Being a photographer is an attitude

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There are a lot of people here. A few are taking pictures. How many of them are really photographers?

The media, commercial entities – camera companies, software companies, cellphone companies – are all trying to convince us that anybody can take great pictures, and is therefore a photographer. Right and wrong, I think. Being a photographer is far more than equipment, more than luck, more than intuition, more than practice…it’s an attitude.

Let’s start with the obvious: if you don’t go in with the intention of making pictures, then you’ll never do it. Even if you’re carrying around the necessary tools, you’re never going to pull them out to use them unless you’re consciously thinking about it. I personally find this is the case, too: if I’m going out specifically to shoot, be it for work or personal reasons, then I’ve got the camera in hand – any camera – and I’m walking with ‘the eye’ switched on. If I happen to be carrying the same camera but the primary purpose of my outing is not photography, then I almost never take it out of the bag; only if I happen to be bored or something really exceptional breaks routine.

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The cause of this is fairly simple. Very few of us can really, truly focus on more than one thing at a time; the level of attention required to photograph well is rather high, which means that you’re either consciously doing it, or you aren’t. You’ve got to be constantly observing, looking for light, subjects and trying to translate that into ideas and balanced compositions; on top of that there are the technical considerations: what perspective? Which focal length? What exposure? Etc. This really leaves little extra bandwidth for anything else, or conversely, if you’re doing anything else that requires a substantial amount of attention, you’re probably not going to have much left over for photography.

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We can, however, over a period of time, train ourselves to be sensitive to the one or two critical key things necessary for a good image – it almost always boils down to light, actually. Ignore subject for the moment; that can come later. In a street/flaneur scenario, you can almost always find a subject; one consequence of having the signs of civilization is that there’s almost always the people to go with it. If you’re photographing static objects – landscapes, architecture, still life, etc – then you’ll already know that quality of light makes all the difference in the world; it can turn a very boring, ordinary object into the most compelling image. So you’re pretty much all set. I suppose action and portraiture are exceptions to this rule, but then again one generally doesn’t happen to ‘coincidentally’ see a sporting event, or a rare species of wildlife. These are the kinds of events you go prepared for – both mentally and photographically.

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With the exception of the first image, all of the photographs in this article were made by me when photography was not the primary objective of my outing – I went out to do something else, but happened to come across a compelling scene. In a lot of these cases, I wasn’t even carrying a proper camera, or the ‘right’ one – I used whatever I had at the time, which was probably my phone. Does any of that change my ability to see and compose? No; that’s completely equipment-independent anyway. It’s entirely subject independent, too.

It should be, for a true photographer: perspective does not change; a given angle of view may render slightly differently on different formats due to the relationship between real focal length, format size and depth of field, but the relative prominence of foreground is going to be the same for every 90-degree angle of view, regardless of the camera used to capture it. Good light is always going to be good light; unless you’re creating it yourself in a controlled environment (which renders this argument moot anyway, since you’re already in a dedicated photographic frame of mind) – is again a property of scene and subject. All the photographer has to do is be open and receptive towards these things: the rest – i.e. the images – will follow, providing he or she is also reasonably in control of their equipment.

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This is perhaps an odd analogy, but sometimes I think of the true photographer’s* mind is a bit nervous, a bit paranoid, always looking, always anticipating, always evaluating, judging, and analytical; I hate to say it, but the only thing that comes close is perhaps a criminal, or a military agent. However, though both types are looking for targets and evaluating ‘the payoff’, it’s a different kind of target and a different kind of payoff. Regardless, it’s situational awareness that pays dividends in all three…er…professions; we get the shot (or don’t); the criminal makes his mark or doens’t get caught, and the special forces guy takes out the surprise enemy before he gets shot**.

*One who can shoot anything and produce a strong image, be it in a controlled situation or an uncontrolled one.
**There are other parallels we can draw between good firearms technique and good photographic technique, but that’s another article for another time. Perhaps I’ll title it ‘Shooting and shooting’.

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My guess is that the majority of amateur, hobbyist and even professional photographers go for a period of varying duration where they’re trying to force the shot in every scene; I know because I see lots of people do it, I can see the results in competition entries and the email school submissions, and I’ve experienced it personally. You’re experimenting, searching for the composition that causes everything to fall neatly into place; rarely you get it; more often you think you got it, but know you didn’t when you evaluate the results later or see the work of others; or worse, you leave frustrated and unfulfilled. But there comes a time – how long this takes is dependent very much on how much practice you put in – after which somehow, everything just clicks into place; the compositions naturally form themselves, and you experience the anxiety of infinite composition.

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Then, the challenge reverses: you see so many possible frames that you almost go mad trying to capture them all, and then again when you hit the editing suite to decide which make the cut and which don’t. The most frustrating thing is that there’s probably nothing much wrong with any of the individual frames, and they’d stand up fine in isolation – it’s just that you have so many of them. Time will almost always distill the cohort down into one or two standouts, but I feel the next step change comes when you can get to the endgame at the time of shooting, and don’t bother with the alternatives that might not work. (As for what follows after that, I have no idea; I’m not there yet.)

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Once a person has made a conscious choice to be a shooter, the rest of the mental state ties in quite neatly with the four stages of creative evolution of a photographer; it’s almost inevitable that you will reach a point where you can think of nothing other than photography and photographing; it’s all-consuming and occupies your free time and free thought capacity. Again, I’ve been there and am perhaps a bit too familiar with the feeling; it’s different from being ‘in the zone’; rather, it’s all-consuming and somewhat obsessive.

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But staying in that state leaves you blinded by the trees and unable to see the forest; speaking to other experienced hands and looking back through my portfolio, I’ve found that the best images come to you. You have to be observant, receptive, and prepared, but not trying to force the situation – that almost always results in compromise, and weaker images. The more I photograph, the more I’m convinced that an enormous portion of the success of an image is in the patience of the photographer and their ability to observe and translate, independent of subject, equipment or technical execution.

I’m going to leave you with one final thought. A photograph is a conversation between the photographer and his or her audience; like any conversation, clarity and reasoning of the intended message and the tone of the delivery greatly affects the impact. If we do not take the time to see the message and have it clear in our own minds before attempting to communicate it, there’s no way anybody else is going to be able to see what we do. A famous photographer once said – and I forget who – “a camera is merely a device that trains us how to see the world”. How true. MT


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  1. Kurnia Lim says:

    This make me remember in Joe Mcnally video I found on youtube, at the end he said “The most important piece of equipment in your bag is your attitude”. Not just in photography, IMO attitude play big part in everyone’s success for every job.

  2. I like the term “attitude“. I’ve always called it “urge” or “addiction” which doesn’t sound quite that positive. Whenever I’m someplace interesting or with interesting people, I /need/ to photograph. I’m not even able to turn that off often times: If I am somewhere and I have no camera with me or feel weird taking pictures, I still constantly analyze light, patterns and composition.

    Sometimes I’m forcing myself to take photographs as well, but that’s usually when I’m somewhere I’m been before or the scene isn’t as interesting as I thought it would be and I’ve planned to photograph in advance. I absolutely agree that the results are less compelling more often than not. But maybe it’s still a good way to practice? My best photos are those where the subject or composition just jumped in my face.

    • State of mind, perhaps. Any camera work at all I think is a good way to practice; if the seeing mode isn’t switched on, then how can we find compositions when we’re not forcing ourselves to consciously look for them? Removing serendipity greatly, greatly narrows your window of opportunity.

  3. mbwhitcomb1 says:

    Really great post, Ming. I couldn’t agree more that patience is the most important trait for a photographer in order to capture great images that tell a story. I experienced this capturing images at a close friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. One prime lens, no flash, EM5 with ISO and shooting wide open to compensate for varied levels of dim lighting. Being in the crowd and not being able to move around like the hired photographers, I embraced the edge of a shoulder or flowers in the foreground of the shot which actually resulted in more cinematic images. While I also felt like the lack of flash was potentially limiting, it actually wasn’t. Boosting ISO yielded images that captured the lighting accurately, which I have always preferred. Always an interesting and meaningful read on your blog posts. Look forward to more. Keep inspiring.

  4. Well thought and written article, Ming. I can only second your words in light of my experience, which is why I just can’t attend photo walks, gatherings and workshops where the goal is both to shoot and to have a good time together. For me it’s either or, and photography is a pretty solitary activity. But again, some people may be different (perhaps, women, whose brain is known as better suited to simultaneous activities..;-)

    • Curiously there seem to be very few serious women photographers compared to men. Either that or they’re all out practicing solo. Readership of this site is something like 95-5…

  5. … Ming … other than it’s a great informative article, i would like to mention the celestial photo and the weirdness of it’s presence between the others … !!! Kudos

    • It’s about seeing an image and an opportunity, and figuring out how to make it work with no tripod when others might be sleeping on a long haul flight 😛

  6. Great article, Ming! This is a nice pushback on the gear-focused attitudes of 2014 photography culture.

    Your comments regarding “not forcing images” are quite interesting. I think it’s a valid point, but how do you feel this relates to those working with 4×5 or 8×10? By the nature of the equipment and the non-conspicuous nature of the workflow, this is always a somewhat ‘forced’ process (not that all LF work is staged or pre-planned, but it certainly is devoid of the spontaneity that 35mm/MF allow).

    • Too bad most people are still obsessing over equipment, then. Manufacturers obviously do nothing to discourage this as it’s against their commercial interests.

      Larger formats are certainly more meditative; you can no more force them than smaller ones. You just tend to be more drawn to static subjects as they’re easier to work with. There’s still nothing stopping you from walking away if the frame doesn’t work – if anything you’re a lot more careful because you have fewer tries…

  7. Well put, and I wanted to say that flat light does not necessarily negate the procedure but then I read your comment “…Perhaps the old adage of ‘no light, no photograph’ should be adapted to ‘no vision, no photograph…”.
    With that said I have nothing more to say. Just to keep shooting and wait for my vision to settle.

  8. Tom Liles says:

    I’ve wheeled this one out before, a good while back mind, but I like the literary critic James Wood’s explanation:

    Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, wheras literature teaches us to notice. Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.”

    I think he did a more complete job than Dorothea Lange — and so he should, being in literary arts — but it’s certainly the same idea.

    Great article Ming. You’ve posted so much good stuff recently and events at home and work have kept me from it. I’m currently trying to free up some pocket money for an Ultraprint; in the meantime, catching up on content!

    • mosswings says:

      I love both those quotes. Lange’s for her conciseness and whimsy, Woods for his completeness.

    • That’s a great quote Tom, but it does have a dark side … for example, if all one reads about are conspiracies, then that’s all one tends to see. Or in my case, if all looks for on eBay are Nikon Coolscan 9000s, then everything else seems cheap. 😉

      • Tom Liles says:

        True enough, Andre. I think SC9000EDs are photography’s answer to the Dutch Tulip bubble!

  9. This is so in-depth and full of insights! Thank you, MT.

  10. The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. -Dorothea Lange

  11. NeutraL-GreY says:

    I feel that when I come to this blog that I am entering a classroom and you are the professor. Fantastic. Best class this semester 😉

  12. A spot on article. Excellent!

    “Your ability to see is your tools of trade; nothing else matters. Beautiful seeing is the desideratum. Remember when you hear people say they can see a thing, but not do it, that they can not really see it.” – Charles Webster Hawthorne

    • Isn’t that similar to the ‘those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, critique’ adage?

      • What I think he meant was that seeing, from an artist’s standpoint (i.e. being able to work with light and shadow patterns, color relationships and so forth),not equipment, is what holds the majority (of painters) back. Like those persons taking pictures on the stone bridge in your photograph, they see a literal subject (a pretty girl, a famous building, a cat) that they want to capture, but they don’t see in a broader, more abstract, artistic sense. They are, as you said, merely “taking pictures”.

        • Certainly – but before we even arrive at the artistic/ abstract/ ‘idea’ sense, and composition aside, it seems that a lot of people are challenged in just separating out the subject from the world around them…

          • One thing I’ve been finding myself sometimes doing is not even looking for subjects anymore. I’m just looking for interesting patterns of light and dark to imprint onto the sensor or negative. The other thing I caught myself doing today was scanning the edges of a CCTV monitor at a store looking for edge intrusions and wondering when someone would walk into an open space on the monitor so the composition would be more balanced. Maybe it’s time to reread the “You might be a photographer if …” article!

            • Haha!

              Well, photography is fundamentally about light. That said, you should be happy with the results of your new way of looking at things. If not, something is broken.

              • On the whole, yes — thank you for that! But like a sword that cuts both ways, it can be a bit discouraging when you can now easily tell that most of the photos you’ve taken are terrible.

                • Knowledge is power, and ignorance is bliss – depends how you choose to look at it 🙂

                  But I often have that feeling, if it’s any consolation. Very few of my images ‘work’ as an Ultraprint, for example – either the technical quality (i.e. resolution) isn’t sufficient or the subject is not engaging enough to warrant the high resolution treatment, or other details start becoming visible/ obvious and distracting etc…

                  • Yes, I think it helps to know that everyone struggles with their craft or artform. But I think if you are doing it right, it turns out to be an intensely personal and lonely journey. Friends, family, and others can support you and help you along, but when a picture fails or when a project isn’t coming together for photographic reasons, there’s really no one else that can do anything about it except yourself.

                    • I must be doing it right then…too bad the only reward in it is personal satisfaction, and even that’s been rather lacking these days.

        • Of course, I should say that the person’s on the bridge could be creating phenomenal images, I have no idea, I’m speaking in generalities. I think one reason I find so many of your photographs compelling, aside from their technical excellence (your “shot discipline”, as you call it) is the way you see.

          • That’s interesting, because a lot of people say the exact opposite: the way I see is why they don’t like my photographs. They find them too cold and structured. I’ll admit that the compositions are certainly structured and the structure is designed to actively influence the way you look at the image; but surely that’s fair game…

            • I like your photographs. I think folks get caught up in genre and what the expect from a certain classification of photo such as street. This is based on the style they like or have adopted. For example placing people and buildings together really upsets some people if the building is too prominent or they are unable to classify a photo. I just look at every photo as a photograph/art and enjoy it for itself.

            • I think some people don’t like some of your photos because they don’t necessarily fit the standard, popular model of a photo. The structuralism is often the main subject for me, despite the presence of actual subjects in the photo! Instagram, selfies, and other photos of the standard model (and I include most street photos taken by HCB-wannabe Leicaphiles) are all about the subject, and the viewer’s pre-existing emotional connection to the subject — very often, they cannot stand alone by themselves as photographic objects. Think about the popularity of homeless people as subjects for street photography: there is already an easy, exploitable emotional connection between the subject and many of its viewers. It’s totally copping out of your job and duty as a photographer.

              I took a photo recently that made me wonder about the structure of a photo and its effect on the photo. The photo is really of nothing, but the thing that really stands out to me (and why I like it, and it’s probably my current favorite personal photo) is the relationship of the frame to what’s in the photo. That is, it’s a very formalist view of a really boring scene. The light is flat, the composition is predictable but not awful, there may be an idea in there, but the idea is really about the frame, and what is the subject? Is it the framing? I like to think it’s the relationship between the frame and the elements inside the frame. It’s certainly not what’s inside the frame, as with most standard photos. About the only standard good practice in there is the variety of texture throughout the frame, so it’s not totally boring, and it’s also in focus and exposed well.

              Anyway, I was definitely thinking Gursky when I took it, and it turned out to be a more successful apeing than I had dared hoped for. This is not a commentary on Gursky, whose photos I’m actually liking more and more as I learn more about photography. Instead it’s exploring an idea that Mike Johnston wrote about once that photography is really about liking how the camera sees more than how the human eye sees. I am totally interpreting that through what I got out of it and my Swiss cheese memory. But it’s a similar idea to Winogrand’s famous quote about taking a picture to see what it looks like.

              I want to say that this is not a profound idea. I think many of the things we do as photographers are exactly about what the camera can and can’t see — its unique vision and rendering of the real world. It’s just that this is kind of boiling it down to one basic thing: where do I aim the damned thing, and how much can I do with just that?

              • The subject is necessary but should not be the end point – if it is, a photo is one-dimensional because there’s nothing to hold your attention (and thus make you think) beyond the obvious.

                The human eye doesn’t really see with defined boundaries. The camera does. And we’ve got to be very careful about where those boundaries fall; if it’s in a place where there’s nothing of detail, then we don’t notice ‘the cut’; on the other hand, cutting things is precisely what we want to avoid.

                • Not cutting off things where we’ll notice them is a great way to think about it, and not just for edges — I’ll have to remember that. BTW, I typed my little essay above before looking at your domestic items photo essay. It’s been interesting reading people’s reactions to that series …

  13. I am now getting more and more uneasy when i take my dslr out to shoot, thinking others have small cameras like leica, fuji, ricoh gr and i am using dslr with big lens. How to overcome this?

    • Sorry, I can’t do anything for your self confidence. I shoot whatever I want – or rather whatever will get the job done – and don’t care about what anybody else thinks. Are you carrying a camera to look popular or make photographs?

  14. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I must have an attitude, everybody says so. What you are saying is a bit what like Thom Hogan says from time to time. If you want to improve the photos, improve the photographer. Most people run out and buy more gear. Nice bunch of photos you chose for the article. The two white birds are superb.

    • “If you want to improve the photos, improve the photographer. Most people run out and buy more gear. “

      I’ve been trying to say that for ages, but nobody listens to me. If anything, I just get more emails/ comments asking whether they should buy X or Y. Sigh.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        The only thing I need to buy is a ticket on United to someplace interesting.

      • mosswings says:

        Afraid that’s true, Ming. Trouble is that it takes several cycles of G.A.S. before some of us get that. The next step is the hardest: dedicating the time and consistent effort to make yourself better.

        • Actually, it should be the easiest – there’s no agonising over what to buy or how to pay for it!

          • Or just use the time between upgrade cycles to enroll in a few classes. For example, Ming’s email school takes between 6-12 months. I think even Sony can’t come out with an upgrade in less time than that time period. 🙂 The sad thing I’ve discovered is that my old, “obsolete” equipment turns out to be more than good enough if I go back and revisit them with new skills.

            • You know, I think I’m selling the email school wrongly. Instead of ‘up your game with personalised tuition’, it should be ‘save thousands on equipment!’

  15. mosswings says:

    “A photograph is a conversation between the photographer and his or her audience” This is true, and a good way of thinking about the activity. It is a special sort of conversation, though, one that’s rather muted on the reply end. As the reponse delay is so long, we get a lot of “I take pictures for myself, you don’t have to like them” sort of attitude. However, the best pictures embody a respect for the viewer as much as they reflect the perspective of the photographer. My wife, who is Buddhist, has said that Buddhists don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation, but having that mindset helps one think and act more compassionately in one’s present (and perhaps only) life. That has parallels in photography.

    There is an interesting book out entitled “The Practice of Contemplative Photography”, which is all about simply being there when your photographing. It’s informed by Buddhist philosophy and includes some interesting photos by Chogyam Trongpa, a Buddhist monk with a fascinating eye for subject and composition. It’s an excellent treatise on quietly seeing and the photos therein, not always the sharpest, not always the most exciting, are nevertheless compelling and clear.

    • There’s no reply end at all. And there’s no artistic integrity if you’re producing solely for the affirmation of others, it’s impossible to produce anything with any degree of consistency.

      Perhaps the old adage of ‘no light, no photograph’ should be adapted to ‘no vision, no photograph’.

      • mosswings says:

        No question, one does have to have something to say, even if the conversation is one-sided. I wasn’t really saying that you must produce solely for the affirmation of others, but that there is an implied response to anything you might produce. To the extent that you are conveying, clearly, a feeling, a situation, something that reflects a shared human experience, you are communicating something meaningful, though it might take some time to get through, and it won’t to everyone. “look there” is often what the photographer says through images, and the viewer’s part of the conversation is to do that, earnestly.

  16. Kristian Wannebo says:

    “… I’ve found that the best images come to you. You have to be observant, receptive, and prepared, but not trying to force the situation …”
    !! 🙂

    And part of being prepared is learning through experience that …
    “… trying to force the situation … almost always results in compromise, and weaker images.”
    (… and in the patience to learn your equipment until it – hopefully – becomes an extension of you.)

    “… success of an image is in the patience of the photographer …”
    … and (at least for me) the photographer’s patience with him/her-self.

  17. Paulo Sousa Pinto says:

    Very good article!
    I must go out with the intent of photographing more often, and don’t carry my camera everywhere in the hope that I’ll take some photos. As you said that doesn’t work. You made very good points on this article for me to think of. Patience is key.

  18. Agree on the attitude part. Sometimes, however, I find it difficult to get into the mood and have enough courage to take pictures of people or things in public.

    • For that specific challenge – start in public places where people *expect* to be photographed – less pressure for you and less confrontation for them.

  19. Excellent Thoughts! I have been thinking about these subjects a lot this week. Probably because I just re-read your article on the four stages of creative evolution of a photographer.

  20. Really enjoyed the article, Ming. I live in Auckland, New Zealand and bought a Ricoh GR so I can always have a decent camera with me. I have been carrying it every day I head into the city but haven’t taken many photos with it at all. I always figured it was because Auckland is a pretty boring city but maybe I definitely need to start walking around with ‘the eye’ switched on instead. Cheers!

    • It’s definitely a bit of both. Switch on the eye for your lunch hour at least. I found plenty of things to shoot in Auckland, but it might just be because it was my first time there, or I got lucky with the quality of light…

  21. jsleflore says:

    Great Post Ming. I am on that journey of trying to find my inner photographer. I must say I am a bit of a wanderer, however I read something somewhere saying there needs to be a bit of direction. So I am trying to work on my eye, perspective, point of view, and a way to tell a story at this stage it is very hard for me, I do enjoy trying to find it though.

    • Focus on one thing, get to some comfortable level of proficiency and then move from there. Trying to do too many things at once is going to result in confusion.

  22. Good article Ming. Having visited Amsterdam on many occasions I saw it as a totally different place when we did the workshop. The reason – it was the first time I mentally went with the intention of going as a photographer and the results definitely showed.

    The other thing I’ve noticed with time is I shoot a lot less, even with digital – even if I go as a photographer. I tend to immerse and soak up the atmosphere and then shoot anything that comes to me. A much more contemplative approach and a reason why I continue to enjoy photography (and a reason why I tend to not enjoy shooting high pace events)

    • I think we become a lot more picky with quality of light and type of subject; perhaps it’s simply because we know ourselves better. Or we get jaded. Or we accept and acknowledge the fact that seeing is perhaps the most important part of making a photo – and if you’re not seeing, there’s no point on bringing the camera.

      • Awareness of light has definitely been a factor – I don’t even bother taking a camera if the light is flat. If anything interesting comes along then cameraphone usually suffices….

        “a camera is merely a device that trains us how to see the world” – sums it all up really and I definitely see the world as a much richer place because of it.

        • Sometimes I wonder if there are interesting abstracts to be made in very flat light, though – the kind that leaves almost no shadows and helps to obscure spatial relationships of any kind…

          • I think we’ve discussed this before – so far I’ve had no success creating anything interesting at work, but the few times I’ve been able to play around, artificial flat light definitely does create a strange sense of being because of no shadows, it is a bit weird to be honest, but some potential is there…I’ll have a try tomorrow with the GR….

            • Yes, we have – the idea of ‘right’ light depends very much on your objectives. Directional and harsh might make for great photojournalism, but poor product; etc.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Excuseh mois for jumping in here, but flat light is perhaps desirable for some expressions—what could convey the wet cardboard personality of Japanese identikit architecture — no, “architecture” grants it too legitimate a sound — identikit Japanese buildings better than flat light. I hesitate to add uninteresting to flat as, to me anyway, that gestalt-shift (psychological term) makes the photo, the content, obviously the light, interesting. Of interest, at any rate.

            I shouldn’t really say anything as this was something I started to investigate last week. I should do some photos and see if they can walk the talk for me. Then again, it’s probably without doubt that I’m not the first to have had this thought. And done something about it.

            • It might work quite well for precisely that subject actually…

              • Tom Liles says:

                Gordon might not approve of me saying it, but corporate portraiture, too. Not commercial jobs, but something posing as that, and then putting, and presenting, the subjects in the flattest light possible. Bland, banal, boring. Politicians, particularly, warrant this treatment.
                I am torn as it’s character assassination. Plain and simple. But this, to me, is qualitatively different than the arch photographic assassins, the fingernails down a blackboard awful, flash-in-the-face-of-unsuspecting-pedestrian street shooters: the space invaders. As that is self-indulgent to no end; whereas this is self-indulgent to an end. A meaningful one. So maybe worth it.
                We, some of us anyway, do have to rile against the Corporate Spirit of the age (do a better job than a gaggle of hipsters Occupying a random park somewhere, the smug, safe and impotent version of 1968)—because the Corporate Spirit is slowing sucking the life out of everything. It’s an anaesthesia; the cultural anti-Christ. Just look what they’ve done to civic institutions. The environment. To popular music and film. Now sports. What’s next?

                Photography is in a unique position to say something, I think.

                I’ve had enough of the self-lionizing, jacket off arms folded, smug Mona Lisa smile to camera corporate portraiture that seeps through every media outlet from the cover of Time to hopeless internet banner ads.
                Show them for what they are: just men (invariably) in suits, whose tangible contributions to the World are incommensurate with the amount of money they demand for it. Men who doggedly stick to the dull idea that every problem can be answered by economics — every human behavior can be measured — and that it is possible to endlessly grow every quarter, even though no empirical example of infinity exists in all of nature, nevermind just planet Earth. Simple minded men pretending to be useful and smart, who choose grey, who can’t dance, who demand biscuits and meetings and whose idea of edgy is going for an Audi over a Beemer. They’re flat. A dead-end. They should be photographed as such.

                • Do you have some examples Tom on ‘Japanese identikit architecture’ – have to say I’m quite illiterate on the subject!

                  And Amen on the whole dead/flat corporate portraiture as well! Will be interesting to hear what Ming says – i remember an article a while back about an assignment he did, not sure if/what any lighting requirements were or how ‘flat’ the portraits were meant to be. At least this accusation cannot be totally leveled at the ‘selfie’ generation 😉

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Morning Crazyp,

                    I was thinking how best to present examples, and it struck me that Google Maps’ street view is almost perfectly suited to the job. Here’s a good start; I’m not sure if the link will work in the way I intend, if not, go to Google Maps, input “Saitama, Japan” pick a random spot and go for a Google walk. Saitama is an satellite prefecture of Tokyo, it’s about as plain and boring as it gets (when it didn’t have to be), except for areas where they managed to protect the once natural beauty there; but Tokyo is run-over with buildings and construction like this. It’s where the whole gestalt comes from. From the politicians and construction companies and real estate brokers of Tokyo, out into the country—relentlessly concreting everything in their path. It’s like a disneyfied version of Brutalist. That is only a fraction of the story though—even big snazzy metropolitan buildings are done in battleship grey and tiled and all have the same chrome and glass entrances… Of course there are exceptions, of course there are. There is architecture of real beauty and worth here; but that is the exception. The rule is: as little charisma and daring as possible—or if there simply must be character, let’s do a gaudy version of a building; but otherwise, beige on beige, shades of grey, decorations in brick, make the roof flat at all costs. It may seem interesting and different to the first time or occasional visitor, but when you have to live with it — day in, day out — it’s oppressive. It can’t be the Japanese aesthetic sense; I think it’s the opposite, the repression of the Japanese aesthetic sense. The historical buildings and things Japanese designers do overseas are all marvelous. They have the sense the designers, there are few nations as seeped in art and design as Japan; yet modern Japan itself has about as much architectural zest as a baked potato. Go figure.

                    I recall Ming did some crazy amount of portraits in a day. A good post (and he lit them, the customers!, very well, of course, not flat at all). I am torn about whether to ambush such people with this idea, probably no—but the higher ups? And as I say, Politicians… Certainly. And as Ming said, and I do appreciate, it’d be a one off: if ever you explained what you were up to, which corporate is ever going to sit for you? Would you even sit for yourself if you knew that’s what was coming? But this is important work. So you’d lie, deliberately mislead and trick the subject—and so once the work was out, you’d burn all bridges and never work again (and knowing how childish and precious and self-important Masters of the Universe are, probably be sued into oblivion, too). But this is important work, it’d be worth it.

                    If I could clap my hands three times and suddenly be a world famous photographer with the skills, the network and the pull to organize a series of shoots like this—I’d do it. Gladly. I’d jump at the chance to publish photos like that and have them widely seen, and happily take one for the team thereafter. If it meant no more, or at least a dent in, “welcome back to ESPN, this next pitch is brought to you by Budweiser, the King of Beers!” and the corollary of grown men paid 500,000 USD per week to run about with a ball; or more distastefully, lobbyists buying our civic institutions away from us and Politicos helping them do it for a chance to be in the tent pissing out, or more snouts in the trough. No more fat-cats, oligarchs, banksters and their rich kids who’ve never worked a day or done anything, buying second yachts and third houses that they never use or live in, visiting to a cancer ward every now and then as if that somehow balances things out… Millionaire rock-star wives like Trudie Styler saving the environment one private jet flight at a time (her response, it makes her look even worse, just read her sub-header; and by the by, look at the triumphant photo of herself she uses—this is exactly what I’m talking about) no more Justin Biebers and stage managed fun and blockbusters based on MD strategies or Starbucks loyalty cards and Wal-Marts making billions while their workforce often require state help above their salaries, just to live. The Corporate Spirit is a menace. There will be no more ideas in politics, no more ethics, no more arguments no more freedom and individuality; there will just be the bland planning of the Corporate Spirit—-a kind of gilded cage.

                    Yes, I’m sat in a sales meeting at the moment!

                    • Thanks for the response Tom!

                      I now get what you mean by the whole identikit idea. I have visited Japan once, but it really is an initial overload on the senses and by the time you finally being the process of orientating yourself in such a different environment it’s time to go! You sort of forget about the details/style when reflecting on the trip, This reminds me of the whole USSR way of going about building cities after WWII. But from what I can tell the difference is that the USSR built in a certain style for functionality whereas from how you are describing in Japan it is different. Is it a possibility that this is also a legacy from the fall out of WWII?

                      And I can now totally see how flat light would be quite effective in an ‘identikit’ environment! It would be the only way to portray such lifeless/uninspiring ‘things’. It also kind of confirms my approach here at work is doomed to failure, interesting machinery in flat light is boring! It needs some directional light to almost give the machines a soul/life!

                      You know what would happen if you somehow managed to pursue such a commission on politicians etc – you’d probably be heralded as an outstanding talent with a fresh outlook on the world portraying our leaders as such conflicted individuals with the weight of the world on their shoulders – and end up being lavished with millions and live out the rest of your days under a palm tree….

                    • Last paragraph – not in Asia!

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Monsieur P,

                      Yeah, I’d imagine there’s some kind of similarity with the output—USSR, North Korea, large swathes of China… But I’m no expert on any of this. Just a garden-variety internet hot air merchant. And with that: more hot air!

                      In Tokyo’s case the blank slate was given them by Curtis LeMay’s shameless firebombing of the city (including the people in it). In comparison with things like Unit 731 and what the Imperial Japanese Army perpetrated in Asia, LeMay’s reign of fire seems like par for the course; but comparisons and indulging relativist arguments (my 4 year old does things like say “well, he did it too!”) are the worst thing to get engaged in—both sides were morally deplorable and what each did should never be forgotten. By themselves especially. Though we will forget. No doubt about it. I don’t think either nation has sincerely atoned for these war atrocities; but with the generations that actually saw this horror firsthand dying off, it’s almost under the carpet now. At any rate: a touchy subject, beyond the point at hand, but gives us our start—Tokyo in burned ruins.

                      Post war, being the benign conquerer General Douglas MacArthur (keen to lay his ground to be a future POTUS) did what he could to balance US interests and rejig the Japanese system to take the sources of power away from the Zaibatsu (huge financial groupings) and the rampant militarist Japanese right wing (which didn’t disappear with the fall of the Shogunate and the Meiji restoration; in fact, as in many European monarchist countries, like the UK, the militarist rightwing and military-indutristrial complex used the national figure-head like a puppet and a foil. It’s still a hot topic whether the Emperor couldn’t have been more of a man and tempered them himself, even battered them back, or, since he didn’t, how complicit and knowledgeable he was in what Imperial Japan was doing). But MacArthur’s principle goal was neutralize these two: both were culpable in Japan’s mis-steps into being an axis-power and major aggressor in the second WW.
                      But Japan, and most cultures I’d say, is a little more indomitable than that: the Zaibatsu just evolve and reappear as the huge Japanese companies we still know today: Mitsubishi, Hitachi, etc., etc; and, well, politically Japan may be way further left than it was in the war and pre-war years—-but it is still a mile right of most European countries (I hesitate to add the US in there as the US today seems pretty rightwingy to me: Obama would be a conservative’s conservative in the UK, no question). I honestly wonder whether the militarist tendency isn’t a strongly latent one in Japan, a temptation just too much for the Japanese soul to resist. The Germans found a way: it took bravery and honesty and they did it. I don’t think Japan has undergone this transformation—in a way, it can’t, and perhaps can never, as tackling things head on is not the Japanese way. Quiet, private contemplation, time healing all wounds; or just repression? In the case of Japan I think the later—almost no-one speaks about the war here, but those that do (and weren’t in it) don’t seem sorry the same way Germans are. They only seem sorry that Japan lost. Just an opinion, let me stress.

                      MacArthur left Japan in pretty good nic, and the country began the triumphant process of rebuilding and growing at breakneck pace. China tells a similar story today. The population began to recover and grow, more houses were needed, more money was needed and the renewed country began to make things, very successfully integrating the traditional Japanese strengths of attention to detail, care and quality which, as we all know, eventually won the World over. So industrialization and construction had taken off and Japan built and built and built. Including municipal housing. Those buildings were actually quite well constructed (considering the circumstances they were put up in) and many of them still soldier on today.
                      The next rush was in the heady days of the late seventies, and the eighties when Japan was soaring high and there was money to burn. Buildings erected then are the worst ones. Something, anything was acceptable—just get a huge contract, make up tons of concrete and slap it anywhere and everywhere you can. Contracts, contracts, contracts. Build roads no-one needs, bridges to nowhere, apartment blocks designed by morons and lumbering civic art works in cinderblock. If people complain, add some shiny steel. If they still complain clad it in Chinese marble. Who cares. Do it. Bill it. The taxpayer picks up the tab, and the city speculates the asset values of everything up to make sure the ponzi keeps going. These buildings are the worst, but that’s not to say there are many redeeming features of older 60s and 70s ones; they were just made in mitigating circumstances.
                      Look at the buildings other countries built in their economic pomp, at the heights of their opulence: pre-USSR Russia, without a doubt—St. Petersburg is a favorite of mine, a gem; France, Spain, Great Britian; the jaw-droppingly impressive scale of US building, Detroit, Chicago, LA, NY; the Bizantines and Constantinople; it goes on and on. Japan made Saitama. They are the only ones who can answer for this (and be responsible!)

                      I don’t know much about Soviet architecture and design—but “communism” (I don’t think that’s the philosophically robust word for the system in Russia, but anyway, we all know that as communism and I think that’s fair [tips hat to Wittgenstein]) communism was a much more intellectually rooted movement, and at least there was a pretense of planning and an over-arching gestalt to the works. Even if only a gesture. The Japanese case seems to be more muddled and half-hearted—like there was an initial idea, but since nothing moves in corporate Japan without ten million stamps (personal seals) first, they probably design-by-comittee’d it to death. And gave birth to the Elephant Man of cities. Which several brave Japanese architects have tried to do something about over the years, but they are fighting a losing battle in my opinion. Politicians and their corporate friends stand squarely in the way of all aesthetic progress. The supreme irony is that the politicos themselves often live in very elegant traditional Japanese houses, dine at the most refined and eye-pleasing Japanese restaurants in the city and retire to the few classic 1920s men’s clubs that survived the violence of LeMay. The rest of us get Saitama—nationwide.

                      Same as it ever was, I imagine.
                      (relativism is OK when I do it)

                      end up being lavished with millions and live out the rest of your days under a palm tree….

                      Consumed by the same Corporate Spirit I wanted to rail against! Assimilated and gelded by CS’s founding principle: if you can’t beat them. Buy them Ha.

                      And I’d take it. And then you could come take my portrait CrazyP—promising to make me look good, oh yes 🙂

                      Post Script:

                      Over my lunchtime walk I thought back to how many cameras I went through in 2013 and how spectacularly stupid that then makes all my Corporate Spirit schtick sound… But then I considered: ok yes, we are all, us photogs, rampant consumerists and as knee deep in the feeding frenzy as anyone; but we produce, we make things. Creative things. We try, we study, we do stuff. We act positively. It isn’t perfect, but the difference between us and Bernie Eccleston’s progeny, for example, is that our consumerism contains that positive intent. Plus, mmm, I worked for every penny I spent — I’m sure you have too, CrazyP and everyone — there is that. But I hesitate to entertain that line since it would make someone who was given a camera for nothing, or a money present that they used to buy a camera somehow lesser because of it. They aren’t. That’s why it’s important to focus not on the means or frequency of purchase, but on the positive intent those purchases are part and parcel of, that’s all that matters. Buying things is just what we have to do in this day and age to get to the thing we want: the final product, the photo, the image, the work. Those finished results are as far away, in spirit, from money and material as it gets. We all know why Petra Eccleston bought the Holmby Hills mansion; that finished result was plainly about one thing and one thing only. Ming’s finished result of Forest II, for example, is flatly different. Unlike the most expensive house in the US, Forest II itself says nothing about money or how much the camera that took it costed—none of that even matters, the image alone does. It is a standalone. A work of art. Fine art. But this thread tracks back from works by masters like Ming: every picture we ever take, even the ones we throw away, are works of art, to greater and lesser degrees, but all art. We are consumers, but not empty consumers like Petra Eccleston or the next Russian gas oligarch to rock up in Monte Carlo in his baroque gas guzzling yacht. We have an attitude that they don’t. (:) )

                      Completely unrelated CrazyP, but you mentioned work and machinery and photos—are you taking professional pictures of machinery? Sounds interesting. And difficult. I saw a nice photograph of turbine (I still look at these sort of things, too many years on power plants and missing the heavy engineering perhaps); the guy who did it used a flash light, just one, and light-painting. Laborious and you need Ps really to execute it well; but the results spoke for themselves. I read that and went out and bought a little flash light. I haven’t found a nice subject to use my simple jabs at this technique on yet, but I’d imagine something mechanical with shadows falling where you might want them, but moving the light moves the light to where you don’t want it, I could imagine with such complex shapes and all those nooks and crannies light painting would work well. A properly color temperature rated flash light would be advisable—my Japanese version of a pocket mag doesn’t play nice with indoor lighting of any temperature, doesn’t mix well. Anyway, that’s me. Adieu 🙂

                    • How about this: art is interpretation.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Or this, art is an opinion—a one line argument: I win

                      (Note: not a statement, which is one way; an argument—needs an interlocutor)

                      ((God I can’t believe I just said “interlocutor,” I’ll leave it in: to remind me I should do better))

                    • That word sounds like it’d be the next hot position that sounds good but actually means nothing in the corporate world. ‘Ming Thein: Senior Vice Interlocutor’

                    • Ming – but we already have the title ‘senior vice president’ which everyone seems to be nowadays!!!

                      Tom – That was a fascinating read! I also came to the same conclusion about the Japanese fallout after WWII. The Germans were made to confront what had happened and this never happened in Japan. My own thoughts are that America didn’t want to occupy Japan in the same way Germany was conquered probably because they would spread themselves too thin. Therefore the next best thing is to strip and dismantle the cultural elements that dominated the country for so long – in some ways this was probably more damaging and is also why Japan continues to struggle geo-politically with their neighbours. If you think about how far left the UK has become, come over to Europe where the ‘Economist’ is considered as a far right newspaper! Though in the States I think one needs to make the distinction between the military where both sides of the house are hawkish and ‘other’ policy which can seem to swing depending on what the flavour of the month is in Washington….

                      In terms of architecture, the 60s/70s stuff everywhere seems to be pretty much concrete grey and beige. I can’t think of one city actually which triumphed in architecture design over this period! Granted Japan relative to other countries were advancing at a much greater pace during this process, but maybe they believed what they were building was the height of design based on what everyone else was doing (and possibly aware not everyone would be so keen to see Japan showcasing their old Imperial roots)? But indeed compared to other communities in their pomp there isn’t really the same grandeur of design which is a shame.

                      We are shameless consumers, though I think this is slowing down. People are starting to realise it’s a bit silly to buy a new ipad every 18 months for no reason whatsoever than to be cool. I’ve always been amazed on how many people can drop 40-50 euros a month on a phone contract on top of 200-300 euros phone cost. Where the hell are people getting money from, but we live in a time where image seems to be everything!

                      But at the same time, we need to spend – heck we don’t spend enough frankly. Paranoid about our future and knowledge that whatever pension we are promised is probably going to be worthless. Coming back to your original point jobs that create or I would add require manual labour are sadly a dying breed – maintenance jobs like electricians and plumbing are just seen as ‘beneath’ us which is a crying shame. Sadly working in the service sector seems to be the achievement most crave for especially if you title is ‘senior vice president’ 😉

                      I work on a drilling rig Tom – hence the machinery. But due to the nature of the job, flash is an absolute no,no. Heck even getting a camera outside involves a far amount of paper work/permits. Other than natural sunlight, the artificial light here is very even and flat (minimal glare and shadows so people can work safely) – so trying to make use of a bad situation at the moment. Speaking of which the sun is absolutely shining, time to try and get a permit and shoot a bit….

                    • I ask myself the same question: especially when the people spending that kind of money are only earning 500-800 euros per month…

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Bagsy ‘Tom Liles: COI’

                      ※ “bagsy” –> umm, I’ve started a line to explain this neat idiom of English, and have now realized I can’t explain it in one line (though I could explain that I can’t explain it in one line). It’s what kids say when they want to reserve or commandeer or declare their turn on something: e.g., kids at the park picking sides for a game of football bagsy CrazyP; kids getting into the car with Dad, bagsy front seat!; kids choosing film on the shelf at Yodobashi ah! Provia 400X, bagsy that! etc. And it works on the first come first served system—first to say, gets.

                      Bagsy the hand of Charlotte Casirahgi in marriage!
                      Oh no, I’m already married 😮
                      And oh no, she is too! (kind of) 😮

                      Nothing to bagsy then—I realize I’m a happy man 🙂

                      Wait, no, bagsy ‘Tom Liles: COI’!
                      (now we just need a multi-national to pay us money for nothing)

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Ah the glory of work permits, CrazyP!
                      Yellow for the work permit; green for the safety one? 🙂

                      I worked on a nuclear power station for a number of years and understand very well how something as simple as taking a camera somewhere, never mind using it to do something, is not a straight forward proposal. After piper-alpha industrial safety changed a lot — PA was way before my time, but I came into the game through Chemical Engineering and spent my first few years on chemical plants (mostly xylene plants) in the early 2000s, even then things moved as quick as treacle—nuclear was another few years into the future for me, and another level of safety yet again, and it literally took days to get some permits — so I can imagine the diligence and professionalism you have to maintain.
                      (This said, while those two things are true, it is also true that actual life on plants, rigs probably too, wouldn’t really match up to the heroic image the average joe would get in his head when I say “diligence and professionalism”; hard to explain unless you’ve been in the belly of the beast!)

                      Maybe try shaping what you’ve got — natural or the ambient artificial — into something a bit more photogenic by using white cards, silver cards, black cards, sheets of tracing paper: reflect it, direct it, divert it, diffuse it, block it. If all else fails—get a D800E and let the fearsome DR and resolution parse out all the micro-contrasts in the flat light and give you something, a foot in the door, to spread out into a more contrasty photograph in post.
                      Reminds me, those flat light photos I mentioned starting to investigate way back up there when we first spoke, CrazyP, I took a look at them this evening before leaving work—I’d taken them with the A7 and a Zeiss on it, and I think that was a mistake as it’s managed to separate out lots of subtle light ramps and make the flippin photos look halfway good. Not what I wanted! I’ll try again with the worst* thing I’ve got: iPhone or Panasonic DMC-L1. On a cloudy, dark day. Preferably a Monday. Maybe after having a meeting with my boss or something. Belt and buckle, eh.
                      (* Don’t get me wrong, I say worst things, but I love both those instruments to death and pamper and use them often. But 120 Acros behind a primo T* they ain’t!)

                      Happy hunting CrazyP


                    • Ah well permits – hot work permits are red (cameras fall into this category as they are not EX rated) and cold work are blue. We don’t actually have anything for ‘safe’ work apart from risk assessments etc. I like to think we are quite pragmatic nowadays, a few key signatories required and a thorough risk assessment can speed along a permit. But Piper Alpha is something that definitely changed our outlook on safety and Macondo was another especially for the drilling world (though a large subject around the differences in work culture the US operate in was largely ignored in the findings from that tragedy which IMO were key…).

                      Life is different, but there is a great amount of good natured banter which is absolutely necessary – but i think we’ve deviated enough! But I couldn’t get away from a D800E – the camera is way too big and getting that out on the floor would be impossible. I’m going to stick with the GR and see what I can muster. Actually the A7R with the 55mm lens maybe an idea – but I’m not sold enough on the Sony for my general photography needs to buy one!

                      I would have thought the added bite may have given the photos a disconcerting ‘edge’ – which thinking about it is the opposite to what we are trying to achieve with flat light! Flat, low contrast and very neutral colours and I think you’ll be on your way to dull perfection 🙂

                      (btw, I’m from the UK so perfectly know the word bagsy, though if you want a more ‘modern’ word for our non british readers I would go with the word ‘shotgun!’

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      You can’t say “Shotgun!” without Billy Idol jumping into my head!

                      Hey little sister…

                • I think that would actually make a very, very interesting project. Except you’d never get them to agree…

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    It’s interesting that you find the idea interesting, MT. I should imagine you’d have mixed feelings on the topic as you were once being groomed to be a Master of the Universe yourself. The people I irreverently speak of must be people you know/knew, and are plainly people as you encountered them. I don’t deny their rights and status as people either, not for a moment; but I reserve the right to violate them. The Corporate Spirit corrupts them and willingly, or not, they are the instruments, often instigators, of taking our civic and ethical institutions away. Put bluntly our collective sense of right and wrong.
                    A recent story in the UK sees the Co-op bank, started by upstanding men, nowadays deep in the red and yet a new crew, another crew, of Corporate management swoop in to award themselves hideously over-priced salaries and benefits; because that’s what other FTSE Masters get. They could politely decline; but they don’t—accepting these ridiculous sums can only be seen as them assenting “yes, I’m worth it.” Before they’ve even done a thing. Not only to the cost of the bank but its lowly employees, too. Most of all to the cost of the founding egalitarian principles the mutualized Co-op was built on.

                    Riding roughshod over these guys’ rights and expectations with an exercise in portraiture ambush would be more than just giving them a taste of their own medicine. Hopefully it would remind them of their smallness, and therefore that of others; and why working for collective benefit, human benefit, is the point of existence. Not personal financial gain and opulence. Our deep ancestors fighting to survive in nature understood this, and because they did here we stand today.

                    The Corporate Spirit is anti-thetical to everything recognizably human. But for a start it’s the vanguard of boredom: I’d like to see someone come out and say it, show it. But what do we get: Damien Hirst selling diamond encrusted skulls and Richard Prince Marlboro Men.
                    (And I was on here speaking to them months ago!)

                    ((Though the argument wasn’t a defense))

                    • I find the idea interesting because the light suits the mood and the idea; to say nothing of social commentary. I don’t think I was being groomed to be master of the universe – not would I/ could I ever be, I care too much about the job and the people who work for me. I am just a lowly photographer-contractor instead…

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      I’m sure if you’d been the type, you could’ve gone very high up the ladder, MT. But knowing you, in the limited respect I do, I agree wholeheartedly that you couldn’t have done it (the way you’d have been encouraged to). And thank heavens you didn’t, thank heavens you persevered with a dream and stepped out of the bubble and decided to do life your way. Not many can say they did. Not many can say they even tried.

                      I almost want to say, “stepped out of the matrix”; I’m sure the thought of yourself as a Neo would give you a chuckle 🙂
                      (But could Neo do with his Nokia what you can with an iPhone? Did Neo’s Nokia even have a camera!? Who’s laughing now Mr Anderson! Neo can be the irregularity and fly out of phone boxes all he wants, but until he can do the Sufficiency postings you did, he’ll always be second best in my book!)

                      Now, enough Sulphur for today—the Corporate Spirit can go back to work. I’m out to photograph: three shots of 120 RVP 100 left in the back and a roll of Ektar in my pocket. And an A7 plus 35 FEZA around my neck. And an f-mount adapter and 105 1.8 Ai-s wrapped up in the bag. With an SB-910 and PC sync cable in there too. Ka-blow!

                      I’m a walking bludgeon of photography this lunchtime!

                    • The grass being greener and all that – I’m convinced both sides of the fence are merely an optical illusion. Both have advantages and disadvantages. And I’ll be the first to admit there are times when I want to step back inside.

                      Neo’s Nokia didn’t have a camera. He’d probably be faster and more stable with bullet time and all that. Plus think of the aerial angles!

                      I’m not carrying any camera at all today, which is highly irregular. Read into that what you will…

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      You don’t need the camera, MT. Just the attitude.

                      /rounds of applause m(. .)m

                  • I want to say that someone has done a project like that: taking really unflattering photos of fatcat bankers or perhaps other plutocrats or politicians, but I can’t remember right now the exact details. Maybe another reader might remember. If I remember correctly, the subjects weren’t told about the intent of the project, and they weren’t happy afterwards to discover the true nature of the project. But my memory on this is like Swiss cheese, so I hope someone else can fill in the holes.

                    • I can only imagine that the output was probably buried or destroyed or made into a bad word and the artist excommunicated to the full extent the subject’s money would allow. Egos run high and creativity is low in this realm, it would seem.

                    • Not sure if you are referring to a specific work done by our very own MT … But I went back to the On Assignment posts and found this one … On “Assignment: 150 portraits in 3 days”. Thankfully the photographer has not been excommunicated! 😉

                    • I’m pretty sure it was that one.

                    • I remember that, and I think Ming did good for his client. The essay I’m thinking of was definitely not intended to be flattering!

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Absolutely, he lit them with pretty classic portrait lighting as I recall—and a twist of MT low key. Classy would be the word, if anything…

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