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Shooting weddings

Here’s an interesting forum discussion between a number of professional wedding photographers on the subject of guest photographers at weddings:

at the last wedding we had guests with D50, D70, D70s, D200, D2x, all drebels, several 30D and 5D, one with the 1 Ds and H2.. one guest asked me whether I had a bw film to sell him (Leica MP), given the choice of trix, plusx, apx, hp5, bw400cn and a few more he went for trix without hesitation… the visual culture of the crowd was quite high – one could see that easily judging by the way they took their own pictures.. several folks had flash slaves and various diffusors…

Jessops ‘pull’ D200 off shelves

Jessops, a large high street photographic retailer in the UK, seem to have pulled the Nikon D200 off their shelves. Rumours abound at the moment with some suggesting that the issue has something to do with RRP and Jessops wanting to sell below that price and others suggesting it’s a build issue. I find both a little hard to believe.

More here and here.


Ooo look. A brand new Sigma users web site.

Elephant in the room?

Colin, over at, has been applying himself to photography and communication in his Art. If not communication then what? article. This seems to have been inspired by Colin creating, as he puts it, a minor storm in a few places on the net by claiming that photographic art isn’t particularly good at communicating ideas from person to person.

This is, as you can imagine, a hairy subject with many beliefs. Take this one by Asher Kelman for instance:

“All photographic art requires that an arc of communication occur between the photographer and the viewer. From that, the creator depends on the viewer comprehending intent. He also relies on the observer finding enough from their own minds to make the art work.”

It’s a statement that Colin disagrees with but it is one that I think needs clarifying before we can even start to get down and dirty.

All photographic art requires that an arc of communication occur between the photographer and the viewer.

One can get caught up in that one statement by asking questions like what about photographs that have not been viewed, even perhaps by the photographer. Can they be art? What about photographs that have not been viewed for a period of time? Do they cease being art? What if all viewers died a decade ago and no one alive has seen the photograph? However, such questions become irrelevant when you consider the statement in its proper context. Asher is describing a process; that of someone viewing or having viewed a photograph. Asher’s definition of photographic art relates specifically to the moment someone views the photograph and must also relate to an indeterminate period of time after the viewing with, perhaps, repeated viewings lying along that arc. Opinions can be formed quickly, but the speed of thought is not limitless. Unless Asher believes that the statement becomes less appropriate over time, which would be much the same as saying that the relationship between art and the viewer is both instantaneous and transient.

But therein lies a sleeping dragon. That arc of communication can exist for decades and, as such, is subject to change and we should recognise the effect that this possible change has on this view of photographic art.

From that, the creator depends on the viewer comprehending intent.

An arc of undefined length can make this dependency a long one. What we misunderstand now we may understand another day. What we understand now as sophisticated, shocking, inspiring, original we may find dull, ill conceived, contrived, mundane, or juvenile in our twilight years. As our context changes, so our relationship with the work of art changes. The same can be said of the photographer and the relationship he or she has with their own work. Asher alludes to this at the end of the statement.

He also relies on the observer finding enough from their own minds to make the art work.

And minds change. They learn and forget. This must mean that art can both work and fail but not necessarily in that order. It just depends where upon the arc of communication you do your testing. Now or later. That is not to say that the work is no longer art. It just might change into bad or indifferent art. The viewer may decide that actually, thinking back, I was a little naïve. Mind you, not as naïve as that photographer who dragged his kit into that swamp.

So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us pondering the importance of a changing personal context to successful art. Sure, there are aspects of art that will likely be appreciated outside of time and individual growth and change. We will likely always appreciate the first to think up and bravely introduce a new and derided technique that eventually proves its worth but these are exceptional circumstances. But we need to consider the fact that photographic art, any art, relies heavily on the viewer and the knowns and unknowns that are encapsulated within.

Colin says that photographic art isn’t particularly good at communicating ideas from person to person. He is certainly not saying that it is impossible to do so. My own thoughts right now which are, in keeping with this article, subject to change is that there is too much talk about communication and not enough about context and the fluidity that it suggests.

Perhaps art is an appeal to the context of an individual and successful art is art that finds a match. Perhaps that is why, without intending to communicate anything in particular, a photograph can accidentally be successful from the perspective of a viewer. Just because art is accidental it does not make it worthless, though the photographer may suffer a certain amount of work related stress because of it. Who are we to deny the viewer the right to call any of our photographs successful art? Members of the art establishment?

Individual context is more important than attempts at raw communication. It’s the way that our own personal perspectives have developed that allow or encourage us to appreciate beauty rather than simply experiencing curiosity as a young child might.

Here’s a rather topical experiment. Take a look at this photograph of an ELEPHANT. Do it now before reading on. Go on, do it.

Now for some of you this experiment will have failed, for others see how that communication tripped you up and how your context dragged you back in again. I even wrote the word elephant in capital letters. In bold. But your context won out. Communication, without that all important internal belief system, is weak. Most people try to appeal to it in some way. Your own personal context is more powerful than any photographer’s attempt at communicating with you and trust me on this, it’s not the intent of the ‘elephant’ photographer (John Ellis) to tell you that his photograph is of a ram and not of an elephant. That’s you that did that.

Now there are those that will argue that appealing to a context is the same as communication. Yet that communication does not change for each viewer. Hundreds of them might like the photograph for many, many different reasons. How can you possibly define if a piece of photographic art is successful without running a poll of a good set of viewers asking them what message they received and whether this message matches your photographically artistic intentions? How many of you do that? You know, ask the question?

Not many I should wager. I think, perhaps, many photographers fool themselves into believing that a viewer purchased their print because they got that message loud and clear. I’ll wager that many photographers don’t even try to elucidate to themselves exactly what their particular photograph of the moment is actually about, what the communication is, though I am willing to accept that I am wrong on that.

Here’s a final thought to ponder. What if art, really, really great art, the kind that stops you in your tracks, is the stuff that appeals to the esoteric, perhaps almost forgotten parts of your own personal context? The parts that only just overlap at their fuzzy edges with the same, but more strongly realised aspects of the context as the photographer sees it. What if a really great photograph happens to be one where the photographer takes two contextual themes that exist within yourself as completely separate and joins them together? You don’t recognise them as naturally belonging together but, if the photographer does a good job it might work. That’s more than simple communication. That borders on manipulation.

If there is any merit in the above paragraph we could briefly, and at great peril, ponder a situation where most photographic art is mundane. It appeals to the general union or commonality of internal beliefs that we all share and that are, to use a photographic phrase, sharp in most if not all of us. Easy. Beautiful perhaps. Good enough to want to enjoy repeatedly maybe. But, perhaps, not the greatest heights that art can achieve.

It’s not my intention to argue that communication is not a valid tool in defining photographic art. It is my intention to argue that it is only a small part of the real story and that the use of communication as the primary term in the definition is doing photographic art, all art, a disservice.

Sally Mann on BBC4 tonight

For those that are interested there is a documentary on photographer Sally Mann on BBC4 tonight at 10pm.

This posting was compiled in Word and published using the WordPress publishing system

This is just sublime. Having read Alain Briot’s new essay Of Cameras and Art (in which he invites us quite rightly to believe that equipment is not the cause of great fine art photography) I popped along to the following response by photographer David White. David concludes with:

A lot of people just don’t get it. Great images are created in the mind of the photographer and not through the use of expensive equipment. Equipment does not make the photographer as many would believe. I find it amusing that so many magazines provide extraordinary detail about the camera used, F-stop, shutter speed, lens, filter and tripod when none of this has any bearing upon what the photographer is trying to convey. In some photographic forums, many of the members list great quantities of bodies and lenses as if this gives their opinions and writings some validity. Perhaps this is the point that I have been rambling about. The equipment does not convey validity to the photographer or the images produced. The only validity conferred to an image is the quality of the photographer’s artistic vision and skill. This is something that, like respect, must be earned and not conveyed.

It all makes sense to me. And then I saw it, the sublime bit. At the top of the page is a wonderful landscape by David. Under the image are the immortal words This image was photographed by David White with a Gitzo 1327 Carbon Fiber tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. My day has been made.

What I don’t know about birds…..


Well, I’m thinking it’s an Egret. But that’s the problem with photographing animals in the wild; there’s no label. Any ideas?

Poets, poets everywhere

What is it about photography and poetry recently? A blog discussion on photo poets between Colin and Matt and now this (via eclectique) in an article on Henry Wessel:

Mr. Wessel suggested that photographs have a close affinity to Imagist poems, a comparison that reflects his own artistic influences. The Imagists wrote laconic verse with hard-edged description, creating precise visual mental images. Mr. Wessel’s photographs too have an optical precision and silvery veneer that aim for that mental-image clarity.

Yellowstone National Park – New series up

I’ve put up a new series of photographs taken at the Yellowstone National Park in the USA during my recent trip. The series of 26 photographs can be viewed here.

Wranglers – New series up

I’ve added a new short sequence of wrangler photographs to the series section here and a single image from the series to the Stills project site here.

These shots were taken towards the end of the riding day at about 5:30pm. At about that time every day the Paradise Guest Ranch wranglers would drive the horses up to one of a number of grazing areas on the property which is situated in the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming.