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What do I need to do to take the shots I want?
Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1
andrew00
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What do I need to do to take the shots I want?

Hey,

So recently I've been struggling with photography as I find most images quite boring and not really worth taking.

I've been thinking about what I really like from photos, and what it is is weird, colourful, odd, sometimes blurry, slices of life photos.

I also watched this YouTube video recently that sort of summarised what I was feeling - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyCumQ78ZoI&t=0s

The guy is talking about his life of Nan Goldin and her imperfect photos, which in turn look really human and evocative. It's worth a watch.

I've always really like Nan's photos and I think she is probably one of the best examples of the types of photos I want to take, so I thought I'd ask you guys - how?

As in - how do I do it? Is it a technique issue? Is it a shooting style? Do I need to make certain camera decisions - film, manual/auto, point and shoot, slr, rangefinder etc?

Basically can you get me to the place where I have the right gear and approach to take the kinda of shots I want to take, in this style and with this feel.

Obviously then, if I suck at is, so it goes I can keep improving. But I feel like so many cameras are so good now they don't feel real to me and I think that's part of why I don't like a lot of photography, and also why I'm looking to get back to liking it, so please would you help a dummy out. Thanks!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #2
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I think it would be quite useful to share some of you work and question what do you want to do with it. Like, make it more dramatic? more intimate? more casual? Then people can add suggestions on technique. Probably point to some books on how to improve those aspect of your photography.

Photography is such a wide, personal and artistic topic it is difficult to point to suggestion with not much of context. Nan Goldin photography varies from intimate to nude to abstract, with anything on the middle. Only common topic, in my humble opinion is spontaneity.

Sorry for not being too useful but hope to see some of your pictures. Will chime in with suggestion, as no doubt other on this forum will.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
I've been thinking about what I really like from photos, and what it is is weird, colourful, odd, sometimes blurry, slices of life photos.
there is no recipe for this. but trying not to overthink when you're in the moment might be a start. take pictures when you intuitively feel like it. timing and perspective is everything in photography, don't worry about shutter speed or even focus too much if it gets in the way of the moment.

there is nothing wrong with taking a lot of boring pictures if you find the pictures that sing to you while editing. the picture not taken is the worst and most boring of all. style will emerge, don't try to edit while shooting.

interesting lives offer opportunities for interesting pictures, go to where there are people for example and/or have people come to you. but there are photographs everywhere, every day. try staying attentive and aware of your visual surroundings even in your usual, everyday life. don't give in to the numbness of routine.

again, not a recipe, just some of my general thoughts on the subject.


ps: it's great, uplifting even, to find inspiration in other people's work. but i wouldn't try to be these people, it's a dead end from what i've seen.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #4
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Use the camera you find the easiest to use instinctively and concentrate on the picture not the equipment.

Or if you must, emulate your hero and use what they use.

The rest is all about your eyes, brain and being in the right place.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #5
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Many decades ago I was an actor, and I remember a very smart director told me something one day that I always try to remember. I was struggling with a role, so I tried to imagine how a few actors I'd admired would handle it. I tried to do the scene a la De Niro, and the director stopped me and asked what the hell I was doing. I told him and he said, "If I wanted De Niro to do the role, I would have hired him, but I hired you to do the role because I wanted to see your interpretation of it."

I try to keep this in mind when I fall in love with a photographer's work. It's quite tempting to try to produce work like that we admire, but we will always fall short, because only that artist can do that work, it come from inside them. Just like only you can do your work, because it comes from inside you.

Find a camera that you are comfortable working with. It doesn't have to be auto focus, mirrorless, SLR, rangefinder, or anything else, it just has to be a tool that you feel comfortable with. Then go out and record your vision for the world to see. It won't be Nan Goldin, but only Nan Goldin can be Nan Goldin, but what it will be is your vision of the world, and that has value.

Just my 2¢

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
Many decades ago I was an actor, and I remember a very smart director told me something one day that I always try to remember. I was struggling with a role, so I tried to imagine how a few actors I'd admired would handle it. I tried to do the scene a la De Niro, and the director stopped me and asked what the hell I was doing. I told him and he said, "If I wanted De Niro to do the role, I would have hired him, but I hired you to do the role because I wanted to see your interpretation of it."

I try to keep this in mind when I fall in love with a photographer's work. It's quite tempting to try to produce work like that we admire, but we will always fall short, because only that artist can do that work, it come from inside them. Just like only you can do your work, because it comes from inside you.

Find a camera that you are comfortable working with. It doesn't have to be auto focus, mirrorless, SLR, rangefinder, or anything else, it just has to be a tool that you feel comfortable with. Then go out and record your vision for the world to see. It won't be Nan Goldin, but only Nan Goldin can be Nan Goldin, but what it will be is your vision of the world, and that has value.

Just my 2¢

Best,
-Tim
+1 to that

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #7
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Use whatever gear you know so well that the camera does what you want it to, when you want it.
Meaning it takes the image when you press the shutter at the moment you feel the need to.

The video about Nan Golding was partly interesting but when he tried to imply to imperfection on purpose to add individuality ... well that just faking it. The point is that although there is "technical" imperfection (mostly out of focus, blur) in a lot of Nan's photos they still work and it supports to transport the connection that Nan had with her subjects when taking the image.

She didn't care about technical perfection but that's not using imperfection on purpose.
Her photos have such an impact because she connected with her subjects.
Whatever gear being used it completely irrelevant as long as it doesn't disturb this connection.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #8
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kill your idols.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #9
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Pick one camera one lens and one photographer you really like. Buy his/her books, go to galleries that showcase their photos if you can. Study and try to imagine how they took the photo. Then try to do the same. Don't expect instance gratification. Once you you have their look mastered than go on to another photographer and maybe another lens.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
As in - how do I do it? Is it a technique issue? Is it a shooting style? Do I need to make certain camera decisions - film, manual/auto, point and shoot, slr, rangefinder etc?

Basically can you get me to the place where I have the right gear and approach to take the kinda of shots I want to take, in this style and with this feel.
You have to find your voice... your style. It is the hardest thing to do in photography. How do you do it? You go out and photograph a lot... and then do some more. Learn from your mistakes and fall in love with learning more and more. There is no short cut. It takes work. The camera is a small piece to the puzzle. It needs to be capable of the quality that you want and feel right to you. That is it.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #11
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Heya,
I watched her pictures at beginning and googled for more.
She is grand master of photography. Don’t know who told you about imperfections.
Must be clueless idiot. She is world class portraitist, like Jane Bown, Diana Arbus, and those wiped the floor with Leibovitz.
Her portraits aren’t just life snaps. You can’t get to this level with any camera. If you are missing following:
Artist gift, plus communication with special people capabilities. And soul full of humanity.
Get those first, then you could use any camera.
Or at least find something to be passionate about. Again look at her pictures, Arbus and Gilden pictures. Think why they get this close.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #12
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Originally Posted by DanskDynamit View Post
Kill your idols.
Before you can kill your idols, you need to be aware of them. It also helps if you know who you are.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #13
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Great question, and great inspiration. Goldin isn't one of my favorites, but I appreciate her strong sense of style and intimacy with subjects. And it's mostly been covered how to get there: know your subject, get close to your subject, and just plain be there.

But as for equipment, that is mostly your choice and boils down to what you're happy and comfortable with. We debate here endlessly on film and lens choices, and as to how that matters to the final image, well, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. i think that carries over to I guess what you could call 'imperfectionism.' As an example, I recently noticed that about 7 or 8 of my friends on social media have photos I've taken as their profile image, all taken on the same night out with a point-and-shoot and 14-years-out-of-date Tmax pushed a couple stops. To me the image quality is terrible, but they aren't the heavily stylized Lomography look, and really capture a range of emotions.

I think that's part of Goldin's appeal, aesthetically; it's imperfection as a result of being in the moment (see also: HCB's and Bruce Davidson's work) rather than a deliberate aesthetic choice (see also: Terry Richardson's direct flash).

But as for equipment itself, obviously any camera can take a good photo, but it really helps to have the right gear for the job. My question to you is, what do you own and what's your level of experience with photography? Do you feel comfortable shooting what you have, or are you still learning the ropes and what every button does? Is the camera too big to want to carry around most of the time?

There's sometimes a snobbery in purism of shooting with one camera and one lens, or limiting oneself to a manual, meter less camera, but I do think there's a lot of merit in a restricted approach. Not as a badge of honor, but in eliminating a lot of decision making, and that's what lets you get close to a subject, by focusing on them rather than the camera. For myself, I use mostly a mechanical rangefinder or a meterless MF SLR, but that's because I very quickly forget how to operate a modern digital SLR, and that trips me up shooting. Conversely, when I shot for publication, heck yeah I left my camera on full-auto half the time. (As Ken Rockwell, our favorite punching bag, would say, "'P mode' for 'Professional'"!) If leaving everything in auto works for you, do that!

RF or SLR, film or digital, doesn't matter as much as if you're comfortable with it and want to bring it along and shoot with it. Aside from sticking an 8x10" in their face, the subject isn't going to bother with the size of the camera so long as you're engaged with them or disappearing into the action. I shoot film because I like getting my hands dirty but I could just as easily whip up something with Silver Efex (and probably would look better, too).

If I can make a few concrete equipment suggestions, i'd say first, if you have an interchangeable-lens camera, get a prime lens. 35, 50, 90, whatever. It forces you to zoom with your feet and move around, see the scene from different viewpoints. Second is to just not get hung up on gear in the first place. Buy what your heart desires, maybe that's the latest gadget or something vintage, and just go shoot; don't second guess it or pine for the latest. I have a habit of researching any big purchase to death (and there's nothing wrong with that if you're forking over a lot of money), but let go of the worry once you have it. With both photography and cycling, I've spent too much time and energy researching products I've bought that could have been spent out riding or shooting.

I hope that helps. Sorry if this is a long rant—Lately I've been assisting two family members and a friend build kit and learn photography, so I've had the technique-vs-equipment argument on my mind a lot.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #14
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Take a fine art drawing class. Then take a fine art painting class. Take a fine art sculpting class.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
Take a fine art drawing class. Then take a fine art painting class. Take a fine art sculpting class.
Phil Forrest

Phil,
interdisciplinary learning can't be understated in the arts. Wish I'd known that first time around.

After 5 years of architecture school, I often joke, semi-seriously, that I only learned two things:
1-I don't want to be an architect
2-how to photograph again

I failed my first-year drawing classes and had to retake them while working on my thesis last year. I had a great instructor on the second round who really valued photography as an art in its own right, and those were some of the most influential classes I took.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #16
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Okay, I know nothing about Nan Goldin apart from what I've just read from a Google search, and looking at the pictures online. Technically, what you're after is a deep saturated look with dark shadows, sometimes with fill flash. It looks like a 35mm lens for the most part, sometimes 50. You can achieve this look with a digital camera, either full frame or aps-c. Can be mirrorless or DSLR or rangefinder, it doesn't matter that much. Nan used a Leica M6 post-1990, but her NY/Boston work was probably done with Nikon SLR's.

Shoot portraits from eye level or slightly above eye level to the subject, looking slightly down. Choose darker backgrounds that are far away enough for background blur and separation to occur with your fast 35. An autofocus camera will make it easier for you to get the shot, and the ease on your part will help your subjects feel at ease, too.

Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, run with a group that trusts you and your photography. Nan Goldin obviously had the trust of her photographic subjects. You don't get to shoot some dude kissing another dude in hospital without trust.

Take your camera everywhere and shoot everything. Don't do this with film or you'll end up broke. Until you get the hang of it, use digital to rack up the experience.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #17
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Here's an article about Nan Goldin which explains a lot about her environment, mental state, relationships, and her relationship with photography. From what this article says, photography was both therapeutic and obsessive.


https://www.dazeddigital.com/photogr...-to-nan-goldin
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #18
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Shoot everyday
Look around, feel the pulse
Something catches the Eye
Click, Done
Over time You are building up a body of work, themes


Hopefully in each Moment you captured the emotional pull
that will draw your viewers in.
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No easy way
Old 4 Weeks Ago   #19
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No easy way

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
Hey,

So recently I've been struggling with photography as I find most images quite boring and not really worth taking.

I've been thinking about what I really like from photos, and what it is is weird, colourful, odd, sometimes blurry, slices of life photos.

I also watched this YouTube video recently that sort of summarised what I was feeling - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyCumQ78ZoI&t=0s

The guy is talking about his life of Nan Goldin and her imperfect photos, which in turn look really human and evocative. It's worth a watch.

I've always really like Nan's photos and I think she is probably one of the best examples of the types of photos I want to take, so I thought I'd ask you guys - how?

As in - how do I do it? Is it a technique issue? Is it a shooting style? Do I need to make certain camera decisions - film, manual/auto, point and shoot, slr, rangefinder etc?

Basically can you get me to the place where I have the right gear and approach to take the kinda of shots I want to take, in this style and with this feel.

Obviously then, if I suck at is, so it goes I can keep improving. But I feel like so many cameras are so good now they don't feel real to me and I think that's part of why I don't like a lot of photography, and also why I'm looking to get back to liking it, so please would you help a dummy out. Thanks!
Sorry. No algorithms, no equipment recommendations. Instead, ask yourself a few questions: (1) Would you know what you're looking to achieve if you saw it in your own work; and (2) How much time/effort are you willing to put into creating those images?
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #20
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I can help.

Never leave the house without a camera. Never be in the house without a camera. Never stop seeing as though you have your camera.

Go places. Do things. Go places and do things that you know are subjects for your passion. Go and do. You have your camera. See. See and use your camera.

Repeat often.

This sounds trite, but its honestly the way to the images you want. Doesn't matter if those are still lifes, or life made still. Or, something in between or outside the box.

I try to practice what I preach. I have a handful of images I like
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #21
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If you submitted Goldin’s images to the typical internet photography guru for a portfolio critique, the results may be amusing. Contrast, focus, white balance, shadow detail, all wrong. Obviously the work of an amateur with little potential. Or is it? She has won numerous prestigious awards and has been exhibited globally. That is not the net result of a bunch of accidental photos.

She was classically trained, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University in Boston, with a fifth year certificate. I see evidence of that training in her images. I see an understanding of the classical art principles of dynamic symmetry. Whether it was recognized at the moment she tripped the shutter or the result of careful editing, I don’t know, but I see a deliberate approach in her composition. I have no doubt she can produce a technically correct, Rembrandt-lit corporate headshot for an annual report. But that’s not her style.

To me, her “snapshot aesthetic” doesn’t have the signature look of any specific camera or lens and could be emulated with a wide variety of photographic systems. Goldin seemed to use focal lengths in the normal-to moderately wide range. I don’t see many long telephotos or extreme wides. Nor do I see any preference for a particular style of lighting. There is soft, hard, natural, flash and ambient light evident in her work, and she is clearly capable of using what is available.

I also see a strong relationship of trust between her and her subjects. She clearly had access to scenes that that someone outside her “tribe” would never see, much less be invited to document. She built bodies of work around subjects she connected with, understood and loved. I believe that much of the evocative impact of her images is a result of this.

That was more analysis than advice. So, getting back to the OP’s query… If I were to try to emulate Goldin’s “style” of photography, I would start with people with whom I have that kind of genuine trust. I think the attempt would fall flat without it. Assuming the OP already has that, I would work with a camera/lens combination that is simple, intuitive to use and unobtrusive. Medium? It looks like she used slide film and some black and white. I think one could approximate the look in digital and initially save money in material costs, but definitely have a go at film at some point. Once the technique is developed, determine why the strong images are strong and why the weak ones are weak. For me this is difficult to do objectively without help from somebody else.

There is no shame in trying to emulate somebody else’s style. Many great artists who are intellectually honest humbly acknowledge those who influenced them. Even the earliest photographers were influenced by the great painters. Over time their own visions evolved, and their distinctive styles emerged. Meanwhile, “F8 and be there”.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rfaspen View Post
I can help.

Never leave the house without a camera. Never be in the house without a camera. Never stop seeing as though you have your camera.

Go places. Do things. Go places and do things that you know are subjects for your passion. Go and do. You have your camera. See. See and use your camera.

Repeat often.

This sounds trite, but its honestly the way to the images you want. Doesn't matter if those are still lifes, or life made still. Or, something in between or outside the box.

I try to practice what I preach. I have a handful of images I like
also this.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #23
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Originally Posted by SimonSawSunlight View Post
ps: it's great, uplifting even, to find inspiration in other people's work. but i wouldn't try to be these people, it's a dead end from what i've seen.

…. and this .
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
...

Basically can you get me to the place where I have the right gear and approach to take the kinda of shots I want to take, in this style and with this feel.
...

Forget about the gear, use whatever you are comfortable with and can use with "your eyes closed".
Take a masterclass with a photographer whose work you admire.
Typically just by flipping through a book and look at the work you don't understand the approach entirely.
Obviously you can't learn this if you don't have it in the first place.


btw. a few videos on youtube with Nan Goldin herself.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #25
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A lot of interesting and useful answers here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
So recently I've been struggling with photography as I find most images quite boring and not really worth taking...
I also have had this thoughts from time to time. Nothing special.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
I've been thinking about what I really like from photos, and what it is is weird, colourful, odd, sometimes blurry, slices of life photos...
There was a statement like "kill your idols" before here that I would second.
The style of other photographers can and will influence your photography but
if you begin to copy it you´ll fail or become unhappy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew00 View Post
As in - how do I do it? Is it a technique issue? Is it a shooting style? Do I need to make certain camera decisions - film, manual/auto, point and shoot, slr, rangefinder etc?
You are watching the personal style of a foreign person. It may help to look how photographers develop their personal style to bring up your own style.

It is no question of gear. Some are buying everything the photographic market brought up the last hundred years. Others don´t care what tool they
are using if they only get their picture. Thirds swear that only one tool or technic is capable for "good" results...
Different lives, different ways.

So my advice is to watch as much pictures you can find and shoot, shoot, shoot.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #26
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I think I know what the OP is looking for.
A little rough and tumble photography! That's my cuppa tea!















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Today, 11/6/2019

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #27
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I thought a bit more about the Nan Goldin thing, and I think there's a similarity to the reportage style images taken by Dennis Hopper in the 60s. If you can, take a look at Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961-1967. Because of his relationship with the entertainment industry, he was able to take a lot of very good, intimate images with notable Hollywood people of hat time.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mk-k0c5kso


https://vimeo.com/26739950
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #28
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Returning to this yet again. Some of my favourite work in this vein has been taking at family gatherings like Christmas, birthdays and funerals. The people know and trust my work, I have their trust, and they relax around me. No offence to @Yokosuka Mike, but I don't think those are the kinds of photos he is after. I think the OP's attraction to Nan Goldin's work is its emotional nature, which comes from shooting people who know and trust you. Especially in her social group, which was largely dismissed, stigmatized and rejected by the general public at the time.


To get this kind of human, emotional quality with strangers, you have to go beyond just 'shooting people' and look for the stories in the images, the experessions of people's faces and how they relate to their environmental context. I'm hugely fond of the work of Elliot Erwitt, Kertesz and Bresson, as well as Daido Moriyama and Fan Ho. There's artistry in their composition, subject choices, film and processing choices, and understanding of light. For me, these artists created very evocative images that went beyond the average photograph.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #29
farlymac
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One thing is, you don't want to be labeled as that guy trying to copy Nan Goldin. Just start experimenting until you hit upon whatever it is you are looking for. And hope it's different enough from other's work to stand on its own.


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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #30
Bill Clark
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Quote:
What do I need to do to take the shots I want?
You need to decide that.

May I suggest finding a successful photographer who shares your ideas, your philosophy of life and is willing to help you, be your coach and mentor.

Everyone has their own ideas, opinions, on what and how to photograph. If you listen to many of them, all you’ll end up with is confusion.

I started a photography business around 2002 but, now at 71 years old, I’m retired. I found that photographing people turned out to be the best for me. I was lucky, meeting this gentleman who was my coach, teacher and mentor:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Zucker

I was focused on using photography as a business. I was honored to have a client hire me as I considered it a privilege to be the one making photographs of an important, usually once in a lifetime event.

At any rate, my thoughts and what helped me was finding Monte.

My suggestion is for you to find someone who is willing to help you with your photography journey.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #31
Ste_S
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More than anything it sounds as though the OP doesn’t know why they’re taking photos. Or the subjects they’re taking don’t mean anything to them.

Go and take photos of stuff that means something to you rather than trying to copy someone else. Worry about technique and cameras later (if at all)
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #32
ka7197
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
One thing is, you don't want to be labeled as that guy trying to copy Nan Goldin.
Even if he tried real hard, he won't. Simply because he isn't Nan Goldin. Starting out with her style in mind would imediately and inevitably lead to his own style ... inspired by her work but no copy thereof.

Let me guess ... you didn't bother to follow the links I provided in post #12, did you?
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #33
PunkFunkDunk
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Take drugs. Have sex. Forget photography.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #34
leicapixie
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I have taught photography to young and adult people.
The problem I saw and see, even with friends on walkabouts,
is that the they CANNOT see photos..

to actually make "them" press the shutter button..
It's not equipment, available time, or studying with a great teacher.
Study art, especially the Impressionists, Dutch school and as many images of the great Photographers..
Nan Goldin was involved with those folks.
I don't like her work (YVMV) and mostly hate the new "art" photography.
I was a PJ also doing Fashion, Documentary and Portraits..

Go with digital, small and compact and shoot like crazy!
Think out a project, "A photo a day", Portraits of dear friends or city scenes.
Maybe after a year or more a theme will show.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #35
thart2009
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When I find myself in a funk, not feeling particularly creative, and simply not taking any shots, I shoot still lifes. I don't like shooting still lifes, but I begin to focus on composition and lighting. I start playing with dof. And I don't have to leave the house! Somehow this usually pulls me out of it and I start clicking again.

Phil mentioned taking a drawing class, or painting class. Good ideas! Some simple alternative/historical processes can pull me out of a funk too. Lumen prints. Cyanotypes or anthotypes.

The OP didn't say they were in a 'funk', but that's what it sounds like to me.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #36
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Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
Take a fine art drawing class. Then take a fine art painting class. Take a fine art sculpting class.
Phil Forrest
Or learn how to draw on your own. And suppliment this with the reading of a few books on composition, like the following 3.

Practical Pictoral composition by E. G. Lutz

The art of color and design by Maitland Graves

Composing Pictures by Donald W. Graham
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