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Final Analysis - 8 August 2015

Discussion in 'AP Magazine Feedback & Suggestions' started by PhotoEcosse, Aug 1, 2015.

  1. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Possibly because of the "Mad Uncle" slur in another recent thread and partly because of Roger Hicks' response to that slur, I paid particular attention to his column, titled "Bombay, India, 1981...." in this week's AP (8 August).

    While I have no particular problem accepting the generality of Roger's thesis, is the photograph he used to illustrate it really suitable? Does it illustrate the points he makes?

    Apart from his obvious errors, such as referring to two right eyes (when they are actually both left eyes), does the photograph fit with the text of the article?

    Or is it simply a consequence of the magazine's printing deficiencies (the subject of another recent thread) that render the photograph unsuitable? In my copy, the two main figures in the photo completely merge into detail-less shadow from their waists up.

    However, how do others react to Roger's column this week - both in terms of the thesis proposed and the photograph used?

  2. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    To me the subject of the photograph is very small, very obvious, and what is his or her story. In case you don't see h ................................. No. I needn't say where; if you hadn't spotted the child before then you have by now.
    Its the old rule about thirds isn't it?
  3. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I think I'm glad that I don't have to write a weekly column and find something profound to say with such relentless regularity and that in general, whether I agree with him or not, I find Mr Hicks' column to be thought-provoking, even if, sometimes, that thought is 'Eh?'

    My copy of the issue in question arrived yesterday morning and I've only just opened it. My initial reaction to the photograph attached to the article, without having read the article yet, was 'Oh! I like!' There's a Dada-ist quality to the colours and the almost-illusion of photo-montage that really appealed to my 'taste' in visual art.

    Again, before reading the article, I was thinking 'I get it! The gaze. Light dark. Seeing, not seeing. Understanding, not understanding.'

    My immediate connection with the image was about the power invested in the one doing the gazing and an acknowledgement of ambiguity relating to it; that 'power', that 'authority' in being the viewer is subverted because as much as we are looking at them, we are forcibly made to recognise that we are also being observed: by the child in the light, and by an unknowable number of eyes hidden in the darkness; by the skewed vision of two left eyes and a sideways glance from an advertising profile. For me it's asking us just who is observed and who is observing. Who is thinking 'what' about the other? What misconceptions are we all harbouring?

    This is about perceptions, maybe prejudices, what we see, versus what we think we see; what we think we know, and how we can sometimes forget that this is a two-way process. Assumptions we make about cultural differences and our blindness to the fact that while others may seem 'exotic' to us, they are simply living their lives and wondering what the hell we're all about. Light and dark, seeing and being seen, knowledge and mystery. And a dash of good humour to lighten the mood.

    And then I read the article. I realise that an article has to start somewhere but the opening line left me wondering what I was supposed to make of it. It feels less like an 'underlying truth' and more like the 'bleedin' obvious' to quote Basil F. A bit like saying 'You either agree with me or you don't. You're dead or you're not. You have herpes or you haven't.' Not sure how much profundity there is to be had from this one.

    That said, I accept the general premise, that we should not fall in love, nor out of love with a shot until we've had time to assimilate its properties and decide in the cold light of day whether it's a keeper or not. I struggle with both sides of this equation, often deleting things and later thinking I've made a mistake, and being afraid to delete things just in case I only later recognise their true genius. In spite of much evidence that suggests how very unlikely this would be.

    So how does this relate to Roger's analysis of the photograph? Well, I'm not sure it does. I've read the article twice and I don't think my initial thoughts are so very far from Rogers. He talks about an 'escape from the sun' (wasn't that Hamlet?) and I was thinking of the sun as the light that illuminates...and how shadow obscures what we're looking at...but overall, not so very different. But you see for me, the image 'worked' as soon as I looked at it. I made an immediate and quite strong connection and I don't really see how anyone else could fail to do the same. I have to wonder if it 'worked' for PhotoEcosse on the same level because his comments lead me to think that he missed the point of the photograph, by considering the 'main subjects' to be the cut-off characters half in and half out of shadow. I'd had them pegged as 'supplementary narrative'. So perhaps the original statement that things either work or don't isn't true at all. Perhaps things work for some people and not for others. A bit like I can never get the car boot to open first time but everyone else in my family does it with an ease that enrages me.

    Is the image suitable? No, I don't think it is; for me it was an image that appealed and which I felt I understood. Immediately. Perhaps though, it was the perfect image to illustrate the point for someone who didn't get it?
  4. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Comprehensive analysis of something which just works.

    Whilst I'm still waiting for my online copy, could you tell me the artist/photographer or give a name to the picture? I would be interested to look at it myself before seeing Roger's article.
  5. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

  6. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    And now I'm going to have to read the blurb underneath that to see if it confirms or smashes my thoughts!
  7. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Thank you Geren.
    I'm just doing my therapeutic ironing and listening to This Morning. It's a different world!

  8. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Meanwhile I'm about to start photographing Christmas stock for a local shop. It's August and i'm surrounded by angels, reindeer and sugar mice!
  9. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    That's just too much for me to handle when still hoping for summer to arrive! Oh dear!

    As for the Final Analysis.
    As I said, I've yet to receive my copy so I don't know what Roger said about the image.
    My own thoughts are based on seeing the image and seeing the message - if any.

    My concentration centred almost completely on the lower half as the interesting part. The eyes didn't bother me or hold my attention other than to give the image a location and explanation in my head.
    My instictive reaction was
    Seeing/Not seeing; Cultural - East/West idealism/aspiration/reality.
    Light and Shade
    I would have taken it, instictively, because of the light/shade aspect too. I would not have been looking at sending any other message and my thoughts above are an analysis of the picture, not the reason I would have taken it.

    I'm a lover of having to look at an image with a bit of mystery or strangeness to it. An image with something that jolts me into paying attention to it. I don't want images which are in-your-face obvious at first glance. So this one would have grabbed me - as does his Tijuana, Mexico, 1999 and his Istanbul, Turkey, 2004 - although this has a more familiar feel to me and therefore I appreciate it rather than be drawn to it and held.

    Living somewhere where the light on bad days can be grey and dismal I can still find areas of interest and mystery and try to take pictures in that light. I can see his attraction to strong light and consequently strong shadows, but his eye had to be drawn to showing it in terms of the culture of the area too and this saves it from being a cliche.
  10. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I am glad I started this thread.

    It must give comfort to Roger to know, that in the eyes of some at least, he has succeeded in his objective of helping people to think. (or, at least, giving them something to think about)

  11. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I'm glad you started the thread too. Perhaps we should have a weekly Response To The Final Analysis thread?!
  12. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    I've not read Roger's article but I'm familair with this particular photograph and Alex Webb, he cites Cartier-Bresson as an influence, having found "The Decisive Moment" amongst his father's photography books when he was just fourteen. So I suspect a sense of the surreal would have drawn him to the eyes, and he quite possibly hung around for a while taking quite a few shots - this being the most pleasing to him. (ask any street photographer, when you find a good spot, you milk it!).

    If the photo has wetted your appetite for Alex Webb and want to know more about his thought processes (and his wifes's), then I can recommend Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image.

    Details here:

  13. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    I can see the attraction of that but also I think that it could be a burden to Roger who I hope enjoys writing the articles as much as we enjoy reading them.
  14. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't wish to create an added burden but I did like the idea of an informal chat about the education and entertainment that he provides so regularly for us.
  15. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Having now read Roger's article I now have to accept I am not human! It didn't make me laugh or smile, therefore I am not human? One man's assessment and I am demolished.
  16. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I now have a vision of you crumbling into a heap of ashes as you type, like something out of Harry Potter.
  17. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    So true... I am devastated...

    Did you laugh? I thought that a strange reaction for Roger to expect. I see plenty of images which make me laugh or smile, but not this one. Not that it displeased me in any way!
    I am now ready to be hoovered up... ;)
  18. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    ****, Kate. You made me go back and re-read the article as I did not recall any reference to laughing in it.

    But, having done so, I have to join you in the non-human class.

    The photograph certainly did not make me laugh or smile. Roger revealing that he didn't know his erse from his elbow (or, more accurately, his right eyes from his left eyes) did.

    But his principal thesis is that, like so much in life, photographs either work or they don't. I accept that thesis. For me, that photograph did not work at all. But, as I wondered in my opening post, was that, in part at least, because the reproduction on the page of AP is so appallingly bad?

    I'd like to see a large mounted print of the photo. I doubt if it would make me laugh but, at some level, it might work.


    PS - the asterisks at the beginning of my post are due to the profanity filter censoring the common and perfectly respectable word for faecal matter.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
  19. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    I can't speak for the magazine reproduction only the digital copy. Geren's link allowed me a large view so I could look at it closely.
    I think photographs work or they don't work on so many different levels.

    It is a familiar or loved view and brings back memories of a place.

    It is in a style you yourself like, so feel an affinity with the photographer for seeing what you would have seen and taken.

    It is so different that your jaw drops in surprise and you like it purely for its shock or surprise content.

    On a banal note, you like the colour, the shapes, the composition or even the lighting.

    So many different 'it works' or 'it doesn't work'.
  20. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I can't say I laughed, but I smiled - the image amused me. So maybe I'm half-human.

    I don't think the printing on the magazine version of the shot was all that bad. An online version of the shot on the Magnum page doesn't give you any more detail in the shadows than the printed version gave us. I also think that seeking enlightenment in the murk is missing the point of the photo. However it does illustrate my point which is that you can't necessarily say that a photo works or doesn't work, because as this shot demonstrates, some will work for some and not for others.

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