2.03.2013

Where did I put my guidebook to relevance?


I was walking around downtown today with a Sony a57 and it's wonderful 35mm DT 1.8 lens. I felt playful and used the "toy camera" setting on the camera's menu. Then I felt so dirty....

But seriously, I think photographers in the digital, massively-shared age are mostly looking for a feeling of relevance. What does my work mean? What is my real context? What difference does my point of view really make? Stuff like that.

I was looking at these two cranes and understanding that the left crane was helping to build the counterbalance for the right crane which would then be used to build yet another high rise which, in the grand southwestern American tradition would be used for 20 years or so and then knocked down to make room for another temporary structure. None of us will really stand the test of time. So what is our relevance as photographers?

I guess we're the little bitty building blocks that are part of the temporal photographic foundation that will anchor the next generation in their incremental journey toward somewhere else.

Ed Koch, "I can explain it to you, but I can't comprehend it for you."  Love it.




16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ask yourself which of your images will stand the test of time and which ones are the fast food of our trade. It's usually easy to sort them out. It is for me anyway. Think about all the work that went through Penn's studio over the years and the images we see as "his work". Most of what we see are from his personal projects. Most of his portraits weren't assigned. Much of the still life stuff we see in his books were made as experiments. His portable studio work found publication but it was a personal project. Penn's best stuff, in my opinion, was art directed my Penn.

-salty

Anonymous said...
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Ken Caleno said...

Shame about the vignetting,wrong lenshood?

Kirk Tuck said...

Ken, you did read the part about using the Toy Camera filter, right?

Jan Jurewicz said...

In a broad sense, I don't think my pictures mean anything. They are an expression of a personal experience, how I saw something at that time. They might also remind me of a pleasant walk, the joy of holding a camera in my hand and even the post processing. If occasionaly an individual wonders how I saw what I shot then that is a bonus; but an audience will not change how I shoot or what I see. Can you tell that I am an amateur :-)

Bill Beebe said...

If vignetting is so bad, then why do we have so many ways to add it to our photographs? As much as the lens designers try so hard to design it out, Lightroom and other software tools provide so many ways to add it back in. And I've lost count of all the cameras that now provide similar in-camera capabilities.

Kirk Tuck said...

Who says it's so bad?

Anonymous said...

Any picture we make, that isn't art directed by another, is a reflection of who we are - I think.

-salty

Mark Davidson said...

I am quite certain my photos will not have any significance in the future beyond what my children or grandchildren value.
My clients see my work as a job that fulfills a requirement today but necessarily in the future.

Interestingly, the work of Julius Shulman (to name one person) has enduring interest whereas mine (architecture) will likely have none.
Not whining. I got paid, I am happy.

Michael Matthews said...

It's really a striking shot. The graduated tone right and left side appears to work as an enhancement, not a detraction.

Gene Trent said...

Kirk, you have expressed a feeling I have had to wrestle with and come to grips with wondering about relevance of all the images I have made over the years. But then recently I went to visit some relatives. I was walking through the house and spotted some photos hanging on a wall so I went over to look at them. What a pleasant surprise to see they were pictures I had taken of their kids 40 years ago. They commented they looked at those pictures every day and remembered when I had taken them. I was glad that they were pictures that were pretty good and I still have a warm feeling in my heart knowing they are hanging on their wall. Family, true, but they are doing some good.

Bill Danby said...

Lens vignetting may be bad because it’s uncontrolled. If you crop the original shot, any vignetting probably won’t be evenly distributed in the new frame. Post-process vignetting, however, can be good. Its extent, depth and the effects on highlights and colour can be controlled.

More generally: Photos mean, at least, what the photographer noticed above the "noise" of life. As with all art, the importance or relevance of the photographer's observations must be left to the viewers.

I believe that in photography (rather than in collage, for example) the meaning must be within the captured scene and that any processing (in or out of the camera) should only make that "meaning" easier to see.

Anonymous said...

Don't cut your self short. The work of Ezra Stoller and Jerry Bragstad are archived. Bragstad's work is now part of the UC Berkeley collection. Stoller is an Icon today.

http://www.esto.com/ezrastoller.aspx

-salty

Kirk Tuck said...

Probably the most important role our images serve. Thanks for sharing.

Clay Olmstead said...

That's one of the few questions that's worth asking. Trouble is that if you think too hard about the answer, you'll never be able to push the shutter release.

Jessica Sweeney said...

I think the search for relevance is endemic to life, not to be found only in photography. The only problem is that with the contemplative nature of photography we have more time and space to think about it.

It's one of those questions, ultimately, that is answered more by others than by ourselves. So I try to make work I love and enjoy and let others decide what its long term fate may be.