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[OM] Re: Digital B&W with attitude

Subject: [OM] Re: Digital B&W with attitude
From: AG Schnozz <agschnozz@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2006 07:01:20 -0800 (PST)
> Gives me hope that with some practice, I, too can create some
> nice B&W's... Very nice work.

Thanks.  I've been "practicing" for something like 32 years. 
You'd think I'd be a little farther along, though.

I'm a copycat, I'm sorry to say. There are only a handful of
pictures in my entire collection that I'd say are "originals".
Everything else is some variation of something else I've seen.
For example, in these Digital B&W samples, the fourth picture is
a dead knockoff of a shot in Ansel Adams' "The Print". Subject
is different, but the posing, lighting and interpretation is the
same. The first shot is a "record shot", the second is a typical
"everybody does it" silluette shot (with an overloaded sensor at
that) and the third is ok, but almost garish--it may make a
magazine cover, though. The fourth shot is pretty decent, but
frankly doesn't tell any story.  All four shots, are fine for
stock, but really hold little, if any, artistic value. None of
them move the art forward. From a working professional aspect,
these shots are the equivelent to a budget presentation at the
office--just another day at work.

The photograph currently at the bottom of my home page (pheasant
and bison) is cute and sellable, but other than timing and
location, there isn't anything I did to give it artistic value
or learn from.  Ok, I cropped it.

It's hard, sometimes, maybe all the time, to get beyond "record
shots" and "me too" shots and actually expand your horizons and
skillsets.  I've taken, maybe one picture in the past 24 months
(Z-Falls) that I consider anything near original where I
pre-visualized the outcome and worked the scene to come up with
my own interpretation of it AND felt that the resulting image
met the goal. The rest have been rehashes of what I've already
done or seen others do.

Displaying my work for others in these galleries is a mode of
instruction for myself. I look at the images online and compare
them to what I see from others. Then I ask myself "what gives
mine artistic value?"  Why are mine any better, worse or the
same as anything else out there?

Bill Barber has been a tremendous influence these days. I have a
print of his, "Hill Country Dreaming", hanging on my office wall
right now that I can look at and get inspired by. What's good
about it is that it's a style of photography I've never done
(pinhole), nor have much desire to try. I'm not likely to copy
his pictures. But what the pictures does for me is teach me
about new ways of seeing and composing.  I'm more likely to
break from my mold of "golden sections" and start exploring
other ways of juxtipositioning subjects.

I have a "style". After a while, we all develop one. The problem
is a "style" is often a crutch.  Wedding, portrait and event
photography is pretty much cookie-cutter. We all do the same
thing and steal good ideas from each other. One person creates a
new compositon and within 6 months EVERYBODY is doing it. We're
all plagerists.

Back to the pictures in the gallery, let me explain further: 
The tonalities in the pictures are representative of my "style".
I like bold (but not garish). I like dominant negative space (as
illustrated in the second fireworks picture). I like my whites
to be clean whites and blacks to be clean blacks. In a B&W photo
I think it's critical to have both 0% and 100% density
represented to establish visual boundaries for the eye/brain
interpretation. (it doesn't take much, though) I like the
subject in the scene to "breathe" and not be crowded.  I
typically use traditional compositonal techniques (rule of
thirds, etc), but study the Dutch Masters for inspiration. For
the past three years I've been stuck with putting the subject in
the edge of the frame with 90% of the picture being negative
space.

If it wasn't for the stock sales value, I'd probably drop those
images into the delete file. They haven't moved me forward, nor
do I have any desire to stay stuck with this interpretation of a
scene. What grouses me is that I've gone through this excercise
of "how else can I interpret this scene" and I'm not coming up
with anything. Ok, I can tilt the camera, throw a starburst
filter on the lens, yada yada.  But wait a second, those aren't
new ideas, are they?

What's the message?  What's the subject?  Is there a story to be
told?  Tell the story.  I know these things, but how does one
break from our comfort zone?

I've been toying with the idea of mounting a single prime lens
on my camera and forcing myself to shoot everything (self work,
not assignments/jobs) with it for awhile. Maybe it's time to
break out the styrofoam shapes again and practice in the studio.

I hate being stuck in this creative logjam and am needing a
fresh vision.

AG

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