Saturday, January 07, 2012

Photo of a tiny café

This is a photo I took today, a cold January day in Northern England.
It's from an otherwise nice department store, but apparently they have moved the café to the top floor and made it nicer, and reduced the ground floor "café" to just two small, dingy tables stashed away in a dingy corner next to the bakery counter. It really was a dismal little space right there. (Really, this photo shows the whole of the place except a couple of seats by the window sill on the left.)

(Click for enlargement to see textures.)

And by the way, now that phones, not the least iPhones, have cameras rivaling dedicated pocket cameras, they are good for candid photography. The streets today are full of people holding and fiddling with their phone. You do the same, but you just tilt it a bit back and take a photo. If you are not (like people do) obviously "pointing" the phone camera "at" anything or anybody, you don't stand out as photographing. There was a woman standing a foot from me looking over the shoulder at the shelves, me and my camera-phone in full view for her, she didn't even notice I was taking a picture. People with phones are invisible. 

This photo was taken on a dull day, indoors in bad mixed lighting, hand-held and in an awkward position, but it's well exposed and sharp. (Once again I made the photo dark for drama, the original photo is perfectly exposed.) 

Oh, another detail... literally. To show off the texture I like here (maybe I'll make a print of it), I made this crop. Do click to enlarge.
Our culture is soooo focused on *people* that everything has to be about them. But the artist often wants to go beyond that and capture universalities. Like The Human Condition or whatever.
Whether he is successful or not is another thing, because it's a lofty goal, and certainly a very different one than if one wants to capture nice photos of nice, specific people.

See, with the structure here, it helps it getting abstract. I love abstract art and thought. It's not about "what's aunt Edna's deal", it's about "what's people's deal".  In other words, what is the human condition? What are we? Why? How? Art can't solve these deep issues of course, but it can stimulate thought and reflection.

Though I find people will supply all the necessary thoughts and messages themselves no matter what the artist does, so I tend to focus on my idea of aesthetics. I feel aesthetics have an uplifting effect, independent of messages and other functions. 


dave_at_efi said...

I looked at the dark original size posted, and it look pretty good. But when I clicked on it, then clicked again to get full size, it doesn't look so good. Look at the back of the hand of the left figure. Look at the faces. The texturing is coarse.

Then I scrolled down to the original color photo. Wow! That looks really good. And at all magnifications. I think I could almost read covers of the purchases in the basket. Very, very impressive for a phone camera.

While I like the blurring of the background on the dark image, the most important central items, i.e., the faces, really suffered in post-processing on the iPad.

What would be more interesting might be to leave the faces and hand in color, maybe slightly muted from the original. S'OK to coarsen the coffee cup texture, but not the faces or hands.

Dave, non-photographer, non-Photoshopist

Laurie said...

I guess I just have a privacy issue, taking pictures of strangers and feeling the licence to put them up on the web. Am I getting paranoid in my old age, or is there an ethical question involved? i.e. how *easy* it is to take photos of people now on the iPhones, and people flashing all kinds of photos on the web without having asked any kind of permission.


Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Hmmm, I guess my answer to both your questions is: "it is art". It is not done to show these people either at the best or at their worst, it's not done to show them at all. It's A PICTURE.

It's a statement about all humanity, not two specific people.

And I love the very sharp, rough, texture, it was done very deliberately.

Difference between journalism and art if you will.

Irv Thomas said...

Your answer is perfect, Eolake . . . as is the ultimate treatment you gave the photo.

As far as I'm concerned the increasing hang-ups of folks over their 'god-given privacy' is nothing more than a paranoid level of Personal Significance.

For their own peace of mind, they should just think about this, and 'come down to size'.

Anonymous said...

The regular photo is good, the other ones are way overdone. They scream "hey, I'm art"!

Yvonne said...

Actually.. I really like it.... It has a great sense of atmosphere ...the background texturing hone the focus of the viewer to the relationship between the two women... They become the importance of the composition, and not the many extraneous background details, or the printed lettering on the purchases in the baskets.
The softening of the facial features of the women makes them and their relationship more anonymous, and more interesting...they could be anyone...they could be us... We identify and relate to them as fellow human beings, without the need to know who they are, and what's in their shopping basket.
But, this is the difference between a nice wee photo taken on a camera phone, and what you then do with it ... It's the difference between a standard photo and Art. Let's face it.. Most camera phones have got excellent resolution these days... But high resolution doesn't mean that we can all go out and take great photos...there is more to a good photograph than high resolution.
On the question of " privacy ", I have no problems with this at all. Most of the most important and iconic Art Photographs and Newsreel footage of the 20th Century did not have written permission to be taken. We have all been allowed access to see our fellow human beings in moments of tenderness, grief, love, war, happiness, destitution and hunger...captured moments of the human condition which educate us and add to our understanding the lives of humanity.
If we became really concerned about the whole " Privacy " thing, then we would all stay in our houses with the door locked...we are captured daily on a myriad of CCTV footage, in streets, shops... We accept that... But, if we do go down that route, then there would be no news footage or documentaries on our TVs, or news footage or images on the Internet either. Artists like myself, would have trouble painting in case someone decided ... that's me in the painting... The world would fast become a world with only
" controlled " images, and I think that would inevitably result in a type of censorship which would be far more dangerous.
Anyway... I like the re-working of the photo... It's exploring the subject... And sparking controversy.. Which means is it forcing us to ask questions... And that's what Art should do... !!!

Laurie said...

Thank you Yvonne, well said.
I got it.


Anonymous said...

I like the processed one a great deal. Alas, I know that I wouldn't have seen the possibilities presented by the original color photograph.

The concern over privacy .. There was a American photographer who worked in New York (I believe) in the 1935-1940 era taking candid photographs of people on subway. Direct frontal shots. I feel that this was an intrusion. This picture doesn't seem as intrusive... A complex issue.

Your processing made a insignificant picture into a significant one and deserves the highest pra ise.

Laurie said...

thank you for saying it is a complex issue, I feel this too.

I also got that it's the manner the picture was worked on and expressed that says "art" or "voyeurism."

I am always interested in a conversation that goes deeper than technicalities and also touches upon the definition of art and its purpose. I personally don't see beauty in sheer genius of technicality without its expression in some sense connecting to The Good, to an intelligibility relating somehow to Love, to humanity. I know this all sounds vague, but there it is.
I know there are infinitely many
definitions of art.

I also try to understand and appreciate what doesn't appeal to me personally. I think this is one great purpose of art, to break us out of personal perspective into, as Eolake said, the Universal.


Laurie said...

added thought: to me, a thing doesn't have to have a purpose to be beautiful, art doesn't have to have a purpose to be beautiful. But in my mind it does have to have purposiveness to be beautiful.

"purposiveness without a purpose"

A thing without purposiveness is random and not yet Beauty.

in the highest sense related to the Good.


Anonymous said...

I know that I wouldn't have seen the possibilities presented by the original color photograph.

You have to be a pretentious, hack, wannabe artist to see or invent those possibilities. I can see that this blog is like so many others - the dissenting voices have been forced out, and the regulars are Eolake's cheerleading squad. They pronounce as brilliant anything he says or does. Sad. Just sad.

Laurie said...

as Eolake knows, I'm not on his or anyone's *cheerleading squad.*
He and I have butted heads many times, yet he still gives space to my thoughts. To yours as well. Ironically, your persisting presence here puts you, in a sense, on his "cheerleading squad" as well. You're drawn to him, in ways even that I'm not! :) On this particular thread, there were deeper questions raised about art, respond with substance to these. Why hack away unintelligently? Unless that is your *purpose.* In that case hack away, but you only keep yourself effective as a shadow.

What do you consider true art? What would your definition be?
Your thought counts too.


Anonymous said...

as Eolake knows, I'm not on his or anyone's *cheerleading squad.*

You certainly appear to be.

He and I have butted heads many times

When would that be?

your persisting presence here puts you, in a sense, on his "cheerleading squad" as well.

No, it doesn't. What puts someone on his cheerleading squad is consistently agreeing with him, as most here do. Someone could be on his cheerleading squad even if they only posted once or twice a year, if they were mindlessly agreeing with him. Read through the comments on any thread and you'll find that those whose opinions echo his own are supported, while any dissenting opinion is dismissed. This is common to all blogs, so it's not like he's any worse than anyone else.

On this particular thread, there were deeper questions raised about art, respond with substance to these.

I've read all the comments and can't see where these deeper questions were raised. All I see are people who, like Eolake, are very lazy and only interested in superficialities. What, I wonder, is the point in covering the same old ground, adding nothing new?

What do you consider true art? What would your definition be?

To be true art - and it doesn't have to be something I like - must have something to say. This has nothing to say, either in its original or processed form. It adds nothing. It's a particularly bland retread. Bland is the key word to describe this photograph. Adding the processing to it doesn't transform it into art, either. If something is unoriginal, shallow, and blah it will remain so no matter what you might do with it in Photoshop.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"Purposiveness" was a new word to me. It's clearly derived from Purpose, but I can see how you can abstract that away from something have a *specific* purpose. Mmm. Anyway, I *think* I get what you're getting at.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I think this is one great purpose of art, to break us out of personal perspective into, as Eolake said, the Universal.

Yes. I have long felt that the idea that art does or should express the artists' personal interests or personality is off.
If it does, it's accidental to the value of the artwork, and if it *only* does that, the value is severely limited.

Thanks, guys.

Anon, If I once have done you wrong personally, tell me about it so I can get a chance to apologize and make restitution.

Yvonne said...

Just dropped back into the discussion... Lots of good points there... Yes... Privacy is a complex issue. And like Lauries idea of exploring people's concepts of what Art is or means to them... Nice one Laurie... :-)
But why so personal anon...? The nice thing about a blog is that we can all have a discussion and exchange our thoughts on a subject... We are allowed to disagree with each other, discuss our reasons, hear others viewpoints and then re-adjust our own opinions as we learn new points from others. We are all consenting adults... We are allowed...!!!
There are no conspiracies..!!
We are just a bundle of adults online who enjoy a discussion. I have certainly enjoyed and learnt from all of the really good points made by everyone.
Lighten up anon...... :-)

Russ said...

Wow, three distinct subjects going on in one comment thread... very impressive!

1.) I like the treatment as well. I think the texture vignetting is well done in that it gives more focus on the subjects. Additionally, I think the white textures at the top make it seem like there is snow on the windows. The blue tone also adds to a sense of coolness which match well with the texture and the subjects wearing coats. I think this could of also worked well as a B&W high key image with white boarder vignetting.

2.) On the subject of privacy there is a huge divide between what is legal and what is ethical. In the U.S. no photographer would even consider photographing small children (not related to them) in a park unless they wanted to be accosted by their parents. I'm of the opinion that if I'm shooting someone (an adult) in public and they don't know I'm shooting them, then what's the harm? If I post the image to a photography website and I don't use their name, what's the big deal?

3.) What is art? At the simplest level, I think it comes down to the intent of the artist. It's art because the artist says it is and it should be viewed as such. Duchamp's use of a men's urinal which he entitled Fountain is a good example. Now good art versus bad art is a completely different discussion! ;-)

Laurie said...

Thanks Russ, for running a line of clarity through the thread.

My partner Jeff's dad, out West, is making a lot of money selling his art (he makes wall hangings of bronze wildlife sculptures, etc.).
His definition of art: Art is whatever you can get away with.
It's pretty cynical, but many, many people love his art and no matter how much he hikes his prices, they pay it. So, is he more a salesman, or an artist?

I remember living out in Taos, New Mexico and coming upon a shop window of local's art. It was terrible, hokey Southwestern scenes, blanketed Pueblo women, pastels, it was cheap art. But at the time I was in a particularly
clear state of mind (mega doses of meditation) and a clarity ran through absolutely everything I saw, and a beauty, even that horrible art, and I found this quite curious. If someone's in love, their (to others) grossly unattractive partner is beautiful.

But art isn't just about beauty, is it.