Sunday, September 30, 2012

Joe McNally shares 25 years experience shooting for National Geographic

Joe McNally shares stories and layouts from 25 plus years of shooting for the world’s premier picture magazine. Anecdotes from the field, discussion of editing, layout and how pictures have to succeed emotionally, pictorially, and informationally to grace the pages of National Geographic.

At the start there's a minor glitch where Joe's photos do not appear full screen but that gets soon sorted out, so just persevere.

This is a fascinating account and the interviewer opens the floor for questions from the audience during the last 30 minutes.

Joe is one of my favourite photographers and it is fabulous to hear how he thinks about creating the images that tell the stories in National Geographic.


Till soon,
Paul (this is the hub of my photographic world with links to all my social media homes, exhibitions, info and portfolios)

PS. My thanks to Manfrotto School of Excellence (my favourite tripods) for producing this excellent video

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to criticize photographs

How do you criticise photographs and what does a good critical comment look like?

Food critic by Paul Indigo. Note the discarded  plate, his expression and the  piece of baguette.
Social media enables amateurs, enthusiasts and professional photographers to publish their work to a wide audience, who can then openly comment and criticize the images. I would hazard a guess that 99% of the comments are fairly superficial positive expressions of appreciation like, "good shot", "nice work", "great composition" etc. Social media is not really a good forum to give and receive criticism on your photographs.

When I upload an image I don't expect to get an in-depth critique nor do I give them very often. This does not mean that I don't look at images critically, and as with many photographers I am most critical of my own work.

Do you look at images critically? What approach do you use when analysing how good an image is?

For me the most important element is to try to understand what the photographer's intention was when they took the image. The universal standard that can then be applied is how well the image communicates the photographers intention. Every approach is fraught with problems and academics have long debates about the validity of different methods of critiquing. Looking at intention has long been called a flawed approach, see the debates on "intentional fallacy". More about that further down the page in a lovely story.

As a photographer I can't imagine working without having a specific intention and a set of boundaries that I choose to follow. Put another way, how can you hope as a photographer to communicate something if you don't know what it is you want to say and how you would like to say it?

A photojournalist can't manipulate images in any way at all while an advertising photographer may have different constraints imposed by working within brand guidelines. Understanding the photographer's intention and the constraints they work under are for me the two essential keys to being able to really evaluate an image. Of course this information is not always readily available and sometimes you have to make assumptions.

The process of making a photograph consists of hundreds of decisions, from visualising the image, to technical and compositional considerations, to digital darkroom enhancements and finally deciding on how the finished image should be presented.

For me the best way to judge an image is to think about the decisions the photographer had to make to get the image. Choices were made about composition, timing, sometimes lighting, content and so do they stack up to the final product. Does the image really communicate the photographer's intention?

A good critique will examine the decisions a photographer made, from the choice of viewpoint to the way he or she handled the technical challenges and environmental, social, technological and other constraints.

Here's a great story about the intentional fallacy:
"Actually, it was a very long time ago that I first got slapped down for brandishing the intentional fallacy. As a wet-behind-the-ears college senior, I once glibly mentioned the term in the presence of the painter Ben Shahn. ''What the hell is that?'' he growled, interrupting my discourse. ''What is what?'' I asked with trepidation. ''That fallacy of intention you just spoke about.'' As I explained, Shahn's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. ''Are you trying to tell me that I don't know what I'm doing when I paint?'' ''Well, not exactly . . . ,'' I began. ''My God,'' he roared, ''every time I put a brush to a canvas, I have an intention. And I damn well better know what it is, or else the painting ain't gonna be any good.'' He rolled his eyes. ''Intentional fallacy,'' he muttered. Then with a weary sigh: ''What do these critics think art is? Monkeys dabbling? Art is nothing but decisions. Decisions, decisions, decisions.''
Published: June 9, 1986

Till soon,

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Carnival: preparations and the big day

New reportage. View in HD with the volume turned up!

In 2012 the Leeds West Indian Carnival celebrated its 45th year. The festival is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, second only to London's Notting Hill Carnival.

For a number of years I photographed the carnival and in 2010 we photographed the people behind the scenes. They put in a tremendous amount of hard work to make those fabulous costumes.  This slide show follows the process through from the preparations to Carnival day itself.

Carnival founder, Arthur France, is enormously pleased with the on-going success of the event and says the Leeds carnival continues to improve year on year. "What distinguishes the local event", says Arthur, "is the fact that it remains traditional in terms of the costumes and music which are central to the spirit and character of the carnival."

My thanks to all involved in the Leeds Carnival and particularly those that organised access and the friendly people at the Leeds West Indian Centre.

Till soon,
Paul Indigo