Why are photos so extreme nowadays?

 

Article Dedication 

In honor of

Edward Weston & Jerry N. Uelsmann

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On APUG an old time film guy asked why the new digital photogs use so much extreme effects on their pix. I hear the same thing about my work. Either it is extreme content or extreme processing.

Hollywood Blvd Selfie- infrared flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Infrared flash photo

As a social doc photog I generally don’t set out to stage extreme photos…I just document what I find naturally occurring in our world. There is a big difference between staging bullshit, extreme photos just to get attention versus documentation of life as it unfolds.

Sure, sometimes I freak things out with cartoonish HDR, but it is based on natural, but intensified color, so it is still real – just supercharged. No one pays me to do social doc photos. I am completely self-funded with my photography, therefore I shoot and process the photos exactly as I like. The critics seem to be a little confused. They must be thinking they hired me to shoot for them.

Just shooting extreme photos does not make it a great pix. Look at this example…Piss Christ.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ

When I look at Piss Christ, I am looking through a street / doc photogs eyes, not as an artist. To me this is bullshit…but to the artist and its admirers, it is gold. So, to each their own. There are certain rules that help a photo have a flow and poetic symmetry. Although, rules are made to be broken…shoot your pix from the heart and not from some rule book.

” A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.”

Paul Theroux

In any case, artists are on a different wavelength than the rest…they have to be allowed ‘some’ leeway for creativity to flourish…that is the bottom line.  Never let anyone brow beat you about your art. When it comes to art, there are no boundaries…if it is legal, the artist can do as they please.

BMG Project Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - Copy

Multitasking ~ Infrared flash photograph from Piecing Darkness artists’ book.

I’m not a big fan of Winogrand and his crooked, jumbled up, confused style. (Look at the bulk of his estimated 1.5 million photos, not the handful they trot out when his name is mentioned.) But, I do like a number of his sayings. One gem is…

Great photography is always on the edge of failure. 

In any case, I take the critics ‘extreme’ comments as a compliment. If you not doing extreme work – you’re not doing much nowadays.

The German ‘bridge artists’ learned long ago that distorted reality was an important tool to use for emotional effect. This is something you may profit from with your art.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Br%C3%BCcke

PD 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/piercing-darkness-update/

Don McCullin talked about the problem of competition in the 1960’s.

This is what McCullin’s competition looked like in 1952.

tumblr_nrc4sgqdpT1uq4r4ko1_1280

McCullin said he tried to produce strong photos to set his work apart from the crowd.

A still photo is not like a movie. The still photo must capture the attention of the viewer as well as say something that is remarkable and worthy of study in one frame. Why would any photog not want to create strong work?

BMG 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

People are just more extreme nowadays….

It used to be ‘extreme’ to show a photo of a homosexual, smoking weed with a tattoo and green hair. Nowadays that is all mainstream stuff. Someday it may be extreme to show a person with no tattoos! This just underscores what is extreme to one person may not be extreme to another person.

GOTJ 57 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Every day millions and millions of pix  get uploaded on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr, just to name a few. If you want to get ahead in a world of 2 billion cell phone cams at large you had better be doing, strong, extreme as well as outstanding work nowadays.

Every genre of photography seeks to produce extreme work. The landscapers look for extremes with their constant chase for the blue and golden hour.  What else is popular with the camera fondlers on the photo forums?  They slap on sunglass filters to make extreme blurs of the water and clouds.

The portraitists are either looking for extreme ‘no expression’ or ‘extreme expression.’  The average smiley face is not what they are after. Some portraitists like shadowy chiaroscuro or high key, all white scenes…again extremes.

The high contrast devotees and shadow experts working on the street are looking for extreme lighting as they wait 20 to 30 minutes for the right person to walk into planned scene. The street photogs shooting juxtaposition of people with signage are looking for extreme comparisons. Sure, we all do em. But try it in the dark, with the signs moving and no viewfinder…extremes can set you apart from the crowd.

PD Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr- Co

Infrared flash photograph from Piercing Darkness artists’ book.

Even the banal experts look for extreme boring with their shots. The tilt-shifters and diffusion devotees are looking for extremes in view and softness. Finally the large format, Edward Weston, f/64 group guys look for extreme sharpness with their work.

We have tools as photographers that we can use to call attention to our image.  We all use some of these tools to one degree or another….high or low contrast, HDR, grain, color whether muted, bold or selective, BW, sharpness, diffusion, composition, bokeh, lighting, subject matter, etc. Without extremes, a photos is nothing. Although if you age a snapshot long enough, nostalgia value may give it a rise…a la’ Vivian Maier

What would this photo be without extremes?

http://photohostsnapshots.tumblr.com/image/123719464653

It would be a snapshot, nothing of interest to anyone other than the family and relatives.

Same with the next photo. If the guy was sitting on the bed or standing in the room with his clothes on you would not know much about him. You may make assumptions, but you’re still only guessing. My photo is pretty straightforward with the message.

BTW, it wasn’t staged, everything is exactly as shown. I just asked him why he liked Burt Reynolds so much….he showed me…I shot it.

https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/meet-on-the-street-shoot-at-the-home/

Burt's Devotee copyright 1974 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr...

In the other arts it is the same thing.

 Guitarists use fuzz, reverb, tremolo and  wha-wha for effect and attention. Trumpets…maybe they invented wah-wah before guitar?

http://media.cleveland.com/musicdance_impact/photo/trumpetsjpg-b10f3615a096a41f.jpg

Dizzy liked a one of a kind horn.

http://d3hkwlmamh2crp.cloudfront.net/files/imagecache/lead-th/all/images/wwoz-blogs/lead/dizzy-540-2.jpg

An artist  got a little extreme to make a statue of Dizzy…

http://www.marks-music-circus.co.uk/1975-1999=Contemporary/1993/Deaths/1993-01-06=Dizzy_Gillespie_statue.jpg

Here are some of my ‘extreme photos’ and some of the composition rules I used or rules I broke, in making them.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.18 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

A textbook example of diagonal leading line composition.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.6 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

A textbook example of triangular composition.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.25 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

A textbook example of motion blur in relation to camera distance.

21Whoop-Whoop 21 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of circular composition.

Stripper on Rooftop copyright 1974 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of centered composition.

22Whoop-Whoop 123 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr (4)

An example of mountain peak composition.

Uncertain Future copyright 2005 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of broken pattern composition.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.13 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of juxtaposed composition.

37th annual Minstral Show copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of balanced composition.

Bangkok Taxi Copyright 1982 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of framed composition.

Whimsical Composition copyright 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr v42

An example of a whimsical composition.

Homage to Weegee 2012 copyright 2012 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of selective color composition.

Imagine That! copyright 2012 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of a self-portrait shadow composition.

4 img001-Tiff v2 Print MR

An example of full frame composition.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge' Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of tilt-shift composition.

Makes Me Grateful for My Bed Copyright 1971 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of simplified composition.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of leaving space composition.

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An example of center weighted rule of thirds composition.

cropped-bikers-mardi-gras-no-36-copyright-2014-daniel-d-teoli-jr.jpg

An example of panoramic composition.

Train Tracks cop[yright 1972 Danewil D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of curved converging lines composition.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of suppressed background composition.

Juggalos Project Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of layered composition.

Catholic Statuary 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of symmetrical composition.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of off symmetry composition.

Titty Beads copyright 2014 Dnaiel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of composition incorporating signage.

L1003119 V19 mr

An example of circular fisheye composition.

Social Documentary copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr (5)

An example of shallow depth of field.

20Whoop-Whoop 81 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of a mystery composition.

Crazy Copyright 1975 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of chiaroscuro.

Steeplechase 2005 Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

An example of motion blur.

Santa Monica Copyright 1984 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of telephoto compression.

21 De Wallen Artists' Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

An example of silhouette composition.

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Breaking the rules – Wide angle distortion.

Selection from Bikers Mardi Gras copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Crooked composition.

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Breaking the rules – Grab hip shot.

32 img169-2_-2_-3_-4_fused-Edit View Print-V15 MR

Breaking the rules – Exaggerated vignette.

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Breaking the rules – Low angle shot.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Upside down composition.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Cutting the feet off.

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Breaking the rules – Infrared

Barbara LeMay coptright 1974 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Toned and grain.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.22 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Negative reversal toned.

26 De Wallen Artists' Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Breaking the rules – Incorporating empty center space.

Hakenkreuz in a Dress Copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Extreme processing.

The Kiss Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Breaking the rules – Fast, overhead, unframed grab shot.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Grainy…blurry.

Plane Worshipers copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Shooting into the sun.

BMG selection copyright 2014 Daniel d. Teoli Jr. mr

Breaking the rules – Collage storytelling.

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Breaking the rules – Grunge HDR

Young Girl and Babydoll copyright 1972 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Shot from behind

L1002102-V28 7.6 x 7.6 mr+ higher res

Breaking the rules – Single image HDR.

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.9 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Breaking the rules – Hyper-real HDR

PD Project Daniel D. Teoli Jr. G300 mr

Breaking the rules – Infrared Flash

Mike Busey 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Breaking the rules – Using LED flashlight for illumination.

In the Shadow of City Hall V25 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Breaking the rules – Shot through the car windshield while driving.

NYE Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Breaking the rules – There are no GD rules…there are only great photographs!

Now, extreme work does not always work in a good way for the artist. Extreme work can also get you labeled ‘not fit for exhibition.’ In my case I’m censored and snubbed left and right. While I wish more of my work was exhibited, I’d rather be true to my work and produce authentic photography rather than fudging it up trying to fit commercial and censorships demands.

Let me give you an example of how putting money over art can hurt the project. When Scorsese did the movie Taxi Driver he was told the bright red blood was too gory by the censors. I don’t know whether he was shooting for a NC-17 the way the movie was shot. But to get the ‘R’ rating he had to de-saturate the blood into  a brownish, watery pitiful excuse for blood. Over time the original master seems to be lost, as even the Blu-ray DVD has never fixed the problem with the blood.

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Photographs used herewith are from the following limited edition artists’ books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. – 2013

Portfolio: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. – 2013
Twenty-six Roadkills – 2013

Encyclopedia of Photographic & Fine Art Ink Jet-
Printing Media – 12 Volume Set – 2014

Bikers’ Mardi Gras – 2015

Gender Benders from the 1970’s – 2015

De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District – 2015

180 – The Circular Fisheye at Large – 2016

Piercing Darkness – 2016 *

The Americans…60 years after Frank – 2016 *

Whoop-Whoop – Forthcoming

Secrets of Candid Photography  – Forthcoming

*Projects under consideration for a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship

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YesYesYes…photography is like that and there’s no maybes. All the maybes go to the trash. There is a tremendous enjoyment in saying yes, even if it is for something you hate. It is an affirmation…Yes!” ~ Cartier-Bresson

De Wallen Graffiti copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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