July 10, 2016
On one hand, I just make photos, with no regard for external issues of definition, specialization, or potential use. On the other, I walk a thin line between documentary and art. I shoot what I see, making tiny abstractions of some huge picture of humanity.
I don’t try to tell the truth with my photos, anymore than I try not to. The camera records what’s in front of it, and except for serving my sense of esthetics with a bit of dodging and burning in the lab, what you get is what I saw. My supposition is that when all my best photos are gathered together, they will provide a view of the human condition.
I’m struck by the notion that if I arrange my photos for exhibition, based on a particular community, the work is seen as documentary, but if I gather pictures of certain things, say automobiles, and line them up on the wall, that would be art.
August 10, 2015
In response to an article by David Schonauer, http://tinyurl.com/nruedfn, raising questions about “street photography,” this subject has bugged me for awhile. It seems the term, “street photography” was coined by art critics and gallerists, who misapplied it to the photographic act in an attempt to define all photography done outside the studio.
Pinpointing what aspect of the term bothers me has been difficult. One possibility is the trouble with definitions. They are labels that become definitions that become rallying flags for trends and false movements. Street photography – really? Of course photographers spend time on the streets. Unless we’re on the oceans, savannas, or tundras, we get around on the street, and we make photographs where we are.
I made photographs 3 years in a row in the Arctic. Does that make me an Arctic photographer, therefore creating an entire genre of photography? I worked for several years on an Indian reservation. OK, reservation photography. Should I go on? Nah.
Photography is, by far, the best medium for capturing the moment, or the fraction of a second. It captures the combination of shape, position, and light in a selected area at a specific moment. (I’ll use this statement in other articles.) That’s why the medium was invented, and that’s what it does. It is, therefore, just, that we use photography for that very purpose. It’s like using a chair to sit in or a pen to write with.
Probably, the most difficult kind of photograph to make is the one involving rapidly changing position. It also provides the greatest opportunity for just the right shot. It is not surprising, or even remarkable, then, that photographers would spend their time in situations where people are moving around in relation to each other and to fixed objects. Maybe we should define pens as paper pens.
March 13, 2015
I saw this combination of patterns as a triple word score.
11 x 16.5 in.
March 5, 2015
Prompted by recent discussion by photojournalists intent on maintaining their credibility, their identity, and their jobs:
Language and ideas are closely aligned. When a high profile group or person appropriates a word and redefines it, that action can have major impact on both the language and public perception. “Journalism” has been adopted by the media to define the activity it’s involved in and the resulting product. It follows that a journalist is a practitioner of journalism. The adoption of these terms then means that a person keeping a journal has no definitive moniker.
The current discussion about the practices of photojournalism attempts to include documentary photography and apply the same rules necessary to news photography. The caveat here is that many documentary photographers are not news photographers. Often, these documentarians make photographs as a way of keeping a journal, but that journal is for their own use, not to inform the public.
“A picture is not the same as the actual thing,” to quote Gary Winogrand, one of the greatest documentary photographers ever. Winogrand’s work was included with that of Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander in an exhibition, called New Documents, at the Museum of Modern Art. The implication was that documentary photography was just as easily celebratory of the world as it was indicting or even exposing. Perhaps a better word for certain types of photojournalism would be “exposition.”
Other documentary photographers include W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Josef Koudelka, and Anders Petersen. Their work is different from each other’s, but there is little doubt that it is all documentary and none of it can be impugned, even though a great amount of work is done in the darkroom. Smith said 90% of photography is done in the darkroom, Robert Frank recropped pictures for later editions of The Americans, and Anders Petersen’s work is heavily burned and dodged.
Why does any of this matter? Public perception. If there is confusion in the terminology, there is confusion of ideas. How about “photoshop?” Do you? Right. And then there’s “post process.” First you take the photo, then you process it. Is post processing when you hang it on the wall?
Let’s be careful out there.
Michael A. Shapiro
August 23, 2013
There seems to be some confusion about the phrase, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” What does it mean? It means you can use a picture instead of a lot of words. What it doesn’t mean is that a picture requires a lot of words for people to understand it. Unless the photo is being used as illustration, it doesn’t matter where or when the picture was taken or what the photographer was thinking or how the photographer was feeling when he took the photo. The point is, it’s a photograph. The photographer looked at the contact sheet and responded to the photo, so he shared it with the world.
What should you do when you look at the photo? First, feel. Then ask yourself why you feel. The answer may be in the photo, or it may be in your experience. This is, of course, simplified. If you have something to add or ask, please do.
June 22, 2012
Time Off is the new name of the original Leisure Time series.
2012, Springfield, Illinois
Collection Information: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org regarding catalog no.120617174
May 29, 2012
The Walker Community Church in Minneapolis was struck by lightning last night.
Catalog No. 120528014
May 13, 2012
Jenn Western, May, 2012 Studio
Contact email@example.com for details
May 11, 2012
Finding surprises in photographs after I’ve made them is one of my favorite parts of the process.
Catalog No. 120502050
Catalog No. 120502044
Catalog No. 120502041
September 24, 2011
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These two photos will be part of an exhibition at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, starting with an opening on October 13 and running until November 3.