Credit where credit's due

Ok, so I'm sure most of you are aware that in the world of commercial high fashion and lifestyle photography there is an enormous amount of work that goes into the production of an image; lights camera action is an understatement. 1st assistants, 2nd assistants 3rd assistants, PR, makeup, stylist, caterer, studio etc etc etc.

No problem. I like a well polished fashion shoot as much as the next man.

However I am more and more railing against how these commercial shoots end up looking on the printed page and how galleries are lapping them up in expensive print editions. It's getting a bit extreme for my liking.

For example, photographer Jill Greenberg recently kicked up a storm with these pictures...

Apparently she made the kids cry by giving them a lollipop and then taking it away. A tad cruel, especially as the motive was to get some photos of crying kids. Kids cry on a daily basis. Surely it's possible to get a series of photographs on this subject without stage-managing it.

But anyway, this is beside the point because what really gets me is not the content but it's the way these images actually look.

I'm reminded of a book I used to have as a teenager and which I used as inspiration for my graphic design classes at school. It was full of airbrushed advertising art from the days when the future was supposed to be bright and shiny and clean instead of grimy and dark and polluted.

Now I can almost forgive this kind of work when it's used to sell a product, it therefore becomes blatantly illustrative and I can happily allow it to throw any pretense to reality out the window as only a sucker would believe it to be a representation of the proverbial truth.

Take Jill Greenberg's photo of Gwen Stefani for instance.

No problem with that right? This is supposed to sell albums, not give me insight into Gwen Stefani. Though actually it does give me insight, but that's another discussion...

Besides, surely Gwen will want something different for her next album and will hire me to shoot her with 1600 ASA B&W film loaded into my 1970s Pentax early in the morning over coffee and cigarettes after she's been up all night partying and will say to me "don't worry Tom, just print them as they are, I'm going for a raw look with this one". Right?

I don't mean to sound bitter but, well actually I am. I think this type of work is all style no substance. Feel free to disagree but that's my personal opinion.

But finally I'm getting to the real hook of why I started this in the first place and believe it or not that was not to have a rant at expensive commercial photography and why it's ruining it for the likes of little old me; but was instead to praise someone's skills.

In my mind these images are no longer photographs. They have been retouched to such a degree that they are now illustrations and should be treated as such.

I believe that in this particular example Jill Greenberg is no longer even the sole author of this work. In fact, she hires a retoucher by the name of Amy Dresser. Now I do not know if Amy retouched these specific images but she certainly has Jill Greenberg as one of her many clients. Here is an example of Amy's work, I have no idea who the photographer is here.



Pretty damn good right? Though I actually prefer the untouched image. Shall we say it's because it's more real and leave it at that....

So with skills as good as this no one need ever worry again. Next time I take someone's portrait and they tell me they don't like being photographed (as happens 9 times out of 10) I'll tell them to relax, I'll get Amy Dresser to retouch it and when a puzzled look crosses their face I'll snap the shutter and get my shot.

By the way, look out for the book 'Puzzled' self published in a limited edition of 1000 photocopied and stapled pamphlets. The first hundred will be on yellow paper and signed with a fat marker pen.

So to end this I'll say much respect to Amy Dresser for giving Jill Greenberg and others their style and ensuring they continue to get hired.

Credit where credit's due.


Anonymous said...

bitter much?

amy works with jill one out of every 20 jobs at most. jill's style existed before she worked with amy.

if you are going to whine in public, at least be funny about it. is how that is done.

Tom White said...

I was just using this work as an extreme example of what I think is over the top post production on too many of today's images, and I think the people who put in the man-hours should at least get credit for it. As for Jill's style - my point was that it isn't exceptional in itself and it's the post shoot work that makes it stand out. If I were whining about it I'd probly say something like... "It's not fair. Why is she getting hired for these jobs and I'm not?" which is hardly how I feel or of any use to anyone.

Though as for being bitter; I'm a northerner. Being bitter is what we do. My tongue is firmly in my cheek and bitterphotographer ain't got a monopoly on bitterness by a long shot.

But anyway, thanks for the comment Anon. I'll try and make my sarcasm more obvious next time!

e_a said...

The past three years of the Communication Arts photo annuals have been chock full of images sporting that look (and similarly-rooted aesthetics.) Perhaps sometime people will get sick of highpass filters and underlaid gradient maps.

the images of Loretta Lux may be the end of civilization.

Café Voltaire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
olivier said...

anonymous-shut the hell up if you are not going to reveal yourself-

Tom, keep bitching all you want. Who are these SOBs commenting anonymously. Express yourself however way you want, and you do not have to be funny about it either. Don't let those .C...suckers push you around.

Typical bullies, always hiding behind mamas skirts when the going gets tough. When I was a kid I used to kick the living be-jesus out of them, and every single one of those SOBs would crumple the minute they were up against someone stronger than they were.

Now that I am finished ranting: Thanks for pointing Amy's work out, very informative. As for Jill Greenberg her work is just noise. A very capable commercial photographer who is making a splash but will soon return to the shadows from which she came from.

As for bitter photographer, however funny he might have been, he is a gonner, a one liner as I mentioned to a friend once.

Fun blog, keep it up.

grace said...

Nice retouching, you have your own professional retoucher.