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Author Topic: Learning by Looking  (Read 2847 times)

Offline ABERS

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Learning by Looking
« on: August 09, 2014, 08:15:51 AM »
Attended the wake of an old photographic friend last week, and as one does, discussed the memories of him that made the most impact on you. He was a great 'look and learn' fan. He always held the opinion that in pursuing photography you should spend 50% of your time in that endeavour looking at pictures, especially those of highly regarded photographers, in the hope that their photographic view of the world may influence the way that you see it.

His favourite photographer was Walker Evans  and to that end he sponsored an annual print trophy for club members along the same lines,  Documentary, Candid, Street, which I'm glad to say has stood in my glory hole of a study on a couple of occasions.

Walker Evans? If the name doesn't ring a bell, have a look at

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=walker+evans+american+photographs&newwindow=1&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=usPlU5uwD-P17Ab5qYHoDQ&ved=0CDsQ7Ak&biw=1100&bih=625)

I'll bet it rings a bell now!

Apart from those instructional books and magazines that promise to turn you into a taker of 'stunning pictures', how long do you spend looking at pictures?



Offline StephenBatey

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2014, 01:55:14 PM »

Apart from those instructional books and magazines that promise to turn you into a taker of 'stunning pictures', how long do you spend looking at pictures?

I would hope that most photographers have heard of Walker Evans; but as I'm not one of those people for whom hope triumphs over experience, I don't believe it  :)

Most of my recent photographic books have been books of photos, and I do find this method the best way of learning. I attend exhibitions whenever I can, and down here on the south coast I try to visit all the photographers exhibiting in the Artists' Open Houses events. Plus galleries etc. At the worst, by thinking about why you don't like something, you can learn a lot from the exhibitions.

I quoted the part I did because I personally hate that type of book and magazine. I particularly dislike (most people should stop reading at this point) Bryan Peterson's books, because the whole point of the illustrations always seems to be IMPACT at the expense of anything long term. I view photography as a medium for communication (and I also admit that many (most?) don't) and this colours my view. Whilst a punch in the face will convey a definite (although limited) message, I prefer a reasoned argument or discussion. Most of the photography I regard as being in that type of literature is the punch in the face rather than the reasoned discussion type.

Offline ABERS

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2014, 07:48:26 AM »

At the worst, by thinking about why you don't like something, you can learn a lot from the exhibitions.


Discussing why you DO like something is a difficult enough exercise for some people, so why you DON'T could be doubly so, but both tasks have equal validity when applied trying to improve your skills.

I'm all for impact, in all its forms. However what can be impactful to one person may be as exciting as a cold rice pudding to another.

A monthly group that I attend, where we discuss each others' work, is an example of this. Usually comprising a dozen or so people, prints are passed round for an initial 'look at' before any comments are made. Watching the faces of the viewers as they take their first look is amusing in itself, raised eyebrows, furrowed brows, pursed lips, a puzzled squint, head cocked to one side, an extension of the arms, a smile or a frown usually indicates the impact or lack of it.

The comments that follow must be backed up with reasons why or why not the image is appreciated or not, no holds barred.

Every so often each brings in a photographic book to discuss why they admire the author's work. This has the added bonus of pointing you towards photographers that you have not yet discovered.

Talking about photography is a no-no for some people. The usual response when it is proposed is, "I don't like talking photography I just like getting on and doing it".

Offline jinky

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2014, 08:09:27 AM »
We`re lucky in Leeds / surroundings  in having a wide range of galleries / pop up places showing work from a whole range of  photographers. Some well known, some new and up and coming. It`s great to look at these works and I often go in a small group with others and discuss over tea / cake afterwards. Likewise to look at other work online and in archives - Media Museum in Bradford is great for doing this as well as Leodis archives in Leeds documenting social history photography an how we used to look / work. To me its easier to say why I like or don`t like an image than sometimes to work out why an image was taken or how a subject was lit though I have improved in this respect. As for Bryan Peterson and the rest I`ve even looked at their stiff and even have a book by BP which is OK for what it does and the time at which I got it given to me some years ago. You can get inspiration from many sources and I try to be open to many / any. Hell I`d even heard of and looked at Walker Evans before seeing this link. For me though if people prefer to "do" rather than talk about photography then it`s up to them. It`s up to each person how they take on their hobby / interests at whatever activity level they wish. I used to love playing football into my 40s even though by that time I knew I`d passed the date of achieving my ambition of being Newcastle Utd number 9 and no amount of watching Alan Shearers goals on TV was going to make me any better. Then again if an anterior cruciate ligament had not snapped who knows.....

Offline Sandy

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2014, 10:28:25 AM »
I have heard of Walker Evans and I do enjoy going to exhibitions. I went to one last Wednesday at Hastings of the 1066 mono group and saw some lovely images, and I hope to visit London soon to see the Charlie Waite one. The monthly group sounds a good way to get your thoughts sorted out about looking at images. I belong a disabled photography club which send around images monthly and I then have to comment on them it certainly helps the learning skills of looking at images.

Offline ABERS

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2014, 07:44:48 AM »
How about a look at this one. If you have the time settle down with a nice cuppa, look and learn. ;)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0366jd5/imagine-summer-2013-1-vivian-maier-who-took-nannys-pictures

It's been on before but well worth another look (and another!).

« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 07:50:53 AM by ABERS »

Offline Sandy

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2014, 08:43:08 PM »
Thanks for the link, I have just watched it for the first time. it was a brilliant program and she was quite a woman, even the photographs of herself were different and lots of thought put into the subject.

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2014, 08:29:16 AM »
How about a look at this one. If you have the time settle down with a nice cuppa, look and learn. ;)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0366jd5/imagine-summer-2013-1-vivian-maier-who-took-nannys-pictures

It's been on before but well worth another look (and another!).


Just had click on the link "not available on iPlayer" - pity. I have heard of her and seen some of her pictures. The documentary would have been interesting to watch.
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The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil. H.L Mencken.

Offline ABERS

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2014, 09:08:52 AM »
How about a look at this one. If you have the time settle down with a nice cuppa, look and learn. ;)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0366jd5/imagine-summer-2013-1-vivian-maier-who-took-nannys-pictures

It's been on before but well worth another look (and another!).


Just had click on the link "not available on iPlayer" - pity. I have heard of her and seen some of her pictures. The documentary would have been interesting to watch.

Strange. IPlayer is where I found it and the link gets me back to IPlayer. Try going to IPlayer and search Vivian Maier.

Offline Sandy

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2014, 10:07:22 AM »
When I was watching last night it said there was only six hours left to watch.

Offline jinky

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2014, 12:54:32 PM »
I missed it too. Only available for around a week after it is aired so not available in  a search I am afraid. Read about her and saw some of the pictures though.


Ahhh! You can watch it here though
http://www.veoh.com/watch/v70590131KFPFjY7N?h1=BBC+Imagine+(2013)+Vivian+Maier+-+Who+Took+Nannys+Pictures
« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 12:56:17 PM by jinky »

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2014, 03:04:46 PM »
Thanks Paul. Halfway through now. Like the pictures, mostly, but the arty b*ll*cks of the talking heads and Yentob are almost too much to bear.

Got to the end. The camera shop guy summed it up for me - she just liked taking pictures.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 03:41:10 PM by Hinfrance »
Howard  My CC Gallery
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The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil. H.L Mencken.

Offline Beaux Reflets

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2014, 03:46:37 PM »
Thanks Paul. Halfway through now. Like the pictures, mostly, but the arty b*ll*cks of the talking heads and Yentob are almost too much to bear.

After the first twenty minutes I gave up watching on account of the drival - It is far better to view someone's work in silence  :)    Without 'big buck noises n half guessed promotin bull' that probably falls way short of the artistry and skill employed in framing each shot.
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"Light anchors things in place and gives perspective meaning."

The choices we make are rooted in reflection.

http://beauxreflets.blogspot.com/

Offline ABERS

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2014, 04:13:09 PM »
Thanks Paul. Halfway through now. Like the pictures, mostly, but the arty b*ll*cks of the talking heads and Yentob are almost too much to bear.

After the first twenty minutes I gave up watching on account of the drival - It is far better to view someone's work in silence  :)    Without 'big buck noises n half guessed promotin bull' that probably falls way short of the artistry and skill employed in framing each shot.

My tele's got a mute button, and a pause facility so that I can look at the images for longer if need be.  :)

Offline Beaux Reflets

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Re: Learning by Looking
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2014, 05:11:36 PM »
Perhaps I should have turned the volume down who knows. One thing is for sure, too much 'looking' can lead to emulation; so I tend to prefer to just photograph and edit in my own way (with the occasional viewing of others work)  :tup:
:beer: Andy

"Light anchors things in place and gives perspective meaning."

The choices we make are rooted in reflection.

http://beauxreflets.blogspot.com/

 

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