Sunday, July 05, 2015

Pretty Picture Syndrome / Meaningful Picture Syndrome

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Oh boy. I'm thinking about this art stuff again. This time, contemplating the tech of photography and how it coexists with the art of photography.

In my mind, there are two, overall and general, types of photographers: Those who place most of their emphasis on the technical side of photography and those who place greater emphasis on photography's artistic possibilities. Here's how I define the two:

1. Tech-driven shooters, for the most part, strive to give exceptional and memorable form to outer realities via gear and technique. I call that "Pretty Picture Syndrome." (PPS)

2. Artistically-minded shooters strive to give exceptional and memorable form to inner realities. Often, but not always of course, without calling on high-end gear and techniques to do so.  I call this one "Meaningful Picture Syndrome." (MPS)

(Note: I'm not using the word, "syndrome," to infer some sort of mental case disease or condition as components of those definitions. Course, if the crazy shoes fit then, by all means, go ahead and wear them. You won't be alone.)

Some photographers, of course, can combine PPS and MPS in terrific ways. Those photographers are are in less abundance in today's world abundantly filled with photographers.  They've always been rarer, if truth be known.

Neither types of shooters (nor their approaches to photography) are inherently right or wrong. (Or represent a mental disorder, as mentioned.) They're simply different. Both types of photographers can and do create art, intentionally or otherwise.  Leastwise, photos that viewers might perceive as art. (But what do they know?) The big difference between the two is mostly where and how each searches for image possibilities, i.e., where and what to point their cameras at, coupled with how they will record/capture what their cameras are pointed at.

Photographers aren't exclusively of one type or the other. Photography is equal parts science and art, after all -- the science of photography representing the yin to the art of photography's yang --  but I do believe many photographers, perhaps most, choose, whether consciously or not, to place greater emphasis on one of those yin/yang elements over the other.

These days, as many camera and gear manufacturers and sellers are happy to report, it appears the majority of photographers have more interests in producing memorable work via the science and tech of photography (making pretty pictures via gear and technique) rather than focusing on photography's artistic possibilities, i.e., making meaningful pictures with or without the added help of higher-end creative tools and processes. Again, nothing necessarily wrong with either approach or their results. They both can and often do produce awesome photos.

There are, of course, external influences which might mitigate a photographer's abilities to lean one way or the other. Often, those external influences are called customers or clients. A wedding photographer, for example, probably won't win much favor with his or her customers/clients if every wedding shot they capture looks a bit like abstract art.  A few shots of that sort might put smiles on the faces of those customers but probably not so if all the wedding shots are snapped that way  producing those sorts of results.

I think it might be not be a bad idea for photographers to do a bit of self-assessing regarding this notion of PPS and MPS. I've tried doing that for me by evaluating my own photography from these two perspectives. I've come to the conclusion, non-scientifically of course, that I'm somewhere around 70% a PPS shooter and 30% and MPS guy.  I've also come to the conclusion that those numbers don't represent an optimum ratio for myself or anyone else. 

It seems to me the ideal ratio -- much the way photography itself is 50/50 science and art -- is a 50/50 emphasis on both tech and art. In other words, whatever you might be photographing deserves fairly equal treatment in terms of your technical approach-- choice of camera, lens, exposure, and more, coupled with your nods to art and aesthetics, meaning and emotion and that stuff-- e.g., composition, shooting angles, (again) exposure, emphasis and non-emphasis on selective elements within the frame, and more. That's not to say a mostly technical shooter's work is void of aesthetics and meaning but, generally, one quick glance at almost any photo will tell you which emphasis (gear and technique versus meaning and emotion) was most important to the photographer who snapped it. 

The pretty girl in the side-by-side same-frame images at the top is Sunny. I don't often apply composite elements to my photos mostly because I suck at it, not having much in the way of skills in doing so. But, the background at the studio where I snapped the image seemed to beg for a bit of something extra-- something a touch more artsy and, perhaps, aesthetically pleasing, while possssibly generating slightly more emotional content... not that Sunny's form, her outer reality that is,  isn't aesthetically pleasing all on its own if you get my drift. 

1 comment:

Winston Cooper said...

Aye me Bucko..your one reference to a third party, client or customer, and if your a pro or a hobbyist is at the heart of this excellent blog observation!!!!

However, IMHO, beyond that it is what your shooting. We here are of course talking "Pretty Girls" and their talent. There are some models, Liz Ashley comes to mind, whom we could shoot with a pin hole camera made of stone on lightning bug shellac film from the early middle ages in a deer hide tent and still produce art, such is her and others natural genius, no matter our own artistic bent or tech abilities.