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The end of Alex Webb's? (10 replies and 14 comments)

David W
2 months ago
David W 2 months ago

Roger and forum members,

It seems that photography has morphed into a pursuit for money rather than artistic expression. With the end of photojournalism looming and the rise of wedding and portrait photography-not that these can't be an artistic endeavor- it seems that there are steadily less and less Alex Webb's and Steve McCurry's out there.

It seems to me that with the democratization of digital photography, photography is now mostly a rehash of the standard wedding and portrait high key and saturated sunset style. Luckily there are photographers like Emmanuel Lubezki out there with an original style, check out his Instagram account @chivoxp, it's really good.

Am I being too pessimistic?

Do you think that the quality of fine art photography is falling or increasing nowadays?

 

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

I am not a fan of 'fine art photography' really. Maybe it is 'fine art' but I see Alex Webb's images as his personal statements on the world. There are some great photographers out there but there is also a lot of work that seems pretentious and leaves me cold.

David W
2 months ago

By fine art I meant original and emotionally resonant photography, not fine art as in the genre of it.

Would you mind elaborating on the kinds of images you find pretentious?
What kinds of things does a pretentious photograph entail and what could one do to avoid it?

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

I guess pretentious is in the eye of the beholder. I know it when I see it. I mean, some films are really pretentious but I am not going to go in to that either!

David W
2 months ago

Fair enough! I think I know what you mean anyways.

NicolasLabra
1 month ago
NicolasLabra 1 month ago

I guess that like in all other walks of artistic life, there still a great amount of truly great photographers out there, but perhaps theres more of the "not so good ones" ?, does that sound fair ? 

It think democratization is worth the extra flux of content, if it allows people who otherwise wouldn't have gotten a chance to create and share their art , yes maybe thanks to digital there are more bad films out there, but im sure some really great stuff exists because of that democratization.

David W
1 month ago

Absolutely, anyone can become a great photographer with the right effort nowadays, and that's due to everyone having a camera in their pockets!

Wouter
7 days ago
Wouter 7 days ago

I used to get the meaning of the word "pretentious" wrong. I thought it meant something like holding oneself in a higher regard than others. 

But that's not really the correct definition as it turns out. 

It literally means what it says: "to pretend".

In other another word: dishonesty. 

When dealing with art, truth is probably one of those words that should be at the top of the list but isn't often so. 

Of course, it's hard to point it out, especially publicly. But in a way, I think that's a shame. It shows how careful one has be these days because everyone gets offended so easily. 

If my work is pretentious, I would like people to tell me. I don't believe we're always very accurate about our own motivations, we're too close to it. So that's why it's beneficial that others tell you their truth/opinion.

I find these days almost everything has some level of pretentiousness to it. But you can't really rationally explain it.. I mean, we're talking about other people's personal experiences. And to rationally invalidate them would be kind of... wrong. It's a personal experience, not facts. 

But there's a definite feeling that some stuff just screams dishonesty. It doesn't feel quite right. I don't think it's always with dishonest intention and I do think most folks do it unconsciously. They are buying into a fake reality and unwittingly contribute to its expansion. 

People describe me as a leftist and a progressive but I think the Hollywood woke culture is getting out of hand. I watch some bits of the oscars (until Roger came on stage and then turned it off) because I felt that it was no longer worth watching this bad piece of theater. It humoured me for a while but at some point it was enough. 

Honest to God, Roger's speech (and that audio guy who won) were the only two honest, real speeches. No politics, no bullshit, no pretending, just real gratitude and team spirit. That was fresh. 

The contrast with the other speeches was so stark that it was almost comical. 

All of Hollywood is playing this role "let's give the minorities a voice". But meanwhile they just keep draping themselves in all the attention. Getting richer on selling other people fake dreams. 

That's a bunch of pretentiousness right there. And a lot of the films are made by those people. I hold nothing against them, it's a free world. But it's a little bit distasteful. And it doesn't help the world one bit. It only helps themselves. 

Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes says it all. But remember: they allowed him to say it. And that's very meaningful. Reverse psychology marketing? is. 

So if you're not sure about seeing pretentiousness, well, it's really rather hard to avoid. Especially these days. 

I have a Mubi subscription so I get to see a lot of old, mostly European films. And what strikes me the most is sheer realness of it all. Of course, I'm watching a curated selection of the best, timeless works so I'm not seeing everything. Probably in those days there was a lot of pretentiousness as well. 

In the longer run, nostalgia isn't really a healthy way to cope with the dishonesty. It's not just in these times, it's from the beginning of humanity. 

Art is a lie. And it's not ill intended. But it is a lie. It is a reflection of reality. But the medium that reflects it, can't help but to attribute some of its characteristics to the reflection. So the reflections is not longer absolutely true. 

But any sincere artist understands that art is not about dazzling the senses. No, it is about a sincere effort toward exploring the truth about who we are and what it could possibly all mean, even if it's ultimately meaningless. And the artist knows that there is no answer, and there never will be. But still, something inside is burning, thrusting the artist forward into the unknown, willingly sacrificing himself every living moment. But with a smile, nonetheless. We all die. That's a fact. But how you go about doing it, that's up to you. 

Everyone is an artist, every life a masterpiece in the making. Even the ugly ones are beautiful in their own right. 

Thank you for indulging my nonsensical blabber. 

Mike
6 days ago

Clever piece of writing imo. You should have been a politician!
But you are right ofcourse.

David W
6 days ago

That's not "nonsensical" and its definitely not "blabber!" Very well said, I think you expressed what a lot of people are feeling right now about hollywood and politics. Hard working men and women want to relax for a couple hours and watch a show that everyone knows means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, and not to be lectured by virtue signaling millionaires.

Nick Frayne
6 days ago

Some great words and a lot of food for thought.

gabj3
6 days ago

That was quite beautiful. I think I and many agree with what you say, but somehow always end up falling into that trap. It’s about catching yourself before you fall too far.

Wouter
5 days ago

I like to space out my paragraphs, makes it more manageable to read. I like to leave some space when a point is made. The next paragraph represents the next train of thought. If I were to string it all together I think it would become quite confusing. But I'll make an effort to use the blank lines more sparingly.

Mike
5 days ago

Thankyou Wouter, we don’t want the computer getting over heated!

Wouter
4 days ago

Haha, is that a real issue in countries like India? 2 summers ago, during a hot streak, one of my hard drives in my raid failed and I didn't properly set it up for redundancy. I'm very lucky that the footage I lost wasn't the most critical and the client being very understanding!

Mike
4 days ago

You were lucky that time. Always pays to duplicate footage if time allows.

Wouter
2 days ago

yes. I now run a dedicated server in my basement that syncs with google cloud. And finished work is burned to DVD's that I store at my parents' house. Lesson learned!

Roger Deakins
6 days ago
Roger Deakins 6 days ago

Very well put. I wish I had such an ability with words.

David W
6 days ago

You make up for it with images!

Wouter
6 days ago
Wouter 6 days ago

"Clever piece of writing imo. You should have been a politician!"

You're not the first person that says that but I'm not sure. Politics is a strategy game and I'm not a competitive person. I don't have the winning mentality, unfortunately. If ideological fanatics like me would be in power, you'd get a situation like nazi Germany or Cuba. Not that I consider every dictator evil, but they are dictators nonetheless. I'm not a fan of that idea. Thank you for the kinds words though! 

"Hard working men and women want to relax for a couple hours and watch a show that everyone knows means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, and not to be lectured by virtue signaling millionaires."

Yes, I agree. Unfortunately, a lot of movies try to spoon feed her audiences in a similar manner. Again, everyone should be free to do whatever they please but it's distasteful. I think art should be able to speak, but only up to a point. At some point it has to question its own point and leave it up the audience to create the meaning for themselves. 

"I think I and many agree with what you say, but somehow always end up falling into that trap. It’s about catching yourself before you fall too far."

No worries. We're here to make mistakes and experience what that feels like and what it means. And then we have the choice to learn if we want to. We should be glad there are so many problems in the world. Otherwise there would be literally nothing to do. There would be no point in living and certainly no point in making movies! 

"Very well put. I wish I had such an ability with words"

Thanks, but I think you do! And not every word has to be written. And certain "words" don't even have a written form. I also think it might be more difficult for you to fully expound on issues like this, given your status (status is a stupid word, I know). And I know for a fact that directors are afraid of cinematographers who show off their ability with words.

So if you want to explore that ability, I think it's safer to do that in your own film. And you could always do what Sam did: hire a writer you like. You can tell your own story but don't have to waste time learning the ropes of the writing formalities. But yeah, it would only make sense if you have a story stuck inside of you that wants to come out. 

Thanks for the kind words everyone! 

aelhashimi
6 days ago
aelhashimi 6 days ago

Everyone is a photographer these days especially with Instagram, now more than ever photojournalism is needed. The guys from Magnum Photos have been pushing that since their inception.

 

Wouter
6 days ago
Wouter 6 days ago

There are more than enough people willing and competent enough to do it. The problem is that there is very little demand. 

Our culture is screwed! We have the attention span of a goldfish! 

 

Wouter
6 days ago

attention = currency

and everyone is competing over it.

and the result is an over-saturated virtual world, roamed and maintained by a global culture of novelty addicts.

And to make matters even more interesting: all of the flow of information is controlled by hyper advanced algorithms even their own creators don't fully understand.

It's absolutely fascinating but also a bit scary, no?

Roger Deakins
5 days ago
Roger Deakins 5 days ago

You do a disservice to goldfish. I think people will wake up very soon. They will have to!

Wouter
5 days ago
Wouter 5 days ago

At this rate, I think we won't wake up in time. But we know how it is with revolutions: sometimes, all it takes is one catalyst, a tiny spark to ignite a domino effect of unprecedented change. Who knows! 

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