Found Photographs

There seems to be a lot of dicsussion about the manufactured photographs again, such as Amy Stein’s work. I suppose that it has to do with the idea of a totally created work, such as a painting or drawing. An idea or concept is developed and you create the set and find the players. Not surprising, they look like advertising photos, which are very related manufactured cousins. I do admit that Stein carrys off the realtative illusion a little better than most.

On the opposite end of the pendulum are the found photographs. Where timing, patience and probably luck, which usually means preperation, play a large part. For the found photographs, you need to be actively engaged and not only looking, but seeing (my emphasis).

I understand the relative merits of both and all of the iteriations in between. Such as seeing something and then coming back later when the conditions are more in line with what you want to photograph to communicate your intent. Or patiently waiting for something you want to have included to further make the point.

The photograph with this post was made recently while on a short holiday visit to San Diego SeaWorld. I had noticed this composition (looking) as we walked in from the parking lot (serindipity, because it was seen only because the parking lot was almost full and we were out in the boon docks), but the conditions were not right (herding two grandchilden, stroller, wife, daughter and sister). But then, my granddaughter had chosen the wrong shoes (the pretty ones) and after two blisters started to occur on her heel, Papa went back out to the boon docks to fetch the other function sandels while they sat through one of the performances.

On the way to the car, I stopped and starting seeing this landscape composition. And I started ‘working it’ (I may have been going out to get the sandels, but I was still carrying the camera, eh), what to include, what to exclude. To try to capture the riders flying by in their carts, to include folks walking in front on their way in or out of the park (going in, they looked very fresh and excited, going out, they were beat, exhausted and dragging their buttes).

What was my point that I was interested in making? What did occur to me, was that if I wanted to have someone walking in front, it would be really neat to be able to ‘control’ them, thus folks who were there, dressed as I would want and placed where I want. Thus the found photograph could become a manufactured photograph. Have you not found yourself thinking, if only that person would move just a little to the right and what a really great photograph that would make?

So although I am much more of the found photograph photographer, I do understand and find appealing the ability to get everyone in the right place, at the right time.

Best regards, Doug

8 thoughts on “Found Photographs

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  1. I found your post most off-putting. To say that your photographs require timing, patience, preparation, active engagement, and a deeper connection to seeing and that the work of Miss Stein merely involves creating sets and finding players is insulting.

    Your personal vision as a photographer is your vision and if that runs as deep as taking a picture of a parking lot at an amusement park then be happy with it. Her vision is different than yours, but you are naive if you think executing it doesn’t involve those same considerations you attributed to your work.

  2. Sorry, I did not intend to insult anyone, and I really like Seins photographs. But manufactured photographs are made differently than a found photograph, nothing wrong with that, both are equally wonderful.

    A found photograph can be just a little more random, either you are there at that time or you are not, eh? That would consistitue timing.

    Sometimes you find some situation but the circumstances are evolving, so perhaps you wait a moment (or an hour) until the situation (composition, lighting, etc) are more what you want, that would consistute patience.

    Okay, the point is, if you make a set, light it and bring in the actors, that is different than seeing something at a given moment and taking the picture. Either way, I think we are trying to establish an association, tell a story or create a feeling.

    By the way, I am very aware that Amy is probably doing the same things with regard to timing, lighting, preperation and I find her work extremely interesting, but her work was just an example of someone who works in that style. To think I was that naive is insulting.

    And for me, I am fascinated with the structural context that we create around us, and I enjoy bringing it forward when I find it.

  3. “To think I was that naive is insulting.”

    You wrote, “On the opposite end of the pendulum are the found photographs. Where timing, patience and probably luck, which usually means preperation, play a large part. For the found photographs, you need to be actively engaged and not only looking, but seeing (my emphasis).” That statement seems very much to cast your end of the pendulum as the primary domain of those qualities.

  4. I guess in one sense, as a photographer chooses to include and excludes, chooses the camera, lens, medium and focal point and the composition but I would rather place the emphasis on that all photographs are “created”.

    As to my original point, I was spending time to discuss aspects of a found photograph, that was all. Not that this was meant to inclusionary or exclusionary, because it was not. peace.

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