View Full Version : Explanation of Images?

02-06-2009, 02:48 PM
Having not yet gone through the images submission process (just mailed my application yesterday), I have a question about it. Is there opportunity to offer explanation as to the influence of the image? For example I created a series of images purposefully thinking of the following Avedon-type of image:

(he has an entire series of regular people photographed in this way). (http://www.masters-of-fine-art-photography.com/02/artphotogallery/database/richard_avedon_07.jpg)

At the end of my portrait sessions, I have been shooting a few of these types of images--clients like them. Is there an opportunity to explain this as a part of the image submission process? Does it make a difference at all in the acceptability of the image? As a person who majored in art history, I'm constantly drawn to other artists for inspiration. To me that's an important part of what we do as photographers--does the cpp image submission recognize this?

02-06-2009, 04:05 PM
I suggest that you equate that image with images that are in one of the PPA General Collection books. (those that got a merit but were not selected for the Loan Collection) To have your collection of twenty 8X10's pass I'd like to see a combination of merit quality coupled with your art training coupled with money making images for clients.

On this image: it is flat lit, she is posed straight on, she needed her hair combed, there are bags under her eyes, and her arms are hanging down with her hands amputated. I don't see this passing. The reviewers need to see that you know your craft and that includes making each subject look their best. I like this image from an artistic standpoint (I did freehand oils using painting knives before becoming a photographer) but it doesn't show the controls of lighting, posing, & preparation I think they will want you to convey.

02-09-2009, 02:11 AM
That's Avedon's image in the link and it's also featured in the 9th edition of the PHOTOGRAPHY book we use for the CPP exam.

02-09-2009, 10:52 AM
so let me get this right. The image that is linked is featured in the photography book we use to take the CPP exam but it wouldn't pass the review for CPP standards?

02-09-2009, 05:26 PM
OK, before everyone goes off kilter on this. The example you linked is Avedon's later works. Look at his earlier work, somewhat synonymous with you at your early stage of your profession. There, you will see his mastery of lighting and directional light. Avedon can write his own rules, and people will by them because, well, he's Avedon.

Now consider this scenario. Let's say that someone picked up a camera from Costco and found that they can do the newer Avedon work as well, but they can do it for free to their friends who are potentially your customers. Where would that put you? Very often, in these boards, you hear from our members "how do you fight with the amateurs with cameras who are "stealing business"? (or variations of the same questions). Well here's your answer. You have to be able to do what they can't. That's what's certification is all about.

02-09-2009, 06:31 PM
Ok - I'm probably sticking my head out really far on this one for someone to chop off, but I'll give you my take on this issue.

I don't have the referenced edition of "Photography" by London and Upton to see how the image is referenced, but in defense of D. Craig's comments, I have to agree with him. I feel that he is right in his evaluation of this image and again, I agree with him.

The image, as presented, is flat lit, posed very unflatteringly straight on to the camera, slightly off center and not using any of the traditional compositional lines, hair unkempt and the face is darker than the body (usually the face is the brightest part of an image) and using a rather uninteresting plain white background. Ask yourself this question, if a client came into my studio, would I photograph her like this, would she like the results, and would she buy the image? The answer would most probably be NO to all of the above questions.

Now - why would this image be considered to be "great art" by the art community? If this image were to be presented to most photographers, the overwhelming majority would not consider it to be a great portrait due to the posing, lighting, etc. The only thing that might get someone's attention might be the 4x5 film lines along the end, but then again, for many years, the first thing any entry level photography student was required to buy was a 4x5 view camera, as that is the instrument that they were taught on, so that would not indicate an artist - just that the photographer happened to own a 4x5 camera.

Here is where the "back-story" to an image comes into play. This image is one part of a body of work done by Avedon, and released to the public as a body of work in an art exhibit and published in a book. The viewing audience already knew the degree of the photographers abilities and was already familiar with his commercial work and his ability to control lighting. The "back-story" was the theme of the exhibit, and, with the audience knowing the scope of his abilities, it was obvious to the viewing audience that the choice of using the same austere pose, flat lighting, uninteresting background and unprepared subject, were all deliberate artistic choices made by the photographer to communicate the gritty message of his exhibit to the public. He was not trying to make images that were flattering to his subject, on the contrary, he was trying to create images that were intentionally unflattering to his subject - thus the artistic aspect of his project, the choice of flat lighting, plain background and unprepared subjects. His audience already knew that he could make his subjects look fabulous - if he wanted to - but that was not his reason for creating these images for that particular project, and the audience knew that coming into the exhibition. It is a classic example of knowing the rules first and knowing when to break the rules to make a statement. Since the viewing audience already knew the artist's background and that he knew the rules, then it becomes obvious that the intentional breaking of the rules was done to realize a deliberate artistic vision.

Now take this same image into the CPP submision - Just like at the International Judging, there is no "back-story" presented with the images. The images must stand on their own with no "history of the artist" being presented as an introductory prelude to the exhibition. The judging is done by working Professional Photographers with no background whatsoever in the history of the artistic past of the submitter - all they see and all they know is what is presented before them anonomously. They must judge whether that image represents accepted professional level work and demonstrates the abilities of the submitter to control light and be in control of their craft and not just a snapshot taken against a white wall. They do not know that this one particular image may have been created as a "special creative endeavor", so they must judge the images according to what they see before them.

I live in New Orleans. Down here, art is a away of life. There are a lot of true artists living and working down here and creating exceptional works of art - there are also a lot of "would-be-artists" presenting a lot of "junk" images as "art". Their explanation when questioned about the quality of their work is that it is "their art" and that you don't "get-it" because you just can't "see" their "artistic vision". Many of these people invariably have no images in their portfolios that demonstrate that they understand control of lighting or posing, and many have never visited an art museum or opened an art book in their lives. It is up to the viewer to distinguish the "true artists" from those who present themselves to be "artists" under the precept that you don't understand their work because you just don't "get-it".

The judges who judge at the International Judging and the CPP submissions do "get-it". But they do have to judge based on their evaluation of the professional abilities that the images demonstrate without any kind of "back-story" or history of the creator. There will always be the truly "artistic project" that is done by a truly gifted photographer that breaks all of the rules in order to make a personal, social, or political statement. That is what Avedon did in the images for this series. As "Art" they have a place, but as salable "professional portraits" they most probably would not pass the requirements for the CPP submision. Thus is the difference between salable portrait images and "museum-art". Just as your typical bridal or high school senior portrait would probably not land on the wall of a typical "fine-art museum", some artistic "art pieces" that you find in fine-art museums may not be salable to your clients if presented in your studio. Fine art and salable client images are are not always one and the same thing (sometimes they are -and sometimes they aren't) but they must be evaluated within the scope of the venue of their presentation.

Again - I agree with D. Craig on this one - Just my opinion, of course...

02-09-2009, 08:30 PM
At the end of my portrait sessions, I have been shooting a few of these types of images--clients like them. Is there an opportunity to explain this as a part of the image submission process? Does it make a difference at all in the acceptability of the image? As a person who majored in art history, I'm constantly drawn to other artists for inspiration. To me that's an important part of what we do as photographers--does the cpp image submission recognize this?

The instructions used to be that the images should be as one would submit them to clients.
The judges would look at them first as a "body of work". If that was not good, they would then judge individually.

02-10-2009, 01:09 AM
I understand the point about the Avedon image. When I have seen it, it has been in a whole series of his work. I can immediately appreciate the grittiness of the image (especially in cotrast to his fashion work). It is interesting that Photography 9th ed only points to this image of Avedon's!

Now, not to play devil's advocate...but curious...There is an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago right now of Karsh images. One of the things you recognize right away when you look at many of the imgages (and is pointed out in Photography 9th ed) is that Karsh often purposefully accented the face and hands of his subjects, with akward poses or hand jestures. We are constantly told to down-play the hands and pose them in particular ways. These images by Karsh don't fit these standards. Karsh was obviously photographing highly visible, important people and we all admire his work. Just wondering what anyone thinks about CPP images in this context?

And for what it's worth, I understand the necessity of learning the standard and being able to apply it. I think CPP is a valuable experience and changes the way you view your work and how you should grow. I just like asking questions :-)...