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Monday, 9 November 2009

Generic Leakage

I mentioned Beso Uznadze's wonderful Tbilisi portraits in the previous post and it made me wonder how much you have to know a place, or have some emotional attachment to it, to make meaningful pictures of that place. Is it essential to have a detailed knowledge of the place or some emotional attachment (as Uznadze had in his Tbilisi Portraits), or can we just flit in, snap some genius shots and then dash out. It's the same with portraits - do we have to know our subjects in intimate detail or can we just zip off a few pictures and rely on our genius to get us through.

I don't know how important it is to have a detailed knowledge of a place - I think it's probably a barrier sometimes - but I think it's rare to find a photographer willing to say, Nah, I know nothing about this place but I thought it would be cool to photograph the new skyscrapers and the smog, highways, development, destruction and so on.

Which is perhaps what people should sometimes be saying because it is equally rare for a photographer to stray outside his or her usual patch and say something profound or interesting - the pictures can look great though. 

That connects to  the weird venn diagram that denotes the relationship and overlapping between travel/documentary/photojournalistic photography - though even recognizing all those genres takes a leap of faith. I think if one is honest they are a lot closer than one might expect - and all have that wow-doesn't-this-look-great text which is more or less subordinated to the main idea depending on where on the generic spectrum the photographer has chosen to lie.

In other words, what are the similarities and differences between Magnum's collective work on Georgia, Georgian Spring, and Beso Uznadze

Or in other other words, what is the difference between the pictures that appear on say  Conscientious (or this blog or any of the blogs highlighted right), Lightstalkers and The Travel Photographer. Just because we say it's different doesn't mean it's different. And I haven't even mentioned Flickr, which looms omnipresent in the background - it's coming to eat us all!

And in plain and simple words, what am I trying to say - I haven't really got too much of a clue but hopefully some kind of sense will ooze through. Not everything is clear cut, might that have something to do with it?



John Taylor said...

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin, ‘attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability or inclination,’ from the root of gignere ‘beget.’ The original sense [tutelary spirit attendant on a person] gave rise to a sense [a person's characteristic disposition] (late 16th cent.), which led to a sense [a person's natural ability,] and finally [exceptional natural ability] (mid 17th cent.).

given the above one could rely on 'essence to essence' in that first moment, the very first encounter which can often provide us with images of remarkable insight. Images very different from the insights and beauty found in images based on long intimacy with the subject be it place or person. I suspect the worse place to be is in between when the freshness has worn off and no deep connections have been as yet made..

Rob Hann said...

Accept the mystery.