Editor’s note: This is a piece by photographers Bryan Formhals and Blake Andrews on how famous photographers’ styles are copied over and over again. Please do not read or comment if you take things too seriously.
The other day while reading the Internet I came across “The 10 Most Harmful Novels for Aspiring Writers.” I wondered whether there could be a list for photographers as well. I thought about it and then sent my list to Blake Andrews to see if he wanted to contribute and have some fun with it. Here’s what we came up with.
Last week, a collection of 36 prints by William Eggleston was sold for $5.9 million at auction. The top ten list of most expensive photographs ever sold doesn’t contain a single work worth less than a cool million. Just a few months ago, Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhine II’ became the world’s most expensive photograph, selling for $4.3 million.
Shaofeng Xu’s photo of a protestor climbing a high-voltage electricity tower won Honorable Mention in the Contemporary Issues category of the World Press Photo 2012 contest. Read more…
CNN published an opinion piece yesterday by photojournalist Nick Stern, who has some pretty harsh things to say about the spread of Instagram-style “fake images” in the news:
The app photographer hasn’t spent years learning his or her trade, imagining the scene, waiting for the light to fall just right, swapping lenses and switching angles. They haven’t spent hours in the dark room, leaning over trays of noxious chemicals until the early hours of the morning.
Nor did they have to spend a huge chunk of their income on the latest digital equipment ($5,999 of my hard-earned cash just went on ordering a new Nikon D4) to ensure they stay on top of their game.
The app photographer merely has to click a software button and 10 seconds later is rewarded with a masterpiece.
Stern also states that “Any news photographer worth his or her salt will tell you that the best camera is one that lets you take the photo unencumbered by the technicalities of the process.”
Opinion: Why Instagram photos cheat the viewer [CNN]
Image credit: Citizen Journalism by Oferico
It might sound strange to use the verb “Love” in the title of a rant. But here goes.
I love photography.
Why am I telling you this? Isn’t it self-obvious? Don’t we all love photography? The answer is no. There is a percentage of photographers who hate photography. They do not appreciate photography. They do not consume photography. They don’t look at photo books or photo magazines. They hate the guy with the iPhone taking Instagram shots. They hate the guy who just bought the D4 because they don’t have one. They hate people using digital because film is what real artists use. They hate photographers who embrace social media because images should stand on their own. They hate Getty, Corbis, the AP, day rates, photo editors, assistants, rental houses, camera stores, point-and-shoots, iPads, zoom lenses, padded camera straps, wheeled suitcases, younger photographers, older photographers. The photo of so-and-so on the cover of whatever it’s called sucks. That guy copied the other guy, he sucks. Terry Richardson sucks. Chuck Close sucks. Vincent Laforet hasn’t taken a still in 17 years. Kodak hasn’t been managed well since the 70s. Blah, blah, blah.
I love photography. Let me show you why.
Photography author Ben Long has a thought-provoking article over at CreativePro in which he argues that “all photos are manipulated” and that “there is no such thing as absolute truth in photography”:
All images are Photoshopped. Or Lightroomed, or iPhoto’d, or dodged, burned, re-touched, cross-processed, developed with more or less agitation in the tank, at warmer or cooler temperatures, and so on and so forth. This has been true since the beginning of photography.
Understanding the representational nature of photography will help you take better pictures because you’ll better understand how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the medium.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s important to understand that all images are manipulated. Still photos are the dominant communication medium used for everything from entertainment to artistic expression, journalism to sales. Becoming a more informed, understanding viewer will make it easier to understand when and whether there’s any “truth” in the images put before you.
For similar discussions, check out this article by Mark Schacter and this video with Errol Morris.
All Photos Are Manipulated (via Reddit)
Image credit: Truth or Consequences by kxlly
Photographer Kenneth Jarecke has written up an interesting article on how Internet culture is hindering the development of people who want to get better at photography:
There’s nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us does all aspects of it well. But it’s a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.
This isn’t like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers… hate you. Instead of taking ten seconds to say. “This doesn’t work. You need to do better”. They readily push that “like” button, because it’s easy and they hope to get the same from you, but also because they’re cowards.
His advice? “Seek out great photography. Devour it, and be suspicious of any undue praise.”
Chances Are, You Suck (via A Photo Editor)
Image credit: 310/365: Photo-tastic Sunday… by Derek E-Jay
Earlier today my friend and fellow photographer posted a link to a craigslist ad from a woman in Seattle looking for a wedding photographer. The woman was upset because she thought that $3,000 for a wedding photographer was “wack” because all we do “is hang out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them” and that we are “making so much money its crazy.”
I first read this post earlier today while I was running errands and my head almost exploded. I immediately started drafting a horribly mean and punishing response in my head, but by the time I got home, I realized that this is probably a common misconception and that maybe I should try to explain why photographers charge what we do for our work.
Photo editor Michael Davis on why clichés win photo contests:
I think one of the dynamics at play is that work that was recognized in the past triggers interest in similar work in the present. In other words, we have this library of images in our minds and when we see images that are similar to the images that we think are great, there’s an association, a connection that is positive. These are derivative images. But instead of being a negative aspect, these images get elevated, often to the highest awards and often without realizing we’re just awarding what worked in the past.
That’s the nature of the cliché: I’m photographing a subject that was deemed good in the past, therefore the photo I make today will also be good. As a judge, the perspective is: This type of photo has been recognized in the past, therefore we should recognize it today.
His advice for photographers looking to break free of subjects that have been beaten shot to death? Do the hard work of researching prior work, and think about breaking new ground in either the subject, story, or storytelling method.
If clichés are so bad, why do they win contests? [Michael Davis]
Image credit: Cliche by Tom Newby Photography
The art world was abuzz last week after Andreas Gursky’s photograph Rhein II sold at auction for a ground-breaking $4.3 million. The print may be Plexiglas-mounted, signed, and gigantic (it’s nearly 12 feet wide), but the price had many people scratching their heads. Thankfully, there has been no shortage of articles written since to explain things to uncultured folk who don’t understand the astronomical prices paid for fine art.