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Amateur Snappers & Great Pictures

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

  1. art

    art Well-Known Member

    The point is that there can be no objective criteria by which to judge a picture.

    OK, there are some technical criteria that would probably be uncontroversial - focus, exposure, blur (though even these can be used 'artistically') - but after that everything else about a picture is subjective. In other words there is no 'correctness' about whether a picture is good, great, or any other classification.

    If you don't believe this then please suggest a list of objective criteria we can use to judge whether a picture is 'great'.
  2. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    One thing I can think of to suggest a picture is great - is the number of people who remember or recognize the image and photographer. A great picture to me is one which has wide appeal, has lasting power and is still 'known' by many.
  3. art

    art Well-Known Member

    If we can agree that popularity confers 'greatness' then that would certainly be an objective measure. However, I reckon that's a big 'if'.

    Do song charts define the best songs?
    Do TV ratings define the best programmes?
  4. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Depends on your definition of 'best'

    I don't think there's any 'if' in popularity as a measure of greatness. Otherwise you are limiting it to the cognoscenti of art and photography. If that is your intention, then I guess popularity plays no role in the attribution of 'great'.
  5. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

    Popularity doesn't prove greatness. It just means something is popular when measured by a certain method. That doesn't mean that something that is popular can't be great though.

    are fast food restaurants great food? Probably not, I'd say. But are they popular? Hell yeh. But it could be easily argued that they are popular due to availability, convenience, price and great marketing. Their customers may disagree though...
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  6. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Prove it!
  7. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Exactly right.

    By the way, call me paranoid but I find myself again wondering whether the sock puppet population has increased recently. Look at the sentence structure of the posting, to which you're replying, a little more closely. Ring any bells?

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  8. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

  9. art

    art Well-Known Member

    I agree. My intention wasn't to suggest otherwise but to highlight that your point . . .

    "One thing I can think of to suggest a picture is great - is the number of people who remember or recognize the image and photographer. A great picture to me is one which has wide appeal, has lasting power and is still 'known' by many."

    . . . included an element of popularity, as in 'by many'.
  10. Paul M

    Paul M Well-Known Member

    I would suggest that greatness can be judged by popularity but popularity cannot be used as a scale of goodness. The reason that Shakespeare, Beethoven, Rembrandt etc. are considered greats is that their work has lasted centuries. Why? Because it is popular, kept alive by performance or exhibitions which were/are attended by enough people to make it worth while. Whether any of the mentioned artists were the best of their time though is opinion. I'm sure people would point to other artists who were around at the same time who have been forgotten who were in their opinion better, but are now anonymous as their work did not remain popular.
    With regard to photography IMO it has not been around long enough to really have produced true greats.
  11. Jimbo57

    Jimbo57 Well-Known Member

    That is patently untrue - as you, yourself, allude.

    However, there are probably diverse OPINIONS about which of various objective criteria should be used and how they should be weighted - so we are in danger of finding ourselves in a somewhat circular argument.
  12. art

    art Well-Known Member

    OK, let's forget, for a moment, about opinions of the importance of various objective criteria. Instead, let's compile a list of those 'various objective criteria'.

    I've already suggested focus, exposure and blur.

    Your turn . . .
  13. art

    art Well-Known Member

    So we're back to popularity and recognition?

    How about these then? http://www.worldsfamousphotos.com/
  14. Jimbo57

    Jimbo57 Well-Known Member

    ...but you highlight your own problem. In the context of a particular photograph, the author may have opted, legitimately and deliberately, for restricted depth of focus or, say, high key exposure or motion blur.....

    To my way of thinking, a "good" (on its own, a subjective term) photograph should suggest to the viewer what the intention of the author was. Depending upon that intention (and the author's success at conveying it), different criteria may be applied by different viewers.

    You see what I mean about a circular discussion?
  15. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Senator, My argument is that a great picture can be made without visiting a war zone. How to reconcile the two?

    Simples. The weight of the opinion is a measurable fact. The weight of book sales is a measurable fact. Publication in the first place, is a measurable fact. Why?

    It is set against a measurable standard and that's a fact. {If you think about it carefully, you try comparing Global Warming with Climate Change while I go and ponder Tyndale a bit.}

    True, that standard may vary over time and depend on the people imposing the standard or even assessing impartially from a distance. Taylor Wessing, anybody? How about the DB Prize? But once the name's on the Trophy, that's it, mate. Bit like the Century and Five-for Boards at Lords. ;)

    Is not the highlighted part sort of wrong, or at least incomplete, philosophically and legally speaking? If I am an expert witness (as, say an accountant) in a trial and I am asked to give an opinion on the dealings of a person with his/her accountant and HMRC (how topical is this?) and, say, another expert witness is called and they give similar testimony or even say exactly the same things (but in E. Morecambe tradition not necessarily in the same order) and the Lords Commissioners decide in favour of HMRC (or the client) that verdict, an opinion, becomes fact, as already has the opinion testimony of the two expert witnesses which are based on the facts of the case, and it becomes a fact in Taxation case law which is then referred to ever after. Subject, of course, to permission to appeal and the result of any appeal.

    Getting it back to that Guardian article, what we once thought in the late '60s about the mass Box Brownie pics from 1900-1950, changed by year 2000 when we looked at them with different eyes (and yes, after editing out some of them) found images of real value, applying the standards & knowledge of our time. By then we had learnt & been informed about the many digital images that had been lost, disappeared into nothingness, from peoples' memory cards. And, bang up to date ! (< ain't Oly always?) check out the news item this a.m. about fat in diet on the TOADY programme. Must go & do stuff, despite my sickened state.

    Cheers, Oly
  16. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Hi art, v.interesting interview on the BBC R4 TOADY prog yesterday with Sam Smith's voice teacher/musical collaborator. Try catching it again via iPlayer. Think it was in the 8.20a.m. and onwards segment. As I heard it I immediately thought of this Thread! Cheers, Oly
  17. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Wow! Too much info - and this is when you're ailing? :D

    To take that first item, I agree with you. It's just the definition of "great picture" that I struggle with. I can't cope with the idea that there are good or bad images in an absolute manner. It's a bit too much like Plato's theory of forms for my taste (all right, he blamed Socrates but the latter wasn't around to dispute the calumny). As a consequence, I take the view that there are millions of great pictures, some great pictures, few great pictures or no great pictures; depending on who you ask.

    It's all opinion. :D

    Get well soon and meantime, have something nice to eat...

  18. art

    art Well-Known Member

    Yes, I agree entirely. I only mentioned those three aspects of a picture as being ones that could be fairly easily quantified. But you're absolutely right that even if something is measurable it can't be used as a measure of 'goodness' of a picture.

    Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. If I don't like a picture then that's it. My call. I can quite accept that someone else likes the picture, millions perhaps, but so what?

    And yes, I get your thinking about what is a "good" picture, but as you rightly say that's only your opinion. Perfectly valid for you (though how can you ever actually know the author's intention without them telling you?) but maybe not for others.

    So yes, perhaps 'circular discussion' is a good description of the whole issue, or perhaps 'pointless' is another, because no matter what you or I think of a picture someone else will think something completely different. The only thing I can't really understand about this is why it's such a problem for some people?
  19. art

    art Well-Known Member

    True, all of which are measures of popularity. If you wish to accept popularity as a measure of 'greatness' then that's fine, for you, but others may decide on different criteria.

    A verdict is not a fact. It's an opinion that is subsequently accepted as a precedent - because that's what we arbitrarily decide.
  20. AlexDenny

    AlexDenny Well-Known Member

    I don't know how I missed this post before (going since October???) so sorry for being late to the party...

    It raises a few interesting questions for me - one of which centres on the "war zone" bit, which maybe everyone is reading a bit too much into. War zones are obviously not popular or easy places to visit (at least they are perceived this way). Someone in an earlier reply mentioned Beirut - I was there in 2013, and it was lovely. It was definitley a place which used to be a war zone. I certainly would not have described it in those terms then, and to the best of my knowledge, within the city, not much has changed today.

    My photos there are interesting to lots of people in the UK, as it shows that Beirut and Lebanon in general is nothing like they expect it to be. It is a beautiful country with some lovely beaches and fantastic Roman and Helenistic ruins. I got some very, very nice shots that I like, but I wouldn't describe them as "art". They were photos OF art (hopefully nicely taken).

    I also got some (not very good) photos of Syrian refugees in refugee camps. Not being much of a portrait photographer, and unwilling to go in as a Western tourist (not a journalist) to take photos of other people's suffering, I probably missed a trick. I took some photos of the camps themselves, but they are from a distance because of my lack of comfort with the subject matter.

    However, those who are willing to push themselves in a direction are definitely likely to get "better" shots. To a certain extent, its a basic statistics thing. If you take lots of photos of the same or similar subject matter, then you're more likely to get it right. Hopefully, your skill improves with greater practice, too.

    These photos may then prove to be popular and iconic, particularly if the subject is rare and/or hard to achieve (not necessarily both). Early photos of space exploration may have become iconic, and maybe they are indeed "great" - but realistically, a man playing golf on the moon is an exciting shot, because none of us will ever play golf on the moon.

    A photo of Maralyn Monroe from an early period in photography can be iconic because of the subject of the photo (though admittedly, lots of crap photos of her exist that no-one ever looks at).

    The photo in the article in question, to me, is a pretty boring photo of an iceberg which (other than potentiela exposure challenges) didn't look particularly hard to take. I'm not surprised that there were others on the same cruise with similar photos - it's not excitingly framed, and doesn't have much going on.

    But - a photo of an arctic fox which some shivvering photographer tracked through the tundra for six weeks, can in my eyes be a great photo, because it shows some dedication to achieve, and probably skill, timing and judgment too. Yes, there will probably others who achieve something similar another time in another place, but it doesn't mean the effort was wasted.

    To me, though (and kill me now) this is photography as a great craft. The photographer wants to document the fox and tell its story, not the photographer's.

    That's why many of us put practice shots and put them up for appraisal of things that have been photographed a lot of times before (blue tits for me, at the moment). I want to learn the craft, so that when I am surrounded by more exotic creatures, which are harder to capture, I have the skill and timing to execute it.

    When I eventually get my Wildlife Photgrapher of the Year Award winning photo of a Phillipine Eagle or Christmas Island frigatebird hatching its brood, it will be the subject matter that makes the image iconic. Because I will have had to work hard to do it - to put myself in the right place at the right time. It won't be art, but it will be awesome.

    Unless its out of focus, badly lit, with motion blur and rubbish depth of field of course.

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