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Thread: Art or Incompetence? The con job explored.

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    Default Art or Incompetence? The con job explored.

    Contentious Topic Warning:

    Maybe I'm going senile in my old age but it seems to me that a lot of young and frankly callow photographers are starting to pass of second and third rate photography as 'art'.

    This "art" often takes the guise of images that are blurred, out of focus and in most cases suffers from a serious lack of what could be called normal compositional skill or ability. In this respect it is similar to much 'installation' art that is little more than a con job on the public by some fast talking alleged artist.

    So am I missing something here, or is it really as I suspect a con job by the incompetent?
    The Ang Moh from Hell
    Professional Photography - many are called, few are chosen!

  2. #2

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    It's a matter of personal taste. What's good to one, may not be as good to another. Your shots may be technically competent, but composition wise, might look like absolute crap to another. Photography is a subjective thing, not objective. You yourself have called it "Art". When has Art ever been objective?

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    Well, since we're on the topic, let me teach you a few con job tricks.

    1. Use black and white, It adds instant artistic credibility to your picture, never mind that the composition and subject matter stinks. Hard core "real" photographers only use black and white. In fact, the higher the contrast (and therefore less tonal range), the more "artistic" it becomes.

    2. Use shallow DOF. Again, instant cred. One part of the picture must be in sharp focus, the other blurred, preferably with at least $2K worth of bokeh. That's why real artists never take landscapes!

    3. Have some motion blur. That's never due to poor technique, only artistic intention, to convey a hectic pace of life, urbanisation or whatever other BS you can dream up.

    4. Never use flash. It shouts AMATEUR! If you must use flash, bounce it, preferably onto a side wall rather than the ceiling.

    5. Always use available light, preferably from the side (an open window or something). That is SOOOOOO artistic.

    6. Use ridiculously wide lenses and go in real close to distort the perspective. Never mind that you are photographing a lump of cow dung, it will look artistic.

    7. Never take the horizon level. It must be skewed at least 10 degrees off the horizontal. That makes it artistic.

    8. Take pictures of everyday objects and think of a fancy caption.

    9. Take pictures of old people, preferably with wrinkles. Again, instant artistic cred. How can you go wrong.

    10. Most importantly - learn how to use Photoshop. You can create diamonds from cow dung that way.

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    Originally posted by StreetShooter
    10. Most importantly - learn how to use Photoshop. You can create diamonds from cow dung that way.
    Eh, I can use Photoshop quite well, but if I could do that I'd be rich, then can afford the 600/4 AF-S I've been after!

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    hmmm... I called them stereotype shots #1 to #xxx rather than farty-arty (opposed to real arty-farty haha)
    I feel those are better for newbies to follow as an initial guide.

    I think u must been seen the ST awards is it? they didn't look good to me...
    "I'm... dreaming... of a wide... angle~
    Just like the ones I used to know~"

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    Originally posted by StreetShooter
    Well, since we're on the topic, let me teach you a few con job tricks.

    excellent post! i'm picking up a few tricks from it even at this moment
    David Teo
    View my work and blog at http://www.5stonesphoto.com/blog

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    Wah... then Black and white+motion blur+camera shake+MRT shake = Art master piece?


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    Ok, here we go. First of all, do you really think photography has to be an art form? Absolutely? Does all images has to look pretty in your eyes in order to be considered a success? How do you judge the competence of a fellow photographer?

    I prefer to think photography as a whole lot of possibilities that includes caturing a precious moment or documenting an event, object, etc. What you consider a good image? Technically infallible? I say it depends on the message the image is trying to convey. You standards might be 100% true to your work but might not be for the others.

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    I am not dismissing the importance of good techniques, but do you think a photography's image is of lesser value just because he/she didn't get the exposure right irregardless of what's in the image? I think not.

    The photographers you mentioned are professionals and are therefore paid to do the job, so its natural and only the right thing to have expectations. However, it also depends on what your subjects are and what was the situation like. Imagine yourself in New York City on Sept. 11th with a camera. Do you think you can stand there, work on the composition and ponder over the correct exposure while the twin towers collapse in your face? I think not. Do you think those images taken are not worthy of publication just because he/she haven't included this/that into the image or should have moved 5 steps to the left/right?

    Like I said, exposure, composition, etc are not to be dismissed but they are something that you learned over the time but does that necessary means you can't take good images/keepers on your learning path?

    Of course you can't go around snapping blindly and learn nothing from it. But would you rather have a picture that captured a moment but is not 100% technically correct or would you like to ponder behind your viewfinder and let that chance slip away. Do you want an image to tell you what your photography meant later in life or do you want no images to tell you nothing at all?

    Btw, I'm also very particular about exposures and compositions and am learning myself if you start to wonder. But that's not going to stop me from picking up my camera and just shoot if the occasion calls for.

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    Hi

    okay, my somewhat serious 2 cents on wat Ian has said.

    Ian, not too sure if u made this comment after seeing the work that was posted on this forum. i'm assuming u did.

    while i can't speak for the pple u're referring to (not that i really know who u're talking about), i can honestly say for most of us, (i say most, cos maybe, just maybe, there are pple trying to pass off their obviously flawed work as art intentionally - i don't know) our shots are serious attempts at bringing together the elements that culminate to wat constitute good photos, artsy pieces of work.

    not every try will be successful attempts. I've had some pictures that garnered zero comments after i posted them, so i know i didn't make it for those shots - there's something wrong and i need to correct it. maybe my intepretation wasn't caught on. maybe the exposure was off etc. maybe my composition just didn't tell the story i intended. Watever it is, i need to correct it.

    most of us are learning everyday, and i dare say when we look back in future at some of the work we produced today, we would have a different idea of wat's good and wat's bad

    As to wat the other posters said, true, art is personal and subjective, but i think the art i produce (or rather, TRYING to produce) should at least be appreciated by a small minority, and not totally ignored. If my work is ignored, i will be seriously worried. There must be something seriously wrong, and i cannot hide under that veil that says "well, art is personal".

    Art is not art when not appreciated at all. Agree? Yes art is personal - but it cannot be ignored. To be ignored would be tragic.

    When Sam Abell almost lost his job at the National Geographic (this incident is well documented) because the picture editors think his photos are all too quiet, he didn't just quit and think "well that's the way i like them - too bad they don't appreciate it".

    No, he resolved to "make his quiet pictures more compelling". And he did it. And in the process, his style of quiet pictures became a hallmark of his photography. Instead of abandoning that quiet style, it has evolved to become art, in that sense.
    David Teo
    View my work and blog at http://www.5stonesphoto.com/blog

  11. #11

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    Originally posted by Red Dawn
    Hi

    okay, my somewhat serious 2 cents on wat Ian has said.

    Ian, not too sure if u made this comment after seeing the work that was posted on this forum. i'm assuming u did.

    while i can't speak for the pple u're referring to (not that i really know who u're talking about), i can honestly say for most of us, (i say most, cos maybe, just maybe, there are pple trying to pass off their obviously flawed work as art intentionally - i don't know) our shots are serious attempts at bringing together the elements that culminate to wat constitute good photos, artsy pieces of work.

    not every try will be successful attempts. I've had some pictures that garnered zero comments after i posted them, so i know i didn't make it for those shots - there's something wrong and i need to correct it. maybe my intepretation wasn't caught on. maybe the exposure was off etc. maybe my composition just didn't tell the story i intended. Watever it is, i need to correct it.

    most of us are learning everyday, and i dare say when we look back in future at some of the work we produced today, we would have a different idea of wat's good and wat's bad

    As to wat the other posters said, true, art is personal and subjective, but i think the art i produce (or rather, TRYING to produce) should at least be appreciated by a small minority, and not totally ignored. If my work is ignored, i will be seriously worried. There must be something seriously wrong, and i cannot hide under that veil that says "well, art is personal".

    Art is not art when not appreciated at all. Agree? Yes art is personal - but it cannot be ignored. To be ignored would be tragic.

    When Sam Abell almost lost his job at the National Geographic (this incident is well documented) because the picture editors think his photos are all too quiet, he didn't just quit and think "well that's the way i like them - too bad they don't appreciate it".

    No, he resolved to "make his quiet pictures more compelling". And he did it. And in the process, his style of quiet pictures became a hallmark of his photography. Instead of abandoning that quiet style, it has evolved to become art, in that sense.
    I got so many photo posts with no comments...does tat make me a con-man? *worried*
    One-North Explorers
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    Ahhh....Mr.Wallis? Glad to see ya here.
    How bout critiqu-ing my works? (if u have the free time...need the guidance from an accomplished Jedi knight like u. )
    One-North Explorers
    | Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos |

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    Originally posted by sbs99
    need the guidance from an accomplished Jedi knight like u. )
    Oi... there's only one Jed(i) here... so you better be careful...

  14. #14

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    I think Kit has a very good point.

    Photography may be art, but not all photography needs to be art.

  15. #15

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    Originally posted by Jed


    Oi... there's only one Jed(i) here... so you better be careful...
    LoL!
    One-North Explorers
    | Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos |

  16. #16

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    why do I see spot lights on me ?
    36frames Wedding Photography - http://www.36frames.com
    rueyloon - http://www.rueyloon.com

  17. #17

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    For me, I've always seen photography as a tool to capture wht I see beautiful and nice. I've never try to 'force' my pictures to try to tell a story, or look artistic, or look fantastic. Sometimes, when I'm in a pensive mood, I take pictures too, that I feel that reflects my mood at that moment.

    So I guess I'm just another 'picture-taker'. Taking pictures that mark my passing in this world.

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    sbs99;
    I see you finally figured out who I am

    Zero comments is not always a sign that a shot is a failure, I had as you well know a few shots on other forums where there were zero comments, and I put that down to people not feeling qualified to critique a work.

    Turning out dud shots happens to all of us, regardless off experience level and time spent behind the lens. I still turn out shots that are bad, but only when experimenting with new techniques in my own time.

    You are missing the crux of my arguement though, and that is that there is a movement that is permeating photography that produces low quality work by any standard and then tries to pass it off as being 'artistic' and thus worthy of serious merit.

    A good example of this level and type of artistic integrity was at the Tate in London last year, where a well known installation artist passed off a pile of human fecaes as art. Crap is crap no matter how you look at it, and they hid their lack of talent behind a longwinded story about the 'inner meaning' of the piece which frankly didn't hold water under scrutiny. Sadly this sort of cynical con job is becoming rife in photography and brings in to question the validity of such works.


    denizenx;
    Sorry I didn't see the ST awards as am not in Singapore, however they couldn't have been any worse than many other 'award' type entrant lists that I've seen over the years.

    Stereotypes or not, crap is crap which ever way you look at it.


    Flare:
    Hate to say this but 99% of professional photo editors I know would can that shot of yours and ask for a reshoot. The only exception being a couple weekend magazine (newspaper insert) editors who could find a use for that shot as a 'column filler' in an article.


    Kit:
    I've shot images that were anything but 'pretty' whose content was stark, shocking, and sometimes sickening, for example; Wildlife coated in oil from oil tanker spills, piles of dead and rotting marine life from toxic waste dumped in rivers, people covered in blood after riots, drug addicts shooting up heroin, accident victims and street kids living in sewers. None of this material was lightweight pretty 'art' photography.

    As to how to judge the worth of another photgraphers work, it's neither simple nor easy, however the standard judging techniques used in high level competitions such as the Nikon Awards are that the image be technically competent, the image have a story to tell and that the image be 'focused' on a central theme.

    These criteria can be met by any number of methods including leading the viewer to the subject by the use of pointers etc. However any image that requires a spiel to get it's point across (as in why I took this masterwork etc) generally gets canned in competitions judged by photographers as photography is a visual art, where the final image of critical importance.

    In other words the shot must be a free standing entity with a story to tell, which is different from the judging criteria often applied to other 'art' where the story behind the work is often more important than the piece itself. Hence the referal to 'con job' in my original post.


    Ninja:
    Your post sums up nicely the problem with a lot of photographers. Namely, they don't have the basics mastered and without the basics any futher real development or originality is seriously hindered due to the fact that the photographer cannot convert their conception to a final form.


    Rueyloon;
    sorry to say this but this is not aimed at you, you're far to insignificant to warrent such an expenditure of my time.

    [B]General to all[B]

    Some are missing my point, which is not to dispute the fact that art is indeed subjective and often highly personal, but rather that there are a growning number of so called 'artists' who are passing of second rate work as being first quality work.
    The Ang Moh from Hell
    Professional Photography - many are called, few are chosen!

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    There's some very thoughtful replies, well done guys!

    My own input:

    I am very dubious of such "art". I have been even before I picked up photography. To me "modern" art is a joke, and is really a codification of the feeling that art is only as good as the author. After all, if I drew some concentric circles and tried to sell that no one would buy it, but if some top notch modern artist did exactly the same... I see zero distinction to applaud someone's modern art over another simply because there is no way to measure and compare the two since its own standards are so random.

    I think that unfortunately the same applies to photography. There are people who do seek to cover up their work in the same manner as modern art painters, sculptures... and now with intallation art starting to make it big, the problem's getting worse. I completely fail to appreciate the art in a smelly pile of faeces, or in switching the lights on and off. In either case, take it out of the context of "art", and the former is gross and the latter is commonplace. How does it turn into art? Because somebody with a big name calls it so?

    The modern art painters used to justify themselves by saying that they used to have the basics. Hence they could accomplish "mainstream" paintings before they launched into the contemporary. This is indeed good. There are alas photographers who jump straight into the creative without first mastering the basics...

  20. #20
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    Ok point well taken. However Ian, you only represent a group of photographers(most probably, not even the majority) who would like to be more involved and further pursue their hobby or profession to a higher level.

    Let's not forget there are those who are just happy and contented with just shooting around. I firmly believe that everybody has the equal rights to access to photography just like you and me. They do not deserve criticism for what they're interested in doing irregardless of results. I hope your comment does not include them.

    As for high level competitions and method of judging, I still have my reserves on whether a competition or a particular panel of judges would hold a judgement that's absolutely foolproof. It shouldn't be, cos it subjective. I study architecture and we all agree, in a competition, the winning scheme is not necessary the best.

    I've seen the photojournal works on the Straits Times website and frankly and personally, I don't think its anything to be proud of at all. However, I also believe that there are better and more positive ways to raise the level of "competence" in photography.

    Thank you.

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