photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Dancing about architecture

Following on my recent posts about Flickr, and reading some of the comments generated on other blogs, I noticed a strange thing. There are quite a few erudite photography blogs out there, with excellent photography and informed, intelligent discussion - Colin Jago's photostream just to name one.

in Photography , Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Following on my recent posts about Flickr, and reading some of the comments generated on other blogs, I noticed a strange thing. There are quite a few erudite photography blogs out there, with excellent photography and informed, intelligent discussion - Colin Jago's photostream just to name one. However, the gender distribution in these circles is approximately 100% male. On the other hand, whilst this is not in any way statistically sound, I can't help noticing that on Flickr, there is an extremely strong representation of highly talented women photographers. I've mentioned a few before, but here are a few others well worth a look, all with a very different feel: Esther Hernandez, who is most definitely carving out a strong personal style; Salbjörg Rita Jónsdóttir, a media arts student who is equally at home with striking, stylised portraits as well as original takes on landscape; Agnieszka, who perhaps approximates closest to the "photoblog self-documentation" style; Yubi4, who seems to carry her camera everywhere, and produces a stream of visual consciousness. I really could go on adding to the list for hours, but what you will not find here, either in the descriptions or the comments, is any discussion of gear beyond a brief note in a profile, or an automated EXIF tag, or indeed any discussion of art or higher meaning. True, the format encourages rapid turnover, and is not really geared to thoughtful debate, but whilst the male members of Flickr do, often, try to present themselves as terribly interesting artists, the women, on the whole, just get on with it. Much of the debate between us men about both gear and art, and musings about technique and deeper meanings does seem to just go in circles (or explode into flame wars...). Why, I wonder, do we let this talking about photography take so much of our time away from us ? Why do we have this urge to verbalise so much ? Are we so insecure ? Side note: the recent Lightroom podcast by the tireless George Jardine, interviewing Maggie Taylor and Jerry Uelsmann seems to reinforce the point. Uelsmann went on and on (and on) about himself, his art, his inspiration, etc etc, whilst Taylor hardly got a word in edgeways, and when she did, she tended more to talk about more down to earth matters. They're both interesting, talented artists, but Taylor seems to be much more content to just let her work speak for itself.

FLICKRing interest

in Photography , Friday, January 26, 2007

As you explore photo sharing sites such as Flickr (and probably Smugmug, PBase, etc etc) it is interesting to observe the pattern of comments on posted photos. It is a cliché that all comments on these sites don't venture far from "kool capture thanx for posting", and whilst the overwhelming majority are terse one liners, generally posted in the hope of attracting attention to one's self, some do have a degree of content (note that attracting attention to one's self is what such sites are about...and, frankly, when you strip away the layers of pseudo-intellectualism, it is what most photography is about too). Photos get a higher profile based on the number of comments they attract. Since the churn rate is so huge, for a photo to stand out, it really has to grab attention. Often you come across comments such as these from photographers "This photo didn't get as much attention as others, so I am glad you liked too!", attached to very interesting shots. The photographer is puzzled that other shots, which seemed less good, got far more feedback. Essentially it comes down to the short-term effect of these sites: visitors are presented with such an overwhelming choice, that they rarely accord more than a few seconds to each photo. Therefore, attention grabbing photos are going to get a higher profile than subtle ones, and therefore, knowing, attention grabbing photographers are going to concentrate on this sort of shot. Of course, to be a high rated photographer on Flickr it does not do any harm at all to be attractive, young, female, and not averse to posting a high volume of self-portraits :-p (I do wonder if certain photographers who fit that description are not tempted to post a completely banal photo, just to watch it rack up 100 comments rom a bunch of sad, lusting sycophants) Such is the influence of Flickr et al on the general public's view of what makes a good photo, I would not be surprised if this starts to have a wider effect. How would Michael Kenna fare on Flickr ? Not too well, I fear. Hey, but it's fun. To illustrate: this photo, which I'm quite pleased with, has so far received 10 views and 0 comments: Losing the thread Whereas this postcard shot is 49 people's favorite, has 643 views, and 26 comments Planet Earth is blue go figure....

Sound & Vision

in Photography , Thursday, January 11, 2007

I suppose I'm not the only one in the world who makes a connection between music and photography, but I've recently become aware that there is for me at least a very strong correlation.

This is particularly evident in my interactions with Flickr, which are approaching addict level. For example, recently, a virtual friend of mine on Flickr posted this rather attention grabbing image...

Predator ...
Originally uploaded by Yubi4.
Now, Yubi4 clearly sees spiders in a somewhat different light to me. It's not that I'm terrified of them, or that I don't find them interesting, but I don't exactly find them attractive. However, thinking of a completely different perspective on spiders made me recall the lyrics to Brian Eno's "Spider & I", which I instantly posted as a comment. I doubt that Eno had any intention for these lyrics to be taken as anything other than sound, but then again, they are rather poetic (and he's far more of a romantic than he is ever given credit for - imho). Anyway, "Spider & I" was on a record called "Before and After Science", and this worked away in my background processing, until it retrieved the photo from my mental archives that fits the title - which I therefore posted: Before & After Science Associations creep in everywhere. A few weeks ago, a verse from the song Priest=Aura by the band The Church popped into my head, and I decided to illustrate it. an enemy often = an adorer

An enemy often = an adorer

...and priest = aura

...and Priest = Aura

I doubt that any of my visitors on Flickr had the faintest idea what I was going on about - or indeed cared ... or maybe, unbeknownst to me, there are whole groups dedicated to photos illustrating lyrics by Steve Kilbey. But anyway, I seem to be making these associations all the time. Since I'm currently in a phase where I'm listening to a set of old ELO songs, heavens what that will trigger....

Carl Zeiss Helsinki

in Photography , Friday, January 05, 2007

I've just started to use a Nokia N73 (amongst others) for testing things at work, and I decided to try out the camera. I'm very impressed. The photo below (posted directly to Flickr using the Nokia's built-in software) was taken a few minutes ago in downtown Lugano... Winter in Lugano I don't think I've seen a camera phone that could cope with a backlit scene like this before. The detail and sharpness are pretty good, the colour balance may be a touch cool, and a smidgen magenta, but it isn't far off. The 3.2Mpix sensor (which must be minute) and the Carl Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens seem to work pretty well. With this sort of progress, the demise of low end (at least) point & shoot cameras cannot be far off. Ok, so it hasn't got a viewfinder, and the shutter lag is sometimes (but not always) dreadful, but we're certainly getting there.

Wisdom of crowds ?

in Photography , Thursday, January 04, 2007

A book I'm currently reading (by Alain Briot) recommends an exercise where you create a set of photos, rate them yourself, and then ask other people to rate them. He says you should be prepared to be surprised by the results.

Well, although Briot intends that prints should be used, I have had an interesting experience on Flickr.. This photo, from Lake Lugano, I only really uploaded just because it was there. In my opinion, it is pretty weak. It is one taken over a period of one hour, on a very cold morning, from a location I've vsited before. I actually took a whole series, and this was one of the last. The earlier ones were, in my opinion, far better, but because I made the bloody stupid mistake of not checking the ISO, which was set at 3200, and was not even awake enough to realise why I was getting such relatively short exposure times, the first 45 minutes or so were a waste of time.

So this, I think, is one of my weakest photos on Flickr, as well as being the weakest from this area. And yet... it is so far, and by quite a wide margin, the most popular and highly rated photo in my photostream.

Even in terms of location, in my opinion, either of these, taken 3-5 years ago, are better.

Maybe I should not have posted the photo if I was not particularly happy with it. But then again, people like it! There must be a lesson in there somewhere....