23 February, 2009

"That's Him Officer!



Over the years I've heard from many different photographers, from many other parts of the country, that say, "I could not shoot your style where I live," meaning my style was too arty for their client base.

I always wondered about this, thinking that perhaps there is some validity to the idea, but in the end I don't know for sure.


Case in point, magazine photography. Let's say magazine photojournalism, something I truly love and wish I saw a lot more of.

The PJ pictures of the past few years have taken on a slightly new direction, filling our pages with hyper-complex, tilted, dark images that, most of the time, I like, even when they don't work. These images are not easy to make, make well I should say, and I think about one out of ten actually does work. But, we see a lot of them. And these same images are landing on gallery walls, which I also like, again, even if they don't work. I like the idea that we are contemplating them.

Now, who do these images relate to?

The editors and the photographers, but I don't believe they relate at all to the vast majority of readers. In fact, I think most viewers when looking at a tilted image will immediately ask, "Why is this crooked?" I know because I've heard them ask it.
And when looking at an image lacking critical focus, or containing a motion blur will ask, "Why is this blurry?"

I think we tend to place to much in the "benefit of the doubt" category when it comes to those viewing our pictures.

I'm not sure how many people are going to give a hyper-complex, tilted, out of focus image the time it requires. I think these images are done for a variety of reasons, none of which relate to the viewer.

But here is the kicker. I don't think this should change. I don't think the photographer should stop making these pictures, or change their style. Why? Because then everyone starts making the same pictures, something we have seen FAR too much of in recent years. Don't believe me, take a look at the wedding field, or portrait field. In fact, I think in some ways, success today is based on conforming to the standards created by the industry itself. Safety in numbers?

Take fine art. What's been hot for the past few years, disconnected urban moments, in color, printed 8x10 FEET. Huge prints, based mostly on the reality we now have the technology to make these prints, and the idea that if it is larger it is worth more. Oh, and hyper-small editions. These are trends, and there are plenty of folks who have decided to chase this trend, which again I think is odd, but not something that should be changed. Why? Because within about a year, this style of work will be so flooded on the market that it won't be selling like it did, and it will force the market in a "new" direction. Open additions of micro-prints? Who knows. It might take longer than a year, but it will change.

I think what is so great about all this is it turns the mirror, once again, back to the photographer and asks, "Okay, here we are again, so tell me, what is it you really want to do?" The most difficult question to answer.

If you are living in small town, rural America thinking that "arty" work won't sell, perhaps now is the time to give it another shot. Or if you are living in hip-town, ultra-cool, double earring, flame shirt, suede pants land and want to shoot weddings in 3D while wearing your blue ruffle tux from high school prom, then I say go for it. You just never know, and if this is what is TRUE to your heart then it can never be wrong.

Let's quit standing around lining up to conform and show our true colors. Or true black and white for you purists out there.

We're all derivative, but let's not get carried away. In a police lineup, you don't want to be the person picked out.(not basing this on experience.) But in a photo-lineup you do!

One of the greatest aspects of photography is that there really is no right or wrong, only what we desire to do as the creative.

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