Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Are you a photographer with or without a camera?

with 5 comments

Street scene from Novo mesto, Slovenia, year about 1996Street scene from Novo mesto, Slovenia, year 1996

Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey opened a discussion about photographers who carry or don’t carry a camera. He offered eight famous names and asked who’s carrying camera all the time and who’s carrying it only on assignments? Elliott Erwitt, Philip Blenkensop, James Nachtwey, Bruce Davidson, Lauren Greenfield, Joseph Koudelka, Steve Mc’Curry and Cristina Garcia Rodero

I’ve guessed three out of four who’s a camera photographer. I don’t know Philip Blenkensop. Can you imagine that out of 138 comments only seven were right?

David’s post is a perfect cause to wrap my thoughts into the following post. Once I used to be a person who carried his camera all the time and photographing just about everything. From landscapes, family pictures, intimate naughty pictures to street photography. Last few years I take a camera with me only when I intend to do photography.

Few years ago I faced up the dilemma of not being under control of my images. I was doing great photography, but I couldn’t stuff it into a satisfying frame of reference. Basically saying rudely I didn’t saw any purpose in lovely “decisive moment” images. Let me explain that.

My last street photography project was London in Borut Peterlin in 2002/3.

Right after I came back from London I started to work for Mladina and when I became a photoeditor in 2006, I realized very important fact. I thought who the f… am I that my lyrical opinion about London or Prague would be relevnt? I understood that outside there are bigger stories then myself and although I’m neglectable in this world, I’m (as we all are) indispensable!

I offered my knowledge to the world, moving my ego backward and allowing the information to be the most important. Of course we could debate that from the series to the series. Story on Strojan Roma family in exile is an example where it’s not important authorship, but the subject. You could argue that my Striptiz portraits are all about authorship of the pictures and I could agree, but I’ll add that I never wanted to be a portrait photographer. In fact I consider portrait photography the most boring branch of photography and I would never do it, if editor would not demand from me to take this rubric in Mladina weekly.

Bottom line here is the following. It’s not important who’s carrying camera and in what occasions, but who’s in the foreground of the picture? Is it the authors interpretation or is it the information of the subject being photographed?

Forgive me, but I’ll do some speculation.

Fine Art photography is about 20% of subject – 80% of authorship
Documentary photography is about 50% subject – 50% of authorship
Photojournalism photography is about 80% subject – 20% authorship

I’ll classify my projects
Flower – Power 10% subject – 90 % authorship
Striptiz portraits 20% subject – 80% authorship

Dayton border 50% subject – 50% authorship
Rehabilitation of deaf children 60% subject – 40% of authorship
Strojan Roma family 65% subject – 35% authorship

Workers demonstration
85% subject – 15% authorship
Press conferences 90% of subject – 10% of authorship

What do you think? Do you agree with my theory? Does it make sense? Is it useful to think about that before you start to do photography?


Written by Borut Peterlin

18 December, 2007 at 01:35

5 Responses

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  1. “There is nothing in this world without a decisive moment.” -Cardinal Retz …
    time is everything, the author and the subject come second. I guess 🙂


    19 December, 2007 at 15:03

  2. […] I wrote a post on authorship vs. subject and I published a new Striptiz portrait of Tadej […]

  3. I guess each of us must decide for himself, but can’t avoid neither authorship or a subject in a picture.

    Borut Peterlin

    19 December, 2007 at 22:46

  4. Hm… I think You are mostly wright. But, in my opinion there is always not less then 50% of authrship. Why? For example, the photographer is the one who decide what to shoot and when. No matter if it’s some workers demonstration or conceptual work. Three different photographers could bring three different stories of same event. Everyone of us, no matter how hard we try, have our own perception of truth and reality. In Your gallery I noticed that You use wider angle lot more. I know some photographers who carries not less than 200mm on their cameras, but their stories are also intense and real, but in some other dimension. Yes, the subject is of most immportance, but emotion, simpathy, reality and the atmosphere is all photographers work. Sorry if my comment is a little bit confusing. I know my English is also a bit rusty but I hope You understand what I said.
    Best regards


    6 March, 2008 at 01:17

  5. I understand perfectly Igor and you are right. If on the demonstration there would be a photographer who is interested in plants, his picture would be macro photography of plants. Of course the assessment of percentages is very subjective and probably impossible to objectively establish the right percentage. So I guess each of us establish a criteria for himself.

    We do agree in principal.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Borut Peterlin

    6 March, 2008 at 06:49

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