Your Background

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by unrealnature, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. I say "your" background because the background in your photographs is 100% of your creation. It was not "background" until you made it so. [Note that I mean 'background' as everything that is not what one sees as the 'player(s)' in the picture; this will include stuff at any distance.]
    Backgrounds are integral to how a picture works. As a very simple example, look at the recent Photo of the Week, which is a stylish woman against a stone wall. The picture happens in the relationship of those two things; the stone makes the woman more woman-ish and the woman makes the stone more stony ... which then makes the woman even more woman-ish which then makes the stone even more stony, etc. Resonance.
    As more complicated examples, and ones that I find fascinating, see the work of Diane Arbus. For example, Teenage Couple on Hudson Street (this is a terrible, flat reproduction; it should be much more tonally rich with the white being much stronger). Aside from the effect of the angled doorline (with black interior) on the rear left and the texture/tone of the wall, look at that Kleenex (or napkin) that's nearly on center. Look at the work that that trash does to authenticate ("this is real, not contrived"), to show spontaneity, and also to add the perfect dash of spice to the picture. Or look at her famous Child with Toy Grenade -- look at the details of the background, from the blurry figure growing out of his head to the baby carriage pushing people, to the central tree, to the horizontal line in the near-fore on the sidewalk.
    Compare that to Avedon with his deliberately white empty, empty background. He is deliberately stopping the resonance. He's putting his hand on the bell and saying only THIS. Period. No mixing, no diminishment of the subject in service of relationships extraneous to it. It's like sticking a sample in a sterile petri dish so you can see exactly what one thing is exclusive of contamination. Or putting it under a (anti) bell-jar.
    On the other hand, there is really no background in Ansel Adams's landscapes (or even in much of his closer work, either). Rather than adding to the complexity of the pictures, to me, this makes for a more homogeneous effect, but I'll leave it to you to think about how his all-over even-handedness (either everything is important or nothing is ... ) affects his pictures.
    My interest (obsession) with backgrounds is because I'm a compositor. Compositing is about relationships (think about it; the only reason to composite is to rearrange; the "things" don't change, only their position does). Backgrounds, the buzz between all the stuff in a picture is where relationships happen.
    [Those who are allergic to theory/philosophy, do not read the following! Relationships are external to the terms and can be carried to the extreme where the terms disappear and the relationship persists. Relationships are also (some believe) constitutive, i.e. the arrow runs, not from terms to relationship, but from relationship, this "thing between" back to the terms (the relationship *makes* the terms).]
    Here I should ask some pointed question about your own experience with backgrounds, but I have noticed (ahem ... ) that such questions are pretty much ignored, so make up your own. I would, in any event, be really interested in how much attention you pay to background when making photos. I'd also like to know how the heck really good photographers manage to have octopus eyes that can sense, on the fly, when all those bits of flotsam and jetsam are so perfectly arranged. I do it painfully slowly (crawling around for hours picking out bits of stuff from the dirt when gathering bird-backgrounds).
     
  2. Excellent subject. I looked quickly at a short list of my photos and found that in those cases the background and the foreground were almost one, that is where one stopped and the other started (or prevented a different subject matter) was difficult to assess. I should look more deeply at other photos, but perhaps this one is an example, where the tired walker on an inclined street is seen against a building background of sharply defined shadows that seem to come down on her and accentuate her weariness. The best I can do at present, but perhaps other photos, like the second one, may provide backgrounds that interact in a synergistic or contrasting way with the foreground.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11472738
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11472734
     
  3. Julie, are you familiar with the German term, Gestalt? It's a somewhat parallel way of thinking, from another discipline. A clinician I knew liked to remind his students to seek an understanding of one's background or "field" of life events as an essential part of one's presenting behaviors. In my photo below the cloud form in the background seems to almost overwhelm the foreground cord walk that is in need of repair or extension.
    00c5YC-543159984.jpg
     
  4. I think the normal (i.e. non-photographer) person tends to focus on his or her point of interest and ignore the background, which is why most snapshots are, well, just snapshots. One of the first lessons I learned, the hard way, of course, was the importance of making the background either work for the shot or, at least, not detract from it. I think it's especially important in landscapes. In this shot, for example, the background actually makes it work, giving the scene much more drama than it would otherwise have:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11241733
    But, with other subjects, old barns, for instance (my favorite thing in life), I've found, like Arthur, the subject and the background are often merged and tend to enhance each other - the resonance that Julie refers to.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/12695859
    Does any of this fit into gestalt theory? From what little I remember from Psych 101, possibly...
     
  5. Background can be something against which the subject is seen and also something within which the subject is found. It can be environmental. I often feel it as space. A background can suggest a propositional or non-propositional narrative or story. These were taken the same day. The backgrounds we used and the background lighting changed from our initial discomfort (which I don't always try to avoid in making portraits) to the comfort we felt after a few hours together. Gerald, as most people, has very different sides to him and the backgrounds help show that. In the case of the color photo, the background of the photo relates to Gerald's ethnic background as well as being, importantly to me as photographer, his personal space.
    00c5Yy-543160584.jpg
     
  6. Foreground can be used as well. It can be especially effective in making me feel isolation.
    00c5Yz-543160684.jpg
     
  7. Fred, love the Paramount image. Beautiful environment skillfully handled.
    Backgrounds, I've always taught find the background first - a slight move on location can alter the background/subject relationship - not a Tao concept - just common sense. Environmental portraits/subjects present significant challenges - but we are responsible for the totality of the entire image. We must previsualize (as closely as we can) the finished image. That's the truth of the craft - from Bresson to LaChapelle and everywhere in between.
    Julie, I'm a composite photographer as are you, where you strive for realism I disregard it and search for visual harmony - if it fails to look "believable" I could care less. In answer to your question, I probably spend half my time thinking about finding and executing backgrounds.
    I've attached some work to exemplify these ideas - some are complete and others are waiting for the subject to arrive. LOL
    [​IMG]
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  8. There are also instances where the subject is the background:
    [​IMG]
     
  9. >>> I would, in any event, be really interested in how much attention you pay to background when making photos.
    I pay a lot of attention; whether for street candids or portraits. Background (and foreground) complete the message (or can be the message). In concert with a subject and light background can help suggest context, clarity, ambiguity, mystery, humor, sadness, focus attention (or not), conjure narrative to the viewer and on and on. Many times, it's the sauce that holds everything together.
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    [​IMG]
    Candid • San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2013
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    Candid • NYC • ©Brad Evans 2013
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    Street Portrait • San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2013
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  10. These are really good examples and comments. Much to think about. I'll have more in the morning, but I wanted to say that 'gestalt' is very relevant -- thanks for bringing that up. And, to Michael Chang, your description 'The subject is the background,' is how I think of Eggleston (whom I suspect may not be your favorite photographer -- I hope you don't mind). His background is his foreground, but he doesn't tell us that (he just sneaks into our head by feeding us some 'foreground-ish' looking things that enrage those who expect the 'foreground' to make sense all by itself).
    If you can, try, in your mind taking these pictures apart and looking at them in pieces (kill the relationship). The background alone is sort of like if you've ever heard just the ground-base being played from an orchestral piece. It sounds very strange; yet it is the bones on which the piece is built.
     
  11. I just realized, after saying what I did about Eggleston in my comment, above, that I think of 'color' as background (in the sense that it wants to work on me subliminally). Would you agree with that? If not, how do you think of 'color'?
     
  12. Excellent post ,Julie.
    Colour or B/W.
    00c5dz-543168984.jpg
     
  13. Colour/ BW depends on what works....
    What do you think?
    The old masters were great.
    But, should we be stuck in some old time continuum.
    Someone alive......
    And to my mind......well. look at the work and decide.
    http://www.citysnaps.net/
     
  14. Background is also the entirety of art, our traditions, ideas, and associations present in the creation of a photograph and its viewing. So there is also a question there about how our frame of references that is our background participates in our selection of visual elements ultimately present in the frame. I can't help but look at Child With Toy Grenade without wanting to emulate it.
     
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I've been working with green screen lately. Gives ultimate choice with backgrounds. I'm doing a shoot this week, portraits of a movie production crew, and am going to put them in front of their home on Google maps. Always interesting things that can be done...
     
  16. Does mass make gravity, or does gravity make mass?
    Do electrons/positrons make charge, or does charge make electrons/positrons?
    Do persons make culture, or does culture make persons?
    In the 1910-20s, Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov demonstrated something that's come to be called by his name:
    .
    "Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mosjoukine was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl in a coffin, a woman on a divan). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mosjoukine's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl in the coffin, or the woman on the divan, showing an expression of hunger, grief or desire, respectively. The footage of Mosjoukine was actually the same shot each time." -- from Wikipedia
    .
    People were fascinated, dumbfounded, amazed! Hitchcock used it extensively in his films -- as did every maker of video commercials and, now, every film made by every-YouTube-body anywhere. We're so used to it that we probably think in Kuleshov montage.
    To me, the Kuleshov effect demonstrates how backward is our intellectual (but not intuitive -- the intuition got it right) belief in how we treat the visual. It's as if the parts (the face, the soup, the girl in the coffin) are pieces in a chess game. Their "moves" are baked in. We move them around and expect those moves to remain, as in a chess-piece, fixed. That's not the way an open system (the real world, as opposed to a game), works. The street makes the man and the man makes the street. Culture isn't just for macro/population considerations; it's the force, the charge that creates and is created at the micro level (there are no levels ... ). Montage is an entirely unnatural happening. There is no "real" instance of a discrete face (piece). There is only a face/soup event and a face/girl-in-coffin event or man/street event. Take the man out of the street and neither man nor street is the same.
    It's not even that, as Brad- says above, "it's the sauce that holds everything together"; background and player(s) are co-creative of one another. They do not exist absent each other (and I would claim that this constantly generates the new, not just rearranges the existent, but I won't go there today ... ). That we intellectually think the player is autonomous is our intellectual mistake (though, I repeat, the Kuleshov effect shows that the intuition is *trying* to get it right].
    Complicating what is already very complicated (imagine a chess game where the possible allowed moves of all the pieces changed every time any other piece was moved -- and the configuration of the board was likewise fluid ... ) is that my culture is not your culture. For example, here is Bruce Davidson responding to those who complained that his East 100th Street [East Harlem, 1960s] photographs made poverty "beautiful":
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    "He notes that when he lent cameras to some of the local residents, they "don't photograph the slums. They photograph their friends ... all sorts of possibilities, without sentimentality. They photograph the life they know, not its horrors." And it was not uncommon for Davidson to see his own "beautiful" photographs hanging on the walls of the homes of people he had pictured [he gave away a lot of prints]. His photographs neither glorify the neighborhood nor dwell on its very social problems -- though its scars and pain are evident. Instead, by simultaneously acknowledging and collaborating across the socio-racial divide that inevitably separated him from the residents of this community, he produced a photographic record of a place thick with texture, individuality, and dignity." -- from Reading Magnum essay by Steven Hoelscher
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    I think that cultural "angle" shows up in the setting (background) given to the foreground content of his project.
    And then there's Avedon. He wants to see the mass without its gravity. Close the system. Here's his own description of why he uses the white background:
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    "As one who is addicted to white background, it seems odd to me that a gray or tonal background is never described as an empty background. But in a sense, that's correct. A dark background fills. A white background empties. A gray background does seem to refer to something -- sky, a wall, some atmosphere of comfort and reassurance -- that a white background doesn't permit. With the tonal background, you're allowed the romance of a face coming out of the dark. I don't think you find portraits with white backgrounds before [Egon] Schiele, except the ikons of Novgorod. ... It's so hard with a white background not to let the graphic element take over. It's so hard to give emotional content to something so completely and potentially caricatural, dominated by that yard, unyielding edge. And that, of course, is the challenge and importance of it. If you can make it work successfully, a white background permits people to become symbolic of themselves." -- from Evidence [thank you Jeff Spirer for mentioning this book in another thread; it's very good and can be had for next to nothing on Amazon Marketplace (I got a new copy for $15)]
    .
    I'll resist the urge to comment on that, even though it seriously provokes me (in a good way; it's really interesting, I think).
    Last, just for fun, think about the ground-breaking image, Earthrise (Earth seen from space). How seeing "us" on a background of the great void affects our conception of Earth.
     
  17. Gary, thanks!
    I like your idea of harmony. The lack of believability, when it occurs, might also produce a sort of tension, even a cacophony that can be effective. In your first photo, I feel a sort of counterpoint between the man being in his space and not being in his space. I like that.
    Also, considering background, and looking at your own photos as well, influence seems important. The influence of the blue tones of the pillars on the light on the young man's face and the hues in the shadows on his shirt. The influence of the formality of those pillars on how graphic and almost monumental appear the man's fingers.
    I think about how influenced I am by backgrounds (especially their colors and tints) when I'm post processing my portraits. So the background acts on my aesthetic approach. It is an active player in many ways. The background often tells me in what direction to go.
    Obviously such influence extends to my personal background, which is the precursor to so many of my choices and ways of seeing.
    ______________________________________
    Howard, nice description of your photo, where the swirling sky does seem to overwhelm the walkway. Your photo, to me, exemplifies the fact that backgrounds are not static and they function as they interrelate with other aspects and elements of the photo. It's in large part because of your angle and perspective of shooting that the background becomes so all-powerful. A less perspectival and deliberate approach to this photo might have created a very different sense of atmosphere, power relationships, and subject orientation.
     
  18. "Colour/ BW depends on what works....
    What do you think?"
    I think the shadow on the woman's face is much more graphic and harsh in the b/w version. It's a blocked-up shadow. It feels more organic in the color version, where I sense texture and some sense of light. The woman stands out more in the color version, especially noting the way her legs separate from the planter behind her in the color photo. The kid's red sneakers provide just a little punctuation mark which doesn't occur in the b/w version.
    To me, this isn't a matter of color vs. black and white per se or whether we think of color as background as much as it's a matter of the conversion. The b/w version, IMO, could have offered something very different with a different approach to conversion. It could have captured more of the color version did. It may also be that one would see potential in the black and white to be more graphic and less organic than the color version, almost like film noir, but overall I don't see the black and white achieving that either in this case.
    What I do think is that the blue of the wall has a profound visual effect which will never be the same in the b/w version, though, again, the blue could be exploited in the conversion to achieve more of a visual/emotional impact. In this case, I think the blue was actually handled quite well in the conversion, so if the other tonalities were worked with, the wall could achieve such impact, if desired of course, and there could be reasons why that impact might not be desired in one's b/w vision.
    I agree with you, Allen, that ultimately we look at the work and decide, but which we respond to won't necessarily depend on "this is black and white" and "this is color." It will depend on what's seen and what's brought out in each.
     
  19. In candid, impromptu photos of people I tend to forget about backgrounds - much to my dismay when I later realize a potentially good photo was compromised by background distractions.
    But most of my nighttime photos, especially around my neighborhood, are deliberately about the background. The photos often include people. But these aren't photos of people, or any particular social commentary. They're actually self portraits, reflections of my own state of mind during those insomnia-driven late night walks. Occasionally I'll chat with those folks and take candid portraits, and the results are nothing at all like my insomnia project.
    On a couple of occasions, when folks have asked why I snapped their photos from afar, they were actually interested in hearing my explanation about including them as part of a tableaux and commentary on our perceptions of isolation and alienation. Usually they smile and nod because it's a shared experience. If they're out late at night, alone, it's often because they're feeling the same way I do.
    *[​IMG]*[​IMG]*[​IMG]*[​IMG]
    *[​IMG]
    Same wall, my shadow
     
  20. Lex, something I've always thought about your work in particular and many good photos is that the photo is the subject. What is often revealed is the photographer or some relatable expressive gesture with which a viewer can empathize. The subject of a photo often is not the "main thing" on view.
     
  21. Lex, I love those pictures. But ... (heh!) to my mind, "background" is what consciousness finds to be excess. It's what overflows the scope of attention. It is perceived; it is not allowed entry into consciousness. (This is a feature, not a bug of our intellect ... The world is large and one is small.) More on this at the end of the post, but because it's theory-heavy, I'm putting it last. Tangentially, it's interesting to think about how the night de-materializes one's own sense of body.
    Leaving Lex, for the moment, I wanted to think about kinds of pictures that have the least background. In order of background-less-ness:
    1. Still life
    2. Portraits
    3. Nudes
    A picture without "background" is a picture that is fully culturally coded. There's nothing there that is excess, that overflows our (conscious) attention. In the case of nudes, however, its more interesting. The nature of the background, including what is *not* there is very, very, very affective to the viewer. It is the "permission" in that it tells the viewer whether this is Art, religious imagery, sexual exploration, or pornography. Every little detail is code for what this body is "doing" and how/whether we want to look at it. And yet I think one rarely has any awareness of having noticed the (often seemingly trivial) details of the background of a nude.
    Against that, the exception proves the rule. Friedlander. He photographs nudes the same way he photographs everything else. Because he is frankly curious. His nudes are given wherever they fell out of the tree, by which I mean they're sitting or lying on whatever was handy in their own homes. His backgrounds are full of all the usual junk of daily living -- books, furniture, electrical cords, chair legs, randomly patterned bedspreads and furniture covers, light switches. It is really disconcerting. This is a case where I am forced to notice the background -- the background becomes foreground -- because it doesn't do what it's expected to do, which is "give permission" or to use my phrase from an earlier post, to co-create the foreground. These "nudes" refuse to stop being "people" -- they're not detached, taken out of, the real. As Ingrid Sischy writes in the essay that is in Lee Friedlander: Nudes, "Over and over he says the one thing he cared about when he did the photographs was that they feel 'real.' " Real = with a background (an excess, an overflow).
    **********************
    WARNING: the rest is theory-laden. Not required reading for those who hate this kind of stuff.
    William James wrote that what prevents the creation of truth are the truths we think we already possess (the pragmatists way of saying that truth is local). Combine that with Henri Bergson: "Our representation of matter is the measure of our possible action upon bodies: it results from the discarding of what has no interest for our needs, or more generally for our functions. ... [O]ur consciousness only attains to certain parts and to certain aspects of those parts. Consciousness -- in regard to external perception -- lies in just this choice. ... it is ... discernment." Further from Bergson: "What you have to explain then, is not how perception arises, but how it is limited, since it should be the image of the whole, and is in fact reduced to the image of that which interests you."
    Note that James is not saying that the new truth falsifies the previous truth; this is not a zero sum game. He only says that it prevents or gets in the way. Likewise, Bergson does not say that what we are conscious of is all that we perceive; quite the contrary. Bergson maintains that we perceive everything. However, it is the job (the necessary job) of consciousness to filter that input, to allow only what is relevant to potential action or being acted upon.
    Which -- finally! -- brings me back to the subject of background / foreground. Foreground is that of which we are conscious, i.e. that which has the potential to be acted on or to act upon us. Background is whatever is in excess of that, what overflows that measure. But, taking James's statement into account, it is also what stands between (prevents) our getting beyond what we expect. Which means that one could either use a photograph to bring the background to the fore (Friedlander) in a way that disturbs/expands what was expected. Or, because background escapes consciousness, one can deliberately play with its formative powers to transform the foreground subliminally (Kuleshov, again).
    Or, if as in Lex's pictures, we are given an act-less (in Bergson's sense) scene that therefore doesn't separate fore from back, consciousness lets us play with what would otherwise (necessarily) be filtered out.
     
  22. And there are foregrounds as well...
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    San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2013
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    Digging that set, Lex...
     
  23. I like backgrounds, but my photos are inspired predominantly by coffee grounds.
    00c6Bz-543226184.jpg
     
  24. Damn it, Julie, stop making me think about s**t!
    Julie H:
    Does mass make gravity, or does gravity make mass?
    Do electrons/positrons make charge, or does charge make electrons/positrons?
    Do persons make culture, or does culture make persons?​
    Yes, yes, and yes. Wave/particle duality, mass/gravity duality, persons/culture duality, etc.
    As to the original questions regarding backgrounds: I am a photographic Neanderthal and sadly give little thought to the importance of backgrounds. (I love some of the examples you have given, which cause me to view Eggleston, Freidlander, etc., from a slightly different vantage point. Also, the notion of color as being a background is interesting to me.) Since 90% of what I have shot over the last few years falls roughly into the category of street photography, I don’t spend a whole lot of time concerning myself with background. If/when I do, it is simplistic and ham-fisted in comparison to the type of subtle background usage and consciousness you ascribe to Eggleston. “I want to head in a easterly direction down Randolph because of the way the light is falling at this time of day.” Or, “I want to photograph from position ‘X’ because that will place the Wrigley Building, or the El tracks, or the Chicago River, in the background.
    Paradoxically, background is of utmost importance to me because one of my primary goals is to transmit to a viewer some of the same feelings of urban atmosphere, energy, theatricality and surrealism that I receive when I walk down the streets of Chicago. That vibe is simply not there without that background. And it is paramount to me not only as a photographer, but also as a viewer. In fact, it was Steve Gubin the viewer who derived certain feelings from other photographer’s work who created Steve Gubin the photographer who seeks to transmit some of those feelings from his own environment. I recently picked up a book called “Paris Mon Amour”. It is a collection of photographs from different eras and different photographers. The best of them take me away to another place. Not just Paris, but another world, another reality of different stories and sensations. This may sound corny, but I can be moved to tears by a book, or in a gallery, when I come across photos that transport me to a different time, place, and environment. It is like a good blues song to me. It hits me in the gut and makes me feel. And it doesn’t exist without background. Avedon makes me think and wonder, but he does not make me feel, or at least not in the same way as I have described. Nothing good or bad about it, that’s just the way I am at this point in time.
    I do a lot less portraiture or street portraiture than Fred or Brad (and the care that they take with their backgrounds is evident in each) but I try to be aware of background when I do. As I said, my awareness and use of background is pretty crude and basically comes down to “avoid merges, and try to show the environment the person is in.”
    I’ll provide two examples below (I may have shared one in another thread on PN, I can't remember) -- This was a fellow named Josiah. I was walking through The Loop a few weeks ago and some of the street s were closed off for the filming of “Transformers 4”. Josiah is an aspiring filmmaker who was working on the movie set. He helped tell us where to detour to go around the set, and also told us where the best vantage point would be to get photos of the set. We struck up a conversation and I asked if I could take his photo. He was against a building and I asked him to shift slightly toward the corner so that I could get both him, but also part of the street and the El tracks in the background. That was about as deep as my thought process on background went that day.
    00c6Gz-543234184.jpg
     
  25. (I’m also not very good at knowing how to attach more than one photo to a single post. No matter.)
    2nd background example:
    Lifeguards were running a drill at Foster Ave Beach in Chicago. Hot but overcast summer day. I wanted to create a sense of solitude and surrealism by isolating one of the lifeguards running into the water with no one else around and have the clouds and the quay and quay-light in the background. I also wanted to time it so that a wave was breaking in the foreground (it “felt” right in a geometric, placement of objects, kind of way -- I rely a lot on intuition and what feels right, as opposed to having a set formula, if that makes sense). So, in this photo, I was able to isolate one lifeguard without anyone else appearing in the photo, as well as have a wave break fortuitously at just the right time. Probably one of my more “intentional” background candids.
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  26. Julie, just coincidentally a few days ago I read William James' quote: "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." I'd already been pondering that in another context.
    When I first saw the title to this discussion, I assumed it was referring to our personal historical background.
    So now I'm rearranging my own preconceived notions about whether I'm responding to what you actually meant, or what I only thought you meant.
    Physical background, historical background, and physical background as a mirror or echo board for our personal historical backgrounds...
    Either way, fascinating stuff. And it's helped me finally identify a more or less coherent theme in some of my photos, something elusive.
     
  27. Steve, I like what you did with both photos, and particularly the way the frame got divided up in the photo of Josiah. It's also rich to consider the ideas of intentionality with backgrounds and instinct. Instincts are often not as accidental as is originally thought, because they get built up over time and with much experience. They may not be so different than more intentional choices we make in that they come from us and have a lot to do with how we see things. So, though I don't see your Josiah background as having had a whole lot of thought or intentionality other than a "move here, I like the train tracks" spur-of-the-moment thought, I do see it as a product of your own photographic experience and a photographic eye you've developed. Though not much went into the thought of including that background, there is MUCH there, in the choice and in the result.
    We often don't have the time or luxury to pay that much deliberate attention to backgrounds, though I do sometimes have and exploit that luxury. Yet, backgrounds being stilled by a camera somehow take on an air of more intentionality. Well, maybe that's not the right way to put it. They take on an air of more significance than they often might have seemed to be playing at the time the shot was taken. IMO, good photography demands not an intentional or deliberate long-winded consideration of background at the time of shooting but it demands an awareness that can be felt and modulated in the blink of an eye (or the time it takes to bring the camera to the eye and snap the shutter).
    There's often a little more mystery, atmosphere, intrigue, and ambiguity to backgrounds than to subjects focused on, if only to say the focusing on a subject often feels like an active choice whereas the inclusion of a background often feels more like happenstance. I appreciate the sort of accidental/second-nature-but-with-awareness way that backgrounds so often have to be approached. It often gives them a commanding but much more subtle role than the subject.
     
  28. Fred – I hope I did not come across as being against (or worse, thinking myself superior to) intentional thought in regard to backgrounds, or any other aspect of photography. Intuition is all well and good, but it can also be a mask for laziness. There are many things which I do not see as well, or as quickly, as I would like to. How many things do I miss that might have improved a given photograph? Quick example is your pointing out the way the backgrounds were divided in the photo of Josiah. You immediately saw that. I think I took that photo in early September. Know when I first noticed it? About an hour ago when I resized it for placement in this thread. “Oh! Look at that! It’s almost divided right down the middle.” I feel that I should have noticed it at the time that I took the photograph, and that it should have been utilized (or avoided) by intention.
    I think I understand how much you pay attention to details. In your photo of Jeremy, I doubt that either his shirt, or the background, was a happy accident. You thought about it and utilized it intentionally. Intuition is fine, but it can be enhanced by the hard work of thinking about what effect one wants to achieve and by really looking and paying attention.

    I like your take on the role of mystery and atmosphere that a background can give. I can't think of any examples at the moment, but I know I have seen photographs in which, over time, the background comes more to the fore, creates an "Ah ha!" moment in the viewer, and adds a different nuance to the main subject.
     
  29. Steve, no you didn't come across as being against intentional thought at all. Your post just stimulated me to think about some things. It just led me to consider how much similarity there may actually be in intentionality and what appears to be instinctive thinking, and that what they share is that they are both often so influenced by experience. That was all I was trying to convey. But, of course, there are significant differences between the extremes of intentional and instinctive shooting, even though there can be a lot of overlap. I sometimes find myself wishing I could be more instinctive in my shooting and, instead of just wishing for it, I actually find myself making it happen and feeling it for what it is and noticing the results. I definitely don't think either is better per se than the other. I think there are good uses for each method regarding my own making of photographs and would like to be able to use both.
    As to Jeremy, I'm not sure what I'd say other than there was some degree of instinct and some degree of thought at play. Jeremy wears those shirts and I had no input into his wearing that shirt that day. He and his family were visiting from Holland and we were going to Haight Street to see "hippies" and then to the de Young museum to see "art." We got to the de Young, which I hadn't been to many times before this as it had recently been reconstructed and as we entered the lobby, I saw the artwork on the wall which is hard to miss because of its size and blatant graphics. I quickly asked Jeremy to stand in front of it and took two or three shots. Sure, I guess I had the thought that his stripes would look cool against the polka dots but that was about it, except I do remember noticing how his big eyes worked well in the environment. I've always loved Jeremy's wide eyes, which seem to suit his personality. It wasn't planned in the way some of my other photos are, even when they're planned on the spur of the moment. Interestingly, some viewers have mentioned Andy Warhol as a reference and pop art as well. I see that here and we could discuss that endlessly, but none of that was in my reflective consciousness when I took the photo. Yet, I would never deny the influence of Warhol or pop art on my overall consciousness that might have helped in my instinctually noticing that this could make a cool photo and was particularly suited to the Jeremy I know and love.
     
  30. Steve, just a further thought. Looks can be deceiving, another beauty of photography! So that when I shoot relatively spontaneously, which I guess I consider the shot of Jeremy to be compared to a more planned portrait, I think I just naturally gravitate toward a sense of definition, organization, and staged-ness. I don't think the shot of Jeremy looks nearly as spontaneous as it was and it probably works best as is, which it sounds like you agree with. It looks the way it does both because of my own proclivities and way of seeing and because it's a photo of Jeremy who gets much credit from me for just being who he is, for looking like he does, and for being there for me at the time. I know a couple of photographers who I generally think of as much less organized and "stage" oriented than me who can plan a shot, even stage it, and yet the photo will have an air of spontaneity that is uncanny.
     
  31. Julie H: "I do it painfully slowly (crawling around for hours picking out bits of stuff from the dirt when gathering bird-backgrounds)."​
    This interests and amazes me. Composites are so utterly intentional. Designed and conceived from the ground up (or so it seems to me). It was interesting to see one of your photos as Photo of the Week recently, because you talked about the specifics of it, and it seems that you rarely talk about your own work other than in the most general or abstract philosophical terms. I have never really created a composite, but I've found that, with only a few exceptions, my most conceived and staged photographs turn out poorly. Execution never meets the expectation of concept.
     
  32. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As much as I love finding backgrounds that work, I also find that shooting with a plain background allows working with the subject as the entire subject. It's different and you have to interact a lot with the subject at times to get something more out of it. This is comedian Tony Baker. I think I captured a lot more than his headshot on Comedy Central.
    [​IMG]
     
  33. Here the subject may first seem like insects in a background of back light. Or it may look like the background of back light is the subject. Placed near the middle of the right edge is a bird that is supposed to be seen only after a delay. When seen, the subject becomes a bird with the story being a bird and its prey. But without the background, the bird is uninteresting. Without the bird, the interest in the insects is kind of flat. The bird and the insects bring in 'background' as in background story (the story is simple, birds eat, are in places where there's food.) And the background becomes part of the story because it time stamps the action as late in the day when insects and birds are out.
    Here the background is a void, exists only to emphasize the subject.
    But here the background is yes, a black void. But the black background is not a meaningless void: instead the black background completes the story by suggesting the existence of a hive, brings movement into the story because the bee in its work has a familiar destination.
    Haiku. It seems to me with its shortness, and with its cutting contrast, it should be possible to do a sort of visual Haiku with photography. Background would have a prominent place in a Haiku photographic form? Are there any examples? Has anyone tried to do that before?
     
  34. Jeff Spirer, great portrait, but (topic being backgrounds) do you realize the work that the seamless does? Invisibly slipping background complications out of reach of the viewer (like putting the cookie jar on the upper shelf and closing the cabinet door). It clarifies, but it also (deliberately) limits.
    Rather than doing an out-of-sight-out-of-mind, discrete removal of the background, a la Jeff and Avedon (though Jeff's has color/tone), if you make background-deprivation explicit, sometimes you can (or I can) actually "feel" it being messed with -- whereas, in general, it operates subliminally. See Brad's most recent post (the chain-link) and the "friction" that the mind experiences because of that fence. Or, even better, look at these two examples from Irving Penn.
    Penn has to be one of, if not THE most anal, control-freak of photographers. A very good photographer, but an anal, control-freak very good photographer. Which means "background" is not happening in his pictures. He had the idea of doing portraits by pushing the subjects into "a small corner space" (his words) made by shoving two studio flats together. See if, when you look at these two examples, you don't "feel" your mind being boxed in, limited, prevented from playing/wandering/elaborating. And, when you click back to this thread, scroll all the examples and see if you don't feel an "Ahhhh ...!!" of liberation, like taking off a very tight pair of shoes. First Penn example is Joe Louis [LINK]. Second is Marcel Duchamp [LINK].
    I'm going to give some examples of interesting background to illustrate, in addition to all of the very useful work posted (thank you so much -- it makes all the difference to have material in front of one while thinking about this stuff). I've chosen pictures that are 1) from photographers that are well-known, and 2) that are demonstrative without being confusing (I hope).
    First, this one from Brassai [LINK]. He knew that we'd be looking at the couple on the left (two women, despite the clothing ... ). But his interest is in the man on the right. Notice, and he's contrived to make sure we notice on some level, not too deep, the hand of that man that is almost on exact center -- like a devil's fork in the back of the woman (in a dress). But further, notice near the top of the frame, those three downward pointing triangular things -- one for each figure on the left; then bounce to the right edge of the picture, and find a similar triangular (hanging cloth with shadow) that drives into the similarly shaped angle of the back of the neck of the man on the left. This picture is full of this kind of stuff.
    The danger is that one can get into this kind of dissection, and, rather than letting it lead you, can start to use it in a sort of crossword puzzle, Rubik's cube kind of cleverness -- letting the tail wag the dog. The Brassai is going in that direction, for me. I don't find the structural cleverness adds to the picture other than a small buzz from the forked hand -- which he worked on so obviously.
    One of Steve's pictures is, or seems to me to be (apparently accidentally, which I find hard to believe and/or amazing), doing a wonderful, delicate tip-toe dance along the horizon. The three pronged dark thing that breaks the line, the ship that rides it, the third thing that just touches it, the pier that amplifies/thickens it -- and the bent railing on the pier that echoes the woman's bent arm. And the sky mocking/answering the shadings of the water (the wave to the bright focus above the tower) etc.
    The picture of Josiah, to me is a near miss, just because all lines seem to lead to (converge on) the right upper edge -- and there's nothing there to "take" the push. I think a good photographer (such as Steve) will, after all these years, have the compositional sense to get those strong lines (the scene-split and the strong structural lines on the right) quite naturally. What wants an extra bit of inspiration, to me, would be noticing Josiah's left ear (the ear on the right), the spider on his shirt, and the blurry figure (man?) in the jaws of his angled walkie-talkie. (I would mention Josiah's un-matching eyes, but everybody "gets" eyes ...)
    Last (apologies for the over-long post), here are three examples of really good and yet really easy background work, all from Alex Webb:
    In this first one [LINK], especially notice the work done by that square piece of paper lying on the road -- how it binds the two sides together by its brightness and by its particular angle. And, (this being Webb) notice the use of color.
    In this next one, [LINK] very easy, most of it too obvious to qualify as "background" if you spot the lady's face in the upper center, and pay attention to the color -- but notice, again the necessary work done by the trash in the upper left quadrant. Those bits of white (Styrofoam cups and the whitish angled line, along with the scumbled color that's in it).
    Finally, this one [LINK] an obvious color composition, but how many of us can "see" the color in the reflection while shooting? It's easy to see it in the proof (too late!). Also notice the importance to the connect of the boy on the left, of the round headlight of the car on the right.
    **************
    Lex wrote: "When I first saw the title to this discussion, I assumed it was referring to our personal historical background." Well, DUH! :) [I know people read these threads way too fast to get any too-clever double-whatevers, but I like to put them in anyway because, well, I can, and if someone gets them, it's all gravy. I feel like a five-year-old who has told a successful knock-knock joke.]
    A photograph can't be a Rorschach (it *is* figure), but it can turn the tables -- we are being read.
     
  35. "Haiku. It seems to me with its shortness, and with its cutting contrast, it should be possible to do a sort of visual Haiku with photography. Background would have a prominent place in a Haiku photographic form? Are there any examples?"
    THIS?
    Maybe THIS?
     
  36. This has become a very rich thread, and it's a bit hard to comment and digest everything everyone has said and all the photos that have been contributed. Julie, you have remarked twice in this thread (in different contexts) to the effect that some thoughts and observations are not remarked upon, or that people go quickly through threads. Sometimes it's simply a matter of time, energy, and selective commentary. I try (and I think most of us do to a certain extent) to read all comments and look at all the links.
    Getting briefly back to Fred's photo of Jeremy. I wonder how much knowledge (or assuming we have knowledge) of a given photographer plays in our interpretation of background and the intention or spontaneity of that background. If I was not familiar with your work, Fred, or your writings about your approach and methodology, I don't think that I would have so quickly jumped to the conclusion that "Jeremy" was a planned portrait. Objectively, I'm not so sure that the photo points more toward formality (planned) or spontaneity. Probably more so the latter. But, to your point that experience and prior application of intentional, planned photographic elements leads to the quick, intuitive application of them, your background was, in essence, planned. Your more formally planned portraits, and your eye for geometric elements, quickly led you to choose that background.
    I went back and took a longer look at Brad's photograph. The chain link fence, it's color and the light upon it, leads me to the background of the woman framed by the various (almost ominous) shadows. And "leads" is not quite the right word. It grabs and pushes me? Not sure. The fence has a powerful effect. A very strong foreground element which I cannot avoid, yet which also serves to emphasize the background. A really nice use of the fence as a strong compositional element, as opposed to seeing it as a hindrance ("Damn! The woman against that wall in this light would be a really cool photo, if only that stupid fence wasn't in the way!")
    Jeff Spirer's portrait of Tony Baker. I don't have a lot to say about this in regard to background (we've already covered that in regard to Avedon, isolating focus with a white, or monochrome, background, etc.). But...I can't let this pass without commenting:
    I think I captured a lot more than his headshot on Comedy Central.​
    Effin 'A', bubba! Personality and humor (this is a comedian, right?) bleed from your photograph. The headshot on Comedy Central isn't necessarily bad, but it shows no personality other than giving the impression of a hipster indie filmmaker. Poor poor choice of a headshot, I thought. At least in comparison to your photo of Tony.
    Now, on to the Brassai photo. Julie points out a number of interesting background elements. Rubik's cube and Rorschach test indeed. As interesting as those elements may be, I suspect they are all by chance unless Brassai posed this shot (I believe Doisneau was known to do this on occasion, I don't know if Brassai ever did). Even if he did, I could imagine him posing the human elements against the bar, but not choosing that location intentionally because of the triangular cloths hanging down. But, to take the Rubik's cube even further, let's add the photographer commenting upon the Brassai photo and add her penchant for triangles into the mix! ;-)
    Okay. It's Saturday and I have things I must attend to. I wanted to get on to Allen, Lex, Dan, Charles, et al, but there just isn't the time. Interesting discussion.
     
  37. Julie/Steve,
    I read the photo of Josiah a little differently. Possibly my own bias in growing up down the block from a NYC elevated train. I hadn't noticed the linear movement to the top right Julie mentioned but do see it now. But what strikes me is that there is movement in that linear gesture and I don't think it's a drawback that the movement is away from the subject and out of the frame, if that's what Julie is getting at. Those tracks, and vibrant city life, even when distilled into a moment such as this, are constantly on the go, things and sounds and sights constantly vying for attention. That I am drawn away from a subject often enhances the portrait for me, because I can't help but come back to Josiah even if swept away for a moment. It reminds me of conversations with my brother in our bedroom, which faced the tracks about a block away. They would get interrupted by the passing train and yet, seamlessly, we would continue just having barely (if at all) noticed the train. It became, as it were, a very accepted and natural part of our background. Now that the lines of the tracks have been pointed out to me, the movement I experience simply adds to the orchestration.
     
  38. Jeff - "I think I captured a lot more than his headshot on Comedy Central."
    The Comedy Central picture of Tony also works without a background. Yours, his, look to me to be traditional 'sitting' portraits where the rule is to not have a background, or to blur it entirely with shallow depth of field. What doesn't work in the Comedy Central picture is the shirt. The shirt as a prop in your photo of Tony is the better approach.
    One thing that I do like about the Comedy Central shot is that Tony is pictured as 'off stage', that is, he doesn't look like he is performing part of his act before the camera. (But of course, in both shots Tony is performing).
    With a comedian, the type of shots available for a publicity image are limited to generally two. One, a clowning shot where Tony looks like we would expect him to look considering that we know him for being on stage as a comedian. The second type is the 'off stage looking type' where we see him not as clown, but as one who is more than a clown who performs on stage. Both are marketing images, Comedy Central's doesn't work toward that end because of the shirt - the shirt is too busy and that is an error from which there is no recovery.
     
  39. Fred -- Your first Haiku link ("THIS") doesn't work. The second is interesting, the face suddenly appearing between the toes. I don't know that I could come up with a visual haiku example, but I see where the "toes" one fits the bill.
    Lex's gritty night shots frighten me. I want to both run, and yet also be there. Shadowy figures in the dark against nondescript slump block walls. Background and atmosphere.
    Allen's images, one b&w, one color. The color version both strengthens the background, and gives a greater sense of depth. We lose detail in the woman, and a sense of depth, in the b&w version I think.
    No comments on Gary Peck's images? Urban environment as background. The man against the columns, and the blue tones, give an air of power -- almost sinister. Stockbroker as villain kind of thing. Interesting processing (HDRish, tone mapping?). I can see some people being prejudiced against the photos for the processing, some liking them for the dramatic, graphic novel look it lends. I've experimented with this myself so I appreciate that type of aesthetic even if I don't really use it much anymore.
    (An aside -- every time I scroll down this particular page, Jeff's shot of Tony pops out at me and makes me laugh. Almost like he's commenting on our seriousness.)
     
  40. "No comments on Gary Peck's images?"
    Hey! I did!
     
  41. Fred G.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], Oct 26, 2013; 02:27 p.m.
    "No comments on Gary Peck's images?"
    Hey! I did!​
    Gaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! I quit!!!! (I am laughing so hard, Fred...the irony.)
    (and I claim to read everyone's posts????)
     
  42. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    With a comedian, the type of shots available for a publicity image are limited to generally two.​

    Not that it pertains to background, but I disagree completely with this. I have over 100 shots of Marlon Wayans from last week, unfortunately there's an embargo on most of them, but there is a wide variety that can be used for publicity, from in-camera to formal portrait. I'm doing one of him with the same setup as Baker next week, I can do something completely different than Baker's. That one I won't have an embargo on.


    Invisibly slipping background complications out of reach of the viewer (like putting the cookie jar on the upper shelf and closing the cabinet door). It clarifies, but it also (deliberately) limits.​

    I disagree. Removing background "complications" inserts a whole other set of complications into a portrait, and it only "clarifies" if the photographer does the "clarification." I've shot with backgrounds where I could do almost anything with the subject and it would work because it does, like this one:
    [​IMG]
     
  43. If I was going to do some sort of Haiku with an opportunity to photograph say a Tony Baker: First, and this is all a new sort of 'exercise' in trying to get contrast and story into an image, working with figure and ground and other visual elements: first compose a brief poem in my mind riffing off the visual elements. It would be an attempt in a simple poem to grasp what I am trying to say in the image. So with Tony I might look for the contrast between Comedy and Tragedy and try and bring that out in a verbal poem. It won't be a good poem, but would be a grasping for something to express. And it wouldn't be in proper form as Haiku, but form isn't strangling in that genre anyway. But in looking for contrast in story: in comedy I find rage sublimated into a humorous form, comedy itself as an art form using contrasts to trigger laughter at things we really just can't stand. Also, to try and achieve clarity in thought and purpose, I might turn my mental poetry exercise into a sort of performance art, me acting out in gesture, me trying to tease from my own nature a depth of story that I might not get to if I didn't act it out physically. Tony is a master of contrast and it is that connection between subject and background that with intention formed in the poem, both verbal and acted out in a sort of performance art all done before I clicked the shutter: now at least I have a chance of having something genuine to say in the visual art called photography. If I visualize my camera as a Samurai sword, whose point I want to focus and energize: maybe then, maybe then....
     
  44. OK Jeff, I agree that there is certainly variety in those photographs. My point was/is a sweeping generalization, more narrowly applied to real actors, but the same point the bard made: all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. I literally mean that an entertainer/actor is either in character or they are not in character. Either in or not in character can be the only types from which publicity photos can be made. At some point in exploring the 'out of character' public figure: it isn't a publicity photo any more.
    The woman in your next picture: she is playing and for me, for no reason, just silliness. But it is an environmental portrait. The background means a lot to me, more than just that it has complications. PERSONAL ASSOCIATIONS TO A PUBLICLY POSTED WORK OF ART PRESENTED FOR ANALYSIS PURPOSES ONLY. CONTAINS PSYCHOLOGISMS AND DISORGANIZED OUT OF CONTEXT THINKING SO BEWARE: Here to me the background suggests that her inner life is entirely culturally derived, a parade of substance-less- imagery she has constructed as a personality mainly in opposition to an unsuitable dominant culture. The rub is that she has created for herself a new culture that dominates her and which is just so much dissatisfying noise; just so much noise and seeming complication that she can't see the forest for the trees. Still, she is holding a bottle of booze. Her search for genuine spirit therefore complicated by her reaching into a bottle for spirit as the antidote to the illness that our dominant culture is. But how can that illness of dominant culure be replaced by a culture that isn't also infected? The spider on her dress is our warning that all is not what it seems, although really, is this a Halloween shot? Nevertheless, the spider, the 'Other' represents a source of a healing venom, a path to true spiritual differentiation..... and on and on
     
  45. Anyway, I'm not sure why, except for name dropping and self- aggrandizement, a picture of a celebrity with such an elementary and basic principle from portraiture such as using a screen as used for over 100 years is presented as an honest example of use of background.
     
  46. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Well I don't name drop but I do credit the people in my pix when it's appropriate. I have certain restrictions on usage. There is no self-aggrandizement. Maybe that is why you would do it, but it certainly has nothing to do with me. I have posted hundreds of photos here, often crediting the people in them whether they are known or not. Seems like you have made all sorts of wild comments about my later photo with absolutely no validity to those comments. You don't get youth culture, that's obvious, so try to understand instead of making all caps out-of-context statements.
    Other types of backgrounds have been used for over 100 years, some demonstrated above, and you didn't make any accusations. Seems like there's some sort of issue here that has nothing to do with photography or philosophy.
     
  47. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    With a comedian, the type of shots available for a publicity image are limited to generally two​

    Show us some of yours. I don't feel limited. I'd like to see why you do.
     
  48. Jeff, we can agree to disagree on a lot of things. For example, I do understand bits about youth culture, but from my own personal perspective. In any event, I do get a lot out of your picture of the young woman and her environs. I appreciate that you put it up for discussion.
     
  49. "Show us some of yours. I don't feel limited. I'd like to see why you do."
    No one would hire me to either fly an airplane, drive a truck, or photograph someone in the entertainment industry, or anywhere else for that matter. I don't feel those facts as a constraint of any kind. In fact, its kind of liberating. I don't have to fly an airplane, I don't have to drive a truck, I don't have to photograph someone in the entertainment industry or anywhere else for pay. Those aren't my jobs.
     
  50. And this thread started out so nicely.
     
  51. Steve, I don't know if I was being clear in my discussion of Jeff's work, I don't know if it was clear that I was offering an art critique that was comprised of many levels of observation. That is what this site is supposed to be about. It is supposed to be about our being, among other things, honest with each other isn't it? That isn't always nice. (I could be nicer in the way I express difficult things.)
    Art is from where we know not. We don't know why as a species we have the ability to express ourselves creatively in art. Part of the contexts that art provides are deeply personal. Art is capable of fully engaging its viewer. Questions arise. Who made an art object and why? Those questions are important to a broader discussion of art appropriate for this forum, in my opinion. I am temperamentally inclined to view art primarily as an activity, not necessarily seeing art as what that activity produces.
    Julie wrote "A photograph can't be a Rorschach (it *is* figure), but it can turn the tables -- we are being read." We are being read, a camera lens illuminates the mind of the eye behind it and art illumnates the world beheld by that mind, simultaneously. Artists put a lot of themselves into the world, both of the impersonal and of the deeply personal. I'm sure we are all aware of that fact. What should be clear is that we are responsible for what we put out in the world. Knowing that, it shouldn't be surprising that others will hold us responsible for what we put out in the world in the way of photographic images.
    Can we speak to those specifics? How? It can be awkward, and accompanied by strong emotion. And those discussion are self revealing. For example, Lex has said he contributed pictures that were also pictures of himself, part of a shared alienation if I understood his written words correctly. I can relate to that. Partly photography is a respite for me, partly a grappling, and even so, it is something I enjoy. It is important to me to hear those kind of personal details. It was nice that Lex offered that to us. I don't know, but it takes some guts and hardness to put our art out there in the world, not knowing fully what it exposes about ourselves and what it exposes about the world we live in. Anything can happen. Those unknown elements are part of art's fascination.
     
  52. Steve wrote: " ... unless Brassai posed this shot ... "
    LOL. He's shooting at night (before modern lighting) with a Voigtlander Bergheil with a single lens (a Heliar 10.5 cm) on a tripod using 9x6 cm glass plates. What would you guess the ISO is for that baby?
    He not only posed the "given" people, he hired (and posed) actors, and, if necessary, used himself in his own pictures -- not as self-portraits but playing a part.
     
  53. "Show us some of yours. I don't feel limited. I'd like to see why you do."
    Given the type of photographs I make, I worry a little that an "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" approach would lead to some strange sightings. I remember Carlos once commenting on a self nude I did that he wonders if this could lead to a fraternity of old dudes (among my regular commenters) doing nudes of themselves and Steve was more than a little reticent not only to do it but even to picture it! :)
    The art of critique has little if anything to do with the art of making the same type of pictures one is critiquing, IMO. I've heard why he does. That's enough for me.
    I actually do feel quite limited and it's a little strange to say that out loud but it leaves me room for breaking some of my self imposed limits which is exciting.
    I'll address just one comment to Charles's comment about Jeff's work. One of the reasons I like reading critiques of others' photos is that they sometimes ring true to me and my own work. A bunch of what Charles said does ring true for me, particularly about the tendency to replace what are considered old cultures and paradigms with new ones, when I think I'm being brave but instead just adopting a different safety net.
    Take that nude self portrait. "Brave" or some form of it was probably the word that most stood out to me in a lot of the comments. I knew almost immediately that it wasn't brave and was helped to see that in the very brief comment of a very good commenter. It was, in fact, as he put it, tentative. Knowing that is sort of a good thing in that it's a truth and on some level the photo actually showed my honesty (about myself and my tentativeness). But in showing that it revealed a lot more, it revealed some of my limits, which I surely do have and am constantly excited to try to overcome. In many ways that photo was as cowardly as it was brave. Only because I was willing to reveal the tentativeness without at first knowing it was someone else willing to "confront" me with it. Another way to say "confront" here is "bother to care."
    What often is at work in my own background is this exploration and struggle of hiding behind the mask, showing the mask, trying to reach beyond the mask. If I do that at all authentically, I expect to occasionally if not often get caught hiding behind something myself. Because that's what I do and have done and it's hella (did I just say that!) hard to change.
     
  54. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The art of critique has little if anything to do with the art of making the same type of pictures one is critiquing,​

    I agree with that statement, but I think the comment that one can only make a limited number of photos of a certain type of subject says far more about the commenter than anyone else. Limits are personal boundaries. The comment about what number of photos can be taken of a specific type of subject has little to do with my photo and that's why I asked to see something. I would like to understand why Charles feels so limited.
    A bunch of what Charles said does ring true for me, particularly about the tendency to replace what are considered old cultures and paradigms with new ones,​

    The comments on my photo of Kiki appear to derive from an inability to understand a newer culture.
     
  55. Julie, an excellent question. One of the best I have seen in a while. The photographer is responsible for everything in the frame including the background. Since you are compositing you are probably paying way more attention to the bg and have way more control as well. As a portraitist, I have total bg control in studio and my location work usually starts with a search for the right bg instead of good light. Why? A truck load of lighting gear takes care of creating good lighting including lighting/coloring/patterning the bg in small locations or controlled tonal contrast with subject either subtracting light from subject or lighting subject or subtracting light globally with a vari nd then adding back light on subject. Great timing though, I don't regularly composite, but am heading out to catch the light at the right angle at a location to match a studio lighting setup next week. I expect compositing shows up on the Digital Darkroom forum where I infrequently visit but perhaps should drop in once in a while.
     
  56. "The comments on my photo of Kiki appear to derive from an inability to understand a newer culture."
    Maybe. Maybe not. I took the comments to be not about the culture per se but about its symbols, signs, and the way culture is used and, more importantly conveyed, in photos and what that can say about our own acculturation as photographers.
    Interestingly, culture is often the real background to a lot of photography and art.
    And, when I said this . . .
    "A bunch of what Charles said does ring true for me"
    . . . I had in mind that it rang true in terms of my own work.
     
  57. Julie H[​IMG][​IMG], Oct 27, 2013; 05:15 a.m.
    Steve wrote: " ... unless Brassai posed this shot ... "
    LOL. He's shooting at night (before modern lighting) with a Voigtlander Bergheil with a single lens (a Heliar 10.5 cm) on a tripod using 9x6 cm glass plates. What would you guess the ISO is for that baby?
    He not only posed the "given" people, he hired (and posed) actors, and, if necessary, used himself in his own pictures -- not as self-portraits but playing a part.​
    Way to publicly expose my ignorance, Julie. I hope you're satisfied. ;-)
    Charles -- Sorry if it seemed as if my remark was about you. It was, partly, but it was meant more as a lighthearted general observation on the direction in which this thread was headed. I want to digest your further thoughts (they're interesting and merit discussion, I think) before I comment on them.
     
  58. Steve, actually what I exposed is your very good sense in not buying ridiculous numbers of photo books ...
    ***********
    Bob Bill, your bringing up lighting has completely grabbed my attention. My first thought was a snarky, "That's like a painter claiming to use paint to work out his background -- like he could use anything else!" But I realize that's not parallel. Because photography is analytic not synthetic.
    We're dealing, not with what we add, but with what's already there. Or is it?
    I'm asking people to answer not the question of "When a tree falls and nobody's there, does it make a sound?" (if you don't see/notice/analyze the background/light, is it there?) but rather, I'm asking "If you kind of, sort of, just barely, out of the corner of your ear, think maybe you notice the sound of a tree falling, did it make a sound, or was that just ear-wax moving around?"
    [I'm having fun with the idea right now, but I am truly interested. The wheels are turning, the gears are possibly meshing, and I will hope to post something serious, even earth-shattering, or at least ear-wax jiggling tomorrow morning (I am only capable of thinking clearly early in the morning).]
     
  59. "The kid's red sneakers provide just a little punctuation mark which doesn't occur in the b/w version." Fred.
    Very observant, Fred. A catch light.. the wrong terminology but you take the meaning.
    Which makes me think of objects within the photo part of the glue of foreground/background but have something to say.
    For instance the coke can in this photo. Has it something to say..."coca cola the real thing" .
    00c6d4-543268984.jpg
     
  60. "Haiku. It seems to me with its shortness, and with its cutting contrast, it should be possible to do a sort of visual Haiku with photography. Background would have a prominent place in a Haiku photographic form? Are there any examples? Has anyone tried to do that before?"​
    Most of the photography of Michael Kenna and Rolfe Horn could be described as visual haiku. And has been. But it's not so much due to the background as to the very spare compositions and consistency in form and theme.
     
  61. Back grounds/foregrounds... clever manipulations.
    But have they something to say?
    Perhaps we should call them Art for something to say.
     
  62. Perhaps, Fine Art.
    A clever pretty picture with nothing to say....but.
    Hey, I'm a very clever pretty picture...with all that stuff...which means sod all.
    Just a thought to share.
     
  63. Tell me, reach out to me....
    What do you have to say....?
     
  64. Some ramblings which Allen inspired:
    Backgrounds, foregrounds . . .
    Figure, ground . . .
    Wholes, parts . . .
    Objective, subjective . . .
    Perspectives, world views . . .
    If I am truly self-aware, can I always make out these distinctions?
    Are there any such distinctions for a solipsist?
    Does it really matter in the end?
     
  65. "Does it really matter in the end?"
    Michael, I can only tell you how it matters to me. When I hear a critique such as Charles offered above, I look for ways that I can apply it to my own work and to my own abilities to be authentic. I wonder how much my own background has influenced me, how much I want it to, and how much I want to try to break free from it, to whatever extent that may be possible. I look physically at my photos and see what uses I make of backgrounds, what things I've become dependent on and what things I create for myself as I become independent. Photography and art have an aspect of the magical, but they are not all magic. Some of it requires thought, consideration, exercise, practice, rethinking, just as some of it requires instinct, probably some innate talent, and a lot of other things. If I want not to remain static, not to be monotone, not to only adopt others' voices, then, yes, all this matters. Some will say just get out there and shoot. I would say that's bad advice, in a vacuum of having some kind of inner/emotional/intellectual depth or, as Allen succinctly utters, "something to say."
     
  66. Thanks Lex for that Haiku information.
     
  67. Michael - "Are there any such distinctions for a solipsist?"
    Is that the philosophy Dr. Johnson refuted by stubbing his toe?
     
  68. Allen - "Has it something to say..."coca cola the real thing" ."
    Maybe. I'm not sure. I've argued that Jeff's photo of Kiki is not a photograph of Kiki's authenticity and that the background in that photo works to suggest that possibility. That background consists of images from a highly sexist subculture. Kiki's placement against that background suggest to me that Kiki colludes with that sexist subculture's precepts in order to 'fit in'.
    In contrast, your photograph of a woman seems to show a woman who is displaying true feeling. But a coke can represents the quintessence of commercialism, unreality. We all know that Coke isn't the real thing, it's contrived water. Tears are water, and the woman shows them. I'm not sure what to make of that juxtaposition.
    How would you compare and contrast the themes expressed in both Jeff's and your photographs?
     
  69. Background is the living skin of the day.
    Light is the living in that living skin -- beyond the chemistry, the physics, the cellular mechanics. [Again, thank you Bob Bill for prompting me to realize this.*]
    Think of the face of somebody you know. Can you tell me what their skin is like? But if it blushes, if it pales, if it yellows, or becomes spotted or bleeds, then can you tell me? What parts of it "make" the face? All, some, none? When does it surface into particular recognition?
    You can't make a skin; it has to grow. Imagine a face that grew from start to finish in one day. That's the skin of the day as the light grows it. The flicker, the shimmer, the watered silk of blush and pale and bleeding.
    Bob Bill is "scouting" for a skin. He's "casting" the face that he'll find when he adds the eyes (his portrait subjects -- that part of the face that you consciously look at and pay particular attention to). Notice that he has to go and look, just like you have to be asked to go look "at" the skin of "somebody you know" (as I did above). It requires a particular effort to see it.
    [*It is just this kind almost random germination that I love about this forum.]
     
  70. Fred, can you please be more specific regarding the comment(s) Charles made earlier?
     
  71. Michael, it is Charles's post which is second below Jeff's photo of the woman holding the Jack Daniel's bottle:
    Charles W [​IMG][​IMG], Oct 26, 2013; 05:54 p.m.
     
  72. Charles, I'm not sure that Johnson himself stubbed his toe, or rather that he suggested that Berkeley do so to refute his own idealism.
     
  73. Fred -
    If I understand correctly, the key to your response is being authentic. Did you take Charles as asserting this when he likened his camera to a samurai's sword?
    I must admit that I am having some difficulty here, so whatever elucidation you could provide would be most appreciated.
     
  74. Michael, you didn't read the post I directed you to, which didn't mention samurai swords. The one I'm talking about is a good post and worth considering well beyond Jeff's photo. As I said, I considered how it pertained to my own photos and growth as well. As I said, it's two posts below Jeff's photo.
    Charles W [​IMG][​IMG], Oct 26, 2013; 05:54 p.m.
     
  75. Michael, if I apply Charles's ideas to my own photos, the first one below is easy and is about cultural trappings and sees Andy as a derived and constructed being, which I actually think is true for most of us (we do construct ourselves culturally). But, even so, showing that in photos can simply be through gathering a collection of signs, symbols, and somewhat hollow imagery that's there for the taking (and color and glitz). Without ignoring our cultural construction, we can take a photo to a different place, which I think the second photo is starting to do and it's a direction I am more inclined and challenged to pursue. The second photo is, in fact, a homage to Scandinavian photographer Rineke Dijkstra, with my own and Andy's own twist. Interestingly, several times in my 10 years of photographing seriously, it's been homages that have led me to more individual expressions in subsequent photos. Another way of approaching background, I suppose. In the background is always the work of others I am influenced and shaped by, no matter how "unique" or "original" I ever become.
     
  76. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    That background consists of images from a highly sexist subculture. Kiki's placement against that background suggest to me that Kiki colludes with that sexist subculture's precepts in order to 'fit in'.​

    I said it before and I guess I will have to say it again. The world is changing. Women can stretch their images without being judged the way you have judged. I work with burlesque dancers, strippers, alternative lifestyle people, and they choose their own image, not letting someone who cries "sexist" with old fashioned views thinks they should do. Kiki is a strong woman who lives in a world you don't seem to understand.
     
  77. I think you're right Michael about Johnson/Berkeley (its been so long since I read the story).
    Say, to clarify about Samurai sword. There I'm exploring the idea of how I might heighten my concentration and focus in photography, wielding a camera as though life depended on what I'm trying to say in a final print. Part of that idea is to engage more fully with the creative impulse that is trying to find expression through us in making a photograph. So I thought, what if I mentally tried to compose myself and my concentration and focus, what if I composed a Haiku, freestyle, to try and bring clarity to my own mind. Perhaps with the short poem acting it out physically in a sort of pre-capture performance art. At some point of clarity, weald the sword, click the shutter. Since I'm mostly taking pictures of small, flighty birds I can't see where waving my arms around, stomping while muttering poems under my breath is going to help though.
     
  78. Jeff - "Kiki is a strong woman who lives in a world you don't seem to understand."
    I do think that Kiki understands the world she lives in better than I do, perhaps better than do you. After all, Jeff, you and I are men and it is a man's world. Kiki is a woman in a man's world, and the subcultural imagery that comprises her portrait's background is a man's world too. The only evidence of another world present in her photograph is a spider, the 'Other'. The spider is flattened into an adornment, but it is still present, as the 'Other' always is.
    The world isn't changing according to the evidence you provide to support that opinion. Burlesque dancers, strippers aren't new. Those jobs didn't come into existence only during our lifetimes. Those images, roles, already existed in the world into which we were born. Those roles existed as suits of clothing on a rack, there to be sorted out, picked through and donned for money. Folks 'suit up' for reasons and don't get to pick what they get to wear once they decide to wear something, or nothing, in order to make money.
     
  79. Charles -- Don't you think you're placing an awfully heavy burden of sociological interpretation upon a single photograph (Kiki)? Your take on Kiki's photo seems pretty absolutist in what it represents for Kiki, and for the world at large. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I don't deny that the world is still filled with sexism, but that Kiki is an unwitting victim or tool of it, or that the world still exclusively belongs to men seems overly simplistic. It's an image of a woman licking a Jack Daniel's bottle, with rock posters in the background. If anything, I took the portrait of Kiki to be a bit tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended), and that she is as much mocking as embracing the role she knows she is playing for this portrait.
     
  80. Steve - "...and that she is as much mocking as embracing the role she knows she is playing for this portrait."
    Which suggests to me a tacit acknowledgement of the sexual nature of her licking the bottle? A bottle is not a bottle? I didn't address that symbolism directly in my post. We've been talking around the suggestiveness surrounding the bottle, or at least I don't remember anyone commenting directly on it either. Let me analogize. Let's say that a member contributed to this thread the photograph Piss Christ; and then went on to discuss only the technical aspects of that photo and few members, if any, commented on the content, besides me. And Fred. And now you. And no women commenting on what is very easy in that photo to consider as an objectification of women generally in an adolescent sort of way. Someone should call that out, I did.
    As to whether Kiki is this or that: It isn't about the real Kiki. It is about the objectification of women generally. That's a complicated topic. As to whether society is this or that: I have my views and respect other views.
     
  81. We've been talking around the suggestiveness surrounding the bottle,
    And no women commenting on what is very easy in that photo to consider as an objectification of women...
    Someone should call that out, I did.
    It isn't about the real Kiki. It is about the objectification of women generally.​
    This is an entirely different discussion and may be the reason that other people have not commented upon it. It may also be the case that some of us are more desensitized to the sexuality of a photo than you. By contemporary standards, Kiki's licking of a bottle is relatively mild. Films, photos, magazines, and social networking websites are saturated with sexuality of a nature far more explicit than Jeff's photo. I find much of it annoying, superfluous, adolescent, and, yes, objectifying and, in some cases, demeaning. A simple watching of a tv program like "Big Bang Theory" reveals so many sexual references per minute that it's hard to keep track of them all. Further, it gives the impression that recreational sex is the norm and perfectly acceptable. Often, the jokes involve sexual acts which, in another time, would have seemed kinky if not downright perverted. I'm neither a prude nor an old-fashioned moralist, but I find myself irritated at the constant barrage of these things. I remember watching the movie "Something About Mary". There is a scene where Ben Stiller masturbates, then does not know that he ejaculated into his hair. Carmen Diaz sees it, mistakes it for hair gel and puts it in her own hair. Oh hardy har har. I wasn't disgusted by the scene because it offended me, I was disgusted by it because it seemed so stupid and adolescent. Will our collective sense of humor never rise above fart jokes, sex, and bodily excretions?
    As for the objectification of women (and men), I don't see how that will ever end. We are sexual beings. If it sells, if it attracts, then it will continue to exist. We cannot enact puritanical legislation forbidding prurient images. About all we can do is attempt to educate and perhaps enlighten. But, at what point does education become politically correct propaganda? All interesting points to discuss, but I don't think this particular thread is the place in which to do it.
     
  82. Symbols can be tricky.
    "Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions." --Joyce Carol Oates
    "When quick results are imperative, the manipulation of the masses through symbols may be the only quick way of having a critical thing done." --John Grierson
    How a photo uses symbols may actually be more relevant than the meaning of the symbols themselves in determining how the subject is being portrayed and ultimately being experienced.
     
  83. Women may take possession of their sexuality in moments of authentic expression before a camera. Yet it is the case that men are in possession of women's sexuality already. One example of men's possession of female sexuality are the cultural images that Steve references, male derived, where visual and active aspects prevail.
    If women were in possession culturally of the images of sexual expression, we instead might be flooded with totally different types of imagery. Then men, when expressing their sexuality in a culture where women possess the imagery, might feel it a misfit with their own sexuality. We men would always be looking at those not quite apt images and wonder "Is that what they want?"
    I'm not sure what imagery a culture of female derived sexual imagery would contain. Perhaps those from prehistory, pre-patriarchy, of the Venus.
     
  84. I'm not sure what imagery a culture of female derived sexual imagery would contain. Perhaps those from prehistory, pre-patriarchy, of the Venus.​
    No need to reach that far back, Charles. A more current example might be found here.
     
  85. Your current example is far from what I had in mind. Those are the images of women adorned as men would have them adorned in our present time, where women, again, aren't the one's who control the imagery of woman. I'm suggesting that when women under matriarchy had more say, the images of women's sexuality wasn't what we've accustomed to? A Venus shows women's sexuality in context: fecundity, perpetuation. Another representation in image might be a female dog lactating, each breast full, the carrier of life and all that life means. Or a female bear, known as a ferocious protectress of her cubs. Again, sexuality in context.
     
  86. (Note that I mean 'background' as everything that is not what one sees as the 'player(s)' in the picture; this will include stuff at any distance)​
    Another reaction to Julie's question as to what constitutes background. This can be several hours in the process of thinking and composing an image, or on the computer in post treatment, or in the silver image producing darkroom. They are not always directly apparent from the final image, but part of what made the image, "stuff at a distance."
    00c76m-543308684.jpg
     
  87. Your current example is far from what I had in mind. Those are the images of women adorned as men would have them adorned in our present time, where women, again, aren't the one's who control the imagery of woman.​
    I thought you might say something that. I can assure you that Anna Wintour controls every aspect of female imagery in Vogue magazine. But that's invalid because she's a byproduct of centuries of patriarchal domination? I'm not saying you're entirely incorrect in some of your opinions regarding female expressions of sexuality, but it's as if you invalidate any possibility of a contemporary woman being capable of expressing what is sexual to her. Yet you, a man, somehow have the capability of tapping into some ancient matriarchal truths. Seems a bit...questionable.
     
  88. Steve - "But that's invalid because she's a byproduct of centuries of patriarchal domination?"
    Invalid and valid simultaneously. Because Vogue imagery represents something essential about women, but does not in a full range of images come anywhere close to capturing the essence of 'woman'. Same can be said of our culture's largely commerce driven image set, including the problem of women portrayed as role models who are unrepresentatively thin.
    I'm suggesting that a more complete image set can be constructed by looking to other times and places. I'm not tapping into ancient matriarchal truth: I'm suggesting we look at the history of Western art, Eastern art, etc. to compile a more complete set of images of 'woman'. We would in that process know more about our own times and culture by comparison.
    And most importantly, to look to prehistory for representations of women from a time that predates patriarchy. The hope would be of finding images that a woman would from her own heart use to represent herself to other women first, but secondarily to men. Because in our culture, with men dominant, a woman must represent herself first to men. That mis-ordering of representation is what I mean when I say that men 'possess' women's sexuality in our culture.
     
  89. The relaxed and casual nature of the Italian people is belied by the geometric precision and rigorousness of their architecture.
     
  90. Photo related to the 8:12 post
    00c7NO-543335384.jpg
     
  91. Probably our beliefs are the most influential background for what we see and find.
    ________________________________________
    In the background of each photo is a body of work. Kiki and Andy, and every other subject of every portrait, needs not only be seen against the background of their individual photos but against the background of the body of work of the photographer who brings them to us.
    We've often talked about the importance of what's NOT in the frame. Well, my claim here would be that all the pictures in my portfolio and in Jeff's portfolio that are NOT of Kiki and Andy could give some great clues as to how Kiki and Andy are being presented.
     
  92. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Well, my claim here would be that all the pictures in my portfolio and in Jeff's portfolio that are NOT of Kiki and Andy could give some great clues as to how Kiki and Andy are being presented.​
    Well that's an excellent point. I have a portfolio and most of the photos I present are part of that. (The portrait of Tony is a job.) Looking at my photos (and Fred's) gives a vision beyond individual photos, much broader than just the one or two photos presented in a thread.
     
  93. That is an excellent point, Fred. One could say that a photographer's body of work is the background that helps give us more background to their backgrounds. ;-)
    Arthur -- Interesting point also. I am not well-versed in a history of architecture. Would you date that background structure as, roughly, Renaissance time period? I am somewhat familiar with the history and culture of the ancient Roman empire. Their roads, walls, and aqueducts tend to reflect a single-minded dominance in the sense that they tended to impose their will on topographical obstacles. Just as they imposed (or attempted to impose) their will on tribes and civilizations in the areas they conquered. I wonder -- Were the people who inhabited the Italian peninsula in 200 BC, or 1500 AD, as relaxed and casual as we intrepret the contemporary inhabitants to be? Regardless, your photo, seen in the light of what you said (relaxed and casual people, rigorously formal background) gives an interesting depth and contrast to the juxtaposition of the two.
     
  94. Steve - "Their roads, walls, and aqueducts tend to reflect a single-minded dominance in the sense that they tended to impose their will on topographical obstacles. "
    Topographical obstacles are 'the feminine'. If we look at the cave paintings we see the world of the hunter. When we look at the Venus statuary from that period, we see the gatherers. The gatherers domesticated plants and animals to improve a hunter's life and the lives of their children, the women much more connected to mother earth.
    What have we done with those gifts to us from 'the feminine'? The trend shown in recorded history has been of almost single-minded dominance over nature, women, and each other. In both the West and in the East.
    One of the best illustration in film of 'masculine'/'feminine' orientations is The Story of the Weeping Camel. The men's approach to a mother Camel's abandonment of its baby is to push mother and child together physically. But it had been a difficult birth, too painful for the mother to not see her baby as but more pain. So forcing the baby on the mother doesn't work. The woman in the film knows it won't work, but waits patiently for the men to exhaust themselves.
    The approach that works to unite camel mother and camel baby turns out to be music: the playing on an instrument mournful music to the mother camel. The mother camel weeps, releases her pain, and reunites with her child. The film illustrates that the men in the community won't resort to feminine approaches until all other options have failed. Partly because they don't want to pay for a musician when if they could just force the baby on its camel mother, that expense could be avoided. It is folly, the feminine woman knows it, and she has to wait for the men to catch up. That is the essence of recorded history in a nutshell. That men won't weep until it is the last thing. If they weep only for themselves, the tears are wasted. If the tears fall on mother earth, all is renewed and life can begin again.
     
  95. Fred - "The second photo is, in fact, a homage to Scandinavian photographer Rineke Dijkstra, with my own and Andy's own twist."
    Now I get it! I wondered what that photo was about. Bravo!
     
  96. Steve, the contrast is really of one of the relaxed and informal contemporary Italians (although there may be some foreign tourists as well relaxing in the afternoon October sun of my photo) to the Medieval architecture (the facade was completed n 1204) that is very ordered and precise and precursor to later architecture of the Rennaisance.
    I don't know too much about the Italians (those people of the penninsula, as Italy was only defined politically in the 19th century) of the 12th and 13th century, but they were lovers of art and social life and quite concerned about good versus bad government (An ancient painting in the Sienna civic building shows this dichotomy). Modern Italians are very proud of their heritage.
    The Etruscans (Lucca is an Etruscan-founded city), earlier Italians, buried their women in vaults with varied personal worldly possessions in the same manner as the burying of the males, denoting a quite liberated social system some 2500 years ago. The contemporary Romans also valued social leasures, although, as you say, they did impose their government and buildings (many Greek inspired) on other civilisations and insisted on straight roads. My encounters with contemporary Italians confirmed a relaxed and family oriented society.
    Thanks for noting the gambit of contrast between background and foreground. Because part of the foreground is often the key subject it can be highlighted, or brought into question or tension, with a contrary background. Colors and forms can be contrasted in similar manner.
    In fact, the background serves I think as an additional and important "frame" to the subject and image,more so than a simple wooden or metal frame which simply "confines and does not define."
    Somewhat different background use, but this shot (later the same day) makes me think about the close stone and clay architecture of narrow Italian streets having a biological counterpoint in the geometrical assembly of Italians in conversation (the color image is perhaps better).
    00c7UW-543350884.jpg
     
  97. Original photo
    00c7UZ-543351084.jpg
     
  98. Ah yes, Arthur, and also, what does the woman see before her? Her body language is closed, as is the street, another sort of biological connection. She suited up in a masculinized way as has been mother nature masculinely suited up around those three. a man's world of lines and straight roads, curves of nature avoided. Yes I overstate.
     
  99. Interesting observations, Charles. Two of the characters have crossed arms. They are obviously engaged in some serious discussion of importance to them, possibly as town councillors or perhaps as merchants in this commercial road. I liked the posture of the man on the bicycle and his use of body in the discussion.
    Two artisans (heraldic boards and ceramics) who agreed to have their photo taken are not so involved but are nonetheless in a patient pose awaiting clients in Volterra. Their background and inanimate partner of their business is a Medieval wall in the old town (next photo). A meal at Gigi Trattoria in Lucca was typically relaxed and jovially Italian and the waitress and two chefs were proud to pose in their small but efficient kitchen (background).
    00c7Wv-543355684.jpg
     
  100. GIGI Trattoria - personnel and their background
     
  101. Photo upload - 2nd try
    00c7X3-543355784.jpg
     

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