Monday, 29 November 2010

Interesting Photography: A Picture Editor's Perspective



John Loengard presents the picture editor's view on interesting photographs over at Scott Kelby's blog.

This invites the question of can there be such a thing as a boring photograph. As an avid student of visual culture, I could say no there isn't - a picture reveals the strategies, preoccupations and pretensions of the photographer and so provides insight into the culture and mindset of which they are part. Let's pretend I believe that, so I can disagree with John Loengard below.

Does the picture editor's view applies to other areas of photography? Documentary or art for example? Commercial or fashion? Do all photographs have to be 'distinctive' in some way, and if not, why not? Is there such a thing as a boring photograph and if there is, what is it?

And what makes a photograph distinctive, as Loengard mentions. I feel I have been here before many times, but Loengaard's view is so direct and coherent that it is worth going there again.


To be interesting, a photograph needs to show something distinctive. A two-headed cow is unusual. A bride in her wedding gown standing in a kitchen is a bit odd. But there can also be something special in what otherwise might be a common picture: a child’s yawn, for example, or a man’s gestures or a tree’s shadow. The flawless detail in print from a large-format camera may define the peculiarity of a subject.

.........................


To be interesting, a photograph needs to show something distinctive. A two-headed cow is unusual. A bride in her wedding gown standing in a kitchen is a bit odd. But there can also be something special in what otherwise might be a common picture: a child’s yawn, for example, or a man’s gestures or a tree’s shadow. The flawless detail in print from a large-format camera may define the peculiarity of a subject.


I assumed that “good photographers” took “good pictures” because they had a special eye. What I found was that good photographers take good pictures because they take great pains to have good subjects in front of their cameras. (Reflect a moment on what cameras do, and this makes sense.) Good photographers anticipate their pictures. What good picture editors do is help them.


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Photographers don’t like leaving their pictures to chance. When shooting people, they gravitate toward making portraits-strong, static pictures they are certain will command attention-not riskier pictures that catch people doing things. As in a novel, action is always at a premium. And in truth, most subjects are static. Encourage photographers to take chances. Will the 100-year-old lady please bend and touch her toes?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I taught we had a rule for critiques:No one is allowed to use that trite,
banal, bathetic, bromidic, cliché, clichéd, common, commonplace, cornball, corny, drained, dull, exhausted, familiar tune, flat, hackneyed, hokey, jejune, mildewed, moth-eaten, musty, old hat, ordinary, overworked, pedestrian, platitudinal, platitudinous, prosaic, ready-made, routine, run-of-the-mill, set, shopworn, stale, stereotyped, stereotypic, stereotypical, stock, threadbare, timeworn, tired, uninspired, unoriginal, used-up, vapid, warmed-over, well-worn, worn, worn-out mofo word.SRE

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