Your thoughts on Eggleston's one photo per subject

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Horatio

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He's been hailed for his images of mundane, everyday life and circumstances. He has commented that it is too difficult to choose among several images of a single subject, and that there is only one image that suits the subject.

I think this is a valid perspective for large format, where there is considerably more effort put into getting the image, but smaller formats, 35mm and especially digital, seem to encourage multiple views/exposures of the same subject.

Of course, we are all free to make images as we choose, be it one or many for each subject that catches our eye. Have you found yourself making less exposures over time, or more?
 

John Bragg

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He's been hailed for his images of mundane, everyday life and circumstances. He has commented that it is too difficult to choose among several images of a single subject, and that there is only one image that suits the subject.

I think this is a valid perspective for large format, where there is considerably more effort put into getting the image, but smaller formats, 35mm and especially digital, seem to encourage multiple views/exposures of the same subject.

Of course, we are all free to make images as we choose, be it one or many for each subject that catches our eye. Have you found yourself making less exposures over time, or more?

I have always been frugal with film. I usually know when its a keeper. I do however believe in murphys law so tend to shoot a backup or two if it is an important shot.
 

Ko.Fe.

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I saw documentary with late of him. He spends time to get this one picture.
I have even less issues with one exposure per subject. I'm not dependent on sales.

Also it was total norm for amateur photography. I would go on travel with single roll in camera, came back and take some pictures and then another travel and still same roll.
I think, I was one from the same of millions back then.
 

MattKing

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Why would you want to take two shots of an uninteresting subject?
Bracketing.
Choice between different focal planes.
Choice between different depth of field.
Choice between different motion stopping shutter speeds.
Choice between different angles of view.
Choice between different perspectives (requires different focal lengths).
Choice between different crops.
Other than the first, all result in at least slightly different photos.
 

Nicholas Lindan

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If I had Eggleston's eye I too would only need to take one picture of each subject. His talent is rare. And I'll bet he saves a lot on film.

I find I have two tendencies: nail it on the first shot and then follow with half a roll of discards; or take a half a roll of discards and then nail it on the last shot. For every success I need to sacrifice half a roll of film on the altar of The Great Yellow Father (who's power has crumbled because we didn't sacrifice enough film).

Quite often when hiring a photographer the photographer's portfolio was ignored - instead his contact sheets were demanded. They wanted to see if he just had a dozen lucky shots or if he worked his way to the good ones.

Anyone read "American Gods" by Gaiman? The premise is that Gods require sacrifice to exist; they feed on sacrifice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Gods
 

Alex Benjamin

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I make less.

What Eggleston understood is that while everyday life is a continuous succession of ephemeral moments, not every ephemeral moment of everyday life is a photograph. For those, you have to learn to look, and anticipate, be ready in a second or sometimes wait - for when people and things relate to each other a certain way, when light is a certain way and falls on the subject a certain way, when colours pop a certain way and relate to each other a certain way, etc. That's when "the image suits the subject".

And often you have to accept that you've missed it.
 

Sirius Glass

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I concentrate on getting one photograph of the subject, then I look for another point of view or interpretation with the same equipment. After that I may further investigate with different lenses or filters in multiple locations, however every photograph is treated as if it were the only one that matters.
 

George Mann

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I have rarely shot more than one photo of a subject on film.

Eggleston has been one of the people that I have been photographically inspired by since childhood.
 

cliveh

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The effort, time, large format or otherwise has nothing to do with the artistic value of the image.
 

Vaughn

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My subject is the light...so I guess I have been done for 40 years and didn't know it...
 
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Way back in the late 80s, Andy Grunberg decried photography's "pre-eminence of the glimpse." That is, flooding the Zone with endless bits of visual debris is killing (or overwhelming) people's ability to SEE.

When I was recently clearing out some of my extra photo books, "The Democratic Forest" didn't make the cut to stay on the shelves. Eggleston has certainly made some fine photographs, but he gave birth to the endless obsession with meaningless ephemera which is now the plague of Instagram.

Kenro Izu, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Emmett Gowin, Paul Caponigro... those are men who SEE. Eggleston kind of looks for a few seconds, then looks somewhere else for a few seconds. It's like Las Vegas, there's a lot to look at but not much to SEE.
 

Alex Benjamin

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Way back in the late 80s, Andy Grunberg decried photography's "pre-eminence of the glimpse." That is, flooding the Zone with endless bits of visual debris is killing (or overwhelming) people's ability to SEE.

When I was recently clearing out some of my extra photo books, "The Democratic Forest" didn't make the cut to stay on the shelves. Eggleston has certainly made some fine photographs, but he gave birth to the endless obsession with meaningless ephemera which is now the plague of Instagram.

Kenro Izu, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Emmett Gowin, Paul Caponigro... those are men who SEE. Eggleston kind of looks for a few seconds, then looks somewhere else for a few seconds. It's like Las Vegas, there's a lot to look at but not much to SEE.

I understand the distinction you're making, but I would nuance it, as I think Eggleston "sees" as much as Sugimoto or Caponigro does.

To me, where they lie apart, is that Eggleston is interested in the fleetingness of the moment, while Sugimoto or Caponigro are interested in its permanence. There is a sense of eternal time in many of their works - you sense that if you go to the place they photographed, it will still look exactly the way they photographed it - , while in Eggleston the moment dies as soon as it has been captured, it no longer exists. Even when he photographs apples you think "These apples will soon be eaten, or will rot, in any case, they won't last".

That these two planes of time can both exist in one art form are one of the wonders of photography.
 

tballphoto

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Alot of the theory washes out when you consider that for most of these photographers, despite the obvious differences in the photos you have the same things.

A subject posed before a camera. A photo is taken.

What matters to the VIEWER is that the photograph captures a preconcieved notion about the photographed subject. the picture of a baker drinking a cup of coffe on his break wont really fly as being a "right" photo, but a photo of a baker taken while he is apparently enjoying his work, THAT will make the viewer go "yep thats a great image".

Or as one photographer said, "I wasnt making much money selling photos of dead people to the local newspaper. Now i make a good living taking photographs of dead people for the medical examiners office. Its best to fit your photograph to a specific custome base"
 

tballphoto

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The video isnt that off, but on the other hand, in the new generation of camera clickers, digital has mandated the use of burst mode, 100 low res jpeg camera memories and machine gunning in the hopes of getting one or two images good enough to run through photo shop.

The theory and practice of letting the scene happen is rather forgotten and despised. Not everyone can take the time to sit and watch and wait for the wood pecker to land in a photogenic way, or for it to do something cute like eat a bagel on the stump. No, its aim the camera in a general direction, switch to auto fucus and AE mode, take 300 shots, and walk to the next location.
 

DREW WILEY

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Shoot 8X10 color film for awhile, and you either learn to do it right the first time, or you go broke! In fact, being married to the more deliberate methodology of any large camera makes you think twice before popping the shutter. Then when you do switch back to smaller equipment, your habits will automatically be readjusted. Snipers learn how to hit a target, while machine-gunners mostly waste ammo. But the greater spontaneity of smaller gear does lend itself to more liberty with respect to film consumption, regardless. Maybe Eggleston has already shot so much of certain genre that he knows just what he wants, or maybe this is just another artsy publicity stunt, and in that case, certainly not an original one. I really don't care. I do know how to meter out my own film consumption relative to my own budget and expectations, and that's all that counts.
 

tballphoto

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Shoot 8X10 color film for awhile, and you either learn to do it right the first time, or you go broke! In fact, being married to the more deliberate methodology of any large camera makes you think twice before popping the shutter. Then when you do switch back to smaller equipment, your habits will automatically be readjusted. Snipers learn how to hit a target, while machine-gunners mostly waste ammo. But the greater spontaneity of smaller gear does lend itself to more liberty with respect to film consumption, regardless. Maybe Eggleston has already shot so much of certain genre that he knows just what he wants, or maybe this is just another artsy publicity stunt, and in that case, certainly not an original one. I really don't care. I do know how to meter out my own film consumption relative to my own budget and expectations, and that's all that counts.


I dont think its about figuring out film consumption to what you can afford to spend on film or spend on developing. Its about THINKING ahead, seeing the image before you take it, and see if its actually worth taking or not. Its not about making 4,000 shots with a digital camera in the hopes of having one or two that come out good enough to hit with photoshop.

Its about having the ability to see the final image before you take it, and to make alterations before making the shot.
 

MattKing

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Its about having the ability to see the final image before you take it, and to make alterations before making the shot.
It is great to approach it that way.
However I've also achieved satisfying results by working up to a final result. One photo can lead to and inform decisions on the next. Somehow it seems to help if you observe how the elements fall together and the light falls from one vantage point, take a photo, and then move to another vantage point to see how the photo might evolve as a result of the change.
I used to do this reasonably often with 35mm film - still reasonably constrained by the number of frames available, but also freed by the opportunity for flexibility.
This worked well when doing newspaper work, particularly when photographing people, because it also gives your subject the opportunity to become familiar with you.
It also has the advantage of giving you the chance to offer variety to a customer, client or editor, if you are shooting for others.
That last benefit is really important when photographing weddings.
It is always important to have an expectation, and to work toward it, but it isn't always necessary to limit yourself to just one.
 

tballphoto

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It is great to approach it that way.
However I've also achieved satisfying results by working up to a final result. One photo can lead to and inform decisions on the next. Somehow it seems to help if you observe how the elements fall together and the light falls from one vantage point, take a photo, and then move to another vantage point to see how the photo might evolve as a result of the change.
I used to do this reasonably often with 35mm film - still reasonably constrained by the number of frames available, but also freed by the opportunity for flexibility.
This worked well when doing newspaper work, particularly when photographing people, because it also gives your subject the opportunity to become familiar with you.
It also has the advantage of giving you the chance to offer variety to a customer, client or editor, if you are shooting for others.
That last benefit is really important when photographing weddings.
It is always important to have an expectation, and to work toward it, but it isn't always necessary to limit yourself to just one.


True but one needs to have an idea of the destination. Otherwise your the 5 year old picking dandelions in the driveway while the parents are going nuts trying to find you when youve got to leave in 3 minutes..
 

radiant

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Here's an expert opinion on the matter:

John Free is such inspirational talker. He can talk in such way that I don't even understand to disagree, just watch him videos in awe.

I'm really lost on this subject; when I'm shooting by instinct (more frames) and develop the films I get depressed and think that I shouldn't do that because most of the frames are crap. When I shoot "seriously" for example with large format camera, I typically end up with just one crappy shot. Maybe my photography is only game of luck. Maybe in my case I should just shoot as much frames as I want and my wallet allows. Between the crap shots there are usually some diamonds.
 

momus

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"there is only one image that suits the subject." You may as well stop reading at this point, because that is totally wrong and just one person's opinion. Just ignore what artists and photographers say about their work and just look at it. The really good photographers and artists take as many attempts as needed to get what they're after.

I looked at Eggleston's work online, and it's not him, it's the medium and our relationship to that medium. Photographing anything and producing a printed or online image will give you something that is fundamentally different than viewing the scene. It's cropped, and shot through a camera lens on film or on a digital sensor, not viewed w/ our two eyes. Your cat could take Eggleston's photos and they would look exactly the same.

This has been done to death by people like Duchamp who exhibited toilets and rusty old bicycle wheels in art galleries back in the Ancient Days and called them Readymades. His point was: simply placing an art object in it's proper setting makes it into art, it's not the object itself. We'll view that toilet sitting on a pedestal in a museum very differently than the one we have to use in their restroom. Eggleston's photos are simply 2 dimensional Readymades. Didn't we used to call those grab shots?
 

MattKing

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True but one needs to have an idea of the destination. Otherwise your the 5 year old picking dandelions in the driveway while the parents are going nuts trying to find you when youve got to leave in 3 minutes..
Which makes me want to post some dandelion photos.
I don't have any scanned and at hand. Will hydrangea do?
upload_2021-3-19_9-26-19.png
 

tballphoto

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John Free is such inspirational talker. He can talk in such way that I don't even understand to disagree, just watch him videos in awe.

I'm really lost on this subject; when I'm shooting by instinct (more frames) and develop the films I get depressed and think that I shouldn't do that because most of the frames are crap. When I shoot "seriously" for example with large format camera, I typically end up with just one crappy shot. Maybe my photography is only game of luck. Maybe in my case I should just shoot as much frames as I want and my wallet allows. Between the crap shots there are usually some diamonds.

your starting to see the concept here, use the past photos to visualize a scene before taking a photo and making adjustments, then taking the photo. Its NOT hard to comprehend that the idea is to use experience and critical thinking skills to make a better photo.

For instance if you KNOW your going to have to shoot indoors under tungsten style lights, experience and common logic would tell you to grab a roll of tungsten compensated film instead of shooting 10 rolls of color plus 200 and HOPE you get a single usable image.
 
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