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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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depiction of suffering/joy through photography
Old 01-24-2014   #1
Margu
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depiction of suffering/joy through photography

i have a few photo books, by very famous photographers, they have graphic images of suffering caused by war and other calamities. but the problem is that i don't feel like looking at those photos. once i have seen them, i no longer feel like looking at them again.

similarly, happy photos of parades and people laughing and having fun is even more boring, unless its personal and family -- it holds no interest.



the question arises about a magical middle ground where photography thrives. when a photo is not sad or happy, when a photo is neither interesting nor boring, when a photo is neither beautiful nor ugly. i guess when photos have a real quality to them.

which are some photographers who can be considered that have straddled this magical middle ground of photography?
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Old 01-24-2014   #2
jsrockit
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Originally Posted by Margu View Post
which are some photographers who can be considered that have straddled this magical middle ground of photography?
There is no one size fits all answer to this.
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Old 01-24-2014   #3
mfogiel
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HCB is the place to start, in my opinion. If you like photos, that concentrate more on people, and less on perfect compositions, then the whole stream of humanist photographers is your playground. If you eliminate strictly war photographers from this list, most of them are fitting your description:
http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?V...3&VF=MAGO31_14
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Old 01-24-2014   #4
NY_Dan
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We already have a happy middle ground where 99.9 percent of all photographers labor -- cat photos!

Seriously, photos run the gamut of what we see, so there can be no middle ground except for when we see things that fall into a neither fish nor fowl categorization.

You just have a general malaise (which we all succumb to from time to time) and have to wait for it to pass.

As for photographers who exhibit Chūdan-no-kamae: Click here
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Old 01-24-2014   #5
Lauffray
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I'd also say it depends on the viewer as well and their ability for empathy, the same picture might move someone but leave someone else indifferent. Also don't forget that photos who have a more personal value obviously hold a higher emotional charge.
(tragic faraway conflict photo vs sad family moment for example)
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Old 01-24-2014   #6
lawrence
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post
i have a few photo books, by very famous photographers, they have graphic images of suffering caused by war and other calamities. but the problem is that i don't feel like looking at those photos. once i have seen them, i no longer feel like looking at them again.
I couldn't agree more with this and it's the reason why I never buy books of war photography. Once you've 'got the message' why would you want to look at such photographs again? Aesthetic pleasure? Surely not.
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Originally Posted by Margu View Post
similarly, happy photos of parades and people laughing and having fun is even more boring, unless its personal and family -- it holds no interest.
Don't agree, there are some great photographs of people laughing. Taking two of HCB's as an example: 'Lock at Bougival, France. 1955', a photo of a mother on a barge holding her baby and 'Rue Mouffetard, Paris. 1954', which is the famous shot of a boy carry a couple of bottles of wine. No schmaltz in sight.
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Originally Posted by Margu View Post
which are some photographers who can be considered that have straddled this magical middle ground of photography?
You mean photographers of the every day scene whose photographs somehow transcend that scene to give us what might be called 'art'? Personally I'd start with Atget, Walker Evans or Robert Frank.
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Old 01-25-2014   #7
J.Paul
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Margu,
Quote:
which are some photographers who can be considered that have straddled this magical middle ground of photography?
This is an interesting subject. There are some few conflict/disaster photographers who make beautiful photographs which happen to be about war and like subjects.

Perhaps overused as examples might be Salgado, or Eugene Smith who have made images which were poetic in their presentation but were subjects living in great hardship. But that is true for many others who have found a way to create a transcendent quality in their work in many other genres of photography.

I think that quality that is outside of an image that speaks to a higher awareness or reality than just the image itself. To me that is the magical photograph which is timeless.

It will be interesting to find and look at the work of this kind of photographer that Margu has brought up.
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Old 01-25-2014   #8
zeshootist
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I also have a limit when it comes to looking at suffering, as does Salgado himself, as evident in his TED Talk.

For something less heavy, yet incredible, I recommend Edouard Boubat's The Monograph.
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Old 01-25-2014   #9
thegman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margu View Post

which are some photographers who can be considered that have straddled this magical middle ground of photography?
I agree that I have no desire to look at the suffering of others.

I'd say Ansel Adams and work like his is neither happy nor sad. It errs on the happy side a little perhaps, as the scenes are often so beautiful. But really, they are expertly taken, and developed photos of things I'm happy to look at time and time again.
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Old 01-25-2014   #10
Richard G
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Beautiful and ugly at the same time. That interests me. I had always thought this of Leonardo's Ginevra de Benci, and was intrigued to find Tarkovsky interested in this duality as exemplified by that particular painting.

David Bailey in the recent BBC interviews describes certain portraits of his being hated by the sitter. Years later they ask for a copy, insisting that they not only like it after all, but that it is the only photograph of them that they now do like. "I just don't look like that." they had told him. "You will." he assures them. And they did.
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Old 01-26-2014   #11
Out to Lunch
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Try the work of August Sander

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss...ugust%20sander
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Old 01-26-2014   #12
Chris101
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
Thanks! Lots of his work on Google Images. Even his happy pics depict the struggle of life.
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Old 01-29-2014   #13
Margu
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in my own view, the only photographer that fits in what i described as the middle path of photography in my original post is Eugene Atget
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Old 01-29-2014   #14
RichC
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Quote:
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in my own view, the only photographer that fits in what i described as the middle path of photography in my original post is Eugene Atget
How about William Eggleston, or the "new topographics" photographers like Stephen Shore?
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Old 01-29-2014   #15
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Thank you for posting Magnum link. Beautiful, wrenching, thought provoking. I have book marked it. There's a great deal to learn from.
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Old 01-29-2014   #16
tomtofa
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Personally I'd add Erwitt to the list. Doesn't often get too close to the extremes; ranges around widely in the middle territory.

Of course he can often be sardonic or ironic. More than Atget, anyway.
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Old 01-29-2014   #17
Rikard
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I don't think that sad/happy has anything to do with it. A boring photo, however spectacular it might be, shows too much and leaves all questions answered. At least that's the case for me.
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Old 01-29-2014   #18
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People photographs that aren't sad, or that show joy.
Try David Bailey, sometimes visually challenging not sad.
Or Brassai, pictures of Paris.
Bill Brandt Nudes and some images of British life.
HCB-of course.
Bert Hardy, the picture post images.


Always makes me smile
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Old 01-30-2014   #19
Margu
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
How about William Eggleston, or the "new topographics" photographers like Stephen Shore?
william eggleson is famous as a color photographer, and his images depend on color

any photographer that gets holed up in a corner and a label eventually becomes cliched
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Old 01-31-2014   #20
Michael Markey
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http://fstoppers.com/the-shortest-mo...-ive-ever-seen
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