Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I ask for your forgiveness in advance as it may take some time before I get to a conclusion in this blog.  My mind is sort of rambling around a few related subjects.

On a regular basis - about once a month - I voice a feeling that maybe I should give up photography and do more administration or tutorial work.  This comes from the notion that "Them that can, do.  Them that can't, teach".  This is usually because my creative mojo has deserted me or I've made fundamental mistakes like misjudging depth of field or one of a plethora of other reasons.

I'm also asked for my 'expert' opinion on various photographs.  I maintain I am not an expert but this is usually dismissed as false modesty.  The problem is that a photograph (or picture) is judged by people subjectively.  Oh yes, there are rules and guidelines that they should conform to and if they don't then they can be seen by viewers as 'off' even though they don't know why.  Judges often use this to mark down photographs in competitions where there are photographs of equal worth and it gives them an 'out' or where they are judging photographs from what should be separate categories like a landscape versus a studio portrait.

A couple of weeks ago I had a long photo session with a friend of mine (Kay Fagan) who also goes under her performance name of PostModern Sleeze.  This was my third time to photograph her and we had decided to divide the shoot between us - my shots and hers.  Kay has a lot of tattoos and piercings.  Her performances and a lot of other photos portray her as 'alternative'.  Her image, aggressive and rebellious,  belies her real character which is generous, soft and full of common sense.  I wanted to show the contrast and so took the following photos of her.

 Kay is not a ballerina but is practising.  The pose is not a ballet pose.  But I had hoped that the pose, piercings and the tattoos would convey the contrast.  The second shot was a straight pose.  I take a few shots of poses like this and will try to tweak the pose until I get what I want.  However that also can make the pose look wooden and when I ask the model to repeat the pose I don't get the original one.  So .... sometimes I have to take the best I can get.  I liked this pose but realised that her left side was a little 'bumpy'.  Sometimes I would take more shots to solve it.  Other times I would use Photoshop to fix it.  However this time I decided to leave it.  I recently had a few conversations about Photoshop and its controversial use to make 'perfect people' in magazines that gives young people (girls in particular) a false impression of what is normal.  I liked the muscular aspect of the pose so I left it as is and wanted to see what reaction it would get.

I entered these in my camera club's competition.  The judge gave the ballerina shot 44 out of 50 marks and the second shot 42 out of 50.

Before I go any further I'd like to state for the record that I always respect judges' criticisms and listen intently to their comments on other's photos as well as my own.  I may not always agree with every single judging but would never challenge a mark.  I've judge a few competitions and it is a hard job.  I've taken the photos home with me a week beforehand so that I can absorb the photos, see if I have missed something in the first viewing and see if my first choices still hold after a few days.  I also like to make notes that I can give the club for the people who have entered the competition.

His remarks on the ballerina shot was the pose was not the best and the photo did not show off her tattoos to the best and the highlight area on her back was blown out.  I was prepared to accept that more or less but was hopeful that the second shot would do better.  But it didn't.  Two marks less.  The main reason for not liking it was the pose that produced the bumpy left side.  So, I should have fixed the body.
What was more intriguing was that another photo that I thought would be dismissed as a 'bit of nonsense' scored the highest with 46 marks.

Yep, a self portrait of sorts.  I usually ask my models to pose for a shot with me at the end of the session.  Recently I have been trying to make these humorous and, more often than not, self-belittling.  We had set up two versions.  This one was the one I went with - me pretending to wipe off a smudge on her latex.

So I'm a bit confused.  No I'm not arguing that I should have come first.  I think the people who did deserved it. What compounds my dilemma is I very recently gave my 'judge's comments' on a selection of photos that a friend of mine is considering for entry into his local camera club competition.  If I am so far off the mark with my own, how can I advise another?

If I was a woman this would be time for chocolate ice cream!!!  :-D