A while ago, I got to talking to a friend on Writing.com, and his comments spurred Identity Crisis. However, these’s one aspect of his comments I didn’t cover there, and I actually forgot about it until a month or so ago when I attended a premiere at a local photo gallery. That aspect is audience expectations.
Steve (said friend) said that artistic photography should make some sort of statement about reality. I’ve already stated the reasons I disagree with that idea. In recent weeks, though, I’ve found I might not be the only one. Let me clarify that. I’m not the only one among photography consumers that merits technique and aesthetics over commentary. This is a mindset that can be found even among some (semi) professional photographers. This exhibit was held at Minneapolis Photo Center, a place I didn’t even know existed until last summer. It’s a place that you really only know about if photography is a big deal to you.
The premiere was really crowded, and I had to wait a bit to move from photo to photo. As a result, I had a chance to do some eavesdropping. It was incredibly fascinating. Many people who attended the show focused on the form and technique photographers employed. The nature (heh) of the exhibit certainly encouraged technical remarks. Even so, there were a lot of comments that could apply to most photo exhibits. In particular, I heard one gentleman remark on people downright abusing Photoshop to turn photos into paintings. I totally understand that complaint. Even so, at least these individuals used Photoshop in a plausibly convincing manner.
It was a pleasant surprise ti hear so many people focus strictly on what was in front of them. (Pardon the pun. Again.) There wasn’t any speculation about the photographer’s intent or any larger message. It was people simply enjoying the photos at face value. More to the point, it was people who regularly peruse photography taking everything at face value. Seeing and hearing people admire (or criticize) the images themselves proved enlightening. It also made me wonder about other photography audiences.
I admit I haven’t been around non-photography audiences as much as I’ve been around those who are more immersed in the photography world. When I’ve been around the former, the comments are less technical. At the same time, there aren’t many people seeing the exhibited photos as grandiose statements. Some people remarked on how the photos reflected the times. Others noted very general observations about the composition of the photos. You could hear a pin drop when nudity was involved. Hey, I live in the US and am speaking from experience in US museums. What do you expect? In any case, the comments were broad and superficial even in museum settings. I found that to be intriguing. I think I’ll need to make some more observations, though, to see if this holds up.
So what else did I photograph during this particular sojourn to Florida? Plenty. I admit much of it was for a special Mars and Darwin book I plan to give to my parents this year, but there were still moments worthy of sharing here.
(As a matter of fact, that is my husband being silly at a playground. Why do you ask? :-))
We explored new places this time around, including DuPuis Nature Preserve in western Martin County. I drove by the place many times in my late teens and early 20s but never actually visited. I finally got there on our last full day in the wang. I also took my husband to the Port Mayaca Cemetery to show him the mass grave for the victims of the 1928 hurricane. I had been there a few times before and was kind of surprised at the changes I saw with the place. It was my husband’s first time there, though, so I set aside my surprise to show him around. By that point, though, I’d already been handed a couple other surprises.
During this trip, we discovered a park in Sewell’s Point that I had no idea even existed; stoppedd by Bayside Marketplace only to find it way more crowded than I expected; and tiptoed around at least a dozen Portuguese Man O Wars. These new adventures provided contrast to revisiting some of our old haunts. We probably won’t return for at least two more years, and that’s a trip I expect to have a lot of new adventures. Until then, enjoy these slices from South Florida.
While I still consider myself an explorer of the photography craft, I admit that I am finding certain aspects that I favor. Perhaps the most obvious is my preference for color photography. I shoot in black and white and understand its appeal. However, the power of color cannot be denied. I first realized this when viewing Craig Blalock’s photography (not hard to come by since he and I live/work in Minnesota) and saw him photograph Lake Superior in a manner I called darkly light. There was a glow to the picture, but the colors were still very dark. I found this aesthetic particularly pleasing and feel it would not have been nearly as evocative in black and white. However, the work of Hugo Jaeger really made me realize the potential of color. Life.com has all of his photographs from his time as Hitler’s photography. The 50th birthday collection and the mythmaking machine collection are so startling because they are in color. The atmosphere becomes more enveloping because the reds can be seen in more vivid tones (especially compared to the deep grays red shades take on in black and white photography). I also feel color is much more suitable for aesthetics that veer more toward the realistic end of the spectrum (where I prefer to spend my time). Allow me to show a couple pictures of Julius (my older cat).
Yes, a good amount of his fur is white, but he is a red cat in outside appearance and “purr”sonality (ba-dum CHING!). While I can catch his expressions pretty well in black and white, he looks much more vibrant and like the kitten he thinks he is when photographed in color. Color also works better for defining lines in a subject, something I noticed when looking for this black and white photo (as many of them turned out softer than I would have liked). In the same vein, color also makes it much easier to see when the lines get too soft. With black and white, it involves more scrutinizing to find those differences. Maybe I like color better because it’s less forgiving and motivates me to fix potential problems in my photography. Or maybe my natural harshness finds its way into my photos, making me crave more realistic portrayals. Regardless, I adore color photography and have enough confidence to say it’s one aspect of my personal style that I can acknowledge has shown itself throughout the years.
I’ve gone on the record a couple times discussing why I’m not a big fan of editing photos. When I post things to this blog, I don’t retouch them. The material is all original and determined at the shoot. I take pride in that fact and am pleased when I get compliments for what is essentially fresh work. The fact that I can even get kudos for my unedited items at all is kind of amazing.
That said, I feel kind of weird when I lurk in photographer discussions that almost always end up including some discussion of Photoshop, Lightroom or another photo editing software. Editing photos is not my style. However, I’ve had a conundrum on my hands with a few photos in the last several months. I love one of the elements, but there’s a flaw that is too glaring to ignore. For me, this is especially annoying with composition, as that is something that really can be fixed from the getgo. On the other hand, there was a photo from my unofficial spring break that was an awesome accident (had the shutter going entirely too fast indoors) but had some stuff at the bottom that really detracted from the simplicity of wrinkled sheets and shades of blue. I really wanted to display this picture, so I had no choice but to do some cropping. It broke my heart to do it, but I got what I wanted. After that, I decided to work on lighting fixes in the editing room, as that doesn’t bother me so much. Lighting has historically been a little tough for me to grasp (although it’s becoming easier to manage now). When I did this tinkering, I found I was having to do less and less to refine the frame. It made me feel a little bit better.
I think that if I ever upgrade from PaintShopPro I will only get Lightroom. The reason for that is their chromatic aberration fix is simple to use. For the record, PSP does have this fix, but it is a nightmare if you do have to use it. Likewise, since the features are more focused on light refinement and less on manipulation of the image, Lightroom fits my mindset toward editing. I’m still not a fan of the editing room, but I can deal with it every once in a while. I never said I dealt with it well. I just said I can deal with it these days. On that note, here are some photos. Are they edited? I’ll let you make the call.