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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 10-18-2009   #81
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you know bob, i can usually tell whether or not the photographer knows the subjects name when looking at a photograph. i like photographs where it seems the photographer knew the persons name.
I personally believe names are very important as they humanize people. Otherwise subjects, especially street people, tend to be viewed as ambiguous or generic rather than the real individuals they are.
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Old 10-18-2009   #82
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"Sir, I'm with Security. You can't photograph in the store." A Saks Fifth Avenue store at a mall in NJ.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4020346145/



My said, "perhaps they're afraid you're going to steal ideas about their mannequins." Clearly an issue of national security import. Anyway, on the way to the parking garage, I snapped a few more shots on another floor in the store, only to be reminded by a sales associate, "this is against store policy."

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4021105722/



My wife, who had been exchanging a gift, then had to go to another mall to return something else. Always the dutiful husband, I tagged along. Here, no problems. Shot at a kiosk that provides "eyebrow threading." Apparently, photographing plastic people is uncool, but shooting real, live people having personal care services done is okay. It is a strange planet you inhabit with customs that are unfamiliar to me.

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Old 10-18-2009   #83
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The bigger question is, Rob,- why would you do that?
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Old 10-18-2009   #84
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If you mean, why would I take the pictures, the answer is because the subjects were there. Can't help myself sometimes.

If you mean, why would someone get their eyebrows threaded, I can't answer that because I sure wouldn't get mine done.

The thing that surprised me is not these ladies were getting this done, but that they were getting it done in a big open area of a public mall where everyone can stop and stare. I thought this kind of thing would usually be done in the privacy of a salon-type place. Anyway, if people do unusual things in public space and I'm carrying a camera, why not? I guess the answer must be that it's cheaper at a kiosk than at a typical beauty place.

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The bigger question is, Rob,- why would you do that?
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Old 10-18-2009   #85
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Cat's and homeless people are about all I shoot. You can never get enough kitty porn:


Honestly I try to follow my understanding of Eggleston's philosophy of democratic photography: Everything interesting deserves one shot and only one shot.
And interracial to-boot. I hope Louisiana Justices of the Peace don't see this!
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Old 10-18-2009   #86
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Under no circumstances should anyone say anything ever that's anywhere near as stupid as that.
why? i mean he wasn't writing an amendment to the constitution. i would presume he was expressing what he thought photography was to him. within that context it is brutally honest statement and admirable really.

if pressed into providing my own views i would probably echo the sentiments.
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Old 10-18-2009   #87
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I feel badly for having caused him upset.
Don't bother feeling badly. His reaction is his "stuff" ... it is based not only on the fear/paranoia discussed, but also on ignorance of his "rights", plus perhaps a life full of him feeding his anger rather than compassion and understanding.
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Old 10-22-2009   #88
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I try to read all these books you once read before and of course this time I promise myself not to disappear and read these lovely books by you, thank you.
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Old 10-26-2009   #89
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why? i mean he wasn't writing an amendment to the constitution. i would presume he was expressing what he thought photography was to him. within that context it is brutally honest statement and admirable really.

if pressed into providing my own views i would probably echo the sentiments.
Because he's passing a value judgement on a lot of photographers who are a quantum leap more skilled than he is and who have chosen to photograph the very things he condemns. According to his "rules," photographers like Edward Weston, Joyce Tenneson, , Jerry Uelsmann, Wegman, Man Ray, Ansel Adams and etcetera are/were not doing photography and are somehow inferior to him -- and this is just because of the subjects they choose to shoot. Personally, I think the subjects he mentioned are among the very most challenging subjects there are to photograph well.
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Old 10-27-2009   #90
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and this is just because of the subjects they choose to shoot.
Photographs do tend to be 'about' their subjects. Personally if I see another tide-pool, shot with all due reverence and zone system fetishism, I will probably throw up in it. Adams was dismissive of Evans so in my book he was allowed to have a dig at him...
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Old 11-11-2009   #91
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Years ago I had a colleague at work who moved almost every year, and was on a mission to shed his possessions. He would scan all his correspondence etc. and toss the paper originals. (I do hope he used quality storage media.)
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Old 11-12-2009   #92
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Years ago I had a colleague at work who moved almost every year, and was on a mission to shed his possessions. He would scan all his correspondence etc. and toss the paper originals. (I do hope he used quality storage media.)
I think that's a laudable idea but its relationship to this thread is a bit too subtle for me. Please can you explain?
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Old 11-12-2009   #93
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Growing a pair will not do it. But if you have real empathy and a sincere interest in the people and their culture, it flows naturally.
I think that's key. Genuine interest, not shock value or fame shot.

If you have a genuine interest in your subject you will have no problems explaining yourself (should you need to). If you can't explain yourself, then maybe you shouldn't have taken the shot in the first place. Your heart was not in it.
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Old 11-12-2009   #94
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I think that's a laudable idea but its relationship to this thread is a bit too subtle for me. Please can you explain?
It's spam. I suspect that if you look at his profile, you'll find a link to a commercial website. I doubt he even knows what this thread is about.
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Old 11-12-2009   #95
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Photographs do tend to be 'about' their subjects. Personally if I see another tide-pool, shot with all due reverence and zone system fetishism, I will probably throw up in it. Adams was dismissive of Evans so in my book he was allowed to have a dig at him...
Well, you know what they say about opinions and assholes.

Some people like taking photos of tidal pools. I'm not going to dismiss them as non-photographers just because I might happen not to like their subjects (personally, I'm kind of ambivalent about it). Now I might come up with a whole different list of subjects I don't like (I'd agree with him about cats). Would my list be valid? If I'm smarter than he is, would my list be more valid? I think my list would be just as good as his. I can probably find an even more intelligent person who doesn't like landscapes. I can probably find another guy, also pretty intelligent, who doesn't like street photography. My guys are even more intelligent than your guy. Does that mean anyone who does these things is not a photographer? No it does not. Period. And my guys are smart enough not to say anything as ridiculous as that.
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Old 11-13-2009   #96
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It's spam. I suspect that if you look at his profile, you'll find a link to a commercial website. I doubt he even knows what this thread is about.
Thanks -- it seemed a bit off the wall.
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Old 11-13-2009   #97
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Some people like taking photos of tidal pools. I'm not going to dismiss them as non-photographers just because I might happen not to like their subjects (personally, I'm kind of ambivalent about it).
I wouldn't dismiss anyone as a non-photographer, including people who've only ever taken pictures with their mobile phones. Fact is that the term photographer is practically meaningless, which I suppose is why some people refer to themselves as art photographers although that is another can of worms.
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Old 11-13-2009   #98
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Shot late this afternoon on a public road running through the grounds of the Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital, Morris County, New Jersey.

I happened to be dressed in a suit and tie, passing through the park on my way home from a business meeting, when I decided to grab a picture of this fallen tree. Knowing the reputation of the local constabulary for not appreciating (and, understand why) trespassing on the grounds of this partially-abandoned "lunatic asylum", I was careful to avoid stepping onto the property. Nevertheless, the police managed to approach me in an SUV and insist that it is "against the law to take pictures" of buildings. I explained that the absence of any "no trespassing" signs had mistakenly led me to believe that I was still on a public road (I was), They disagreed, so I left quietly. They said "this is state property." Given that I was parked on a public road, I was surprised at their reaction, although, in their defense, the entire area is very popular with many youthful trespassers, vandals and the like. The statement that this "is state property" is ironic given that I pay loads of state taxes and therefore, theoretically at least, I am a shareholder in the propery.
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Old 11-13-2009   #99
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another image from a different location at the same site.
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Old 11-13-2009   #100
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Before he was diagnosed with Huntington's Corea, Woody Guthrie was a resident at Greystone, the illness having made his behavior sufficiently erratic that some folks thought he was crazy. It was here that Bob Dylan visited Woody.
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Old 11-15-2009   #101
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I wouldn't dismiss anyone as a non-photographer, ...
That's pretty much my point. Your guy, Walker Evans, seems to feel free to do so though, based entirely on the subject matter that people choose to shoot.

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"Photography is not cute cats, nor nudes, motherhood or arrangements of manufactured products. Under no circumstances it is anything ever anywhere near a beach." Walker Evans..."
I'm just saying it is stupid to say something like that. For one thing, there are too many examples, by master photographers, that can be used against him. For another, the implication is that he's better than the guys who do shoot those things -- and he wasn't even very good when he was shooting his one subject. Looking his stuff up on the internet, he seems to have pretty much only had one or two themes. Apparently, if you are not shooting old clapboard buildings, head-on, in bad light, or if you're not shooting groups of people who are sitting on the porches of those buildings, then you're not a photographer and you're not doing photography. That's just ridiculous. It's like saying nobody who doesn't do Haiku is a poet, or that nobody who isn't doing ballet is a dancer.
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Old 11-15-2009   #102
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I would have thought it was pretty clear that Evans had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he said that. I also think it's somewhat unrealistic to think that you or anyone could appreciate Evans' work from "looking his stuff up on the internet", particularly as quite a lot of it was taken on 10x8. Do yourself a favour and, if you get the chance, take a look at his prints. For me, he was probably the greatest photographer of the Twentieth Century and he was certainly one of the most influential.
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Old 11-17-2009   #103
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I would have thought it was pretty clear that Evans had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he said that. I also think it's somewhat unrealistic to think that you or anyone could appreciate Evans' work from "looking his stuff up on the internet", particularly as quite a lot of it was taken on 10x8. Do yourself a favour and, if you get the chance, take a look at his prints. For me, he was probably the greatest photographer of the Twentieth Century and he was certainly one of the most influential.

Now your changing the basic premise of the post. It started off with you asking us what we thought of the statement he had made that photography was not certain things (nudes, cats, beaches, and etcetera). I told you.

Now I can't run right out to a Evan's exhibit here in Roanoke. I don't imagine many people can. All I can do is look him up in the library and on the internet. I doubt I will ever get the chance to see his work in-the-flesh. However, unless the people who were scanning/photographing his photos were doing an extraordinarily poor job (and I looked at multiple sites), he wouldn't have recognized good shooting light if it poked him in the eye and there is no other angle than dead ahead. I'd have thought that would be an essential skill for a good photographer. He also seems to shoot buildings dead on from the front with the light behind him, which makes them look washed out and kills contrast; he doesn't do a whole lot for me compositionally either. I think this is another one of those photographers whosesubject matter made them historically important. Artistically, I just don't think he's that good. I've seen a whole lot that that was better, from an artistic viewpoint.
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Old 11-17-2009   #104
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Now your changing the basic premise of the post. It started off with you asking us what we thought of the statement he had made that photography was not certain things (nudes, cats, beaches, and etcetera). I told you.
Thanks for adding your opinion -- it's appreciated -- however I fail to see how I have changed the premise of my post. I invited comments and then stated my own opinion -- what's wrong with that?

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He wouldn't have recognized good shooting light if it poked him in the eye and there is no other angle than dead ahead.
I think perhaps the subtlety of his vision has eluded you...

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Artistically, I just don't think he's that good. I've seen a whole lot that that was better, from an artistic viewpoint.
Which goes to show how subjective the term artistic is. Personally I think he was an artistic genius and is one of my three favourite photographers. I guess we'll just have to agree to differ on this!
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Old 11-17-2009   #105
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<snip>
Now I can't run right out to a Evan's exhibit here in Roanoke. I don't imagine many people can. All I can do is look him up in the library and on the internet. I doubt I will ever get the chance to see his work in-the-flesh. However, unless the people who were scanning/photographing his photos were doing an extraordinarily poor job (and I looked at multiple sites), he wouldn't have recognized good shooting light if it poked him in the eye and there is no other angle than dead ahead. I'd have thought that would be an essential skill for a good photographer. He also seems to shoot buildings dead on from the front with the light behind him, which makes them look washed out and kills contrast; he doesn't do a whole lot for me compositionally either. I think this is another one of those photographers whosesubject matter made them historically important. Artistically, I just don't think he's that good. I've seen a whole lot that that was better, from an artistic viewpoint.
I will not debate that photography is a very personal thing and what some like, others may not. Certainly you are entitled to your opinions and I would not dispute them as your preference.

I would just comment that Walker Evans significance and importance as a photographer is indisputable.
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Old 11-18-2009   #106
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Thanks for adding your opinion -- it's appreciated -- however I fail to see how I have changed the premise of my post. I invited comments and then stated my own opinion -- what's wrong with that?
Not a thing, except now you're talling us that the basic statement, the one you wanted out opinions on, wasn't to be taken seriously.

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I think perhaps the subtlety of his vision has eluded you...
and I think the subtleties of basic darkroom technique and lighting has eluded both you and him.

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Which goes to show how subjective the term artistic is. Personally I think he was an artistic genius and is one of my three favourite photographers. I guess we'll just have to agree to differ on this!
We certainly will.
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Old 11-18-2009   #107
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I will not debate that photography is a very personal thing and what some like, others may not. Certainly you are entitled to your opinions and I would not dispute them as your preference.

I would just comment that Walker Evans significance and importance as a photographer is indisputable.
No doubt. However, I think what he documented is what makes him important and significant, not any extraordinary skill at doing it. He was basically a documentary photographer, was not particularly skilled at using his camera, and was marginally competent in the darkroom. Looking at what he did, I'd have to say he went about his craft like an unskilled factory worker, not like an artist. Looking at his photos, what makes one, or two, or three of his stand out above a similar photo taken by someone else? Nothing at all.
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Old 11-18-2009   #108
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Because he's passing a value judgement on a lot of photographers who are a quantum leap more skilled than he is and who have chosen to photograph the very things he condemns. According to his "rules," photographers like Edward Weston, Joyce Tenneson, , Jerry Uelsmann, Wegman, Man Ray, Ansel Adams and etcetera are/were not doing photography and are somehow inferior to him -- and this is just because of the subjects they choose to shoot. Personally, I think the subjects he mentioned are among the very most challenging subjects there are to photograph well.
"photographers who are a quantum leap more skilled than he is"

how do we arrive at this?
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Old 11-19-2009   #109
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Not a thing, except now you're talling us that the basic statement, the one you wanted out opinions on, wasn't to be taken seriously.
I don't see these as incompatible at all. My guess is that Evans was just having a bit of fun while others may come to a different conclusion (and it seems that some have).

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and I think the subtleties of basic darkroom technique and lighting has eluded both you and him.
I agree that I still have much to learn as a photographer but that is one of things that keeps me interested. As far as Evan's darkroom technique and camera work are concerned, he clearly wasn't obsessional about the former, however he was competent enough to be the first photographer to be honoured with a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art and he also manged to hold down a job as a staff photographer at Fortune for twenty years. The point about technique, in my opinion, is that you should have just as much as you need and no more. There's nothing more tedious than great technicians who promote themselves as 'artists' on the basis of their technical competence. They are a dime a dozen. What really matters is vision and that is a rarer commodity.

I hope you won't feel that I'm being too patronising if I relate my own story of how I came to appreciate Evans. In the early '70s I spent three years studying photography at art college (wasted time, some may say) and although Evans came to my attention I didn't understand what the fuss was about. However, towards the end of my course I started to realise that his work was surreptitiously having an effect on the subject matter I chose. I didn't think much more of this but in 1976 I had the opportunity of seeing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. To see the original prints was an eye-opener and then everything came together. At that point I realised why he was such an influence on so many other prominent photographers like Robert Frank and William Eggleston and why his work was so important.
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Old 11-24-2009   #110
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I don't see these as incompatible at all. My guess is that Evans was just having a bit of fun while others may come to a different conclusion (and it seems that some have).



I agree that I still have much to learn as a photographer but that is one of things that keeps me interested. As far as Evan's darkroom technique and camera work are concerned, he clearly wasn't obsessional about the former, however he was competent enough to be the first photographer to be honoured with a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art and he also manged to hold down a job as a staff photographer at Fortune for twenty years. The point about technique, in my opinion, is that you should have just as much as you need and no more. There's nothing more tedious than great technicians who promote themselves as 'artists' on the basis of their technical competence. They are a dime a dozen. What really matters is vision and that is a rarer commodity.

I hope you won't feel that I'm being too patronising if I relate my own story of how I came to appreciate Evans. In the early '70s I spent three years studying photography at art college (wasted time, some may say) and although Evans came to my attention I didn't understand what the fuss was about. However, towards the end of my course I started to realise that his work was surreptitiously having an effect on the subject matter I chose. I didn't think much more of this but in 1976 I had the opportunity of seeing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. To see the original prints was an eye-opener and then everything came together. At that point I realised why he was such an influence on so many other prominent photographers like Robert Frank and William Eggleston and why his work was so important.
I'm afraid that I lean way more toward Man Ray, Jerry Uelsmann, J.K Potter Edward Weston, and so on than i do toward Evans. Now that's art.
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Old 11-24-2009   #111
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I'm afraid that I lean way more toward Man Ray, Jerry Uelsmann, J.K Potter Edward Weston, and so on than i do toward Evans. Now that's art.
never a big fan of Dali but Odilon Redon!?! now that is art!
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Old 11-27-2009   #112
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Originally Posted by emraphoto View Post
never a big fan of Dali but Odilon Redon!?! now that is art!
Yeah, he's pretty cool. The ones I can't stand are the Jackson Pollack impersonators. NOBODY seems to understand what he was doing and they think if you just splash some paint around you've done it.
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Old 11-27-2009   #113
samoksner
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I don't get why people would not photograph homeless people. I've grown up in Paris, San Francisco and now Los Angeles, so I've seen my fair share of homeless people and I photograph them, however, I do not stand behind a tree and shoot from a distance, I let them know, I interact with them, I let them know that I am not exploiting them or making fun of their situation but rather that I have a respect for the situation that they are in and I do not feel ashamed to look at them.

Is it not more shameful to ignore someone on the street by not looking their way to ignore that feeling of discomfort rather then to connect with the person in distress, even if for just a moment? These are people that feel socially outcast in many ways and having someone treat them like they aren't aliens is sometimes the best thing one could do for them that day. I've met many homeless people, many with amazing stories, many I've been able to help in a small way just by going back and giving them a couple dollars or a sandwich and a print of themselves where they were smiling, or happy or had that glimmer in hope in their eye.

Robert Capa's concerned photography? anyone?

I find it very disrespectful for people to take a photo and walk away from a homeless person, acknowledge them, even if it's just eye contact, it goes a long way, believe me.

-Sam
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Old 12-28-2009   #114
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Some times it pays to obey the "No Photography" sign. I was detained in Egypt by the Presidential Palace Guard for taking a picture of the street in front of the Presidential Palace (What can I say... the street was clean! If you been the Egypt, you can understand how unique that is). The guard was armed with a loaded AK-47 with a bayonet attached. Needless to say, I did not argue when he pointed his rifle at me and said STOP. As I was marched to the guard shack, the guard that detained me ordered me not to walk on the freshly cleaned street and stay on the grass, only to be ordered not to walk on the grass by another guard. They were a rather serious bunch... You would think I just shot the Presidential Pet!

After being question for about 30 minutes, I was presented with a confession of my "crime", in Arabic of course, and was told were to sign. After signing my confession, the local police station was called to come get me and haul me off to jail.

The police showed up with lights and sirens going... All very high drama! Until they saw it was a silly American with a camera. We left the Palace with lights flashing and sirens wailing... until we were out of sight of the Palace. I was then subjected to many questions about life in America, tea, and "not worry... no problem."

I was released after spending 4 hours with the local Police after the Lab reported there were no pictures on the film. They were rather amused by the whole situation. Because the Police officer who picked me up, pulled the film out of the canister, rolling it back up, and carefully wrapping it in tin foil. He gave be a big smile and a wink and said "We develop now..."
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Old 01-06-2010   #115
Jack Conrad
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I think that if people are so worried about being photographed in public they should dress accordingly, like I do.

Last edited by Jack Conrad : 12-05-2011 at 15:15.
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Old 01-06-2010   #116
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzkill58 View Post
Some times it pays to obey the "No Photography" sign. I was detained in Egypt by the Presidential Palace Guard for taking a picture of the street in front of the Presidential Palace (What can I say... the street was clean! If you been the Egypt, you can understand how unique that is). The guard was armed with a loaded AK-47 with a bayonet attached. Needless to say, I did not argue when he pointed his rifle at me and said STOP. As I was marched to the guard shack, the guard that detained me ordered me not to walk on the freshly cleaned street and stay on the grass, only to be ordered not to walk on the grass by another guard. They were a rather serious bunch... You would think I just shot the Presidential Pet!

After being question for about 30 minutes, I was presented with a confession of my "crime", in Arabic of course, and was told were to sign. After signing my confession, the local police station was called to come get me and haul me off to jail.

The police showed up with lights and sirens going... All very high drama! Until they saw it was a silly American with a camera. We left the Palace with lights flashing and sirens wailing... until we were out of sight of the Palace. I was then subjected to many questions about life in America, tea, and "not worry... no problem."

I was released after spending 4 hours with the local Police after the Lab reported there were no pictures on the film. They were rather amused by the whole situation. Because the Police officer who picked me up, pulled the film out of the canister, rolling it back up, and carefully wrapping it in tin foil. He gave be a big smile and a wink and said "We develop now..."
Hah, that's quite an experience
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Old 01-06-2010   #117
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
The point about technique, in my opinion, is that you should have just as much as you need and no more. There's nothing more tedious than great technicians who promote themselves as 'artists' on the basis of their technical competence. They are a dime a dozen. What really matters is vision and that is a rarer commodity..
Nonsense.
1. A master photographer, one of the greats, will have both. If he doesn't, then he has not mastered his craft, and by definition, he's not a master.
2. I think it's pretty evident that Evans' "vison" was of the tunnel variety. In his photos, he keeps repeating himself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lawrence View Post
I hope you won't feel that I'm being too patronising if I relate my own story of how I came to appreciate Evans. In the early '70s I spent three years studying photography at art college (wasted time, some may say) and although Evans came to my attention I didn't understand what the fuss was about. However, towards the end of my course I started to realise that his work was surreptitiously having an effect on the subject matter I chose. I didn't think much more of this but in 1976 I had the opportunity of seeing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. To see the original prints was an eye-opener and then everything came together. At that point I realised why he was such an influence on so many other prominent photographers like Robert Frank and William Eggleston and why his work was so important.
Why on earth would I think that was patronizing? You tell me that when you took your photography course you chose to waste your time instead of applying yourself and actually trying to make something out of it and you think I am going to feel looked down upon? Quite the opposite. You get out what you put in. When I accidentally found out about advanced darkroom techniques, and how you can be just as creative with a camera and an enlarger as you can be with a brush, that was my eye-opener. I signed up to be a darkroom assistant and spent 5 days a week in there from the time they opened to the time they closed, 8 hours a day or more, and I did that for about 5 years. When the teacher needed to be somewhere else, I taught the course. By the time I left, I knew far more about cameras and the darkroom than any teacher at the school.
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Old 01-06-2010   #118
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I like Evans. And photographs of beaches. And plastic flowers.

That is it.

martin
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