Where does aesthetically wonderful and conceptually rich meet? Is there a place? How does one go about making work that is so visually engaging that the audience feels compelled to spend a considerable amount of time in front of it, but still reaches really important issues or creates good discussion?
Either lots of luck and good timing, or lots of labor and planning. If you're wanting something very specific, you need to specifically control those variables. Choose a spot, set up, and manipulate what you want or need. Make thumbnails. Consider symbolism and connotations of objects and events. This type of photography forces you to think before you shoot, rather than shoot and figure out what you're talking about later.
But how does that fit in with your 'honesty policy'? The desire to shoot the truth, and only the truth, as you find it in the world, without any predetermination or meditation to be photographed? The 'raw', the 'unassuming'?
I just paid my last installation for my Ireland Study Abroad trip.
I'm gonna photograph the bejezus out of Ireland.
If you can't make it good, make it big.
Panoramas have always had a place in the history of photography, but the technology to produce large-scale prints, by which I mean good quality and fairly inexpensive large scale prints, is still pretty new. Let's face it- digital photography is still pretty new when looking at the history of photography and the history of mankind. What is it about the gigantic prints that increases the value and interest of the work?
First and foremost, it's the fact that it takes more materials, be that paper, ink, developer, trays, etc, to make the print. For the most part, as surface size increases, so does the cost to produce. That cost increases as the creator chooses to employ printing or processing services, and the photographer could, at minimum, end up paying $6 a square foot.
Aside from the material aspect, larger prints are considerably more tedious to create. When you blow an image up to three or four times its original size, minor imperfections are more noticeable, and if the image involves a lot of retouching or stitching together, the possible problems increase exponentially. My recent panorama, for example, took me at least 24 hours, if not more, of work to process. The nine-foot scene is made up of five different images, manually merged and corrected. All seams had to be erased, every piece lined up correctly, and any verticals or horizontals corrected. Exposures needed to match, and colors needed to be right. Unfortunately, even with all the work put in, this photo is still not what it could be. Which brings us to
To make great-big photos, you need a camera and lens that can take in great-big amounts of info. Lots of pixels and good quality construction. You know, expensive things. Things like $7,000 cameras and $1,000 lenses. Or, large format cameras. Many professionals shoot with 8x10 film cameras to achieve highest possible quality, but everything comes at an opportunity cost. Everything's expensive and the processes are different, but in the end its all about the print and working how you want to work.
I was, and still am, pretty proud of my own print, considering my time restraints, equipment limitations, and current school standing. When my parents came to visit, I eagerly took them down to the school, where it current hangs, and showed it off. I think they were proud of the scale and my abilities, while being mortified that "our house looks like that". I sent them back with a 24"x6" version.
I've noticed that many people seem to be absolutely fascinated by long-exposure and time-lapse images, which is somewhat comical and interesting to me. I've seen many friends "Ooo" and "Aah" over a photo simply because the exposure time was four minutes. Yes, that photo may be beautiful and yes, there may have been much more thought and effort put into exposing the film, but there was a point in the history of photography when every image was long-exposure. Very early work, such as the beginnings of Daguerre and Talbot, employed exposure times between two and thirty minutes. For portraiture, this meant that the subject was held still with head-clamps and sitting armature, and would later have their unblinking eyes drawn onto the image. In street photography, it meant capturing cities seemingly devoid of people. At this point in time, it was simply the necessary exposure to create the image; that's just how the camera worked. So, why is the long-exposure image so popular right now?
Perhaps, movement. Many trending subjects right now, when considering exposure times, are night skies, light paintings, and ghosting. Themes of time, tangibility, and the supernatural abound, along with the big question of "Hey, how'd you do that?" Which can only lead me to the conclusion that many people are much more interested in process and aesthetics than content. That's not to say that it is condemnable to create work based solely in aesthetic pleasure, but creating work just to try out new techniques may result in work that is shallow of content and leaves little to discuss.
Everyone wants to buy pretty pictures. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to buy enlightenment.