Jan 25, 2013

What makes a bad blog post?

When I don’t post for a couple of weeks, I imagine that my regular readers are thinking, “you’re on the other side of the world, you’re in in India, surely something interesting must be happening everyday.” And that, the merely interesting, is what I think makes a bad blog post and a bad photo—pages of illustrations.

(Yes, because I'm quite content with my last two posts I'm taking the risky step here of drawing aside the curtain and showing you a rejected post that includes what I believe are some successful photos. And trying to explain the difference between the two. This is an “inside baseball” post for the photographers and bloggers in my audience. If I hear that all this background is merely annoying I will do what I haven't yet done, and delete the post.)

In India a wedding parade brings the groom to his marriage ceremony. Here (photo #1) a gas powered generator is wheeled on a bicycle powered cart; the electricity is used to amplify the band member that is playing inside each of the bicycle driven cages (photo #2) . Beyond the fourth cage you can see a wall of speakers (photo #1) —behind these the groom’s friends dance. 

My picture of a dancer (photo #3) is out of focus because it’s my style to use wide angle lenses that requires me to get close to the action. Here the dancers were having none of that. If I was close enough to dance, I was dancing. They were grabbing my camera hand and thrusting into the air while they engaged in this very physical contact dancing. I had no intellectual context for this experience. It felt like what I imagine it would feel like to suddenly find yourself on the dance floor of a gay disco.

Traditionally, the groom would be dressed up like a maharaja and riding a white horse. Here he’s in the back seat of a silver car (photo #4).

Wasn’t that as interesting as it was inadequate? When you come out of your way to read my blog I feel you should take away more than facts, however curious.

Yet more interesting inadequate photos, but with the much more evocative lighting of a night-time wedding parade. Here there are fireworks, behind which is a similar bicycle wheeled power generator. This time the power is used for light rather than sound—the LED colored lights and the odd hand-held table lamps strung behind that and carried by poor women hired for the occasion. The music here is from a brass band marching behind the women. The woman holding the lights is well-lit and lovely (if slightly blurred), but uninteresting because she is posing conscious of her good looks. She comes off as just a pretty face. She wanted her picture taken and then she asked for payment after I took this picture.  

I wouldn’t have started this post unless I also had photos of the wedding parade that I believe get beyond the merely interesting to the expressive—by that I mean suggestive of a world beyond the frame of the photograph.

I am very much aware that here the subject’s discomfort with being photographed is enhancing the resulting image (although I realize some will hold a differing opinion about the first of these images, I don't think there is any doubt about the effectiveness of the latter two). I don’t know what to say about this except that one of the most famous sayings about photography is, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” (The photographic proverb gains extra meaning if you know it was said by Robert Capa, a war photographer, perhaps most famous for landing in occupied Europe with the troops on D-day.) When you get this close things happen. Sometimes you get evocative uncomfortable images like this or in more delightful ways something magical happens, sometimes you get yelled at or the subjects turn away, and sometimes you get forced into some strange Hindu male bonding dance that takes place at the trailing end of every wedding parade.

1 comment:

  1. I always admired the amount of thought you put into things that most people place very little value on.