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02-26-2015, 05:38 PM   #1
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At the Temple at Delphi
Lens: SMC Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8 Camera: Pentax K-50 Photo Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA ISO: 400 Shutter Speed: 1/500s Aperture: F8 

I'm trying to get a good idea of what makes for an artful image in street photography -- is it the "moment" or "event" captured, or is it the presentation of that moment through the eye of the photographer? It is probably some of both -- but what makes good street photography? And what about monochrome vs. colo(u)r?

At any rate, here is an image where I am wondering two things: is there anything artful about the moment? and, second, have I gone too far in contrast and clarity?

Exposure settings and WB in LR
Detail Extraction and BW conversion in NIK CEP

Many thanks for your consideration.


Last edited by oculus; 03-25-2015 at 12:58 AM.
02-27-2015, 08:55 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by oculus Quote
is there anything artful about the moment?

"The Pythoness will see you now."



One of my diagnostics for "art" begins with the counterfactual; i.e. would we understand a story (whether written or pictorial) if any of its elements were rearranged and/or deleted? For myself, this picture would be very different without 1.) the prosperous-looking white couple in the crosswalk; 2.) the "urban" black man, looking out of the frame; and finally, 3.) the enigmatic gesture your subject is making with her free hand, which seems so at odds with her facial expression. The fact that those elements are arranged in a well-defined spatial relationship, with the subject at the apex of the triangle, definitely puts this capture in the "art" category for me. Without a Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky to narrate her "story," we're left with only guesses and intuitions about the subject's character and understanding of herself, but there are enough visual clues to convey the sense that there is something revelatory at work here.
02-27-2015, 10:42 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
"The Pythoness will see you now."
That helps a lot, thank you.
02-27-2015, 06:04 PM   #4
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If the man was right about "The proper study of Mankind is Man," you street shooters are on the side of the angels, at the very least.



Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.


02-27-2015, 10:06 PM   #5
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everything works for me, except those damn plastic bags!
02-28-2015, 03:34 AM   #6
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I think one of the difficulties for me is suffering an ambiguity of meaning, that is, allowing the possibility of a misinterpretation of the "event" (synchronically) captured, as a supposed "fact" or "snapshot" of a moment whose "veracity" is implicitly detailed in a picture. The void, it seems, which leads to an opening in meaning is on the other side of the picture, in the viewer. The engagement with subject seems to demand something of the viewer, is more "meaningful" for the viewer (who might spend more than a couple of moments in contemplation of an image) than the brief point in time (a 1/500 of a second) of the subject's historical reality, a forgotten moment as soon the bus door closes. I don't know. I think the bags look weird, too.
02-28-2015, 08:34 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by oculus Quote
suffering an ambiguity of meaning, that is, allowing the possibility of a misinterpretation of the "event"

Ha, definitely a tension between the Apollonian eye and a Buber-esque "I/Thou" relationship, no? (If you've not already, check out James Agee/Walker Evans' Now Let Us Praise Famous Men--you'll see you're not alone!) To be honest, I've always been ambivalent about "street shooting" for that reason--too often it devolves into the equivalent of a carny show--but (and it's a big but!) some photographers are able to convey a sort of moral scaffolding--an ethical rule-of-thirds?--that reveals their humanity as much as that of their subjects'. That of course is where the magic happens, but unfortunately the market for agape is kinda soft these days.


02-28-2015, 09:51 AM   #8
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For the question of art in photography, I always use F Scott Fitzgerald's definition of art in literature: "Something pulled by the individual out of life and only partly with the aid of models in other literatures."

In this shot, for me it's the plastic bags that make it. One of the bags seems to say "Leather Wear." So are we seeing an individual's secret life momentarily revealed in public?

I'm afraid that, for me, you have overdone the detail recovery slightly. I know it's a fashionable look, but as above: ". . . only partly with the aid of models in other literatures."

02-28-2015, 03:07 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
One of my diagnostics for "art" begins with the counterfactual; i.e. would we understand a story (whether written or pictorial) if any of its elements were rearranged and/or deleted? For myself, this picture would be very different without 1.) the prosperous-looking white couple in the crosswalk; 2.) the "urban" black man, looking out of the frame; and finally, 3.) the enigmatic gesture your subject is making with her free hand, which seems so at odds with her facial expression. The fact that those elements are arranged in a well-defined spatial relationship, with the subject at the apex of the triangle, definitely puts this capture in the "art" category for me. Without a Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky to narrate her "story," we're left with only guesses and intuitions about the subject's character and understanding of herself, but there are enough visual clues to convey the sense that there is something revelatory at work here.
QuoteOriginally posted by oculus Quote
I think one of the difficulties for me is suffering an ambiguity of meaning, that is, allowing the possibility of a misinterpretation of the "event" (synchronically) captured, as a supposed "fact" or "snapshot" of a moment whose "veracity" is implicitly detailed in a picture. The void, it seems, which leads to an opening in meaning is on the other side of the picture, in the viewer. The engagement with subject seems to demand something of the viewer, is more "meaningful" for the viewer (who might spend more than a couple of moments in contemplation of an image) than the brief point in time (a 1/500 of a second) of the subject's historical reality, a forgotten moment as soon the bus door closes. I don't know. I think the bags look weird, too.
QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
Ha, definitely a tension between the Apollonian eye and a Buber-esque "I/Thou" relationship, no? (If you've not already, check out James Agee/Walker Evans' Now Let Us Praise Famous Men--you'll see you're not alone!) To be honest, I've always been ambivalent about "street shooting" for that reason--too often it devolves into the equivalent of a carny show--but (and it's a big but!) some photographers are able to convey a sort of moral scaffolding--an ethical rule-of-thirds?--that reveals their humanity as much as that of their subjects'. That of course is where the magic happens, but unfortunately the market for agape is kinda soft these days.
Good grief, there was me thinking this quite nice street image and was just going to say that...

You and the OP are getting a bit too "highbrow" for me to keep up.
02-28-2015, 04:18 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
You and the OP are getting a bit too "highbrow" for me to keep up.
You took the words right out of my mouth.
02-28-2015, 06:54 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
You and the OP are getting a bit too "highbrow"

Ha, at least the OP can pull the rabbit out of the hat...I'm afraid I don't have the skills to even aspire to this sort of photography, but with the possible exception perhaps of the very best landscape photography, it's the only sort I think that aspires to art. It makes me happy to see y'all doing the Lord's work. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to shoot more twigs and berries. (Wait, that didn't come out right...)
03-01-2015, 01:25 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rayallen Quote
You took the words right out of my mouth.
Glad it's not just me then...

Welcome to my simple world.
03-01-2015, 06:53 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
I'm afraid that, for me, you have overdone the detail recovery slightly. I know it's a fashionable look, but as above: ". . . only partly with the aid of models in other literatures."
I think I agree with you, about the detail recovery. As the Greeks said, μηδὲν ἄγαν or "not too much" i.e. nothing in excess!

QuoteQuote:
To be honest, I've always been ambivalent about "street shooting" for that reason--too often it devolves into the equivalent of a carny show
I hear you about the carny show. Street photography can too often devolve into -- "hey, look at this weird person I saw on the streets! I have painted his beard with clarity" almost like taking pictures on a safari or at the zoo. This is partly what lead to my original question about what makes street photography "artful" as opposed to being merely voyeuristic or exploitative. I enjoy the process, capturing life in the city -- but I also want to know myself and why I am doing what I am doing.
03-01-2015, 07:37 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by oculus Quote
I enjoy the process, capturing life in the city -- but I also want to know myself and why I am doing what I am doing.

Ha, that worked out so well for Oedipus.



Don't get me wrong: while the relationship between photographer and subject can be ethically fraught, there are warrants--both societal and artistic--for playing that kind of karmic Russian Roulette you allude to. It's good to question both Romantic grandiloquence (if we really are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, I demand a recount) or Modernism's will-to-power (blessed rage for order notwithstanding, pasty-faced Ramon)--but I think simply being humane, a citizen of that City you seek to chronicle, will keep your soul intact. (Besides, Kant didn't have to pay the light bill...)
03-01-2015, 11:05 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
Don't get me wrong: while the relationship between photographer and subject can be ethically fraught, there are warrants--both societal and artistic--for playing that kind of karmic Russian Roulette you allude to. It's good to question both Romantic grandiloquence (if we really are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, I demand a recount) or Modernism's will-to-power (blessed rage for order notwithstanding, pasty-faced Ramon)--but I think simply being humane, a citizen of that City you seek to chronicle, will keep your soul intact. (Besides, Kant didn't have to pay the light bill...)
Just thought I'll mention it... that your still doing this "highbrow" stuff.
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