Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/03/24

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Subject: Re: [Leica] The snapshot ethic
From: Johnny Deadman <>
Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2001 19:14:03 -0500

on 3/23/01 6:03 PM, henry at wrote:

> Johnny Deadman wrote an eloquent post conluding with:
>> So in photography. The 'apparent' snapshot convinces us of something, a fact
>> or an emotional truth, precisely because it *looks* like a snapshot.


> This carries beyond the snapshot ethic into what any photograph might be.
> Any photograph (constructed or found) might convince us of a fact or
> emotional truth. They can be slices of time, quotes from life - bearing
> weight and depth. The successful ones do this well. Even the snapshots.

sure, but the 'snapshot' has a load of tags of supposed authenticity...
apparently casual composition, grain perhaps, some blur... these are the
things that are supposed to make us turn our rhetoric-radar off. That's why
there's such a hoo-hah when allegations like those about Doisneau's kiss
surface. There's nothing in the picture that says 'this is unposed' except
the nature of the picture itself. (Macluhan not a dead dog!).

We are upset (well, some of us are) when we learn it's a posed pic because
we assumed it wasn't. No-one told us it wasn't. It just 'looks' unposed.

I think it would be interesting to investigate how far its possible to
switch this around ie create a picture which appears to be a formal, set up
shot from the nature of the image, and yet is actually a snap. This is kind
of what I'm hoping to do by shooting street stuff with 4x5, produce a
technically astounding picture which nevertheless is a real street snap.

 Don't ask me why!
- -- 
John Brownlow