Apparently public critiques of my own pictures are popular. Through a variety of sources, I received four comments on the last one. Farther and further then.
Second picture I ever developed. It's of my grandmother while we were waiting for my sister's graduation. I was fiddling with exposure and leaned back to take a few shots of the family I was sitting with. Took one of my grandfather that turned out well enough for me to print, and that will also make it's eventual way up here. I chose this one to fulfill the "Depth of field" assignment for my photography class. Ended up using another one because, in the simplest possible terms, this one is pretty weak. It's a bit too out-of-focus to possibly called "soft," and the blur, my dad's back, in the bottom-left quadrant is too large.
Really, there are only two things to recommend this picture. First, Oma does present a strong central element. The row of arched backs and the contrast of her dark shirt draw the eyes to her. Second, it's a good smile. It's honest and bright. Even better, my dad says that her smiles aren't too often captured on camera.
Later today (hopefully within an hour or two) I will finally post on Harry Potter, my personal response to the last in the series and the phenomenon on the whole. I've been intending on doing this since I finished Deathly Hallows, but for reasons which will be more thoroughly explained in that particular post, I have failed thus far. Yesterday perhaps offered the best opportunity to accomplish this, but I lacked immediate inspiration and made the mistake of going to YouTube to find some of that elusive thing. Before the YouTube Time Vortex kicked in and wasted the rest of my morning, I made the fantastic discovery of a clip from the upcoming Wizard Rockumentary, an exploration of the wizard rock aspect of Harry Potter culture. Intrigued, I visited the wizardrockumentary channel for more and found this most incandescent of gems, the Switchblade Kittens' "Ode to Harry Potter."
Yeah, it's set at Gonzaga, the entrance and main staircase of the administration building and just outside in particular. Doesn't necessarily put me in mind of Hogwarts, especially at that point where you can see Pope John Paul II, but I still think it's cool. Okay, for those of you with histories in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles where, much less cities with their own television news studios, seeing the places you know recorded on film may not be a big deal, I must remind you that I'm provincial. Good grief, I tweaked out when the city two towns over made the national nightly news because it flooded, and the hockey team of the town in between us and the entire culture surrounding it was the lead story of The New York Times' Escapes section a few weeks back. Tweaking out in the latter case was exasperated by learning this story was first covered during winter break, and I missed the chance to meet a Times reporter.
But it gets cooler, and I think anyone can appreciate this. Why anyone would choose to film something like that here intrigued me, so I dug deeper. My investigation initially focused upon the Kittens as I was surprised that I had never heard of them before if they were a local band. Searching for them yielded nothing. A follow up on Wizard Rockumentary proved more fruitful. The twin sisters who are creating it and, apparently, are only waiting on the opportunity for an interview with Rowling before finishing, both live and work in Spokane, at least I assume they both do. Their website says the one with a greater interest in the actual filming and editing works for a local production company, a company which also called me yesterday because they were interested in looking at the house I'm renting as a set for a romantic comedy they will be filming in September.
Now those are some fun coincidences just piling on top of one another.
Regarding the music video, the assumption I'm operating under now is that the documentarists met the Kittens over the course of filming and offered their help in creating this music video. Operating independently, the Kittens did their bit in Los Angeles and the sisters did their bit here. What's more, filming took place late this January after classes had started. I checked my journal. I spent the day writing papers in my dorm and probably didn't even pass by Admin. Nuts.
Two posts back, I wrote of my burgeoning interest in black-and-white film photography, my ideal of capturing the beauty of daily life and need to get better. Here is one of those steps, taking the time to really look at my pictures, finding what I like and dislike about it and moving myself a little farther along that path of improvement. I choose to do this in a public forum to attract criticism, so please do not rest your fingers if you have some comment. Should you care, these pictures are roughly being published in the order they were printed. Enjoy.
Before the composition or printing are considered at all, I must say that I am proud of this picture because it represents one of the earliest times I asked permission before taking pictures. Far too often I either just ignore that or give up without trying. On to the picture.
Strong central elements in the two skateboarders is good, there are no other elements vying to be at the center of attention, and clutter is at a minimum. I filled up a roll on skateboarders and learned something important in shooting them, they never look up. Their eyes are always on their boards. You know you've caught something special when that's not happening, or you'll just have to learn to deal with it.
Washed out background with the harsh line on the diving barrier is irritating, but a symptom of shooting subjects under a freeway, completely in shadow while the sun merrily shines away on everything else. Could be negated by shooting so the background is always under the freeway or pushing the horizon to an extreme edge of the picture and not right down the center. Not much I could do during printing to salvage that.
By and large, this picture doesn't impress me so much. However, it stands out among my mass of skateboarding shots for an important reason. There are two skateboarders in it. I realize that sounds ridiculous, but the right skateboarder provides an invaluable contrast and context for the left skateboarder. You can actually tell he's doing something. Without shadows to give some sense of their jumps, he just ends up looking ridiculous. The second skateboarder grounds him and gives us a way to understand the other's achievement. It's a lesson I've try to keep in mind not only for photography but journalism as well. Let the viewer/reader understand what's happening and, if necessary, why it matters.
For the longest time I've wanted to write on this subject. Currently, I have two drafts on the topic saved on my Blogger account, and I've intended on writing on the presence, or lack thereof, of morality in art for months. Why have none of these been published? Because I keep getting tripped up on a rather foundational idea. I don't know what art is. Try to write on art's morality or the difference between a review and criticism without a definition of art is not so much like trying to walk before you crawl. It's more like trying to walk without any freaking feet. So, here I am, trying to find a definition of art that encompasses it all, from music to movies, from Pollock to Da Vinci and grow some feet.
Art is that which is appreciated for what it is and created through human intention. Not for what it does or can do. Not what it means. Simply what it is.
In all honesty, this definition of mine does not sit well with me. It doesn't seem quite right, not precise enough. Still, I need something to start with and this has been a choke point for a week or two now. In all likelihood this definition will change as I further consider it and find definitions others use, but I at least have a point to move out from now.