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I'd rather buy a painting
Old 05-13-2016   #1
sojournerphoto
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I'd rather buy a painting

In light of the Steve McCurry story and the generally insipid response of the photo world, I thought it worth throwing out a couple of thoughts:

- Photography evolved a language that stopped trying to compete with painting quite some time ago

- This depends on the documentary nature of the projected image

- When you move things around you are back to competing with painting and have left the world behind.

I'd rather buy a painting.


Gary Winogrand talked about solving the puzzle. Mostly we fail. That's why we don't get a 'keeper' every time we release the Shutter. That's fine. It's part of the game.

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Old 05-14-2016   #2
MCTuomey
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Not a simple thing for me. When I expect verasimilitude, as for documentary work, I expect nothing more than mild pp, say exposure and contrast and color balance adjustments. Meaning rather close correspondence between image taken and image seen. When I expect art, as for landscapes or abstracts, heavy pp is fine.

Do we write/paint with light? I think so. Then Just about anything goes, as in painting.

I don't know whether photography has a responsibility toward faithfulness generally. Photojournalism and journalism seem to have it, but I wonder. Meaning changes with word choice, selectively and tactically, just as with choices in crop, exposure, and so on, that take place at capture as well as later in post-processing. It's unavoidable. At what point does making an image or text "better" corrupt the image or text? Representation is a minefield of meaning.

I'm lost.
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Old 05-14-2016   #3
Ko.Fe.
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One of our daughters provides paintings.

I'm buying photo books with BW film, prints. Two just came from Amazon yesterday.
Photographers I like did photography as paintings. It is not about colors, but in the BW picture.
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Old 05-14-2016   #4
RichC
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I think the angst about the reality of photography is a storm in a teacup …

Truth and fiction in photography were addressed long ago, a few short decades after its birth by the allied medium of film. What is film if not essentially a collection of still images?

The moving image from its inception divided into two broad classes: documentary and fiction - "movies". Perhaps there was furore and confusion between these forms back then, perhaps not: I don't and haven't investigated. However, what is clear is that whatever the situation in the early days of photography and film, we have had no problem since the early decades of the 20th century deciding whether we're looking at a documentary or a movie, or occasionally something in between. Doubtless there is sometimes confusion, but in the main we know what to expect from the context in which we meet a moving image.

Photographs are no different: like film, they are always presented with context, and it is not difficult to tell whether to expect truth or fiction or a little of both. If we see a photo in a newspaper, we expect truth; if it's a photo story in a comic, it's fiction.

The problem is when someone breaks the rules, or when the context has been lost. The organisations and publications showing McCurry's work - like National Geographic magazine - have generally presented his photographs as documentary, as truth: and there's your problem.

The photographer Christine de Middel creates projects rooted in truth in which most of her photographs are clearly set up, and this she makes clear herself, and is obvious from the images themselves: as in The Afronauts, her project about the Zambian attempt to send men (and a woman) to the moon in 1964. The fact that her projects are fictions based on fact upset a lot of people, who consider that photography should be truth or fiction, not a mix. Yet what she is doing is no different to a filmmaker retelling the story of, say, the assassination of JFK, which we accept without batting an eyelid. As I said, it's all about context…

So, I suggest we stop fretting that photographs should be snapshots of reality and that digital has "messed things up" by the ease with which photographs can be manipulated today. Just consider photographs in the same way that you understand the moving image...
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Old 05-15-2016   #5
robert blu
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You have good points Mike. I have been thinking about since you posted them, but I have not a clear answer.

But my impression is that in your points is the reason for which since a few years I lost interest in the Nat Geo style photography.

robert

PS: still thinking about...
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Old 05-15-2016   #6
JP Owens
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I don't think the intent of McCurry's stuff is truly documentary and certainly not hard news anymore. All of this brouhaha is much ado about nothing in my dumb opinion.
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Old 05-15-2016   #7
sojournerphoto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photomoof View Post
Do you buy paintings? Or is just posturing?

Among amateurs, of course, documentary is the prevalent form, we take photos of our friends and family. Or strangers. And we seldom remove moles or pot bellies.

But among artists working with photography, fictional work remains active, photographers like Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Justin Plunkett, and James Casebere come to mind because of their wide exposure.

Although more "difficult" photographers like Thomas Demand (https://artblart.files.wordpress.com...018118_web.jpg) and Cy Twombly (http://2011-2014.pastelegram.org/reviews/104) are more interesting to me.
I'll try to add a bit more later, but, yes, we do buy paintings and photos, ceramics bits of moulded wire...

When we like and can afford them.

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Old 05-15-2016   #8
RichC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photomoof View Post
Sorry my response was a bit cheeky. It is always good to hear that artists, especially local artists are being supported.

We have a quite a few RFF members who sell photography as artwork, I wonder how they feel about photo manipulation?
I consider myself an art photographer and sell limited-edition prints for 500–1000, depending on size.

I have no qualms about undertaking a degree of photomanipulation - according to my personal rules and ethics - essentially, what I feel is "right" for me.

My guiding principle is that I won't create a new reality - a scene that didn't once exist in front of my camera. If I could take someone to the time and place where I captured a photograph ("capture" being used very deliberately here), they'd recognise not only the subject but the surroundings, light and other environmental phenomena.

Enhancing what's there - I have no problem with that: dodging and burning, exposure, colour balance, and the like, for aesthetics and, much more crucially, to convey the mood and message I intend. Take a look at photojournalist Bourke-White's "Migrant Mother". In the lower right you will see that someone's thumb has been burnt in to fade into the woodwork!

In addition, I will add and remove items to a minor degree - following my maxim of not doing anything major, so the scene still has integrity and the original real-world location would seem identical to someone seeing it and my photo. Generally, this means I will move or add minor items that are temporary - litter, leaves in the wrong place, a small but distractingly bright cloud… I try to avoid doing this, though I have no qualms if I deem it's needed, so will pick up litter, wait for clouds to pass, etc.

I will not add extra trees, remove buildings, move people or change noon to sunset!

For me, what's important about photography is it's connection to reality - even though it's a distorted mirror. If a photo is manipulated so much that what it shows is nothing like the original scene, that crucial quality is lost and what you have has changed into a different kind of thing. It is no longer a photograph but a form of painting, since it has lost it's connection to something that actually once existed.
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Old 05-15-2016   #9
Steve M.
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I've never heard of Steve McCurry or Christine de Middel, but the painting/photography issue is as old as the digital/film thing. To me, any way you can get a good image is fine, but my personal taste is for "straight" film photography vs manipulated digital images. That's my definition of a photograph....right out of the camera w/ no visible editing.

The real problem comes when you have to place works into categories, as is necessary in art to maintain viability and authenticity. An etching is just that, a silkscreen is something created by that process, mixed media is just what it says, etc. If something is labeled a photograph and it's been highly manipulated (not edited) then it needs to be presented as such. Unless it's visible, only the photographer would know though, so there's no guarantees. That's probably the most you can say about any piece of art, that there are no guarantees. It's a real odd world, one where people sell a lot of half truths that are presented as otherwise.

As for supporting local artists, yes, better to buy a painting by far! You can usually get a really nice work from a local artist in a coffee house show or even in some galleries for $100 or less. As a painter myself, I know that most painters/printers, etc would be thrilled to sell something, and usually they need the money. Most of the photographers that I have run into in the last 10 to15 years are yuppie dilettantes that don't. That's not that outrageous a statement when you consider that for a long while every soccer mom w/ a DSLR has been calling themselves a pro photographer, as if somehow owning the gear made them that. We won't even get into the whole Leica cult issue, where simply spending thousands of dollars suddenly makes someone into a photographer.

I know for a fact that people will walk right past one of my best photographs to look at a painting that is even halfway competent because painting culls out the wannabes and the viewers know that. It's a unique and one of a kind work that few people can do well, and no, owning the very best sable brushes and high quality paints won't help you one bit if you can't paint. There's also no lab to send your files or negs to if you want your painting printed by someone else (unless you're Dali, LOL!). Paintings just look better on a wall for a lot of reasons, which is why you don't often see them hung together w/ photographs at shows. But buy something because you like it. If you want to support someone, put them on your tax return as a dependent and be done w/ it.
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