I Could Do That

This is a brilliant video from PBS Digital Studios that examines the common reaction to at least some artwork: I could do that, or, my 4 year old could do that.

There has probably always been a cultural bias favoring things that are made that require obvious technical skill and practice (and maybe what we call “talent”). Of course, just because someone has skill, doesn’t mean that the things they make will be useful or aesthetically pleasing. Being able to draw realistically is a great skill but choosing what to draw is just if not more important.

Same with photography: knowing how to adjust the camera to get a perfectly exposed image doesn’t in any way give you the skill to point the camera in the right direction and push the shutter button at the right time.

And, in this world of social media and popularity contests, just because something is popular online doesn’t mean it’s a work of art. On the other hand, not all works of art that are put on a pedestal deserve to remain on their pedestals.

Oh boy…

[via PetaPixel]

Death Photographers of Varanasi

This is a brilliant documentary from Seeker Stories.

When Hindu Indians and Bangladeshis cremate their dead on the banks of the Ganges River, there are other rituals that take place to support the cremation: barbers shave heads and beards, firewood is brought in, and photographers document the dead bodies before they are burnt. This is a short documentary, beautifully shot, documenting the photographers and their process.


[via PetaPixel]

Tips for black and white digital photography

PetaPixel has a nice post by Jeff Meyer: 6 Black and White Photography Tips for Monochrome Enthusiasts.

#1 and #2 are things I’m doing now with my Ricoh GR:

1. Shoot RAW + JPEG

I do this now and use the JPEGs as visual templates for processing the RAWs. Occasionally I’ll use a high contrast JPEG as is because I can’t come close to what the GR is doing internally in Lightroom, like these: Needle ice.

2. Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture

This is seemingly obvious and simple but it’s not and it takes a lot of practice. This is why I have the LCD on my Ricoh GR set to either regular black and white or high contrast black and white, even if I’m just shooting a single RAW file. I want the camera to help me find that visual contrast and shapes and the LCD is quite helpful for that.

In time we can learn to see it on our own but early on it’s useful to set the camera up to help.

The other advice in the post is useful as well. It’s a short read, well worth taking the time for.

Sharing photography online (or not)

Things I Learned After My Photo Hit #1 on Reddit, and Why I Probably Shouldn’t Have Posted It

Kris J B posted an interesting story at PetaPixel about the balance between posting images online freely and not posting for fear of theft. The comment thread is worth looking at as well as the detailed story.

I had a similar experience with this image which I described here.

In the end, I continue to post images to Flickr and post embed of them here, as well as allow my contacts on Flickr to embed my images elsewhere. Have I been ripped off? Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely. Will it stop me from posting images online? No.

The making of Watermark

I’ve posted on Edward Burtynsky before. He’s one of the finest aerial photographers around and his industrial landscapes are incredible as is all of his other work.

This video is on the making of a new documentary film about water in all of its forms called Watermark. The film is produced and directed by Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky.

The film brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use.

I first read about this film on PetaPixel where Gannon Burgett posted an excellent overview of it.

Alain Laboile’s family

I first saw photographer Alain Laboile’s remarkable images of his family on PetaPixel: Father Captures Carefree Childhood at its best in Heartwarming B&W Photo Series and PetaPixel chose just the right images (and words) to illustrate what is so great about Alain’s collection.

What’s so great about these images? They capture not only the spirit of childhood but also more nuanced personalities of the children and feeling of place that’s so difficult to capture in still photography. Many of these images could have easily been part of the Family of Man exhibit, they’re every bit as good as W. Eugene Smith’s famous image of two children walking out of a tunnel of foliage into light.

The entire series is here: Alain Laboile Photographies: La famille and it’s well worth taking the time to look through the entire series.

There is no mistaking that Alain is a remarkable photographer who has produced a clear channel into the feeling of what it’s like to be in his family. For still photographs to do this is nothing short of amazing.