Thursday, November 24, 2011

Evaluating another photographer's work

I got an email on facebook from an old friend from high school.  "Do you have the historical society on your friends list?  They just posted a photo of your family."

It took a matter of seconds from getting that email, until I requested being added to the group of other people sharing the heritage of our hometown.  The curator, Sandi, had acquired boxes of negatives from a 40's/50's era photographer.  Lovingly she scans each one, and shares the results with the group.  Many people seeing relatives long passed.


In this group of thousands of photos, were a few taken of my dad and his siblings as young children.  The above photo I've seen before, that's my dad on the upper left.  He's the oldest boy.  The only one missing is his older sister who was living with my great-grandmother out of state.

Most would look at this photo and see their family...
"Uncle's tooth is missing"
"Look how she dressed them as twins, even though they're not."
"What's up with the high waters?"
"Love the pomade dad."

As a photographer though, I evaluate other things...
"Posing is pretty bad, but great considering 5 kids under 10"
"What happened to Uncle's hand?  Horrible crop."
"What's up with the random chair?"
"Off camera flash?  I see you have problems with that too."


{Never before seen photos of my family, around 1946-ish)

Then I remembered that we all start somewhere, even if it was 60 years ago. I will reserve MY early work to scare away mice under the house.

But as I looked at other pieces of his work, I saw something else. Here was a guy (because there weren't many female photographers back then) that was really trying to push the envelope.  He was shooting in people's homes, yards, and in their daily surroundings rather than a studio.  I'm guessing he didn't have one.

He was experimenting with posing and with light.

He was taking on jobs with people I know were lower income (my family probably being one of them, hence multiple trips to this photographer as evidenced above).

He worked sometimes in shallow depth of fields (which blows my mind).

He sometimes worked with odd random props.

It was then that I realized, that the man was a visionary, a man ahead of his times. I've looked at thousands upone thousands of vintage photos in my life (I have a collection), and I've never seen work like his.   Most photos you will find are either snapshots, or they are studio shots.  I don't ever remember seeing work in a family's home specifically, or while they are playing in the yard.

These are things you see now, 60 years later, and he was doing things things either out of desire our necessity.  I'm assuming necessity since he had no studio.

Then I realized, that he and I have more in common than I could imagine. Technically his work might need some work, but the vision is the same.  Make people happy.  Give them what they can afford.  Go to them when you don't have a place to put them.  Work on the technical aspects to do your best.  Improve your work 10-fold.

And for that, I give us both a pat on the back.


the Goodwife said...

So very true! You have such a talent, and folks are blessed to have you photograph them!

ps......I can't even express to you what it meant that you said you'd take my horse for me.

the Goodwife said...

ps.....I totally forgot to mention how much you look like your dad!!

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