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Interactive Artist Showcase Guest photographers will present work for your questions and discussion.

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  #1  
Old March 25th, 2012, 02:27 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, Guest Artist Photographers

In an ongoing bi-weekly posting of one photograph from each of them, Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee will be discussing the nature of photographic vision and the visual concerns things that go into the making of their photographs, and by extension, any fine photograph. Their writings will be a compression of what they teach in their Vision and Technique Workshops. The purpose of this section of the forum is to help everyone make better photographs—on their own terms—regardless of type of camera used, format, or subject matter.

Michael and Paula are large-format (8x10 and 8x20) fine-art photographers whose photographs between them have been collected by over 140 art museums worldwide. Their many contributions to fine-art photography include: the publication of high-end photography books, including books by Edward Weston and a nineteen-volume series of the portfolios of Brett Weston (www.lodimapress.com); the distribution of the highest quality mat board and storage materials (www.lodimaarrchivalmaterials.com); and the manufacture of Lodima, a new gelatin silver-chloride contact printing paper (www.michaelandpaula.com).

Michael and Paula welcome questions and will do their best to answer in a timely way.

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; March 28th, 2012 at 10:29 AM.
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  #2  
Old March 25th, 2012, 02:54 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Here are our first two photographs. Our discussion follows.



Michael A. Smith: New Orleans, 1985
"from the book, Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey—Photographs from Twenty-Five Years, Lodima Press 1992"





Paula Chamlee: Romana Mesa, Utah, 1993
"from the book, Natural Connections, Lodima Press 1994"

As photographers we are responsible for the visual integrity of our photographs the same way a composer is responsible for every note, or a poet is responsible for every word. Every square millimeter of the picture space must be an integrated part of the entire photograph.

When you look at our photographs pay attention not only to the subject matter, but to how the entire picture is put together. Because everything in the photograph is important, be sure to pay attention to everything, including the edges and the corners. Everything in the photograph must visually relate to everything else.

In Michael's photograph, New Orleans, 1985, note the double black line at the bottom left corner, the black line at the bottom right edge and the black square in the bottom right corner, and what is going on at the top corners. These visual elements serve to move the eye throughout the picture space, keeping everything lively.

In Paula's photograph, Romana Mesa, Utah, 1993, see how the dark wavy black line near the bottom left corner, the diagonal flow at the upper right corner and the dark patch at the bottom right corner draw the eye, making it more than just a photograph of the form of the dark water. Because of the placement of these elements, as well as the placements of the other marks in the picture, it is a unified photograph.

Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee
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  #3  
Old March 25th, 2012, 03:52 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Michael and Paula,

Thanks for this kick-off in this new venture. So, if I have it right, your primary concerns are form and sub-structure of the elements in the picture and how they relate visually, not any particular meaning of the photograph. So this, in a way means that to you both, the structure comes before meaning, beauty or any other value.

Asher
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  #4  
Old March 25th, 2012, 04:26 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Michael and Paula,

Thanks for this kick-off in this new venture. So, if I have it right, your primary concerns are form and sub-structure of the elements in the picture and how they relate visually, not any particular meaning of the photograph. So this, in a way means that to you both, the structure comes before meaning, beauty or any other value.

Asher
It is the structure of the photograph that creates beauty. And as John Keats wrote,"Beauty is Truth."

Michael A. Smith
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  #5  
Old March 26th, 2012, 12:51 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default Stored comment on structure and art

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Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
It is the structure of the photograph that creates beauty. And as John Keats wrote,"Beauty is Truth."

Michael A. Smith
One thing I'm concerned about is that structure might supersede the artistic value as a consideration. Tolerate this assertion for a moment.

IOW, the art of a piece of furniture, is more than just the skilled workmanship and competent design. So a perfectly designed photograph, all the way to the edges, one that has balance and visual impact, might then be a beautiful photograph for sure. But would it then, of necessity be art? After all, a "magical and romantic sunset" is not always art, even if technically perfect in the photograph!

Asher
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  #6  
Old March 26th, 2012, 07:35 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
As photographers we are responsible for the visual integrity of our photographs the same way a composer is responsible for every note, or a poet is responsible for every word. Every square millimeter of the picture space must be an integrated part of the entire photograph.
That is certainly true.

Quote:
In Michael's photograph, New Orleans, 1985, note the double black line at the bottom left corner, the black line at the bottom right edge and the black square in the bottom right corner, and what is going on at the top corners. These visual elements serve to move the eye throughout the picture space, keeping everything lively.
The first time I saw this picture, I immediately imagined that the air ducts would be some kind of alien monster engulfing the building. Their structure is similar to the one of the root of plants, when they strangle or hold onto something.

Then, I remember the exhibition of Ernst and Hilla Becher less known works I saw a few month ago, where they pictured similar industrial buildings. The obvious difference is that they pictured the building as a whole, in documentary fashion, while you zoomed in.

I also agree that what is going on at the edges of the frame is important to that picture: I could not crop anything out without destroying the balance of the image. But I keep asking to myself whether it would be possible to expand the image a little bit: my eye keep hitting the bottom of the left air ducts and wants to see a bit more of it: how it ends and how it is connected to the building.
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  #7  
Old March 26th, 2012, 11:26 AM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
One thing I'm concerned about is that structure might supersede the artistic value as a consideration. Tolerate this assertion for a moment.

IOW, the art of a piece of furniture, is more than just the skilled workmanship and competent design. So a perfectly designed photograph, all the way to the edges, one that has balance and visual impact, might then be a beautiful photograph for sure. But would it then, of necessity be art? After all, a "magical and romantic sunset" is not always art, even if technically perfect in the photograph!

Asher
It is the structure of any photograph that makes it art, not the subject. This, of course, is a Modernist point of view. What one is trying to say, what message someone is trying to convey must first be grounded in a complete and integrated structure. When Paula and I teach, and this section of the Forum is essentially a compression of our workshops—an effort to help folks make better photographs—we do not concern ourselves with the content of the photograph. We assume that everyone has feelings or ideas they are trying to express and that everyone has an interest in subject matter that probably is very different from our own choice of subject matter. There is no right or wrong about subject matter. Where folks need help to make better photographs in their own terms is not in their choice of subject matter, but in their understanding of and ability to make photographs that are visually coherent.

To put this another way:

Definition of capital "A" Art: Art is expression contained within a form. Whether it is good art or bad art is therefore a function of two things—whether the structure of the photograph is visually complete and coherent—the form, and whether something of interest has been said—the expression. Paula and I do not presume that we feel things more deeply than others, therefore in our teaching we do not deal with the part of the photograph that is about the expression.

If a magical and romantic sunset were well seen, it, of course, could be art, but it also could not be art, or at least not very good art. This is because photographs of a magical and romantic sunset are usually clichés. There is rarely anything personal about those types of photographs. Calendar art is art that has nothing personal about it. The photographs are generic. They are usually boring because the expression is superficial, no matter how deep the feeling the photographer had when making the photograph. It is one thing to have a feeling; it is quite another to express it in a way that communicates that feeling in a way that connects with others.

Actually, any photograph can be art if it is seen in an art context. Whether it is good art or bad art is the real issue. And, of course, different people will have different opinions about whether the work is good or bad. Consensus over time is the final arbiter.

Michael A. Smith
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  #8  
Old March 26th, 2012, 12:00 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
The first time I saw this picture, I immediately imagined that the air ducts would be some kind of alien monster engulfing the building. Their structure is similar to the one of the root of plants, when they strangle or hold onto something.
Jerome,

That's a wonderful image you made for us. I can't now separate those invasive tentacles from the photograph now! That monster wont let go!

Asher
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Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.
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  #9  
Old March 27th, 2012, 10:32 AM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
It is the structure of any photograph that makes it art, not the subject. This, of course, is a Modernist point of view. What one is trying to say, what message someone is trying to convey must first be grounded in a complete and integrated structure. When Paula and I teach, and this section of the Forum is essentially a compression of our workshops—an effort to help folks make better photographs—we do not concern ourselves with the content of the photograph. We assume that everyone has feelings or ideas they are trying to express and that everyone has an interest in subject matter that probably is very different from our own choice of subject matter. There is no right or wrong about subject matter. Where folks need help to make better photographs in their own terms is not in their choice of subject matter, but in their understanding of and ability to make photographs that are visually coherent.

To put this another way:

Definition of capital "A" Art: Art is expression contained within a form. Whether it is good art or bad art is therefore a function of two things—whether the structure of the photograph is visually complete and coherent—the form, and whether something of interest has been said—the expression. Paula and I do not presume that we feel things more deeply than others, therefore in our teaching we do not deal with the part of the photograph that is about the expression.

If a magical and romantic sunset were well seen, it, of course, could be art, but it also could not be art, or at least not very good art. This is because photographs of a magical and romantic sunset are usually clichés. There is rarely anything personal about those types of photographs. Calendar art is art that has nothing personal about it. The photographs are generic. They are usually boring because the expression is superficial, no matter how deep the feeling the photographer had when making the photograph. It is one thing to have a feeling; it is quite another to express it in a way that communicates that feeling in a way that connects with others.

Actually, any photograph can be art if it is seen in an art context. Whether it is good art or bad art is the real issue. And, of course, different people will have different opinions about whether the work is good or bad. Consensus over time is the final arbiter.

Michael A. Smith
Michael,

hi - do you have any instances of visually incoherent work ?

is there a way that you can measure the coherence of an image in an objective (or near objective) way?

I enjoyed looking through your work - seeing it in real life would be richer experience - do you plan to get better scans of work done so the online representation give more than general impression of your tonal ranges etc.

thanks for taking the time to put up some work.

cheers
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  #10  
Old March 27th, 2012, 06:15 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Hampton View Post
Michael,

hi - do you have any instances of visually incoherent work ?

is there a way that you can measure the coherence of an image in an objective (or near objective) way?

I enjoyed looking through your work - seeing it in real life would be richer experience - do you plan to get better scans of work done so the online representation give more than general impression of your tonal ranges etc.

thanks for taking the time to put up some work.

cheers
No, we do not have examples of visually incoherent work ourselves, but there are hundreds of thousands of examples of such work on the internet. When we teach workshops, at least some of the participants work is visually incoherent. After what we have explained, shown, and demonstrated, everyone sees the difference.

There is no measurement to determine if a work is visually incoherent. And there are no rules about it as our next submission here will demonstrate.

I am not sure what you mean by "better scans." The scans we have, while perhaps not adequate for print reproduction, look pretty good on the web to us.

Michael A. Smith
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  #11  
Old March 28th, 2012, 04:40 PM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Hi Michael and Paula.

First a big thank you from all of us at OPF for giving us of your time, experience and knowledge.

I have two questions for the both of you, if I may.

1. What made you take the photo of this place in the first instance? Had you already been working on
a series of such subject matter? Did you already have the subject ( or a vague notion of it ) in your
thoughts? Why here? Why that elevation for the second photograph and not less or more?

2. This questions pertains to the developing and printing process:
What criteria did you both use to say OK this is it. I am satisfied with the print? Why not more/less contrast or more/less ( developing time e.g. ). Are there certain standards that you apply subconsciously
for the end product? Based on your experience, intuition, requirement of the subject?

Once again, my thanks for being gracious to give us of your knowledge.

Best regards.
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  #12  
Old March 29th, 2012, 08:27 AM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
Hi Michael and Paula.

First a big thank you from all of us at OPF for giving us of your time, experience and knowledge.

I have two questions for the both of you, if I may.

1. What made you take the photo of this place in the first instance? Had you already been working on
a series of such subject matter? Did you already have the subject ( or a vague notion of it ) in your
thoughts? Why here? Why that elevation for the second photograph and not less or more?

2. This questions pertains to the developing and printing process:
What criteria did you both use to say OK this is it. I am satisfied with the print? Why not more/less contrast or more/less ( developing time e.g. ). Are there certain standards that you apply subconsciously
for the end product? Based on your experience, intuition, requirement of the subject?

Once again, my thanks for being gracious to give us of your knowledge.

Best regards.
I will try to answer your questions, Fahim.

It is how one sees, not what one sees that makes any photograph interesting. Everything we do photographically, from making exposures to making prints, we do intuitively.

The first (Michael's) photograph was made as part of a commissioned project to photograph the city of New Orleans. I was free to photograph anything I wanted. I did not have to photograph famous buildings as they already had photographs of those structures. My goal was to "get a sense o the city." Of course, it would be my sense of the city. I photographed whatever caught my eye. This included photographs in all parts of the city and included photographs of buildings, views, portraits, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, and more. All together I finished and printed 405 negatives from New Orleans in the following formats: 8x10, 8x20, and 18x22. Why did I make this particular photograph? It looked good on the ground glass.

Paula's photograph: This photograph was made from a mesa in Utah. Why from that vantage point? Because that is where we were. Why that photograph? Again, because it looked good on the ground glass.

Why are the prints printed the way they are? Because they look best to us. No other reason. We always make a darker print and a lighter print to be sure that, in our eyes, the final print is the best print.

We have a visual approach to photography. When we make a photograph, "ideas" and "meaning" and symbolism" and other such things are not in our minds in any way. Of course, fine photographs are informed by intelligence, and the photographs we make came out of our world view and our understanding of how the universe works. As you will see in the series of photographs that we will put up here over time, we photograph a great variety of subject matter--people, architecture, urban, rural, and natural landscapes. In a way, it does not matter to us what the subject is. However, we would not even set up our cumbersome cameras unless we had an emotional response to what was before us.

I was once asked by a museum: "What are you trying to do when you make a photograph?" After throwing away a couple of paragraphs, I came up with one sentence, " I'm just trying to make the best picture I can." By extension, in the darkroom, I am just trying to make the best print I can.

Some photographers say that they make prints to try to capture the feeling they had when making the exposure in the field and they want others to feel the same, or similar feelings. This, to me, is ridiculous.

My response to this attitude is in my article "On Printing": "Although it is the reality of the subject before you that captures your attention, the feeling one has while photographing is determined by myriad factors. The physical reality before you—the very real three-dimensional space, the light, the colors, the sounds, the smells, the weather—is of course a major factor. Of the others, some are more or less stable, such as one’s world view and the general state of one’s psyche and health. Other factors are more fleeting, such as the time you have available (it is hard to be calm and contemplative when rushed, whether by quickly changing light or the need to be somewhere else), the other people who may be present, your dreams from the night before, or a conversation you may have just had. All of these factors contribute to determining your mood, which in turn may affect how you feel about what is before you.

"Realizing the absolute impossibility of trying to create for others and to recreate for myself, in a two-dimensional black and white photograph, the feeling of the multi-faceted experience of having been at the scene photographed, my goal when making prints is simply to try to make the best print I can, and thereby to provide, both for myself and for the viewer, a new experience—one of the photograph itself."

There is, of course, much more I could write, but this will have to do for now.

Final word: keep in mind that Paula and I have a visual approach to photography. How things look is much more important than what they are.

Michael A. Smith
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  #13  
Old March 29th, 2012, 09:35 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
It is how one sees, not what one sees that makes any photograph interesting. Everything we do photographically, from making exposures to making prints, we do intuitively.
"I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed." - Garry Winogrand
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  #14  
Old March 29th, 2012, 09:55 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
... It is how one sees, not what one sees that makes any photograph interesting. Everything we do photographically, from making exposures to making prints, we do intuitively.

The first (Michael's) photograph was made as part of a commissioned project to photograph the city of New Orleans. I was free to photograph anything I wanted. I did not have to photograph famous buildings as they already had photographs of those structures. My goal was to "get a sense o the city." Of course, it would be my sense of the city. I photographed whatever caught my eye. This included photographs in all parts of the city and included photographs of buildings, views, portraits, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, and more. All together I finished and printed 405 negatives from New Orleans in the following formats: 8x10, 8x20, and 18x22. Why did I make this particular photograph? It looked good on the ground glass.

Paula's photograph: This photograph was made from a mesa in Utah. Why from that vantage point? Because that is where we were. Why that photograph? Again, because it looked good on the ground glass.

Why are the prints printed the way they are? Because they look best to us. No other reason. We always make a darker print and a lighter print to be sure that, in our eyes, the final print is the best print.

We have a visual approach to photography. When we make a photograph, "ideas" and "meaning" and symbolism" and other such things are not in our minds in any way. Of course, fine photographs are informed by intelligence, and the photographs we make came out of our world view and our understanding of how the universe works. As you will see in the series of photographs that we will put up here over time, we photograph a great variety of subject matter--people, architecture, urban, rural, and natural landscapes. In a way, it does not matter to us what the subject is. However, we would not even set up our cumbersome cameras unless we had an emotional response to what was before us.

I was once asked by a museum: "What are you trying to do when you make a photograph?" After throwing away a couple of paragraphs, I came up with one sentence, " I'm just trying to make the best picture I can." By extension, in the darkroom, I am just trying to make the best print I can.

Some photographers say that they make prints to try to capture the feeling they had when making the exposure in the field and they want others to feel the same, or similar feelings. This, to me, is ridiculous.

My response to this attitude is in my article "On Printing": "Although it is the reality of the subject before you that captures your attention, the feeling one has while photographing is determined by myriad factors. The physical reality before you—the very real three-dimensional space, the light, the colors, the sounds, the smells, the weather—is of course a major factor. Of the others, some are more or less stable, such as one’s world view and the general state of one’s psyche and health. Other factors are more fleeting, such as the time you have available (it is hard to be calm and contemplative when rushed, whether by quickly changing light or the need to be somewhere else), the other people who may be present, your dreams from the night before, or a conversation you may have just had. All of these factors contribute to determining your mood, which in turn may affect how you feel about what is before you.

"Realizing the absolute impossibility of trying to create for others and to recreate for myself, in a two-dimensional black and white photograph, the feeling of the multi-faceted experience of having been at the scene photographed, my goal when making prints is simply to try to make the best print I can, and thereby to provide, both for myself and for the viewer, a new experience—one of the photograph itself."

There is, of course, much more I could write, but this will have to do for now.

Final word: keep in mind that Paula and I have a visual approach to photography. How things look is much more important than what they are. Michael A. Smith
I quite agree with all this. It is a bit selfish perhaps but it is true and, curiously or not, I feel the same.
OK, OK I am nothing in the Photographic World I know, but it's my - shall I say - statement/view ?

I would like to add that one's cultural aspect is of great importance. Your background, where you come from, your education are important and - a final word - your connections within the society you belong to. This is of major importance. Oh yes it is

Sometimes I put things - witch ever they are - in extremes and this makes me understand better the middle, trying to establish the right line for the right subject.

Thank you for writing these lines Michael.
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  #15  
Old March 29th, 2012, 09:59 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Michael ( and Paula ) thank you for the lucid response. I shall take my time assimilating all the information asked and given.

That you guys are excellent teachers too, is apparent from the no-nonsense and approachable ( by me )
answers.

I shall eagerly look forward for more.

Once again my profound thanks to the both of you.
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Old March 30th, 2012, 11:31 AM
Michael Nagel Michael Nagel is offline
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Paula and Michael,

thanks for showing and discussing your work here.

My personal interest is currently more directed to urban/industrial photography, so 'New Orleans 1985' is the one that I was immediately interested in.

Jerome provided a good impression on how seeing this photo, I can follow his view.
My first impressions was: 'When you draw the back of a head in the 'V' formed by the ducts on the left side, you have a person reaching into the building.'
This is probably because I document a lot of street art and this influences my way of seeing.

I am curious on what will follow.

Best regards,
Michael
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  #17  
Old March 30th, 2012, 11:56 AM
Tom Robbins Tom Robbins is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Nagel View Post
Paula and Michael,

thanks for showing and discussing your work here.

My personal interest is currently more directed to urban/industrial photography, so 'New Orleans 1985' is the one that I was immediately interested in.

Jerome provided a good impression on how seeing this photo, I can follow his view.
My first impressions was: 'When you draw the back of a head in the 'V' formed by the ducts on the left side, you have a person reaching into the building.'
This is probably because I document a lot of street art and this influences my way of seeing.

I am curious on what will follow.

Best regards,
Michael
I too am very interested in the next images and also appreciate what has already been shared. Structure in a photograph is a new concept for me and I'm struggling to understand.
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  #18  
Old March 31st, 2012, 08:06 PM
Jean Henderson Jean Henderson is offline
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Like Tom, structure in a photograph is a new concept for me and I am struggling to undersatnd. Is it another intuitive thing or a more conscious one?

Many thanks for being among us.
Jean
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  #19  
Old April 1st, 2012, 09:47 AM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Like Tom, structure in a photograph is a new concept for me and I am struggling to undersatnd. Is it another intuitive thing or a more conscious one?

Many thanks for being among us.
Jean
Understanding structure in a photograph is something that can be learned. It is essentially what we teach in our workshops. Once folks "get it" they always name better photographs--in their own terms--regardless of subject matter or type pf camera used.

Michael A. Smith
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Old April 4th, 2012, 03:57 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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What is the subject in Michael’s photograph, "Yosemite, 1988"?





Michael A. Smith: Yosemite, 1988
From the book, Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey—Photographs from Twenty-Five Years, Lodima Press 1999



It is not any one thing, but the relationship of everything to everything else. "Everything" here means the relationship of all of the tones to each other. Note how the relationship of the tones to each other cause the eye to move throughout the picture space. The movement of the eyes is inherently pleasurable. And one of the things we all do when we make a good photograph is to give visual pleasure.
There are no rules.





Paula Chamlee: Cataviñia, Baja, California, 2003



There are an infinite number of ways to construct a photograph. Paula's photograph, Cataviña, Baja California, 2003, is of something centered. The spaces on either side of the Cordon cactus are exactly right. The relationship of the vertical lines in the cactus and the edges of the cactus to the edges of the photograph establish the rhythmic intervals that give visual pleasure.

Again, we're really looking forward to your discussion and further questions.

Michael and Paula
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  #21  
Old April 4th, 2012, 10:30 PM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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Yosemite, 1988 is indeed an interesting composition. I would describe it as centered, although it is not obvious at first sight: the composition as arranged as an oval constructed from the shoreline on top and the reflection of the trees tops and stone at the bottom. It is closed at the sides by the stones. But this basic structure would not work without the white stones at the middle, which distracts the eye. Without these stones, the eye would simply explore the periphery of the picture in circles and quickly get tired, with it indeed the eye wanders around randomly. Once the oval is seen, one understand why the tree tops are cut so as to put the shoreline near the top, in symmetry with the reflection of the trees tops.

An interesting exercise for someone learning pictorial composition would be to randomly clone things out in photoshop to get a better feeling of what is essential and what is not.

Cataviñia, Baja, California, 2003 is deceptively simple. I think the plant was chosen because its outer shape reminds the one of a woman seen from the back. The slight bulge on the bottom would be the line of the buttocks, the waist is visible above it and the picture is cut just below the shoulders. The model would need to take the classical pose in which her arms are raised above her head or maybe keep her arms to the front of her body.
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  #22  
Old April 5th, 2012, 12:21 PM
Michael Nagel Michael Nagel is offline
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For me 'Yosemite, 1988' is loosely linked to M. C. Eschers Three Worlds. The relationship between different aspects of the image is important here as well.

Best regards,
Michael
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  #23  
Old April 5th, 2012, 02:27 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post

Cataviñia, Baja, California, 2003 is deceptively simple. I think the plant was chosen because its outer shape reminds the one of a woman seen from the back. The slight bulge on the bottom would be the line of the buttocks, the waist is visible above it and the picture is cut just below the shoulders. The model would need to take the classical pose in which her arms are raised above her head or maybe keep her arms to the front of her body.
Paula did not choose to photograph this cactus because the outer shape reminded her of a woman. She selected it for e reason only: It looked good. That the photograph reminds you of a woman seen from behind is not a bad thing. All viewers bring their own life experiences to a work of art. They may see more in a work than the artist saw, and may feel more than the artist felt when making the picture.

Truly, both Paula and I work intuitively, with never a thought of what a photograph may mean. Our work is also never about ideas. Iti is however, informed by intelligence--visual intelligence.

Michael A. Smith
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Old April 7th, 2012, 01:55 PM
Tom Robbins Tom Robbins is offline
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Michael,

The photos you've posted by you and Paula, as well as your comments to questions, have been incredibly thought provoking. As you have pointed out, this forum discussion is a compression of a workshop, and the more efficient give and take of the workshop is not possible. Just the same, your words are carefully chosen, and your ideas are clearly presented. It is up to the reader to connect the dots.

So, I think I am beginning to understand, but would like to summarize what I understand to see if I'm following correctly. Please correct me.

The value of the subject in any photograph is purely subjective.

Visual structure makes "art", and this requires a visual approach that includes:

visual integrity—all elements in the frame relate to each other
visual coherence—logical connection of elements in the frame
visual intelligence—lost here: possibly an informed combination of the previous two
visual completeness—lost again: perhaps this involves including relevant elements within the frame

If everything falls into place, all elements in the resulting photograph will be related in a logically harmonious manner.
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Old April 7th, 2012, 10:01 PM
Michael A. Smith Michael A. Smith is offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Robbins View Post
Michael,

The photos you've posted by you and Paula, as well as your comments to questions, have been incredibly thought provoking. As you have pointed out, this forum discussion is a compression of a workshop, and the more efficient give and take of the workshop is not possible. Just the same, your words are carefully chosen, and your ideas are clearly presented. It is up to the reader to connect the dots.

So, I think I am beginning to understand, but would like to summarize what I understand to see if I'm following correctly. Please correct me.

The value of the subject in any photograph is purely subjective.

Visual structure makes "art", and this requires a visual approach that includes:

visual integrity—all elements in the frame relate to each other
visual coherence—logical connection of elements in the frame
visual intelligence—lost here: possibly an informed combination of the previous two
visual completeness—lost again: perhaps this involves including relevant elements within the frame

If everything falls into place, all elements in the resulting photograph will be related in a logically harmonious manner.
Tom,

Those four "visual" words all really refer to the same thing. Seems as if you got it. Now the questions becomes, "How does one achieve that?"

Answer: First by really understanding it visually--and being able to see it in photographs where it exists and being able to see the lack of it in photographs where it does not exist. Once you "get it" it is virtually impossible to make a bad picture again. You might, and we sometimes do, make boring pictures, but never ones that are bad ones--ones that are visually incoherent.

In all of this we are talking about photographs as art. There are photographs that depict certain events and in those photographs the specific information is more important than the structure of the picture. But if a visually coherent structure is there, the photograph will be more than only a document.

I'm impressed. You seem to have "gotten it" quickly.

Of course the subjects one chooses to photograph reflect the interests of the photographer and are not at all unimportant. In all that Paula and I teach, however, we assume that we do not need to discuss that aspect of the picture. It is never that the photographer chooses a "wrong" subject. Where photographers weaknesses are is in the structure of the picture--how the subject is seen.

Michael A. Smith
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Old April 8th, 2012, 04:34 AM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith View Post
Tom,

Those four "visual" words all really refer to the same thing. Seems as if you got it. Now the questions becomes, "How does one achieve that?"

Answer: First by really understanding it visually--and being able to see it in photographs where it exists and being able to see the lack of it in photographs where it does not exist. Once you "get it" it is virtually impossible to make a bad picture again. You might, and we sometimes do, make boring pictures, but never ones that are bad ones--ones that are visually incoherent.

In all of this we are talking about photographs as art. There are photographs that depict certain events and in those photographs the specific information is more important than the structure of the picture. But if a visually coherent structure is there, the photograph will be more than only a document.

I'm impressed. You seem to have "gotten it" quickly.

Of course the subjects one chooses to photograph reflect the interests of the photographer and are not at all unimportant. In all that Paula and I teach, however, we assume that we do not need to discuss that aspect of the picture. It is never that the photographer chooses a "wrong" subject. Where photographers weaknesses are is in the structure of the picture--how the subject is seen.

Michael A. Smith
Michael,

please can you show examples of visually incoherent photographs (you said there are examples on google can you link to one) I think we really need to define this to move forward in the thread.

You have not really defined incoherent / coherent for me (then again i am some what stupideo !) other than pointing to your own work as coherent, is it and how is it other than to you?

you as Asher said are guests and are raising some interesting ideas - thanks for the time you have spent.

I hope the above is coherent as ungerlish is my second language.. i am scottish.

cheers
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  #27  
Old April 8th, 2012, 06:00 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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I agree with you Mark.

I am also not very clever...
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  #28  
Old April 8th, 2012, 08:17 AM
Jim Shanesy Jim Shanesy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Hampton View Post
Michael,

please can you show examples of visually incoherent photographs (you said there are examples on google can you link to one) I think we really need to define this to move forward in the thread.
I've always thought that this one lacks visual coherence. To me it is not art, but hastily done illustration.
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Old April 8th, 2012, 08:46 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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@ Jim - Indeed.


But isn't this - the photograph you linked shown above - more than anything else, an example of badly composed photograph which ends being unpleasant to look at ?

Is it a photograph by Ansel Adams ??!!!

Is this below an example of structurized image ? Or is it a well composed image ?

Where does structure ends and starts composition or vice versa or do they live together in straight dynamic relationship ?

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  #30  
Old April 8th, 2012, 09:20 AM
Jim Shanesy Jim Shanesy is offline
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Another test which I often apply when viewing photographs and always when composing my own is to remove an element in my mind's eye. Does that improve or detract from the image? In the case of Clearing Winter Storm, imagine the picture without the two trees in the right foreground. In my opinion doing that would greatly improve the image. Visually incoherent.

Try removing any element in this one. The leaf in the upper left corner, for example. To do that would ruin the image. It's very visually coherent.
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