Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

Started 4 months ago | Discussions
GnarlydogOZ
GnarlydogOZ Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
not real, at all
3

This scene is not real, at all.

Yes, the location and subject are, but my eyes did NOT see this when I was photographing. I used on purpose a lens that renders the bokeh in a weird way, swirly and soft, something my eyes can not see (unless drunk  )

So, is it real? with no colors? (I am not color blind)

Would I have shot this scene with an iPhone it would look more "real" because our brains have been trained to see that way, and maybe indeed closer to what we interpret as real, but nevertheless still just a representation.

And I laugh in the face of those obsessed with sharpness because I am so bored with it. Every simpleton can shoot incredibly sharp photographs with a mobile phone and yet very few of those images make me dream 

Russian projector lens 35KP-1,8/120 on Nikon Z5

Rod McD Veteran Member • Posts: 7,774
Re: not real, at all

Hi,

Photography and art are all ultimately abstractions from reality.  People like different things.  They differ in which particular abstractions they prefer.  That's fine.  In fact it's an essential part of the diversity of life.   For you, maybe it's the images from Russian projector lenses.  For me, my original inspiration was the large format realist Tasmanian landscapes of Peter Dombrovskis.  I still love his images.  Heaven forbid that we should all like the same thing..... Vive la différence.

Cheers, Rod

PS, nice bike.

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ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,233
Re: not real, at all

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

This scene is not real, at all.

Yes, the location and subject are, but my eyes did NOT see this when I was photographing. I used on purpose a lens that renders the bokeh in a weird way, swirly and soft, something my eyes can not see (unless drunk )

Ah, but it is faithful to how you envisioned it and has not been significantly manipulated after-the-fact in post. Your vision was set at capture time.

So, is it real? with no colors? (I am not color blind)

Honestly, I think of B&W as being inherently abstract -- which I like.

It always used to drive me nuts when people would look at one of my photos and say "Oh, that's Sally" when no, it's just an image of Sally as I envisioned her. B&W images tend not to get seen as their subjects, but as images, much more often than happens with color images. Still, I don't take that abstractness as license to aggressively edit in post without indicating I've done so....

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OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Was that Sally real? Of course she was …

ProfHankD wrote:

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

This scene is not real, at all.

Yes, the location and subject are, but my eyes did NOT see this when I was photographing. I used on purpose a lens that renders the bokeh in a weird way, swirly and soft, something my eyes can not see (unless drunk )

Ah, but it is faithful to how you envisioned it and has not been significantly manipulated after-the-fact in post. Your vision was set at capture time.

So, is it real? with no colors? (I am not color blind)

Honestly, I think of B&W as being inherently abstract -- which I like.

It always used to drive me nuts when people would look at one of my photos and say "Oh, that's Sally" when no, it's just an image of Sally as I envisioned her. B&W images tend not to get seen as their subjects, but as images, much more often than happens with color images. Still, I don't take that abstractness as license to aggressively edit in post without indicating I've done so....

(Agreeing)

I have noticed that sometimes old images taken normally simply don’t look like “Sally” and have wondered why.  Was Sally in a bad mood, was there something wrong with the camera.  Post processing was not the issue as none of whom I knew had any idea of how to post process or even manipulate film.

I came to the conclusion that our eye-image is being automatically sorted out for perspective. Our brain is very good at that. We are very good at knowing horizontals and verticals.  This is how we navigate our way and are able to stay upright.

We have probably all been through trick buildings where horizontals and verticals are muddled - it usually is accompanied by some difficulty in staying upright.

Furthermore with tall buildings and our navigation skills we don’t even notice perspective unless we concentrate our mind on it. This leaves us with two perceptions in our mind - the laid back low processing based on what our mind feeds us as we navigate about.  Which is quickly lost.  Short term memory? Where sometimes we cannot remember the detail of a hum drum passage and yet somehow we made the trip A to B unscathed.   But we can deliberately focus our mind on a scene - we now can very obviously see perspective and remember it.

If we know Sally very well our mind forms a picture of what Sally is like at any given age.  We remember from sitting, standing, talking, understanding from a certain perspective and  the focal length and focus of our eyes.

I think that photographs of people, as they are, are images of a person at a moment in time seen by a camera from a certain angle and focal length.  Sometimes it is quite possible that the image of Sally might be too real for our brain to interpret that perspective. A perspective of Sally fixed in time that we might never have seen to remember her by.

Obviously a video with movement and sound would make it much easier to recognise as there would be many clues to help our brain recognition and even if some perspectives were unusual there would be plenty of instances where our brain said “that’s Sally”.

I keep returning to the late great Gary Winogrand’s remark: “I take photographs to see what things look like when photographed”.  Most perceptive.  Photography makes your audience see what you have seen and register the image in their brain.  It is very quick, it only takes a fraction of  asecond.

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Tom Caldwell

OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Great biking climate

Australia has been said to be “the Lucky Country”  - it should have been said about biking.  We have so much of the year when the weather is favourable.

It is possible to rug up in cold weather but somehow the cold weather additions remove quite a lot of the tactile feedback.  The rider who could bare knuckle on a frosty day has my admiration and wonderment on just how good their circulation might be.  Thick warm gloves prevent frostbite.

On the other side of the coin, we don’t often realise just how hot that black leather gear is on a warmish day until we stop.

Here we have an image of a mans modern day steed that still demands a lot of affection and care just like his ancestor’s horse, but is happy to sit quietly in a relatively small space when not being ridden.  It might need lots of affection but at least it does not need lots of hay and a paddock to run around in when not saddled up.

I would wonder why the average biker would not focus on such a lovely steed and let the pure and perfect background fall into soft focus.

You have represented well here and it cannot be faulted - an image should draw the viewers attention to its subject matter in a manner that pleases the eye.

That you can do this with one of your converted lenses is a real achievement.

Oh that I was a bit younger and had not given myself so many other tasks in life and I would spend some misbegotten old age exploring Australia on two wheels.

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Tom Caldwell

GnarlydogOZ
GnarlydogOZ Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
Re: not real, at all

ProfHankD wrote:

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

This scene is not real, at all.

Yes, the location and subject are, but my eyes did NOT see this when I was photographing. I used on purpose a lens that renders the bokeh in a weird way, swirly and soft, something my eyes can not see (unless drunk )

Ah, but it is faithful to how you envisioned it and has not been significantly manipulated after-the-fact in post. Your vision was set at capture time.

So, is it real? with no colors? (I am not color blind)

Honestly, I think of B&W as being inherently abstract -- which I like.

It always used to drive me nuts when people would look at one of my photos and say "Oh, that's Sally" when no, it's just an image of Sally as I envisioned her. B&W images tend not to get seen as their subjects, but as images, much more often than happens with color images. Still, I don't take that abstractness as license to aggressively edit in post without indicating I've done so....

thank you for the compliment.

The compliment actually is that to you, the viewer, the image I presented looks relatively real, while in fact it is nothing like the image the camera captured. In post I added the fog and detuned the background, eliminated the color that, in my opinion wasn't making the image "ethereal" enough. To a rider, my goal was to present the machine as a vessel of freedom, imagination or discovery, hence the blurred high tone background. Not sure if that feeling is perceived by the general public tho...

My point: photographs are ONLY representations of reality and only our minds are prepared to accept that what we see somehow translates to what exists. If that reality then evokes emotions I find an image much more compelling than one that just records the scene.

GnarlydogOZ
GnarlydogOZ Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
Re: not real, at all

Rod McD wrote:

Hi,

Photography and art are all ultimately abstractions from reality. People like different things. They differ in which particular abstractions they prefer. That's fine. In fact it's an essential part of the diversity of life. For you, maybe it's the images from Russian projector lenses. For me, my original inspiration was the large format realist Tasmanian landscapes of Peter Dombrovskis. I still love his images. Heaven forbid that we should all like the same thing..... Vive la différence.

Cheers, Rod

PS, nice bike.

Rod, big fan of Dombrovskis: I had several posters of his hanging at my place years ago, until the UV light faded them enough to become gaudy.

When I was shooting with Carl Zeiss lenses on my Hasselblad I tried to emulate his style. Occasionally I was pleased with my results. The images I took were contemplative and the feeling I wanted to capture was the longing of open spaces, imagining myself walking through that landscape. I believe sharp lenses and crisp images were an essential part to create that feeling.

On the other hand I find very sharp images with poorly composed mundane subjects with no focal point extremely boring, lacking any impact or emotion. I see way too many of those images. And while the equipment used to take them certainly costs way too much to justify such mundane results, so many photographers believe that a sharp lens will create Peter Dombrovskis results 

GnarlydogOZ
GnarlydogOZ Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
Re: Was that Sally real? Of course she was …

Tom Caldwell wrote:

I keep returning to the late great Gary Winogrand’s remark: “I take photographs to see what things look like when photographed”. Most perceptive. Photography makes your audience see what you have seen and register the image in their brain. It is very quick, it only takes a fraction of asecond.

and yet I disagree.

What I see and mainly feel in a moving photograph is not often perceived by somebody else. An emotional image to me is such because of my life experiences, my psychology, my compassion and my passions.

I often start to form an idea of one's personality by observing their reaction to certain photographs. Some might find them moving, others find them ordinary. Much can be said about one's perception of reality and reaction to a (what some call) moving photograph.

GnarlydogOZ
GnarlydogOZ Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
Re: Great biking climate

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Australia has been said to be “the Lucky Country” - it should have been said about biking. We have so much of the year when the weather is favourable.

It is possible to rug up in cold weather but somehow the cold weather additions remove quite a lot of the tactile feedback. The rider who could bare knuckle on a frosty day has my admiration and wonderment on just how good their circulation might be. Thick warm gloves prevent frostbite.

On the other side of the coin, we don’t often realise just how hot that black leather gear is on a warmish day until we stop.

Here we have an image of a mans modern day steed that still demands a lot of affection and care just like his ancestor’s horse, but is happy to sit quietly in a relatively small space when not being ridden. It might need lots of affection but at least it does not need lots of hay and a paddock to run around in when not saddled up.

I would wonder why the average biker would not focus on such a lovely steed and let the pure and perfect background fall into soft focus.

You have represented well here and it cannot be faulted - an image should draw the viewers attention to its subject matter in a manner that pleases the eye.

That you can do this with one of your converted lenses is a real achievement.

Oh that I was a bit younger and had not given myself so many other tasks in life and I would spend some misbegotten old age exploring Australia on two wheels.

thank you.

With your outstandingly eloquent comment you indeed support my theory that an image is incredibly subjective, and emotional only if one had the life experience to feel that.

To somebody that has not ridden a motorcycle (as you say, the modern horse) your explanation of what you feel by observing my image is totally lost. Some might even feel enraged or repulsed by such image (maybe a bad experience with a motorcycle?) while you, on the other hand, long for the freedom and excitement that such machine can bring.

OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Re: Was that Sally real? Of course she was …

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

Tom Caldwell wrote:

I keep returning to the late great Gary Winogrand’s remark: “I take photographs to see what things look like when photographed”. Most perceptive. Photography makes your audience see what you have seen and register the image in their brain. It is very quick, it only takes a fraction of asecond.

and yet I disagree.

What I see and mainly feel in a moving photograph is not often perceived by somebody else. An emotional image to me is such because of my life experiences, my psychology, my compassion and my passions.

I often start to form an idea of one's personality by observing their reaction to certain photographs. Some might find them moving, others find them ordinary. Much can be said about one's perception of reality and reaction to a (what some call) moving photograph.

We can quite easily disagree and remain happy on the subject of perception.

My understanding of what Gary Winogrand said was that photographs don’t necessary show what people remember seeing. What he saw (remembered) and and what his camera captured could be different. I don’t really know from his remark whether he was trying to record what he actually saw and remembered or trying to take a photograph of what he was going to remember to show others what his memory had been.

He, of course, was one of the greats of street shooting capture.  He was so prolific in the days of film that he did not even bother processing a lot of his film - presumably he knew that it might not have been a job worth while.

The words that you have highlighted are my own and are less perceptive other than noting that this is a precise rendition of the scene and no more what my brain has seen than Winogrand’s “looks like when photographed”.

If I follow any genre of photography it must be candid - see an image and catch it - quickly.  I am still working on it, I need to be able to see and respond quickly with full knowledge of the gear in my hand.  This means I practice a lot and I get a lot of rubbish in the process. I can understand why Gary Winogrand might have so many “practice shots” in order to get his memorable ones.

I think that a photographer can only guide his viewers by the images presented to try and state an opinion, as much as any artist might speak to their audience. Even the technically factual photograph can be interpreted in different ways. Images as opinions are generally more interesting.

On the other hand we can truly try to be scientific and precise in our representations - often the subject matter is the interest in itself.

Speaking to our viewers through this medium is usually more interesting than actual fact (surprisingly). Considering how many people are told to smile for their photograph or naturally “put on” their “photo-face” - I prefer candid for portraits as not everyone can assume a natural expression when posing.

These days it is easier (cheaper) with digital to machine gun images so that hopefully some of them will end up looking “right” when photographed.

I am also trying to figure out the philosophy of photography as others might have noticed.

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Tom Caldwell

OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Re: Great biking climate

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Australia has been said to be “the Lucky Country” - it should have been said about biking. We have so much of the year when the weather is favourable.

It is possible to rug up in cold weather but somehow the cold weather additions remove quite a lot of the tactile feedback. The rider who could bare knuckle on a frosty day has my admiration and wonderment on just how good their circulation might be. Thick warm gloves prevent frostbite.

On the other side of the coin, we don’t often realise just how hot that black leather gear is on a warmish day until we stop.

Here we have an image of a mans modern day steed that still demands a lot of affection and care just like his ancestor’s horse, but is happy to sit quietly in a relatively small space when not being ridden. It might need lots of affection but at least it does not need lots of hay and a paddock to run around in when not saddled up.

I would wonder why the average biker would not focus on such a lovely steed and let the pure and perfect background fall into soft focus.

You have represented well here and it cannot be faulted - an image should draw the viewers attention to its subject matter in a manner that pleases the eye.

That you can do this with one of your converted lenses is a real achievement.

Oh that I was a bit younger and had not given myself so many other tasks in life and I would spend some misbegotten old age exploring Australia on two wheels.

thank you.

With your outstandingly eloquent comment you indeed support my theory that an image is incredibly subjective, and emotional only if one had the life experience to feel that.

To somebody that has not ridden a motorcycle (as you say, the modern horse) your explanation of what you feel by observing my image is totally lost. Some might even feel enraged or repulsed by such image (maybe a bad experience with a motorcycle?) while you, on the other hand, long for the freedom and excitement that such machine can bring.

I have not ridden much since I retired.  Riding to work became a habit and was way out non-U for a professional - I should have had an Audi or BMW (car) perhaps…

But my staff accepted me as “normal”, a secretary might suggest to me that I should go home early when the weather looked like it was turning ugly.

But of course in my devil might care biker-tough I usually preferred to finish what I was doing. Then there was the routine of getting into the Michelin-man suit, sometimes in “just damp” I would hazard the ride in just the leather jacket and business trousers.  Only got wet from knee down from road spray unless held up at traffic lights. I have a patient wife ….

But such was the intelligence and “thoughtfulness” of car drivers on the open road when they swooped past in truly wet weather and immediately cut-in closely in front and “drowned” the hapless biker in their spray-wake.

My Dad used to comment that car drivers should first have to ride a motor-bike for a few years to understand just why they rode these bikes and to also have some appreciation of good road manners towards those that were still riding bikes.  Perhaps a bit of experience truck driving would help as well …..

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Tom Caldwell

fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 6,994
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?
1

I like all kind of images, even post processed. I think photography has lots of latitude, it is a word that should not be reduced that much. To some, it's abstraction. To some, interpretation. To some, it's fidelity of information. I don't consider photography an artistic thing, nor art to be superior. They are rather orthogonal (they go together or ignore each other at will). Oftentimes, it think Id rather say some people *have* a very artistic mind, some other have the ability to dream a photograph and then make it, some have both. The art is in the person or the scene more than in camera, of course.

Juyal
Juyal Regular Member • Posts: 175
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?
2

The Realist movement in art that began in the mid-19th century has been hijacked by the "sharpest movement" in photography.

petrochemist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,237
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

Juyal wrote:

The Realist movement in art that began in the mid-19th century has been hijacked by the "sharpest movement" in photography.

IMO they're quite welcome to it!

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OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?
1

Juyal wrote:

The Realist movement in art that began in the mid-19th century has been hijacked by the "sharpest movement" in photography.

You are quite right - early photography was limited by the medium and the equipment.  It was regarded as poor-man’s relation to real art and thought to be an offshoot of painting.

Some really amazing dreamy images were made at that time and are still classic images of their genre.

But as the media and the equipment improved pictorial representation all but died in the never ending pursuit of the perfect image representation. Which of course persists to this day.

Pictorialism of course was largely an image of necessity due to the gear of the times.  However some did manipulate in the darkroom.

These days almost every camera and lens combination can make a satisfactory image and therefore “Photography Art” much more often needs some time spent in the computer darkroom (as the original is too perfectly “real”  and of high resolution).

The way I see it is that a great natural portrait made out of a camera is interesting for “a look” (only).  It might be a cute kid, an interesting street image, someone you know, or a famous person. But hang it in a gallery or on the wall as art?  It is just a photograph…. But a portrait made into art is much more anonymous and can be hung as art if the artfulness is good enough.  The viewer is now more impressed with the subject’s aura than if he is someone’s “Uncle Fred”.  But you cannot make a poorly composed or thought out image better simply by trying to turn it into art.

One form (only) of Photographic Art is to actually destroy a lot of the unnecessary high resolution detail in order to direct the eye to the subject matter of the image. Of course we are talking here about dof control gone mad …..  But that is what artists with their paintings did well before hyper-realism set out to mimic photography. How far has the wheel actually turned?

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Tom Caldwell

thayes15 Regular Member • Posts: 397
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

Agree

More to do with long exposures I suspect but I love the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron

A Sony Art lens on an A7iv might kill the  spirit

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moedius
moedius Contributing Member • Posts: 596
Re: Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

John Crowe wrote:

For ME photography is about real images printed on photographic paper to recreate the reality as much as possible. If one is going to print on canvas, and/or destroy a photographic image to make it look like a painting, then why not simply paint it in the first place.

On the opposite approach, I must say I am extremely impressed by those painters who paint images that look like photographs. That is an insane skill but I suspect I have more appreciation for the artist than the actual work.

This reminded me of my attitude towards photorealistic artists when I was in art school.

I've matured a lot in the decades since, but as a cocky 18 year old I would laugh at my fellow students who would spend such insane amounts of time and effort to reproduce reality, "if I wanted that I would just take a photo."

I can appreciate the craft and nuance behind it better now, but at the time I couldn't figure out why you would spend weeks or months effectively create a photo in ink or graphite or paint, when there's virtually no limit to what you can create when you're fully drawing from your imagination.

Also, as a fun side note for those who might not know, arguments have been made that many of the classical painting greats used optics as aids (like the camera obscura) in their painting.

https://amp.theguardian.com/theobserver/2000/feb/06/focus.news

And of course this offends some, which is ridiculous IMO.  Of course they would use the tools available without compunction, anything to elevate their craft would have been fair game.  Unfortunately I think these aids and their use fell under their secretive tricks of the trade and weren't documented aside from occasional oblique references.

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OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,688
Only the appreciation is real
1

moedius wrote:

John Crowe wrote:

For ME photography is about real images printed on photographic paper to recreate the reality as much as possible. If one is going to print on canvas, and/or destroy a photographic image to make it look like a painting, then why not simply paint it in the first place.

On the opposite approach, I must say I am extremely impressed by those painters who paint images that look like photographs. That is an insane skill but I suspect I have more appreciation for the artist than the actual work.

This reminded me of my attitude towards photorealistic artists when I was in art school.

I've matured a lot in the decades since, but as a cocky 18 year old I would laugh at my fellow students who would spend such insane amounts of time and effort to reproduce reality, "if I wanted that I would just take a photo."

I can appreciate the craft and nuance behind it better now, but at the time I couldn't figure out why you would spend weeks or months effectively create a photo in ink or graphite or paint, when there's virtually no limit to what you can create when you're fully drawing from your imagination.

Also, as a fun side note for those who might not know, arguments have been made that many of the classical painting greats used optics as aids (like the camera obscura) in their painting.

https://amp.theguardian.com/theobserver/2000/feb/06/focus.news

And of course this offends some, which is ridiculous IMO. Of course they would use the tools available without compunction, anything to elevate their craft would have been fair game. Unfortunately I think these aids and their use fell under their secretive tricks of the trade and weren't documented aside from occasional oblique references.

I agree - that perfect realism in a photograph can be as much art as the perfectly realistic painted art and as much as the badly caught photographic mistake  can move as much as Picasso.

One could uncharitably argue that Cartier-Bresson and Picasso were very good at self-marketing and that there are many unknowns whose work is as good if not better.

But find a Picasso in a junk shop and get it authenticated and suddenly one is a millionaire.

I am a peasant by heart - if you can’t eat it, sleep in it or otherwise use it productively it is really not worth anything.  Such things solely owned as “investments” are products of the “bigger fool” theory whereby the idea goes that I was a fool to pay so much for something but surely I can re-sell it later to a greater fool.  ….and so on until the investment is consumed, lost, stolen or otherwise destroyed.  The last owner of the tangible is the biggest fool.

But I digress - there is nothing wrong with appreciating art in itself it is only when it becomes an investment when the cycle starts turning.  Most of us have to be satisfied with a modicum of appreciation given by those that have viewed our work.

I think that the real object of creating an image that is not just purely a record of family, places, or things is to make it appreciated by others.  If that succeeds then it matters not whether it is a perfect reproduction, made with kit that exhibits faults, painted by an artist, or simply manipulated  to a less real state - even if that is a mimic of the effect of being painted.

Every self employed professional, even those no in the art business has to promote their skills to some degree to be successful.

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Tom Caldwell

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