The common and the different

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. We all live in our little spheres of interest and experience. We are comfortable with known places, known cultural identities, familiar names of heros, and so on. Photographing what is common to us is great, but also constraining. It can result in clichés or the offen seen image. How many photographers really work "out of the box" of familiarity and experience. While I am very comfortable and satisfied with my own mixed cultural identity (advantage of both French and English-speaking influences) and environment, I think that I have a good appetite for the different. This has led me to photograph the US deep south (very different cultural and physical milieu), small Portugese and French villages and their inhabitants, and other places different from my own. Of course, difference does not refer only to places and cultures but also photographic themes and subjects. In those areas, I try to avoid what is too common or too well-travelled and attempt to seek out new visions and images. Are you happier photographing what is common and familiar to you, or are you more intrigued by the different? Do you believe that to succeed artistically you need to embrace the unknown rather than (or at least in addition to) the commonplace, in order to incite your best response?
     
  2. I've enjoyed photographing things that are familiar to me (my bird-dog related stuff, for example), but have been trying to think about how to shoot it with an audience that's not familiar with it in mind. If, as I'm considering or composing a shot, I have a little voice in the back of my head saying, "What would someone who's never seen this subject before make of this shot? What would someone who's seen a thousand similar images make of it?" ... well, that tends to go give me pause, and make me rethink what I'm about to do.

    So, as much as I also like the unfamiliar, I think I may be able (some day) to exhibit more mastery in showing the familiar in unfamiliar ways... or to an unfamiliar audience.
     
  3. A windmill shot shown in Texas isn't as appreciated as much as a shot of polar bear from Alaska. We all react to a new sensation with more interest. When you walk past polar bears everyday in Alaska then the windmill in Texas looks impressive. Part of Photography for me is to try to recognize the mundane and make it more interesting in my hometown. Like taking a new view of a parking arrow that I pass everyday at work. Sometimes it works other times I delete and try again. I don't consider myself a better photographer for this viewpoint just a different photographer (just like everyone else! LOL)
    00QkVO-69459584.jpg
     
  4. All my photography is of the familiar-to-me. Whether it is the walk to the barber shop or the bank, the houses and yards in my neighborhood, it is all the commonplace-to-me. But it likely isn't for others. I am not sure what is meant by "succeed artistically". I don't see why it would matter if my photos were shot in my neighborhood or in Bangkok -- unless I was marketing my work, then maybe there's a bigger market for Bangkok photos than for ones of my neighborhood.
     
  5. I may be wrong ... but most photographers shoot (in pleasure) what is unique/different. Even in common settings, the "something" that catches your attention enough to aim & shoot ... is a uniqueness that you perceive. I never, for example, take photos of my furniture, my back yard, etc... unless something arrises to strike a chord in me, like the unique way the light hits my furniture, or a unique bird arriving in my yard. I think most people begin to take for granted that which is really common to them ... until something drags their attention back. Isn't that why we travel? If common was so interesting to us, we'd always take pictures inside our own houses and yards. The one exception ... is a passion. I could see taking pictures of the same person many times, but it still would entail seeing a different expression, pose, or event. When passion (uniqueness) fades ... we move on. It is possible to regain, but not easy.
     
  6. While recognizing that even the quite familiar has its still yet to discover aspects, I was interested to know if the unfamiliar (little known places, peoples, differing popular cultures, subject matter, etc.) holds interest for photographers, and has the ability to motivate them. The philosophy of discovering something wholly different, and interpreting it (in our case through images), is somewhat like discovering a new philosophy, or an unknown writer, and distilling and absorbing and using that, within the context of our own values and perceptions.
     
  7. I like to shoot a lot of common as well as some different. What is common today will be gone someday and then it is fun to look back at the photos. This is one I did of our town, things change slowly over time, but in 20 years I am sure this view will look very different. http://gigapan.org/viewGigapan.php?id=1234
     
  8. "The philosophy of discovering something wholly different, and interpreting it..." I'd question the value of an interpretation based on short aquaintance and without background knowledge and experience, although one might end up with some nice photos. It took me three years to begin to see the high desert in the US Southwest with a lot of reading and study of the flora, fauna, geology, geography, and history as well, and I had to live there for some years in order to get anywhere for photography besides the scenic viewpoints or trailheads. Whether or not a photographer takes better photos because of immersive experience with a place, I couldn't say. If some "different" place catches my eye, I'm likely to spend a lot of time there, and in some cases move there because I want to become familiar with it. I want it to become commonplace.
     
  9. "What is common today will be gone someday and then it is fun to look back at the photos." It is also not commonplace to all viewers, many of whom live in places exotic by our standards, but commonplace to them. They may find our hometowns equally exotic. There's an historical or documentary value to be considered, too. My viewers haven't been born yet.
     
  10. jtk

    jtk

    The hope in the unfamiliar is that it leads to the edge of failure, where growth happens. If we're not occasionally failing we're not courting growth. John Updike, one of the finest novelists in English, intentionally confined his novels to a bland suburbia to let his writing and characters develop without the artificial aid of places and people that were, on the surface, more interesting . Somewhere Gertrude Stein, poet and foil to Ernest Hemingway in Paris, said something (while she lived in Oakland, California) about poetry finding truth in sidewalk cracks (but she said it poetically :)
     
  11. jtk

    jtk

    Matt, For a couple of days I once bow-hunted with beagles in frozen February hillbilly Ohio. Tracking squirrels the dogs would dive into impassible thorn thickets, suddenly to emerge wild-eyed, spraying us with blood from their own torn ears and tails. You surely must have done photographically great things with dogs like that...but isn't their singing and hunting lust where the real action is? :)
     
  12. You know it, John. It's terribly difficult to really capture that sort of an experience with still images, and it's such a joy to watch the dogs work, you almost hate to raise the camera to your eye, lest you diminish the experience. But that sort of drama - which can be unfolding in the thickets right there on the edge of suburbia - is a good example of some visual treasures that are hiding in nearby, familiar ("common") territory. The narrative is where the gold is, and that's the photographic challenge, for me. Bow hunting for squirrels? Yes! Talk about a level playing field!
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    Cute little bunnies, not squirrels (different ears). Wooden bows, wooden arrows, blunts. 30+ guys, 6 beagles ...same size group, same outcome as the founding event 60 years earlier: 4 rabbits. I missed a few times, made do with pork ribs. It was the deceptively-named "60th Annual Great Ohio Rabbit Hunt" (59 years passed before the second)..A traditional archery group, we met and squabbled online, made peace and flew there from places like Arizona, New Mexico, Alabammy, Texas, and... Netherlands. Camped. Brrrr. I grabbed every hunter by the collar, dragged him to a simple background for full length (camo, quiver, bow, boots, hat, grizzled mug) Pentax IQzoom portrait. The prints were used as scrap by a multiple-gold-medal children's book illustrator who added several literary rabbits (eg Alice's) to the group panorama he created for us. Some of those beagles wouldn't hunt at all. They were banished, reduced to disobedient, noisy pets.
     
  14. jtk

    jtk

    Everybody's tired of Arthur Plumpton's Youtube links by now, but here's something he offered over on Casual Conversations: www.tagtele.com/videos/voir/22815 :) Absolutely astounding photography and presentation, waaay beyond any projection or video I've ever seen. OT for explanation. http://www.photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00Qk3B Make sure you've got the sound turned on. Runs for about 10 minutes. Rewarding.
     
  15. Thanks for passing on the video excerpts, but you've got me confused with some other youtuber, I rarely go to it. Robert's production is a good example of trodding a unique (different) photographic path. Those interested in different cinematography, should try to access his full length movies on DVD like "Possible Worlds" of "La face cachée de la lune" ("The dark side of the moon", not sure it is translated).
     
  16. I'd agree that we need the unfamiliar and strange ... but it can be found anywhere, even on our own bodies, as much as at the ends of the earth.
     
  17. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, my youtube allegation was a joke.. you made a similar joke on casual-conversations...this is a terrible medium for humor, right? You've proven that Youtube can be a powerful medium and that stills aren't anywhere nearly as effective, at least in this instance... I doubt anyone can do any big production as powerfully with the best of still cameras as did the individual who shot that Youtube video. It does the job on Youtube. Looping back to your OT: I think anybody with eyes and ears would enjoy your Youtube link.
     
  18. John, I know this thread is off-subject, but thanks for picking that up. I guess I was in one of my solemn moments (my wife says I am great at making jokes, but not so good at perceiving them). The Youtube production is very good (it's received 5 stars from viewers). I guess the difference of impact between still and video is a bit like the difference between theatre and cinema. Theatre cannot do everything that cinema can, but can do some things so well that it is hard to think how they could be bettered. You know, the Québécois culture (primarily French speaking) is such a very small part of the huge North American population (not even 2%), but this isolation has a positive effect in inducing a different approach in many sectors of art and life. Lepage, the Cirque du Soleil and Leonard Cohen are perhaps the more visible artists that express that difference. While excellent, the Youtube video misses some excellent parts of the Lepage presentation, as it is but 10 minutes out of 40. Even if much of the history that serves as theme is no doubt strange to most viewers, the artistic and photographic creation is surprising and in some respects ground-breaking. I really hope they come out with a complete presentation on DVD.
     
  19. jtk

    jtk

    I'm eager for a complete DVD presentation. The Youtube was well shot, for what it is. The Youtube is an attractive lure, a DVD would be a little more. Some important things work brilliantly on video and even, for their purposes, on Youtube. Some important things only work fully in the original. The most astounding movies I've ever seen are virtually never available now in the original formats: "Lawrence of Arabia," and Abel Gance's "Napoleon." ...and neither work well in lesser formats. I've been lucky to see both : Lawrence in 7Omm, Napoleon in 3 synchronized 35mm projectors WITH LIVE ORCHESTRA (in San Francisco Opera House, Carmine Coppola conducting). Lawrence barely works in 35mm, is turned into a mere melodrama on DVD. I dread to see Napoleon on DVD. I may find it to remind myself of the original, or may avoid it to preserve the memory. http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/flikfx/imax.htm (Lawrence) ...met Bobby McFerrin during intermission: http://www.bobbymcferrin.com/dwbh_loader.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napol%C3%A9on_(movie) (Napoleon)
     
  20. I really really really wish there were a video forum on photo.net
     
  21. Hey, and why not, Don and John? Video IS a form of photography. Thanks for the links, John (My memory of the history of Lawrence is thin, but I recommend a book I am just getting into and in which his, or England's, politics were a factor: Margaret MacMillan's "Paris, 1919 - The Six Months that Changed the World").
     
  22. jtk

    jtk

    The most wonderful visual moments of Lawrence came shortly after the opening credits....a long, long desert shot. Lawrence's book is "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." I didn't find it as worthwhile as the movie.
     
  23. jtk

    jtk

    ...and I did nearly finish "Paris, 1919": a good read and enlightening. Without that conference we wouldn't have had an Iraq. Interesting that Newfoundland represented the British Empire (because Newfies died far more per-capita than people of any other Empire country), Japan was a player, but the Soviet somewhat-Union didn't participate in dividing up the world because nobody could figure out who ran it (telegraph only back then)...the answer wasn't Stalin, quite yet. A similarly recent, similarly thick (!) American history that's also new, important, and compelling is Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." It's about Lincoln's origins, who he was, how he became and structured his Presidency, and how he managed Civil War, essentially creating the "union" in United States. Obama cited this book as important, very early in his primary campaign...Lincoln, like Obama, had zero military or executive experience prior to Presidency.
     
  24. You are right, the Newfies left per capita wise a lot more bodies on the battle fields. Australia and Canada were thorns in the backs of the British Empire and France, as they had little interest in profiting from the colonies. Interesting how Newfoundland almost didn't enter Confederation in the late 40s, two close votes, near 50%, and Quebec came within a whisper (49.5%) of opting out in 1995 (and who can predict the future, maybe even the in-the-news Alaska Independence Party will increase its following). Wilson wanted each democratic country to choose its future, but the European colonies were not considered mature enough (and women to vote) for that by any of the major powers of the time. The details of the Balkan country complexities, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the other central European countries is intriguing (I'm but 30% of the way through), aswas the Japan-China conflict, and the fact that all the major powers were looking after their colonies (except the US) and not very visionary. The problems of Serbia, Croatia, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Ireland and other hot spots of today owe a lot to that period of bartering amongst the four or five and dividing up of countries. They sort of made a mess of things, but history before and after was/is not very different. It's given war photographers needed work, albeit risky.
     
  25. With apologies for sidetracking the thread. Hopefully someone may feel like continuing the "common versus different" discussion.
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, but for your apologies we could talk about Joe E. Smallwood...whose made his ultimate performance while I was a boy in St. Johns. I have 3X4 photos I made of the place, back then...not much good, but OK for a 14 year old with an Iloca Rapid B 35mm. I've had them on a desktop, planning to scan them, for a month..wish I could find the negs. Did you know that Newfoundland paid students to go to college there? Smart, tough people, bad teeth. In 1959 the beautiful Newfie dollars were still in circulation: the official Newfoundland National Plant was the Venus Fly Trap (native there, amazingly) and that fills one side of that vanished nation's biggest coin (I have a dozen). Canada betrayed Newfoundland in 1959 fyi...Ottawa stepped in to prevent Mounties from flying there to quell a riot. Joe E. declared a National state of mourning, black bunting was hung from all public buildings, and they talked about getting the hell away from Canada. I'd earlier seen your beautiful young Queen there.
     
  27. I learned a new word today: spatchcocking Last year in the Digital Camera Forum, this guy starts a thread about his amazing discovery, the digital P&S: everything's in focus! And the replies are like: Yeah. It's a problem. And he's like: Problem? It's great!. And he really gets going on this amazing thing he's discovered and wants to share, and we're all "What the...?" The epiphany of a large format landscape photographer.
     
  28. jtk

    jtk

    Don, you're right, the "common" is "different," seen with different eyes. "Common" vs "different" might a question of personal limitations (or potential for growth..same thing?) when we decide subject matter or location are more important to our photography than our vision and, yes, technical skill.
     
  29. jtk

    jtk

    "Common" vs "different" might raise questions about personal limitations..."
     
  30. Points well taken, but I believe we also have to contemplate the importance of working "outside of the box", specifically outside of the confines of our own cultural background (re-education, country, experience, etc.) and our prior approaches. I do not refer there to the photography of new or strange places, so much as the need to override some paradigms of our own photographic (and other mental) approach. My question to myself is often not so much "Today, what can I photograph that I know", but rather "What haven't I tried before that I might do, or what approach might I try that I haven't tried before, even with something that I know". In this way, I can perhaps incite a fresh approach whereby I might discover something new and significant and which might extend my photographic experience. Unquestionably, every such attempt to confront the different is going to bring to it the sum total of our prior experiences and cultural outlook, but I believe it is by taking risks and trying new things that we can expand our experience and possibly discover approaches that have been dormant, ignored or to date non-existant.
     
  31. "Common" vs "different" might raise questions about personal limitations..." It does, indeed. Seeking out the "different" in order to refresh one's interest seems rather superficial, while immersing oneself in the "different" in such a way that it becomes familiar and "common" has a depth and an element of personal growth that cannot be achieved by a two-week vac in the bush.
     
  32. jtk

    jtk

    I partially agree with with both Arthur and Don...but that's because both are shifting the goal posts appropriately away from "common vs different." Arthur is talking about risk-taking, perhaps prioritizing that over meditation (or whatever Don's "immersing" implies), whereas Don seems dismissive of "seeking"...perhaps the common Buddhist teaching to achieve a "quietly open" state (called "passive" by critics) instead of "striving." Striving and risk-taking can be aimless and unproductive, meditative states carry the risk of becoming terminal goals in themselves, unproductive of anything external. My most important teachers were Zen practitioners (Minor White's students), they meditated. But they were also adventurers, change seekers. I'm personally in a disciplined, benchmarked, accomplishment-oriented mode. I have certain photographic goals and I'm accomplishing them, step by step (with plenty of trial and error). There's an intensity and joy in this that seems new. I'm having many happy surprises. Maybe that's what's meant by "enlightenment favors the prepared mind," though I also hold with "the road to enlightenment is paved with excess" and "repetition is the mother of learning."
     
  33. "whereas Don seems dismissive of "seeking"" I don't get that. "(or whatever Don's "immersing" implies)" It implies participation or as I think I defined it: getting familiar with the 'different' until it is 'common'. Some may see this discussion as "common VS different", I guess. There does seem to be a willingness to dismiss 'common' and focus on 'different', as if the dismissal of 'common' goes without saying, while the 'seeking' of the 'different' is valorized. Does everyone dismissive of the 'common' live in dense-pack subdivisions built in 2006? Even there, I think there is much of visual interest (but then, it is a very 'different' kind of place to me and seems exotic compared to where I live).
     
  34. jtk

    jtk

    Don, OK thanks for the clarification. I'm glad I provoked that :) "Valorizing" seems your concern...because it relates to cultural values rather than to the individual's moment? One could valorize "dense-pack" suburbs, the way you just did or one could "valorize" seeking outside them, adventuring. Its ambient larger culture evidently valorizes suburbia above individuals, but surbia's media pretends its inhabitants aspire to adventure.. IMO (of course) my own judgement calls are better than those of groups that embrace formal belief systems, better than those of children, and better than those of fearful or crazy people. And my calls will undoubtedly become unreliable in old age, because old age typically becomes disconnected from contemporary reality and it forgets what it might have learned by middle age. It could be argued that surburbia is senile. Created for young adult aspirations after WWII, suburbia (the belief system that's manifest in a superficial, slapdash aesthetic) is 50+ years older than baby boomers are today. The photographer Bill Owens ("Suburbia") comes to mind. Several decades ago, as a photojournalist, he saw suburbia through open, humane eyes. But he appears (in a Contra Costa Times video: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_10235137?source=email) to have drifted deeply into cynicism...a "common" disease of age.
     
  35. jtk

    jtk

    ...to correct my math: Levittown dated from about 1950...the parents of baby boomers were 25-30-ish so American suburbia is 25-30 years older than the youngest baby boomers are today. Personally, I'm not interested in the thinking or behavior of senile people. I've been around enough of them, have other fish to fry. But to each his own :)
     
  36. John, I only mentioned a new suburban devel as an example of a 'common' whose visual interest for a photographer living there might be exhausted in a few days or a week.
     
  37. "Striving and risk-taking can be aimless and unproductive" John, in many cases that is true, either because it is not well-founded or done without the proper "baggage" of experience. On the other hand, most major discoveries and innovations in art or science have required risk-taking, a "stepping out of the box" to visualize things differently. In my mind, that is not a bad "driver" for better (rather than common or cliché) photography. N'est ce pas?
     
  38. I've thought about something similar regarding portraits. The more common faces are the ones we often see, especially in commercial and fashion photography. A pretty face often seems a good starting point for a portrait. But then there's the flip side of that, and we see it repeated an awful lot (and I do mean "awful"). Where an old face, a wrinkled face, a homeless face, seems to generate "automatic" pathos and the photographer doesn't have to do a whole lot to imbue it with feeling. Somehow every black and white photo of a homeless guy is just so damn rich! All you've got to do is hunt for the right older, preferably ethnic, preferably down-on-their-luck looking person, and the portrait begins and ends there. On the other hand, try taking a handsome young guy and doing something interesting with him. Try not to fall into the Abercrombie and Fitch mold. It's not as easy as it might seem. And try respecting the old guy or the homeless one and looking for humanity instead of lines in his face, pathos, and "artistic" attention. So approaching the common creatively and uniquely can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. It's also a way to get past the surface, which is ultimately what I think a lot of this thread is about. Familiar or different, exotic or mundane, piercing through the surface of subjects or at least exploring the surface in some way that provides a little movement forward, seems an appealing photographic approach to me.
     
  39. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you're right about challenge and reward... "try taking a handsome young guy and doing something interesting with him." But. If the subject is not projecting something of interest, the photograph, especially if "creative," may tell a fictitious story. I've delayed photographing a helpful black gay clerk in a trendy gifte shoppe, who was honestly and interestingly responsive to being complimented (by me, an otherwise uninteresting , non-trendy, older straight white guy) on his polished-mahogany billiard-ball-bald dome. The people I was with were shocked at what they took to be brazen comments, and at the range of the mid-store conversation, but this man showed character. I did ask to photograph him, but I didn't know how to follow through: he was too pretty, too self conscious. I didn't know how to deal with that. Today I dropped by to say hello, two months later. He's grown a silvery goatee, carries himself in a more adult fashion. His age (50+) is evident. the youthful image he bragged about earlier was gone. He's become more human, less the model. It'll be easier for me to photograph him this way..and maybe more satisfying for him, because he appears to be embracing something about himself. I want to do more of this kind of photography.
     
  40. "the photograph, especially if "creative," may tell a fictitious story." Yes, it might be fiction. Or the photo might tell something more about the photographer than the subject. Either way, not a problem for me. "I did ask to photograph him, but I didn't know how to follow through: he was too pretty, too self conscious. I didn't know how to deal with that." I've been in that situation. Over time, I've figured it out more and more and it's often been a revelation and a thrill when I do.
     
  41. In my first paragraph above, I assumed but should spell out that, of course, even with with a "pretty" subject and one who's not projecting something of interest, a photographer can push to get something genuine. But that's not always the desired approach. Doing mostly portraits, I know that self-consciousness quite often comes with the territory. Even in an hour or two, the ability to push through both my own and my subjects' self-consciousness is part of the fun, mystery, and challenge of it all. This kind of photography, for me, has been as much about my own relating to other people as about the photographs themselves. I've also come to believe that some people are more photogenic than others. (And photogenic does not correlate with pretty. Often the reverse is true.)
     
  42. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, as you know I admire your portraiture. Your "push through" is something in which I'm not yet confident. And yes, this is a two way street.
     
  43. I've also come to believe that some people are more photogenic than others. Because they look pretty/ All folk are photogenic,all have character....it's about the photographer not the subject.
     
  44. No, Allen, not because they look pretty. As I said. I think some people are more photogenic than others and it's got nothing to do with the photographer. Marlene Dietrich* and Mick Jagger (one pretty and one not-so-pretty), for example, are more photogenic than my sister-in- law and my friend Michael. The latter have their own characters, which don't read through to the camera, and it's not just my camera. It's universal for them. There are some people who simply don't appear interesting in photos. ALL expression is not the photographers all the time. Sometimes one needs eyes and a mouth that are able to tell a story. And sometimes, no matter how good the photographer, the face simply does not read well in a photo. I just finished working with a very handsome young guy who is not nearly as photogenic as some of the older guys I work with. Perhaps it's all about me, the photographer. But then again, I'm not one who considers myself the center of the universe. It's not always all about me. *There are "prettier" subjects than Dietrich, many of whom were not nearly as photogenic as she. Of course, her persona was, to a great extent, created by her make-up designers and photographers and film directors, but she certainly supplied the raw material for what she became. Von Sternberg had any number of beautiful women to work with. He was drawn to and matured with Dietrich for more than just her beauty. It was the way she so consistently and amazingly appeared to the camera. That's simply not the case with everyone.
     
  45. jtk

    jtk

    Some people project more individuality than others. It's an easy, cheap shot, to pretend the facial characteristics of homeless and otherwise suffering people represent them as individuals, but what we really see are masks of pain and impending death. It's easy to pretend "pretty" represents someone (see any fashion magazine), but "pretty" is usually just another kind of mask. Jagger and Dietrich might be uninteresting if they were not "on," but as performers they are/were probably "on" whenever not alone. What they project is what others hide. Amy Winehouse, not "pretty," is already one of the greats, like a slice of Billy Holliday...no street photographer or papparzzo has come close to depicting the truths she intentionally performed for the professionals who worked with her. When she's cleaned up her exterior becomes almost pretty, but she vanishes. In other words, the "real" Amy Winehouse is a performance, just as is the "real" Dietrich or Jagger.
     
  46. John-- You bring up a very good point about being "on" which I hadn't thought of in such concrete terms. Nice. I'm still inclined to think there's something less tangible than that to a person's being photogenic. Steve Martin, for example, and Al Pacino are two people who are often "on" yet I'd say Pacino is more photogenic than Martin (both being good looking in their own ways). I find Rick Danko much "cuter" (prettier, handsome, hot, sexy, if you will) than Robbie Robertson yet Robbie is, to me, much more photogenic and yet seems to be less "on" than Danko.
     
  47. How about Heath Ledgers brilliantly played Joker in The Dark Knight ? Was he " on " or " of "....The actor totally disappeared in The Joker, but yet there he was, behind the mask. Commonly different somehow.
     
  48. Phylo-- I understand what you're saying and it's a great point. He was so "on" that we weren't conscious that he was. I thought about that after writing about Robertson and Danko. They may both be "on," just in very different ways, one a little more obvious and over-the-top than the other. I'm not sure, though, how you're relating this good point to "common" and "different." There's nothing common about Ledger's performance and nothing common about the character he's portraying and, it seems, nothing terribly common about Ledger himself. What's the "common" part you're referring to above? Thanks for elaborating.
     
  49. Fred, No, there was nothing common indeed about Ledger's amazing performance, it was anything but common to the viewer, and yet at the same time, how very natural it seemed to be, like the joker couldn't have been played anyway otherwise. About the 'commonly different ' , I don't know, what I meant was more from the possible viewpoint of the man behind the make- up, the actor behind the actors mask, any actor behind any actors mask....But how for Heath Ledger, there was this real mask to totally dissapear in, he litterally became the different, he became the mask, and with the freedom of loss of identity behind this mask, he found the true nature of the different and knew the ' common ' about this difference and therefore how to play it so very natural. I realize now that natural is not quite the same as common, an error maybe because English not being my native language.
     
  50. Got it. I think "natural" gets at what you're after nicely and makes the point! Thanks.
     
  51. I think some people are more photogenic than others and it's got nothing to do with the photographer Sorry, Fred i just don't buy it. It's about capturing the natural character of the individual. Taking posed photos of an individual takes them out of their natural environment resulting in an artificial look. Some are able react in a natural way, others react like a fish out of water...hence, the idea some are more photogenic. A good candid photo often will reveal the true character of an individual as they are behaving in a perfectly natural way. Many of better photos of the good and great have been taken in this way. As i said before it is very much about the photographer and the best way of revealing the character, the essence, of their subject.
     
  52. "In other words, the "real" Amy Winehouse is a performance, just as is the "real" Dietrich or Jagger." Exactly, they do not pose, they are naturally themselves. Hence ,photogenic.
     
  53. Allen, Why do you assume that "the photographer" wants to reveal the character or essence of their subject? Maybe you do. Great. Sometimes I do, but that's not always my motivation or goal when shooting people. There's a difference between candid and photogenic and between natural and photogenic. Not all photography with people is about candidness nor is it about capturing someone's soul. Some photographers, me included sometimes, like to work with subjects the way directors work with actors. I may be trying to tell a very artificial story with people, not capture anything "natural." I may sometimes be after a purposely unnatural look or feel. And some people read better to the camera than others. You're making a huge assumption that "It's about capturing the natural character of the individual." Perhaps for you that's what photographing people is about. It sometimes is for me, but derfinitely not always. Being photogenic goes way beyond the ability to look natural. Photogenic applies to posed photos as well as candid/natural ones. It applies to using someone very artificially as well as trying to capture their soul.
     
  54. jtk

    jtk

    There is no such thing as "natural character." We have no "essence," we have habits, and if we're individuals we have intentionality.We don't reveal any "character" simply by existing in our "natural environment." Performers, such as Winehouse, "put out," "project," work hard to convey a stage character that they have invented and that they inhabit when they perform. This is photogenic by definition. When they're not on stage they stop being the person they live to project. A candid of Amy Winehouse might show a broken-down drug addict, a confused young woman, someone's daughter etc...but that would not be her "natural character" as importantly (photogenically) as would the character she performs in her videos and songs. Pose Amy Winehouse in a formal setting and you'll get something more photogenic, something closer to important truth, than a candid will. That's obvious if you look at her papparazzi/street coverage compared to her brilliantly-done studio videos. The notion that a candid photographer "captures" "natural character" or "essence" is a photo hobbiest's superstition and vanity, the fun idea of Popular Photography and its ancestors.
     
  55. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVTNqTFgUOw Sometimes she's "on" and sometimes not. The camera adored her.
     
  56. I doubt anyone is "photogenic" every 1/250 sec. of their lives. It is the job description of the performers mentioned here to be "photogenic". Lot's of people, self-conscious of their appearance, practice being "photogenic", too. I think I understand what Allen means.
     
  57. "It is the job description of the performers mentioned here to be "photogenic"." It's likely that, in some cases, it became their job description because they are photogenic. "Lot's of people, self-conscious of their appearance, practice being "photogenic", too." Absolutely. Some are successful and some not.
     
  58. jtk

    jtk

    To the point, and more Deitrich (in the trailer): http://www.edithpiafmovie.com/
     
  59. "It's likely that, in some cases, it became their job description because they are photogenic." Do we know what makes them "photogenic"? It is likely measurable, and those measurements, at least anecdotally, are known to the industries concerned with the photogenic. Can anyone summarize why we are discussing this in this thread?
     
  60. "It is likely measurable . . ." I think it's likely an intangible quality. Hollywood may use some loose standards (there will always be exceptions), fashion others, documentarians others. But a measurement? Hard to imagine. Summary of how: common/different . . . common face/exotic face in portraiture . . . photogenic. Why: we're interested.
     
  61. Sometimes I think of these threads (and it's often the way philosophy works) as streams of consciousness. If one interesting topic leads to another and several of us are willing to go there, good deal. Sometimes, we start new threads, sometimes not.
     
  62. jtk

    jtk

    We've explored travel vs home pretty well, and now the common/different discussion relates to a more fundamental polarity. Intentionality characterises the animated behavior of performers and other participant subjects of skilled photographers. That is "different" from the flat, relatively unaware behavior of non-performers and snaps of non-participant subjects...the latter is "common."
     
  63. "That is 'different' from the flat, relatively unaware behavior of non-performers and snaps of non-participant subjects...the latter is 'common.' " Although John and I agree on some important points made above, including some good distinctions, I'll distance myself from these particular remarks. I think non-performers and non-participants can be photogenic and can be photographed to be exotic rather than common.
     
  64. jtk

    jtk

    If we put lipstick on a pig and photographed it, that would be "exotic" to a hog farmer (I hope) but might not be more "different" than millions of other funny animal photos. For me, "different" implies seeing something actively, perhaps even with new eyes.
     
  65. "Intentionality characterises the animated behavior of performers and other participant subjects of skilled photographers. That is "different" from the flat, relatively unaware behavior of non-performers and snaps of non-participant subjects...the latter is "common."" There are no photogenic people on the street, just those bums. I'll leave you to your provocations, John. Fred, I think it is measurable. We know why babies and puppies are photogenic (eye index, body to head-size, soft and rounded vs hard and angular, "innocent" expresession, and so on). Those with other kinds of features can be photogenic, if the photographer is any good. The results may be "exotic" -- considering performers, this may be why Myrna Loy was type cast as an "exotic" early in her career. If it is not due to work on the part of the subject, or is not due to the ministrations of the photographer, then is it genetic? Is there a photogenic gene, so to speak.
     
  66. Okay, lets us try to escape from the fanciful and touch reality…. “my friend Michael. The latter have their own characters, which don't read through to the camera, and it's not just my camera. It's universal for them. There are some people who simply don't appear interesting in photos” So why? Is it because they have bad Karma, or, the lens on the camera has decided it does not really like them? Why, when all things being equal this should be so… Are the angles of their face troubling to the lens, or, perhaps their skin is a bit strange. Perhaps light itself has decided it does not really like them. Obviously, all nonsense statements. But believing in urban myths is equally nonsense. The bottom line is really simple ,it’s about the photographer, and how he/she is reacting to the subject,.
     
  67. Don, I don't think it's a gene. As I said, I think it's an intangible quality. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intangible Allen, I have decided that, when anyone jumps the shark by being sarcastic enough so that they resort to calling others' ideas nonsense or urban myths while assuming that their own opinion is fact, I will leave the discussion. And so I do. But it's been a good one for the most part.
     
  68. "Pose Amy Winehouse in a formal setting and you'll get something more photogenic, something closer to important truth, than a candid will. That's obvious if you look at her papparazzi/street coverage compared to her brilliantly-done studio videos." "something closer to important truth" Pray,do tell what is that important truth? Okay, let me guess......yes, i think i have got it,she can smile for the camera and say cheese. ;)
     
  69. Allen, I have decided that, when anyone jumps the shark by being sarcastic enough so that they resort to calling others' ideas nonsense Sorry to upset you, Fred, that was not my intention. I was illustrating a thought, call it sarcastic, if you feel the need... All tools of language are used in an open debate……. Using those tools does not equate to a personal attack… How many times have you heard people say they are not photogenic? Now tell me it has not got something to do with a believe in an urban myth….. .
     
  70. jtk

    jtk

    Don, "Bum" is your word. People who are homeless, addicted, and disparing are commonly dying on the street. One records a mask when one photographs them candidly: the face of a person who's pulled inward in preparation for death. Read "On Death and Dying" by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. It's a universal text and it applies here. If you die in a hospital, the team who cared for you will have read it. It applies well to people who live on the street, while dying more slowly. It's grotesque to pretend one is doing good by making "candid" photos of dirty, sick, often disturbed people, then posting grainy snaps on P.N for one's own amusement.
     
  71. John's last statement is right on. Perhaps the photographer has a responsibility to communicate with his subject before or after the event, which may lead to a more purpose oriented photographs (yes, I know, this could remove some or all of the spontaneity of the image-making) or to arrive at a decision to simply not photograph, as a matter of personal integrity. .
     
  72. .We don't reveal any "character" simply by existing in our "natural environment." ?
    00QqCY-70845584.jpg
     
  73. I've been always attracted by "different" and unfamiliar than "common" and familiar. I love to explore, rediscover the places and people. I found that rediscovering is for me more playful than exploring. For example, I like to rediscover faces and characters of to me familiar people. That's really a real joy. I always find something new in their character. But, unfortunately, sometimes they don't want to be open and natural, and that's an obstacle for me. So I have to "hunt" or just wait for the "game" to come to me. When I explore, it's often when I'm outdoor in the nature. In these situation I usually rediscover something new in me. It is a powerful chain. Many musicians are passionate in their performances, thus they are beautiful to photograph them. But passion is natural, is creative drive force. In my opinion, they are natural. Their voices are naturally unique, and I feel thrilled listening my favorite ones. It's all about passion and chemistry - which is the bond between the listener and the musician.
     
  74. "Don, "Bum" is your word." That's what I mean by your posts being a provocation. What does your reply have to do with photogenic? In any event, I won't respond to you on subjects that you seem to find grounds for polemic rather than discussion. Those are (so far) video and candid photography. For example: "That is "different" from the flat, relatively unaware behavior of non-performers and snaps of non-participant subjects...the latter is "common."" As if there were anything more "common" in photographs than the "photogenic". Fred: "Don, I don't think it's a gene. As I said, I think it's an intangible quality. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intangible " 1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable. I'll skip that, too, regarding photographs, and file it along with the notion of 'invisible images'.
     
  75. Don-- "Invisible images" is a contradiction or oxymoron, by definition. It would require a belief that something seen is simultaneously not seen. "Intangible qualities of an image" is not, by definition, a similar contradiction. It requires only a belief that something seen can have *qualities* that cannot be seen. Are you saying that, because an image is "tangible," nothing about the image can be "intangible"? I'd need to hear why you believe that to be the case if, in fact, you do. "Intangible" can also mean that the sum may be greater than the parts. There are respectable philosophers and scientists (Daniel Dennett) who believe that's bunk. I don't. I can understand a die-hard physicalist or reductionist not believing in intangible qualities. Everything, they would say, is reducible to something physical. Do you believe that anything is intangible (not perceptible to the senses)? To what sorts of things would you apply the word "intangible"? Only fairies and unicorns? Never actual qualities that you simply can't put your finger on or that defy definitive description? Can you definitively describe (fully) why you like every photo you like? Is there something left over that defies a sensory description?
     
  76. jtk

    jtk

    "What does your reply have to do with photogenic? " The OT is "common and different." "Photogenic" is a diversion. Someone's always "provoked" when someone opines that photographing unfortunates is pursuit of cheap thrills. This is a dumbed-down era in which statements of personal value are "out." To bring this back to the OT: ripping off street people is certainly "common," judging by its frequency on P.N.
     
  77. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you've made some excellent and difficult-to-convey points. I'll add is that what we "see" includes what we bring to the process: Allen Herbert's handsome cat (tiger?) doesn't say anything to me about "character" in "nature," but it apparently does to him. Many do read "character" into animal photos: I generally don't, perhaps because my background includes zoology, ethology, dog training, bow hunting, and BBQ.
     
  78. “Allen Herbert's handsome cat (tiger?)” “ Many do read "character" into animal photos: I generally don't, perhaps because my background includes zoology, ethnology, dog training, bow hunting, and BBQ” Thanks for the complement, John. I think the photo of yourself on your bio reveals a lot of your character. John...the eyes are a mirror of the soul. It is a Lion, not a Tiger! You no, the one with the mane… . Methinks, your major must have been the barbeque. John ;) What is a mystery to me is how folk know whether they are photogenic or not. Unless their eyes grow stalks, shoot out, and turn to look back at themselves. Of course they can look into a mirror and use that as a judge whether they are photogenic or not…but what are the parameters? But then again the image they will see is somewhat similar to a photograph. They of course they can listen to folks opinions who might proclaim they look a lot more lovely, and real, in life. Perhaps those folks are looking at a real life 3D image, as opposed to a 2D photo image. Their eyes are taking thousands of 3D images every second, which are being recorded in their in sub conscious and conscious…add emotions and feeling for the subject and you have a heady mix which is impossible to emulate on a recorded image. Can you photograph the feelings and emotions of love? At best a photographer can only offer a mere shadow. Perhaps that is the answer to Fred’s dilemma.
     
  79. jtk

    jtk

    Allen, is your lion in "nature" or in captivity? Looks depressed to me :) Maybe a shave would perk him up.
     
  80. Fred: "Are you saying that, because an image is "tangible," nothing about the image can be "intangible"?" No. I don't think "photogenic", as it was discussed here, is intangible. Give me an "unphotogenic" person, a studio, and four hours, and I'll make them "photogenic". And thx for the link to the dictionary. I would have been so confused otherwise. JK: "Someone's always "provoked" when someone opines that photographing unfortunates is pursuit of cheap thrills" I'm provoked when discussing photographing the commonplace is turned into a manic rant against "photographing unfortunates". "To bring this back to the OT: " "OT" I guess means "off topic" here. "ripping off street people is certainly "common," judging by its frequency on P.N." How about a link or two, just so we know what you're on about.
     
  81. jtk

    jtk

    Don, it's good to know you've been "provoked." Signs of life are good.
     
  82. "ripping off street people is certainly "common," judging by its frequency on P.N." John is just trying to provoke he does not actually believe a lot of the stuff he writes. He enjoys the entainment and finds it amusing when someone actualy believes what he is writing. Look at his bio photo it tells the story;)
     
  83. Allen, is your lion in "nature" or in captivity? Looks depressed to me :) Maybe a shave would perk him up. John, if you were wandering around in the hot African Savannah with a harem of nubile females at your beck and call supplying tasty hot food on the hoof….. And then you woke up in a place where it is cold, damp, and continuously raining you would start looking somewhat depressed. To add insult to injury you are trapped in a small enclosure surrounded by hordes of chattering, jabbering monkeys. Jeez, you can’t even get out of the place to show them why you are called the King of the Jungle. So, the photo is an impression of my thoughts rather than a technical masterpiece showing the King in all his full glory. Much the same as the photo I’m going to post below…..
    00Qsuu-71581584.jpg
     
  84. jtk

    jtk

    Allen, you are or were (are you shooting these days?) a good photographer, but when you're coherent you show more potential as a writer. You noticed my self-portrait (where's yours?): two Vivitar 287HVs with Skyports, bounced off foamcore. I'm just starting to learn DSLR/strobist technique. The image scares me, but it's made me think... I hope I'm not often that grim. My previous fave shows my 1970 Jimi Hendrix mode. Time flies.
     
  85. jtk

    jtk

    oops 285HV, not 287HV... cheap old strobes... see www.strobist.com for context. Incidentally, that site makes an important philosophic statement about photography by emphasizing factors that are often carefully avoided here: personal skill and light. It's an honest approach that doesn't struggle to invent meanings into images or to deny that the photographer meant to show what he did show.
     
  86. “(are you shooting these days?)” I’m always shooting; I doubt a week goes by without me posting some of my latest work on a WNW thread. “ You noticed my self-portrait (where's yours?)” I’m just not photogenic, John;)) “The image scares me, but it's made me think” To give credit where credit is due it is a very good photo. It works better without the usual compulsory smile giving a more honest insight. I particularly liked the emphasis on the eyes. “ My previous fave shows my 1970 Jimi Hendrix mode. Time flies.” Ha,a photo with a historic reference. Go for it and post it I’m sure it will be interesting.
     
  87. I think that I have a good appetite for the different There, a photo of a monkey doing what monkeys do.....being curious.... He has seen those other monkeys with little strange boxes. He has watched how they open them and put some sort of food into their mouths....and then he found one... Smokes the monkey....
    00QtfI-71803584.jpg
     
  88. "John is just trying to provoke he does not actually believe a lot of the stuff he writes. He enjoys the entainment and finds it amusing when someone actualy believes what he is writing." John is God, y'know. I'm interested who he thinks are "unfortunates", and also how he divines who photographs them "for kicks". The most common photographers of "unfortunates" are photojournalists, but they don't do it for kicks, but for a paycheck, so I guess they're ok with JK. Perhaps he thinks no one would bother photographing "unfortunates" unless they were paid to do so. But, there it is, photographers do, it seems, photograph "unfortunates" not for money. What weird kink would lead them to do this, he might be thinking. Must be "for kicks". Nice cats.
     
  89. "Give me an "unphotogenic" person, a studio, and four hours, and I'll make them "photogenic"." Now, you're on the verge . . . maybe. The point being that, with a photogenic person, all you'd have to do is pick up the camera. You wouldn't need four hours!
     
  90. The point being that, with a photogenic person, all you'd have to do is pick up the camera Come on,Fred. Stubborn is the word. I honestly don't think you have read a word which has been posted. You could hardly say that John is photogenic in the strict sense of the sillyword. However,it matterd little to him he just got on with it......
     
  91. Just what are you looking for? a pretty photo of someone ,or, an image you have created,in your minds eye ,verging on the fanciful.
     
  92. Every single life form on this planet has characteristics, personality, uniqueness, a difference from it fellows. Nature just not makes us exactly the same for a whole variety of reasons….perhaps, something to do with the survival of the species. On the Galápagos Islands there’s a finch which survives by being feeding on blood. How weird a pretty feathered bird sucking blood like a vampire bat. Each individual is unique; the photographer finds that uniqueness and translates it to a visual form. We call it a photograph.....which has got absolutely nothing to do with silly words.
     
  93. Allen-- You're unfortunately confusing an interesting photo of someone, a great photo of someone, a compelling photo of someone, with "photogenic." The woman in your picture just above is a great subject for this photo. It's a wonderful photo (except maybe for the extreme red shadow on the palm of her hand) of a woman with a fascinating face and expression. The round frame is well chosen. The fact that you took a wonderful photo of her does not make her photogenic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photogenic
     
  94. Another explanation for the fact that attractive people are not always photogenic is that part of their attractiveness may be due to the charisma they bear in real life due to the way they move, express, and behave themselves. While this will positively influence the subjective appearance of that person in real life, a still photograph usually fails to reproduce these attributes, possibly rendering a picture of the person less attractive than the real-life perception and contributing to classify that person as less photogenic. Fred, God, did not write that, just a bloke like you and me. Every morning he sits on the bog just like you and me...and he wipes his arse with toilet paper. " part of their attractiveness may be due to the charisma they bear in real life " And that is what the photographer is about capturing that charisma, the essence......it's always about the skills of the photographer. The really easy ones, the so called photogenic, are the ones you have really failed to capture...you are just skimming the surface.
     
  95. Jeez,i have a thing about commas;)
     
  96. "Fred, God, did not write that, just a bloke like you and me. Every morning he sits on the bog just like you and me...and he wipes his arse with toilet paper." I didn't quote it because I thought it was written by God, merely because I thought it emphasized a couple of important points about "photogenic": "Photogenic" applies to someone who *usually* (in the sense of *more often than not* or *regularly*) looks good in photos. It's not always about the skill of the photographer, unless the photographer, of course, fancies himself to be God. "The really easy ones, the so called photogenic, are the ones you have really failed to capture...you are just skimming the surface." Your summary is too simple, e.g., Sternberg and Dietrich: Photogenic subject, great photographer. Way beyond skimming the surface. Also, we differ with regard to "essence." "Essence" is often merely the interpretation of visual signs and symbols and light and shadow into something that seems and feels important.
     
  97. “I didn't quote it because I thought it was written by God” But you thought you were quoting from a higher authority to help prove your thesis, otherwise, why use it?... you have your own mind. "Photogenic" applies to someone who *usually* (in the sense of *more often than not* or *regularly*) looks good in photos. So, who decides they look good? Yourself, the latest fashion statement, or, perhaps a mystical statement from above. It seems only you,and a few, can read and understand the book of magical wonders. "Your summary is too simple, e.g., Sternberg and Dietrich: Photogenic subject, great photographer" Please explain why you are speaking for these photographers! who are unable to have any input. I would not like someone speaking for me. Out of just interest, who has decded they are great, and why should i agee? ." "Essence" is often merely the interpretation of visual signs and symbols and light and shadow into something that seems and feels important.” So,what are you trying to say,Fred. The sky is blue,so. Most of us can see beyond mere symbols or shadows,Fred.
     
  98. Bottom line,Fred. For the general public, photogenic, is looking pretty. Or,they are on telly/movies a lot. Us photographers look further.
     
  99. jtk

    jtk

    Allen and Fred, you seem to be on the same page... you seem to understand "photogenic" slightly differently, but I don't think either of you embraces the "common" definition of the term (which may mean generic, shallow beauty?). Don, fear of values (such as those I express) has led you into some strange realms. For example, you recently indicated satisfaction with random ("spontaneous" :) shots, and that you think it's fine when they're poorly done technically. It wasn't a surprised in that context when you argued for the use of phrenology to measure and define "photogenic." Phrenology, in case you think you invented something, was a pseudo-science used in the 19th century to explain criminality and homelessness (your "bums") and to defend colonial racism (especially British and Italian) on "innate" biological grounds..you can guess which facial features they didn't like.
     
  100. Allen-- We agree that the sky is blue. Not much more on this one. :)
     
  101. Fred, but it hs been entertaining.
     

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