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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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If you could turn time back what would you change about your photography?
Old 10-28-2015   #1
x-ray
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If you could turn time back what would you change about your photography?

I've thought many times about what Ive photographed over 6 decades and what I'd do different if I could go back in time with the knowledge and skill I have today. I Can only estimate that I have somewhere in excess of 150,000 negatives in my archive and out of that number have a good number of images I feel are important in one way or another. Even with this massive collection I feel Ive missed some important subjects.

Looking back I've always been drawn to document The relationship of people place event and time. Where I feel I failed was understanding how these elements evolve over time. When most of us are young our life experiences are so limited we dont realize time brings change. I failed to realize this until I was older and failed to systematically document that change. I did however document a lot but have many voids in time.

For example in my youth I carried my brownie to school from the 3rd grade on and documented my teachers, friends and schools. When I was in college in the 60's I worked as a PJ and documented news events and some daily life. Later I looked for the unusual and obscure even to this day.

I feel I missed dcumenting daily life for a few decades. I didn't even think about how time changes everything and how looking back on daily life's little events would be important one day.

If I could go back in time I'd document systematically every day life, friends and places. I'd put emphasis on things that change like clothing, hairstyles and cars. I'd also place more emphasis on the relationships between people particularly of different races. What would you change about your photography?
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Old 10-28-2015   #2
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Old 10-28-2015   #3
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I would take more photos of my friends, some of whom are now impossible to photograph I would also document more of the seemingly insignificant. Time can make even the mundane remarkable. It's hard to see the importance of events when you're in the middle of it all.

Also, I wouldn't bother wasting all my money on random cameras. I would just buy an M right off the bat. The M6 first, then the M9 when it came out. These would appear to be an astronomical expenses for a fledgling photographer, but in the long run it would save me tens of thousands and lots of time going from Canon to Leica, via Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, Olympus, and Panasonic... I wanted an M from day dot, and tho all these cameras offered something, they were never the M that I wanted, and so after an initial honeymoon period I was back to pining for what I wanted from the very beginning.
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Old 10-28-2015   #4
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Quote:
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I would take more photos of my friends, some of whom are now impossible to photograph I would also document more of the seemingly insignificant. Time can make even the mundane remarkable. It's hard to see the importance of events when you're in the middle of it.
I'm with you. Even today knowing the ordinary everyday images will be important in a few decades I have trouble bringing myself to shoot them. I'm still drawn to and searching for the bizarre and dramatic shots.
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Old 10-28-2015   #5
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Drag my father out for picture taking excursions.

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Old 10-28-2015   #6
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Old 10-28-2015   #7
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I guess I'm about halfway through life, based on typical lifespans and how my relatives have fared, etc... It's only the last 10-15 years where I've made more of an effort to photograph daily life, friends, family, etc., which I should have started earlier. I've lived in one city for over 30 years and only in the last 5-10 really started to explore some areas of it photographically, though I've been involved in photography for about 30 years. I'm under no illusion that my images will serve a great historical purpose, hence the intention to focus more on documenting my life and things that interest me, perhaps more or less for selfish reasons...

Where I would like to improve a lot more is visual storytelling of topics with which I'm not personally involved. The challenge for me is initiating any kind of photo project and forging the required relationships with those I would intend to photograph. Some people seem to be adept at this. I'm not.
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Old 10-28-2015   #8
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I would have begun to label, file, and archive my neg sleeves from the very start. Now it's a hopeless proposition.

I would not trade my M4-2 with type 3 Summicron 50, for a brand new Nikon 801s (spot metering!) with Nikkor 35f2 Ais lens. Even trade. Stuuupiiid!

I would have taken pictures of all my girlfriends.
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Old 10-28-2015   #9
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I really can't explain why I started shooting the subjects I do. I was just attracted to certain things and people and documented them for myself and no other reason. I guess I'm attracted to the obscure and darker side.

I really get my greatest enjoyment out of photographing people vs places and things especially people engaged in unusual acts. There's a bit of adrenalin involved when I'm shooting some of my subjects that heightens my senses and adds to the excitement.

Frank I did shoot a lot of my friends and girlfriends. These images certainly bring back great memories.
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Old 10-28-2015   #10
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I kind of miss having taken more photos of my hometown (in Germany) about 30~35 years ago when things were typically "70~80s" and Germany was still divided. Sometimes I find such kind of documentary photography of other cities in Germany and would like to see and compare what was similar and how things changed.
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Old 10-28-2015   #11
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Bizarre and dramatic is great to find, and to photograph.
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Old 10-28-2015   #12
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Organize my negatives with a labeling system that worked well. I am just not that organized about it and it can be a problem sometimes. That's pretty much my only regret. - jim
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Old 10-28-2015   #13
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Quote:
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I kind of miss having taken more photos of my hometown (in Germany) about 30~35 years ago when things were typically "70~80s" and Germany was still divided. Sometimes I find such kind of documentary photography of other cities in Germany and would like to see and compare what was similar and how things changed.
Ive lived in 3 towns in my life. The first in the 40's and early 50's I was too young to manage a camera. At the age of 3-1/2 we made a major move to Oak a Ridge TN which had been a secret city in WWII and built from nothing in 1942. The town was owned by the U.S. government and run by the Atomic Endrgy Commission. In 1953 I shot my first images with my mothers Ansco box camera and received my first brownie in 1955. After shooting with my mothers box camera I became addicted. I had watched my dad shoot with his Ciroflex and Argus C3 and run and print his film and was hopelesly addicted at an early age. When I received my brownie I carried it to school and all over town documenting my teachers, friends and the area. Fortunately I still have all of those early negs.

We moved in 1958 to a nearby city and I put my camera aside intil the 7th grade. From that point on I've never stopped documenting. Even with a that Ive shot I wish I'd shot more.
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Old 10-28-2015   #14
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I think watching the own parents doing photography on a somehow serious level and also developing and printing them has a positive influence on starting photography early.
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Old 10-28-2015   #15
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I would have purchased Apple stock instead of Kodak stock.
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Old 10-28-2015   #16
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I think watching the own parents doing photography on a somehow serious level and also developing and printing them has a positive influence on starting photography early.
Agreed and I think our kids are on the right path, Gabor
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Old 10-28-2015   #17
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Nothing really, the learning process is half the fun!

That said, I wish I'd gotten into film while I was still in high-school or uni, and had access to a darkroom and tutors. Developing and printing fascinate me, but it's difficult to get involved when you're doing it solo.
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Old 10-28-2015   #18
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looking at the images i have made to date...i would have kept that guitar!
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Old 10-28-2015   #19
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1) I would have made more of an effort to go and work for Black Star in 1968

2) I would not have sold my M4 7 years ago

3) I would have bought an M8 much sooner - I love this thing!
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Old 10-28-2015   #20
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I bought a Nikon FE (still have) back in 1982. Knowing what I know now I'd have bought an M3 instead!
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Old 10-28-2015   #21
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I would have stayed away from digital.


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Old 10-28-2015   #22
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I would have shot more cliches.

Photography has been a great career, and is personally fulfilling to this day. But, looking back over the last five decades, I'm not sure that photographs have enduring value. I do not now think we were intended to remember the past with such clarity. In digital's favor, photos are now ephemeral. No more are they objects or artifacts, only smoke.
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Old 10-28-2015   #23
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As a current 100% b/w film shooter I would have in hindsight:

Not succumb to GAS and just stick to one system each for 135 and 6x6. Not take the detour into digital which wasted 10 years. Not shoot color at all. Not bother with scanners and inkjets. Instead I should have honed my skills in the darkroom in film processing and printing.
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Old 10-29-2015   #24
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Not succumb to GAS and just stick to one system each for 135 and 6x6.
This. Too many compacts, too many fixed lens RF's. Just one-two of each and more prints.
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Old 10-29-2015   #25
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If I could turn back time...

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Old 10-29-2015   #26
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That was bound to happen...


I'd probably have started earlier to give some thought about the relation between reality and photographs. "The object and the photo are not the same"-kinda stuff. I find I want to add photographic vision to the content of the photo, not merely depict found reality in an image.

In the past few years I've grown more aware of the surreal aspects of photography and actively look for opportunities to incorporate those aspects in my pictures.

I find it's a long way to get to a place where I can experience a sense of accomplishment when it comes to that, I'm just a too figurative and reality-conscious person to easily escape the picture=object trap...
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Old 10-29-2015   #27
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I'd have had more faith in myself in my early 20s and worked a lot harder at photography, going to more exhibitions, having more exhibitions myself, going to the Rencontres at Arles every year. Probably teaching it too, at least by my early 30s. As it was, I thought, "Oh, nobody makes a living at photography" and I treated it as a hobby for far too long.

Even when I started to earn a living from writing about it, I did not make enough effort to make a name for myself as a photographer. Admittedly there are very few people who are well known as photographers and as writers on the subject, but I like to think I could have been one of them. It's probably too late to find out now.

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Old 10-29-2015   #28
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I just started. I'm working hard to make all the mistakes as quickly as possible.
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Old 10-29-2015   #29
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I just started. I'm working hard to make all the mistakes as quickly as possible.
Mistakes are what we learn from so use them wisely.

The thing I'm trying to overcome is every image must be perfect. I've made my living as a commercial photographer and clients expect perfection in every shot. After many years working tword perfection it's hard to look at ones own work and not be excessively critical.

Several years ago I was pulling negatives to print for a show that I was doing for a museum. I pulled one neg that I'd printed for over thirty years. It was well exposed and quite sharp. The subject had the intensity I liked as well. This time though I started looking at some other negs of the same subject in the series that I had not printed for technical reasons. This time I forced myself to select one I had never printed but was clearly a more dramatic image. The neg was a touch less sharp than my usual image. Anyway I printed it and the visual impact was much greater.

Because of my commercial background and drive for perfection I'm afraid I've not always printed the most impactful images. I'm forcing myself to select images based on that impact not the technical aspects. I'm also trying to free myself of that curse when I shoot my own work. Thinking back I've missed some great images while getting focus and exposure perfect. I find I have to remind myself it's about content not technical perfection.

If I could turn time back I would try to retain that spontaneous free spirited style I had in the 60's and 70's and worry less about technical aspects.
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Old 10-29-2015   #30
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My father in laws mother died a few months back. After her funeral everyone sat back and looked at the old photos of her. My father in law started to cry and said that he'd never realised why people liked to take pictures until that moment - when pictures are all you have. He'd always hated having his photo taken but that afternoon he asked me to take his photo.

I'd take and print more mundane everyday photos of friends and family - the other stuff we do is just the cream.
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Old 10-29-2015   #31
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This is a ridiculous, even dangerous question.
As soon as you start changing things afterwards, a lot of things will change with it and your life will never be the same. Just be happy living your life the way you do and learn from your mistakes. The OP should be wiser at his age.
Am I being too philosophical? :-)
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Old 10-29-2015   #32
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Quote:
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This is a ridiculous, even dangerous question.
As soon as you start changing things afterwards, a lot of things will change with it and your life will never be the same. Just be happy living your life the way you do and learn from your mistakes. The OP should be wiser at his age.
Am I being too philosophical? :-)
Frank
Dear Frank,

You are of course absolutely right: the question is predicated on the totally erroneous assumption that you could change one thing without changing everything else. At best it is the advice that a beginner might care to think about. There were thousands or millions of turning points where I might never have met Frances (the most important factor in my life); bought my current house; be sitting here after a brunch of fresh figs and air-dried ham; written books about photography...

A former girlfriend and I sometimes discuss this. We went out together when I was maybe 16; I met her a couple of weeks before her 15th birthday, and I think we were together until she was 16. I can't remember. There were several times in our lives in our 'teens and twenties, and even at 30+, when we might have got together again and even married. We still love one another enough to discuss such matters and to be reasonably confident that it would have worked very well. But we're even more confident that we're both better off with our current spouses. She's like a very beloved sister now that we're both in our 60s.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-29-2015   #33
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I would have purchased Apple stock instead of Kodak stock.
And I would not have sold the 1000 shares I owned when the stock went below $19.

Seriously I am sure if I went "back" I would just make a totally different set of mistakes, I have been pretty happy on the trip so far.

My motto remains "if you have a nice bicycle, and a good bed, what more do you really need?" This has worked for me since I was 10.

A nice camera, and great girlfriend are of course the perks...
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Old 10-29-2015   #34
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Quote:
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This is a ridiculous, even dangerous question.
As soon as you start changing things afterwards, a lot of things will change with it and your life will never be the same. Just be happy living your life the way you do and learn from your mistakes. The OP should be wiser at his age.
Am I being too philosophical? :-)
Frank
Watch the age thing I'm turning 67 next week ;-)

Don't take the question too serious because we all know we can't go back in time. It just a what if and yes we'd probably make other mistakes. Really though I wasn't even thinking about mistakes. I was considering what other options I'd take.

In 1971 my mentor, Jack Corn who was chief photographer for the Tennessean, wanted me to interview with the St Louis Post Dispatch. I refused and decided to apprentice under a master commercial photographer. I've always wondered what would have happened and how my life and photography would have changed. I know how some of it would have changed but there's always that question of what would have happened if I took the other fork in the road. Of course I'll never know.

I could also have worked in the field of my education, microbiology and organic chemistry but I elected to go with the job I had through school, photography. Fortunately I've never regretted my decision.
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Old 10-29-2015   #35
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Learn BW in 1992, not in 2012.
This, down to the specific years (Ko, are we the same age?)
I even had the opportunity - had a girlfriend in 92 that shot, deved and printed her own b&w.

Plus:

Abandon color film sooner - I've never going to do anything with those negs.

Not waste time with holga, diana, expired film, or large format.

Shoot more of everything around me.
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Old 10-29-2015   #36
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I should have taken more photos.
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Old 10-29-2015   #37
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Mistakes are what we learn from so use them wisely.

...
Exactly!

Mistakes are one type of prior knowledge. Prior knowledge applied to information can forge wisdom.

PS I went to college in Maryville. In 1968 spent a few weeks at Oak Ridge Associated Universities studying radiochemistry. We students were housed on-site in re-puprposed WWII era barracks. The barracks were built as quickly as possible and when someone sneezed in their room at one end, you could hear them all the way at the other end. I had a couple of college friends whose mothers worked in the Y-12 plant turning dials to manually adjust/optimize the Calutron machines. They had no idea whosoever what those machines were doing.
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Old 10-29-2015   #38
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Exactly!

Mistakes are one type of prior knowledge. Prior knowledge applied to information can forge wisdom.

PS I went to college in Maryville. In 1968 spent a few weeks at Oak Ridge Associated Universities studying radiochemistry. We students were housed on-site in re-puprposed WWII era barracks. The barracks were built as quickly as possible and when someone sneezed in their room at one end, you could hear them all the way at the other end. I had a couple of college friends whose mothers worked in the Y-12 plant turning dials to manually adjust/optimize the Calutron machines. They had no idea whosoever what those machines were doing.
Maryville College is an excellent school. I went to UT from 67-71.
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Old 10-29-2015   #39
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At 70, I'm the consensus voter. I'd have bought a Leica first and stayed with it, photographed people exclusively, and kept the 200 shares of Apple I bought at $22.
Now, back to the future!
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Old 10-29-2015   #40
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"Don't take the question too serious because we all know we can't go back in time. It just a what if and yes we'd probably make other mistakes. Really though I wasn't even thinking about mistakes. I was considering what other options I'd take. "

Don't worry, although I think that what I said is true, I'm aware of the fact that it's fun to talk about things like this and it is just my contribution to that.
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