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Amateur Snappers & Great Pictures

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by art, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. art

    art Well-Known Member

    Here's an interesting bit of puff: http://www.theguardian.com/artandde...neration-amateur-photographers-art-plagiarism

    I was going along with the writer until the last few paragraphs. The gist of his argument seems to be that the proliferation of cameras, ease of 'snapping' and social media for sharing devalues photography because nowadays everyone is a 'photographer'. Fair enough, it's a point of view.

    But then the writer suggests "The moral is, if you want to take really great pictures, don’t go on a cruise. Go to a war zone" and proceeds to give examples of 'great' photographs, and thereby, 'great' photographers.

    Hmm. Well, I get the point about originality, but I'm less convinced that alone makes a 'great' photographer. It could be argued that all those iconic war photos are only iconic because they are pretty rare and therefore almost unique and I'd bet than pretty much anyone could have taken them had they been in the right place at the right time. Would that make us 'great' photographers?

    Most of us will have seen the pictures of that crashing plane in Taiwan yesterday - well they are pretty unique and original pictures aren't they, but are they great photos?

    So, what does the panel think makes a 'great' photo? Is originality or rarity really enough?
  2. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    I would suggest that it is the treatment of the subject rather than the subject itself that makes the difference between an impressive photograph and a great photograph. A rare subject should make an eye catching photograph but there is no reason for the photograph to be great.
  3. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Everything of this nature is totally subjective. Hence, from my point of view, the question is pointless.

    If you ask: what pictures affect you strongly, then a sensible answer might be given.

    Me? Dunno. I think this young lady has a sweet smile, though...

  4. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

    The last two paragraphs of that article are utter rubbish.
  5. Paul M

    Paul M Well-Known Member

    He actually suggests.."The moral is, if you want to take really great pictures, don't go on a cruise. Go to a war zone - or your parents' flat" Was there a reason you omitted the last four words?

    In answer to your question I would suggest in any of the arts those who are held up as the 'greats' are nearly always the originators. However with regards to great photographs needing only to be rare or original and the images of yesterdays plane crash only time will see if they become great. IMO the most interesting thing about them is I believe they taken by a dashboard mounted camera therefore had no 'great' human artistic input - so maybe as you suggest if we are in the right place place at the right time regardless of talent we all have one great image in us.
  6. art

    art Well-Known Member

    I only omitted the 'parent's flat' as I couldn't think of any 'great' pictures from parent's flats compared to war pictures.

    I think you're probably right about 'great' photographers being the originators . . . . which suggests that almost anyone could have taken the same pictures had they been there or thought to go there. So, someone like, say, Don McCullin made his name by actively seeking out war zones in which to take photos. Fair enough. But anyone else could have done the same. Therefore, where is the 'art'? Can it lie in the actual photos? perhaps not, if anyone could have taken the same photos. Could the art lie in McCullin's conscious actions to actively seek out such images? I suspect this is more likely. After all, while anyone else could have taken the photos, only McCullin actively chased them.

    Could it all be a bit like Andre's infamous pile of bricks in the Tate? Anyone could replicate the physical work, but the art lies in the original conception, not the physical manifestation.
  7. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    ...or just in the eye of the beholder?

  8. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    The side of photography that once needed so much learning and a was a gradually acquired skill has now largely vanished and been replaced but a bit of mouse clicking on a computer.

    I can still remember the hours of work spent in a darkroom developing and colour printing to A3. Now one can sit at a desk and churn them out with hardly a thought and very little skill. The technology from camera to printer now does all the work.

    Of course most photos never see the light of day as paper photographs but are destined for a short life as 0's and 1's on some social sharing site and into oblivion amongst the billions of others.

    Of course that still leaves the real art of photography of seeing a good or great photo in the first place.

    Computers can't do that ... yet.
  9. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    William Eggleston?
  10. art

    art Well-Known Member

    You're right that computers are no substitute for the art of photography, but I'd suggest that all those darkroom skills were more about technical skills than art.

    Could de-skilling the process of photography not make it more accessible to millions of people with who are more artistic than technical?

    There seems to be a whiff of elitism and snobbery about complaints of photography being available to the masses.
  11. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath


    Personally, I think it's great that everyone can make technically good images with ease!

  12. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Darkroom skills were a dark art! It wasn't recovering lost images because of a lack of getting them right in-camera. It was getting the image right and the one you saw in your head when you took it.

    A whiff of elitism and snobbery? No. There might be the pride in what we used to be able to do. The skill and creativity we developed as we made our images, but now? No, not snobbery or elitism.
    Now, could there be a whiff of defensiveness and chip on shoulders from others? Surely not! :rolleyes:

  13. art

    art Well-Known Member

    OK, but that makes the 'dark art' of darkroom skills little different to the skill in using computer software in the sense of realising the 'image in your head'.

    I'm not disagreeing with your example, more the earlier point that using computers is somehow less valid than using a darkroom.

    I hope there is no chip on my shoulder as I'm not trying to denigrate anything. I wouldn't for a moment deny that darkroom skills are somehow lesser than photoshop skills. They are different, no doubt, but both are equally valid, in my view, when it comes to creating an image and my point about snobbery was aimed at the suggestion that 'the old ways' are somehow superior to these new fangled computer things. They are all just tools aren't they?
  14. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Yes, the computer is just a tool in the same way that your digital camera takes over (if you wish) the functions I used to have to figure out - then there was which film, what exposure, what developer, which paper etc. Now I do that by tweaking my camera to suit my needs and tweaking the images to 'see' what pleases me.
    I think the former gave me more pleasure, but probably because I felt more in control and if the result was good, then I had more pride in it.

  15. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I rather suspect that preferring the old ways (in some people) has something to do with the fact that darkroom work was limited to the 'cognoscenti' and there was some kudos to be had by 'developing your own picutres'. These days anybody (almost) can use a computer and the advent of easy wizards and so on has removed a lot of the mystery and so the process isn't regarded as fondly as the 'dark arts'!

    Having said that I agree the the darkroom and PhotoShop are just tools.

    Finally it's the picture that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention that's a contender to be 'great'. Something that tells a story without needing a long caption; something that shows the commonplace with an entirely new perspective. Rare subjects don't necessarily make even good pictures let alone great ones. I have taken (and have shown here) a picture of a damsel thought to be extinct since 1953. That picture (because of the subject) is rarer than hen's teeth - but as a picture it's not even good, let alone great.

  16. art

    art Well-Known Member

    Personal preferences are all fine. Of course some people will prefer film to digital (or some aspects of both), nothing wrong with any of that.

    It was this that caused me to comment . . . .

    . . . . because I don't think it is a fair or true comparison. I may have misinterpreted the 'whiff of elitism or snobbery', but that's probably because I've seen quite a bit of it in far more overt terms.

    And I speak as someone whose interest in photography was sparked by an old family friend who kindly donated all his darkroom equipment to me in the early 70s, whereupon I also spent many happy hours in my makeshift 'darkroom' (read bedroom or, if I was lucky, bathroom) learning how to coax decent prints from my Practika without recourse to the high street chemist.

    Yes, the digital workflow is very different, but "Now one can sit at a desk and churn them out with hardly a thought and very little skill? I don't think so.
  17. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Oh it's perfectly true... and it usually shows in the results...;)
  18. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    I think there's a grain of truth... if you shoot just jpegs and are prepared to accept those as the finished article then yes little thought at processing time....however before the images leave the camera was thought applied to what the final image may be?????????
  19. sirch

    sirch Member

    I'm interested by the distinction between a great photograph and a great photographer. I would guess that with some practice and a bit of luck anyone could take a great photograph however to be a great photographer I would think that you need to have built up a body of work that demonstrates creativity, sets new standards and generally moves the field on in some way. This probably means getting out of your comfort zone whether that in a war zone, up a mountain or in an urban situation.

    Digital is different to film in the same way that film is different to painting or cars are different to horses. The benchmarks just need to be reset; everyone may be able to take a picture but does that make them a photographer?
  20. art

    art Well-Known Member

    :D :D :D

    Fair point, though equally applied to fully automatic film cameras and high street processing ;)

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