in a bit of a quarrel with my wife. She can't believe that she is married to a very good photographer, and yet has virtually no images or albums on display in her house.
    00R0Iu-74267684.jpg
     
  18. "Most folks, whatever their income, will go to lots of trouble to get a well made wedding album."

    Many will also go to the trouble to buy a BMW, Manolo Blahniks, or a McMansion (10,000 sq ft houses bought by empty nesters are particularly paradoxical). But that's how it goes. Individuals get to define their own values even while following the crowd. No one ever said that ordinary life, absent a guiding creed makes any sense, and even with the most stringent of value systems, in the end we're usually left with wishful remembrance. When and if I 'meet my maker' my brief will be that I was no more or less a fool than anybody else.
     
  19. Josh, I love the jacket! However, many years ago I swore I would never shoot a wedding. So far I've managed to keep that promise to myself. Even my own wedding was off limits.

    I have however, shot a couple of funerals. It wasn't planned, but family members knew my cameras were never far away. They asked. I shot. Strange experience!
     
  20. Ellis, yes, you're right. It's a matter of degree I suppose.

    John, I don't sense much chastisement - after all I'm posting in the Philosophy forum! If I chose to put this on Casual Converstions... I might have to deal with a lot of people on their high horses.

    Everyone else: I hear you. And I appreciate it. You may not agree one way or another but at least you know where I'm coming from.

    If I may recapitulate (see, in this forum we use WHOLE words hahah): you want photos at your wedding etc? A fine thing by anyone's standards. But if you really think it (or you) is so important that it's a must-do by a pro who's going to likely give you overdone, over-processed results and charge you a packet for it: you're doin' it wrong.

    Do things because of love, not because of any other reason. Is love the purest of motivations? I think so.

    Buy Jeff's hypothetical BMW: and when the oil's hot enough, rev the crap out of it. That's what it's made to take. Don't *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#*-foot about with it every third Sunday and be afraid to go above 3,000rpm. ;-)

    Oh, and Josh: did you *really* wear *that* shirt? :p

    Sometimes I wonder if I am correctly articulating what I'm thinking. Sure hope so!
     
  21. I think far too many photographs are taken at weddings now. 50 - 100 in an album is plenty.


    Nowadays, photography so cheap and ubiquitous and many photos are just happy snaps.

    As were most old photographs which are now seen as interesting. What may have been a boring, run of the mill shot fifty years ago is now interesting due to changes such as clothing, transport, buildings, etc.
     
  22. A) It was a tuxedo, not a shirt. B) I absolutely wore it. I'm not sure when I will ever own a cooler outfit.
    00R0WL-74373684.jpg
     
  23. Karim,when I read your post at first it came across as a liitle bit misogynistic. Not really, but it sounded
    that way. I don't think you meant it so. But your are degrading the occasion by the tone of your arguments.

    Weddings have become overblown, we all know that. Guests flown to tropic isles, name bands, the whole shebang.
    (The photography part is a minor percentage and is getting less as a percentage I betcha). In sociology class
    they said that matrimony is at its core the "institutionalization of sex." Even if you buy that rude concept, it
    is a ritual that has to be documented. Aren't all rituals documented?

    In olden days,before photography,before anything but painted miniatures, they held out stained bedclothes for the
    court to see the next day...weird huh. we have at least progressed to something more decorous, personal,more
    artistic, more sharable with the extended family who couldn't make the five thousand mile trip. As we see p34
    Josh's personalized attire, it gets to be a statement of personality and a fun event to boot. Not the joining of
    two lineages so much... Those are the times of life we want to document when the champagne buzz is all gone.
    Anyway, feel free to have your wedding at Chuckeecheese and get a buddie to take the pictures ad hoc. Me, I went
    the whole nine yards. A fifty dollar sailor from the base with my film camera and Black and White- de rigeur and
    budget too..(.I wore my dress uniform and had the sword routine of course.).

    But to settle this, let us hear from the ladies! The are the ones who doll up and deserve quality photographie. gs
     
  24. If love,as you correctly assert, is the "purest of emotions," does it not follow that the highest testament to
    its formal declaration deserves high level photography?

    My folks eloped and were married in a court room in NYC but they posed later for a marriage portrait. It tells an
    interesting 1920's story. I'll give you the gist some day. An immigrant tale.
     
  25. Is your life that important that it needs that level of care in documenting it - or in documenting it at all?
    People will go to almost any length to preserve their own lives. Surely this suggests how important they believe their lives to be.
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    Here's one argument for happy snaps:

    A $7 Santa Rosa CA flea market purchase from Gypsies over 35 years ago consisted of hundreds of small family photos. Somebody in the family was a technically skilled darkroom technician, perhaps an occasionally artistic semi-professional, some are simply happy snaps of family, friends, soldiers and parties in the twenties...the flapper era. Some are photos from "back home," and include snaps of the then former Russia's royal family, both formally and at play, and White Russian cavalry officers (spurs).

    These folks identified as Russians, corresponded in Russian (I read a little) but evidently had Austrian roots. They'd been world travelers in Asia and SE Asia. They had settled in Harbin (now China, generally near Russia's Vladivostok), where they prospered (big home, fancy furniture, formal attire). The Japanese rolled in (photos of their tanks and troops, entering Harbin). Then the family mostly vanished (I've not traced them but there's one photo of a young woman in nurses's uniform in San Francisco). They were not Jews (judging from drinking parties and names) although Harbin was a "modern European city" which had been partially built specifically as a haven for Jews by the doomed Tsar Nicholas (see his picture, and his son's, in my P.N Gallery). After the revolution the NKVD dragged many Harbin residents (who were no longer citizens of Russia, because it no longer existed as a state, nor of China, nor of the USSR) back to Gorky for interrogation and slaughter. I don't know if that happened to this family. I researched all of this, starting with $7 of pocket change.

    Maybe today's happy snaps will be similarly interesting, down the line, for some cave dweller who wants to know what was going on just before our economic meltdown :)
     
  27. "Surely this suggests how important they believe their lives to be."

    One's individual life is not important to one's self? One's individual life is unimportant to society? Let's throw out the Bill of Rights, then and go to some kind of 1984 scenario where only one's contribution (as defined by the ruling powers) to the whole matters.

    Sontag cites photography's built-in pathos. Whence this pathos? If we all lived forever we'd still want to remember the changes and important moments we lived through. But our inevitable extinction casts a certain imperative for some kind of documentation over our time on Earth. Call such concerns sentimental and unworthy of celebration and remembrance. I'm glad you're not a part of my family or friends.
     
  28. jtk

    jtk

    Jeff, You and I have twice exchanged email about my indirect connection to Minor White and RIT...

    I'm puzzled by your hostility to whoever it was you just quoted, the seeming terror behind your "imperative" notion of "documentation".

    I don't recall anything like that in the dozen Minor students of your era that I worked with or knew socially in 70s San Francisco. I recall people who burned fearlessly, even recklessly, even the most disciplined zen and Gurdjieff practioners. Several died, others became depressed, yet others became very successful commercial photographers...but I don't recall fear. Maybe it's good that I lost contact with them in the 80s.
     
  29. People like to remember moments when they're looking their best and happy. Weddings are a good opportunity for such pictures. If it is done well, the images will be memorable. Of course, since weddings are a put-up job, the photos that result are not the same as photos of the ordinary lives of the people.
    The question to me is, how can I manage to recognize those truly life changing moments and get pictures of THEM?
    That is a very important question! It's not customary to hire a professional to record ordinary life. Therefore, the photography has to be done by friends and family.
    The cameras many non-photographers buy are sold by virtue of their low cost, high pixel count, pretty looks, large zoom range, and small size. These characteristics are intrinsically conflicting with good image quality. The cameras are difficult to control, have poor timing characteristics (if unposed, the subject may not be in the correct part of the composition at the time of exposure) and produce noisy images in low light. They are not well suited for making good images of people indoors (built- in flash etc.), which is sad since that's exactly what many people want to take pictures of! In many cases the resulting expressions are like from the worst kind of TV comedy. IMHO, a manual 24x36 rangefinder with a 50mm f/1.4 lens would be far more appropriate, but its use requires some understanding of photography and it has no affordable and commercially successful digital equivalent.
    I think, basically, in order for memorable images of people's important moments to occur with any kind of consistency, a family member or close friend has to be a photographer focused on people photography. The people who are photographed need to appreciate the value of this kind of photography - which is of ordinary life, not posed or faked up, but documentary. This I find to be the key problem: many people are self-conscious when photographed. I think I can make good photographs of about 50% of the people I personally know, without going to great lengths of preparation. With those 50% of subjects, the results can be really good, but I wouldn't in any way call them life-defining moments. They're just good portraits.
    To be able to record life-defining moments, the photographer needs to have the camera with them a lot of the time and one has to expect that one doesn't have the possibility of predicting the event a priori, so there needs to be a lot of failed attempts which do not turn out to be significant. The subjects need to be okay with it and at ease with the photographer.
    I think this could become a very worthwhile discussion.
     
  30. "I'm puzzled by your hostility to whoever it was you just quoted, the seeming terror behind your "imperative"
    notion of "documentation".

    Sontag's point, if I may presume, derives from psychoanalysis. While this was certainly not the viewpoint that
    characterized the philosophy of Gurdjieff (who would probably view preoccupation with the threat of extinction as
    an indicator of weakness) or Minor White, it is, I believe, a basic tenet of Modernism.

    The fact that many who wed do so as eager religionists (at least on their special day) does not negate their
    motivation to capture the brief moment before it fades, and before the celebrants fade. Why else do deathbed
    confessions and personal injunctions carry so much legal or emotional weight?

    Surely many of White's students gave themselves wholly to the quest to burn bright. It's laudable, but not for
    most of us, including myself. Gurdjieff was quoted to say that if one was not already a master of 'ordinary
    life", an 'obyvatel' in Russian, or in Yiddish, a mensch, he'd be totally unprepared for 'the work'. I'm still
    trying to master life as is almost everyone else I know. None of us is perfect.

    My hostility is really exasperation at the notion of wedding photography as a waste of film or pixels. Give 'em a
    break. Let them have their photos and their wedding cake. What's the harm?
     
  31. jtk

    jtk

    Thanks Jeff. Thoughtful response. I'm relieved that you understood my post in the spirit in which it was sent.

    I don't think many have "wed...as eager religionists" for decades, but that's only one man's perception. I think most wed as whole hearted tributes to our mates of the moment, or to communities, or to tradition or social pressure. Religion is only cultural froth for most, to their credit.

    I don't know where Sontag's ideas came from: literally more intelligent than most mortals, I wouldn't presume to think she was less than a Jung or Freud. She was an astute observer and occasional intellectual risk taker, didn't resist making major two or three major changes in perspective...which suggests she wasn't insane.

    Who is this "us" that hasn't given themselves wholly to burning bright? Or at least didn't when they were young? Maybe this is all relative (my way of dodging your "wholly"), but I think hippies in general were devoted to living fast and dying young...I remember consciously committing to burning my candle at both ends, maybe even did that for a decade or two, but I've become comfortable with the wax in the middle :) Nevertheless, I've been around enough death to know that it's not as bad as it's cracked up to be, not nearly as bad as aimless life. It's not nearly as bad as fear, as Iraq's repeat volunteers know. And individual humans are renewable resources. You're not much different from your neighbor, nor am I.
     
  32. As usual I get befuddled trying to sort it out when a fellow muser makes a long, multiple topic statement
    expressing pros and cons, ifs and buts on perhaps seven sub topics ( documenting family life; everyday people in
    non everyday events; faulty priorities in hiring professionals for weddings, essence of photography as an
    affirmation of life and testament to the progeny, the burden of mindless documentation without a defined purpose.


    Ending with the gentle query: So what do you all think? "

    This kind of souffle can soon expand into pretty enlightening stuff, even to, yep, what REALLY is the meaning of
    life?"
    ( Mozart's Jupiter Symphony is what I typically answer :)).

    What kerfuffels me is the growing realization that the immortal stuff and the essence of stuff is a composition
    of unphotographable-/hard to detect n get hold of small particles. Quarks, neutrinos. Dark matter. Playing with
    photons is just a chip off the old cosmos. It will have to hold me..Man that is born of woman is of few days and
    full of trouble it is written..
     
  33. It appears that most of the comments in this thread have focused on the role that weddings, bar mitzvas, etc. play in
    persons' lives (so-called life-cycle events) and about happy photos, etc. But there's a significant set of statements
    in Karim's original post that seems to have gone by unnoticed.

    "The subject serves the image. So the trivial can be made great via the camera. Whatever the subject is doesn't
    matter: it's raw material for excellent photography."

    Well put, Karim.
     
  34. jtk

    jtk

    Michael L...I particularly like your "Where I work" and "Phenomenology of light."

    fwiw, while I generally agree that "the subject doesn't matter" (with qualifications), the concept or the story or some frame of reference involving the image does matter profoundly. To be "excellent" a photograph must be more than merely technically and graphically wonderful, IMO. It needs to convey (not just "be part of") a larger concept or experience.

    Tourist, flower, seascape, boid, and bug snaps are often "interesting" but seem to me incapable of "excellence" unless they taste of something beyond their classification or label. Poetry, eros, fear, complex mystery....

    Attractiveness is merely attractiveness. Photography can deliver much more, so I rarely call my own "excellent."
     
  35. "Tourist, flower, seascape, boid, and bug snaps are often "interesting" but seem
    to me incapable of "excellence" unless they taste of something beyond their
    classification or label. Poetry, eros, fear, complex mystery...."

    The uses of photography are for the most part utilitarian, not aesthetic. Anyone who's sat through a mediocre slide show knows that photos can be anesthetic.

    At the risk of bringing up psychoanalysis again I'd cite Bruno Bettleheim's The Uses of Enchantment. He describes marriage rites in the most compelling psychological terms...the significance of which usually completely escapes the everyday understanding of celebrants and spectators. In a bow to the myth-soaked unconscious Jung said that even the most superficial human experiences life 'in depth.' That's a depth that only the insane, the child, and the mystic can realize 24/7.

    So perhaps my answer to Karim is: "Forgive them, they know not what they do." (apologies to Jesus)
     
  36. "In a bow to the myth-soaked unconscious Jung said that even the most superficial human experiences life 'in depth.' That's a depth that only the insane, the child, and the mystic can realize 24/7. "

    Which is why several "Eastern" cultures tend to bow in greeting to the "in depth" part of each of us, no matter how noble or humble the appearance.

    And it may be that one of the greatest sources of the angst of modern culture is the disconnect from that in depth life that consumer culture tends to induce. The very best photography always seems to me to have an ability to reconnect those who take the time to meditate on it.

    I agree that cute and beautiful is very nice, and can be a lot of fun. But that is about it. It is unfortunate that "the significance of which usually completely escapes the everyday understanding of celebrants and spectators," is true of so much of our lives.

    Which brings up the question of what is art again, I suppose, and who is responsible for reconstructing the understanding of celebrants and spectators, and where does photography fit into either the disconnect or the possible reconnection. It occurs to me that many of the psychoanalytical truths of some of our Enchantments might be disturbing. NFL football and WEF come to mind immediately.
     
  37. Karim had mused: "I once had the privilege of looking at prints of images taken by one of Hitler's photographers given to
    an acquaintance as a gift... For me the image is most important. The subject serves the image. So the trivial can be
    made great via the camera. Whatever the subject is doesn't matter: it's raw material for excellent photography... Perhaps
    our desire to be immortal is responsible for our outlandish spending habits (weddings at least are for the living, but can't
    the dead at least be dead in peace?"

    Ah, Karim. Where to begin? I have not posted to photo.net in a long time, but I'll dive in and take the bait. Note to Ellis:
    I'm back, at least for a short while. Years ago (31 Jul 2001), I had posted to a thread on Sebastiao Salgado's work, titled
    "Aesthetics and Suffering"

    http://tinyurl.com/3gfqzj

    Karim:

    If you're ever in Washington DC, walk through the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and study the family photographs that
    line the walls above the thousands of shoes (it's been 10 years since I last visited, so I don't know if this exhibit is still
    there). Then you might begin to discern the answer to your implied question about how anyone's life can be THAT
    significant. We may not know the people in the photographs, but we can empathize with their life circumstances. Many
    people will hire a celebrity/expensive/vanity photographer to document their wedding, but this act alone does not trivialize
    the wedding itself, unless the parties involved are getting married for the wrong reasons (a whole 'nuther discussion by
    itself).

    We are so used to thinking of weddings as "mere" ritual. But strip away the sneering cynicism and we discover that the
    "ritual" is an affirmation of something so primeval in the human psyche that we can scarcely articulate it: the surrender
    of self to another, through the promise of intimate union declared publicly so that others may take notice and celebrate a
    rite of passage in our journey towards self-transcendence. Marriage is, at its core, a brave act of hope: that one might
    somehow overcome one's innate selfishness and dare to make oneself vulnerable in a very visible way, not just to one's
    beloved, but to the community (who are invited to witness the transformation).

    People gather together at weddings and funerals. At my own wedding reception, I declared that the occasion was a bit of
    both. My bride raised her eyebrows until I explained that it was a funeral for my old bachelor self. Yesterday, a colleague
    asked me if it was really considered unusual in North America to photograph at funerals. I said yes, and I added that it
    was because, by and large, contemporary North American culture is in denial about the inevitability of death. Why? For
    many, death is an absurd end, an outrage, an impertinent, obnoxious blot on an otherwise hoped-for idyllic experience of
    life (especially as promised by a way of be-ing that celebrates conspicuous, extravagant consumption). What's the old
    saying? How about several? You can't take it with you (not even if it's a solid bronze casket). In the long run, we're all dead. Nothing is
    certain except death and taxes. Life's a bitch, and then you die. He who dies with the most toys, dies.

    Or, to revisit an old joke: everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die to get there. This is as true in a
    wedding as it is in the funeral, except many of us don't realize it.

    Weddings and funerals are rites of passage. Both are important, and in our distempered era, widely misunderstood. I
    recently visited the grave of my mother-in-law.

    http://tinyurl.com/3gxfvo

    Nearby, my son played in the spray of the park sprinkler.

    http://tinyurl.com/4pmatv

    These images were taken about two minutes apart.

    If we only see the banal aspects of human life in the midst of celebration or grieving, doesn't that say more about us as observers than it
    does about what we are photographing?
     
  38. John Kelly declared: "Religion is only cultural froth for most, to their credit."

    Google: "Stanley Jaki" and "Georges Lemaitre"

    :)
     
  39. I recently spent several hours "fixing" a faded, folded, scratched, 3 x 5, black & white snapshot of my parents on their wedding day in 1950. The only copy of the only photo taken that day. I gave it to my widowd mother to hang in her bedroom. My children will not have to do that for us because we went to the expense of hiring a wedding photograper. At the time,(1984) it was much cheaper than today, but I find it was worth it because I knew someone was capturing all the small moments and I didn't need to worry about it all day. I guess it comes down to what value you put on your life moments.
     
  40. Ben Gross observed: "I guess it comes down to what value you put on your life moments."

    Exactly. One person's ennui is another one's spark of wonder.

    It makes a huge difference, for example, if we think life is the result of Brownian motion that somehow contravenes the
    Second Law of Thermodynamics, or if we think it is based on a rational principle or agency. I subscribe to the view that
    the intrinsic value of human life — indeed, the very concept of its uniqueness and dignity — is ultimately grounded in
    something more than whatever climbed out of the primordial ooze eons ago. Compare and contrast this with John Kelly's declaration
    that "individual humans are renewable resources" who are pretty much interchangeable — a dismissive view not so far
    removed, it seems to me, from the selective "useless eaters" philosophy adopted by the National Socialists, and we know where
    that led to. If we're just "ugly bags of mostly water," or the "outside world organized a little differently,"
    then how is this too-earnest discussion anything other than the jaded prattle of intellectual dilettantes whose so-called thoughts
    and indeed whose very existence is mere happenstance? Expanding on Karim's original question: our lives are not
    important, so why bother to photograph any of their random moments? It's a question that could certainly be asked of the most venal
    wedding photographer (or couple), but then it could certainly be asked of Sebastiao Salgado as well. And if we're wondering why I'm
    bringing Salgado's work into this discussion, go and read the thread on "Aesthetics and Suffering" - http://tinyurl.com/yvowks
     
  41. Karim states: "Most of the photos that I collect are of historically insignificant people. Yet I consider the photos
    worthwhile keeping, especially if they're about significant events."

    By what criteria do we determine that most people are "historically insignificant" while regarding certain people's life
    events as significant? This seems to me no different than asserting that some human lives are intrinsically more
    valuable than others — by whose standards? The State? The State was created by people — people were not created
    by the State. In the same way, photographs are created by people, they do not randomly appear because a billion clever
    monkeys absentmindedly mashed their opposable digits on the shutter release buttons of DSLRs with the frame rate set
    to Continuous High — although that observation might be made about some of the photographs on photo.net. :)
     
  42. Larry Cooper had written: "And it may be that one of the greatest sources of the angst of modern culture is the disconnect
    from that in depth life that consumer culture tends to induce."

    You may be onto something.

    See http://www.thestoryofstuff.com (download the movie and jump to the 10 min 12 sec mark)

    See also http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/historytour/history4.htm
     
  43. Victor you gave us a lot of wise and nourishing food for thought. I am eager to visit the Holocaust museum, having heard a talk last month by its designer, Ralph Applebaum who brilliantly assembled the exhibits with help from lots of architects, artists, and historians. I never underestimate the power of any document- script or image, of the past to be powerful to future generations and won't dismiss any record. A hidden diary. A scrap of dog eared photo smuggled out of a totalitarian country.... Significant to me is the ability to be moving, to provoke thought, and to leave a memory of our collective past. Many of us, when we get to a certain age, at some point seek a connection to the past-noble or ignoble. It is a gift or curse of our human nature. I like to think it a gift.
     
  44. Victor--
    Ethical consequences are a result of how we act, not what we are.
    I believe John Kelly was making a metaphysical point. Your ethical fears don't follow from his ontological description.
    Individual selves are not the be-all and end-all they once were either in philosophy or science. Much current thought on the subject has countered Descartes's ("I think, therefore I am") egocentric positioning from the seventeenth century. From Sartre -- who recognized the importance of "the other" in defining ourselves -- to Derek Parfit -- who suggests that "the self" is a somewhat false notion substituting merely for a series of experiences -- to environmental and feminist holistic ethicists who realize that it is not the individual but instead the community (including the environment) that is deserving of moral consideration and the foundation on which an ethic should be based.
    That humans are renewable resources and that individual humans are not as different or unique from one another as we might like to think doesn't lead to any sort of National Socialist philosophy. Just the opposite.
    Please read Aldo Leopold's The Land Ethic for a perspective on how a less individualistic and a more holistically-based ethic is totally at odds with the more patriarchal and often oppressive ethics that Western thought has fostered (stemming from Descartes's mind over body dualism).
    It is, in fact, this dependence on the "I" of Descartes that has led to dominance and oppression of the sort that National Socialism sought. It has led us, as humans, to oppress not only each other but the earth and our environment and ecosystems as well. When we recognize that we are part of a smoothly running biotic system, the system itself, and we as part of it, will be better off. As long as we consider ourselves (because of our great minds and ability to think) as somehow "dominant," we are destined not to act in the best interests of community and environment. We see the results of individualistic and oppressive ethical thinking every day in terms of bio-degredation and global disharmony. In many ways, the ascendency of "self" since the middle ages is killing us and killing the planet.
    This does not mean that, balancing such considerations, we shouldn't honor our uniqueness and diversity as well, what each individual brings to the table, so to speak. But not to recognize our place in the greater universe and not to see humans from a broader perspective than the "inside-out" perspective of at least the last 4 or 5 centuries is a grave mistake.
     
  45. "it is not the individual but instead the community (including the environment) that is deserving of moral consideration and the foundation on which an ethic should be based. "

    Nothing more or less than communitarianism and utilitarianism standing in for Marxism. Our society is based on the liberalism of the Enlightenment which was a swing away from the god-granted authority of monarchs. Some adjustment to a wildly individualistic ethos (that was never envisioned by the Founding Fathers) toward a group-based morality seems a useful idea as long as it is not ascendent. To find an ethos that leads to bio-degradation and global disharmony look no further than the communitarian ideals of China and the Muslim world, Both societies where the whole is deemed much more important than the individual and voting is a joke.
     
  46. Just happened across this. It echoes my cynicism above, but also refutes my (and Karim's) dubiousness about value.
    "Gloria regretted not having had a white wedding with all the trimmings because now she would be in possession of a big, white, leather-bound album of photographs to look back on, photographs that showed she'd once had family who cared about her more than she realized at the time, and in the album everyone would be looking their best for ever. And Gloria herself would be at the centre of it all, radiant and thin and unaware of how her life was already slipping out from under her feet. ... ... ... If Gloria had had the white leather-bound album of photographs, her mother, father and elder sister would all have been preserved within its pages." (Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn.)​
     
  47. Fred Goldsmith wrote: "Ethical consequences are a result of how we act, not what we are."

    What exactly are we? Monkeys too clever by half? I believe the 'what' is not nearly as important as the 'who' — human beings as subjects, not as objects. In photography, as in life, we are subjects (in the most profound metaphysical sense), not mere objects of one another's curiosity or contemplation, as if the "ghost in the machine" is only a figment or our individual and collective imaginations or an emergent property of quantum entanglement. Indeed, consequences flow from actions, and it need hardly be said that actions are informed by a priori assumptions. If these assumptions are wrong, as they often are, then what follows is likely to be mistaken as well (i.e. sensitive dependence on initial conditions). Just ponder the sheer mathematical improbability of the existence of each and every one of us — change just one relevant circumstance in each person's ancestral past, and that unique person would never have come into being. So, I stand by my original assertion that human persons are not interchangeable commodities or renewable resources. Each human person, however deeply flawed, is a special creation.

    You observed: "We see the results of individualistic and oppressive ethical thinking every day in terms of bio-degredation and global disharmony. In many ways, the ascendency of "self" since the middle ages is killing us and killing the planet"

    And that is why self-transcendence is the noblest aspiration of human beings (or humans be-ing).

    Recall the scene near the end of Schindler's List where Oskar Schindler is preparing to flee. What does Stern, speaking for the Schindlerjuden, say to him in the midst of his emotional anguish over not having done enough? "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

    If each human "self" is merely the accidental result of random processes, then Spock's brave declaration that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" makes no sense.

    That said, I don't think the biggest problem is the ascendancy of "self" so much as the rise of a post-WWII culture obsessed with unsustainable levels of material consumption as a way of life — see The Story of Stuff and John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education.

    When the U.S., with a mere 5% of the world's population, consumes about 25% of its oil (70% of which is imported), that's a problem, as T. Boone Pickens so delicately put it.

    Barry Schwarz asserts in The Paradox of Choice that the overwhelming abundance of choice available to people in affluent nations has not led to greater happiness — quite the opposite. He boldly declares that we would all be better off if people in poor nations were able to access more choices, and people in rich nations recognized — before it is too late — that a stupefying surfeit of choice is a recipe for misery all around.

    The late Pope John Paul II observed in his Dec. 30, 1997 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis:

    "Unfortunately, from the economic point of view, the developing countries are much more numerous than the developed ones; the multitudes of human beings who lack the goods and services offered by development are much more numerous than those who possess them.

    We are therefore faced with a serious problem of unequal distribution of the means of subsistence originally meant for everybody, and thus also an unequal distribution of the benefits deriving from them. And this happens not through the fault of the needy people, and even less through a sort of inevitability dependent on natural conditions or circumstances as a whole."

    Exactly. Just ask the ordinary employees of, say, Lehman Brothers.

    Or, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi: "The earth has enough for our needs. It does not have enough for our greed."

    Overpaid wedding photographers and narcissistic couples excepted, of course. ;-)

    Please, if you haven't already done so, read the thread Aesthetics and Suffering.

    See also — MediaStorm.

    The images and stories are powerful and moving, not because of what they are in themselves (if a tree falling in a forest...), but because we (as subjects) can empathize with the subjects (persons) in the stories.

    So yes, weddings are important. As are funerals.
     
  48. Felix Grant quoted: "Gloria regretted not having had a white wedding with all the trimmings because now she would be in possession of a big, white, leather-bound album of photographs to look back on..."

    That is so 20th century. Nowadays, Gloria can just check out online portfolios and hire a couple of folks from the Strobist pool in her city, get a DVD-R (or two) of JPEGS, and produce her own dust-jacketed hardcover coffee table book at MyPublisher or Blurb.

    All the better to document her unimportant wedding, and far less fleeting than lifestreaming the event. ;-)
     
  49. Gerry Siegel had written: "Many of us, when we get to a certain age, at some point seek a connection to the past-noble or
    ignoble. It is a gift or curse of our human nature. I like to think it a gift."

    Gerry — it can be a gift. Wisdom often comes with age, but for some people, age comes alone.
     
  50. jtk

    jtk

    In general, advances and happy new experiences are less likely to result from beliefs than from risk-taking...

    ...because, risk-taking has an upside as well as downside...but the only upside of belief is "luck" and pie-in-sky-if-you-ignore "the problem of evil."

    Believers want their beliefs codified: the results are goose-stepping, terrorism, Little Red Books, priests.

    America's "founding fathers" were onto something that's been successful precisely because, as philosophers, they were by definition not believers. In order to repress, Constitutional "originalists" deceitfully pretend Jefferson et al, despite being agnostics for the most part, were sure of ("believed") the perpetual truth of their own initial words..
     
  51. John declared: "In general, advances and happy new experiences are less likely to result from beliefs than from risk-
    taking..."

    Risk-taking is founded on beliefs, not on Brownian motion. The "problem of evil" is a problem precisely because evil is not
    acknowledged for what it is. You really should read the thread on Aesthetics and Suffering, and ponder whether priests like
    Stanley Jaki and Georges Lemaitre were not, in fact, risk-takers of the first rank (Einstein eventually defended Lemaitre).
     
  52. Re: risk-taking

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (commonly attributed to Edmund Burke)
     
  53. jtk

    jtk

    Victor, your understanding of "risk" is unique to you. Risk is not perceived peril or reward, which seems to be
    implicit in your use of "belief." "Risk" refers to a state that exists without perception, whereas "belief" exists only in your head.

    "Belief" relates to "risk" the way"odds" do... "odds" and "belief" both invent perceptions to manage fear and/or the expectation of reward. "Odds" are better bets than "beliefs" because they're based on experience.

    I'll probably live after I exhale (I've done it repeatedly over the past hour and could figure odds if I had to). But if I merely believe I'll breathe again I'm not bothering with evidence, merely trying to make myself comfortable.

    "Odds" are hypothetical constructs, like the " theory of evolution." As such, both odds of and the theory are inherently more honest than belief about it can be. Odds because they're evidence-based, tend to prove the risk in the theory: belief doesn't need evidence, doesn't even try to test the theory, making the data of truth irrelevant to it.

    The "problem of evil" refers to pain and suffering, not to "evil acts" or "evil people " ...because..one does not experience evil acts or evil people.

    The monsters we evoke of when discussing evil are matters of politics: Stalin killed more than Hitler, for example, but which had better motives? Did Rumsfeld or Clinton kill more Iraqi kids, but was one less aware, and how many had McCain killed when he was shot down, and were they the bad guys?

    Most of us experience pain and suffering in ways that seem absolute, and I'm content to call them evil... though some special Buddhists argue otherwise and Pope Benedict claimed his was a blessing.
     
  54. John Kelly wrote: "belief doesn't need evidence, doesn't even try to test the theory, making the data of truth irrelevant to it."

    John — belief can be grounded in evidence, and there is no fundamental incompatibility between faith and reason. For example, Stanley Jaki and Georges Lemaitre, both Catholic priests, are also mathematical physicists of the first rank, and Jaki asserts that science as we know it could only have developed in the Christian West:

    "To the popular mind, science is completely inimical to religion: science embraces facts and evidence while religion professes blind faith. Like many simplistic popular notions, this view is mistaken. Modern science is not only compatible with Christianity, it in fact finds its origins in Christianity. This is not to say that the Bible is a science textbook that contains raw scientific truths, as some evangelical Christians would have us believe. The Christian faith contains deeper truths-- truths with philosophical consequences that make conceivable the mind's exploration of nature: man's place in God's creation, who God is and how he freely created a cosmos.

    In large part, the modern mind thinks little of these notions in much the same way that the last thing on a fish's mind is the water it breathes. It is difficult for those raised in a scientific world to appreciate the plight of the ancient mind trapped within an eternal and arbitrary world. It is difficult for those raised in a post-Christian world to appreciate the radical novelty and liberation Christian ideas presented to the ancient mind."

    I may be misreading you, but you seem to posit that risk has a robust ontological reality independent of the observer. Perhaps my engineering education is faulty, but I recall that risk is always calculated based on relevant parameters. For example, the risk of a pressure vessel failing at its design limit is a mathematical function of the tensile and shear strength of the material used, the wall thickness, the stresses induced by the particular geometry of the vessel, and so on. In the sphere of political acton, if Sophie Scholl had not distributed pamphlets denouncing the Nazis, she could have avoided being discovered and subsequently executed — she took a "calculated" risk — because of her beliefs.

    You also wrote: "one does not experience evil acts or evil people"

    I respectfully beg to differ. I grew up under an odious military dictatorship, and one of my childhood friends was tortured and murdered by the regime. In fact, my recollection is made all the more poignant by the fact that I can still recall his face in a photograph of him standing beside me as I blew out the candles on my birthday cake. I do not know what evils you have personally experienced or witnessed, but let's just say that "the problem of evil" is not a theoretical abstraction for me, either.

    Let's bring this back to the topic that occasioned this thread — Karim had asked "Is your life that important that it needs that level of care in documenting it - or in documenting it at all?"

    Short answer: Yes.

    You asserted that "individual humans are renewable resources" — which again I may be misreading, but in the context of the present discussion, I regard your statement with a fair bit of skepticism. At the level of the genome, for example, this may be true (even though each individual human genome is distinct), but because each and every human person has a unique life path and a unique set of experiences, we infer that this uniqueness is worth acknowledging, and so it might be worth celebrating and documenting, even if you only live for, say, 99 days.

    Individual humans are renewable resources only if they're viewed as interchangeable, generic entities. Since the human body is about 60% water, the chemical content in each person's body isn't worth much on the commodities market, but since our bodies are the outside world organized a little differently, particular bits fetch a bit more on the organ market. I only get juice and muffins when I donate blood. :)

    I stand by my assertion: each person is a special creation, and his or her intrinsic worth is independent of arbitrary valuations determined by the State or by other persons. So, to answer Karim's question yet again: "Is your life that important that it needs that level of care in documenting it - or in documenting it at all?"

    Yes.

    It doesn't matter who you are — even narcissistic brides or venal photographers.

    :)
     
  55. John Kelly had written: "Victor, your understanding of "risk" is unique to you. Risk is not perceived peril or reward, which seems to be implicit in your use of "belief." "Risk" refers to a state that exists without perception"

    I must confess I find your definition of risk a bit odd (in the same way as "individual human beings are renewable resources" — Soylent Green?). Perhaps this is because a significant portion of the business of the company I work for involves risk management for large corporations. Our operational definition of risk takes into account many variables, including empirical data from laboratory measurements, and assigns economic values to various components to arrive at a monetized assessment that is actionable. Maybe I'll take your definition of risk to my fellow scientists and engineers, to see if they can perceive any sense in it. Some of them will be returning from a remote part of China later this month, after having undertaken considerable personal risk to install solar-powered lighting at an orphanage for Tibetans.

    I hope the photographs and videos of their journey and their life-affirming work will not be confiscated.
     
  56. Victor--

    What is "intrinsic" worth and from where do humans get theirs? Is value not a human construct? Worth or value would
    seem solely extrinsic. I don't think of humans as creations, merely beings.
     
  57. Fred had asked — "What is "intrinsic" worth and from where do humans get theirs? Is value not a human construct?
    Worth or value would seem solely extrinsic. I don't think of humans as creations, merely beings."<br><br>

    Fred,<br><br>

    Be careful what you wish for, because as humans giveth, so humans taketh away. If the worth of a human being is only
    determined by humans, we get statements such as "individual humans are renewable resources." Ideas certainly have
    consequences, and one consequence of the idea that the value of human life is dependent on human whim — that it is
    ultimately arbitrary — is that if some dictator decides that his people are not particularly valuable, he will not be troubled
    by genocide.<br><br>

    Consider the question: is mathematics invented, or is it "merely" discovered? Notice that if mathematics simply "is"
    (your notion of be-ing), then it has a robust, objective existence apart from the existence of the mathematician, who
    simply discovers it in due course. On the other hand, if mathematics is "merely" a human construct (your notion of
    "value") then on what basis do we assert its objectivity and universal application? I am of the view that mathematics is
    intrinsic to the universe, and its "value" is independent of any practical application. By the same token, I hold that a
    human be-ing, by the mere fact of being, has infinite value, in the sense that the worth of his or her particular human life
    is unique, special, and deserving of being protected from harm.<br><br>

    For an empirical demonstration of this, look no further than gravity — does the pull of gravity increase or decrease based
    on our decision to assign it a value, or is it based on something other than our own mood on a particular day? We might
    certainly perceive ourselves to be heavier on some days than on others, depending on how much alcohol we consumed
    the night before, but ultimately, the pull of gravity is a mathematical function of the masses involved (and I don't mean
    the Catholic kind.) :)<br><br>

    Another empirical illustration: my son enjoys playing with LEGO, as do many other children of his age. He combines
    parts from different kits, so his LEGO creations (and that is what they are) may be composed of bits from Mars Mission
    and other bits from Aqua Raider. Prior to his creative activity, the particular Mars Mission-Aqua Raider "thingy" did not
    exist except as a potential-yet-to-be-realized. The same may be said of my son, as well. If my wife and I had not met,
    fallen in love, and conceived him, the mathematical probability of our particular son coming into being would have been
    effectively zero. Trace the line of causes back and we will note that, as I mentioned earlier, if my parents had not met,
    fallen in love, etc. I would not have come into being. Same goes for my wife. And so on and so forth.<br><br>

    This is why I keep asserting that human beings are special creations. They aren't "just there" in the same way that my
    son's LEGO creations or the photographs on photo.net don't just "come to be." If there is no such thing as cause and
    effect, if quantum entanglement has no other consequences than to befuddle university physics majors, then being-in-itself has no
    meaning other than what we assign to it, and the photographs we critique just are, and they, like so many faceless, nameless human
    beings, are "renewable resources," pretty much interchangeable, even if they feature narcissistic couples or were taken by venal
    photographers.<br><br>

    So we get a statement such as Karim's "For me the image is most important. The subject serves the image." Which is
    not much different from saying "The State deems itself important, and citizens must serve the State, not the other way
    around."<br><br>

    A logical consequence of "merely" being.<br><br>

    :)
     
  58. Victor--

    Gravity and value are very different matters. I don't have much say in the operations of nature. I do have a say in morals and ethics.

    You seem often to start from the ethical conclusions you'd prefer and draw ontological premises from those conclusions.
    It doesn't work that way for me.

    Here's an example from your writing just above:

    ". . . [O]ne consequence of the idea that the value of human life is dependent on human whim — that it is ultimately
    arbitrary — is that if some dictator decides that his people are not particularly valuable, he will not be troubled by
    genocide."

    So, because you don't like the consequences of a certain assertion, the assertion must be false? Value is intrinsic
    because its being extrinsic could lead to abuse? That's not a compelling argument.

    As a matter of fact, dictators DO devalue human life (even some presidents of democracies do that), and they could choose to do that
    whether it were intrinsic value or extrinsic. Intrinsic value could always be ignored. Thus, the notion of sin. I don't believe in God, so I
    don't believe value comes from anywhere but humans. Most humans agree on
    the value of human life. I believe there are exceptions. I believe, as do many others, that there is value to a *quality* of
    human life. That allows me to believe that euthanasia to avoid suffering can be a blessing. No one gets to hand out a rulebook of what's
    valuable -- as a matter of *fact* -- and what's not.

    It is the notion of intrinsic value that allows religious dogma to rule our lives without questioning ethical and moral
    assumptions and I find that world view lacking. I am accountable for my choices and what value I place on things as is
    the dictator as is the president.

    The supposed intrinsic nature of value will not prevent the dictator from performing genocide, accountability will.

    If someone does not place the kind of value on human life that most of us would, it is not for us to tell him/her that
    human life has intrinsic value, it is for us either to convince him that what he is doing is unacceptable to most of us or for
    us to forcibly stop him, which is what happens. Whether or not someone's life is intrinsically valuable has never stopped
    a dictator from abusing his subjects. That usually takes force.
     
  59. As for Karim's opinion . . .

    "For me the image is most important. The subject serves the image."

    . . . I have already given my somewhat opposing view on that. Again, nothing about his statement or mine is absolute or
    intrinsic. Regarding photography, it's a matter of perspective and taste. There is an aesthetic perspective from which, at
    times, subject is subservient to result and final image. The light and shadow, the textures, the composition, may just
    override a particular subject in a particular photo, or at least render the subject somewhat secondary. The kind of
    photography I generally do myself and that I find myself often responding to is when the subject is dealt with personally
    and intimately and does, in fact, maintain its own importance and presence.
     
  60. Fred wrote: "I am accountable for my choices and what value I place on things as is the dictator as is the president." And why are you accountable? Because you say so? :)

    You wrote: "Whether or not someone's life is intrinsically valuable has never stopped a dictator from abusing his subjects."

    That's like the old joke that "Conscience never stopped anyone from committing crime, it just prevented them from enjoying it."

    You also wrote: "because you don't like the consequences of a certain assertion, the assertion must be false?"

    It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I like or dislike the consequences of a certain assertion. For those who are empiricists among us, we can inquire of the historical record what consequences flow from a priori assumptions about the value of human life.

    It seems to me a logical contradiction exists between your two statements above. Just because dictators commit genocide does not negate the truth that the value of human life is not arbitrary — our instinctive objection to genocide, in fact, suggests that we intuitively know human life has intrinsic value, quite apart from what the State or particular individuals assign to it. In fact, I have asserted, and continue to assert, that it is precisely because we refuse to accept that the value of human life is not arbitrary, that we declare that "individual human beings are renewable resources" — and the logical consequences of holding THAT idea are clear in the record of human history.

    Truth is like gravity — you can pretend it doesn't exist, but you can't ultimately escape its effects.

    :)
     
  61. jtk

    jtk

    "I recall that risk is always calculated based on relevant parameters." Victor P.

    That's a fundamental error.

    Risk can be estimated, but never "calculated"...and "relevant parameters" are as often assumed or guessed as "known."

    Beliefs begin as mere conveniences, often inconsequential. But to defend them virtually always requires the threat of authority or increasingly long paragraphs and references to obscure authorities in order to create intellectual anaesthesia.

    Myriad "priests," cult leaders, and others of that ilk write huge tomes in order to nourish and adjust 3:00AM fears with prolix nonsense.

    I like what I've heard of Confuscianism and the Talmud...they may hinder human "advancement", but they represent accumulated practical wisdom more than they try to hide truth. I also like the Gospels, which seem to me to have little to do with religion.

    Martin Buber, Paul Tillich and the like seem best when they discuss how we might conduct our humanity (as the Gospels do). Of necessity, because of their jobs, they also addressed belief, rather than contenting themselves with their more honest concepts, such as kindness.

    How does all this relate to photography? Photography provides current and perhaps future evidence about how we've existed and invested energies in past moments.
     
  62. John Kelly wrote: "I like what I've heard of Confuscianism and the Talmud"

    Two uses of "I" in the same sentence.

    :)
     
  63. John also wrote: "increasingly long paragraphs and references to obscure authorities in order to create intellectual
    anaesthesia."

    Sorry, it is not my problem if you are not a mathematician, or if the authorities cited are not familiar to you.
     
  64. "Truth is like gravity — you can pretend it doesn't exist, but you can't ultimately escape its effects."
    If you want to assume that your opinion is truth, I can't and won't stop you.
    "And why are you accountable? Because you say so?"
    Uhhh, yes, partially so. And partially because others in my community will hold me accountable. My morals and ethics don't happen in a vacuum and weren't handed down on tablets from a mount. I am willing to take responsibility for my beliefs and my actions. You? Where's the responsibility for these so-called a priori assumptions and these supposed intrinsic qualities?
    "That's like the old joke that 'Conscience never stopped anyone from committing crime, it just prevented them from enjoying it.' "
    Conscience is a different matter from belief in intrinsic value. And I'm not saying that our beliefs don't guide our actions. A belief in the intrinsic value of life may, in fact, moderate behavior for the better. Belief in God moderates behavior. Belief in ghosts and unicorns may moderate behavior. A belief in the tooth fairy, for children, often enables them to get a comfortable sleep on the night they are to lose a tooth. That belief has positive effects. It doesn't make the belief true! The positive effects of a belief in intrinsic value doesn't make that belief true either.
    "we can inquire of the historical record what consequences flow from a priori assumptions about the value of human life."
    Yes, and just look at where those a priori assumptions have gotten us. Religion makes a fair amount of a priori assumptions and it is in the name of religion that many human and civil rights are violated, many wars begun, and much killing and terror perpetrated. That's because a priori assumptions, like your statement about truth, go unquestioned and don't allow for alternative perspectives to even enter into the discussion. No discussion usually means war or, at the least, persecution. Religion, after all, and those wonderful a prior assumptions you talk of told us that slavery was OK, that women's subservience was natural, that gays are an abomination. A priori assumptions mean no justification is needed, just blind adherence to supposedly immutable dictums. A priori assumptions are only valid until they are changed? That's not terribly a priori, now is it?
     
  65. jtk

    jtk

    OK. Confuscianism and the Talmud may hinder human "advancement," but they represent accumulated practical wisdom more than they try to hide the truth." :)
     
  66. Hmm, on further reflection, my observation tends to contradict your assertion that "individual human beings are renewable
    resources" and that they are pretty much interchangeable. If they were, you and I would have the mathematical insight of,
    say, Kurt Godel.

    :-D
     
  67. Fred Goldsmith wrote: "That's because a priori assumptions, like your statement about truth, go unquestioned and don't
    allow for alternative perspectives to even enter into the discussion."

    If you're intellectually curious, you might inquire as to the origins of the university system. The answer may surprise you.

    :)
     
  68. You needn't be condescending to prove yourself right. Please don't assume what will or will not surprise me. Just argue
    your points and don't keep sending us on research assignments.
     
  69. Fred wrote: "Just argue your points and don't keep sending us on research assignments."

    Fair enough. The university system was created by the Catholic Church. Go look it up if you dare.

    :)
     
  70. Re: the university system

    http://chesterton.org/gkc/theologian/whycatholic.htm

    "We must have something that will hold the four corners of the world still, while we make our social experiments or build
    our Utopias. For instance, we must have a final agreement, if only on the truism of human brotherhood, that will resist
    some reaction of human brutality. Nothing is more likely just now than that the corruption of representative government
    will lead to the rich breaking loose altogether, and trampling on all the traditions of equality with mere pagan pride. We
    must have the truisms everywhere recognized as true. We must prevent mere reaction and the dreary repetition of the
    old mistakes. We must make the intellectual world safe for democracy. But in the conditions of modern mental anarchy,
    neither that nor any other ideal is safe. Just as Protestants appealed from priests to the Bible, and did not realize that the
    Bible also could be questioned, so republicans appealed from kings to the people, and did not realize that the people
    also could be defied. There is no end to the dissolution of ideas, the destruction of all tests of truth, that has become
    possible since men abandoned the attempt to keep a central and civilized Truth, to contain all truths and trace out and
    refute all errors. Since then, each group has taken one truth at a time and spent the time in turning it into a falsehood.
    We have had nothing but movements; or in other words, monomanias. But the Church is not a movement but a meeting-
    place; the trysting-place of all the truths in the world." — G. K. Chesterton

    And that is why Georges Lemaitre, who is a Catholic priest, was capable of mathematically formulating the theory of the
    primeval atom, also known as the Big Bang, a testable hypothesis later supported by empirical observations.
     
  71. To Fred, John, et al: f I have come across as condescending, I apologise. Please forgive me.
     
  72. I'm not one who thinks that everything about religion is bad. Religious dogma, in my opinion, is wrongheaded. Much that is
    great and humanitarian has been done by religions and religious people. Also much evil. Mostly, it is the willingness of
    people to supplant reason with faith that irks me. Unquestioned adherence to beliefs or moral codes just strikes me the
    wrong way.
     
  73. Let me try to bring this discussion back to photography. Photography makes the invisible, visible. This, of course,
    depends on the observational and technical skill of the photographer, the nature of the subject, and the perceptual
    sensibilities of the observer. For example, a fashionista might recognise the bridal gown to be a Balenciaga original, and
    a pixel-peeper might discern from the EXIF data that the image was recorded at ISO6400 using a D3, which could
    mean the wedding photographer has a Nikon fetish (kidding!).

    It doesn't change the fact that "ordinary" human life is important enough to document. If it wasn't, we wouldn't have the exhibit of family
    photos at the Holocaust Memorial Museum to remind us of why human life is uniquely precious.

    :)
     
  74. " 'ordinary' human life is important enough to document."

    On that, we profoundly agree :)
     
  75. You know, I feel like I should respond because here is actually one of the reasons that I started posting on this
    site, about last week.


    I've been a member of deviantArt for a few years now and decided that I needed to look somewhere else to find a
    more dense concentration of significant photographers making significant photos. The problem with deviantArt is
    not the large amount of weddingphotographers. To be fairly honest, I think the statement of 'Your wedding is not
    important so quit taking pictures already' is rather harsh. It's an important moment in someone's life and
    something they wish to be able to enjoy forever.


    So anyway. I do agree with you that these days, these digital phonecamera snapshot days, there are more
    photographs made in a day then were made in a year about 50 years ago. Maybe not so extreme but it might come
    close. I think the kind of occasions and emotions that come with making a photo haven't changed that much. Back
    then, people made photos to document themselves and their families and the happiness or misery of their daily
    life very much like people do now. Only now, they do it a lot more often. It also takes a lot less effort.
    There's the kicker, because if it takes less effort and comes in greater quantities, it will become a lot less
    valuable. A digital photo posted on the internet can be downloaded by millions, making millions of copies in a
    matter of an instant.


    Think about what Andy Warhol did when he made prints of Marilyn Monroe, the more the better. One of the things he
    said about this was that he was fascinated by the way beauty reacts to multiplication. Something can become ugly
    and boring because it is so common, because there is so many of it. This is one of the reasons that I have such a
    horrible and unbearable dislike of sunset photos. A sunset is beautiful when you see one. If I could, I would go
    out and watch the sunset every evening and never get bored of going to the same spot and seeing the sky change
    colours. A photograph of a sunset, however, does not inspire such awe in me. Why not? Perhaps because it's not as
    unique as the experience of a singular sunset on a certain evening of a certain day.


    So that's how I feel about photography: it must make the viewer part of something. This can be a sunset. Or a
    simple photo of a simple life. But I also think that a photographer, especially in documenting his own life, can
    put down his camera, some times. And live. Otherwise he might end up as Krapp in that Samual Beckett play: living
    a life of documented past and no real present.
     
  76. I still have fond recollections of working for my uncle in the scrap metal business when I was in my teens. My most vivid memories of that set of experiences are of the other guys on the crew. I think I learned my love for driving from one of them - Maurice Cotton, who could jockey a truck like no one I've ever seen. Another, Herbert Grant, helped me to understand some of the physics of lifting heavy objects. But, the best memory I have is of sitting on Johnny Carter's front steps, listening to him play blues riffs on a harmonica. If I had a camera in my hands at the time, I ceratinly would have photographed him. The photographs probably would have been terrible, because of unsteady hands (too much beer).

    Thanks, Sander, for reminding me of one of the most important reasons I do photography - to connect with my world.
     
  77. Sander, you make a good point that if something becomes commonplace, then it risks being perceived as trite or
    cliched. It may certainly be the case that wedding photos or photos of everyday life seem devalued by having them
    taken so often in the same predictable ways and with such mediocre technical or visual quality that we have to protest
    "Enough!" or, say of lives documented with such careless abandon, that "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and
    fury, signifying nothing." (Macbeth)

    But... it is not so much that the images themselves may be of value (or not, depending on the circumstance), it is the
    fact that the images are of people who lived, loved, laughed, wept, wondered — whether we know them or not. This is
    precisely why collections like those at the Holocaust Museum have the power to move us. Will this still be true when the
    web is completely overwhelmed with the firehose of images pouring out of cameraphones? I don't really know. Google
    chairman Eric Schmidt predicted in an interview last year that by 2012, we will be able to carry in our pockets enough
    storage to record 24/7 high-definition video of an average human lifespan, at which point finding a particular frame is
    going to be a massive search problem (in practical terms, if a particular image can't be found in a reasonable amount of
    time, it may as well not exist).

    I photograph people as part of my work, not just as a pastime, and each and every person who goes before my camera I
    regard as unique and special. The day I no longer feel this way about my subjects is the day I will stop photographing.
     
  78. As a wedding photographer, I do believe it is an important thing to photograph. Photography chronicles life as we see it. It is an important part of how the future will look at our civilization and evaluate the "look" of our culture.
    If you make the statement that 50% of all weddings end in divorce then what about just photographing the bride and groom seperately - to get some nice pictures - just in case. That will save anyone from having to tear them in half later. :) Just a thought. Saves paper.
     
  79. " what about just photographing the bride and groom seperately - to get some nice
    pictures - just in case. "

    Wait a minute, wait a minute: STOP THE PRESSES!!

    If the prenup is considered part of the deal as it so often is, how far away are we from separate bride and groom
    photos, perhaps with each side of the friends posse? Lou: you're sitting on a goldmine.
     
  80. Even thought it was kind of a joke Jeff, you may be right! Even weddings can be a bit self-centered. But I try as hard as I can in the current social climate to not be cynical about weddings. I cry at them sometimes too! (don't tell anyone).


    Lou
     
  81. jtk

    jtk

    I think Michael L's reference to Beckett has more weight than other references because Beckett was, not an academic, philosophic, or religious parasite: he was truth's lodestar.

    "... a photographer, especially in documenting his own life, can put down his camera, some times. And live. Otherwise he might end up as Krapp in that Samual Beckett play: living a life of documented past and no real present"
     
  82. John:

    Thanks for giving me credit for the Beckett reference. However, the reference was Sander's.
     
  83. jtk

    jtk

    ...and as to "firehose of information": a week ago, exiting a Forest Service outhouse, I was nearly run over by a bicyclist in crash suit...his helmet held a digital videocamera that ran continuously as he humped uphill and hurtled downhill, terrorizing hikers and wildlife, launching off boulders ... hopefully to suffer a crash for his later enjoyment from a full body cast .
     
  84. jtk

    jtk

    Michael, thanks for the Beckett correction.

    You have, however, contributed importantly by demonstrating that the cosmos prefers beer and harmonicas to photography, a truth Beckett allowed poor Mr. Krapp to miss.
     
  85. "... hopefully to suffer a crash for his later enjoyment from a full body cast ."

    That's the sort of opprobrium I feel toward profligate cellphone users. Sitting on my city front porch with my beer in hand I fantasize about buying a cellphone jammer, sitting back, and having a good laugh.
     
  86. "... hopefully to suffer a crash for his later enjoyment from a full body cast ."

    That's the sort of opprobrium I feel toward profligate cellphone users. Sitting on my city front porch with my
    beer in hand I fantasize about buying a cellphone jammer, sitting back, and having a good chuckle. Maybe it's a
    similar kind of 'ism' on my part that falls close by the originating sentiment of this thread.
     
  87. "Is it not time for my pain killer?"

    "Where is my pain killer?"

    Is it not yet time for my pain killer?"

    Oops, wrong Beckett play. I'm such a Hamm!
     
  88. Victor, I like your thoughts about: "individual human beings are renewable resources" - I agree on this one, but not on the one about being interchangeable. What did you mean, anyway, by being interchangeable?

    I just feel need to document my life from time to time. It's often emotionally turbulent and active. Sometimes I feel like a bunch of chemicals, and in other times I feel totally as a dispersed ghost who floats above the ground. Sometimes emotions overwhelms me so much that I start to cry from the bottom of my belly. Once I observed myself feeling sensations that starts usually in my belly with rising temperatures, I get a kind of spasm until it gets to my face and eyes. What a complex emotional process! It takes so much for a tear to come - rising temperature in the belly, spasm, thoughts about someone and tears in the end. I feel relief afterward. For me it is my catharsis. After I feel more balanced and able to continue with my daily work.
     
  89. jtk

    jtk

    Jeff, a neighbor lady keeps three ratty little doggies. When I walk by her gate to collect my mail they always start yapping (8' adobe walls and gates hide our yards, nobody sees anybody) . Then the lady shrieks. I suspect the dogs aren't concerned about me, they're yapping because they hate it that the lady's about to start shrieking. I may get one of those silent dog whistles to test that hypothesis. If she starts shrieking before the dogs start yapping I'll revisit my theory.
     
  90. Kristina had written: "Victor, I like your thoughts about: "individual human beings are renewable resources" - I agree on this
    one, but not on the one about being interchangeable. What did you mean, anyway, by being interchangeable?"

    Kristina — I did not originate "individual human beings are renewable resources" — that was John Kelly's statement. If he
    really believed it, I suspect he would not have been particularly concerned with being almost run over by a mountain biker,
    since he (John) and the mountain biker are pretty much both "renewable resources," — and hence also interchangeable.

    :-D
     
  91. Victor-

    One can have two outlooks, both from an individual micro perspective and from a more global macro perspective. A
    human, from a scientific perspective, is a batch of molecules and reducible physical systems. That same human, from a
    more humanistic perspective, is a very different matter.

    I don't know what John's answer would be to your challenge, but I have no problem understanding how he holds the
    beliefs he does and why he simultaneously feels and reacts the way he does.

    Remember, people who believe in an all-merciful and all-knowing God still get angry at God. We humans are complex
    beings and don't always act and react based strictly on what we think.

    --Fred
     
  92. Fred had written: "A human, from a scientific perspective, is a batch of molecules and reducible physical systems. That
    same human, from a more humanistic perspective, is a very different matter."

    How is a "scientific" perspective different from a "humanistic" perspective? It seems to me that both "perspectives" are
    originated by humans, even if we like to give them different labels.

    Fred also wrote: "We humans are complex beings and don't always act and react based strictly on what we think."

    That would be known as an understatement. :)

    We think we think... or do we (think)? If we really do think, how is it that we — a "batch of molecules and reducible
    physical systems" are able to do so at all, when clearly this activity we like to call "thinking" — does not appear to be
    ubiquitous?

    If it were, then everyone with a camera would be able to produce works of visual genius — even the mountain biker
    careening down the hillside and nearly running over another one of the "renewable resources" that dot the landscape
    before spending quality time in traction.

    :-D
     
  93. "everyone with a camera would be able to produce works of visual genius — even the mountain biker careening down the hillside and nearly running over another one of the "renewable resources" that dot the landscape"

    This sort of dystopia was hinted at in Peter Kremer's Listening to Prozac in the '80s.'What,' he asks, 'are the ramifications of a drug that makes some people better than well?' One such result is mandatory worship at the temple of Neuro-Moleculus. He is but one of many new dieties spawned in the wake of post-modernism/ post-colonialism.

    But seriously, if the past, as characterized by Stephen Stills is just a 'good-bye,' how are we going to be able to recognize this new and exalted geniusocracy?
     
  94. Karim
    I haven't read all the comments above but I will try responding to your question. What it counts in this crazy and miserable western and so-called-civilized-and-advanced society is appearance, status, what others think of you. If you make 35000 G per year you are a looser, if you make over 80000 you are on the right track to be considered like somebody. If your friend just got married and had the most expensive wedding photographer, you have to match that or you'll be a looser. If the hip car is the BMW 335 with the dual exhaust, you gotta get one of those even if you have to ask for a loan. And what about a house? If you don't have a house with a nice yard and a two-cars garage before you are 35, you will be a failure for the system. The American Dream, baby, the American Dream! Now, with this huge financial crisis going on, we will see how many people will pay 15000 G for a wedding photographer...
    I have seen so many "top notch" wedding photographs that are staged, fake and do not represent the real character of the couple... It's the trend that counts, it's what sells that is important. Of course I am being sarcastic, you are completely right when you say It isn't that photographs are taken at weddings that's at issue. It's how and why they're [...] a good photo is better than a crap one [...] some people see it as social status (read vanity) to have an expensive photographer [...] Perhaps our desire to be immortal is responsible for our outlandish spending habits We think we are immortal and better than anybody else, I mean not we, stupid people think that and most people today are stupid because in order to fit in our society you have to be. The most intelligent and self-thinking people I know are considered socially outcast and crazy.
     
  95. jtk

    jtk

    "...most people today are stupid because in order to fit in our society you have to be. The most intelligent and self-thinking people I know are considered socially outcast and crazy."

    Weird: That's a ripoff of Alan Ginsberg's "Howl" combined with an admission that one is so narcissistic and isolated that one doesn't know anybody who's sane, intelligent, and beloved. What terrible neighborhood is this?
     
  96. Antonio Bassi had written: "most people today are stupid because in order to fit in our society you have to be."

    John Taylor Gatto (a former New York State Teacher of the Year) wrote in Against School

    "I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it.
    ...
    We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of "success" as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, "schooling," but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons. Why, then, do Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?
    ...
    We don't need Karl Marx's conception of a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don't conform. Class may frame the proposition, as when Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about these ends need not be class- based at all. They can stem purely from fear, or from the by now familiar belief that "efficiency" is the paramount virtue, rather than love, liberty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can stem from simple greed."

    To glimpse the "terrible neighborhood" John (Kelly) refers to, look no further than the nearest public school.
     
  97. Antonio Bassi had written: "If the hip car is the BMW 335 with the dual exhaust, you gotta get one of those even if you have to ask for a loan."

    You do? Very few cars are investment-grade. Most depreciate rapidly, even a 335xi. However, if the driver's intention is to attract more sexual partners, then a convertible telegraphs "fun-loving and carefree" better. You get more bang for your buck, so to speak. ;-D

    That said, photographing young newlyweds in their restored MG is quite different from pandering to Old Money tooling around in a Bentley GTC.

    "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it."

    :)
     
  98. John, I'm very flattered somebody like Ginsberg said that already, at leas I won't be attacked and depict like an idiot like usual by thinking that. Victor, I know it's a job and people must earn their living but the point of the thread is different...
     
  99. Antonio — I suspect Karim's original "rant," if that's what it was (i.e. a rant), may have been occasioned in part by "Ten most overpaid jobs in the U.S." and similar stories that can be brought up by Googling "most overpaid jobs"

    From the cited article:

    Photographers earn a national average of $1,900 for a wedding, though many charge $2,500 to $5,000 for a one-day shoot, client meeting and processing time that runs up to 20 hours or more, and the cost of materials. The overpaid ones are the many who admit they only do weddings for the income, while quietly complaining about the hassle of dealing with hysterical brides and drunken reception guests. They mope through the job with the attitude: "I'm just doing this for the money until Time or National Geographic calls."
     
  100. jtk

    jtk

    I know a lot of public school kids. Most are doing well. The Navajo kid I've mentored for over 5 years just graduated from high school...ten kids, no running water, no telephone, no family car, illiterate parents who are never at home, great public school despite being in one of the worst school systems in the nation (AZ).

    America's public schools are it's greatest asset, along with New York Times and World Series baseball.
     
  101. Victor, thanks for the link. I don't think it's a matter of pay, as long as the quality is good. The problem is that the quality those photographers that charge that much provide is very standard and nothing special. Most of them are good pros but they do not deliver a good product because they only follow the "academic" rules established by somebody that sells a lot. So, I really think quality calls for big money but people that hire photographers for their wedding very often don't care and don't really know what quality photography is, they just look at the portfolio of the guy and see a lot of twisted kiss pictures, brides getting their stockings on in a cool semi-darkness, the tear coming down etc. and they like that and that's what they get. I have a friend who is in my opinion a very good wedding photographer and he shows to his clients the traditional work and the way he likes to work: 90% of the clients choose his way of working because they acknowledge the quality and personality of it.
    Another problem is that very often people think they are good enough to do a job like that, just because they learned how to work a camera and by copycatting somebody else's work. I tried weddings a few times and realized I am not fit for this kind of photography. I don't enjoy doing it, I find it very hard to establish a connection with the newlyweds whom I don't care about, I am not able to get good photography out of my camera period but that doesn't mean that I am going to do it anyway just for the money (although I was very tempted...).
    As far as the nice cars with dual exhaust... I know in the US cars are much more affordable than in Europe because the stipends are much higher than here. The average stipend in Italy is ridiculous compared to the US one, so for us buying a 335 is like spending more than one year savings. On top of that, Italians like the American way of feeling rich without being rich and they put themselves in debt for anything, even vacations. Why should I feel worried for my Country in this times of uncertainty and financial crisis? They are a bunch of idiots and deserve what they get. The same with people that pay 5 G for a wedding album.
     
  102. John, well said about the public schools. I didn't get the part combined with an admission that one is so narcissistic and isolated that one doesn't know anybody who's sane, intelligent, and beloved. What terrible neighborhood is this?... I just said that I know a few people that match those criteria, they are just very few and are usually isolated by others. On the contrary, I know many people that are intelligent but they are also very smart, opportunist, phony and would screw you over anytime if they had to. In our society, those people are usually seen like very cool examples to follow, so what kind of neighborhood is this? I choose and strictly select the people around me, is that a bad and selfish thing to do?
     
  103. I thought the greatest U.S. assets were on Wall Street? Oh well.

    From The Story of Stuff and The Pickens Plan, we hear that today the U.S., with b> of the world's population, consumes >25% of world oil output — and it has to import 70% of its oil requirements. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit grows with each passing year.

    It seems few in the U.S. listened in the 1970's when Amory Lovins (a MacArthur Fellow) advocated energy conservation, energy efficiency, and increased development of renewable energy sources. Why didn't they listen? Here's one possible explanation.

    From School As a Place of Bewilderment and Boredom:

    "... the new purpose of schooling—to serve business and government—could only be achieved efficiently by isolating children from the real world, with adults who themselves were isolated from the real world, and everyone in the confinement isolated from one another. Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor."

    Or the Department of Homeland Security.

    Regardless, since human beings are "renewable resources," they'll perhaps someday become the energy sources depicted in The Matrix, or the nutrient rations in Soylent Green.

    So we'd better photograph people — including narcissistic wedding couples — before they're no longer recognizable. :)
     
  104. Antonio wrote: "I know in the US cars are much more affordable than in Europe"

    That's a big reason why the U.S., with <5% of the world's population, consumes >25% of world daily oil output.
     
  105. Antonio also wrote: "I tried weddings a few times and realized I am not fit for this kind of photography"

    At least you're honest with yourself. I don't charge anywhere near as much as professional wedding photographers do, and I
    only photograph weddings for friends or friends of friends, at their request. I only shoot two or three weddings each year. I
    usually first tell them to go find someone else, but they end up asking me because (a) I don't charge as much and (b)
    they're content with my simple (and unimaginative) documentary approach. That said, I try to produce images that will help
    the couple treasure the memories of their wedding day, so capturing spontaneous facial expressions of the couple and their family and
    friends is important.
     
  106. Victor, that's what that kind of p. is about, I also did a wedding for a good friend and that was the best of my small experience, because I knew the couple very well. Then tried other weddings, even under the supervision of a pro... nope! My work was very poor, not for me, I just could not see it happening. Thanks for the great links, I will check them out (tomorrow, it's late here...).
    It's so ridiculous seeing those small old ladies driving into the grocery store's parking lot with a 6.0 liters Mercedes or a huge Excursion, I feel sorry for them. It's like a drug, the need for status and power I mean, and people get addicted to it, to the point that they loose touch with themselves and the real world. The problem is that the US economy is based on consuming in order to make the money go around and if they start saving that could be the end of it. That's what they say, although it's a theory that doesn't fully convince me...
     
  107. Victor, those are very good links, I signed up for The Pickens Plan, thanks.
     
  108. Antonio had written: "those are very good links"

    Here's an even better one that shows why weddings are worth documenting. Enjoy. :)

    Wedding Photos We'll All Remember
     
  109. jtk

    jtk

    Antonio: "I know many people that are intelligent but they are also very smart, opportunist, phony and would screw you over anytime if they had to."

    I don't. Where the hell do you live?

    " In our society, those people are usually seen like very cool examples to follow.."

    Again, what society is that? Move to a better society. Seems logical.

    " I choose and strictly select the people around me..."

    Wait a minute Antonio, I'm confused... I thought you said "The most intelligent and self-thinking people I know are considered socially outcast and crazy." Doesn't this say you get some kind of weird thrill, living in a society you actually despise? Move, for goodness sake.
     
  110. jtk

    jtk

    btw, I'm Pickens Army too. As I understand it "we" are laying low, mostly getting educated and making
    connections...until somebody's president for 100 days, when we lean hard on him.

    Heard Boone Pickens in person in September. I'm sold. But his online "community" needs design/functional
    reengineering. www.pickensplan.com

    His huge wind farm venture is already a huge opportunity for photojournalists (photograph and interview the
    rednecks, loving the income from their wind generators)...but I've not seen anything really good yet. His
    National Energy Pipeline idea (like Eisenhower's US Highway System) is crucial, but maybe better visualized and
    sold with animation... wind farms are beautiful, but natural gas pipelines are just plumbing.
     
  111. John, you are right, I should move and that's what I'm trying to do. I have been taking auditions around and some of them are going well, hopefully I'll really be able to move soon. I must ask you where do you live, though, I don't believe you don't know opportunist people, you sound a bit naive here... I am a very realistic person and cannot pretend things were different than they are. Read a history book, start from the beginning and tell me when the human beings have been nice and caring to one another.
     
  112. jtk

    jtk

    Antonio, It sounds like you're looking for the weaknesses in others in order to invent an identity for yourself....like a prince in some Russian novel.

    fyi I was a studio-oriented graphic producer/designer/photographer in San Francisco for around 20 years, pulled the plug to live in New Mexico. I can't recall ever being a victim of anybody's "opportunism," though I have been righteously out-competed a few times. Do you fear competition?
     
  113. jtk

    jtk

    ...incidentally, I read a lot of history.

    You asked when people "have been caring to one another." Here's a great example...it describes how much many Americans cared seriously, therefore beyond "nice," about humanity: "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/books/review/06mcpherson.html
     
  114. John, I do not fear competition but I hate it because I believe it is the death of the artistic expression. Being a professional musician and having to be expressive weather I want it or not made me realize that whenever the human ambition and desire to be "better" than the adversary comes into play that's the end of it all. I think the fact that you have been out-competed tells a lot about you, I think you needed something more than just competition.
    New Mexico is an incredibly beautiful state. I don't know it but I drove through it a few times on my way to Indianapolis from LA, I think it was the I70...? It's funny that, among so much history, you mentioned a time of US history. The colonization of the US represents the need of people to run away from something, like the British Monarchy then and the Nazism or the Fascism later. People really believed that they would have found the land of the free and started a new life and so it was for a long time but look at what American competition has come to... I wish I could go on in this interesting conversation but I really got to go right now, I'll pick it up later.
     
  115. jtk

    jtk

    "The colonization of the US represents the need of people to run away from something..."

    That seems an ultra-lite, second-hand belief.

    Symbols "represent," reality, whatever it is, doesn't.

    The US "represents" nothing today, and never did, except to armchair types who can't experience directly... such as historians. "Representation" is by definition not direct perception...( "representative painters" probably aren't your favorites).

    The US is almost entirely the experiences of newcomers ( includes most Native Americans), who differed wildly from each other according to their money, religion, clan, status, race, sanity, acquired wounds, fears and aspirations. There are as many newcomers today as there ever have been, and they include kids from families who arrived here on the Mayflower many generations ago.

    To assert that one is "creative" while others are not (the "competitive" ones), is itself competitive.

    The fact that I've been "out-competed" means that I've learned, or that I didn't try hard enough, or that I wasn't good enough. If one has not been "out-competed" it means one has not even tried to be oneself. Nobody exists without competing.
     
  116. "All that money and effort for what? "

    In a traditional (not necessarily "formal") weddings (at least in the USA) the bride's parents pay for the
    photography -- not a strict rule; it is negotiable.

    So, the money and effort is for the bride and her parents, mostly, in traditional weddings.

    "Is your life that important that it needs that level of care in documenting it - or in documenting it at all?"

    You betcha.

    "But surely we don't need to spend thousands to do this?"

    I'm sure many a father of the bride would agree.

    Weddings are social and family events. The bride and groom are necessary, but not the point or reason. Your
    perspective, however negative, is rather charming and romantic, I think. Try for a larger perspective.
     
  117. Karim, you started a great thread.
    Good to end the weekend with on a rainy sunday evening in The Netherlands..
    Thanks.
     
  118. Proof positive that people will go to outlandish extremes to preserve their ill conceived ideas about the importance of themselves ..... look
    at the tux that guy's wearing!!!!!!
    Please, please, please no more photographs of that tux!!!!!
     

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