Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? (II)

Closed railway gate into North Korea, 2003

Part 2 Part I is here.

Marc Hauser is a professor at Harvard’s Deptartment of Cognitive Evolution (a fully different person from photographer Marc Hauser), and his recent book Moral Minds is chock full of morality tests. These tests take the form of little thought experiments, similar to those math “word problems” of trains leaving Chicago and Philadelpha at the same time at such-and-such a speed. Unlike the meeting of two fixed-speed trains, however, these problems don’t have fixed answers — rather, they are presented as a means for the person taking the test to shine some light into the internal nature of their own moral sense.

8 min read

Is Photography Inherently Humanizing? (I)

IMG_0354.psd Part 1

One of the most difficult aspects surrounding the practice of war photography (and other “socially concerned” photography, as exemplified by, say, Salgado’s gold miner photos) is that almost universally, the stated aim of photgraphers who pursue that vocation is that they desire an end to war — a specific war, or all wars. As has been pointed out my a number of detractors, most prominently Susan Sontag, there’s little evidence to show that photography has done much of anything to stop wars.

The 2007 World Press Photo awards have been in announced in the past couple of days, and it’s no surprise that the dominant award winners — especially in “singles” — are of combat and its aftermath. The World Press Photo of the Year itself is one: Spencer Platt’s celebrated shot of a group of well-heeled and comopolitan young Lebanese cruising through post-airstrike destruction in their red convertible, one of them sourly fiddling with her celphone camera.

3 min read

Styling

(C)2007 Kevin Bjorke Both of my primary digital cameras now have the ability to save a full-sized JPEG image along with the corresponding RAW file. So I’ve taken to setting them both up the same way: with the JPEG stored as B&W, high contrast, and the color balance set to “AUTO” or “Daylight.”

This buys me a couple of things besides the obvious one: B&W photos that are B&W out of the box. It gives me the option of later tweaking the B&W conversion from the RAW files, but also — and I’ve found this to be genuinely useful — a strong, contrasty image on the preview screen that reads well in bright or dark conditions — even if I’m shooting in color.

The punchy B&W preview is useful as a strong litmus test about the immediate readability of an image. Not that all pictures need a crisp graphic style, but when they do, the B&W preview shows it.

When I worked a lot on TV commercials we would keep a bad B&W TV set around for previewing. There was a $3000 13-inch color studio monitor next to it. The B&W set was placed there by our postproduction color timing expert, who always wanted to preview everything on it to be sure the results of his work were truly readable.

4 min read