Does Your Background Matter?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Jim Gratiot, Mar 16, 2007.

  1. Jim Gratiot

    Jim Gratiot TPF Noob!

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    Apologies if this has been discussed before, but I'm curious to get some opinions on this.

    I notice in a lot of posts people saying something to the effect of "Not only do I like photograph X, but I really like the story behind the photograph."

    Which begs the question... shouldn't a good photograph stand on its own? Perhaps the background of the photographer... or the situation in which the photo was taken... adds to the photograph.

    But I would think that a truly great photograph is great because, well, it's a truly great photograph.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    This is a bit of a complex question, so the answer is somewhat 'fluffy'.
    It all depends on why the photograph was taken.
    To expand and clarify.
    If a photograph is taken as part of a photojournalistic exercise then the story behind the image is an essential part of it. If the image is made to stand on it's own then the image is removed from it's context and loses so much in the process that it becomes meaningless, even though it might still be an interesting image*.
    To turn the argument on it's head. If you put any image into a context you will look at that image differently. For example, if you see a photo in a newspaper you might think that it is OK. If you saw the same image on the wall of a Museum you would look at it differently. And assess it differently.

    The bottom line is that some images are intended to stand on their own whilst others are intended to be supported with background information. That is to say, some images can be looked at in their own terms, whilst others have background information that is essential to enhance and give meaning to them. And they can all be stunning pictures.


    * A good example of all of this is a photograph by the great Robert Capa.
    Look at THIS image.

    Now look at the same image in a context.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Capa,_Death_of_a_Loyalist_Soldier.jpg
    Some things now become clearer and I'm sure you looked at the image more closely.

    Now read the essay here to find out the story and the controversy surrounding the image.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/capa_r.html
    And now I am sure you see the image differently again - and this time you will be trying to make up your mind about it.
     
  3. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nicely said.
     

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