On the democratization of art

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Marius Watz, with permission from the Absolut Art Exchange

The current state of the art world – at least what passes as fine art by conventional measures* is almost always determined by a select few – the select few, I should say. There seem to follow two types of people: those who ‘get it’, or at least are willing to submit to the opinions of the few; then there are the other type, who tend to be more open to the artist and creator putting forward their views on what should be art. I’ve always made it very clear which camp I fall in; it can’t be art to you if you don’t ‘get it’ without having to be told.

*At this point I always ask whether anybody claims to have seen or create ‘coarse art'; the answer is inevitably in the negative.

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Long term experiences: the Pentax 645Z, six months in

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Morning paper, Chicago

Buying into any camera system is a big deal – not just because of the financial investment involved, but because you’re probably going to have to make a decision on what to buy based on conjecture rather than any actual first hand experience. Whilst some of the luckier people may be able to test drive a system, sadly most camera companies don’t really offer this. It doesn’t help either if the camera you want to try isn’t something particularly easy to get hold of our mainstream. There’s only so much you can determine from a quick fiddle at a camera store, assuming a physical one even exists near you anymore. And that brings us to the purpose of this report – there was a lot of interest in the 645Z at launch, but I’ve been made to understand that locally at least, sales haven’t quite been the runaway success one would expect for a camera that’s a quarter to a third the price of the competition. Think of this as a continuation of my initial three part review, here, here and here.

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The format matters, but not in the way you might think

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Legs.

Having shot extensively with oue 645Z over the last few months, I’ve developed a new hypothesis: the format – i.e. the physical size of the recording medium – matters to the output, but not in the way that we’d expect. Naturally, we assume that the larger the sensor or film, the higher the image quality. Since so much of that is both subjective and perceptual and thus affects the final impact of the image, perhaps it’s important to understand exactly what’s going on.

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A photographic manifesto

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I believe it’s very important to have a sense of purpose as a photographer. If it’s not clear exactly why you’re photographing, or what the aim of your output is, you run the risk of not only making weak images, but not knowing they’re weak, or even worse, not being able to step up and move on. However, only you can decide exactly what that purpose or aim is; and in the past couple of years since starting this site, I’ve realized two things: firstly, you’re going to evolve, so don’t be afraid to say ‘my objective has changed'; secondly, you’re not going to satisfy everybody (and some of those people are bound to be extremely rude and vocal about it, but really have nothing more than hot air). The latter is easy to rationalise but difficult to accept if you care about your work.

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‘Interstellar’, the movies, and the general creative state of play


Interstellar official trailer #3

I found time to watch a movie the other day. This is an unusual occurrence for me because it takes a huge chunk out of my day; but it was raining and I was on foot without an umbrella. Interstellar was showing, and happened to be something whose trailer did actually show promise. Plus I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan; I have no doubt that history will look back on him as one of the greats – both for his visuals and his storytelling. This post is not so much a review as some observations and musings after three hours in a theatre seat from the point of view of a photographer…

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Output objectives and creative development

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I was discussing printmaking with one of the regulars readers of this site recently when a thought struck me: one of the biggest turning points for me personally was when I started shooting with an eventual printability objective for all of my images. This happened around early 2012, before which I’d felt I was stagnating creatively somewhat – perhaps partially due to day job commitments (this was before I turned to photography full time) and partially because well, I didn’t have an output objective.

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In pursuit of clarity, redux

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Do you feel the warmth of the afternoon?

Some months ago, I wrote about the idea of clarity in an image: the experience of being able to see through the picture and beyond the facsimile representation to the scene or subject in itself; it’s akin to breaking the fourth wall in cinema, but In the opposite direction. Ironically, the ability for a still photograph to do this is very much related to technology: we need the hardware and technical chops to be able to make it look as though the hardware is unimportant.

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So…I bought a Nikon D750. Here’s why

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Reference bear #1 wonders what on earth has Ming done now?

I admit to having a change of heart. Yes, I was rather lukewarm bout the initial announcement at Photokina; but I do also remember saying that this would be the camera for a lot of people: right size, right price, right spec. It has “enough” resolution; “enough” performance; and isn’t too large or intimidating. In fact, I’d venture to say that it blows way past sufficiency, but then again, the whole idea of sufficiency is relative anyway. In many ways, this purchase is both rationally driven and a form of recognisance on my part. Bottom line: am I happy? Very much so.

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Derivative works and photography

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Influenced by the architect? Surely. Created by him? About as much as it was created by Apple, because it was shot on an iPhone.

I originally wanted to call this article ‘is anything truly original?’ – however, I think that’s the concluding question I’d like to leave the reader with rather than the opening one. There has been a lot of debate recently – both in the comments here, offline amongst my usual correspondents and in various places on the internet about why a) photography is perhaps not perceived as ‘highly valued’ as other art forms; b) obviously derivative works and the creative value – or lack of – contained therein; and the greater question of whether c) the medium as a legitimate creative art form rather than merely a recording/ documentary one. Perhaps the biggest question is in the title: ‘but is it art?’

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System thinking

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Choices, choices, choices. From the ultimate image quality shootout.

We have a rather strange hardware problem: on casual observation, simultaneously too much choice, but at the same time, when all things are taken into account, a lack of it. It isn’t the problem of the perfect camera not existing, but rather that we have to jump through a lot of hoops for a complete solution. There are digital systems with sensor sizes ranging from 2/3” (Pentax Q) to 645 (Phase One, Hasselblad) – and to make things more confusing, surprising amounts of interchangeability*. So what is a serious photographer to do?

*Practically, this is nothing more than an illusion and a bunch of empty promises: even if you can do it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.

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