Boring Portrait Series

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Pieter12

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Was the intention of this thread to post boring pics?
No. I was trying to understand the appeal, if any, of boring portrait series that I have seen some photographers publish on their websites and otherwise promote. They seem to have made them with good intentions, but the artistic merit as a body of work eludes me.
 

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Pieter12

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Perhaps the series' that don't interest you have other merits.
Documentary comes to mind, as does the merit of reinforcing community.
https://bc.ctvnews.ca/more/photo-galleries/the-faces-of-the-downtown-eastside-1.1227241
Thanks for the link. I do understand the documentary and community aspect of such series, but I don't necessarily go for the formulaic lighting and composition. Surely, the portraits could have been executed in such a way as to convey the subjects without reducing them to such sameness. They come across as the cast of some play. Somehow Avedon pulled it off with In The American West, maybe because there is a broader range of individuals and body language is strong yet not over-the-top.
 

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Thanks for the link. I do understand the documentary and community aspect of such series, but I don't necessarily go for the formulaic lighting and composition. Surely, the portraits could have been executed in such a way as to convey the subjects without reducing them to such sameness. They come across as the cast of some play. Somehow Avedon pulled it off with In The American West, maybe because there is a broader range of individuals and body language is strong yet not over-the-top.

One of the realities of that sort of project is that it serves as its own draw for the subjects - they came to the photographer. Thus part of the community building.
And the "sameness" is part of the reason - an argument for "we are all one".
 
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Pieter12

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And the "sameness" is part of the reason - an argument for "we are all one".
I doubt people looking at those images identify with them, "we are all one" except if you fall through the cracks? Or does it just reinforce a stereotype of the down-and-out? All those people did not start out like that, or aim to end up as the are. Wouldn't it be nice to know how they came to be there, what their life was like before, maybe even clean them up and give them a chance to appear more as they might like to be seen?
 
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Perhaps the artist intended the portrait series to be boring. Perhaps the portrait series being boring is the whole point. Perhaps boring portrait series are a movement. It is hard to keep up with this stuff.
 
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Pieter12

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I personally think it is hard to do even with those things. What is the real goal of this thread?
You seem to be implying there is some ultimate motive behind this thread. I started it because I want to understand if I am missing something about this type of series that would help me better appreciate the work. I am not complaining, just observing.
Perhaps the artist intended the portrait series to be boring. Perhaps the portrait series being boring is the whole point. Perhaps boring portrait series are a movement. It is hard to keep up with this stuff.

Perhaps so. But the way I see these series presented, I kind of doubt it.
I kinda sounds like people complaining about other people's work.

Do your own thing. Why care what others do?

Not complaining. It is just that I look at a great number of photographs of all genres on a regular basis and would like to be able to appreciate (that does not necessarily mean like) the work. I can see the motivation for these series, to document a community. It is the reduction to sameness that could be making a point that eludes me. Sometimes it strikes me as taking the easy route of the same studio or location set up with very similar poses rather than treating each portrait as singular yet part of a series--which can be done with the same set up, etc.--witness Avedon's In The American West or Penn's Small Trades. But back to the motivation for the original thread, maybe I am missing something.

As far as boring for the sake of boring, I get that. When Avedon shot The Family for Rolling Stone in the mid-70s, he reduced them all to a certain sameness of lighting, background, pose and cropping. For me, that was to illustrate the sameness, the connection of all those people who held power in the United states at the time. And maybe by presenting them in such a practically emotionless manner as to imply that they took that power, that influence over our lives for granted, as their right.
 

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- a couple established photographers

Martin Schoeller, a well-known and successful editorial photographer known for his style of close-up, in-your-face portraits, usually of celebrities. Here is a series he did on homeless people: https://martinschoeller.com/Ivory-Sears
The individual portraits are … repetitive and monotonous

The second is Stephend Vanfleteren, a less-known photographer who shoots almost exclusively in black and white. This is a series he did on surfers: https://www.stephanvanfleteren.com/surftribe/njrckf7p41037whw3qp1brzovnp7mh
I like this series as I sense the photographer considered each subject and decided how to best pose them to reflect something about them. Some have minimal props and the framing varies. Not all are staring right into the camera.
Looking at the various portfolio images - Incredible comparison Pieter12, thank you. Seeing all of Vanfleteren‘s body on the site - Film Festival Cannes (a better comparison vis a vis celebs) and the Nature Morte is incredibly moving. Now those are portraits. Thank you for posting, wouldn’t have known about this second photgrapher. I appreciate the latter’s work - these are the pictures I spent time contemplating. They read meaningfully.
 
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I've been quietly following this thread and it's interesting to see the different opinions.
I generally find studio portraits boring as hell (even without repetition) and I stick to searching for environmental portraits; those keep me engaged, I can take my time, observe, and fantasize about the subjects' experience...thank you, @Pieter12 for challenging my narrow-mindedness with the link to Vanfleteren's website. I can't say that they make me dream like Mary Ellen Mark's, but there's certainly more to them...
 
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No. I was trying to understand the appeal, if any, of boring portrait series that I have seen some photographers publish on their websites and otherwise promote. They seem to have made them with good intentions, but the artistic merit as a body of work eludes me.

Recognizing that "artistic merit" has eluded someone may be a good place for them to start learning.
 

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Same goes with landscapes, still life, etc. Same over and over again, characterless, formulated, devoid of any emotion.

Originality isn’t. Artists have been repeating themselves and their peers and their forebears forever, because we all create from the same physical world. Geoff Dyer wrote a provocative book, The Ongoing Moment, that considers how photographers from divergent times and places manage to repeat the same subjects and themes. More broadly, Walter Jackson Bate wrote on the same topic in literature, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet.

In our time, digitization has democratized photography just as it has every other aspect of human existence, for better or worse; and now AI removes humans altogether from the creative process. It’s easy to criticize these changes. But the issue you raise goes deeper — it’s one that is inherent in all areas of art, even in an analog world.
 

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...now AI removes humans altogether from the creative process.

No more than a lens and mechanical shutter do. "You push the button, we do the rest" is not a new sentiment.

File_080.jpg


(gratuitous AI baby snap)
 

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AI removes humans altogether from the creative process

No more than a lens and mechanical shutter do.

A lens and mechanical shutter are subject to far more human decision making than is involved in AI-produced-imaging. And the types of decisions are notably different. With the latter, you submit a specification and choose a result that satisfies your criteria. With the former, you need to engage the "real" world in some way, maintain control over the mechanism that will only do what you make it do, then decide what else you can do with the results. That's pretty far from "and we do the rest", actually.
 

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...submit a specification and choose a result that satisfies your criteria.

I think it used to be called a "proofsheet."

Redaction's long been a part of the process.

Go to a place, choose a device, set the controls, tell your subjects to look this way or that or jump around like so and look at the negs later on (or on your tethered studio monitor, whatevs) -- how are these not "submit a specification"? I doubt very much any part of that specification is really what captures the essence of the feeling of a pic. Instead, they are just ways to enhance your likelihood of finding something that reveals a mood, or more importantly, reveals some mood or feeling or information or even a sliver of truth about something in the viewer, not the device or the artist (who has quite disappeared, most of the time). The specification is never is those things. You don't "make a new f/8 photo" and the text or other AI prompting data are also not the picture or its essential content. This is true for all pictures, including photographic portraits.

joker_b_1981_instamatic_snapshot_of_Coney_Island_teenaged_girls_f591eec9-ad2f-4859-953f-b8da56...jpg
 

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Did you take that picture?
 

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I think it used to be called a "proofsheet."

Redaction's long been a part of the process.

Go to a place, choose a device, set the controls, tell your subjects to look this way or that or jump around like so and look at the negs later on (or on your tethered studio monitor, whatevs) -- how are these not "submit a specification"? I doubt very much any part of that specification is really what captures the essence of the feeling of a pic. Instead, they are just ways to enhance your likelihood of finding something that reveals a mood, or more importantly, reveals some mood or feeling or information or even a sliver of truth about something in the viewer, not the device or the artist (who has quite disappeared, most of the time). The specification is never is those things. You don't "make a new f/8 photo" and the text or other AI prompting data are also not the picture or its essential content. This is true for all pictures, including photographic portraits.

View attachment 328208
The point of AI is you don't need a camera, a subject or a location. You just describe what you want to see in the image (I dare not call it a photograph, it is more of an illustration). And what you described does not need to be able to exist in reality, either, just like a fantasy illustration.
 

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@bjorke -- you shifted the subject of what I was discussing with your response, so it doesn't need to be addressed as a counterargument to what I said. I will say, however, that I agree that the artist has disappeared once the artwork is in the wild. I know people love to talk about intent, but that's something that has always been and always will be impossible to ascribe validly to an artwork - simply because it's not accessible to the viewer.

you don't "make a new f/8 photo" and the text or other AI prompting data are also not the picture or its essential content. This is true for all pictures, including photographic portraits.

No one is going to plan an "f8 photo".

When an AI can wander out in the world and take a photo of something that is happening right now, let me know. It might get the f8 - but it will never "be there".
 
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Pieter12

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When an AI can wander out in the world and take a photo of something that is happening right now, let me know. It might get the f8 - but it will never "be there".

But since AI harvests material from the internet, if someone has posted something that is happening right now, it can be done. BTW, what the hell is an f/8 photo?
 
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