Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sam Hood

Today I'm going to learn about an Australian photographer named Sam Hood.

I've been wanting to learn more about photography.

Why? Because Tim is a photographer.  He's working on going professional.  I personally feel a bit ignorant about the whole thing. It's like a recent Neighbours episode I saw recently. Amber is into photography, and her boyfriend Josh simply doesn't get it.  I mean he understands that she likes photography, and he respects that. But he doesn't understand what makes a photograph "good".  I'm like Josh.

It's hard for me to understand why Tim needs to work on his photography. To me, his photos look fantastic already.

What I also don't understand is when and why the photographer should get credit for a beautiful photo. If you take a photograph of some adorable children, shouldn't the children get some of the credit for the wonderfulness of the photo? If you take a great photograph of Uluru, shouldn't Uluru itself get most of the credit?

Maybe for me, an impressive photo would be a beautiful one of something mundane or even ugly.  I think most people can get a decent Sydney Opera House photo, but how many can get an impressive photo of a carpark?

So...maybe I'm more impressed with the photos Tim took of a charity event than I am of his Grand Canyon photos. His Grand Canyon photos are beautiful. But really, I think the canyon did at least 50% of the work.

I think what's most impressive about Tim's work is his ability to capture people's facial expressions. He takes really good photos of our extended family—captures them looking like themselves. Do you know what I mean?  Sometimes we take photos of people and their expressions look forced. Or we capture them making a face that doesn't resemble what we know of them in real life.  Well, and Tim has that problem too sometimes...but maybe less so than the rest of us.

I got really mad once because Tim posted this really ugly picture of me. I was making an awful face.  I don't usually get mad when I see ugly photos of myself. Mostly, the photos truly represent how I look. For example, I see the photo and realize I need to brush my hair more. Or I see a photo in which my posture looks disgusting. Maybe I'm wearing clothes that aren't flattering. So then it's my fault. But in this case, it was a matter of being captured in the wrong moment.  And that happens often to many people. No big deal. But I didn't like that he posted the photo. Then when I bitched at him, he dug himself further into a hole by saying something like it was a natural look. I took that to mean I'm always ugly. I've been very sensitive about my fading beauty lately, so I didn't take that comment in stride.

Now that I think of it, though, maybe he was just being honest. Maybe I saw the photo and thought that doesn't look like me. But maybe it does, and that's why Tim thought it was okay to post it.  That's depressing. On the bright side, Tim was very apologetic about the whole thing.

I should stop rambling and get to the Sam Hood stuff.

I'm going to start with Lord Wiki.

Lord Wiki says Sam Hood is dead.  And he's been dead for a long time...since 1953. He never got to experience the digital age of photography. Although maybe he's been reincarnated. Maybe he's Tim!

Sam Hood's birthday was August 20.  He shares his birthday with Jack.

Hood was born in 1872. In the late 1880's, he began his photography career.

His big thing was taking photos of ships. Lord Wiki says it's believed he took a photograph of every vessel that entered Sydney Harbour from the years 1890-1950. I'm guessing vessel would apply only to big ships. I can't imagine that he took a photo of every little sailboat that passed by. Although maybe I'm wrong.

Hood did other things besides taking photographs of ships. He did photos of people. He did press photography.  I think press photography is photos taken for the newspapers?

Lord Wiki says that in the 1930's, newspapers needed less of his work because they were hiring their own photographers at that point. So I guess his press photography was freelance.  Then he started doing work that involved photographing buildings, and he also took photos of celebrities.

Next I'm going to look at some of the links that Lord Wiki provides.

Oh! I forgot to mention that Lord Wiki has examples of Hood's work. One is called "A Soldier's goodbye, with Bobby the cat".  I love it. It shows two people hugging, but you can see only their legs. Then there's a cat looking up at them. It's very creative.

The second photo is of acrobats. It would fall under my category of the subject of the photograph deserving most of the credit.

One of Lord Wiki's links is to Flickr.  They have photos from the Australian National Maritime Museum. I'm not sure if the whole collection is from Hood, or just some of  them.

There ARE photos of small sailboats though. So maybe Hood really did take a photo of every boat that entered the harbour.

The photos aren't credited. So I'm not sure which are from Hood and which are not. It's confusing.

Or maybe they're all his photos?

Here we go!  I found my way to an album that's ALL Sam Hood.  Here they call him Samuel. I wonder if he more often went by Sam or Samuel. Did anyone ever call him Sammy?

I like this photo of ship officers talking. It looks very natural—real people having a real conversation.

I like this ship officer one as well.

Here's a great crowd scene photo. It's of people waiting for a ship to come in. There's a nice variety of emotions. Most people look excited, but a few look worried or bored.

Some people in this photo are making odd faces. Maybe they were singing?

I think this photo, of children at a Christmas party, is adorable.  They're all being lifted by a crane. I wonder if that would be allowed in these days.

Here's a photo of the Harbour Bridge being built.  It's from the days where there was that big gap in the middle.

Here's a cute mother and baby photo. The baby is laughing. Usually when I see old black and white photos of babies, they look so serious.  Then again, even these days it's often hard to get a photograph of a baby looking at the camera and smiling.

These people look serious, and kind of scary.

I thought this photo was a lovely capture of love. But then I read the caption and saw that the man in the photo is an actor. I read a novel recently that made me question things about actors.  In it, a woman was touched by her actor friend's behavior during a speech he made about seriously ill children. He had to put down the speech he had written, because he was overcome by emotion.  OR so she thought. Later she finds his speech, and it turns out that what she saw WAS the speech. All along he planned to stop and be overwhelmed by tears.

The thing is, if an actor can be fake with believability on screen and on stage, why can't they do the same in real life as well?

Of course not all actors are going to do that. Most are pretty decent, I'm sure. But after reading that novel...I think I've gained some prejudices.

I looked at this photo, and thought the man in it resembled Billy Hughes. Then I looked at the caption and saw it IS Billy Hughes. I'm not sure why I didn't consider that.

Some people in this photo don't look too pleased. They're onboard a ship, so it could be seasickness.

Here's a picture of some Pacific Islanders. They looked very stressed—not happy at all.  I wonder if something big and bad was happening, or if it was just a family squabble that had gotten them irritated with each other.

Here's an article about Sam Hood. It's pretty recent (May 2014).

It says that Hood did photography even on his last day of life. That's kind of lovely. It's nice he was still doing what he loved.

The article says, And as we take more and more photographs, on our compact cameras and our smartphones, so we are taking less time to look at them. The contemporary photograph is no longer so much a record of the moment as a part of the moment itself, an integrated component of whatever it is we happen to be doing.

I'm not sure I fully understand that. But is it true that we're spending less time looking at the photos?

Maybe the writer is saying we're putting more energy into taking the photos and looking at recent ones. There's so many new photos being taken, we're not taking as much time to look back at the old ones.

Do you think that's true?

Do you often look at your old photos?

Now the article is talking about photographs with fake intimacy—photographers taking strangers and posing them to look like they know and like each other. The article gives two points of view about the photo. He says, It sounds faintly gimmicky but it can also produce some affecting – and memorable – images.  But then he talks about how other people dislike it.

I don't think I'm a fan. Though I don't think I've seen photos of strangers faking friendship.  But it makes me think of portrait photography—the ones where the photographer forces you into a position that is not at all something you'd normally do. Tim has a photo of him and his sister that's like that. It totally doesn't look like how they'd naturally behave. Also, we recently received photo gifts of people that looks awfully staged.

We had some from our wedding as well. I'm going to see if I can find some examples.

Here's one.  It's sweet...maybe. Mother and daughter. But to me, it looks fake.

I think if you're going to do portrait photography, make it look like people posing for a photo. Like this. We were just asked to stand and smile.  If you want an action shot, hang around people and take photos of them acting naturally. Don't place them into position like they're your Barbie Dolls.

Now the article is talking more about Hood. At first it was more about photography in general.

Hood had some difficult moments in life. Two of his photography studios burnt down. Ouch.

He had the same camera for forty years. Instead of getting new ones, he kept repairing the old one.  I like that. We're so into upgrading/replacing/getting-rid these days.

I like how Hood's photographs are described here.The photographs are posed, reflecting the technical capacities and photographic conventions of the time, but for all that they convey a sense both of natural intimacy and of an occasion shared, while preserving the individuality of the people who make up the composition.  From the photographs I saw, and my limited scope of knowledge, I think I agree.

There were some photographs were people looked stiff and serious in their pose, but there were other posed photos where people looked jovial and natural.  By posed, I mean the photos in which people are asked to stand and look at the camera, not faked action shot photos.

From what I'm reading in the article ,though, I'm thinking some of Hood's photos that look like natural action shots ARE posed. Well, some of the article goes over my head. But I think maybe that's what's being said. They don't look posed, though.

Maybe being a photographer is like being a director. Maybe some photographers have the skill to pose people in a scene, and it looks real instead of posed.  So yeah...I think you need directing skills. I think a good photographer also needs to have a good grasp on human behavior. They can look at a group of people and know what is and is not their natural behavior. Would that man give his daughter bunny ears? Would that brother and sister put their arms around each other? Would that man normally put his hand on his wife's shoulder?

As for our wedding photographer, I don't think he had any interest in who we were and what was natural to us. I think he had a list of stock poses, and he used them whether it fit us or not.

The other thing I think a good photographer of people needs is the ability to make people feel relaxed and happy. That way you avoid getting a bunch of fake smiles.  My parents gifted us a family photo from my niece's Bat Mitzvah.  They thought it was great. I thought it was quite mediocre. I have a forced smile, and so do some of my family members. Then other family members look bored and/or unhappy.  I love the photo, though, because it inspired me to start a game called If my family and I were criminals, what would we each be.  I decided I'd be a terrorist. Tim and my dad would be serial killers. My mom would be the head of a jewelry smuggling thing. One of my sister's would be a kidnapper, and one of my brother-in-laws would be a shooter. I'm not sure about my other sister and her husband.  Maybe they'd be drug dealers? OR maybe they'd be a Bonnie and Clyde kind of thing.

It's a demented game. But see...I blame the photo.  Or I credit it. Because the game is actually fun.

Well, on that note. I think I'm going to quit here.

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