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khmelins 04-27-2005 12:38 AM

Re: Posts without notes????
one problem with this discussion is that it is completely biased towards photojournalism. that's certainly a very important part of it but by far not all that it's about. if you prefer, TE is not a photojournalism site..

the other thing it that even there we are talking about different things.
- on one side, is a photograph powerful without a note?
- on the other side, is photography a way of education?

lets assume a picture is worth N words (with N>=1000) :).
the question is: how much is it worth to each and every viewer? as pointed out someone can see only 4 words there, while another persons "reads" ~N words in it. depends on the background. is it your goal as a photographer to adress each and every one? is it your goal to "educate" the 4-words person and make it read a bit more?

tongapup 04-27-2005 06:45 AM

are you talking about that magnum photo of the guy apparently riding his bike underwater? do you know which one i'm talking about? it's in my magnum book but with no caption, which is driving me crazy... i want to know what the hell is going on. i think -- now i'm weighing in on the argument, despite myself -- a photo needs context. some need none, like the dying kid -- that's painfully obvious. other gain MUCH from having context.

so if you know the story of the underwater cyclist, will you please tell me?

tongapup 04-27-2005 06:48 AM

check out <a href="">this</a>
pic. look at it without reading the photographer's intro, then read it and look at the image again.

not the best example in the world maybe but it was the first one that came to mind.

khmelins 04-27-2005 11:18 AM

Re: bicycle/water
as you say, it can't be generalized..

khmelins 04-27-2005 11:25 AM

Re: context
btw, i'd give some of your latest photos as good examples of those that imo don't need any note :)

<a href=>this one</a>
<a href=>this one here</a>

joseelias 04-27-2005 11:47 AM

Re: Posts without notes????

Mentioning your examples, and taking the work of Olli for example, I recall when his work influenced many of us in TE and many industrial shots started to appear, especially rust photos. And I particularly remember a series of photos from Yitzhak Avigur where he investigated the different types of rust making an interesting note to his series of photos. In fact he became known by then as Dr. Rust.. :-)))

So, I think there’s always much to say. Regarding the examples of inessa the same applies. In one of the images she even shown a poem (which I cannot read unfortunately).

Of course, in more artistic approaches things become more subjective, and I accept that words may be less important in some situations. But as you said; ”how much is it worth to each and every viewer?”. Still, I think that because of this a note is always meaningful. If someone can stand only with the photo, he is not forced to read the note, but if someone needs more information to help interpret it than I think that the “1000 words” are always necessary.

The question is that in a site like TE, with people from allover the world, from very, very different cultures there’s always the need for explanation. We’re not showing photos only to people with our personal cultural and intellectual background.

For example, I’ve seen photos from Mosques which I find very interesting in terms of architecture, but I’m not able to interpret all the religious meanings implicit in the building. Sure I can appreciate it as building, but as a place of worship, full of meanings, no, if the note does not teach me to “read” them. The same applies to a Muslim looking at a church for example.

I agree with you that this discussion is much biased towards photojournalism, and especially the idea that photography is an accurate way to portray reality, which I do not believe at all.

joseelias 04-27-2005 01:01 PM

Re: Posts without notes????

the impact of the image being worth 1000 words and not literally..

Well I’m not counting the number of characters either… :-)
I mean that a photo cannot stand simply on itself without more info, because the photographer message may be totally distorted by the viewer. And this is even more important when in today’s world an image may be seen by millions of people with totally different cultural, religious and educational backgrounds.

Or, do you think that the image you give as an example has the same impact and sends the same message on a Red-Cross Doctor or in a warrior of a rival tribe of that child?

The same applies to Ruanda photos. A Hutu seeing images of dead Tutsis would probably be “happy”. Now, was that the message the photographer wanted to transmit? In this case, aren’t the words more than necessary for the viewer to interpret clearly not only what is seen, but more important, what the photographer wants to show?

If you see a photo of a Nigerian woman, and then read in the note that she is a victim of Genital Mutilation, doesn’t that change completely your interpretation of it? Before it’s a portrait, after it’s an image of a victim of a brutal tradition. And for those that do not know anything about Genital Mutilation? If more isn’t explained they will not be aware of nothing…

Of course your example is more explicit, but at the end, if we do not know the background of that happening it’s not more than a shock-image…

” it's a pity that you feel this way. most people feel the same way. why not also have a look at how many children have been saved since then.”

What is ok in the world doesn’t worry me. It’s what’s wrong that worries me… I don’t care if in Burkina Faso (ex-biafra) people now eat lobster everyday (which I do not think they do BTW). But I get worried if people die in Ethiopia or Somalia of hunger. All efforts by people and organizations should be recognized and praised, but as long as things like that happen we should not rest.

” this particular photograph appeared in one of the national geographics in the 80s i think
Regarding this image. Show this image to 90% of the Portuguese with the reference that this is the monsoon, and they will ask: Monso…what? People here don’t have a clue about what is the monsoon, and this image would not explain it. Still, most of the people would understand that a flood happened because we have it here. But! Some would think that this guy was salvaging some iron to sell as metal-scrap because of the condition of the sewing machine as it looks it was 100 years underwater and cannot evaluate how things quickly change in a catastrophe like a flood…

Finally, the other image is a good example too of the power of photography. For that particular child and his family I’m glad it worked well, but the real tragedy is the lack of support these people have which make a loss of a single sheep a major issue. This photo may help this child, but still does not show the “whole picture”…

khmelins 04-27-2005 01:31 PM

Re: Posts without notes????
i've read you answer to sohrab also..

and this is what i understand from your arguments: you see an image as an illustration of a message. this can also be seen in the way you take photographs (don't take me wrong, this not a critique nor a complement, this is my opinion only).
it can be very well used in that way. i'm not arguing it should not be used like that or wether that is good or bad.

all i'm saying is that an image CAN stand by itself. and some photographs Do stand by themself as an ultimate and complete expression of a message.

like any other form of expression photography can be complemented by aditional means.
you may read a book with or without illustrations.. hum, can you say "Ha, i think this book would be much better without these pictures in it!" or the other way around?
or what about adding some smells to the book? would be certainly interesting and WILL influence your perception. the same with some sounds and textures and....

For example, I’ve seen photos from Mosques which I find very interesting in terms of architecture, but I’m not able to interpret all the religious meanings implicit in the building. Sure I can appreciate it as building, but as a place of worship, full of meanings, no, if the note does not teach me to “read” them. The same applies to a Muslim looking at a church for example.
and what was the photographer's purpose with those pictures?
- show a piece of architecture?
- show the kids playing in front of a mosque?
- show you the mosque as an illustration to his text about the religious cerimony happen inside?

the question is: what is your purpose when showing a particular picture?

joseelias 04-27-2005 02:41 PM

Re: Posts without notes????

You’ve read all?! You’re a masochist! ;-)

I also believe, that an image can stand for itself more or less, but only if directed to someone with the same cultural, and educational background as the photographer, because apart from that, very distorted interpretations can be made from the photos. And we must consider this traditional pretense universality of the photography as something getting very fragile nowadays due to the Globalization.

An image produced by someone is instantly seen around the globe by people radically different. Without a fitting explanation confusion can become installed. And it will get worse, as nowadays the internet is used generally by people with a certain educational degree. As its access becomes more democratic you’ll have people with less cultural, sociological and anthropological knowledge, accessing information which they don’t have enough background to interpret fully.

So, 50 years ago, an image was seen in a newspaper or magazine read only by a reduced amount of people which were more or less from the same background as the photographer, and “everybody” understood it. Then, you could call an image as “universal”. Nowadays with the broader and differentiated audience that’s a fragile statement.

”some photographs Do stand by themself as an ultimate and complete expression of a message”
If an image claims that, I feel it’s minimizing the reality… The photo of the crying / dead sheep shown by Sohrab, for example. Why is the boy crying?
- Is it because it was his pet-sheep?
- Will he be beaten by his father because he was careless?
- Will the death of that sheep represent hunger in his family?
- Or the Taxi that killed the sheep almost killed him too and he’s scared?

Can you answer me just by looking at the image? Considering the different possibilities you would get a different reaction: You would remember your childhood pet dog, would get angry with family violence or remember a “funny” episode of your childhood where your father punished you because a trick of yours, etc, etc…

The only universal happening there is that boys do cry (despite what’s said…), and sheep die (also haven’t seen a taxi there to establish the cause of death).

Of course it’s an emotional photo, and I’m touched by it too, but what does it REALLY show? Don’t you feel the need to know more despite the quality of the photo?

“you see an image as an illustration of a message”
To me, it’s the image AND the note that are the illustration of a message. In some cases one becomes more important than the other.

I believe you’re right regarding the way I shoot photos. In some cases I have more “experimental” photos, which some would post without a note. Still, in my case I always try to write a note to fit it into the TE spirit (at least in my view of it). In this case some like the photo, others the note, others both, and others none…

Regarding the example of the Mosque. That’s what I mean. Without the note, is what I’m seeing, what the photographer wants to show me? Am I looking for the right things and interpret it well?

joseelias 04-27-2005 06:42 PM

World Press Photo Exhibition
To exemplify what I’m stating, is the fact that the World Press Photo exhibition presents extensive notes next to the photos themselves. They fit the image into a context and explain it well, not only in terms of the moment seen, but many times in a more or less recent historical past.

I don’t know if you have seen this interesting exhibition but it’s how it works. None of the images is presented without a long note. And we’re talking about some images which could be easily fitted in the “1000 words” category.

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