Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strike a Pose

[Pastry Chef - August Sanders]

[Sanders was a German photographer who embarked on a project to document people in German society from all walks of life. Ironically, the Nazis didn't like his depiction of the Aryan race. Go figure. I love this photograph. It is my favorite Sanders portrait. The subject is lit properly, but I am really in love with the composition. Using the kitchen as a backdrop, the round features of the chef's head, body, pudgy hands, and mixing bowl come together to create an interesting pattern. There is a sense of wholeness when I look at this picture.]

Recently browsed through an interesting pictorial book at the bookstore. It was a book on portraiture but with a very unique twist. Because the author reasoned that portraits can only truly be objectively critiqued when we have absolutely no emotional attachment to the subject, he collected random photographs of people and published a book. Brilliant.

I tend to agree with the author. What are the two main sources of attachment to a photo that render us practically useless to critique an image for its merit? We either know the subject or took the photo. People fall in love with their images all the time. People fall in love with pictures of their children all the time (Mediocre photographers use this to their advantage when showing pictures to doting moms...). Objectivity goes flying out the window. Regular review by other photographers (hopefully skilled and qualified) is the only way to get out of the mud.

I recently came across a random photographer's website, and saw something along the lines of the following in their bio:

I am NOT classically trained.

It is one thing to be truthful, but I found it quite odd that anyone would wear this as a badge of courage. Since when is ignorance something to be proud of? It is one thing to get out there and work for what you want, but it is another thing entirely to flaunt a lack of dedication and seriousness to one's alleged craft. To be totally truthful, I could tell this photographer was not trained just by taking a quick look through their portfolio. (I am trying hard not to be too critical of other people's work, but it is very difficult given how much crap there is floating out there.)

There are no shortcuts in life. And what we think are shortcuts are actually roads leading somewhere we probably don't want to go. I don't exactly know where I want to go, but I know where I don't want to go. That's good enough for me at the moment.

Random thoughts at 5 AM on a sleepless night.

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