Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)

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  • My dear friends,
    I really don't know if this is the right place to post this or not - nor I am that comfortable in presenting something about me in a public forum - but since you're the only photographic family I have I really can't share this with anyone else. And since I do value your opinions and sharing is the key around, here it goes.
    I've been published this month on a good Czech magazine called PhotoArt. I am not here for the usual "congratulations" because, honestly, it was really not a big deal. It's good to be published, but since I am no professional photographer no real income come from that. It only serves the purpose of boosting your ego a little.
    But what I really wanted to share with you is the insightful article that Professor Ludvík Baran, a very famous emeritae lecturer of Czech Photo and Film Academy (FAMU) wrote to go along with my photos. The link to the pages are here - 30-31, 32-33 and 34-35 - just to see some of the references he is talking about.

    <b>The picture as social control</b>
    They used to call it the "hidden camera". It was supposed to reveal moments in unexpected situations hidden from the sight of others. Such pictures had the marks of accidentalness, decomposition and impersonal framing. A fleeting view when the picture disappeared as fast as it appeared. Today images from automatic and monitoring cameras in boxes, jewellery stores, supermarkets, banks, in the street, at crossings, in hotels and various institutions have an impersonal share in the emergence of pictures. The detached character and chance nature of the shots has even become a style of shooting in the contemporary period. It is no longer social control of the behaviour of a person in an unguarded moment, without regard for formal “aesthetics”. This style observes the space in which something is expected to happen passively, but “interestedly”. It impersonally serves a purpose and acquires certain special “non-forms”. The observer must himself discover the main motif in the ready image, which by selection and change of situation shifts attention to the topical subject which is the basis of the image. The entryway into the underground captures a hall with a stairway, lifts and a wet plane reflecting daylight and artificial lighting. The shot is diagonal and captures the widest possible space. The passengers calmly walk along, monitored by a dead and quasi-impassive eye of the camera. Nothing unusual is happening; the picture has a kind of formal composition with an intersection of lines and slightly ironically presents the “sloping surface” on which we are moving.
    The Portuguese photographer Luis Afonso apparently carelessly plays with a camera in front of a billing placard. The mother holding her child is blurred, while the model with the styled hair, in a corset, looking on askance, disdainfully asks us: “What do you say to that?”. This is a shot without correction or control, which could be made with a mobile phone. Despite the pictorial issues, the picture is lucid and imparts information on the moment of the gesture of the half-open mouth like communication between the inanimate and animate.
    The shot of people sitting on a bench, framed between railings, looks quite random and paltry, but has a lighting mood and refined composition. It is more lucid than the contact of the mother with the model in the corset. The backrests of the benches on which the man and woman sit back-to-back, both resting their heads on the left hand, divide the picture in half. The averted views express complete indolence, unfamiliarity. They have no contact – a simple street scene of boredom, dejection, empty time when nothing is happening or expected. The formal faults such as the closeness of the framing, colour mistuning and white painted construction of the bench slightly mask the pictorial accomplishments. Both figures wear jeans and have no bags, she is curly-haired, he has a shaven head: contrast and conformity of situation. They are close, but indifference makes them far from one another. The scene is actually of “social control”, characterising alienation and neutralisation of human relations.
    Afonso provokes with another shot showing the alienation of human relations in the city traffic. Three black-and-white figures in the windows of a bus are close to one another, sitting in dull silence, resigned to the situation which plays out daily like a quiet, sad theatre play. It is also almost a chance “control” picture of social behaviour in voluntary isolation. This small set of an apparently mediocre photographic level, demonstrates an original poetry in various levels of legible significance.
    Afonso has derived something general from specific situations. His acumen cannot be denied even in the shot of the street ball game. Here, however, the linking of elements is formal. The live full shadows of the boys in the asphalt surface are here in contrast with the inanimate outline of the lying figure. The aspect of the picture with the boys at the top makes the game the main motif. If we turn the picture upside-down, the outline of the figure on the ground becomes a warning against possible injury. A warning title would contribute to this. In reality it is an advertising announcement with a web address. Having the whole heads of the boys wouldn’t be bad. The basis is free and the isolation of the figure gives too much space and interrupts the contact of the three motifs.
    Afonso’s fifth shot with the cyclist driving under the shower of an artificial waterfall is conventional, descriptive and lacks expression. What’s hidden behind the first plane? ¬The formal composition of lines, boards, water flows and surfaces do not say much about enjoyment of free time. They describe a manner of recreation without any accent or dynamism. If the movement was blurred, it would help the colour mood.
    Pictorial studies of “social behaviour” thus show the positive and negative sides of daily order, which varies in everything, in the city and the open, and can be a critical and ironic view of contemporary human collectiveness. “Social control” can become a program and may infer poetry with an apparently careless picture which acquires a new expression through its detachment. It is a method of reportage with a predominantly critical objective.
    <i> by Ludvík Baran</i>

    Comments welcome. :)
    Stay safe, l.
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    Hi Luis, did he hit it on the nose as far as what you are trying to achieve or point at in your pictures? If so, it's pretty cool. But if not, maybe he is talking about a genre (which could explain that he does not question your stance, or tries to see where you are coming from to come up with shots like this) and conveniently make your pictures say what that genre, that type of photography usually speaks about. I actually think, so IMO, you did not shoot from the hip, but composed and was interested in graphism as well in your shots.

    One example: deriving something general from specific situations.... The contrary is true too.

  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    Hi Luis

    Firstly congratulations on being published. It seems to me that this guy is interpreting your pictures to fit his supposition and academic opinion. It does not seem that your opinion was sought, or that your 'reasoning' for the pictures was considered. Only you know if his conjecture fits your motivation for these shots. To me, it seems a clinical, cold interpretation. To me art and inspiration trancend rigid opinion. TO me the intent in the photographer is important, thus IMO the importance of notes in TE. But even without this, a work of art, photography or overwise, should allow each person to find his/her own interpretation and enjoyment from and of it. It's a poor world when 'experts' dictate what is meant by a photograph, poem or literature. I though we had learnt that lesson from the abhorance that was 'social realism'. The reason you have so many friends on TE is because of the quality of your images, and the learning we gain through them. I'd say we are the experts!
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    Hi Luís,

    I really congratulate you for this publishing, and I don't think it's a negative review at all.

    For one, I think it's very good that someone who obviously knows something about photography took the time to look at your pictures, select them, comment on them one by one. The fact that he did not praise you in every single line only makes the lines where he <i>did</i> praise you more relevant and sincere.

    Of course his reading of your photography is not totally fair, since he doesn't know your entire collection, or doesn't comment on all of it; and he doesn't know what you're trying to do with your pictures, he can only guess. That's inevitable. <i>But</i> it's an honest, profound and thought-out critique, and therefore a useful one - as long as it doesn't pretend to be absolute.

    I like his generic comments on "photography as social control" and the way he explains it. It doesn't fit your style completely, he just used some of your pictures to illustrate his point, but nevertheless it's an interesting reading.

    My congratulations both to you and to Prof. Ludvik Baran!
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    Thanks to all of you who replied by now. At this point, I really have to say that I don't consider his review negative at all. I loved to read what he wrote and my title was more a joke than a real question. And I quite agree with him... I still don't know why they chosen my biker photo. It's really not that good. It was more a filler at the time to complete the batch of 20 submitted photos than a real photo. :) Concerning your thoughts about what I wanted to say with those pictures I took, well..., I really don't know. They are just fragments of my every day, situations that touched me in some way. I don't know if I want to say something with them other than what's in the pictures and the social urban situation they portrait.
    And relax, I will not give up of photographing in the public space, even knowing that my photos are not that good. For that, I would have to put more time, effort and passion in that and time is a thing I don't have right now in my life. There are other things more important for me - family for example - and that's not the way how I am supposed to earn my living. :)
    Now, this probably will have one side effect though. I will try to pay more attention to landscape photography, an area where I may be much productive in terms of quality.
    Thanks once again. Keep those comments coming. I will love to see some discussion coming out of this. Stay safe, l.
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    I do not see anything negative in all this. Just the fact that someone took the time to publish your work is already a very positive thing. Otherwise, nobody would care about a mediocre photographer. There millions of them all around the world. But only less than a handful get their work in the pages of a magazine. So my friend, keep doing what you know well and the way you thing is right and good. We all love your photographs.
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    yes, Luis, I understood it was a positive experience, but it's true that one turn of your sentence made us feel like something hit you hard in what he wrote. That is until we read it.

    One thing I did not understand. "social control". I think this mean situations where people self-censor the self to fit in, to be part of a crowd, a public environment, not on the part of the P. who shoots. How can one control socially, shooting candidly? maybe the simple fact of projecting a controlled environment?
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    In my country we would call this guy a dick. I look at your pictures and the last thing I really care about when I'm looking at a picture in a magazine is the "formal composition of lines" and other emotionally-detached recognition. I instead look at a photograph with my heart, it it grabs me with that then its good. If it doesn't then I simply don't care to look at it for its "formal techniques". The good news is he represents 1/4,000,000,000 of the population and the rest of us use our hearts.

    Feel proud that someone as high up took the time to use you as a pedestal to stand on but be assured that nobody is listening to his boring rant and he will soon move on and you once again place your photography upon that pedestal for others to enjoy as they obviously did before.

  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    it it grabs me with that then its good

    Good enough, Mel, but that sounds a bit of a philistine opinion. Why study painting, read about movies, music etc.... sure you can go in life digging what's good, ad not spent one second on what is may be good, but ask a little bit of education about it. I find when it comes to photography, I have come to enjoy much more what it's all about by doing copious reading. Photography definitely goes beyond looking at a photo, just like it goes beyond merely taking (nice) pictures.

    Maybe I extended on what you meant. But even considering this guy went a bit on its own tangent in his text, not everything is dickish, and I am sure Luis may look at what he does with a different light. It is difficult for amateurs like us to know what we are really saying thru our shots (less it's about taking a nice pix, and one,, and one....), anytime someone gives us an angle on it, even if we find it's not totally accurate, is a good thing. makes us reflect, amd given how little time it takes to click a shutter, there is a lot of extraneous reflection left in the craft of photography as we pursue it.
  • Re: Mediocre photography or visual poetry? :)
    Wow, this guy takes the fun out of photography. He is a little too intellectual for my taste, but the fact you were published and that this guy publicly critiqued your photos is cool. Honestly, I couldn't understand half of what he was saying but in my opinion he was over thinking your photos. Like Mel said, he doesn’t seem to use his heart at all in his critiques. I’m glad to hear you will be devoting more time to landscapes though ;)