by Photo Exhibition on 16 May 2013 permalink
In the perfect world of digital imagery there is no room left for experiments. But the nostalgia of tinkering with a toy camera and earning kudos in social media is giving film a comeback.
Here is a perfect mix of fashion and marketing. Create a need where there was no need. The motivation is learning how to tame the process of photography and come up with random pieces of art you can show off to your friends.
For those of us seasoned photographers who have worked with chemicals in darkrooms the coming of age of digital photography was a godsend.
But for the next generation who can get fascinated with old vinyl records you can understand how they would get their kicks with Lo-fi photography. And experimenting they do. Let us review some techniques like redscale, cross processing and sprocket holes.
Using expired film with nothing much to lose, why not load the film back to front in the camera so that light will hit the emulsion from the wrong side. You get an orange/reddish hue which is truly psychedelic. Cross processing is the deliberate mismatch of films and chemicals - developing colour negatives as if they were colour slides and vice-versa. As for sprocket holes you would load some 35mm film in a 120 format camera which would expose the entire width of the film. How cute to see your image reach the edge of the film and be superimposed with the frame counts and the emulsion brand.
Add to that the vignetting effect of a no so perfect lens and you can create in the 21st century masterpieces akin to the black & white relics seen at a museum near you.
Art stemming from a different technique is not a new phenomenon. Acrylic paint was a revolution in its day. What is noteworthy about Lo-fi photography is its nostalgic bent for people born in the digital age. So where do you draw the line between art and just random snaps? I guess if the artist deliberately sought a certain effect and honed in a technique to suit a certain subject - that would be called art. Someone successfully expressed something dear to their heart and worth sharing with others.
Anything else short of that is sheer propaganda for vendors pushing their wares to a young market with disposable income (and time to spare...) At the end of the day you still have to digitize those images in order to upload them somewhere. So here comes the rub: If it wasn't for the internet and photo sharing sites Lo-fi photography would not exist. But wait - why not save on processing costs and achieve the same effect with a digital SLR camera fitted with a wacky toy lens? Digital photo retouching now has a few tricks to catch up to.
Michael Deshayes is an artist experimenting with that style.
collage and photomontage - virtual photography made real
by Photo Exhibition on 09 May 2013 permalink
Photo retouching was tedious and laborious in the darkroom. Today digital photo manipulation opens new vistas to the point where a photograph is no longer evidence in court.
Collage (from the French colle = glue) and montage (from the French monter = to mount) are genres beyond scrapbooking. Morphing is the new technique where the computer can extrapolate any number of transitions between two disparate images.
Image recognition has gone in leaps and bounds. For example facebook automatically detects a person's face on uploaded photos and invites you to tag your friends as you go.
Surveillance cameras in security systems can be programmed to detect a missing painting on the wall despite visitors walking past in the art gallery and light conditions changing from day to night hours.
Deep etching is widely used in catalogues to make an item for sale standout on a pure white background.
If you feel you have some surrealist inspiration and want to follow in the steps of Salvador Dali what can digital photo manipulation can offer you? The sky literally is the limit! Some artist take landscape shots with the express purpose of changing the lighting and the colour balance to bring a dramatic effect to an otherwise mundane shot.
Others blend together elements from different cultural landmarks to create a challenging scenery where the Statue of Liberty could be seen in the distance at the edge of a lake with snow peaked mountains in the distance and a Chinese man sitting in a sampan in the foreground.
The artistic effect of course is the dissonance between those elements which do not belong to each other. The pseudo reality of the photographic quality of the image is betrayed by the obvious mismatch of the elements present in the image. For someone who hasn't travelled, is un-educated or is a child the image would not trigger any concern.
Unfortunately this type of endeavour has not been limited to art. Some graphic artists with an axe to grind have defamed politicians by putting their public face on a rather crude and rude setting - the backlash of fame I suppose. Satirical cartoons have long been the weapon of choice of political descent - switching over to cleverly retouched photographs is still something most of us would feel uncomfortable with. Not so much because it can tactfully make the point but because suddenly we discover that we cannot even trust a photograph anymore.
Selling your photos to stock libraries
by Photo Exhibition on 02 May 2013 permalink
That would have been a brilliant idea back in 2004. Today the market is flooded with too much stock. The major players are public listed companies who try to carve for themselves what is left of the market by aggressive acquisitions.
Submitting images can take anything from 3 days to a week to get an answer. They are very picky as to what they will take in, objecting on your style or composition.
The issue of waivers is a thorny one. Any image featuring someone who could be recognized requires a formal release - so do any pictures of public landmarks, buildings, cars, planes, etc... Even streetscapes are out of bound - some corporate logo might be visible in some shop window or else... At the same time it's OK for Google to sell advertising alongside their Street View service. Clearly different rules apply if you are big enough to get away with it...
Finally, remember what you are looking for when you scour the net for cheap pictures to adorn your website. You are not looking for art as such. You are looking for the perfect background to underline your brilliant copywriting. You are looking for that deep-etched gizmo that will act like a magnet to get people to click on the link.
Finding the right image in the deluge of material on offer can be a daunting task. Libraries resort to a copious amount of tags to reference the right image. So just as much important as the resalable value of the image is the way it is catalogued.
Royalty-free microstock as it is called, gives you the ability to use the images as you see fit, in a range of media - although you normally have to pay more for a higher resolution suitable for print - as opposed to low-res for a webpage.
This is a far cry from the old days where you had to spell out which publication the image was to be used and the estimated distribution.
Microstock companies try to tie you down with a subscription plan. Source all your syndicated images from them and you can download - say 50 images a week.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the big players are diversifying into audio and video clips. To them, it is just more of the same - selling downloadable digital data - although bandwidth might be a problem. So instead of amateur photographers being lured into making a bit of income on the side, we now have websites teaching people how to offer their services to record voice-overs for podcasts! What will they think of next?
A splash of colour
by Photo Exhibition on 25 Apr 2013 permalink
Here is a composition with 3 juggling balls laid on a beanbag chair:
To radically transform the image I used a heat map effect to add colour.
Notice the 3 balls which were yellow, red and blue are now green, blue and red.
The texture of the bean bag is barely recognisable although we still see clearly the seams.
There are many image scanning techniques related with infrared photography used in the military and medical fields. But should they have all the fun?
How to Turn Your Snapshots Into Photo Art
by Photo Exhibition on 18 Apr 2013 permalink
The jury is out as to whether photographic artists are born or taught. Whether you know how to use a camera is not the issue - it has more to do with the way you use your eyes.
Photographic art sounds a bit like a misnomer. How can some automated process allow room for creativity? The answer lies in the eyes of the beholder of course plus the fact that if you give the same camera to 5 people in front of the same subject you will get 5 different takes on the same topic - each giving away the slant or bias of that individual.
So there we have it. On one hand, with autofocus, light compensating automated cameras, all opportunities for errors have been removed (so we are told...) but on the other hand since I hold the camera and decide the exact timing of when I release the shutter I create a unique picture out of all the other possibilities.
If I use this opportunity for the purpose of being creative - then it becomes art.
Photo-journalism is the realm of reporters hunting sights which are deemed to be news-worthy.
Photo-art is the realm of artists who have trained their eye to capture whatever is uncanny, out of balance, beautiful or intriguing to make it artistic. That screens out all those left over shots that were bad takes.
So what would be the standard to say a picture is artistic? A simple answer would be: whether it conveys the passion of the artist or not.
If I cannot get you excited about what I am passionate about then my images have no artistic value. As a consequence not everything you see in a modern art museum is art - insofar as the taste of a given visitor is concerned.
The final question is: if I am a budding artist and I consider myself an artist and not a tourist, then how do I sharpen my artistic abilities?
It has to do with fanning your passion into flames. How passionate are you to capture that one shot that will make the afternoon well worth it? What subject are you hunting down to death to extract that moment out of time where things seem to hold up in thin air? How committed are you to your cause to expose a sight worth sharing? How many times did you walk around a subject to capture that unusual angle which reveals a new facet to an otherwise mundane topic?
Come on - make my day. Go out with your camera and don't come back unless you have something worthwhile.
Melanie D. says:
I have seen some shocking images on photo sites where people just don't care to compose an image properly or to set off their subject from the background. I guess they'll never learn because they are not visually discerned.
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