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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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Photographically, What is Your Holy Grail?
Old 09-02-2015   #1
dave lackey
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Photographically, What is Your Holy Grail?

It is later than you think!

Letting that sink in...

Now, with that thought, is there a photo that you would like to make that would represent the "Holy Grail" of all your photographic endeavors? Is there one photo or project that you would like to pursue and complete?

I see it could be personal, artistic or commentary related. It might even be for commercial reasons. Either way it seems that we should have at least some direction for life behind the camera. Where are we going to point that thing? Lol..

I still seek a photographic adequately depicting dignity. It may only be possible with a series of photographs or a book.

One of my pursuits is a body of work to become part of our family history with various themes. The reason is because my brother, before passing, amassed decades of literature research and spent countless days on the road visiting older folks, churches, courthouses and cemeteries. He never finished and there are very few photos, if any, left to see.

My children, grandchildren and people who have not yet been born into this world depend on us to provide that information before the opportunity is lost. Memories of people will ensure that they are never forgotten.

What is your own "photo grail"?
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Old 09-02-2015   #2
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A photo series and exhibition based around depression and the people who suffer it in their daily lives. This really is on my to do list and has been firmly at the top for several years ... so yes it is sort of my holy grail.
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Old 09-02-2015   #3
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An Photographic Essay: Nuclear Energy and its Carbon Footprint

I would like to show the amount of carbon energy needed to produce nuclear power. Nuclear energy doesn't reduce carbon emissions. It is a myth that I would like to bust!

I would like to photography the mining of uranium, transportation of uranium, the construction and decommissioning of a nuclear power plant, and the construction of a nuclear waste facility.
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Old 09-02-2015   #4
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I don't want to say "documenting" but a casual and regular photographing of my family, I find it immensely difficult and have just scraps taken with my phone here and there.
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Old 09-02-2015   #5
Bill Clark
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Haven't made the "Holy Grail" photo yet.

But I'm working on it!

I keep busy making photos of family.
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Old 09-02-2015   #6
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To successfully photograph absence, the essence of things that once existed but are no longer here. Despite years of trying, I haven't produced a single image I consider successful.
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Old 09-02-2015   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ned Bojic View Post
I know! A few years ago I noticed I had all these photos of strangers but almost none of my family. I felt very silly. Imagine after my death, my kids would find all my prints with such a small quantity dedicated to family. That would have been a shame.
That's interesting. I've always put my camera away around family and family events. Memories, to me, are not photographs. Photos are too hard edged, too solid. Memories are molded, the edges softened and frayed by the passage of time. Don't really want photographs to spoil the memories. Yeah, I'm weird.
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Old 09-02-2015   #8
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I'd love to photograph my family more...in a formal, posed manner. However, they are not receptive to it most of the time. I think they aren't happy with how they look.
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Old 09-02-2015   #9
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I began photographing my wife to show her the beauty that she wasn't able to see in the mirror.
That makes sense...and my girlfriends have let me photograph them, but I'm talking about my parent / brothers & sister who I guess feel they aren't exactly in great shape.
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Old 09-02-2015   #10
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I'd like to photograph a front cover for Vogue and shoot the Victoria Secret catalogue.
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Old 09-02-2015   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauffray View Post
I don't want to say "documenting" but a casual and regular photographing of my family, I find it immensely difficult and have just scraps taken with my phone here and there.
I've done this with film, since 1958. And my father and father-in-law did it before me for their sides. Since I'm now a broken down old man, I have had time to go through these three peoples photos. When I find a winner I print it and send to my kids. One child has kept them all for the last 15 years. I was surprised and pleased. Not the Holy Grail, but at least in my case a meaningful use of photography.
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Old 09-02-2015   #12
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The holy grail for me, is to photograph other people's thoughts.

@Maiku
"I would like to show the amount of carbon energy needed to produce nuclear power. Nuclear energy doesn't reduce carbon emissions. It is a myth that I would like to bust!"
Admittedly, I'm not a physicist, but assuming all power generation is done by nuclear plants, and all machines are electric, where would all this carbon come from?
I think that in an all electric world, only the (organic) waste material has any carbon footprint. Please comment if I'm wrong.
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Old 09-02-2015   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauffray View Post
I don't want to say "documenting" but a casual and regular photographing of my family, I find it immensely difficult and have just scraps taken with my phone here and there.
Me, too. When my kids were growing up I was getting lots of good pictures of them, but now I don't see them as often and when I do, I forget to get those photos. I'd like to rekindle that flame with my Nikons and Tri-x.
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Old 09-02-2015   #14
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I don't want to take this thread off topic but, Marek, I think the flaw in your argument is the assumption that a world of all electric machines is achievable. That said, to pit nuclear against oil/gas/coal etc. definitively, one would have to do a complete end to end fuel cycle full equlibrium analysis of the carbon cost of each - not a trivial task at all. Certainly, nuclear is not carbon free. However, its carbon footprint is probably spread over a longer timeframe than oil or coal and, as as such, it probably has a place while other lower carbon forms of energy generation are developed.

PS Back on topic - my holy grail for photography is just to keep learning.
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Old 09-02-2015   #15
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Quote:
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I dedicated myself to the construction of a visual language that would allow me to cultivate a deeper understanding of my wife, Sarah
The pursuit of the deeper understanding of a woman through photography or any other means is indeed a Grail level quest, and one of a lifetime.
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Old 09-02-2015   #16
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It is Time. My pictures are my memory. I can't almost remember names and numbers. I remember better things I have seen.
After ten years, every ten years it is changing. Pictures helping to keep details and feel particular time.
This is my Project.
It explains why all I like is old times pictures.
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Old 09-02-2015   #17
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George, your portfolio is simply wonderful.
You have an acute visual awareness of your surroundings.
Mysterious, beautiful photographs, pared down to their essence.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-02-2015   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tejasican View Post
The pursuit of the deeper understanding of a woman through photography or any other means is indeed a Grail level quest, and one of a lifetime.
Good luck.
Understanding women is like trying to understand Quantum Mechanics. It can be done mathematically, but the deeper reality of what is going on seems to be beyond what we understand in terms of our real, macro world.
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Old 09-02-2015   #19
Peter Wijninga
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My photo grail is to be as enthusiastic about taking pictures and working them in the darkroom upon my retirement as I am today. I have a few years to cover before I can test my resolve.
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Old 09-02-2015   #20
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Cool Question Dave. Great idea for a thread.

I suppose for me it's Family.
When I view old photographs of my Family from Switzerland(mom side) and Syria(dads side) going back to before WW1 , I realize how important these photos are.
The images I take or my other family members take today will have the same significants for our following generations.
It makes all those family snapshots feel very special. Because they are!

Here is my uncle Khalil. He was the first to come over from Syria in the early '50's.
He got his Doctorate and taught MBA's at Seattle U for 32 years. There is an endowed chair in his name from a succesful student (quite a story).
His G,G, Great Grandchildren will have this image.
Untitled by Adnan, on Flickr
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Old 09-02-2015   #21
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My Holy Grail is a project I envisioned one day looking at a map. It involves a certain road, and the lives of the folks who live and travel along it. Hopefully, someday I'll have the health and resources to accomplish it.

In the meantime, I work on my alternate project of old automotive service stations.

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Old 09-02-2015   #22
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In 1994 I was shooting for a weekly in New York when the Stonewall 25 celebration happened and I was sent to cover it. That's where I found my Holy Grail and spent time, on and off, for the next twenty years using my photography to try and help the cause of LGBT rights and Marriage Equality.



Now that things are going well, I need to find a new Holy Grail.
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Old 09-02-2015   #23
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Kudos Timmyjoe!
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Old 09-02-2015   #24
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Thanks Andy. That first pic was of the mile long rainbow flag that was unfurled at Stonewall 25. Below is the signing ceremony almost twenty years later when Illinois passed Marriage Equality in our state.



It was a fascinating twenty years.
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Old 09-02-2015   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeH View Post
I began photographing my wife to show her the beauty that she wasn't able to see in the mirror.
That is a very, very beautiful sentence.

If you regularly write like this -- start writing a novel.
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Old 09-02-2015   #26
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A project that I've come up with and would like to see if I would be allowed to do, is this...
I'd like to visit our local Pick-a-Part...for those who don't know what that is, it's an auto salvage yard where you find the part you need and remove it yourself..
My project would be to photograph the person/persons when they get there and then after finding and removing the parts...some big projects could result in one or more pretty dirty but happy treasure hunters...and that would be the name of the project...
"Treasure Hunters"
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Old 09-02-2015   #27
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Philosophically, I do not believe a 'holy grail' is meant to be found or achieved. To me, what is important in the quest for a holy grail is the quest itself and what you find out about yourself (and everything else) during that quest.

Having said that, my photographic holy grail is to photograph ALL of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
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Old 09-02-2015   #28
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If I could do a photo project one iota the value, impact and beauty of Minamata by Eugene Smith.

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Old 09-02-2015   #29
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Quote:
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If I could do a photo project one iota the value, impact and beauty of Minamata by Eugene Smith.

Philip Forrest
A lofty goal indeed, Phil.
If we're going to aim, may as well aim high!
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Old 09-02-2015   #30
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For me, making pictures is a literally (and only) a "journey of self discovery". It's a day-by-day trip, and I don't know where I'm going.
This is the most attractive aspect of the hobby for me, after spending decades "planning . . . reviewing . . . planning . . . planning . . . planning . . . test run . . . replanning . . . final execution . . . post-mortem analysis". (I get sick just rethinking like that.)
So, I guess that I am not pursuing a holy grail that I can talk about. My pictures are what they are and that's all they are.
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Old 09-02-2015   #31
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Quote:
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My pictures are what they are and that's all they are.
Sounds like a Holy Grail to me.

And sounds like a lot of fun. Best of luck with it.
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Old 09-02-2015   #32
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Good stuff Timmy.

For me, at this moment in time, it's to continue exploring visual relationships and the moments they come together.

I do have another project in mind for down the road.
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Old 09-02-2015   #33
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If I could do a photo project one iota the value, impact and beauty of Minamata by Eugene Smith.

Philip Forrest
How about it.

Or Davidson's A Time of Change.
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Old 09-02-2015   #34
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Not sure if it's holy grail level but I got 2project in medium format going. they're a subset of the sea marsh series I've being doing. One is the small hammock isles in the marshes the challenge is getting either close enough or far enough away for a good composition. And for those not familiar with salt marsh mud you do not want to step in it without someone to pull you out with a rope. the second involves live oaks that have been killed from soil salinization. The limbs are more twisted tan usual for a live oak looking to my eye like an organic sculpture crossed wit a giant sized bonsai. Not sure if I can actually get exactly see in my head on film but that's the fun of it.
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Old 09-02-2015   #35
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The next one. Enough to make a book. And then another one. And one more.
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Old 09-02-2015   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikon_sam View Post
A project that I've come up with and would like to see if I would be allowed to do, is this...
I'd like to visit our local Pick-a-Part...for those who don't know what that is, it's an auto salvage yard where you find the part you need and remove it yourself..
My project would be to photograph the person/persons when they get there and then after finding and removing the parts...some big projects could result in one or more pretty dirty but happy treasure hunters...and that would be the name of the project...
"Treasure Hunters"
This one, I find interesting.
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Old 09-02-2015   #37
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Dave, "Holy Grail" suggests to me a picture that exemplifies, or is emblematic of, what I am trying to say with my photos. So in that sense, it could be a photo I have yet to take (I think that's what you mean), or it could be one I have already taken; one that already says what I want to say. But is that anywhere close to what you meant? Or do you mean photos we aspire to make in the future; ones that may or may not be possible for us?

I have a feeling that several photos I took at a much younger age may have already said what I want my photos to say. So this thread makes me wonder just what it is I'm trying to do by taking more pictures.
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Old 09-03-2015   #38
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Quote:
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Dave, "Holy Grail" suggests to me a picture that exemplifies, or is emblematic of, what I am trying to say with my photos. So in that sense, it could be a photo I have yet to take (I think that's what you mean), or it could be one I have already taken; one that already says what I want to say. But is that anywhere close to what you meant? Or do you mean photos we aspire to make in the future; ones that may or may not be possible for us?

I have a feeling that several photos I took at a much younger age may have already said what I want my photos to say. So this thread makes me wonder just what it is I'm trying to do by taking more pictures.
Hi, Rob,

Thanks for the thoughts, you have hit on some very good points. Life is so complicated...

You and I have been around long enough that somewhere in our past we may have the one photo already there that defines our work. Sometimes no one really appreciates it for a very long time, if ever. But whether we are driving ourselves looking for our best or favorite photo or not, I like to think it is our collective body of work that I kept working on.

Now and then I surprise myself with an unexpected image that may be of a texture that just adds to the enjoyment of the composition of something as simple as a birdhouse.

Or it may a portrait of my bride. That is not necessarily a photo grail to start each day with but maybe it should be! I am still looking for a way to photograph her dignity through the suffering she has to endure.

I forget who said, "The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all."
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Old 09-03-2015   #39
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Nice quote Dave, remember you flower is nurtured with endless amounts of love. I suspect the pursuit of your grail is the primary thing; not the grail itself. My warmest to both of you.
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Old 09-03-2015   #40
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Thank you, Lynn, always nice to hear from you and we wish the best to you and the ladies of your house as well.

A thought just occurred to me when looking at your avatar. Soon, I hope, the F will be back from Nikon and in your hands! The thought is that pursuits of photo grails evolve with life but they change also when you change gear. One wonders what images are waiting for you to make when that lovely F arrives. That is a nice warm thing for me to carry with me today.
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