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Category Archives: Podcast
The New Barrier to Entry?
We start off with Rick trying to dial back his (seemingly) hatred of the French but then he turns his attention to the Basque region of Spain. But, hey, he does an Irish friend. If you’re familiar with the other podcasts that Tony is involved in, you’ve gotta be shocked that he is the voice of reason and sanity on Polarizing Images!
And don’t forget the new segment! Send us the name of a drink via our Twitter account – @PolarizingImage – and we’ll have Rick drink it through a Red Vine straw. Remember to tag the Tweet with #RedVineDrink.
Anyway, lots of good stuff in this episode once you get past our usual goofiness (A.K.A. the reason you keep coming back). Topics today include:
- Do we really expect Tony to do any heavy-lifting? *Can* he?
- If E&J is good enough for us, it’s good enough for hillbillies. Let’s just call it “domestic”… I wonder if Rick is blind yet?
- With the cost of software, does that make it a barrier to entry? How about the learning curve of software?
- Does keeping on top of software updates prevent the guys from updating their gear?
- Is there a perfect tool or piece of software?
- How terrible or lazy are actions and filters? (hint: Rob has changed his opinion)
Even just 20 years ago, it was quality camera gear that posed the greatest barrier of entry to being a professional photographer. You would never have dreamed about becoming a wedding photographer with “just” a 35mm camera and a couple of inexpensive zoom lenses. Today? Different story! But you need something for post production. Whether you’re buying high end applications like Photoshop (still the “gold standard”), paying less for a more appropriate version of Light Room, or stand alone apps and filters, your collection and library of software is going to grow and, regardless of how much you spend (or don’t) it all takes time to learn. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the time required to hone your craft as a photographer!
Starting with our photographer, we look at Italian photojournalist Clay McLachlan. Want to see how a working (and successful) photojournalist sets up a seemingly easy food shot? Check out this behind the scenes video called Blue Bottle.
As an homage to Rick’s father, Rick chose the German-American architect, Helmut Jahn. Jahn was the architect behind the United Airline’s terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. And yes, at one time, O’Hare was an example of modern architecture. Chicago is a city filled with architectural history and relevance but, beyond that, a city of artistic importance. Anyone who wants to be a travel or architectural photographer will, at some point, need to travel to Chicago and see the works of influential designers such as Jahn.
Context is King
Okay, for the record, Rick does not hate the French. He seems really intent on convincing us that he doesn’t.
Too few photographers look at their work in the context of the subject or client. What makes an image important to the client or viewer is the broader context and meaning of the photograph. For example, would the picture by Addie Adams of the young Vietnamese girl running down the road after her village was hit by napalm be as powerful or have such impact if not set in the story of the Viet Nam war?
Topics today include:
- Really, Rick doesn’t hate the French
- “Dry Ginger” is not the porn name of one of our hosts
- Context is key
- How arrogance and fear prevent a lot of photographers from reaching their potential
- Developing relationships with your subject or clients is critical
- Surreal photographs existed before Photoshop!
- Could the iPod have existed 20 years ago, even if they had the technology?
- No, really, Rick does not hate the French!
This week’s photographer is Jerry Uelsmann. In particular, we were struck by the image shown here – created in 1969 and done entirely in the darkroom. So, for the post-production haters who think Photoshop has created too many “artists”, we’ll point them to Jerry and say it was being done before Photoshop. Beautifully developed as a black and white image, his work straddles that line between realism and abstraction.
Our other artist is Sir Jonathon Ives of Apple. Ives is the Senior Vice-President of Industrial Design at Apple and is responsible for some of Apple’s most iconic interfaces. Rick, an Apple fan boy (an “Apple-lyte” as Rob calls him/them) since the 80s, waxes poetic about Ives’ influence on design and suggests (correctly, Rob and Tony think) that the same design principles used by Ives’ can be used in photography.
“The word design is everything and nothing. The design and the product itself are inseparable” – Jon Ives.
Photography: You Ready to Go Pro?
Holy shit, this sucker is one long show. Two freaking hours! Anyway, this show is based on a question that Rick and I (Rob) get on a regular basis. It usually goes something like “I’ve been shooting for a while and I get lots of positive comments on my photography and now I’d like to start charging. Am I ready?”
It’s a tough question. Hell, we don’t mind answering it and for sure as shit’s sake we’ve been there, too. Rick and I are certainly tainted by their own experience, having been through the school of hard knocks, and would love to tell everyone asking this question to hang tight for a bit. But we also know that they won’t, so we try to talk about what we wish we had known and what we think every new photography professional needs to know before diving in. Here’s a hint, it’s a business so treat it like one!
Just as we were wrapping up the show, Rick asks an “innocent question” and then he and Tony start arguing for another damn half hour while I played Words with Friends. I think, dear listeners, that if you can make it through to the end of the show, you’re going to tilt on either what Rick says or what Tony says!
Since wedding photography is often the attempted path into professional photography, we look at one of the best wedding
photographers in the country, Chicago-based David Wittig. David’s photography shows his depth of experience with the wedding niche, an ability to connect with clients, and an ability to shoot great photographs that are unique to his style. If you’re thinking that wedding photography is an area you might want to get into, David Wittig is a photographer you need to be aware of.
Tony, never wanting to do anything normal, chose Adrian Newey as this episode’s artist. Newey designs Formula 1 race cars. They’re pieces of beauty and he creates game-changing designs.
Why the Hell is Photoshop So Controversial?
Photoshop: it’s a tool that, for some incredibly stupid reason, seems to be controversial. Some people love it, others hate, but the smart people know that it is just that – a tool to achieve and end-result. But what got us going this week was a comment from someone on Facebook regarding a photograph they had seen, “…wow, is it real or PS?”
C’mon, really? Just because a photograph has been through the Photoshop cycle, it ceases to be real? But that got us thinking – what does it really mean for a photograph to be “real”? Too many people confuse “real” with “realism”. Are Picasso’s works not “real” paintings because they don’t depict realistic subjects? You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would take such a position. So why do we say that about photography and Photoshop? If I create a shallow depth of field through a lens choice that’s okay but if I add blur in Photoshop, then it’s not a real photograph? If I make a bride’s teeth whiter than they really are or, more to the point, than they appear because we’re under incandescent lighting, that’s not a real photograph but if the bride had her teeth whitened by a dentist, that’s okay?
This whole concept of post-production, regardless of the tool that’s used, has to stop. As long as the photographer/artist is trying to achieve an image that they see in their mind’s eye, why the hell should we care – or judge – how it was achieved? And we’re not even touching on the differences between using Photoshop to manually alter an image versus allowing a camera to do it outside of our control!
So, to all of you who believe that Photoshop renders a photograph “fake”, it’s time to allow your photography and creative vision to mature a bit.
What about photography before there was Photoshop? Today’s photographer is Kansuke Yamamoto (1914-1987), an early surrealist photographer from Japan. His work included several pieces on film that, today, we would accomplish with Photoshop or other digital imaging tools but, as a film photographer, Yamamoto did his post-production in the darkroom. Are these “real” photographs?
What happens when you let Tony choose the artist? You get a musician! Today we have Captain Beefheart. As long as we’re talking about art being real without requiring realism, the good captain is actually an excellent choice for an artist who inspires. Especially in the realm of surrealism. Let’s let Captain Beefheart have the last laugh today:
“It makes me itch to think of myself as Captain Beefheart. I don’t even have a boat.”
Photography? No, really, we do talk about it eventually! As usual, the guys take the long way around to getting on topic as we have our usual discussion about what we’re drinking, why Rick will eventually play all seven dwarfs, whether Rob or Tony has the larger breasts and, well, you know by now…
Oh, and thanks to Mr. Sadie Breeze for preventing brain damage.
Photography, Dinosaurs, and When You Won’t Change
After the last episode’s emotional tirade about whether or not the photography industry still needs a traditional sales force, things come down in this second part. Instead, we talk about whether the film shooters and even the dSLR users today are being left behind by the advances of technology. Is there still a place for traditional print portraits? Is there still room for the fine artists? How about the RAW vs JPG argument: is that argument going to be irrelevant in the near future? And what about those guys who insist on only selling prints and not providing CDs? That’s an issue we need to deal with.
Let’s face it, photography is indeed changing and, as much as we want to believe differently, we don’t have the actual answers about what will still be viable five years from now. But one thing is clear – if you’re not going to be a visionary in photography then you’ll end up a dinosaur and, historically, we now how that ends.
Artists of the Fortnight
Tony points us toward the amazing photography of Dennis Hopper. Sadly, Dennis is no longer with us but his work in photography remains with us. Rob believes that actors often make great photographers because they live their lives being creative. Regardless of why, Hopper himself has a body of work that is poignant and strong. Anybody who wants to get into the fine art side of portrait photography would do well to take a good long look at Dennis Hopper’s work.
For our artist, we look at the well-known Rembrandt. If there was ever a true Renaissance Man, Rembrandt was it. Schooled in math, science, art, literature and history, Rembrandt used that learning to develop a style of portraiture known for its sharpness and, of course, it’s lighting.
Don’t forget – Our Photography Book Review
Head on over to www.PolarizingImages.com now and take part in our book discussion, The Art of Photography!
Visionaries – It’s a word that evokes a sense of artistry, focus, vision (d’uh) and, apparently, confusion…
Are There Visionaries in Photography?
The guys get down to discussing the finer points of the role of visionaries in photography until they realize that theymay not be talking about the same thing.
Still, the guys have a lively debate about whether or not we can recognize visionaries while they’re actively creating art or if we can only recognize their influence after they’re dead – or at the very least, after the influence is over. Kind of like a gambling streak in Vegas, right? You never know you’re on a streak, you only ever knew that your were on a streak.
And what about the tie, or bond, between visionaries and technology? Can technology create, or destroy, a person’s vision? Or is technology truly just a tool that visionaries can use to bring their vision to life?
Our artists, on one hand, could not be different. But you can easily argue that they are very similar if we look at each one’s influence in their respective worlds. Either way, they are truly visionaries, even if you hate their stuff.
Robert Mapplethorpe – love him or hate him, you can’t deny the importance that Mapplethorpe has had on the art world. Then, when you realize the time period in which he was most active, you can see see the boundaries that he had to cross and the limitations he had to break through. Definitely check out the documentary on him, Black White + Gray.
Emily Carr is one of Canada’s best known artists, was influenced by both modernism and post-impressionism and that is readily recognizable in her artwork. Her role as one of Canada’s artistic visionaries is still maintained and celebrated today, particularly in the province of British Columbia where she was also influenced by the indigenous peoples of the West Coast.
P.S. – Rick and Tony are totally wrong: Rob is freaking FUNNY!
Elisha and Anne: are you available next week?
Tony is out sick for this episode and it’s left to Rick and Rob to record the show. Listen to what happens when two guys with attention deficit issues try to remain focused on a conversation. Witness for yourself Rob’s amazing talent of taking 5 minutes to set up a 5 second answer or Rick giving an awesome answer that has nothing to do with the question.
It’s a rather personal show, with R² (that’s shorthand for Rick and Rob) discussing their goals for 2013, their regrets of the past year, and their dream assignment. Of course, there is the usual oddball stuff liberally strewn throughout.
BTW, since we forgot to do the opening segment, Rob was drinking whiskey and Rick was drinking his homebrew. So now you know.
What else do we talk about? Well:
- The difference between allowing mistakes and accepting mistakes
- How the business of photography interferes with the art of photography
- Can a style atrophy if you’re not careful?
- Buy stuff from our CafePress Store (it’s a recurring theme)
- Will Rob continue with figure studies in 2013?
- Why photography can still be a viable profession
- How the opening sequence to our first episode was like Masterpiece Theatre… on quaaludes
There’s neither a featured photographer nor artist this week but that will be back.
Happy New Year and, before we forget again, it’s absolutely critical that you never, ever… oh look, a puppy!