Creative: Photography Advice, History and Looking

16 Comments

FUJI0436

Hey, me again. Mr. Photography Helper. You can thank me now or thank me later. Or not. Please address hate mail to P.O.Box 666, Washington D.C. 000000. I’ll have my best people get right on it. On a serious note, if there is something photographic you want to discuss please feel free to hit me up. I don’t want to talk about equipment unless there is a very specific reason. Think greater photography, being a photographer, etc. You know, the good s%$#.

Comments 16

  1. Great idea.

    What do you think about the idea of deliberately redoing existing projects? Kind of flip it around. Instead of looking for the antecedents for your idea, look for the antecedent first and build the idea from there “Frank’s book needs updating, I’m gonna do The Americans, 2016” whatever that means.

    You’d want a pretty big pair to consider it, but what the hell. Go big, right?

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      AM,
      I know someone doing that EXACT thing with a book that is totally sacred. When the photographer told me I was both horrified but also intrigued because this particular photographer does unique work, and even if he copies he will be adding something of his own. Plus, he’s going to deliver it in person to the original photographer, so the risk of a punch in the face is part of the charm.

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    2. Too bad. I don’t visit this site enough to look for ramblings then have enough time to listen to them right there on the site. iTunes is far preferable to me, and you’d get *far* more listens that way too. If you’re cool with that, then cool. I’ll just end up missing it all. 🙁

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      Vargas,
      The only issue I have is there is no consistency to my audio posts outside of Dispatches. So putting a 30-second audio post on iTunes followed by an hour-long audio post doesn’t work. So, for now the Dispatches will remain. As for listens, it’s nice when they come, but I don’t have any idea how many I actually get. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but my goal isn’t to get as many listens and followers as possible. Same for IG. I don’t track followers because I’ve seen what that does to many folks, and I’ve seen what it does to what they are creating. This site was built as an experiment, so wasn’t sure it would last longer than a few months. Am debating about taking it down anyway. But thanks for taking time to write. I totally understand your view.

  2. I gotta say I totally agree with you and your approach to find good work. The web is full of junk, there is good stuff too, but the web is not curated, so, to find the good work you have to dig and in the process you go to run into a lot of things; from not that good all the way to crap. So yeah, book stores or public libraries are good places to access to work that is been curated by multiple eyes and as you said, selected and sequenced to transmit a message.
    To look at work online I guess my only recommendation would be (and I don’t know if it is a good one, just a personal opinion) … Find photographers, working photographers, that either are working for a lot of different publications or that are doing expositions in a lot of different galleries. From those, select the ones that have a style you like and yeah, then look online at their work. Sometimes is not easy, or just impossible to find books on their work in a physical store or library.

    PS: I definitely would love to hear or read a post about how to choose or come up with ideas/projects. What is/was your take on it. Your mental process.

    I’m liking this audio format.
    Cheers!

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      Erlantz,
      Okay, I’ll put something together. Finding good work online is also about surviving the onslaught of distraction. Just getting to the work is a minefield of ads and distraction. I’m a total sucker and often times find myself happily misdirected.

  3. The best online archive of photojournalism is Magnum Photos. Just click on ‘Photographers’ and pick one of the old guys to how it’s done. Bruce Davidson, Larry Towell, Phillip Jones Griffiths and many more of the legends of the 20th century are there. Click on some of the newer members and see how they are trying to report world events (and make a living) in the 21st century. There is a marked difference in approach between the old and the new, probably necessary as the old model of getting assignments from newspapers and magazines just doesn’t exist anymore. Looking at the old masters, on Magnum and elsewhere, should be considered mandatory for new photographers. Firstly, it shows just how high they set the bar, secondly, it educates you visually. As Daniel says, you (we) don’t want to be derivative of others work, but once you know what has been done before you can push the envelope and reinterpret what has been done before. As good (great) as the work of the old masters is (and some, like Larry Towell and Bruce Davidson are still going strong) much of the work was produced in the last century, when conditions for making photographs were very different. Taking a theme from the past and reinterpreting it in the 21st century seems like a grey idea, as Daniel says. Always paying you dues by referencing previous work and photographers, of course.
    Looking at photo books is a great way to study how to design a book, or at least to note the different approaches to design. All of the above also allows you to look at great photographic work. What’s not to love?

    One last thing, remember that it took the master photographers years to produce their own particular Magnum Opus. It takes time, practice and patience to get that good.

    Great and thoughtful post, Daniel. Thank you for it.

    Mike.

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      Mike,
      Magnum was/is the bar for many years. Haven’t been to the site in years but used to view it all the time. They have adapted, changed a lot in recent years. Probably out of need as the industry changed around them. Some great books from them in recent years as well.

  4. Loving the voice of Dan! Audio bites to ignite debate.
    I’m with you on this one, online is a sucky place to look at work. Even the work of the “masters” is poorly reproduced in electronic form. After spending time at the Helmut Newton archive in Berlin I can no longer cope with seeing his work in anything other than print form. I can recall my reaction to so many of the works on display yet would challenge anyone to recall one image the “liked” on instagram yesterday.
    As you say, the care, attention and skill it takes to transform a “bunch” of images into a printed collective that has something to say is a tricky act but one which only serves to strengthen the impact. Mr Flak is a one man army trying to create an onine solution to this but as yet he seems to be a bit of a lone voice against the tide.
    It was said a good many years ago that there are no truly original thoughts in the world, the best solution we have is to steal like artists.

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      Mark,
      YES, there is someone out there who enjoys these posts! I knew there had to be at least one! Print, for most of the history of photography, was the preferred landing zone for one’s images. How your images looked on paper was as identifiable as the images themselves. The name that screams at me now from the bookshelf is Paulo Nozolino. I saw one image of his in a Leica catalog about 20 years ago, and based on the image content I started trying to find more of his work. When I saw it in print I was so blown away. His printing is so unique, so recognizable, but you can’t really get it online. The subtle range of the scale he prints in is beautiful. He shoots things most of us would walk right by. Then prints it in ranges of black mostly. They are dark, foreboding and almost, at times, could be charcoal illustrations. He did a book called Far Cry that is remarkable. On the flip side, most people just don’t know and they don’t care. Moving too fast. Online fills the holes with endless material.

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