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Thread: A theory on types of photographers

  1. #1

    A theory on types of photographers

    After posting the message one the Ilford pinhole camera that I bought, I looked a bit further down and noticed some "less enthousiastic" comments on this machine.
    I don't mind that, and am still happy with the titan. Will come to use it soon.
    Just as the great MG23 that I received from Mark Goddard a few years ago (Mark, the first good image will be for you, that promise still stands).

    But anyway this leads to exposing a theory that I have developed, and that I also talk about when giving a pinhole lecture:
    The core statement is
    "there are two types of pinhole photographers, process-oriented and result-oriented".
    Of course it's not an absolute and excluding division, but I tend to think that the basic drive for both groups is different.
    Process oriented pinholers take great joy in achieving images with all kinds of things converted into pinhole cameras. Be it small, large, permanent or temporary, regular materials or never-thought-of mechanics, they manage to surprise us with their ingenuity and originality.
    Result oriented pinholers search and explore the image characteristics of this image making. Be it with home made or with commercially available cameras, they surprise us with the beautiful images we get from this simple technique.

    I do not want to favor the one end of the spectrum over the other, to each his own. But sometimes I can't help thinking: "yes, it's a very original way of making a pinhole camera, but the resulting images are not nice/interesting/expressionate/impressive at all, so what's the point?. No there's a result-oriented thought :-)

    I think myself as more result oriented, more or less proven by the fact that my two favorite cameras are
    - the 6X6 home-converted Agfa superwide "D2" (lots of black tape)
    - the 8Banners model Mb, always used in the 6X12 mode (bought in HongKong via internet)

    Yes, I take pride in having made a few good cameras myself, but the last time is some three years ago, and now I simply use what I have. Sometimes I think "Oooh, that's a nice camera to convert, shall do another one?", but then I realize that the current set is sufficient for my image-making needs ...
    Maybe that's a way of finding out what type you are: are constantly looking for new camera creating opportunities, or are you eager to produce good results (and "good" has many ways)?

    Now you might ask: what the point of having this theory ?
    Well, for one it's a nice angle in a pinhole lecture, which triggers reactions and discussions
    But it also helps me in finding my way forward and resist temptations (oooh that Lomo 6X12, gotta buy it, ooh that old box there, gotta convert it, ooh this, ooh that)

    But still sometimes I can't resist, and buy that Harman Titan.
    Luckily/Sadly don't have enough spare money for a wooden Mottweiler (rediculously expensive)...


    What does the f295 community think ? Do you recognize the typology ?

  2. #2

    A theory on types of photographers

    I think that I fit into both camps.

    On the one hand, I simply like the darkroom process, probably because I am in front of a computer at work for more than 40 hours a week and have five personal websites to boot, so getting away from it all is a relief. Still, I could obtain much the same results by at least scanning negatives and moving forward in that fashion. When I speak with people about the Bromoil process, and they come to realize that a print takes hours over the course of days to produce (and may not succeed, forcing one to start all over again - that's happened more times than I would like to admit), they are turned off by the idea. I cannot replicate how the ink lies on the paper digitally, but since I have seen no convincing faux Bromoil images made digitally I developed my own way of doing it. So if the process were not an attraction to me then there would be no point in doing it in the first place.

    OTOH, the results are paramount, as far as I am concerned. Again, going back to Bromoil, there is no way to fake a Bromoil print - one can make an image look like a Bromoil on the screen and perhaps even behind glass, but not when one is holding the print, which is where my real interest lies. A while back I decided to stop trying to take good pictures and start working with good ideas. This means that if the image I have produced is not compelling as far as getting the viewer to appreciate the idea I am trying to bring forward, then for me it is a failed image. This is why, on my blog, I offer a description to every image I offer, so that the viewer can understand my ideas, and make their own decision as to whether it is meaningful to them.

    And yes, with pinhole I go both ways. I have made cameras out of everything from 35mm film canisters (too small for what I want) to 16x20" foam core boxes (way too large - like Little Red Riding Hood, what works for me is what is in the middle). The best camera I ever made was made from a coffee can, but it has the disadvantage that it is a single shot, so the camera I use most often is a commercially built 4x5" camera. I love the process as well as the results, so just as I cannot pin myself down to a single type of camera or process, I cannot pin myself down to being process or result oriented.

    Cheers -

    george

  3. #3

    A theory on types of photographers

    Danny, the two categories are helpful as a frame for discussion. The same dichotomy (maybe too strong a word?) exists among lens camera enthusiasts, too. I've known photographers who could make a competent photo, and enjoyed the process of capturing scenes, yet who would pursue this with a bewildering and rapidly changing array of obscure cameras and films (and these days maybe CMOS sensors). Individuals do tend to lean toward either process or result. I've experimented with a number of cameras over the years, and have settled on two for my own picture making.

    Another characteristic of pinhole that is similar to your theory is that the camera itself can be part of the final artistic creation. Boy of Blue's work springs to mind. His work is way beyond camera-making simply as an expression of interest in gear or equipment.

    Back to your theory, I think I've asked this related question on f295:
    How many pinholers are also home brewers or wine makers?
    I think there are similar human tendancies at work.

  4. #4
    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    A theory on types of photographers

    I think that the regular, frequent contributors to f295 tend to express both of these characteristics. I think of Rene's meticulous camera construction and film testing that produces some really lovely images. Toniox is making cameras all the time, but he cares what images they produce, and the quality of the image is the judge of the quality of the camera. Tony's cameras are brilliant, but so is his body of work. I could go on and on. I have a hundred cameras, and ideas for a hundred more, but in the end, I want to hold a beautiful image in my hand and see how it looks and feels and breathes. So, I don't think that it has to be either/or. You have properly identified two tendencies in pinhole photographers, but I submit that they are in no way mutually exclusive.

  5. #5

    A theory on types of photographers

    I think a number of people also use pinhole/lo-fi as a means of addressing photography as a performance in and of itself. Drawing attention to unexpected cameras also points to how the act of photography is essentially taken as a given/taken for granted in most other circumstances.

    The pursuit can reintroduce a level of vulnerability that may be harder to locate with other equipment.

  6. #6

    A theory on types of photographers

    I try to learn to be a good camera maker and a good pinhole photographer as well. For me both is important. The camera is an essential part of the image taking. The camera influences what possibilities I have and how I take a picture. Pinhole photography is unique in a way. For almost no money you can build every camera you can imagine (and can go far beyond what's possible with commercially available cameras) and try new ways to visualize your visions.

    As Earl wrote already, I think also that the most of the F295 members tend to express both of the characteristics you point out so well.

  7. #7
    500+ Posts Longbow3's Avatar
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    A theory on types of photographers

    I find that making the camera is a great part of the fun! I have an artistic desire and a tinkerers will. I think the tinkerers part gives me the most joy. Then when a photograph that I've made with one of my creations (camera) really strikes a cord then I am truly truly proud and happy. I do however get much happiness just from having success at making a photo, be it good or not so.

    I guess the process orientation of myself is the completion of a camera
    The results orientation is the successful photo.
    The artist in me is the admiration of the work shown here on F295. Some stand out and some don't, at least to me but they all are art!

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