Cropping and street photography…are you a slave to your ego?

APUG / Photrio didn’t like my photos so they kicked me out a long time ago. But I still read it once in a while. They had a post on the never ending debate on cropping and street work.

https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/cropping-and-street-photography.172596/

This debate is just one of ego. I once saw a terribly crooked photo by Cartier-Bresson of a bullring at a museum. He would have rather presented a crooked photo than straighten and crop it…it is all ego. It is the photogs job to present the best they can, unless they aspire showing garbage as Winogrand was prone to do in his later years.

If it works uncropped, great, but most of my street work is cropped. Now, if you are working for a job and they demand no crop or you are a crime scene photog, then sure cropping could be bad. But if you are just working for yourself, crop or uncrop…it just does not matter…unless you are a slave to your ego.

I once read on a forum that the photog said if a photo had to be cropped it was not meant to be taken. Another said if they stopped making film they would give up photography. Both egomaniacs that serve their ego instead of the photo.

To me, the successful photo has a poetic flow to it. This flow can be one of harmony or one of discord. Whatever it is…the photo flows. This poetic flow is what separates the snapshot from the photograph. It is the same with the successful poem vs. a mass of meaningless words. One has poetic flow, the other does not. The poetic flow makes it stick in our mind.

Sometimes the situation does not allow for much poetic flow. You just want to record that moment in time. That is how I think of poetry as it relates to photography. In any case I use all the tools available to me to make the best poetic flow I can with my photos.

With my work I seldom show the uncropped, non-post processed photos. That stuff follows you around for life once it is on the internet. Why show your junk? But once in a while I show some examples for the die-hards that say don’t crop, don’t post process, etc. And it may help the newbies that think everything is always perfect.

Here is one of Mike Busey at one of his infamous parties. Mike is the brother of actor Gary Busey. It is from my project The Americans…60 years after Frank. OK nitpickers, it was not shot on the street. But whether inside or outside, candid photography uses the same tools and I lump it all together as one genre. Nitpickers and camera fondlers, here is how things work when it comes to documentary photography.

Hierarchy of Documentary Photography *

1. Candid events unfolding as they happen.

2. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a candid, then the photo must be posed.

3. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a posed photo, then it must be staged with the proviso it is a recreation of past events, preferably with the actual persons reenacting the events.

4. Figments of the imagination. Varies in documentary value.  Can be based on pure speculation or a recount of events.

* Created by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Now, in this case I could not get any closer and I had people in front of me, so I made do with what I could get. You can see for yourself what basic cropping and some dodging and burning can do. 

If I was a Photoshopper I guess I could have done better removing unwanted things. In my case I’m an old film photog from the 70’s. I don’t know how to use Photoshop and just get by with Lightroom. And in the big picture, once you start doing too much bullshit to a photo it loses it reportage value and it becomes just fiction.

As a social documentary photog I try not to stray too from the material honesty of the photo or main message the photo conveys. Cropping, dodging and burning are the basics we all did in the wet darkroom back in the day. I carry over those same techniques into my digital work to perfect the photo’s poetic flow.

crop no crop mike busey D.D.Teoli Jr.

Uncropped, no post processing left  – Cropped with post processing right.

Mike Busey 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from

The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

PS…if you want to know what Mike was doing. He asked for a volunteer at the party, blindfolded her and gave her a drink of vodka while washing out the big Kahunas butt crack.

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Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
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Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography