Photographers we like, and why.

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by David M, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Alan9940 and I were discussing the Intrepid 10x8 and strayed (my fault) into discussing a couple of photographers that we both liked, only one of whom uses LF. We mentioned another one, that only one of us liked. That's to be expected and welcomed.
    But a thread on a new camera isn't the best place for discussing the work of people we like. Or even people we dislike, of course. A coin must have two sides.
    So far we've mentioned Ben Horne, Thomas Heaton and Isaac Sachs. There must be more, many more.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 11:06 AM
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Ray Moore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Olivia Parker, Linda Connor, Minor white, John Blakemore, John Goto, and plenty more.

    Ian
     
  3. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    ...and why.
     
  4. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark Member Registered User

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    Ben Horne and Thomas Heaton were new to me. Having looked at their work it's plain to see that they are both excellent photographers. But the two problems I have with them is that their work is just like the work of lots of other landscape photographers. And they form a group of people who seem to live in a different world to most of us. In their idealised world all the colours have a rich glow. And there are no people, no buildings, no roads, no vehicles, no telegraph poles. No "reality".
    George Braque said that you can explain everything about art except the bit that matters. In these photographs there is no individual point of view being expressed. There is no bit that matters. Beautiful though they are, these photographs often seem shallow and inconsequential to me, with not enough in them to hold my interest for more than a few seconds.

    Alan
     
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  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Because I really like and appreciate their work, you might notice that they are all (except John Goto) predominantly B&W workers, and except for ray Moore use LF. I guess as well it's also their approach that spark of mystical and that progression which Minor White brought from Stieglitz’s concept of "equivalence".

    Ian
     
  6. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Alan,
    Yes, without wishing to diminish their skills, BH and TH are both working in the tradition of the idealised landscape. Perhaps we see the landscape as a place of innocence and joy, and so it may be.
    Sherlock Holmes took a different view. He was travelling through Clapham Junction and remarked on the tallest buildings at the time, the new Board Schools – beacons (or perhaps lighthouses) of hope. We can still share that townscape today. In the town, he said, there was always someone to overhear the screams of an abused child, whereas in an isolated cottage... I paraphrase of course. And sadly, we now know that it isn't true.
    You might find that Mr Isaacs offers a different kind of approach, even if it's only a different kind of idealisation.
    It's a coincidence that all these use colour; it's not a personal preference.

    Ian,
    If I may, I'll quote an anecdote from a different field. When Dave Brubeck was studying (counterpoint?) under Darius Milhaud, he relates that his teacher asked why he had used a certain chord. "Because it sounds good!" was Dave's answer. He was told that that was not enough, that there had to be reasoning and logic behind his choices.
    I cannot disagree with any of your suggestions, it's almost a duplicate of a list I might compile, but I'd be delighted to know why.
    Let me make a start. I can partly date my liking for TJC from emptying a bottle of brandy with him while we exchanged suggestions for improving the world. Sadly, none of our proposals have survived the morning after.
    As far as I can tell, he is not photographing attractive scenes at all, even though some beautiful images may emerge, but reacting to the sensation of being there. He did see things in my work that I'd not noticed.
    I realise that this is a fairly shallow analysis, but this post is trying to turn into a novel
     
  7. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    Oh, my, this would turn into quite a long list if I let myself go, but...

    Ansel Adams, Edward/Brett Weston, John Sexton, Alan Ross, Huntington Witherill, George Tice, John Wimberley, Michael A. Smith, Oliver Gagliani, Clyde Butcher, Paul Strand, David Muench, Bruce Barnbaum, Morley Baer, Jay Dusard, Steve Sherman. And, that's just off the top of my head. You will notice that several of these names are and/or work in what's been coined "traditional west coast B&W landscape photography", as it pertains to the USA. I like their work because it resonates with my soul and is, generally, the style of work I like to do.

    That said, I also like Dan Burkholder and Rad Drew; both iPhone photographers producing quite different work from the aforementioned list. I, especially, like the platinum over gold leaf stuff that Dan does.

    @David M, as I said in the Intrepid thread I meant no disrespect to either your choice of Mr. Isaacs or the photographer himself. I could be that when I think of the style of photography that I believe Mr. Isaacs is doing, I think of Stephen Shore or Joel Meyerowitz; especially much of Joel's work. Visit his website, click on "Cape Light", flip through the images, then tell me you can't feel the air in those photographs! This is very different work from what I do, but his use of light in these images is exquisite IMO. Look at the play of light and shadow in "Empire State."
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    David, I think you have it right when you say "the tradition of the idealised landscape" It's not something I can aspire to, back in the late 1980's I started shooting LF E6 for a Stock agency but soon found it very boring and it hampered my own creativity.

    Your analogy with Dave Brubeck and having to say more than just "sounding good" is particularly apt when it comes to my own photography. Photographs are statements, they can tell a story, but we need to control the depth that can be read into them.

    I guess I was influenced by the mainly US based New Topographers, the political and environmental aspects of their work, particularly Robert Misrach. I had to write and articulate on my own work when I did my MA, it helped that I'de lectured quite a few times over the preceding years and also had many discussion with photographer friends.

    It's about how you arrive at your own ways of working, I think it's just as important to look at work you think you won't like.

    Ian
     
  9. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Alan,
    Your post was in no way disrespectful; it was a thoughtful and reasonable comment. Thank you. I'm sure there are other and perhaps better examples of "non-heroic" photographers. Observation of the mundane interests me.

    We seem to be composing lists and all of them are good, but I do wonder why some people influence us more than others. Many photographers are thoughtful and literate.

    Historically, a good deal of the West Coast's work was undertaken when Europe's attention was elsewhere. And I rather think that the US is somewhat better at avoiding excessive modesty.

    AA's (and Fred Archer, the Wozniak of the Zone System) books on the Zone System may have been the greatest influence in spreading a style of photography more widely. The English approach seems to have been to regard photography as a means of recording people. George Bernard Shaw assumes this all through his writings. We, of course have collections of portraits in every country house, so this may be a natural continuation. Where is the equal of Holbein? And for some time, the most admired photographers in the UK were, for want of a better term, street photographers. Not streets, but people. There are quasi-theological disputes about what constitutes truly street-y street photography but they are easily avoided. Who cares how many Oskar Barnacks can dance on the head of a pin?

    The novels of Henry James (if you can get through them) all assume the artistic supremacy of Europe, so a new form of creativity may have been especially welcome among American aesthetes and collectors. We might care to recall that Edward Weston submitted work to the RPS and not the other way round.
    I suppose that all creative movements are a reaction to what went before. F64 a reaction to pictorialism, new topographers a reaction to Clearing Winter Storm et al., colour as a reaction to the hegemony of monochrome...

    Ian,
    When you say influenced, was that influence conveyed by looking at the work itself, or were you influenced by writing?
    You will see that this question could raise the question of intentionality.

    Once again, my unwritten novel is struggling to emerge in the wrong place... Time to stop.
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Both, I'd guess initially articles about the New Topographers, the only work I've really seen first hand would be a Robert Misrach exhibition in London, and work by the Bechers (I'm not a great fan of their work:D).

    Surprisingly I've been influenced, or maybe enlightened would be a better term, by word of mouth. That was when another photographer discussed how Paul Hill worked (this would have been 1986/7), his brother had been one of the students on the first "Art" Photography course Derby/Trent (Nottingham) here in the UK so he'd come across Paul's work. The tutors were Paul Hill. John Blakemore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Richard Sadler etc who were all very influential.

    So without seeing Paul's work the notion that he was photographing the traces of man on the landscape, that was a trigger because it paralleled what I was already doing although in a different way, as I realised when I saw Paul's work and later met him on workshops.

    Intention is of course vital, so reading critical theory is also important if you want your photography to be taken seriously and also comes back to being able to articulate you work.

    Ian
     
  11. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark Member Registered User

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    David asks why some people influence us more than others. What interests me is why some photographers whose work we like have a big influence on how we pursue our own photography, and other photographers, whose work we like just as much, have very little influence. I first got interested in photography when I came across a book of amazing photographs by Bill Brandt. It prompted me to take up photography. I have always liked his work; yet have never tried to emulate him...as far as I know. Fay Godwin's landscapes are a world apart from Brandt's. I like her work too, and have become more influenced by it in recent years. Why? I have no idea.
    Years ago I discovered Irving Penn's photographs of Worlds in a Small Room. Absolutely wonderful. They tick all the boxes for me. But I have never tried to do anything similar. Sometimes I idly think about building a canvas studio and putting it up in my garden, with its window facing north, and photographing all my neighbours!.... but I know I'll never do it.
    On the other hand, James Ravilious, one of my all-time favourite photographers, has been a really big influence. Seeing his photographs of rural life in North Devon eventually prompted me to record rural life in my own area, including life on farms in the North York Moors, and especially work on an ongoing study of the farm in my own village.


    Alan
     
  12. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Ian,
    I'm with you on the Bechers. Perhaps they are charismatic and inspiring teachers, and all their charisma and inspiration is consumed by their teaching.
    I'm a sucker for any kind of industrial archeology so I ought to like their work more. Any individual image – "Ooh, what a lovely cooling tower/pit head...", but a wall-full in a gallery-full?

    If we picked up a book of poetry, a life's work, and opened it to the first poem...

    To a Water Tower

    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    Water Tower
    ...
    Water Tower

    Then the second page:

    To a Winding Gear

    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    Winding Gear
    ...
    Winding Gear

    ...no matter how carefully centred the text was on the page, I think we'd form an opinion.

    There's much more to discuss, but domestic life is calling...
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  13. YorkshireBloke

    YorkshireBloke Member Registered User

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    Hi all,

    Because it sounds good!" was Dave's answer. He was told that that was not enough, that there had to be reasoning and logic behind his choices.

    I think my separation is of "craft" photography and "art" photography. Yes, art can be well crafted but I hope you know what I mean. ;)

    So I feel that the techniques we choose, from lens to film, to digital V analogue, to paper to composition must have a link to what we feel and / or think about the scene and also (crucially) what we are expressing about the world by undertaking this work.

    My inspirations would be Irving Penn and C-B and AA but with Mitch Epstein as a runner up.

    Thanks for all the other references: I will enjoy searching them out!

    Robert
     
  14. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    In my own case I went back to University to study Industrial Archaeology, because of my photography.


    I think David's comment "the tradition of the idealised landscape" is really about pure craft with very little "art" there's no soul little to no individuality, very formulaic. Art is often that next step, it needs to be based on craft that's become intuitive, so that you are freer to be creative.

    Back around 1990 I was involved in an Independent photography group we had one member who messed around constantly using different techniques, he fell out with a couple of members, he couldn't accept constructive criticism and left. A couple of years later a friend and I went to see an exhibition of his work and it was awful, he'd ruined potentially good work by using wildly different printing techniques he'd thought showing off these different skills would be a benefit instead it made for an incoherent exhibition. That was craft going berserk :D

    Ian
     
  15. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Ian,
    I have been very disappointed by critical theory. It seemed to be neither a theory, nor very critical, particularly of itself. Claiming that an image is a text and then applying the vocabulary of rhetoric is not very satisfactory. The method seems to be to nominate some specific object within in the image and use it to write a political sermon. You may recall that a typical sermon begins "My text for today..." The image itself, as a whole, remains unexamined and un-analysed.
    It seemed to me curious that all the sermons were left-wing and feminist in various degrees. As a camera itself can have no politics, serious and impartial analysis must reveal an equal number of right-wing meanings. I am not advocating any kind of political system here. This is not a quarrel with either the left or with feminism. This is not the place, anyway.
    It seems to me that we do have tools to discover what a viewer perceives in an image, but they are scientific, not literary or political.
    I have no doubt that some facility with critical theory is useful in applying for funding and writing those interminable texts that sometimes adorn gallery walls.

    Robert,
    The idea of a spectrum from pure Craft to pure Art is very enticing, but I do have my doubts. We must first decide what constitutes craft and what art. Fashions in art are notoriously volatile, so any absolute judgement of artistic worth is practically impossible. Witness the rise, fall and rise of the Pre-Raphaelites. Undoubtedly fine workmanship (see how beautifully they render fabrics) but their aesthetic valuation has varied widely. Or, consider Whistler's "...pot of paint thrown in the public's face." Van Gogh's work would have been thrown out of Raphael's studio on grounds of both art and craft.
    And getting back to photography, we've seen the focus of interest shift from the flamboyant craftsmanship of AA and his disciples to alternative processes where peeling emulsions, uneven coating, blotches and other evidence the process are highly valued, even cultivated. The most intensively craft-based photographic process may have been bromoil, very highly regarded aesthetically in its day, but where is bromoil now?

    My apologies for using painting to make these points. Painting has a longer history and offers more examples. I am not trying to draw any other parallels.
     
  16. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    So many interesting and thoughtful comments in this thread! I, especially, taken aback by Alan's comment as it pertains to my own work. For example, I love the work of Nick Brandt, but in 40 years of my own photography I've never made an image even closely related to Mr. Brandt's work. Widening and loosening the scope of this topic, I've given quite a bit of thought to the following: When I lived in the northeast part of the US, I deeply felt "at home" and was drawn to photograph the woodlands, brooks & rivers, old churches, old graveyards, etc. When I moved to what's arguably the iconic photographer's paradise--the US southwest--I've found little inspiration. Why? I think part of the answer is that everything there is to photograph here has been photographed thousands of times! How many images of the Grand Canyon do we need? I try to seek out those more intimate elements that I find interesting, but, somehow, I've only been able to craft a few portfolio grade images. So, what impact does your immediate environment have on your photographic pursuits? For me, there is some very deep connection that I haven't found out here, whereas back east... Perhaps, it's because I spent most of my early teen years hiking & backpacking in the mountains of the northeast...I'll probably never know. ;)
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    David, I don't disagree, much of the critical theory that was in magazines like later issues of Creative Camera and then Dpict was often very convoluted and tangled with obscure and often irrelevant. Ten* magazine used to have some excellent

    I was really thinking of writers like Gerry Badger, Roger Taylor, Peter Bunnel, Nancy Newhall, Paul Hill & Thomas Joshua Cooper, the people who contributed essays to exhibition catalogues like "The Art of Photography" and "Through the Looking Glass". I had no problem finding plenty of good well written material when researching for an essay on John Davies. I do find the writings of Susan Sontag and John Berger interesting, Sontag as a flawed primer

    Maybe the issue is when the writers value critical theory more than actual photographic practice, I could name quite a few :D

    It's also important to be informed by non photographic material, as a landscape photographer the work of Yi-Fu Tuan and in particular his book "A Sense of Place" is valuable, it's about how humans use the space around them from a geographers perspective. Then take two photographers who have both portrayed how we use "place", first Fay Godwin and then the opposite extreme Martin Parr, very different approaches, both valid even if you don't like the approach (I like both).

    I don't know about others here but I do a lot of background research, shooting Industrial Archaeological landscapes it means a lot of map work, using current OS maps, early OS maps and even early maps. I can't do the same outside the UK as maps for Ancient Greece might be OK but there's no equivalent to our OS Maps - I'm using the modern equivalent of the 2½" to a Mile maps here in the UK.

    We can get too pseudo academic, it shouldn't be heavy, it's just basic pre-planning, and being able to articulate waht we shoot.

    Ian
     
  18. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    I use Google Earth and a few iPhone apps when planning photographic trips. :D
     
  19. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Hello Ian,
    I understand your points very well. I was indeed thinking of the kind of writing that transformed Creative Camera into Gibberish Monthly. They cancelled my lifetime subscription too. That kind of writing seems to have its own life, parallel to but unconnected with actual images and image making. I find a hidden imputation that to be "excellent" a photograph must be "worthy."
    For too long, criticism of photographs languished between "Like/don't like it" and "Burn in the bottom left hand corner a bit." so intelligent discussion has ben very welcome. As a friend said "At least it made people think". Can't disagree with your list of interesting authors either, except that I find Sontag trivial despite her reputation. AD Coleman has recently expressed similar views, now he's finished with D-Day.
    Including pre-planning for a photograph as part of thinking about photography hadn't occurred to me.
    I must look for Yi-Fu Tuan. Thank you.
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Maybe the topic of "research" in terms of where and what we plan to photograph should be a separate thread, so I've started one..

    Ian
     

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