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Thread: Interesting and unusual advice via Magnum

  1. #1
    CWyatt Guest

    Default Interesting and unusual advice via Magnum

    I regularly advise people to look at the work of great photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson or W. Eugene Smith. I have plenty of books of great photographers and great photographs, and often link people to sites like Adam Marelli's. I even made my own post about important things in photography using great images (with some quotes and painters too).
    Magnum photos is doing a series of quotes of advice for young photographers every now and then via their facebook page and today's one from Alex Majoli really caught my eye:


    'I would advise to read a lot of literature and look as little as possible at other photographers.'


    I found that pretty interesting. What do you think?

  2. #2

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    Its unusual advice and I think not good...

    Observing how things are done correctly (in any walk of life) is a great way to learn how to do it yourself.

    Once you understand what works and why, you can then go on to put your own spin on it.

    "Humans learn by observing and doing" - Robert Dickinson, 2012.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by rjd View Post
    Its unusual advice and I think not good...

    Observing how things are done correctly (in any walk of life) is a great way to learn how to do it yourself.

    Once you understand what works and why, you can then go on to put your own spin on it.

    "Humans learn by observing and doing" - Robert Dickinson, 2012.
    I actually agree with the advice. In my experience, looking at other people's photographs - especially when you're starting out - can build unrealistic expectations of what you should be achieving. I found, at least when I was starting out, that I would always be trying to 'imitate' a shot that someone else took and comparing what I had to theirs.

    In hindsight, reading up on some literature and then applying those principals would be a much more beneficial way to learn. Learning this way means you would be looking at what 'you' could improve on instead of looking at how someone else had done it better.
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    I think you do need to look at other people's photos unless you're one of those special people who have the instinct to do it right by yourself. By not viewing other's photos, not only would you be missing out on seeing how it's done 'right' from a technical point of view, but you'd also miss out on the pleasure and inspiration of viewing those pieces of art. The danger is of course simply copying someone else's work and I think a lot of us are guilty of that at times, especially when learning, but like Rob said it's the same way we learn most things.
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    The obvious question is what literature do they recommend????
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  6. #6

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    Hopefully not Shakespeare!
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisgin View Post
    I think you do need to look at other people's photos unless you're one of those special people who have the instinct to do it right by yourself.
    +1. For mere mortals like me, I have learn't alot from other people's photography.
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  8. #8
    CWyatt Guest

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    I will make a few points about what I thought about it:

    1) I’m not sure it’s meant to be taken totally literally. And he did say ‘as little as possible’, read that how you will.
    2) It’s advice for young photographers, and that might imply an up and coming photographer developing a style rather than someone who just picked up a camera.
    3) The reference to literature is interesting. To use a term from someone else I read, it may imply ‘the ability to visually imagine things’.
    4) When people look at other photographers that often are drawn to/copy the surface aesthetic rather than trying to understand the reasoning behind images, or why other photographers see things like they do.
    5) Photographers as a group (this is perhaps a great generalisation) seem to be very keen on just looking at other photographers in terms of thinking about making images. Quite a few also look at drawing painting. The idea of just reading being useful goes further on what I’d call the same path.

    I still don’t really agree (and I’ll go on looking at great images), I just think it’s coming from a interesting point of view that might have more to say than a simple reading of it might think. Just the concept that there’s more you can learn – I like that.
    And I may be totally wrong, I don’t know Majoli very well, it’s just what I got from a little think about it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CWyatt View Post
    I will make a few points about what I thought about it:

    1) I’m not sure it’s meant to be taken totally literally. And he did say ‘as little as possible’, read that how you will.
    2) It’s advice for young photographers, and that might imply an up and coming photographer developing a style rather than someone who just picked up a camera.
    3) The reference to literature is interesting. To use a term from someone else I read, it may imply ‘the ability to visually imagine things’.
    4) When people look at other photographers that often are drawn to/copy the surface aesthetic rather than trying to understand the reasoning behind images, or why other photographers see things like they do.
    5) Photographers as a group (this is perhaps a great generalisation) seem to be very keen on just looking at other photographers in terms of thinking about making images. Quite a few also look at drawing painting. The idea of just reading being useful goes further on what I’d call the same path.

    I still don’t really agree (and I’ll go on looking at great images), I just think it’s coming from a interesting point of view that might have more to say than a simple reading of it might think. Just the concept that there’s more you can learn – I like that.
    And I may be totally wrong, I don’t know Majoli very well, it’s just what I got from a little think about it.
    I can see where he is coming from

    In your blog you quote
    Henri Cartier-Bresson
    'Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me'
    and then you go on to say ¨And because great photographers (and other people) often have important things to say¨
    In my view there is a contradiction because one statement (Henri) says that it is not about the photographer and all about the subject and you say it is about what the important things photographer has to say.
    All the images you show are great images because tell a story about the subject of the image rather than the photographer/artist.

    So he (Majoli) is saying (between the lines) that if you are photographing architectural images, for example, that you should study literature on architecture or architects rather than ´great architectural´ photographers. For wartime photography, the mind of a soldier would be useful and for landscapes I assume you should be into ´God´? etc. and the that the technical photography bit doesn´t really matter. In fact a quote from him on that website Quote: "I really don't have any idea about photography, but I take pictures."

    Actually if you think about it it frees you from the must have the best gear and must be approved by everyone mindset and allows you to be more creative.

    You´ll know you are on the right path when no-one likes your images but you. You´ll know you are great in 20 years time when other people imitate your photos!

  10. #10
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    To a point I agree. Photo saturation can put you off the boil. I picked up the camera for the first time in ages cause I saw a photo the other day and I wanted to shoot it, but then summer doesn't do much for me with the camera anyway.

  11. #11
    CWyatt Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by maxntrike View Post
    I can see where he is coming from

    In your blog you quote
    Henri Cartier-Bresson
    'Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me'
    and then you go on to say ¨And because great photographers (and other people) often have important things to say¨
    In my view there is a contradiction because one statement (Henri) says that it is not about the photographer and all about the subject and you say it is about what the important things photographer has to say.
    All the images you show are great images because tell a story about the subject of the image rather than the photographer/artist.
    I'm not so sure, I think photos show a lot more about the photographer than you might think, at least in top photography. Something about them drove and compelled them to be there to photograph that particular thing in a particular way.

    Cartier-Bresson talks about becoming a better photographer a lot through 'living' and 'experiencing', and how images came about through sensitivity to things. If you read a bit more his philosophy/history comes down to his intense interest in things around him and the way they can be ordered into a geometry at one moment of time to create an image that 'has everything' in it.
    So I read the
    'Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me' as
    an affirmation in importance of real candid life, where photography is just a tool (and in the end Cartier-Bresson went back to drawing). Cartier-Bresson certainly studies others (Kertesz for instance, and many other artists, but was never overly enthralled with photography compared to actually capturing photographs. Does that make sense? So I don't think it's contradictory, but it does raise a somewhat similar point to the idea of looking at other photographers - I really like reading photographer's philosophies and certainly take ideas from there.

  12. #12
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    I am amused, I recently posted a response to a 'pro' shooter who posted 100 tips from a Pro Photographer. I disagreed with several of his statements, and there were several points in there about not copying other people etc (he disagreed with himself a few times)

    http://lensaddiction.wordpress.com/2...-photographer/

    Funny how everyone is an expert and you need to do it "their" way
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