What Do Your Photographs Say About You?

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by EasyEd, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. EasyEd

    EasyEd SC Regular

    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey All,

    From Guy Tal's Blog: The Concept | Guy Tal Photography Journal

    Real food for thought before you post an image to the internet!

    What do your photographs say about you? More importantly what do you want them to say about you?

    As an example I will post links to a couple photographs and you can look at them and ask yourself the two questions: 1) what is the concept behind the photograph and 2) what does it say about the photographer?

    Carsten Meier 1

    Carsten Meier 2

    Essays are due friday! Just kidding! :biggrin:

    I recognize that probably nobody puts this much thought into every image but does anybody here consciously try hard to put this level of thought into at least a part of their photographic endeavors? If so what do you want your photography (or a apart of it) to say about you?

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  2. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Been there, commented about that: http://lightmancer.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/photo-analysis.html and I didn't invent it. ;) Apparently photos taken by the patient can be used in psychoanalysis to provide an insight into the subject's subcomscious and drivers. Fascinating stuff. I bear it in mind sometimes when I look back at a year's output and consider in hindsight how I was feeling at the time of taking the photo and what was going on in my life.

    Sent from another Galaxy
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  3. Gary

    Gary SC All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    To answer your first question probably, lazy. There is always room for improvement.

    What would you say your photos say about you Ed?
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  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I think mine usually say I like people and find them fascinating. And that i love my family. Sometimes they just say that I like taking photos and once in a great while they show I have a sense of humor. And when I can just manage aesthetically pleasing, I'm usually happy enough with that. I don't think most of them are terribly deep. I guess I'm not either. Never claimed to be an artist, though, so maybe my shots don't have to be autobiographical...

    Oh wait, I forgot, there really are no rules. Except the ones we elect to follow. The author of that piece has his. I have mine. You have yours.

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  5. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    "If I could say it in words I wouldn't need to photograph" is often quoted (though I think what he actually said was "If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera."

    Either will do for me.

    Which is not to say one shouldn't think, of course.

    But in the end, when I look at a photograph, I'm not interested in what the photographer thinks. I'm interested in what the photograph does.
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  6. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Wow, this is a bit deep and I'm sure lots could be read into one's photos but probably best not to go there! I went from insisting on razor sharp pictures to actually preferring the softness of the ones I'm doing now. Perhaps that's a desire for the world to be a better place and less hard edged! Ultimately, I want to create a pretty picture and I use whatever subjects are available to me. During the Winter this will obviously tend to me home based. I like making people look good in portraits, that's what I would like if it were me being photographed :smile:
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  7. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    I think your post is a nice addition to the Landscape Photography Magazine's essay, Bill! It's a bit more specific, whereas ironically, I find LPM essay to be a bit empty, nice thoughts but they fail to really tell me something. Maybe it's just the nature of art that makes it difficult to make advice specific and applicable without becoming formulaic, but those who manage (like your piece does) really make aware of how meaningless a lot of art advice really is. I guess a lot of people may be well capable of making good art, but there's a much more limited number of people capable of talking about art in any meaningful way (by which I mean that their audience really takes home something specific from their discussion of the subject, rather than just some profound-sounding ideas that, when it comes down to it, don't mean anything in and of themselves).

    But, on to EasyEd's exercise... the subject of these photos is obviously empty parking lots. The concept behind it... they convey a sense of emptiness, abandonment, and human impact on the environment. The first one (of the pharmacy [are American pharmacies really that large?!?], is a bit overwhelming in its geometrical shapes, the wide expanse of parking lot and the wall of the pharmacy filling the entire horizon making it seem as if the entire world consists of pharmacy parking lot. The one of the small diner feels unfinished due to the digger, portapotty and rubble on the floor and it feels like it's been stamped out of the ground in the middle of nowhere. What I can say about Carsten Meier through these photographs... I think he roams around a lot, and is attracted to sadness a bit; the empty feeling you get when you see some environment that's been built by humans for human use, but doesn't have any people in it. Most of the other shots on that website are of either empty, manmade structures or purely natural scenes. All the people in the Reciprocity series are photographed in a rather deadpan way, as if he was just walking by, saw some people and asked, 'hey can I take your picture? *Snap!* OK thanks, bye!'. There's no attempt at beautification, and no obvious engagement with his subject, but they're not candid shots taken while moving either (judging by the sizes at which these photos are printed and the aspect ratios he uses, I'd say he's using medium format gear which would make quick street photography rather challenging!). All in all I'd say Carsten Meier is a meticulous, rather shy (or at least not particularly outgoing) photographer who likes to observe and appreciates calmness.

    [edit] oh totally forgot about the self reflection part. Ehm... tricky. I'm most definitely not a street / candid photographer as I'm too shy; I want to be liked, so if I take people shots I'm probably engaging with them in some way or another. I try to portray people in a way they'd agree with, unless I totally disagree with them. Mostly I shoot landscapes or cityscapes though. I sometimes shoot quirky compositions, often from odd angles, which are some of my favorite shots, but most people seem to skip over them without much thought - my "postcard pictures" are much more popular. With my photos, I generally try to tell some kind of story or show the beauty in something (although those quirky compositions tend to be more abstract or jumbled), and often use wide angle to draw the viewer in.
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  8. nianys

    nianys SC Regular

    Sep 10, 2012
    Hey, have you be living in my head ?? I wouldn't have put it differently. I LOVE portraits, because they always have something to say. I was taking a walk in a very bland, snowy and uninteresting patch of country this morning and was desperately seeking something to make an interesting photograph of. To little avail. Then I thought, hey, if there were people here, if I could include some living beings in this environment, it'd immediately would become more interesting. So yes, portraits are my things. And I never tired of shooting my kid. Sometimes I just want to report a pleasing line, or color, or shape. Then I'll grab something funny here and there. I guess overall my photos just show that I'm technically proficient enough with any camera to not botch exposure or framing too badly, and that's a pretty good start. Sometimes I'll get a little artsy, or experiment with something. But ultimately my photos say I'm selfish, because they don't aim at pleasing anyone but myself ;)




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  9. Phoenix

    Phoenix SC Top Veteran

    Dec 28, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Phoenix Gonzales
    I pretty much agree with barteej's analysis, "the images of some environment that's been built by humans for human use, but doesn't have any people in it." it conveys a feeling of loneliness, emptiness and isolation, and this is reinforced by the images of people in the reciprocity set where the people were just standing in a way that doesn't imply life, they look artificial, and disjointed (sort of looking at egyptian statues when compared to greek sculptures). Looking at it from a different perspective I also see a certain clinical type of morbidity in it which reminds me of the movie I am Legend or something similar to it.

    The photos tell me that the photographer feels isolated, lonely and alone. The second to the last image in the Nostrum set definitely says he's got a dark sense of humour.

    What does my photographs say about me?? Hmmm......don't quit my day job? :happy-084: I am actually unsure as my images tend to vary depending on what mood I'm in when I shot it, I guess it says I'm moody.
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  10. Xuereb

    Xuereb SC Veteran

    Nov 5, 2010
    W. Australia
    They say: aging hypochondriac & eccentric.
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  11. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    My photographs would say that I have no family and no pets. They show a person that finds it difficult to empathize with people. The photographs that I do post of people show them at work or a work type task, be it their paid employ or what they do as a volunteer or in pursuit of their hobby or interests. I find much street photography of what are anonymous people going about mundane tasks of little interest to me. That being said it might be surprising if I was to say that one of the photographers I admire is W Eugene Smith. However his photographs of people are generally incorporated into a photographic essay where both the pictures AND the words work together to place those people in context with an interesting story, so for example his "Spanish Village" or "Country Doctor" are excellent examples of what, if things had been different in my make up, I should have liked to emulate.

    So my main interest in roll film days was landscape photography, usually devoid of people and hopefully avoiding modern artifacts. I would consider a vapour trail across a cloudscape the ruination of the image. I've often found compact digital image quality a little lacking for that genre, perhaps my DP2M will rectify that for me. Perhaps I'll pursue the small details in the landscape, a sort of abstract image but one which could be a landscape in itself, time will tell.

    All in all a person who is out of step with this fast developing modern world, not only out of step with it but divorced from it and rapidly becoming disenchanted with it. So old sailing vessels and steam engines show me harking back to a bygone era, perhaps reflecting an interest in local history.

    I could say more, but perhaps that's already too much!

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  12. Gary

    Gary SC All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    I feel that writing and photography are no different, both are forms of communications. The greater the ability of the word/photo to communicate and to express the thoughts and emotions of the writer/photographer, the more successful the photograph or the written piece. Success has many standards of measurements.
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  13. Hikari

    Hikari SC Veteran

    Jan 5, 2013
    Maine, USA
    My photos don't say anything about me--you have to look at them.

    I think people try to hard to conceptualize art. And everyone fails. I find I make better pictures the less I think.
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  14. Hikari

    Hikari SC Veteran

    Jan 5, 2013
    Maine, USA
    I find writing and photography very different. One is a temporal form and the other a spacial one. One exists using definitive symbols the other does not.

    I have found very few writer say anything important about photography.
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  15. Hikari

    Hikari SC Veteran

    Jan 5, 2013
    Maine, USA
    Do we really express our thoughts or emotions? Are we simply reacting to outside stimulus intuitively? The more successful my photograph, the less of "me" I see in it.

    I think the guy that said the unexamined life was not worth living was just trying to justify procrastination...
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  16. I don't particularly want my photographs to say anything about me. Theres no particular concept there, I just shoot things that I like to look at later. If others like it too, thats great, but if not... meh.
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  17. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    All my photographs say about me is "this guy needs to buy a medium format digital camera"
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  18. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    :biggrin: Never, ever would I have seen that in your photos Xuereb!

    I have no idea what my photos say about me. I do know that in order for me to want to photograph something I have to be drawn to it in some way. (Of course that does not mean every time I push the button that I'm thinking of a masterpiece...)

    I really don't like it when someone I'm with says "Oh, you should take a picture of this." It often makes me feel like running the other way. Lately I've been rather preoccupied and am often documenting a transformation of an old house that we're renovating.:redface:
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  19. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Personally, I'm not egotistical enough to ask 'what does this image say about me?' or to think about the 'meaning' that I want to convey to viewers or critics.

    I also think his notions of 'concept' and 'meaning' are a bit dodgy too, but that's another matter.
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  20. Gary

    Gary SC All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    Nope, everything you do and everything you communicate says something about who you are. Someone of the defining statements may be insignificant while others may be a chapter of who you are. Whether you should emphasis who you are in every photograph, to minimize content over style, is another matter.
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