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Lets Talk Style and Presentation...

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Alanroseman, May 29, 2011.

  1. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    On Mu-43 we see nearly all genres of photography and many different methods for the presentation of each style in that genre.

    The many different genres, combined with the nuance of presentation, increases exponentially one’s options to display an image. These are choices we make each time we prepare an image for viewing. The question is why? What leads us to our final decision?

    The topic has been bandied about in various threads, it usually rears it head as a comment intended as constructive (or not so constructive) criticism. Some threads seem predisposed to this debate. While no thread is exempt, our very popular Street Thread is among the most prominent, and easy to identify for these purposes. So lets begin there.

    Why is street photography most often offered in monochrome?

    Why is street photography most often served to the viewer in black & white, or as a monochromatic image, be it sepia, tintype effect etc. In the beginning, B&W was all the medium had to offer, (mind you we are not returning all the way to camera obscura, daguerreotype et al) I would suggest we are talking about the birth of photojournalism. (a term coined by Frank Luther Mott)

    Some universities and art schools will tell you that photojournalism began in Germany in 1925 with the Leica 35 Mm camera. While still others suggest there was in fact photo journalistic coverage of events predating the US Civil war in the 1860’s. We’ll stick to the accepted “birth’ by academic standards. (because everybody likes a Leica)

    Even accepting the 1926 birth, by 1962 National Geographic would become the first major periodical to publish an all color issue. So in a period of 36 years we went all color.. Lets see then, for the past 49 years we’ve had full color periodicals, and since 1982, with the birth of the USA Today, an all color newspaper. So that’s 29 years of full color newspaper stories at the very least.

    Can we then effectively rule out “the news is in black and white” theory?

    There just isn’t a any black and white digital film….

    Our cameras capture color. We spend hours trying to figure out the very best way for them to accomplish their neat little digital trick. Capture the scene, get the white balance, adjust for the correct exposure., dynamic contrast, oh please let it be punchy, on and on.

    After all the effort, I take a photo of five guys on a corner, and process it as a B&W image. What’s up with that? (This is not a complaint, but it might be a cry for help…)


    Could it be a matter of artistic influence in and of itself?

    Is it as simple as; Henri Cartier-Bresson? Robert Frank, Paul Brand, Karl Hugo Sclmotz, Stieglitz, Atget, Kertez? Just someone you saw at a gallery, or even here on the board.

    Does black and white add gravitas to the image? Does it imply or lend seriousness, urgency? Or hey, would it be a snapshot if it were in color?

    Is this a conclusion?

    I don’t think so, as I can speak only for myself. It’s influence, It’s art for the sake of art, it’s taking the color out of the scene to strip it bare of influence other than the subject or the composition of the frame. It’s following in the footsteps, It’s personal. It’s all of the above.

    Then, unexpectedly I’ll leave the color in… for all the same reasons I took it out.

    Oh no, not borders...

    I use borders to separate the image from the electronic medium that is MU-43, just as in the 1970’s I matted my prints to provide them with “a place” in their final frame treatment.

    But borders, borders are a topic I hope someone else will address in this thread…


    What is the determinate factor in your choice of presentation?
    What has influenced your presentation style?
     
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  2. kytra

    kytra Mu-43 Regular

    126
    Feb 28, 2011
    In my eyes, a B&W image lets one focus more on the lines and shapes of the subject because it takes away the possibly distracting colors. So, unless the color is an organic part of what the photog wants to show, it can be stripped away creating a more impactful picture. That being said, if a scene does not have enough contrast, I don't like it in B&W
     
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  3. A nice, thought provoking little essay.

    If I look through my flickr account, not through any particular themed sets, but just the "photostream", I would probably have to describe it as eclectic. Some are colour, b&w, sepia, high contrast, low contrast, grainy, dark, light, high saturation, low saturation, etc. and this is even before we start to talk about content. There are some common themes, but they are scattered depending on what I was doing at the time

    I understand that there is a lot of merit in developing a "style", but the problem I find with that is that images start to look the same and I get bored and move on. That's just me, I like some sort of variety to keep me interested and I am not particularly concerned if that is considered a bit odd. Therefore I take every photograph on it's merits and decide which way I want to go, and because of this I don't have a favourite filter or film style or effect. A while ago I would often end up with about three iterations of the one image and save all three just in case, but now I tend to recognise what I want at the beginning of the process.

    One area that I find it hard to strike a balance with is over-processing. Sometimes I do wonder if I have just taken what was a fairly average image to begin with and just applied a veneer. "Mutton dressed as lamb" as the saying goes. You ask yourself whether you really liked the image, or what you thought you could do with it.
     
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  4. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    243
    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    Alan,

    Well put.

    You highlight the thoughts we all must struggle with as we strive to create an image that both pleases us and might capture somebody else's imagination as well.

    Sometimes B&W is making an artistic statement, whether paying homage to the past greats, or to the emotional power of exceptional photojournalism.

    Sometimes, B&W just fits the subject and composition.


    Peering at the Pier.
    Fleet Week, NYC
    5773789485_d3776409d2_b.


    Captured this afternoon, as uniformed officials and servicemen weave themselves into the fabric of westside midtown Manhattan.

    -Steve
     
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  5. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Nic,

    You have despite it all developed a recognizable style. Knowingly or unknowingly your street work is identifiable. That's a good thing I think. I'd bet if you asked the regular contributors / viewers they'd tell you the same.

    Cheers, Alan
     
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  6. Thank you, I would agree if it were isolated to a specific genre, and that would also then explain why I started looking around for something a bit different to shoot, lol.
     
  7. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I've never sought to find a style ... but I always seek to capture an image with the highest impact. Sometimes the impact is enhanced with color and other times B&W will cause the observer to view the image for the longest time.

    The problem with a premeditated style is that it boxes one in. Soon it will be more about style than impact. Which is okay if that's you thing. For me it is all about impact. I want my images to grab you by the neck and make you look ... I try to capture images which draws you into the photo not as a viewer but as a spectator in the image.

    Sometimes Color Works:
    59740875_Yhjh4-O-3.

    535238443_rxduE-L-2.

    Sometimes Black & White Works
    28693845_77sK5-XL-1.

    501183668_y8ftz-XL.

    I use photography as a communication tool to document, record and report. A such, all the manipulative tools in photo processing programs are solely to enhance the image. When one goes beyond enhancement, the image now contains more style than impact ... I feel that style distracts from the basic communicative elements of document, record and report.

    Gary
     
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  8. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    (Your Image #3)

    Herein lies an example. It a powerful image, we've all agreed on that, but I'd guess it was shot in B&W, 2 1/4 sq. Yes...No?
    So, no decision process was entered... B&W film.. B&W print, the only one available. Decision made when the camera back was loaded... yes?

    (your image #2)

    The high school version of CATS. it's pleading for color.. wants to be in color. The color is part and parcel of the story the image has to tell.

    But what answer to the question?

    1. Why is street photography most often offered in monochrome?

    2. What is the determinate factor in your choice of presentation?

    3. What has influenced your presentation style?


    I'd say you've addressed question #2. Questions 1 and 3 continue to go begging...
     
  9. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Steve,

    Great shot. Ask's a question, and tells a story... But why? Why is it B&W for you? What pulled you in the direction of monochrome? Was it B&W when you saw it in front of you? Or was it B&W when you saw it in Post?
     
  10. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    This image (#1) was made / shot to be a B&W. Because I'm old enough to "see in B&W", that's where I came from.. I don't think it ever goes away.
    Simply looking up, I could see the drama that B&W would lend to the image. There was never a moment when it wasn't destined to go monochrome.

    image 1
    Thunderheads.

    Same here. (Image #2) This was a B&W image all the way for me, never a shadow of doubt. Same reason. The scuttling clouds, the black jacket of the subject. I just saw this as a B&W when I pushed the shutter release. It is not street.

    Image #2
    Ashley_B_W_Silver_Efx.


    This image, (image #3) much like Gary's "Cats", didn't need any help asking for color...lots of color. It's as obvious as a quick look. The color is the story of the image.. and yet. It's street..

    image # 3
    Wall_Gawker_W.

    So, why do you choose as you do for your presentation?
    What has influenced your decision... pre shutter press... or in post?

    Note the use of borders in the above images. Especially so in the B&W images. They are there to separate the image from the medium. They're different because I can not yet get comfortable or find a rhythm that which suits me from image to image.. not unlike matting.

    It's all about the image.. yes? So what of style and presentation?
     
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  11. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    243
    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    Usually my thinking about it comes in the post process, sometimes it is inherent in the shot.

    With this one, it hit me as I saw the shot that the black coat/white shirt and the white fence created a monochrome composition that would look best in B&W.

    I don't go out looking for B&W shots. I like to think in color. But sometimes they smack you in the face with the light and shadow that creates more drama than color can.
     
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  12. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Steve,

    Thanks.

    I would agree completely with your assessment of the shot.

    Are you how shall we say, "seasoned" enough to have learned in B&W...:smile:
     
  13. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I go B&W when I can't get the color post processing right ...
    MG3850-L.
     
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  14. photoSmart42

    photoSmart42 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    628
    Feb 12, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    For me, I use B&W photography when I want to focus in on something specific like someone's emotion, or to capture a somber mood. I find that color sometimes distracts, especially in a street scene where there are so many colors to distract (color works great in a studio when you can isolate your subject).

    For example, this scene, had it been in color, would have been way too distracting in terms of street lights, etc., and would have taken away from the emotion the group felt:

    4691574415_237ba1ef3e_b_d.

    Additionally, most of what attracts me about street photography is the grittiness of the scenes, and that to me is best captured by B&W film. This, for example, illustrates my point perfectly:

    4691571161_3d275fb524_b_d.

    And I didn't just shoot B&W because it happened to be the film I had in my camera at the time - I normally carry two camera bodies, one with color and one with B&W film.
     
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  15. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    243
    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    I guess I have to admit that I am "seasoned."

    Back in my college days, in the late 70's, I was a double major in Chemistry and Art (pre-med track, but with liberal arts interests). What better mix of the two than photography? I shot some black and white back then, dabbled briefly with doing my own development, but my art interests and work was always more about color. Back then, I saw B&W as second class. I wanted to revel in the splendor of color.

    As a sophomore I took drawing classes from a teacher who emphasized mastering correct reproduction of line, shadow and light in pencil. It was hard and painstaking work, but it planted something important in my brain. I progressed from there into print and paint, where color becomes useful to creating form and visual drama, and that was what I enjoyed the most. Some print techniques, like lithography and etching, are typically monochrome. But even then, I enjoyed playing with different colors pulled from the same plate to get different emotional effects. My senior thesis exhibit was about the interactions and psychological effects of color.

    That is perhaps why I am drawn to HDR work now. It gives you greater control over the subtlety and power of color. But my formal training was also about seeing the drama of line and shadow, so I naturally have that in the back of my mind when I look at a scene and wonder how to capture it.

    As I pursued my medical career, I rarely had the time and energy to resume being creative in artistic endeavors. Photography with all the wonderful digital tools we have today has allowed me to reawaken my creative side.

    -Steve
     
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  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I wish I had taken some art classes in school ... that drawing class sounds great. I've looked into watercolor and such at community, but there just isn't enough hours in the day. Which is probably just a lame excuse ... I gotta just do it.
    G

    PS- I afraid my drawings will emulate my photos and be OOF.
     
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  17. David Tait

    David Tait Mu-43 Regular

    73
    Apr 29, 2011
    Photography and photographers evolve all the time. There is also this voyage of re- discovery, where we go back and try redo things we tried in the past, but with a modern angle. But, photography is so subjective. One mans meat really is another mans poison in this game.
    When I see the work of past masters, I often wonder what the hell people saw in supposedly good images? It's the same in these forums. I often see images here that would not even reach PP stage with me. BUT! someone saw something in them. Their point of view, and that is indeed the point.
    I have also seen some stunning shots here. Indeed, I would go so far as to say some forum users are as good as some of those past masters. However, those older snappers did not have the gear we have. They did however have an eye for subject matter and a great skill in processing.
    For me, street photography/documentary is very often more punchy in mono. It also has this retro look that the guys of yore created. Maybe, in the back of our minds we try to mimic the greats.
    Evolution is here to stay. The year by year flood of new camera equipment, with new features will ensure this. Styles will be decided by the features you have in your camera. New features, will lead to new styles.

    Dave T.
     
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  18. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Wonderfully illustrated answer. Thanks.

    Regard the above quote. Does it continue to be true for you today? Do you continue to shoot and process film?

    Thanks again for the post!
     
  19. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Steve,

    What a well rounded diverse background you carry to the game... I'm jealous.

    Alan
     
  20. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Gary,

    You've been around as long as me, I can see trying to save an image...by any means because you need it...

    But I think you're having us on with the above :rolleyes:

    Alan