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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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In 'reportage' its easier to photograph negative things
Old 06-10-2013   #1
koven
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In 'reportage' its easier to photograph negative things

Homeless people, sadness, violence, unrest, dead birds, ect.


Its so easy to take a negative or shocking image. Its just a natural instinct.


Its way harder to take a picture that will make people smile.
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Old 06-10-2013   #2
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the world is a pretty unhappy place
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Old 06-10-2013   #3
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All my photos are happy things and people. All!
(well almost).
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Old 06-10-2013   #4
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This can very often be true, but not always. I photographed a burnt out church many years ago, and the images were fascinating. Luckily nobody died, or was injured so I didn't feel bad documenting the results of an arson attack. I am proud to have made those photos, and they were put to positive use in helping rebuild the church.
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Old 06-10-2013   #5
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Coooooooool
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Old 06-10-2013   #6
Rick Waldroup
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koven View Post
Homeless people, sadness, violence, unrest, dead birds, ect.


Its so easy to take a negative or shocking image. Its just a natural instinct.


Its way harder to take a picture that will make people smile.
Actually, it is not as hard as you think. It simply requires looking at things a bit differently.
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Old 06-10-2013   #7
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Um, no. it's a lot easier to photograph happy things such as street fairs, parades, political rallies, grand openings, carnivals, sports, etc. But no one considers that photojournalism even though it's the bulk of what goes into community newspapers. Those images don't exactly linger in one's thoughts. people just have a habit of remembering the awful stuff. If you saw a photo of a high school basketball team celebrating their state win and a photo of their bus covered in blood after hitting a pedestrian, you'd probably remember the bus. Also people are just more accustomed to awful events being more interesting/dramatic because it's a rare event for most people.
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Old 06-10-2013   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Waldroup View Post
Actually, it is not as hard as you think. It simply requires looking at things a bit differently.
Agreed.

The world is an unhappy place, filled with desperation and despair. The world is also a happy place, filled with hope and optimism. The world is also a place
that has many destinations along the continuum that runs from darkness to light.

It all depends on what you choose to focus on and how you choose to see it.

JMHO.
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Old 06-10-2013   #9
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Misery sells. It reminds the one legged person there are people with no legs.
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Old 06-10-2013   #10
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by koven View Post
Homeless people, sadness, violence, unrest, dead birds, ect.


Its so easy to take a negative or shocking image. Its just a natural instinct.


Its way harder to take a picture that will make people smile.
That's not true really.
I think the "problem" is that (in general) reportage photographers want to be taken
seriously and they want to make dramatic pictures, not fun pictures.
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Old 06-10-2013   #11
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Exactly. I worked on a small local paper--four counties, 15,000 circulation--for about four years, won state news photo contests every year, and had my stuff wire-serviced all over the world BECAUSE it was positive and upbeat. I'm slowly working at ditializing my faves: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdarnto...7628767257187/ It was a small town, and no one was shooting at me, but it was real photojournalism, nevertheless. Really, it was a dream job--even my friends on larger papers envied the nearly total freedom I had to find my own material and see it in print.

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Um, no. it's a lot easier to photograph happy things such as street fairs, parades, political rallies, grand openings, carnivals, sports, etc. But no one considers that photojournalism even though it's the bulk of what goes into community newspapers. . .
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Old 06-11-2013   #12
koven
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Sorry I meant good photography. Technically great images that move you in a positive way.


I don't just mean taking pictures of balloons and fairs.
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Old 06-11-2013   #13
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There's an old news adage that says, "If it bleeds, it leads".
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Old 06-11-2013   #14
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I would suggest [ without meaning to offend the thin skinned] that it depends on 'where' the images are coming from, perhaps even where the photographer is from. Militaristic/ultra nationalistic, ra,ra,ra societies generate the negative stuff as part of their 'social' fabric.
There are many memorable images from 'other' places and I doubt these images were that hard.
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Old 06-11-2013   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swoop View Post
Um, no. it's a lot easier to photograph happy things such as street fairs, parades, political rallies, grand openings, carnivals, sports, etc. But no one considers that photojournalism even though it's the bulk of what goes into community newspapers. Those images don't exactly linger in one's thoughts. people just have a habit of remembering the awful stuff. If you saw a photo of a high school basketball team celebrating their state win and a photo of their bus covered in blood after hitting a pedestrian, you'd probably remember the bus. Also people are just more accustomed to awful events being more interesting/dramatic because it's a rare event for most people.
Well, many of the events you mention are not necessarily happy, political rallies especially. Grand openings are just ways for stores to bring in customers and get some publicity, often opening Yet Another Mall (YAM) is not necessarily a happy event.

I get what you're saying though, utter, profound tragedy is commonplace. Truly wonderful things are rare. Everyday happy events are common, but hardly newsworthy.

I do think that beautiful landscapes are happy scenes though, but most of us need to travel to get to them, get up at the right time for the light etc. Maybe trek for miles to get to the right spot, but there are certainly happy photos to be had once there.
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Old 06-11-2013   #16
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The following comes from Turtle's website and Thomas, I hope you don't mind me quoting it here as it suggests to me the approach that's required to produce fresh and interesting work that avoids what has become, correctly or incorrectly, deemed as clichéd and tired.

“Tom’s photographs from Afghanistan was an experience I was somewhat unprepared for. When a photographer approaches you and says that he or she wants to show their Afghanistan work, one immediately prepares to see the kinds of images that may have been once fresh and insightful, yet are now – sadly – part of the daily reports that come back from that troubled country. What Tom showed me was completely different. He hadn’t sought to photograph as much of the country as possible or to try to document swathes of its very recent history – no single photographer could realistically attempt that. Instead, he had brought his eye and his mind to bear on a small group of people living in a comparatively small part of Kabul and to tell of how they were living and what they faced. There were – from memory – no soldiers, no Taliban, no Kalashnikovs and none of the images that would fit into what we normally see of Afghanistan. Tom’s work is fresh and shows the signs of a photographer clearly finding his inspiration in the traditions of the ‘concerned photographer’. His images document real people rather than the cold, hard edges of ‘events’.”

—Andrew Sanigar, Publisher

“Powerful yet touching insights into a world read about in The Kite Flyer and shown all too often for solely grim reasons on TV , Tom really is like a private gumshoe photographer who hunts down his subjects with unique skills and delivers the goods in the form of hitherto unseen imagery. Families flying kites in chosen dusty sites in the hills above Kabul with achingly beautiful dusk light adorning the valley; boys and men playing football in an abandoned swimming pool in a blizzard in knee-deep snow; desperate addicts eeking out their days in the bullet-strewn ruins of a long-since disused Russian Cultural Centre. Life on the edge from our perspective but all quite normal for the local Afghans. Tom captures scenes of innocence and family lives against a nightmare backdrop of centuries of tribal conflict… It should also be said that despite outrageously trying conditions the technical quality of Tom’s photography is literally unsurpassable; beautiful observation married to obsessive pursuit of technical perfection. An aesthetic insurgence of the observer’s senses. A stubborn , determined and brilliant artist who loves his subjects, Tom has given me hours of pleasure and a vicarious glimpse into other worlds 1000s of lifeyears away.”

—Robin Bell, Master Printer, London

“Tom Stanworths images capture the brutal human reality of the drug
dependent’s existence in Kabul. Opiate addiction is reported to be
increasing in Afghanistan, a land torn apart by war, criminality and
corruption.

And yet Tom Stanworths photography manages the difficult job of
balancing the horror with hope. There is vibrancy to his photography
that is testimony to the resilience of the people of Afghanistan and
the craftsmanship of the photographer.”


Peter Cowe, Film Maker


Visit Tom's site. It's a beautiful balance of heartbreaking stories and tragic backdrops to the hope, joy and mankinds simple need to just get on and exist.
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Old 06-11-2013   #17
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Apologies, there was only supposed to be one quote on there but im on my phone...and struggling!
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Old 06-11-2013   #18
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I hope you don't mind me adding to your input Simon, I just thought Id make it easier for others to find Thomas's amazing body of images. So here's the link to his site.

http://www.thomasstanworth.com/

Last edited by bobbyrab : 06-11-2013 at 05:11. Reason: Typo
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Old 06-11-2013   #19
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Yes, have to agree, and pretty much the reason I stay away from most 'news' sources. News to me is what is new in the world, the news that most news sources paint tends to be only that which is new *and* negative in the world. All I can say, is I am really thankful for the web, where I can now source my own news, and not be dependent on the harbingers of misery that most newspapers & popular news media are.

Life is not always a happy place, but nor is it always an unhappy place.
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Old 06-11-2013   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murchu View Post
Yes, have to agree, and pretty much the reason I stay away from most 'news' sources. News to me is what is new in the world, the news that most news sources paint tends to be only that which is new *and* negative in the world. All I can say, is I am really thankful for the web, where I can now source my own news, and not be dependent on the harbingers of misery that most newspapers & popular news media are.

Life is not always a happy place, but nor is it always an unhappy place.
Without intending to be critical as I think it is a natural direction to move towards, my fear is that by relying less on mainstream media and instead seeking out information on the web, you will find yourself pulled towards views and reports that sit comfortably with your pown redisposed positions, with no need to acknowledge uncomfortable truths or contemplate alternative points of view.
As it stands at the moment I would think that the major source of web based news and reliable information will be sourced from print based journalism, but as newspapers fail, and online subscription models still with low take up rates, where will the journalism of the future come from. Will we all end up in our own little corner of the web reinforcing our own particular views and prejudices.
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Old 06-11-2013   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrab View Post
I hope you don't mind me adding to your input Simon, I just thought Id make it easier for others to find Thomas's amazing body of images. So here's the link to his sight.

http://www.thomasstanworth.com/
Of course not I should stop posting whilst on my phone, it's too easy to miss things out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrab
Without intending to be critical as I think it is a natural direction to move towards, my fear is that by relying less on mainstream media and instead seeking out information on the web, you will find yourself pulled towards views and reports that sit comfortably with your pown redisposed positions, with no need to acknowledge uncomfortable truths or contemplate alternative points of view.
As it stands at the moment I would think that the major source of web based news and reliable information will be sourced from print based journalism, but as newspapers fail, and online subscription models still with low take up rates, where will the journalism of the future come from. Will we all end up in our own little corner of the web reinforcing our own particular views and prejudices.
Excellent point.
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Old 06-11-2013   #22
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This sounds more like it's about what moves YOU.


Quote:
Originally Posted by koven View Post
Sorry I meant good photography. Technically great images that move you in a positive way.


I don't just mean taking pictures of balloons and fairs.
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Old 06-11-2013   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrab View Post
Without intending to be critical as I think it is a natural direction to move towards, my fear is that by relying less on mainstream media and instead seeking out information on the web, you will find yourself pulled towards views and reports that sit comfortably with your pown redisposed positions, with no need to acknowledge uncomfortable truths or contemplate alternative points of view.
As it stands at the moment I would think that the major source of web based news and reliable information will be sourced from print based journalism, but as newspapers fail, and online subscription models still with low take up rates, where will the journalism of the future come from. Will we all end up in our own little corner of the web reinforcing our own particular views and prejudices.
Your first point, I am not so sure about. It is hard to ignore big stories and uncomfortable truths on the web, in fact as seen from time to time, there is a lot of uncomfortable news stories that only get a full airing on the web. In many cases, the web tends to give you everything, warts and all, when it comes to big news items, where the broadcast coverage of the same news item may be dumbed down, or in the recent case of Istanbul pretty much overlooked by mainstream news media. Sure, it may be easy to bury your head in the sand by being selective about news sources and where one looks for ones news, but equally, one can get a proper balance of news, and sidestep avoid the biased reporting of many news media by broadening ones sources through the web.

Your point about failing print media is a relevant one, but to be honest, even if that happens, by having a much broader sample of news sources, each with their own bias and all, then I would be of the opinion I can make an informed decision. In addition, I would argue most people can reinforce their own views and prejudices quite easily already through selecting the news channels that suit ones self, and the web changes nothing. For example, how many people already get their news solely through fox news for example, or entirely via tabloids..
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Old 06-11-2013   #24
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it's not harder. the market for all "good" news is just smaller. there is a ton of positive reportage just the same.
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Old 06-11-2013   #25
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I think you make a lot of good points, although I'm surprised your being based in Ireland you've found the Istanbul story overlooked, I thought the coverage would be broadly in line with what's available in the UK. I've learned more from the BBC, Times and Guardian than I have from the web, it's been a leading story here from the start.
Also by mainstream media I exclude red tops and more populist news shows. Anyone questioning the truth in what's being reported would presumably not be starting with the Sun or Fox news.
My point really is what happens in 20 years, when journalism is no longer a viable career, web content as it stands relies almost entirely on seepage from the mainstream, or from individuals who developed their skills working for mainstream media. Reliable free content on the web may already be at the high water mark.
I think we're all agreed that making a living now as a photojournalist is more difficult than it's ever been, print media are on ever tighter budgets, who knows where it will be in ten years time. One thing I'm sure of is our flight towards free content will ultimately come at a cost, but it's difficult to predict just where it will be paid.
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Old 06-11-2013   #26
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People's attention (including editors') are more easily focused by drama than photography itself (i.e. composition, post-processing, subject treatment, etc.)

Also, perpetuating stereotypes (misery in Africa, war in Irak, gangs in the U.S/Mexico border, amazement of seeing females as scientists, males as sensitive family caretakers) is also easier, and the market supports this.

Far easier to consume pre-digested subjects than being challenged as a viewer.

"Pretty" and "positive" is often derided. It is also much easier to photograph, believe it or not (cats, flowers, pretty girls, sunsets, clouds) but much harder to make it acceptable as "serious".

Thomas's work is one excellent example of the exception. It is indeed very hard to take/make "positive" photography that is not misconstrued as nonserious or tired.
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Old 06-11-2013   #27
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It is also much easier to photograph, believe it or not (cats, flowers, pretty girls, sunsets, clouds) but much harder to make it acceptable as "serious".
Yeah but how is that considered reportage?
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Old 06-11-2013   #28
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Yeah but how is that considered reportage?
How is gore considered reportage? How is suffering considered reportage?

We have been conditioned to think that drama = reportage. Oversimplification, of course, but so is the question.
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Old 06-11-2013   #29
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Quote:
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Yeah but how is that considered reportage?
As your the originator of this thread, I would have thought you could rouse yourself to more than a seven word reply, and where did you stipulate reportagé in the initial post?
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Old 06-11-2013   #30
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and where did you stipulate reportagé in the initial post?
Its in the title


Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabriel M.A. View Post
How is gore considered reportage? How is suffering considered reportage?

We have been conditioned to think that drama = reportage. Oversimplification, of course, but so is the question.
Thats a good point. I feel like reportage is an all encompassing term of capturing life naturally. Its a way of telling a story and capturing the time period. I guess you could say taking pictures of flowers or cats is capturing life but I think that is something different. Flowers and cats are just easy subjects and an excuse to your gear.

The reason I was started this thread is because of a conversation i was having my agent about so a solo show she setting up. Shocking and negative images will give people something to talk about and look at but its not something that people would buy and put on their walls. They are good for books. Its a lot harder to take a picture that makes people happy when they look at it.


A lot of the worlds most famous images give you either disgust, sadden you or give you a neutral feeling at best. Something like this is amazing, it will instantly up your spirits every time you look at it.
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Old 06-11-2013   #31
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I think its because when an image happens that just fills you with happiness. One of those perfect moments, the natural reaction is to just take in the experience rather than snap a pic.
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Old 06-11-2013   #32
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I think you make a lot of good points, although I'm surprised your being based in Ireland you've found the Istanbul story overlooked, I thought the coverage would be broadly in line with what's available in the UK. I've learned more from the BBC, Times and Guardian than I have from the web, it's been a leading story here from the start.
Also by mainstream media I exclude red tops and more populist news shows. Anyone questioning the truth in what's being reported would presumably not be starting with the Sun or Fox news.
My point really is what happens in 20 years, when journalism is no longer a viable career, web content as it stands relies almost entirely on seepage from the mainstream, or from individuals who developed their skills working for mainstream media. Reliable free content on the web may already be at the high water mark.
I think we're all agreed that making a living now as a photojournalist is more difficult than it's ever been, print media are on ever tighter budgets, who knows where it will be in ten years time. One thing I'm sure of is our flight towards free content will ultimately come at a cost, but it's difficult to predict just where it will be paid.
All good points, and things I would worry about too.

Re: print news media, I suspect many of the newspapers that will ultimately remain may be local papers, where the news items carried in them, are not freely available otherwise. Where I am in Ireland, is one of the smaller cities, and most local news is gotten via the radio, or one of the two local papers, so suspect the local paper will probably always have a future.

Re: Istanbul, not so much poor coverage here in Ireland, but rather that many had issues getting coverage of it is an example to me, that relying on even big media is not infallible for remaining informed all the time. I do like the Guardian, and would worry for the world if things like the BBC World News did not exist
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Old 06-11-2013   #33
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[quote=koven;2158252]Its in the title




Sorry, my mistook.
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Old 06-11-2013   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koven View Post
Homeless people, sadness, violence, unrest, dead birds, ect.


Its so easy to take a negative or shocking image. Its just a natural instinct.


Its way harder to take a picture that will make people smile.
I agree with you that might be easier as usually pictures like this carry a straight forward impact i.e. the story is already there, they rarely raise a lot of questions and you will always touch someone's heart.
Its just a natural instinct you say - if I may quote Jean-Paul Sartre who said it all - Hell is other people.
We'll never have enough of this as we need to see more pain in order to realize that there are worst things in life than our own fears and sad moments.

I guess it is up to the photographer's mood as you see both sides of the coin every day. The photographer makes the choice where to point his camera arguably to express his own mood or thoughts or feelings.
To relate, otherwise why bother?

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Old 06-12-2013   #35
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the world is a pretty unhappy place
Life is a series of despair vs hope "matches" or "fights".
Whether we become desperate or hopeful depends on what we believe.
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