Audience: a broad term, of course. Evokes all kinds of responses. Since this is a photoblog I am referencing the audience that sees our work. In this very odd and terrible of times, I find that having no audience for my photographs is very difficult.
In my teaching, I always told students that photography was a process of communication. That making photographs but having no one see them was missing a critical part, the follow-through if you will. But here we are in a time where there is no one to see our work. Yes, I know, there is online and remote, “virtual.” But, really. In no way is that real, in no way can I expect anyone to get my imagery on a screen.
What present-day photography is capable of is a far cry from what we see on our screens, be it 30 inches on a high-end monitor or 2 inches on a phone.
As a career artist and exhibitor, I find it hard to find my sense of purpose. Make a picture: what for? I know, for myself as that is what drives me, my need to make work. True. I am doing that. But having other eyes see it, as a physical thing, in a portfolio, on a wall or in a book is what completes it. Not for praise or only to purchase, just to see it.
After all, I’ve made the photograph in the first place to share an insight, to put out a perception or something I believe is worth communicating; be it beauty, irony, texture, depth, my aesthetic, perspective, a comparison, empathy, tranquility, chaos, solitude, humor, quality of light and so on. The craft of the thing is important to me too, what materials I have chosen and what decisions I have made in terms of tonalities and contrast and yes, the size of the print.
Combine all this with the inability to travel and I find myself effectively shut down. For many years I have been, for the most part, an artist dependent on travel to make my work. Since I can’t fly (or won’t: no way am I sitting in a metal tube for hours with strangers breathing each other’s air) I am stuck watching the hours and days slide by, my life clock ticking, wondering if our world will ever go back to some semblance of what it was before. I know: wait, be patient. I definitely understand “COVID fatigue.”
So here we are today in this country finding ourselves in deep sh*t: increasing numbers of cases of COVID, a staggering number of deaths, a massively disturbed president who could be re-elected in a couple of weeks, and no vaccine right around the corner. I know: hang in there. And I will, as will you. Hard times.
Stay strong, try to stay healthy, and let’s hope we all see each other on the other side.
About the author: Neal Rantoul is a career artist and educator. After 10 years teaching at Harvard and 30 years as head of the Photo Program at Northeastern University in Boston, he retired from teaching in 2012. You can find out more about him or see his photographic work by visiting his website or purchasing his new book. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of its author. This article was also published here.
Every Sunday, we bring together a collection of easy reading articles from analytical to how-to to photo-features in no particular order that did not make our regular daily coverage. Enjoy!
Which iPhone 12 Is Best for Photographers? – PC Mag Apple’s lineup includes four phones with three different camera stacks. The main lens has a new optical formula. It maintains the same 26mm (full-frame equivalent) focal length but sports seven molded plastic elements and an f/1.6 aperture, gathering just a little bit more light than the iPhone 11’s f/1.8 main lens. In the flagship offering, the iPhone 12 Pro Max (starting at $1,099), its ultra-wide lens matches all the other models, but its main 26mm f/1.6 lens is backed by a larger image sensor and is stabilized using a sensor-shift method, similar to what’s offered in many interchangeable lens cameras. It won’t be available at launch, but serious photographers have one other reason to jump to a Pro phone this year—Apple ProRaw.
Notable:The Pro Max phone, for the first time, also stabilize images by shifting the sensor, rather than the lens elements, which Apple said lets you take handheld shots with a surprisingly long 2-second exposure time.
A Frame by Frame Account of the Denver Protest Shooting– The Denver Post Helen H. Richardson, a photographer at The Denver Post, was steps away from a fatal shooting while covering a rally and a counterprotest. The Denver Post decided to publish the full sequence of 71 images in chronological order along with the timestamps and other information recorded by the camera. Below each image is additional metadata recorded by the Nikon D5 onto each image file, including the filenames, the frame number the model of the camera used, focal length of the 24-70mm zoom lens used, the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings for each image. In the photo of Mr. Keltner lying on the ground (just after the shooting), Mr. Dolloff (the suspected shooter), his head turned hard to his left, appears to look directly at Ms. Richardson’s camera. “In that moment it felt like it was only me and him,” Richardson said. “Is he going to start spraying bullets into the crowd?” she tells The New York Times. “I had no bulletproof vest, nothing.”
How to Add Words to Pictures– Conscientious Photo Magazine Many photographers are terrible at talking about their work. You might find solace in the old excuse that you’re an artist, and as such you’re not a writer or talker. Knowing what your work is about and where it was coming from makes great raw material to speak and write about. More often than not, photographers attempt to write as pompously as possible. Don’t do that. Talk or write in a manner that feels natural to you. First and foremost, practice speaking about your work for your own growth. Being able to do it in front of an audience is merely a bonus.
I do not think that I have a talent for writing. I now am able to write reasonably well because I worked on it for many years, a process that entailed writing on a regular basis. Usually, writing is not something that I enjoy doing… For sure, it has given me deeper access to engaging with photography. —Jörg M. Colberg
“I photograph anything that can be exposed to light.” —Imogen Cunningham
Fact:Gender Pay Gap. Getty curator in the Department of Photographs, Paul Martineau writes that, in the 1930s, when Cunningham began shooting for Vanity Fair, Cunningham was selling her work for $10 per picture. Her colleague Edward Steichen, by contrast, was making $35,000 per year as a chief photographer for Condé Nast, the media conglomerate that owns Vanity Fair. In 1913, she wrote a manifesto called Photography as a Profession for Women. She insisted that women photographers were just as physically able to undertake the then-laborious process of shooting and developing photographs.
Previously Unseen Photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at Home– AnOther Brian Hamill, the “devoted and fiercely loyal New Yorker,” has spent over 50 years garnering acclaim as both a photojournalist and a still photographer on seminal movie sets (Annie Hall, The Conversation, A Woman Under the Influence). Much to his delight, the avid rock’n’roll fan also had the opportunity to meet and photograph John Lennon, including while performing what would be his final concert in Madison Square Gardens in 1972. As with all Hamill’s work, his images of the Beatle and his artist wife – newly published in a photo book titled Dream Lovers – are masterfully composed and wonderfully candid. “I do a minimal amount of direction – when it’s a journalistic look, I find it best to let people do their thing and shoot away,” he explains over the phone in a gruff, warm Brooklyn accent.
Notable:On December 8, 1980, Annie Leibovitz took the most iconic photograph in rock’ n’ roll history for Rolling Stone. The picture features artist Yoko Ono and husband, John Lennon. The former, late Beatles singer is curled in a fetal position around his wife; eyes closed, he kisses her cheek. Lennon would never see the cover as hours later he was shot outside his building, the Dakota, on New York’s Upper West Side.
Quiz:Who was on the cover of Rolling Stone’s inaugural issue in 1967? Again. John Lennon.
“Black people have been killed for directing their gaze at the wrong person. I want my subjects to reclaim their right to look, to see, to be seen.” – Dawoud Bey
What Is Bokeh in Photography, and How Do You Create It?– How-To Geek Bokeh refers to the shape and quality of the out-of-focus area in a photo. It’s most noticeable how specular highlights and point lights are rendered, but it’s present everywhere. Several lens design elements affect how bokeh appears. The first is the number of aperture blades in the lens. For example, a lens with seven aperture blades produces heptagons, while a lens with nine (or more) produces more rounded bokeh. A wider aperture will produce bigger, rounder bokeh. Whether the bokeh is Good Bokeh or Bad Bokeh is highly subjective.
Quiz: How do you pronounce bokeh? “Boh-keh,” something like okay.
Notable: Bokeh comes from the Japanese word “boke,” which means something close to blur or haze, although it’s a lot more nuanced than that. In 1997, the “h” was added by Photo Techniques editor Mike Johnston, so the written form more closely resembled the pronunciation.
Richard Avedon’s Wall-Size Ambitions– The New York Times Richard Avedon, who made advertising images for six decades, also created striking group portraits that he hoped would signal a new level of rigorous intention. But why didn’t the art world notice? For the celebrated photographer, the wall piece of The Chicago Seven, 1969, which was about 8.5×12′ was a monument as much as a document. He also created the 31′ long Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory group. Avedon would make two more mural-size group portraits, reflecting a new level of rigorous artistic intention. Yet the art world did not grant full acknowledgment to the “celebrity photographer” as the consequential artist he was until the end of his life. He died in 2004.
Notable:Katy Grannan, who was in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, suggests why Avedon was not much talked about in his time. “In hindsight, this is probably because he broke an unwritten rule. You could be a fine art photographer, a photojournalist, or a celebrity photographer, but you couldn’t be all three. Avedon was everything.”
Adobe Stock Free Collection ‘Devalues’ Stock Photography– Inside Imaging Adobe Stock has announced theFree Collection, a collection of 70,000 images and videos available for in a free commercial license, and stock photographers are naturally unimpressed at how this further devalues their content. “The trend of free imagery websites isn’t going away, and we want to be part of a positive solution for creators,” Adobe explains on the Free Collection page. They describe the move as also “supporting creatives as well as driving traffic to paid assets.” Customers without a paid Adobe Stock account can download up to 100 images per day, which comes with Adobe’s same standard or enhanced license.
Quiz:What percentage of revenue does Adobe generate from stock sales? About 2%. Approx. $250 million in an $11 billion company.
Quote of the Week: “Color rendition is more critical to picture quality than resolution or dynamic range …, color rendition is how the picture actually looks…” – Ken Rockwell in reviewing the Nikon Z 7II.
We welcome comments as well as suggestions. As we cannot possibly cover each and every source, if you see something interesting in your reading or local newspaper anywhere in the world, kindly forward the link to us here. ALL messages will be personally acknowledged.
About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.
Image credits: All photographs as credited and used with permission from the photographers or agencies.
American people standing up to the Soviets! America needs Nixon! These were some of the tag lines attached to this photo during Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1960. But behind every picture, there is a story. And this is one of those photos where the story is just as good as the picture.
How many times have you heard the phrase: “truth is in the eye of the beholder”?
We’ve seen it many times in the history of photography and photojournalism. Some photographs are just not what they appear to be. Sometimes the composition is corrected later in the post, sometimes pictures of casual moments are staged, and sometimes the story behind the photograph is completely different from the reality that the photo purports to portray.
The medium of photography represents the vision of the artist as they capture a two-dimensional representation of their three-dimensional reality. But for the viewer, looking at a photo is ultimately an act of interpretation: it is never purely objective, and often needs additional explanation.
It’s true, sometimes a good photo needs no explanation. However, in photojournalism, it is often crucial to describe the situation so the picture is not misinterpreted. And it’s the photographer, is the author of the photo, who should be the final authority when it comes to sharing their story.
But what if the story of your photograph was hijacked and misinterpreted? What would you do? That is actually what happened to Elliott Erwitt: the French-born American photographer known for his advertising and documentary photography was put into a situation where his story was flipped upside down and used as a campaign slogan.
It was July 24th, 1959 when the then Vice President Richard Nixon visited the American national exhibition in Moscow. The exhibition was showcasing American art, fashion, cars, model homes, kitchens, and more in “Typical American Houses”. It was basically introducing the American lifestyle to a wider public in Soviet Russia.
The now famous kitchen debate happened in the house called Splitnik, which was created from the words “split” and Sputnik (Sputnik being the famous satellite the Soviets had launched into orbit two years earlier). It is here in Splitnik that Elliot Erwitt captured the now-iconic moment between Nixon and Khrushchev.
The photograph happened in typical Erwitt fashion. He was in Moscow working for Westinghouse Electric, taking pictures of refrigerators and their installation for Macy’s kitchens.
“When Nixon famously wagged his finger at Khrushchev, nobody from the media was there. Only me,” recalled Erwitt. “I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was in the kitchen free to move. it was like shooting fish in a barrel.”
This seems to be a recurring theme in Erwitt’s photography. As he once famously proclaimed:
The best things happen because you just happen to be somewhere with a camera. Some of my colleagues in Magnum go to places on purpose to do news, but the historic pictures I have made have been by sheer accident.
Nixon’s staff would use this photograph during his presidential campaign to show Nixon standing up to the Soviets, when in reality they were actually discussing something completely different at that moment. The argument was about cabbage soup vs. red meat…
As you can see, this moment was… twisted a bit… to try and help Nixon in his campaign. A campaign he ultimately lost to JFK.
The whole story comes to light when we look at the contact sheets; it actually seems as though the discussion was rather friendly, and we can even see Khrushchev in a similar position as Nixon in one photograph. But truth is in the eye of the beholder, right?
This is why photography as a medium can never be 100% objective. Simply put, what is included and/or left out is chosen by the photographer. When I started studying photography and looked for the sources to learn from, I was often told to look at the pictures of great photography masters, because you will often learn far more than composition techniques.
If there is one thing we can take from this story, I think it would be that a simple twist to reality can change the narrative of a single photograph.
News and the media will push you to decide why a photo is the way it is. However, if you look at a photo both subjectively and objectively, you might discover its truth for yourself. In today’s digital age, I think this is a very important skill.
Ultimately, you are the beholder.
About the author: Martin Kaninsky is a photographer, reviewer, and YouTuber based in Prague, Czech Republic. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Kaninsky runs the channel All About Street Photography. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube channel.
According to an investigation by the BBC, women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to fail the automated United Kingdom passport rules than fair-skinned men when submitted online through the nation’s automated government checker.
The United Kingdom offers an online service to submit your own images for use on passports, which would theoretically allow a person to get their passports more quickly. If you follow a set of guidelines, a person could also avoid paying to have a photo taken of them if they have the means to photograph themselves at home. Those guidelines include having a neutral expression, keeping a closed mouth, and looking directly at the camera. If a photo is submitted that does not meet all of the criteria, it is rejected as being “poor quality.”
According to the BBC, a student named Elaine Owusu found that the automatic online portal rejected her image for having an “open mouth,” which if you see the image yourself was clearly not the case. Owusu did manage to eventually get the photo approved after challenging the verdict, but she had to write a note arguing that her mouth was indeed closed.
Though she did win, she wasn’t happy about it. “I shouldn’t have to celebrate overriding a system that wasn’t built for me,” she told the BBC.
To determine if there was a systemic problem, the BBC fed more than 1,000 photographs of politicians (based on the Gender Shades study) into the system to see if there were any patterns. They found that dark-skinned men were told that the image was of poor quality 15% of the time when compared to 9% of the time for light-skinned men. For women, it was worse: 22% of the time dark-skinned women’s images were rejected while women with light skin were told their images were of poor quality 14% of the time.
Computers are only biased when the information they are given is biased. In 2019, The New York Times published a detailed article explaining the history of racial bias built into the basics of photography, and that issue continues to show itself in newer technologies like the UK’s automatic photo checker.
“The accuracy of face detection systems partly depends on the diversity of the data they were trained on,” David Leslie of the Alan Turing Institute wrote in response to the BBC investigation. “The labels we use to classify racial, ethnic and gender groups reflect cultural norms, and could lead to racism and prejudice being built into automated systems.”
When a system like this doesn’t work for everyone, the designer of the software would normally be asked to explain. Unfortunately, the government declined to name the external company that provided the automated checker.
As a result, a solution to the problem uncovered by this investigation – where the system in place fails for a disproportionate number of dark-skinned people – is not immediately apparent.
Augmented reality camera glasses haven’t broken into the mainstream yet, they’re already making their way to dogs. The US Army is showing off new AR camera goggles that are designed to be worn by military dogs in the field.
“Military working dogs often scout areas for explosives devices and hazardous materials and assist in rescue operations, but giving dogs the necessary commands to perform these missions can put Soldiers in harm’s way,” the US Army says. “Augmented reality may change that.”
Funded by the US military and developed by a Seattle-based company called Command Sight, the new goggles will allow handlers to see through a dog’s eyes and give directions while staying out of sight and at a safe distance.
Command Sight has built the first wired prototype of the glasses so far, providing a proof of concept to show the technology’s potential. Researchers are aiming to make the next version wireless.
“The system could fundamentally change how military canines are deployed in the future,” says Command Sight Dr. A.J. Peper, based on initial feedback the company received.
While looking through the dog’s eyes thanks to the goggle’s built-in camera, the handler can direct the dog by controlling an augmented reality visual indicator seen by the dog wearing the goggles.
Dog-mounted cameras are usually worn on the back, but moving the camera to the dog’s face has advantages.
“Even without the augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best camera systems for military working dogs,” says Army Research Office senior scientist Dr. Stephen Lee. “Now, cameras are generally placed on a dog’s back, but by putting the camera in the goggles, the handler can see exactly what the dogs sees and it eliminates the bounce that comes from placing the camera on the dog’s back.”
Researchers are planning to spend two more years creating the production-level wireless version of these goggles, and once that prototype is done, they’ll obtain more feedback and do necessary revisions before manufacturing begins.
NASA has a new project that turns space photos into sounds. Using sonification, images obtained from telescopes are turned into “music” that sounds like what you’d hear when your operating system boots up.
The creative project is being carried out by scientists at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“Telescopes give us a chance to see what the Galactic Center looks like in different types of light,” NASA writes. “By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.
“But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing?”
Sonification is the process of translating data into sound. Starting on the left side of images and moving toward the right, NASA’s sonification system reads in the vertical rows of pixels and creates sounds that represent the position and brightness of things seen.
“The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume,” NASA says regarding the Milky Way photo and music in the 1-minute video above. “Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone.
“The crescendo happens when we reach the bright region to the lower right of the image. This is where the 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center of the Galaxy, known as Sagittarius A* (A-star), resides, and where the clouds of gas and dust are the brightest.”
Here are the sounds created from other photos:
Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone. The crescendo happens when we reach the bright region to the lower right- the 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole. @chandraxray X-ray solo: pic.twitter.com/4b8ORydsAK
In Cas A, sounds are mapped to 4 elements found in the debris from the exploded star + other high-energy data. Silicon (red), sulfur (yellow), calcium (green) & iron (purple) are revealed moving outward from the center of the remnant starting from the location of the neutron star pic.twitter.com/2px4gFpghx
In Pillars of Creation, sounds are generated moving horizontally across the image from left to right in optical & X-ray light. Particular attention is paid to the structure of the pillars which can be heard as sweeps from low to high pitches & back. pic.twitter.com/fNZXltxBBk
With the game Among Us going viral these days, photographer Jessica Kobeissi decided to set up her own kind of secret identity game with social deduction: he invited 6 photographers and 1 imposter to have an online chat to see if the photographers could identify the faker.
You can watch how the game unfolded in the 31-minute video above.
“I thought it would be a fun spin to do it with a bunch of photographers and one impostor — who is pretending to be a photographer!” Kobeissi tells PetaPixel. “Their job is to guess who is not the real photographer. It’s like a giant game of Find the Mole.”
The players in Kobeissi’s game were put in an online chat with fake names and were asked to discuss their answers to a series of questions. For example, Round One had the players answer “How long have you been doing photography?” with one important rule: there would be no “technical talk.”
At the end of each round, the players were asked to cast a vote for who they believed the imposter was, and whoever had the most votes was kicked out of the game.
The imposter isn’t revealed until after the 28-minute mark at the conclusion of the game, so you can test your deduction skills and see if you can correctly identify the person yourself.
Australian indie game developer Matt Newell has released a new free Steam game called Castle Rock Beach, West Australia. It allows you to freely explore a realistic recreation of Australia’s southwest coast with a camera.
Just check out these screenshots for a taste of how beautiful and photorealistic the immersive world is:
Here’s a 2-minute video showing what gameplay looks like:
The game allows you to explore the world at your own pace while completing casual photography objectives with the in-game DSLR camera.
What’s impressive is that Newell is a full-time engineering student at university who’s doing this game development in his free time. Newell shares that he had experience in photography and color before he started learning to build with Unreal Engine in February 2018.
Newell built the game over 9 months (again, in his free time) by bringing in photoscanned models (of things like plants, rocks, trees), working on lighting/color, and adding interactive elements.
This latest game joins a growing list of locations Newell has released already.
In May 2020, Newell released Wakamarina Valley, New Zealand, which is set in the idyllic forested landscape of the Wakamarina Valley, located near Queen Charlotte Sound on New Zealand’s South Island.
Harry Potter fans waited for hours on Monday at a train station in Scotland to see and photograph the iconic Hogwarts Express steam train as it passed through. Just as it was rumbling by, however, a commuter train decided to block the view. The “devastating” (yet hilarious) photobomb was captured in this 1-minute video.
Caters reports that this video was shot by 32-year-old Ross Gilmour, who took his family to Drumry Train station in Clydebank on September 28th for the rare chance to see the Hogwarts Express steam engine on its journey from the Highlands.
As you can see in the video, the station’s platforms were crowded with likeminded people holding up cameras and phones in anticipation of the brief passing. Some of the trainspotters had arrived hours beforehand to stake out a good spot.
Unfortunately, only one of the two platforms ended up getting a view of the train — a ScotRail train (the 18.26 to Edinburgh) passed through at exactly the same time from the opposite direction, completely ruining the view for half the attendees. By the time the ScotRail was gone, so too was the Hogwarts Express.