Technology vs/with Art

KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 396Member
edited November 2013 in General Discussions
Almost posted this in the DF thread, but that goes off topic enough ;-)

Just went to LACMA, and they had a photo exhibit - more obscure stuff from notable and not so notable photographers. They had some stuff I recognized, Stieglitz, Imogen Cunningham etc. One thing that made a huge impression on me was how fuzzy some of the works were. I mean like some edges, tables, windows, had a full cm of fuzz. Basically some form of static blur. In some cases, I think it was just the technology of the time. Late 1800s. But the art that came from it was incredibly evocative. There were many where the composition was textbook, balanced and very much about line and form. I kept imagining what gymnastics I'd have to do with a modern camera to do what I saw.

B&W. Heavy underexposure. Manual focus beyond infinity? Other ideas?
D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii


  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    It is my opinion the great photographers had a sense of communication with the subject which is not often seen in today's world. If we look at a subject, give a bit of thought about what we want to portray, then make an attempt using our very best effort to carry out what we envision as our goal, we might occasionally get results which are good. Also, in communicating with live models, we need to understand who they are, and feed the information back to the model so as to get the results we are after.

    Once we have the data in digital do all the work in color and then move to a B & W and finalize the image. One can always add effects, soften, grain, etc., but if you absolutely want the look of the old images, shoot some B & W sheet film with an 8" x 10" camera, and I am guessing at an ISO of about 10-20…..yikes.
    Msmoto, mod
  • kyoshinikonkyoshinikon Posts: 411Member
    After the film show, Jim Blinn, who's one of the pioneers in this field, came running up to me and said, "John, I have to ask you a question." And I thought, "God, I don't know anything about these algorithms; I know he's going to ask me about the shadow algorithms or something like that." And he asked me, "John, was the parent lamp a mother or a father?" And then I knew we had won...

    ~ John Lassetter on the screening of Luxo Jr one of Pixar's first successful shorts...

    The work transcended the technology. While not "art", the photo of the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lémby by Eddie Adams is powerful regardless of the fact that it is technically flawed by todays standards. Msmoto once again hit the nail on the head, much of the communication is lost.
    “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” - Bresson
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    It is my opinion the great photographers...
    You speak as if communication were dead in the modern world. While communication has changed, I would hardly say today's photographer lack the ability to communicate a message. The difference today is the sheer volume of people communicating the same message, which dilutes it. I honestly don't think some of the "great photographers" you speak of, from the 1900's would do very well in the modern world. Why? They would not be able to communicate well in the modern world. That's okay. We do not live in their world, and they do not live in ours. Lets try to look at this objectively and not romanticize the past shall we?

    The question to ask is not whether photographers today, or those in the past, are better, but rather did they do the best with what they had. In the past, I think those "great" photographers did just that. Are today's photographers pushing the limit of what they can with what they have? Some yes. Many others are just copying what others have already done. Maybe the best photographers out their today are the ones you've never heard of? I'm okay with that. Photography is not a popularity contest, it is something to enjoy and continuously learn and expand in.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    Can you compare photographers over the years directly with each other? Can you compare F1 drivers from Fangio to Vettell directly with each other? Same question really because although the complexity/speed of the machine and the approach/education/fitness of the driver evolves, the job and what is achieved is the same. Both era's used experience to improve.

    I think a lot of artists tried lots of stuff and occasionally found something different which they honed and used. That or they just pain lucked it. Perhaps the best ones envisioned the outcome before embarking on getting the shot, but I reckon they were in the minority.
    Always learning.
  • kyoshinikonkyoshinikon Posts: 411Member
    I still agree with Msmoto. I do feel much of the "lost communication" is a direct result of the culture and not the photographers. Even kids are very camera aware now and will play up to it keeping photographers like me from capturing emotion...
    “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” - Bresson
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 396Member
    Not really looking for a right answer on past vs present, but interesting discussion everyone. Cultural historians would say that the art of the time is a product of the culture of the time - so we're largely not creating the way people used to. I often see silence in 19th Century photography, a natural stillness both in composition and in the eyes of the subjects that I think is tough to recreate today.

    But I'm trying :-P So to that effect, I'm curious about this sort of stuff as Msmoto mentioned: " in color and then move to a B & W... add effects, soften, grain etc." More like this plz. Thx. I have the Nik collection with Silver Efex.

    Thanks PitchBlack for the 500px link. Stunning photography. Great work. Something to aspire to. Going from old to new, it's clear how much more detail we have now, and how captivating color is. If you take away color and detail, many of these compositions have a very purposeful feel of art-making behind them. And I guess part of that is that both photographers and subjects know what photography is. Back in the day at least before some certain point in time the concept of 'posing' was pretty foreign.

    Anyway, looking to do some recreation of old portrait and body form photography. Thanks again.
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 396Member
    @kyoshinikon: you beat me to that point while I was tapping away!
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    @kyoshinikon: Maybe it was the slowness of the technology at the time that forced slowness and deliberation ("communication")? We live in a far more frenetic world now.
    Always learning.
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    I see "reduction" in much of todays photography - much like political debate - we have "one liner photos" with heavy use of the saturation slider. Good? Bad? It is different.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    'Different' often isn't 'good' though is it hendrik?

    A.D.D. - Today's lifestyle engenders it, and it is the enemy of excellence.
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    One of the very positive aspects of NRF are the members who will express their opinions in a kind manner. This I respect. In this same vein, couple of images recently completed for a friend will be critiqued by a couple of very competent photographers I know and it will be a no holds barred process.

    Photography is a steep learning curve. And, I believe this is true for everyone who is looking to produce good results.

    Maybe I like a challenge as in this image taken at a party, a single light bulb of about 75 watts in a floor lamp...
    Msmoto, mod
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 561Member
    edited November 2013
    @spaynpray: Different is different. I think it has to do with how we see pictures today. Not long ago someone was the best photographer in the family. He or she was asked to take the pictures. The prints - 4x6 - was put in to an album. It was fun to look at pictures taken 10 years ago - look at aunt bettye funny hairstyle and all that.

    Today the best photographer in the family will upload pictures to places like Flickr. Here there are millions of other hopefuls. So to stand out you have to make "loud" pictures.

    Both old style and new style pictures has to grab your attention - but a good picture is begging you to finish it - you see something new every time you see it.

    But no one is giving you 5 sec. on Flickr - you have to dump all the information in 1/100 of a sec = loud pictures.

    New style pictures are good for selling things - they just hit you - you don´t have to think. You could say that it is a kind of visual rape. Or visual porn - nothing left for the imagination.

    I´m not saying that all pictures are like that now - just saying that it is a trend.
    Post edited by henrik1963 on
  • ChasCSChasCS Posts: 309Member
    When you look at some of the cameras from back in the early days of photography, you can certainly see that the limitations were often vast, compared to todays sophisticated equipment. I have an Ensign Ensignette from 1911 era, and those cameras didn't even have any focus adjustment.
    Although, apparently some rare models did have the ability... Nice to see!!
    Interesting thing is, these cameras never lost their original purchase value, and are still only worth a couple of dollars. Smile
    Two and a quarter wouldn't buy you a cup of Sanka today...

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