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Subject matter

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Zou, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    I used to think otherwise, but now I am nearly convinced. Regardless of the genre, photography (as an abstracting, decontexting art) must reveal more of the photographer than it does the subject. Was it Avedon that said "the only reality in my pictures is my reality" ? Powerful considering how many say a great portrait reveals the character of the subject. Does it not just reveal which aspect of the subject's character fits the agenda/vision of the shooter?

    I'll leave it there for now, but is the consensus for or against this position?
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I agree. I've often made the case that portraiture tells little about the character of the subject, but a huge amount about the photographer - and it's more obvious with other genres.
  3. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    With a huge premium being placed on a photographer's individual style, rather than ability to find something that has never been seen before (almost impossibe one might assume), I think it is not only correct, but a truism.
    I often go on about Martin Schoeller, who'se portraits I really don't particularly like, but it has been said that only by removing the vagaries of personal photographic style can the character of the subject come out. Of course by imposing the same rigid pose, cats eye soft-box reflections and out of focus noses, Schoeller does impose his own unique style every time, but many assert that this is the only way to be both a unique photographer and prevent one's style overpowering the uniqueness of the subject.


    I am not convinced, but there is a point there somewhere. Do we really learn more about the person through this rigid formula, or through fairly impromptu and instinctive shots like this:

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011
  4. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    I've always maintained that what and the way you choose to photograph is an extension of your personality, or as has been mentioned by more than a few photographers, "every photograph is a self-portrait".
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    But Karsh's shot tells us far more about how he wanted to portray Churchill than about Churchill himself - we just tell ourselves that it fits what we think we know of his character. It's actually one of the examples that I think proves the rule.
  6. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    I would be interested to know whether 20 shots each of twenty people all by twenty photographers would be readily identifiable/assignable to each photographer by a "layperson".
    Clearly if one particular photographer only takes portraits in a certain manner then the answer would be yes....
    With respect to the remarks regarding a photographers personality,perhaps this is why people scowl when they have there photos taken...they don't want to be anyone else...
  7. zx9

    zx9 Well-Known Member

    Hi Zou, second attempt at a reply!

    The first was too long and rambling.

    Yes, anything beyond a snap shot is created so must in part be a product of the photographer's personality, inventiveness, sociability, the list goes on.
  8. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Actually, Karsh's portrait of Churchill reminds me of 18th century portraiture, perhaps reminding viewers that Churchill is (was) a descendent of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and thereby the Duke's part in defeating the ambitions of another European autocrat, Louis XIV.
  9. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Well Karsh claimed the expression it was a result of having snatched the cigar out of Winnie's mouth, but you are right of course. The answer to my question above is neither really tells you one thing about the person, other than whether they have a wart on their nose or not.
    We all take lots of shots and are more than capable of letting the world see only those we want them to see. But I guess when people who know see a shot and it typifies exactly how they know the person to be, then the photographer must have captured something objective and a vibe of some kind must have reached them which they could interpret in a picture.
    But when you see a few and you find Karsh's are different and Schoeller's are identical apart from the sitter, you do learn something about the photographer and his creativity (or lack of it).
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  10. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Indeed - and I certainly think that Karsh's pic is terrific - just that it's what he wanted to portray.
  11. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    The scary thing is this - what does my photography say about me? This should inspire me to have a firmer 'voice' in my images, but could also prompt one to give up sharing pictures.

  12. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    ...and having mulled over this for a while the only true portrait is a self portrait????

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