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Old 13/09/07, 05:18   #41 (permalink)
JE
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Default Re: Form, content and emotion: Sean Reid's interview with Ben Lifson

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Form is very difficult and no two artists master it in exactly the same way..



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EXACTLY. No two artists master anything in the same way. The English language, oil painting, water color, photography...we speak of masters in all these, but there is no ONE master in each. This is what keeps Art alive.
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Old 13/09/07, 20:18   #42 (permalink)
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...It seems to me that a good photograph works the same way as a poem, in that the meaning also comes from the form."

Again, I think that's absolutely true. And most people's models of visual form come from certain movies, televisions, magazines - the sources aren't always great. That's one reason I keep encouraging the idea of looking often, broadly and deeply at painting...
Sean, I agree about the usefulness of looking at paintings, and have recommended that to several people who want to improve their photogarphy. But, the more I think about this the more I believe the key is to look deeply — and the trouble its very difficult and most people, myself included, often neglect to look deeply: although I start with the intention of uderstanding the composition and the motivation I often end up just sticking to the surface — often, literally, by looking the most intensively at the easy things: the texture of the paint and the nature of the brush strokes.

Ultimately, the best way to look at paintings deeply is to sketch them to understand the composition. In his classic drawing text book, The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaîdes writes, "From the study of the established masters of painting try to squeeze the sap of life. Study not their manners but their motivation." I believe this type of study of painting is the best to internalize the understanding that you can get; but this level of understanding, and consquent internalization, I think is only possibly by sketching the painting.

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Old 14/09/07, 00:21   #43 (permalink)
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Ultimately, the best way to look at paintings deeply is to sketch them to understand the composition. In his classic drawing text book, The Natural Way to Draw, Nicolaîdes writes, "From the study of the established masters of painting try to squeeze the sap of life. Study not their manners but their motivation." I believe this type of study of painting is the best to internalize the understanding that you can get; but this level of understanding, and consquent internalization, I think is only possibly by sketching the painting.

—Mitch/Bangkok
Mitch Alland's slideshow on Flickr
Mitch, the same applies to sketching photographs. I've done some drawing over the years but I'm a relative newcomer to photography. I traced a few classic photos but find that's no substitute for copying the image. You regenerated this thread with your fish market picture which I've been thinking about, so I'll sketch it over the weekend and share my thoughts.
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Old 14/09/07, 03:20   #44 (permalink)
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Ultimately, the best way to look at paintings deeply is to sketch them to understand the composition.
—Mitch/Bangkok
Mitch Alland's slideshow on Flickr
Sketching them is exactly what I did for many years. It is a great suggestion. I also drew from life. Also, strongly recommended: "The History and Technique of Old Master Drawings" - DeTolnay.

Cheers,

Sean
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Old 14/09/07, 03:32   #45 (permalink)
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In the early 90s, I lived in Budapest, Hungary in the summers and photographed. I also used to go to the art museum there and make free hand sketches of Old Master drawings. Here are two examples. They aren't very good but they were instructive.

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Sean
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Old 14/09/07, 04:17   #46 (permalink)
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Actually Sean, your sketches are very good and reveal the compositonal elements well.

I think the type of sketches desirable for this purpose should not be elaborate: in his book Nicolaîdes suggest that the sketch should be small, no more than four inches so that you won't put in too much detail but concentrate on the structure or the movement (the gesture) or perhaps on the lights and darks — all of which can bring out the basis for the drawing or painitng that you are stying to understand.

Last month when I was in Washington I went to a gallery in Easton on the Eastern Shore and saw a painting by an expressionist figurative painter (Raoul Middleman) that hit me light a stroke of lightning with the thought that I could not express anything like that with photography. This epiphany, for that is what it was, made me start to draw again — I did some drawing and painting ages ago and wasn't very good — in preparation for resuming painting after some time.

Apart from sketches to understand master paintings, I feel that drawing generally can do alot to improve one's photography because one develops one's eye and sees things differently. and gains much more of a feeling for form.

—Mitch/Bangkok
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Old 14/09/07, 17:21   #47 (permalink)
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We can't discard 2/3's that easy. It is a very strong mathematical or geometric form. In a 35mm camera format if you divide the area this way you get a square (a geometrical form that is even stronger) a triangle is the most structurally stable form and then there is that other very strong thing called SYMMETRY (or the number 2).

This is old culture and we owe it to a person called Euclides that invented it and told us it's part of nature "it is in all things",we couldn't question it.

We have square pixels BUT there are ...millions of them and each has ...n number of different tonalities in each color and I don't know how many colors; so if you think about the number of permutations that all this has, Euclides becomes irrelevant.

To me it is about the balance between abstract and figurative. A Photograph Is very explicit and immediate, but it is also a 2 dimensional abstraction of life. In a way it is a so much poorer medium than painting.
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Old 14/09/07, 17:40   #48 (permalink)
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Here are two self portraits from not so old masters (my twin daughters when they where about 8) that show symmetry, geometry etc... in nature or the lack of it.
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Old 15/09/07, 03:32   #49 (permalink)
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We can't discard 2/3's that easy. It is a very strong mathematical or geometric form. In a 35mm camera format if you divide the area this way you get a square (a geometrical form that is even stronger) a triangle is the most structurally stable form and then there is that other very strong thing called SYMMETRY (or the number 2).

This is old culture and we owe it to a person called Euclides that invented it and told us it's part of nature "it is in all things",we couldn't question it.

We have square pixels BUT there are ...millions of them and each has ...n number of different tonalities in each color and I don't know how many colors; so if you think about the number of permutations that all this has, Euclides becomes irrelevant.

To me it is about the balance between abstract and figurative. A Photograph Is very explicit and immediate, but it is also a 2 dimensional abstraction of life. In a way it is a so much poorer medium than painting.
Manolo, interesting grid anaysis of your well-composed photograph.

But, first, historicallty, Euclid did invest the Golden Ratio: the Greeks attribute this to Pythogoras (born over 150 years earlier) and his followers.The Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier used it in his "Modulor" concept for architectural proportion related to the human scale. But the Modulor system was more hype than usefulness or reality: it was based on a human figure whose height was arbitrary, chosen to fit the mathematical convenience of the Golden Section and there was no way to transfer these measurements to the design of actual spaces for human habitation: a concerete example is the inability to apply Modulor Golden Section proportions to the height of steps on staircases.

The Golden Ratio itself, that is, the ratio of the size of a Golden Rectangle is: 1:1.618, and I guess you're saying the saying that the 3:2 proportion of 35mm film is close enough. But there are other proportional system, such as a rectangle made from tilings whose sides are squares of Fibonacci numbers in lenth (1:1.625), or a rectangle and which would contain a Fibonacci spiral. But all these proportional systems come nowhere close to the rectangle of a vast majority of master paintings: a statistical analysis of master paitings from the Renaisance onwards has shown that the overwhelming proportion of master paintains are on a canvas in the proportion very close to 4:3.

Yes, one can point to a lot of master paintings that are square, or that are in 3:2 or 16:9 proportions, but my point is that there is no inherently "superior" proporton for art: it's only what the artist feels of wants. And the same goes for the "rule of thirds."

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...77119712/show/
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Old 16/09/07, 02:55   #50 (permalink)
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Default Re: Form, content and emotion: Sean Reid's interview with Ben Lifson

Manolo,
Those childrens' portraits are seriously gorgeous..
Had you not told me they were the work of your children I would not have guessed it.
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Old 16/09/07, 07:13   #51 (permalink)
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Here are two self portraits from not so old masters (my twin daughters when they where about 8) that show symmetry, geometry etc... in nature or the lack of it.
These are both beautiful and I mean that sincerely. I'm not surprised that they're by children because I've seen some exceptional pictures made by children.

Cheers,

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Old 16/09/07, 22:29   #52 (permalink)
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Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo – Form and Content

I’ve been thinking about this picture, trying to find a way of analyzing and commenting on it. Then the practice copying old master paintings came up in the thread, so I decided to copy this photo and see what came up.

First a description of what can be seen. The photo is a kind of interior street photo, in portrait format. The viewpoint is almost at ground level. In the foreground, at low level, is the main subject, the head of what seems to be a large fish, placed sideways on a kind of floor level shelf. Because of the low viewpoint we look almost directly into the gaping jaws of this fish. Beyond and above in the middle horizontal zone are disparate individuals and groups men, as well as other large fish heads or perhaps bits of fish carcass. The upper horizontal ceiling zone is predominantly dark except for rows of fluorescent lights oriented into rather than across the space. The camera is tilted slightly to the right but the head of the fish in the forground is level and centred with a row of lights almost directly overhead. The lighting picks out the highlights on the fish heads, in other wet areas on the shelf and floor and off the ice inside the mouth of the fish in the foreground.

Next the action. Immediately behind the main subject and to the right is a large, hulking individual who wears light coloured boots and holds a kind of grappling hook. He is turned away from the camera and his head is almost completely lost in the darkness of the ceiling. Directly behind the main subject is another individual wearing a striped vest, also carrying a grappling hook and another object which looks like a long camera lens(?). He also looks away from the camera. At left, towards the background are other men, talking amongst themselves, on the phone, or just standing. The men wear short sleeved shirts or vests, notwithstanding that the temperature in the market may be chilled. None of the men looks at the camera, only the fish. The viewer’s eye is led from the main subject to the big man with the hook on to the other man with a hook, over to the others up to the top left of the frame by the lights and back down to the main subject.

Associations. For me the photo speaks of human indifference to suffering. It is a kind of hellish vision – the dismembered head of the beast, looking mutely at us, the blood and gore on the floor, the indifference of the bystanders, the blackness above, the disorientating tilt of the view. At the same time we as spectators, could be down on the floor too, living this vision (indeed, perhaps we are). It reminds me of Piero della Francesca’s ‘Flagellation Of Christ’ and of Rembrandt’s paintings of carcasses in slaughterhouses. Others might view the meaning of the photo differently but I would assert that the composition supports my interpretation, and that form and content work together.

I commend you Mitch on a powerful and wonderfully crafted image (to which my sketch does scant justice)

Best wishes

Steve
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Old 17/09/07, 01:49   #53 (permalink)
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Steve, first let me say, what a wonderful interpretation and sketch! You do me the honour of taking all this time and interpreting the picture like a poem. Thank you. How different from the ususal comments one gets on the internet, "Nice capture", "a little too dark for my taste", and so on. And your sketch and analysis certainly answer my rhetorical question of wheher this photograph had relevance for what I was saying in this thread.

Your interpretation is spot on: when I was walking around Tsukiji — even though I love sushi — I was affected by the reaction of my wife, a Buddhist, on my previous visit almost 20 years ago. She had been particualrly distressed in one section of the market where we had understood that they had dolphin: today I don't know whether it was really dolphin the mamal or dolpin the fish that one sees in the Caribbean because my wife wanted to get away as soon as possible.

I was struck by this particular fish because it was filled with ice, which glowed in its huge mouth as it was lit by strong light entering the large slit in its stomach from the back of the picture. I bent over a bit sideways, stopping just momentarily to get the image in the LCD of my camera, a Ricoh GR-D: had I been using a camera with a viewfinder I probably would have not taken this picture because I would had to stop completely and squat down; and I probably would not have done this because I would have had the feeling of attracting too much attention, as these days, unlike twenty years ago, there are few visitors and they are not officially allowed because of health hazards and possibility of accidents: indeed, in the previous shed I had been asked with exquisite Japanese politeness by two female health inspectors to leave — I mention that thay were women because women's speech in Japan is even more polite than that of men, and I can still speak enough Japanese to have understood.

As I pressed the shutter I had one of these zen moments — being in Japan this may sound like a cliché — that Cartier-Bresson describes when you know you've taken a good picture. He wrote of this when he recommended Zen and the Art of Archery as a book for photographers. It's a moment when you can see and understand the main elements of the picture and afterward have the feeling you had and image you saw when you took the picture come back to you whenever you see it: I could see how the line of fluorescemt lights supported the composition, how all the diagonals strengthened it and how the men's backs and their facing away from the camera and the fish supported the feeling I had.

So far I've only made an A4 print; now I'm going to make a large one.

Actually, Steve, your sketch is brilliant in how it concentrates on the essntial elements of the photograph — this is really the way to make an analytical sketch of form and gesture.

—Mitch/Bangkok
Mitch Alland's slideshow on Flickr

Last edited by malland; 17/09/07 at 01:53.
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Old 18/09/07, 12:01   #54 (permalink)
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I've often thought about composition, content and what makes photos 'work'.
The golden section has been mentioned a couple of times, and even before I started to wonder about the golden section, composition, and their effect on my work I noted that my two favourite formats were 35mm and 6x9.
I see it in paintings, buildings and also sculpture I'm not sure we should go too deeply into photography as 'art' as anything you find pleasing as an image should be ok.
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I superimposed a Fibonacci spiral over one of my images, and can see the argument for golden section and pleasing proportion, whether its chance or just there because I'm looking for it I can't tell or am I arranging elements subconsciously?
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Old 18/09/07, 14:58   #55 (permalink)
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Here are two self portraits from not so old masters (my twin daughters when they where about 8) that show symmetry, geometry etc... in nature or the lack of it.
I love this quote from Picasso:

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

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Old 18/09/07, 15:23   #56 (permalink)
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This is one of the best threads on this forum in a long time.
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Old 19/09/07, 04:58   #57 (permalink)
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I've often thought about composition, content and what makes photos 'work'...I superimposed a Fibonacci spiral over one of my images, and can see the argument for golden section and pleasing proportion, whether its chance or just there because I'm looking for it I can't tell or am I arranging elements subconsciously?
It seems to me, as evidenced by your picture, your eyes are good enough to trust, without trying to superimpose a Golden Section when you frame.

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Old 19/09/07, 05:11   #58 (permalink)
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This is one of the best threads on this forum in a long time.
When I saw Steve's fantastic sketch and analysis I wrote down that there had been 1,570 vews of this thread — and now there have been 2,844, which means that almost 1,300 people have seen Steve sketch, assuming that, in this case, as we're far down this thread, that the number of views equate the number of people. I glad that so many people have been able to see Steve's sketch and analysis, since it's unique in terms of internet photo critique and is of such high quality.

The other thing noteworthy is that there have been 55 postiing against these 2,844 views, the low posting:views ratio is of course true for all threads, but I'm always surprised that there is such a large multiple of people viewing to those posting, but I guess this could be discussed in another thread.

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Old 19/09/07, 05:14   #59 (permalink)
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When I first started working with Ben, he would talk about my street pictures as though all the elements were intentional. In fact, I was hitting the shutter very quickly as I saw things that might be interesting, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Either way, I certainly wasn't intentionally placing edges, drawing anything in any certain way, etc. After a while though, I kept improving even though I was still shooting quickly, so my conclusion was that everything he was telling me was sinking in instinctively.

Unless you are Gregory Crewdson or Annie Liebovitz and can place everything exactly where and how you want it, you almost have to depend on intinct and luck. Gary Winogrand's pictures are a fantastic example of how far instinct and luck can take you. He obviously shot quickly, but his subjects were perfectly placed, perfectly lighted, etc. Luck entered the picture (literally) in the way the wind blew a woman's hair, or someone's facial expression, or people turning their heads at exactly the right time. Still, he was ready and pushed the shutter exactly when it all happened.
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Old 19/09/07, 05:59   #60 (permalink)
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..hey Mitch you live near the golden triangle, maybe a bit of inspiration there???
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Sometimes it is worth waiting just after the intended moment

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