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Thread: My work vs Atget's

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    My work vs Atget's

    I find it amusing that so many early photographers are considered artists, "greats", etc., when by todays technical standards they are quite ordinary. Many are painfully bad. What we really admire in these early works is that they were created with the most rudimentary tools - glass plates, chemistry that would melt a volkswagon, and bad optics. They were the pioneers, and as in any endeavor, those that follow develop a reverent respect for the ground-breakers. Their prints are important not for their photographic excellence or the "mastery of craft" that produced them, but because they represent a "golden-time" in the development of photography. They convey a certain antiquity that, as photographers, we tend to fall in love with.

    Atget's "vision" was, by his own admission, a pure documentation of a specific place at a specific time. He did not set out to create "art", nor was he pretentious regarding the results. The fact that others saw the prints artistic and were willing to throw money at them might have created a market value, but did nothing to improve the photograph. And if I'm not mistaken, Atget devoted 20 years to photographing Paris - hardly a flash in the pan! You obviously admire Atget's work and draw inspiration from it, but don't let that turn into emulation. You have better film, a better camera, and probably produce better photographs. They're just not Atget's.

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Jul 2001

    My work vs Atget's

    With some effort anyone can copy the greats of photography, Get some peppers adn a dim light and be weston, Camp at half dome and be Ansel, READ what Kim Weston says about his grand father photos. You can never be happy coping others style. Weston did't copy Adams didn't copy, Lee Rue didn't copy. But then is the object to be competetive with the great masters adn icons our just please yourself. Don't turn your photography hobby or art o avocation or calling, into a competetion with others, look and learn, I get a real kick out of knowing that Moonrise ofer Hernandes and the first Half doem shots of Adams were BEFORE he used the zone system. He guessed!!! AND weston didn't use a light meter, Horrors!!!!( the wesson meter has notheing to do with Edward W.) So shoot and learn. Look at George Tice. Who would ever have thought New Jersey was that interesting??? Well he did and it is. Why? Because he enjoys the place and understands it. So too must the photographer understanfd the subject and what he/she wants out of the subject. Read Karsh's book and how he studied the persona nd conversed with then before the exposure. HE developed a rapport. And we can seeand feel that rapport. So if you are in the doldrums change something, a lense or perspective or formats. Get the 35mm out and burn through alot of images , exercise the brain and the eye. large format is a banquet to the eye , but some times a big mac is a needed break.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    My work vs Atget's

    Hi Aaron.

    A couple of ideas already stated better than I will, but I'll say in my own way:

    If I took a bunch of materials into a shed and built a Model T Ford, and came out and said Ta Da! Would anyone be impressed? No, because it's not 1908 anymore. Henry Ford was the right man in the right place at the right time. So was Atget. So was Ansel. So was Weston.

    What we can do the same but differently is that spark of genius that all of them had to finish their respective inventions. I've read your previous posts. You've got that spark. You'll just have to wait to see where it takes you.

    I'm at the same crossroad as you. 8 years + or -. At first you charge up that steep learning curve and you think this'll be easy. But that curve levels off and the gains start coming at a much slower pace. It is frustrating. You couldn't quit if you wanted to. Do what pleases you. Jim Galli
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  4. #24

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    My work vs Atget's

    I think it's important to remember that the work of Atget you're seeing is most likely the work that's been published in one book or another or perhaps you've seen an exhibition. So let's say you've seen 100, may 150 or so, of his photographs. Atget photographed on almost a daily basis for roughly thirty years. It's estimated that he made about 10,000 photographs in the course of his life. So if we assume that only his best work is published and exhibited, and if you've seen 100 of his photographs in books or at an exhibition, you've seen roughly the best 1% of his work. You haven't seen the 99% of his work that wasn't worth publishing or exhibiting. If you've made 1,000 photographs and 10 are excellent, you're producing roughly the same percentage of excellent photographs as Atget O.K., I know that's a little misleading since his misses might be a lot better than your misses and his excellent photographs probably are better than yours but my point is that you're seeing only the best of his work and that comprises a tiny fraction of his total output, just as your best work comprises only a tiny fraction of your total output. So perhaps you should't be quite so discouraged though I know how you feel.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  5. #25

    My work vs Atget's

    "[Atget] had made many photographs of water lilies, perhaps most of them at Bagatelle, but the two that follow (with adjacent negative numbers) are perhaps the most instructive. The maple leaf in the lower right corner of plate 39 is the same one that appears in the lower left corner of plate 40. By moving an eighth of a turn counter-clockwise Atget has turned white water black, and gray lilies white... "...It is a heartening lesson for all photographers that even Atget was not always sure."

    --John Szarkowski, _Atget_, p. 99

  6. #26

    My work vs Atget's

    When I am feeling like you are describing, I recall this quote, attributed to Robert Hughes: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

  7. #27

    Join Date
    Mar 2001

    My work vs Atget's

    Hi all,

    Thanks for all your thoughtful replies. I feel like I've just read a really good book. However I will need a little time to absorb and rethink all that's been posted here. I will respond in a few days. In the meantime, keep that response coming in. Appreciate all that's given.


  8. #28

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Minden, Nevada

    My work vs Atget's

    Aaron- You might want to take a look at the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They will provide you with some level of comfort, and urge you on far better than I could manage, although I will tell you, and it is apparent from these responses, that you are not the only one with a house full of prints and negatives. As this eight years of serious work you have done is the first order of an artist, and not the stunning masterpieces, I think you are going to make it. Tom Perkins

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