SOME THOUGHTS ON OBJECTIVITY
In blogging, like in photography, one thing leads to another.
If you leave a stone unturned, well, you’ll never get to see what
kind of bugs would crawl out.
This week I started writing about re-editing a project I shot last
year, and that turned into thinking about objectivity vs subjectivity.
Then, way down at the bottom of this post I talk a bit about Terry
Richardson’s new Tumblr thing, TerrysDiary. I wonder about why
such, really, stupid fotos would interest me. Then, BAM!!!, out of
the blue, it struck me…….how taking pix and looking at them are
related. Now, this might be old news for you droolers, maybe you’ve
already thought about what just occurred to me. I say: read on and
LANDSCAPES and some THOUGHTS on OBJECTIVITY
I was recently asked by NPAC (News Photographers Association of
Canada) if I would submit a photo essay for their web site.
Now, I’m no photojournalist, but I do shoot projects. I suppose the
big difference is that photojournalists aren’t supposed to set up shots
and, well…..I do. Set up shots.
Of course this opens a whole can of worms about objectivity in photo-
graphy (and in life, I suppose). I’ve never believed in objectivity. In fact,
I believe that image producers are actually being more honest if they are
obviously producing subjective work. I’ve always liked my fotos to kind
of look like documents but have enough clues to point out that, yes, there’s
a person behind the camera who has been making decisions.
What I decided to do for NPAC was to go back and re-edit the project
I shot last year: BESIDE THE PASSAIC.
This time I edited it in geographic/chronological order, whereas before
I had edited it (for lack of a better word) for feeling. Or maybe juju.
Doing the re-edit was pretty interesting, in that I bumped into a bunch
of landscapes I’d shot down in New Jersey that never made the final cut
when I initially edited the project last year.
The whole (25 shot) re-edit, featuring a bunch of never-before-seen
images from the project, will be appearing on the NPAC site later this
month. I thought I might pull 3 of those landscapes and run them
Bridge over the Passaic River, near Morristown, New Jersey
Highway 80 in the distance, outside West Paterson, New Jersey
View of the Passaic River, Passaic, New Jersey
And, speaking of objectivity……even landscapes are subject
to the eye and the whim of the photographer. These shots,
all done using a 4×5 camera and film, are (obviously) the result
of me deciding which tiny part of the whole wide world I was
going to frame. Move the camera a foot to the right or a foot
to the left and you get some other foto.
So, remember kids, when you’re looking at (or reading or
watching on TV) any representation of the world, what you’re
seeing is just the opinion of one person who was standing
somewhere, pointing a recording device or making notes.
There is no objective truth.
As well as a whole bunch of 16×16 inch prints, my upcoming
show at EXPOSURE features a bunch of 22×27.5 inchers. Really
only biggish, I suppose, after seeing E. Burtynsky’s mammoth
prints at CUAG. Did them on an Epson 7800 and, I’m pleased to
say, when I plugged in the files they printed exactly the same as
the test prints I’d done at home, using my Epson 3800. I’m also
now using Epson Exhibition Fiber and, of all the premium papers
I’ve used, I like this the best. No metamerism and the prints look
just about the same in all levels of light, too.
Took 5 hours to print 10 of these big ‘uns. Back in the olden days,
using an enlarger and Kreonite, I figure it would have taken about
3 days. And, even then, try reprinting them different sizes and
I sure like the look of film and scanned negs but I’m sold on digital
I had the opportunity this week to meet and photograph Winnipeg
photographer Diana Thorneycroft.
Man, I wish all the artists I met were as down to earth as her. She
kind of sparkles with humanity and good humor. Which is funny,
because her work can be sort of dark. Check it out here.
TERRY RICHARDSON and some THOUGHTS on OBJECTIVITY
Fotografer Terry Richardson has started posting a few shots a day
to a Tumblr account. The thing is called TerrysDiary.
© Terry Richardson
This brings to mind a couple of thoughts………
The first being what a great and free and easy product Tumblr is.
For those of you who don’t know about it, I suggest you go here,
find out about it and get yer thinking cap on to see how you can
use it. It’s swell for side projects, getting yer ya-yas out and just
generally throwing stuff up.
The other thing about TerrysDiary is, it makes you (well, at least
it makes me) wonder about what makes fotos interesting.
You see, TerrysDiary is a compendium of snapshots. Terry with
famous people; Terry with beautiful people; beautiful people,
usually over or under exposed, all by themselves; Terry at the
dentist and the psychiatrist. Pictures of his shirts and his couch
and so on.
© Terry Richardson
If you ran across these pix, and no name was attached, you’d probably
look down yer nose, sniff and think: “Boorrring! I see this shit on Face-
book all the time. Some egomaniac showing us bits of his life. Who
cares?” And, mostly, I agree. Except, in this case I have to admit I’m
First of all….there are all those famous and beautiful people he snaps.
Then there’s the whole “Terry Richardson” mystique and legend and hype
that we all know. Plus, a lot of TerrysDiary is actually pretty funny.
So, I guess sometimes it’s impossible to separate “good” fotos from “bad”
when you know the personality (and fame) of the person behind them.
And, in a way, I think that this all relates back to my post at the top, about
objectivity and subjectivity. The viewer of each and every picture also
brings all their baggage and prejudice to that which they are viewing.
So, if you ask me, objectivity is impossible when you’re taking fotos,
just as it is when you’re looking at them.
You can see TerrysDiary here.