In a lazy and casual visual wandering I landed to a series of photos of an Italian amateur photographer, whose choice made me think over at the very beginning and, after a very short while, made me feel annoyed at the limit with anger.
Obviously everybody is free to take photos of what they like, with a certain respect for their subjects or at least a veiled consent and the liking or the disliking is based on strictly personal criteria.
Nevertheless I do think that our freedom should end where others’ freedom starts and I I’m deeply disturbed by all kind of “stolen photos” of people who are totally unaware of being object of such an unrequested “ attention”, mostly when they are relaxed and indulge on poses which they would not like to see displayed.
Many amateur photographers take what they call “street photography” where the main subjects are other people and passers-by and probably there is nothing wrong with that, if the people captured in pictures are simply part of a urban scenes and directly complementary to that.
I have some doubts, anyhow, about the series of photos of the back of unaware walking girls, with a certain insistence on their bottoms, which are often the main subject.
Pseudo- photographers, armed with powerful telephoto-lenses, poke their intrusive nose in the life of unknown young ladies who are so unlucky to cross casually their paths. But we are constantly controlled and spied, by security cameras, by all kind of means, we are filed, checked and it has become nearly passively accepted as normality.
What I really find horrifying is stealing photos of half-naked bodies on a beach.
I found that series of photos of the Italian amateur photographer one of the worst examples of that bad habit (I call it bad habit because I feel kind and I use a euphemism).
Since he was aware that he might have problems if he had posted a photo of an unaware person in swimming suit, he cropped most of his photos cutting off the face of the poor victims of his little voyeurism.
There result is a very melancholy and gloomy, but also emblematic collection of headless tired body, which looks like pieces of meat on a butcher’s stalls.
Maybe I can give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he intended to do a “conceptual work” maybe his photos must be seen as a metaphor of physical decay… everything is possible …
It’s like when one converts a totally useless and messy photo to black and white in a retouching program and
then one clicks on a couple of already made filters and …hoopla! How creative, how conceptual (grin, grin).
It’s already melancholy enough spending a day on a crowded beaches and taking a bath looking for a refreshing pause, all together with so many other people close to each other, like pieces of various vegetables floating in a pot of soup; one really doesn’t need to get one’s relative privacy violated by the eye without respect of a stranger who rummages digitally in the fold of their imperfect skin, into the slipping bra of their bikini, in the flabby vestiges of a lost youth…
I surprised myself imagining how liberating would be if the unaware victims of the photographers suddenly realized that, all at once, and rushed to him and caught him and exposed him naked for a whole day in front of the beach restaurant.
The matrons and the children would receive big feathers and jars of honey and they would be free to use those tools the way they fancy, when they contemplate the guilty prisoner a little closer.
The concept of art, mostly what is grouped under the general label of « Modern Art » is always very relative and strictly connected with personal parameters of tastes and sensitiveness.
Generalizing too much leads surely to mistakes even though in some cases it remains possible to fix certain general features which might be considered relevant to determine the concept of “art”.
Art is a display of personal creativity together with a certain dose of skills for the practical realization of the final result.
I mean that a sculptor – for example - must not only have the idea of the composition of a statue, but also the practical talent to sculpture, to carve or to engrave, a manual practical ability which allows to use properly the necessary tools; the creative idea in
itself is not necessarily enough to get the final result which can be called a work of art.
It happens also that art is identified in a display of transgression in a work which might disturb the viewers and is supposed to impress individual sensitiveness through shocking means.
It’s a choice and as all choice might have a value, of course not absolute.
Photography is a particular kind of creative activity which I find difficult to call art in absolute. In most of case it’s not creative at all and it is not absolutely necessary to have any particular technical talent either.
But it’s obvious that also photography can be called art in some aspects, because there are photographers who can conjugate excellent knowledge of the technical means with personal very sophisticated creativity and a deep sense of the image.
It’s possible to make different attempts in photography, to experiment different effects and to convey ideas through pictures.
Conveying ideas and emotions, this is one of the main features of art, after all.
Coming back to my “speculations” on photography I think we can compare it to literature, in a way.
In order to write a good book creating and original plot is not enough, a writer must also be able to master the style and to know perfectly grammar and syntax and then be very accurate in the whole procedure.
In order to get a worthy photo, a photographer should know how to use all the options which a camera offers (a very sophisticated and expensive camera is not fundamental, even though can have an obvious importance) and should equally have the idea of what the photo might convey to the viewers. A good photographer should know the basic elements of a worthy composition and pay attention to the balance of all the elements which compose the picture and, last but not least, a good photographer should be very accurate and very self-critical and have all the possible respect for the subjects.
I’m afraid that too many amateur photographers take what I call “useless photos”, that is casual shots which don’t mean anything, which don’t convey any feeling, which are not accurate either.
I took many “useless photos” too, but I’m saved in most of cases by my deep self-criticism. Taking useless photos is not a fault, but keeping them and even posting them… well it’s a fault we would all avoid.
I’ll keep on with this topic next time. My half-hidden journal offers me this freedom…
One of the advantages of this semi-hidden journal is that nearly nobody lands to these pages to read it, so I feel free to write whatever I like, being not necessarily politically correct.
I have never liked being politically correct, but this is another story.
I have been posting my photos on PBase for many years so I also deeply enjoy browsing the site to see the photo galleries of other photographers. There is a broad variety of different style of photography and, as it’s logical, there are things I deeply like and others which I appreciate definitely less.
But it’s not interesting only from a strictly photographic point of view; it’s also a great opportunity to think over about people’s attitudes, about ideas and approaches to life.
A few days ago I stumbled upon a gallery of photos dedicated to rats as pets. Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against rats and I do think people can have a special liking for every kind of animals. If one feels like keeping at home a kangaroo or a crocodile or a polecat as a pet there is absolutely nothing wrong, of course if the animals have at their disposal a suitable environment and are treated like the respect that every animal deserves.
Respect, this is the key-word.
What made me think over was not the fact that a person had a special liking for rats, but the way the rats were displayed in the series of photos.
They were ridiculously disguised with small costumes, to mimic other animals, or human characters.
I found that terribly melancholy, nearly sad.
I could not help thinking of this basic misunderstanding which makes people claim they love their pets deeply, while in reality they treat them as unconscious dolls or puppets, playing with them as if they were Disney’s cartoons, without any respect for the nature of the animals.
Animals are neither children nor dolls; they are animals, with their instincts, their reactions, and their needs. Loving animals means, in my opinion, being aware of their nature and respecting it, without transforming them in
Of course animals can interact with humans, but always from their instinctive point of view, if the animal is sociable and traditionally used to live in a pack, like dogs, the relationship with the humans will reproduce from the point of view of the animal the hierarchic roles which exists in a pack and a mutual interaction, if the animal has not any gregarious instinct like, for example, felines, then the relationship will be necessarily different and so on.
But I’d like someone could explain me what has to do with love for animals making a fool of them, dressing them up in a “ funny” way and then to sigh in an enraptured way “ How cute!!!!!”
I’m aware to have a troglodytic approach to most of very refined technological devices which have become so common and apparently indispensable nowadays, at least in our western civilization, even though not only in it.
A few days ago I found myself considering the opportunity to buy a tablet , an iPad or whatever device of that kind, since I felt a little conditioned by their rather overwhelming presence, as if going anywhere without being necessarily and constantly connected with the web was a lack of taste, a flaw… Then I came to the conclusion
that, at least for me, I really didn’t see the utility to carry around the magic tablet, in spite of its limited weight and dimensions.
I have not any account in any social network, so I’m happily free by the need to be connected all the time to check them, to update them and so on, I don’t like reading e-books and I’m still happier with horribly old-fashioned traditional good heavy book made of real paper.
When I travel, I prefer to look around me, rather than watching a film on a small screen, I deeply dislike headphones and I prefer to have music surrounding me, when it’s possible, rather than getting it strictly canalized into my two plugged ears.
I don’t get bored at all, just thinking over and paying attention to what I see, I don’t need video games to entertain me. I can live happily without sending compulsorily emails every two minutes; after all a letter takes always a certain time to arrive by mail and it’s delivered only once a day and the pleasure of waiting is a magic element which makes even more enjoyable to get what we were expecting.
Time is richness and being able to fully enjoy it without doing too many things at once makes us richer.
I have noticed that nearly all compact cameras of new generation have an incorporated GPS, in order to have, in the data of every photo, also its exact geo-localization.
It sound like a great feature, isn’t it? But, wait a moment, is it really so fundamental for taking a good photo? It gives me a slight feeling of uneasiness the simple idea to be localized with my camera in the exact point where I’m while I take my photo.
A satellite, celestial Big Brother, is watching me, it’s calculating where I am and when, it can know everything of me, as all the web sites, which put their cookies (also the most innocent and how innocent they appear with their name of biscuits) in my computer in a way spy me, try to capture my habits, to deduce with their artificial intelligence what I could like as potential client. Of course we can try to deactivate all that which comes to us by default, but it
takes time and attention, we have to get inside all the settings like artificers who try carefully to defuse a bomb, cutting first the red wire, then the green one and hoping to have done all right…
Oh well, don’t misunderstand me, I’m deeply persuaded that a GPS navigation device is a very useful work tool
for a lot of categories of people, taxi drivers, carriers, postmen and many other who need to find a location quickly and surely for professional reasons.
But when you travel for your own leisure and you decide rightly to take time on your side, I really don’t see why you should be conditioned by a gentle and impersonal voice which tells you where you have to turn every two minutes, it’s surrealistic and also disturbing.
The pleasure of the trip is also the progressive discovery of an unknown landscape; a discovery which is so enjoyable to get gradually, by attempts, following your own instinct, making mistakes…
Getting lost in an unknown place when you follow a slow pace is so rewarding, you can find unexpected things which you would have never seen if you had followed the sure and strict directions of a GPS.
I can accept the partial help of a small map, it’s often difficult to read properly a map, you might turn it in your hands without finding immediately the right direction to take, you might take by mistake the opposite one and then you can find what you were not looking for in a perfect serendipity.
Getting lost like that is a form of joyful freedom. Nobody know where you are, neither you…
In 1869 Mark Twain published a travel book with a splendid title « The Innocents Abroad ».
The book humorously chronicles the vicissitude and the experiences of a group of American travellers through Europe.
We might consider here also the stereotypes of mass tourism, with package trips which show tourists what they expect to see, instead of the reality of the countries they visit.
I think that sometimes, people tend to make a little confusion between theme parks and many famous touristic destinations, where clichés overwhelm the essence of a foreign culture and appear more real than reality.
We have to cope with triumphs of kitsch like the people who play the role of Roman centurions, performing all dressed up in a little improbable costumes by the Colosseum, the world-famous Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome, to get some money from tourists in exchange of a photo in their company. The principle is the same of the
theme-parks where people ( unluckily not only children) get photos of themselves in company of embarrassing big puppets inspired to the characters of cartoons, but the Colosseum is not an attraction of a theme park, it’s an historical monument.
It’s all this disturbing superficial confusion which makes me think
over and wonder what mass tourism really allow people to perceive in an enriching way from what they see.
Another flagrant example is Venice and the gondola rides with singing gondoliers.
Innocents abroad (they might be from every country, of course) identify the romantic Venice with its gondolas, without realizing that Venetians never take any ride on any gondola and they are just for tourists. Well, actually there is only a specific use of gondola in the daily life of Venice inhabitants; it’s a kind of ferry for pedestrians, to cross the Grand Canal from shore to shore, in points far from the few bridges. It takes only few minutes and the service is cheap, people stand up on a kind of gondola all together, just for the time to arrive on the other side.
But gondolas for tourists offer a totally different service, a long ride along small canals for happy couples who feel deeply Venetians doing that.
Often the gondolier entertains the customers singing, because
“Venice is so romantic and Italians always sing and play mandolin”.
Clichés, we live so often on clichés that we miss the scent of reality…
The singing gondoliers in most of cases intone popular…Neapolitan songs. They give tourists what they expect, many Neapolitan songs are well-knows also abroad, who knows instead real Venetian folklore?
At the end everybody is happy in this eternal illusion…
Saying that our life is a journey is actually an over-used metaphor which is not the case to repeat once again to not trespass on total banality.
Nevertheless it’s one of the best abstract image to describe this mysterious path we are walking along, knowing it will end, but we don’t know when and the exact circumstances and definitely it’s better like that.
I like, without any metaphor, travelling by train, it’s probably the
most relaxing and enriching way to travel, of course if one can take a comfortable train and to have all the time on one’s side.
There are people who need to entertain themselves with something to cope with a trip by train, they must have their electronic devices they must have books, magazines, they must necessarily start a totally superficial chat, just to not be obliged to remain idle, sitting at their place, while the train runs.
I always take one of two books with me (not an e-book reader, I mean real books), but then at the end of the trip I realize I have read maybe only a few pages.
The matter is that when I travel by train I don’t need to do anything to entertain myself, but enjoying the essence of the trip.
I like imagining that the train is motionless, while all what I see from the windows, the landscape which changes constantly, is moving, like a film.
Many images get superposed; I can catch quick fragments of a possible story, people I can glimpse for a second, the quick image of a woman on the flowered balcony of a farmhouse, distant outlines of bell towers, bridges over invisible rivers, towns I won’t cross.
Children who look at trains from the bar of a level crossing, cows which lift up their head and glance lazily, chewing grass…children and cows are the greatest train spotters.
I let my mind fly, lulled by the monotonous and reassuring song of the train wheels.
There are so many details to perceive, to grasp and a lot of time to do that.
Sometimes I take quick photos. Just to freeze moments. Strange things can happen in the magic world of train trips, when we can set our imagination free and to see all with different eyes, so we can discover something that
we would have probably missed under normal circumstances.
Look at that, please, my train has just stopped in a station, the stop would last just a couple of minutes, I keep on looking at my window and suddenly I notice two special travellers, waiting on the platform. One of them is tired, a globe trotter maybe, who shows his tattoos as a soldier could show the medals of his campaigns, but it’s the other man who must attract our attention…
He looks at ease, serene, he seems nearly to comfort the tired one…but please, follow my eyes and look at the poster on their back. Yes, it’s really like that, it’s THE SAME MAN!
He came out from the poster, it’s not any hallucination, you can see him too, he has the same clothes, it’s the same person.
I’d like knowing more…but the minutes are over, the train has just left again….
I’m persuaded that people can take their photos the way they prefer and to follow their own inspiration.
They might consider photography a way to collect memories of
people, places of moments; they can use it as means of expression to convey something more conceptual, they might prefer to take photos as a form of illustration of a text or they might make tests and experiments about all the technical possibilities of their cameras. There must be many other purposes, besides the few I mentioned above. They are all equally respectable, unless they violate the privacy of others in an offending and abusing way.
Besides the aesthetical aspects and the visual pleasure that looking at a beautiful photo might give to a passionate of photography, there is also another very interesting element in analysing others’ photos.
It’s a way to decoded others’ personality in a much more sincere way than listening to any description they can give about themselves.
I don’t mean that all the people can be voluntarily in bad faith when they speak of themselves, some are, but the majority of them are not. But often we see ourselves in a way that is only partial, as if we looked at ourselves from a limited and restrictive point of view, which doesn’t allow us to see all details.
We can apply a kind of unconscious censorship on certain things or we can stress what we would like to consider our main features, neglecting the others.
But our gestures, our instinctive reactions and our choices speak of our seal self in a much articulated way.
I have posted my photos on PBase for over ten years and I have learnt so many things, not necessarily only about photography.
Of course I don’t share unrequested remarks on PBase, which is and remains only a photography site and where everyone has the right to post the way they like.
But here, in this half-hidden personal space I might feel allowed to express my
I have noticed like PBase has started being used by some groups like a kind of Facebook with pictures.
There are links of belonging to the same groups which are displayed by a kind of rituals of daily mutual comments and a relative lack of attention to the photo one comments , giving priority to what the photo display as connection to the private life of the photographer.
For example if one posts the photo of a dog in a garden, the comments are often based on the relationship between the photographer and his/her dog or theyare an attempt to say something witty and familiar or they might also be a bit soppy ( “how cute, how sweet” they are good both for pets and children usually), it’s rare that someone comment the quality of the photo, the composition , the possible technical flaws…photography is not the centre of interest, it’s a pretext to exchange superficial personal messages.
Of course there is nothing wrong in that, nothing at all. But it opens the door to a slightly deeper analysis.
There are always few people ( luckily very few, but unfortunately very active), who are not interested in this apparent way to socialize, but have as purpose only to show off, to feel popular, to feel admired or I don’t know what.
They follow very easily identifiable mechanism, but others, rightly probably, have neither the time, nor the depth to identify them, so as a paradox the rather pathetic strategies works.
There is a person, just as example (a person who is obviously quite egocentric self-confident) who spends hours every day (I think) commenting systematically all the recently updated galleries, praising every photo as a masterpiece, without paying obviously any attention to what he sees.
I have taken the time to play a little the role of the entomologist and to follow his behaviour. He has a few standard comments which he probably copies and pastes at random to all the new photos he sees, but sometimes he makes a little confusion (it’s understandable, since he works so hard on his maniacal search of retuned attention, that he cannot check all, time is what it is…. I have read the same comment to the same photo, exactly the same words at a few months of distance.
Once there are also humorous and a little grotesque involuntarily mistakes, for example I have found one of his sycophantic comments praising the great artistic qualities of a gallery of photos…of item on sale on EBay ( obviously the gallery owner used it only for his commercial purposes).
This person is really an emblematic character.
We have all our limits, our flaws and our kinds paranoia.
I wonder what others can detects from my photos…and this scaring thought makes me more cautious.
We all have our own pet peeves.
Some of us try to repress them in name of a presumed tolerance or a form of politeness; others feel free to affirm them openly.I think it can be quite liberating to let them burst out.It doesn’t mean we want in all cases prevent others from doing what we deeply dislike, unless it’s an activity which can be either dangerous or harming for any other living beings or can have negative impacts on something; It simply mean we prefer to take our distance from that specific matter and to declare we find that really unbearable.My journal here, it’s relatively hidden, I like imagining it as a kind of copy-book forgotten on a table, half-hidden under a heap of magazines, it’s not into a locked drawer and everyone can read it, if they manage to find it.This relative discrete visibility allows me to write whatever I want on it, without giving the impression I impose my proclamations.
Coming back to my pet peeves, I offer myself the freedom to tell what I really hate in photography:
- People who think that “street photography” or “candid photography” mean to use a powerful tele-lens to take stolen photos of unaware girls’ and lady’s bottoms, while they are at the beach or walk in a street.
- People who take photos of their pet wearing any kind of disguise, fancy hats and such stuff
-People who take photos totally at random in a street without paying a single instant of attention to avoid to cut the feet of the people in foreground or the top of a building which is supposed to be important in the photo composition.This is just a kind of preface. I think I’m going to treat this topic a little more in details during next days…