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JohnHeckler
12-09-2007, 03:14 AM
Ok, I'd like to think I can look at my work without bias and without being emotionally attached, however, I believe I am attached on this one.

I've posted this picture of my boys already on another thread and it's going to be part of our Xmas card as well, so I have clearly grown attached to this in an unhealthy way when considering it for competition ...

I'm not sure how this is going to show on everyone's monitors, but when I go to print, I will print this down and make their navy blue cloths go pretty dark.

So ... tell me what you think. I'm ready for it straight, so no need to pull
punches :)

Also, if you think it might have a shot, any ideas for a title would be helpful as well :-)

http://www.jthphotography.com/host-images/TheBoys-Competition-72dpi.jpg

Rick_Massarini
12-09-2007, 05:21 AM
I can't tell if it is just my monitor, but I can't see much detail at all in the blacks of the clothes. The hand on the shoulder keeps pulling my eye away from the faces especially since the hand is about as long top to bottom as the boys faces. The posing of the hand bothers me a bit - it looks a little awkward with the long arm stretch to reach around the shoulder with the fingers extended - it might look better with a the arm bent a little bit with a closed hand resting on his shoulder rather than the fingers out reaching around the arm. Just my opinion...

Keith_A_Howe
12-10-2007, 02:48 AM
John
I know it is your boys. It is a very nice portrait but for competition I do not feel it is a merit. Rich touched on the detail in the blacks, the hands and arm and I agree. Classical head and shoulders as subject matter are making a bit of a come back. I can see this doing well if the heads had been closer togeather and not showing the arms and hands. As it is I feel a distraction to the hands as the outfits and background are so dark that the hands feel a bit disconnected.
Keith

JohnHeckler
12-10-2007, 04:32 AM
Thanks Rick and Keith for the feedback. I see what you mean about the hands.

Michael_Gan
12-10-2007, 05:26 AM
Nice portrait of your boys, John. I wrote a comment in the gallery section.

JohnHeckler
12-10-2007, 09:59 PM
Nice portrait of your boys, John. I wrote a comment in the gallery section.

Thanks Michael ... see, that's why I knew I couldn't get a good feel on this myself. It's the hands that I like about this one because it does actually reflect their relationship and personalities. Of course you'd have to know them to know that, if that makes any sense ... and obviously the judges won't know them :-)

I do have plenty of detail in this shot ... I took the shirts way down on purpose, but depending on folks' monitors, it could look way off.

Anyway, on to other images to consider for MES this coming March. I'm trying not to do things last minute again :-)

Joe_Galioto
12-10-2007, 10:38 PM
john,
i agree with all the coments already posted.
one more problem the judges will notice is the way the image is burned in all around. seems to heavy handed, you've created a tunnel effect. a very nice portrait for your wall or x'mas card.
joe

Rick_Massarini
12-11-2007, 03:24 AM
john,
the way the image is burned in all around. seems to heavy handed, you've created a tunnel effect.

Yeah, judges generally don't seem to like images with heavy edge burn, but boy do they sell well!!! My clients down here in the New Orleans area seem to like the heavily edge burned look - in fact a lot of them ask for the edges to be made even darker than I show them. So for competition, I chill out on the edges, but for clients, it's "burn, baby burn!" (green merits are always nicer than blue ones)...

Rick_Massarini
12-11-2007, 08:22 AM
Maybe I need to contradict myself here. Green merits are ultimately preferable to blue merits (that's what we're all about, after all) , but it does seem like the more blue merits you have, the easier it is to get those green merits to come in your door ("and into your pocket, where they rightly belong" - Donald Jack).

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 05:32 PM
One of the reason I left the "professional" associations in around 1984 was the fact that we seemed to try to out "perfect" ourselves in our static boring portraits. The hands had to be mannequin like, we had to Joe Zeltsman the "poses", we had to Frank Cricchio the two mainlights to get exactly the right specular highlights and pretty soon every studio in North America did exactly the same plastic posing.

End of Rant.

This picture of the two boys is perfect. The distance in the heads says, big brother-little brother. The hands say I'm protecting my little brother and the little brother's hands say I'm sort of nervious and figgety. Therein lies the charm and the magic or this picture. In all a perfect unplastic portrait because of it's imperfections. It's human.

Our endless pursuit of phony perfection is dehumanizing our work. With the advent of photoshop now we are able to make our subjects look like the characters in a video game and in many cases these fake people are ending up in the loan collection.

Sorry, I lied, I didn't end the rant.

John, your portrait is perfect. No matter what anyone or any judge says who try to turn your portrait into a "Stepford Portrait".


Michael

JohnHeckler
12-11-2007, 05:48 PM
One of the reason I left the "professional" associations in around 1984 was the fact that we seemed to try to out "perfect" ourselves in our static boring portraits. The hands had to be mannequin like, we had to Joe Zeltsman the "poses", we had to Frank Cricchio the two mainlights to get exactly the right specular highlights and pretty soon every studio in North America did exactly the same plastic posing.

End of Rant.

This picture of the two boys is perfect. The distance in the heads says, big brother-little brother. The hands say I'm protecting my little brother and the little brother hands say I'm sort of nervious and figgety. In all a perfect unplastic portrait.

Our endless persuit of phony perfection is dehumanizing our work. With the advent of photoshop now we are able to make our subjects look like the characters in a video game and in many cases these fake people are ending up in the loan collection.

Sorry, I lied, I didn't end the rant.

John, your portrait is perfect. No matter what anyone or any judge says.


Michael

Thanks Michael ... to be honest, you have very successfully articulated what appealed to me about the portrait, so it is interesting that you read into the whole hand placement thing like you did without really knowing my boys like I do. It's not like I planned it all out, it just happened and reflects them to a large degree. So, if anything, I lucked into it as opposed to had a vision and executed it kind of thing ...

I am, however, also a firm believer in the "rules", as it were, for competition. To me, the "rules" are time tested, tried and true, recepies for success. Participating in competition for me is an education in the rules, hopefully to be followed by an eventual knowledge of when and how to break the rules, deviate from them, whatever, to achieve a uniqueness and style of my own.

At this stage of *my* photography, I am still in need of learning the rules, learning from the masters as it were. I am not bothered one bit about conforming to the "rules" for print competition or just in general to achieve a level of quality for my clients as well.

I *DO* very much look forward to the point in time where I know and can predict almost anything and everything that would be said about a print as it pertains to the "rules", BUT ALSO I look forward to a day where I have developed a keen sense in how to "break" them in a way that turns heads and causes people to take note.

Ok, so I have a way to go on that one ... we can all dream can't we ?!?! :)

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 06:04 PM
John, I respect you desire to participate in the dance called the print competition and understand why many people consider it some sort of holy grail and I agree that we do need to learn the rules.

Unfortunately "the rules" are exactly what can hold us back from creating great work and we can often get so engrained in the "rules" that we are unable to break free from them.

I think overdependance in the rules has smothered a lot of artists and nobody who was truly great stayed within the rules.

Michael

JohnHeckler
12-11-2007, 06:12 PM
John, I respect you desire to participate in the dance called the print competition and understand why many people consider it some sort of holy grail and I agree that we do need to learn the rules.

Unfortunately "the rules" are exactly what can hold us back from creating great work and we can often get so engrained in the "rules" that we are unable to break free from them.

I think overdependance in the rules has smothered a lot of artists and nobody who was truly great stayed within the rules.

Michael

I do agree with your sentiment Michael. I also don't think my attempts to follow the rules to the point of being stagnant will ever be a problem for me as I am typically a "rule breaker" and it is everything I can do to be disciplined enough to learn the rules in the first place. At this point, I am of the mindset to hurry up and learn the rules so I can get to the fun stage of breaking them :-)

Rick_Massarini
12-11-2007, 06:17 PM
Now this may sound contradictory, but the thread's point is about "print competition". I fully agree that the image of the two boys is a lovely image that any parent would love to hang in their home. The little things that would be looked at as competition "imperfections" are the things that endear the image to the parents of the children, after all, it is those things that make the image a true capture of the subject's personallity, and for a salable portrait, I would deliver it as it was shown and revel in how remarkably well I had captured the essence of the two boys (as I drove to the bank to deposit the check for the sale).

The images we submit for print competition are sometimes not the ones that we are able to sell to our clients. Sometimes a session yeilds two images, a competition image and a salable image. Sometimes the back-story sells the image to the clients, and that image is "just him" and the "imperfections" are what really sells it. But the judges don't know the back-story. They can only judge what we put in front of them based on the impact that the image has when it spins around. An image has to stand on the strength of it's impact alone, without an accompaning background story. The point of this thread is to help our friends to create a piece of work that will have impact, unimpeded by those little distractions, so that when it spins around, it will strike the hearts of those unbiased jurors (who knows nothing about the back-story) so that they will award it with the (blue) merit it deserves on the basis of the image alone. The creator has already received the green merits for the image...

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 06:36 PM
So are you saying that this portrait "needs" a back story to be relevant. The hands and the "pose" ARE the back story. The relationship between these boys is transmitted by the pose and the hands. No cute title or history is needed. This picture alone tells the story.

If the print competition can't recognize this fact then it's not the portrait that needs changing, it is in fact, the print competition itself.

The subtle "impact" of this picture is the perfectly illustrated relationship between these two boys. So called "fixing the hands" or "fixing the heads" will do nothing but diminish this portrait.

Again if the print judges can't see this fact then the problem is definately not with the portrait.


Michael

D._Craig_Flory
12-11-2007, 06:49 PM
Hi Michael;

In order to break the rules you first must know them. Once someone earns Master of Photography then they have more freedom in competition. They are no longer bound to submitting a 20X16 or a 16X20. You must first pay your dues and learn the craft. There are plenty of Masters on this Forum who offer excellent insight into the ins and outs of competition. I am only a Craftsman and always am in awe of their knowledge.

I would much rather pattern my work after Joe Zeltzman, Don Blair, Monte Zucker, Karsh, the Simones, and Frank Chricchio than someone like a Dennis Reggie.

As stated, the thread is about competition and not about images for clients. Those are two entirely different things.

Keith_A_Howe
12-11-2007, 07:00 PM
Michael,
I appreciate your point of view, however John did not ask if we liked the portrait. He asked about it for print competition. My comment about closer heads was refering to a H&S crop which might have been an option. The heads are too far apart in this image to crop as H&S. They are not too far apart for a 3/4 length which this is. Just because a competiton has certain standards or ways of measuring does not mean it is stagnant. My experience has been that photographers who turn thier backs on print competition as too rigid or as only rewarding formula photography, do so because they are bitter about low scoring prints. They prefer to say the judges are narrowminded rather then admit thier work has technical flaws. Some of the basic principals of design and composition have been around long before photography was invented. Correct exposure, flattering light, posing that enhances the subject or adds to the story, print quality, none of those ideas are stagnating. They are the basic tools that a photographic artist needs to create thier vision. It doesn't matter how new and innovative an idea may be, if it is poorly executed it will not live up to it's potential. If a photographer truly wants thier unique and innovative vision to be seen, then they owe it to that vision to showcase it in the best possible way - which means good technique and print quality. I don't see that as being rigid.

You talk about plastic posing, yet what is this image of John's if not a traditional formal portrait reminicent of the 70's and 80's in style. If you walk through the print show at IUSA, you will find very few of these formal style portraits. You will find the whole range of styles and visions but certainly some of the most unique and artistic work anywhere.

You mention the hands, yet if he is trying to create a formal posed portrait then the hands do not follow through with the rest of the image. If these two kids had been in casual clothes. in a casual environment, then perhaps the story telling of the hands would have been more in keeping with the rest of the image and it might have been a better choice for print competition - which IS what he was asking about.

I agree this is a wonderful portrait for the client who is in this case the maker. It's just not a merit worthy portrait. IMO.
Keith

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 07:14 PM
Ok. Ok. You guys won me over.

What needs to be done here is John needs to go to the local prop rental house, rent a couple of 1920 kids costumes complete with fishing pole and maybe an antique bike. Make sure they have hats. Take the kids outside shoot them looking at something the older one has in his hands so they are completely engrossed. Then take it back to the studio, oversaturate the color, soften the image and he's ready for print competition.

Carry on.


Michael

Keith_A_Howe
12-11-2007, 07:51 PM
Obviously you didn't read my post or understand anything I said. You have an idea in your head of what print competition is and you are not open to see where there might be other possibilities. Your comments demonstrate to me that you haven't really looked at what is hanging in competition in the last 20 years or so. If you do not like print competition or do not agree with it or me - fine, it's not for everyone. But to call it a dance or suggest that someone who is interested in entering is only seeking the holy grail, is belittling of those who do want to improve thier work through this venue. To suggest that judges are only interested in stepford portraits questions my integrity and that of every other judge who strives to be deserving of the responsibility and trust placed on them.

Keith

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 08:11 PM
Keith, I would never question your integrity or your level of expertise and I belittle no one. I've been around PPOC and PPA for a long time and know their advantages for photographers. BUT they do make people into rigid copies of each other especially when you hear the comments like were written here.

I do now understand that this is the print competition thread and when I wrote my initial comments I didn't really notice that the thread was listed there. I won't comment further on print competion threads because I don't really like the rigidy of how things are judged.

I would add that Gerhard Bakker (sp?) who was the Dean Emeratus I believe at Winona for many years stated that he too objected to the print competitions because they did indeed create an atmosphere of adhereing to too many rules and not judging by the impact of the photographs themselves. At that time I was too busy trying to copy the "greats" to notice or care what he said.

However a few years later I began to see what he was referring to and I had a very hard time untraining myself to look for more inpact and not fuss so much about perfect hands and head tilts.(although they are important)

I've spent enough bandwith on this thread already so I'll move on.

Michael

Rick_Massarini
12-11-2007, 09:33 PM
I invite you to get a change of perspective by coming and walking through the print exhibit this year at Imaging USA in Tampa. I've already seen a lot of the Merit and Loan images that will be displayed this year at Imaging, and the amount of diversity, variety and level of innovative technique is way beyond what I believe you would expect. Photography is now Imaging, and the Jurors recognize this and reward innovation. Come look at the show this year. I'm sure that you will be surprised at what you see there. Yes, there are many extremely well done traditional style images there, but the new stuff that was hung this year is totally AWESOME!!! Our International Judges are not stuck in the 80's - they are working photographers who have to be on the cutting edge of what's new - because knowing what's new is paramount to making those sales that keep them in business. They are on the edge and they give credit where credit is due.

In an earlier post you stated that you left the "professional" organizations back in 1984 - well, things have changed a lot since 1984. Things that would have hung back in 1984 won't even get a second glance right now. Our judges are current, up to date, and readily recognize innovation and inspiration, and true artistry. I really think that if you come and walk around the exhibit this year in Tampa, you'll come away with a different perspective of what is currently considered good in the line of print competition, and just how high the bar has been set!

Michael_McBlane
12-11-2007, 09:52 PM
Thanks Rick. You may be right. I left the "organizations" and pursued a less than traditional style from the standard portrait studios for a number of years.

Ten years ago I came opened a home studio and specialized in hand made traditional black and white prints for the last 10 years.

I realize that photoshop has changed the landscape (for better in some cases and worse in others) for everyone.

I can't do Tampa coming up but will probably plan for wherever is next. I have followed the loan collection throughout the years and that was primarily what I was basing my comments on.

Michael