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Art Theory: Idea workshop. Warning, not the truth here, just a venture. Examining what makes an image worthy of saving and what it does for us.

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  #1  
Old October 6th, 2012, 01:29 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default "Boring", "Pretty", "blank-faced beauty" and what else makes for Good Photography?

We're seeing apologetic introductions for images of sunsets and happy families as if we would pounce on them as merely common and sentimental. We've seen dismissal of alluring models with "blank" faces, as if we know what good photography is!

So we can timidly share mementos, snatched street shots or snaps at a passing pretty woman or odd street sign and hope for minimal dismissive reception. But why all this fear and snobbery? Don't all these pictures serve different functions?

Asher
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  #2  
Old October 6th, 2012, 02:40 PM
Michael Nagel Michael Nagel is offline
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Maybe it is just that the intention of the one who wants to show does not necessarily match the intention of the viewer. This may lead to misunderstandings, critique where it was not desired and silence where words would have been better.

Photography is - for me - in the great majority of the cases documentation, freezing a moment for the future. Whatever might be art or not depends on the viewer (read a sufficient number of people declaring it as art and a sufficient number of followers).
How the individual picture is valued by the creator and by the depicted (if persons are on the photo) is a completely different cup of tea.

An unassuming view is probably the best view to discuss any photo.

Best regards,
Michael
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  #3  
Old October 6th, 2012, 04:39 PM
Maggie Terlecki Maggie Terlecki is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
We're seeing apologetic introductions for images of sunsets and happy families as if we would pounce on them as merely common and sentimental. We've seen dismissal of alluring models with "blank" faces, as if we know what good photography is!

So we can timidly share mementos, snatched street shots or snaps at a passing pretty woman or odd street sign and hope for minimal dismissive reception. But why all this fear and snobbery? Don't all these pictures serve different functions?

Asher
Actually, Asher, there are images I have not uploaded here for this very reason and even the ones I have, I have been a bit reluctant about, simply because that is what I do, I take pretty pictures. I do feel there is fear on my part and perhaps there also is a bit of snobbery on the part of some of the others. Surely, this is just my lack of self-confidence. There are many here that have been doing photography for 20-30-40+ years. I feel like they are giants and they have so much to offer.

I also have the impression that setups are also not appreciated so I have several that I have done, such as a city out of staples, or setups created for some light-hearted humor, some photo-manipulation just for the fun of it. I've looked through the site and have not found any, so have also not uploaded these as I fear ridicule for unimportant photography. Photos that I take for my own amusement, if you wish, because I like creating and use photography as another tool to help me do that.

And, yes, I believe that good photography should not be categorized as only those that show the bad, the ugly, the unfortunate, the broken and grim. Our lives are a mixture of nature, nurture, work, home, friends, family, and our dreams for ourselves and our wishes and hopes for others. Why shouldn't we include them in our photography? We are not one-dimensional beings and although seriousness in photography is well-appreciate, and we can use photography to help bring attention to issues in the world that need to be looked at closer, why can't it also include the pictures of one's children, the flowers from your garden, pictures from the mall when one's wife is shopping or even something totally made up?

While you didn't ask expressly about our commenting on images, reading Michael Nagel's comment, I would like to add:

I really enjoy what most people submit here as they are quite different than mine and that is interesting to me. I oftentimes look at images and may not post immediately but with full intention to come back and post but they sometimes get lost in the shuffle and are not easy to find. When I come back there may be a long list I have to look through, then if the page is renewed, that list falls down to the posts already seen.

If people are not specifically asking for critique, I don't think it is my place to tell them to do things differently. But, when I have time, I try to take the time to acknowledge that I have seen what they have posted and appreciate their sharing. If I think it is beautiful, I will say so. If I think they are well-composed, I will say so. Sometimes, I'm just in awe and forget to say why, and just say Wow! I appreciate the diversity and different points of view and try to let people know that I appreciate their sharing. That's what a community is supposed to be about, n'est-ce-pas?
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  #4  
Old October 6th, 2012, 10:04 PM
Jim Galli Jim Galli is offline
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Asher,

Where did I read the other day that 1/10th of all the images ever made were made this year. Did anyone else see that?

Once upon a time there was film, then there was digital, now there are phones and ipads and goodness knows what else.

Has it occured to you that images are more common than the sand on the sea shore?

Why should anyone want to look at an image I made. It's just 1 in a trillion . . this year! What kind of a fool would I be to think mine is somehow special enough that other people would want to look at it, or even more fancifully, that I should think it is . . . art???

In just 10 years, images, all images, have become the most cheapened thing on earth.

So I go buy a 9.5X20" film cameras and spend $5,000 on some bizarre 1913 portrait lens in order to give MY pictures some personality trait that the trillions don't have. Who do I think I'm kidding!!

You're trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear. But everybody knows, pictures are like sea sand. There's no value other than a moment of pleasure they may bring you personally.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.
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  #5  
Old October 7th, 2012, 12:08 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Galli View Post
Asher,

Where did I read the other day that 1/10th of all the images ever made were made this year.
Yes, Jim, it's disconcerting! However, speech too has increased with the billions of new souls on board this little spaceship, all babbling, but there are still lots of conversations worth having and lots of prose and verse to soothe or invigorate our spirits.

The truth of the matter is that we are being renewed as is our world and the meaning of each word evolves. So even, "Hello, how what's up?" can have different meanings morning, noon and night. So I doubt that our pictures are being cheapened. We're not getting overrun with Shakespeares, Rembrandts, Dorothea Langes, Helmut Newtons, Leibowitzs, Walker Evanses or McCurries!

For sure, a lot more mementos are being made and the major tourist monuments are recorded so well that aliens, getting our broadcasts could rebuild them accurate to the mm. Still, there's endless room for original work in verse and pictures!

So take heart and don't give away your soft focus lenses for the latest cell phone, not just yet!

Asher
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  #6  
Old October 7th, 2012, 03:23 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Galli View Post
Has it occured to you that images are more common than the sand on the sea shore?
Yes, it has. But I believe that this mainly affects the price of stock photography (driving it down to zero, supply and demand!) and not much else.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Galli View Post
Why should anyone want to look at an image I made.
Because people still look at images. The chance that one person may look at one of your images in particular has indeed been diluted, but the desire that people have to look at images has not changed. I think that is a flaw in your reasoning: looking at photographs has never been more popular. If people are looking at images, why would they avoid looking at yours in particular?
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  #7  
Old October 7th, 2012, 03:45 AM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
We're seeing apologetic introductions for images of sunsets and happy families as if we would pounce on them as merely common and sentimental. We've seen dismissal of alluring models with "blank" faces, as if we know what good photography is!

So we can timidly share mementos, snatched street shots or snaps at a passing pretty woman or odd street sign and hope for minimal dismissive reception. But why all this fear and snobbery? Don't all these pictures serve different functions?
I think that you are looking on the wrong end of the story. We are here on a photography forum. The whole point of the exercise is to get photographers to post images, "Boring", "Pretty", "blank-faced beauty" or not, and have people respond. The response may be unexpected, even unsettling but this is a good thing: one can only learn from unexpected answers. If I post an image and know what the answers will be, what is the point?

The real problem is, in my opinion, that we are too polite. If someone here posts, say, badly taken pictures of, say, his or her children, the factual answer is "your picture is badly taken and I don't care about your children which I have never met in person". But we don't say that, because we recognize that people normally love their children and that even badly taken pictures of them have an emotional value in their eyes.

I once asked the question here: "why do we publish pictures?". The reason why we publish pictures is, I think, because we want to tell something to the viewer. And, if we are talking about art, the real reason is because we want the viewer to feel a certain emotion. We want to create feelings in the viewer. Often, the kind of feeling we experienced ourselves in front of the subject.

When we ask for critique or opinion about our picture, what we really need to know is what kind of feeling a panel of viewers gets from a particular picture. These feelings may be positive or negative, but we need to know. It is the only way we can learn to create the kind of feeling we want.

A last note: the feelings created need not be positive. Some of the greatest works of art worked because they gave feelings of disgust or horror. News photography about war, poverty, abuse is important because it lets people experience the feeling that parts of the world are horrible and need to be changed.
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  #8  
Old October 7th, 2012, 03:50 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Asher.

' boring, pretty ' and all such descriptions are relative. Art, not art; again relative. For the photographer
And the viewer.

I take photographs for different reasons, that might be different on different occasions. I do not have to
satisfy any clients. Just myself. Often, I share them with others....on this and a few selected fora. Some
viewers comment positively, some negatively, and some just ignore them. I feel nice at the positive comments, my ego gets deflated at the negative comments; but just for a moment.

I take photographs of things that interest me. I use equipment that makes it a joy for me to use. And also that which I can afford. The process of making an image is equally important to me.

But my most important critic is myself. I need to improve; both my vision and photographic technique.
Nothing is ' boring ' to me; otherwise I would have just moved along to something interesting for me.
Whether others might find the image interesting does not determine what I photograph. If others find
my photograph/s not worth their time to view...my tough luck.

A personal pov. Other povs are equally valid.
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  #9  
Old October 7th, 2012, 09:50 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
I think that you are looking on the wrong end of the story. We are here on a photography forum. The whole point of the exercise is to get photographers to post images, "Boring", "Pretty", "blank-faced beauty" or not, and have people respond. The response may be unexpected, even unsettling but this is a good thing: one can only learn from unexpected answers. If I post an image and know what the answers will be, what is the point?
Jerome,

"The unexpected" is a great point you make. It can cover the picture itself and also our responses. This answer needs to stand on its own as it's so important!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot View Post
The real problem is, in my opinion, that we are too polite. If someone here posts, say, badly taken pictures of, say, his or her children, the factual answer is "your picture is badly taken and I don't care about your children which I have never met in person".
That depends how well we know the photographer. If we've reacted positively to enough in the past, we're much freer to admit what sucks.

As to pictures of their our children, they're being shared mostly as if we're visiting each other, not as works of art, so it's a personal matter to recognize the joy of family. That, in itself, is a good experience too.

Asher
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  #10  
Old October 8th, 2012, 07:55 AM
Rahul Sharma Rahul Sharma is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
' boring, pretty ' and all such descriptions are relative. Art, not art; again relative.
I agree, but to a degree. boring and pretty are relative, in purely visual terms. The image is also ridden with context. Believe me you, some of the stuff that comes out of student darkrooms is not art, even though it is called art. There is difference between having good technique and experience and then making banal images, and just making banal or technically horrid images.
Art is not art without the craft, and if craft is missing, then the "art" isn't really art.
I do ceramics as a primary specialty, and yes, you get all these wonky looking ill balanced pieces. The difference can be seen with a trained hand (I always like the fact that while photography is visual, ceramics is tactile. feels like I compartmentalise well. :P). There are wonky pots made by beginner potters, and they are wonky because of improper technique. There are wonky pots made by trained potters which are wonky because of intent. Those pots show proper technique.
When a photographer takes a banal photo and can explain in concrete terms why the banality is there, then I for one am all for it. But if it is there just because "i dunno dude, I was sitting and suddenly the muse struck me and i was like maybe i should use the dutch angle on the flowerpot because it would be cool", then that is a lapse in judgement, and just bad work.

Edit: corrected spelling

Last edited by Rahul Sharma; October 8th, 2012 at 07:56 AM. Reason: spelling
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  #11  
Old October 11th, 2012, 10:12 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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I like pretty pictures, so why exclude them? I for one, never exclude them. They allow us to celebrate and
feel joy. Preserve the moments that are cherished. As I said before, ' pretty, boring etc..' are relative terms.

Images are like sand on a seashore! True. Very true.
But not all images.

Some have changed the course of history. They have been a call to action for a world that, unintentionally or otherwise, needed reminding.

Some like the moon landing, celebrating man's adventurous spirit,his successes. Some that brought the horrors of man's action into proper focus. And a few that highlighted man's indifference to those with whom we share this planet.

Images are indeed like sand on a seashore. But there are a few, made by man too, that stand out way above the others. Many pretty, many not so pretty.

Here are a few that are iconic..credits are given for each and images are used for editorial/informational purposes only.




Image by Kevin Carter.


Tyler Hicks/NYT


Tyler Hicks/NYT

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  #12  
Old October 11th, 2012, 11:06 AM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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My personal view is that there is now image overload where there is in general little value given to photographs. These days, I go out with my family or friends for a day and they take hundreds of shots that they quickly browse through and say "look at that" or "isn't that awesome" - - - and afterwards the images are never revisited again as they sit on digital storage devices of some sort, lost in the mix of thousands and thousands of files continually appended to at every moment.

So digital capture allows an ease of taking and requires no consideration to cost, that has eroded one of the fundamentals of powerful image making - THE EDIT. I'm not talking post-processing here, but the culling of images down to a small selection that does not overwhelm the viewer. I have always found this process quite easy to do and have had no issue discarding hundreds or images from a shoot that were very good, in order to provide the best images to tell the story - or even the one image that represents what I want said.

But even for me, it is getting increasingly difficult to restrain myself from taking endless images in the first place - and I am again having to take a hard look at restricting what I take and what I show (to clients or others), so that my images have more impact and value.

I really noticed this with a portrait client several weeks ago - where as a result of not being restricted by the hard costs of film, I took way too much variety that even with my stringent culling - supplied them with around 80 unique images. I noticed that the client was slow getting the order back and was really struggling making her choices. Her order was several thousand dollars - which was fine from a business standpoint - - - but it was totally made up of 5x7 prints and a few 8x10 prints of many of the shots. The daughter emailed and complained that she wanted them all and wondered if she could buy proofs of them all (which she couldn't). In reality, I would have preferred them purchasing fewer images that could be featured in their homes.

I also have realized "TOO MUCH" as being an issue with my travel images at http://asifweknow.com. The fact is that I do edit down severely to get to the 1,000 or 2,000 images that I provide in the gallery each trip. But I have come to realize that people look through quickly and do not recognize the individual images and the strengths of them. When some who are loyal viewers of our site and kept up on my all of my pictures (even our children), saw our latest book about Cahuita with it's narrowed down selection featured as stories - they are going WOW and some responded that had no idea that I had such wonderful images - - - even though they surely would have seen them before.

So - my response to what makes "Good Photography" - may well be just what it is when submitting images for a magazine article or an exhibit in a gallery - - - Good Editing, Story Telling with relevant sets of images, and for a strong single image may be Title and/or Description for Context.

The task of taking these things into consideration was never more evident to me than when I had to narrow down to 8 images for display at a small exhibit - from the already culled down 2,706 images that were my final selection, from around 12,000 that I took on that trip to Costa Rica : You Tube Video - Setting Up Exhibit . Only eight images could be displayed - my final selection of 8 images were not necessarily all of the best ones from this trip, but told the story I wanted to tell and complimented each other, and the Labels on each one were a powerful way to draw people into the contents of the image I had taken.

Something I didn't really allude to that makes an image powerful - is the PRINT - - - a visual that few people experience any longer. I personally find it very difficult to determine the quality of an image or the real abilities or intent of a photographer, by viewing what they post on the web (websites, blogs, forums, etc.). This makes commenting (positively or negatively) or critiquing on web images, very difficult - and in most cases probably of little to no real value.




EDIT - after posting, I realize my thoughts may be slightly irrelevant to the original thread content and replies - - - but was triggered by comments farther down the page. Nevertheless, I do feel that it may be possible for images to stand out even with image overload - sometimes regardless of the content - if attention is given to the things I have mentioned.



Rob
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  #13  
Old October 11th, 2012, 11:20 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default So what makes needed for good photography and art? What have we learned?

"Wonky" won't make it? Depends on the subject. Wonky of those burnt or kwashiorkor children are compelling art no matter what! Craft is unimportant in cases of extreme beauty or horror!

For the rest of us, culling down to find the few that contain the essence and make a coherent reading and atmosphere, become art as Robert points out so well.

Some pictures need siblings, some just need white space around them and others need an explanation for their art to speak to us fully.

Asher
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  #14  
Old October 11th, 2012, 12:35 PM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Number of images...during a recent one month trip abroad, between my wife and me, we made a grand total of about 300 images ( inc. videos ). All my images were on a few sd cards.
The sum total posted on OPF were less than 45. The rest went to the dustbin.

I struggle to carry a camera..to take 1000s of images during one trip..I would rather give up travel!!

How many images does one really need to take!!

I have just replaced my film cameras ( often but not always ) with digital ones. The process of taking a photograph has not changed . The medium has.

The one principle I follow religiously during photography is to wait. Patiently, for the photograph to appear in my vf.
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  #15  
Old October 11th, 2012, 12:42 PM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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Image by Kevin Carter.


Tyler Hicks/NYT


Tyler Hicks/NYT
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  #16  
Old October 11th, 2012, 01:34 PM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
Number of images...during a recent one month trip abroad, between my wife and me, we made a grand total of about 300 images ( inc. videos ). All my images were on a few sd cards.
The sum total posted on OPF were less than 45. The rest went to the dustbin.

I struggle to carry a camera..to take 1000s of images during one trip..I would rather give up travel!!

How many images does one really need to take!!

I have just replaced my film cameras ( often but not always ) with digital ones. The process of taking a photograph has not changed . The medium has.

The one principle I follow religiously during photography is to wait. Patiently, for the photograph to appear in my vf.

Different agendas - you and I. I don't travel for the sake of travel and relaxation. Traveling to other countries is an extension of my normal life - I just happen to live there for a period of time. My passion in life is experiencing and photographing people, their cultures, their lifestyles, their surroundings. Many times it is just a matter of doing something instead of sitting around, and so I photograph.

I can be quite deliberate and easily capture several hundred images in a day without totally dedicating all of my time to the photography. In fact I am quite deliberate when I shoot a wedding professionally and capture 2,000 plus images in a 6 to 8 hour time frame - in that I am not shooting anything that I do not consider to be relevant or worthy of a great image and I am not shooting all of the time. (video is 1,800 frames in a minute)

I am a spontaneous shooter though - - - and that comes down to not what is right or wrong, but a methodology when comparing to someone like you and others who like to be patient and attempt to capture that one perfect shot. I can't think that way, thus creating a lot of extra work for myself LOL.



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Old October 11th, 2012, 01:52 PM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Keep on doing what you do, the way you do, Robert; because you do it extremely well.

Btw, traveling with my wife is no relaxation! Travel, yes. Rest..no!

Best.
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Old October 11th, 2012, 02:58 PM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
Keep on doing what you do, the way you do, Robert; because you do it extremely well.

Btw, traveling with my wife is no relaxation! Travel, yes. Rest..no!

Best.

Hehe. It's not rest for me either. I rest more when I am at home.

Something I keep forgetting when I comment on photography forums - is that photography is the way I make my living - has been for 33 years. That isn't the case with all who frequent forums. Obviously my agenda is going to be different to some, because of that.

Thank you for the nice compliment fahim.


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  #19  
Old February 25th, 2013, 08:36 AM
Martin Stephens Martin Stephens is offline
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Every forum develops a clique. Every clique has a preferred currency. That seems unavoidable. In one place only pretty photographs are acceptable, in others they are scoffed at. That's not a comment on photography as much as human nature, and the dynamics of group attraction.

Diversity (if that is the right word here) is difficult to maintain.
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Old February 25th, 2013, 10:23 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Stephens View Post
Every forum develops a clique. Every clique has a preferred currency. That seems unavoidable. In one place only pretty photographs are acceptable, in others they are scoffed at. That's not a comment on photography as much as human nature, and the dynamics of group attraction.

Diversity (if that is the right word here) is difficult to maintain.
Martin,

We claim to be an "Open" forum. But it could be that some see cliquishness we miss or even confuse good manners and friendship with cliquishness. So how does one offset this trend and encourage diversity? I felt that, perhaps, the "Challenges" of Themes might serve this function.

Asher
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  #21  
Old February 25th, 2013, 11:02 AM
Martin Stephens Martin Stephens is offline
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I'm no expert. Cliques represent political power in an organism. That's what makes it hard to prevent. I am in no way suggesting that is the story here. But it is the story in other places. People by nature want to build comfortable nests. Make sure new ideas aren't crushed by the establishment?
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  #22  
Old February 25th, 2013, 11:32 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
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I'm no expert. Cliques represent political power in an organism. That's what makes it hard to prevent. I am in no way suggesting that is the story here. But it is the story in other places. People by nature want to build comfortable nests. Make sure new ideas aren't crushed by the establishment?
Martin,

Our interest is to promote the chosen personal paths of each individual to their own stated goals.

So we have concentrations of the interest of anyone who expresses some personal desire. When I respond to that work, it has to be done in two modes: "How does it work for me?" and "How well does it serve the purposes of its creator?" If the photograph is intended for a advertising yachts to millionaires or to work in Sears catalogs or else a girl scout booklet they're going to be different from pictures for Vogue, bookcovers for thrillers or a family album.

Some folk arrive and just empty out their hard drives, showing everything without selecting a meaningful set carrying at least one idea! These can get little attention as we have no idea what drives them. Others just watch from the stands and never dare post! So we do end up with posters with enough discipline to provide connection to what others post or else sort their own images before posting.

If anyone finds barriers to participation, let us know!

Asher
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Posting images or text grants license to OPF, yet of such remain with its creator. Still, all assembled discussion 2006-2017 Asher Kelman (all rights reserved) Posts with new theme or unusual image might be moved/copied to a new thread!