Photography in Anime – Photographic Genres – Sing Yesterday Episode 5

Sing Yesterday - Portrait photography
Minato’s thoughts on photography inspired a few thoughts of my own on the topic… I agree with him on some things, disagree on others.  I also look at other ways he can indulge in his budding passion for documentary photography.

Hit the jump and let’s look at some pictures!

Sing Yesterday - CameraSing Yesterday - Photographer
You can’t be a photographer without a camera…  Unfortunately, to non photographers (and to less educated photographers), that sometimes means the camera defines the photographer.  In the first photograph, Minato is absolutely correct.   The quality of the camera affects the technical quality of the image, but the artistry comes from eye, brain, and heart of the photographer.

The second image seems to contradict the first, but let’s look at one of my images first…

APC_0162
This was taken when my siblings and I visited the beach at dawn when I was home for my mother’s funeral last year.  Even though I had my big camera in my backpack, I chose to use my phone…  It’s faster than my big camera, fits in better in such a situation, and puts me into the scene.  I think Minato chose a disposable because it takes “fun photos” (which I take as meaning snapshots) for much the same reason.  A bigger camera can lead to detachment and emotional isolation rather than being part of the environment.

Which casts an interesting light on his choice…  A camera usually used for snapshots rather than “serious” photography.  (Not that you can’t do so.)  A camera that allows him to be in the moment emotionally when out with Haru.

As a side comment, the rest of the photographs of mine in the post were taken with consumer and prosumer level gear from 2008 or 2010 depending on the image.  (The latter is still my daily carry.)  You don’t need the latest and greatest.

All that being said…  it’s time to dive into the genres/categories of photography Minato discusses in Episode 5.

NOTE:  I am presuming the Japanese terms were more-or-less translated directly and correctly.

Documentary photography / Photojournalism

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Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage

Tate Gallery

Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. It is typically covered in professional photojournalism, or real life reportage, but it may also be an amateur, artistic, or academic pursuit.

Wikipedia

Photojournalism - fire trucks

The photograph above is one I took a few years back, just happened to be standing in the right place at the right time…  It’s a classic photojournalism style shot.

As in the photo above, documentary photography is all about impact…  it’s rarely subtle.

And that poses a problem for Minato’s plan to “travel the world” as a documentary photographer.  There’s only two ways to get that impact.  The first is to be in the right place at the right time, or to be able to get to the right place while the event is happening or shortly thereafter.  The other is to travel somewhere and photograph the impact of an ongoing or large scale event.  Neither is conducive to just wandering about, so I hope he has some kind of plan.

Or…  he has some other options too.  I talk about those in the rest of this post.

Side note, two of my favorite series of documentary photographs are the more than a job and emergency response collections centered on Detroit fire fighters by Brian Day.  (Man, I miss Flickr…  What Yahoo! did to it is a crime against humanity.)

Landscape photography

Sing Yesterday - Landscapes

Today, landscape continues to be a major theme in art with many artists using documentary techniques such as video, photography and classification processes to explore the ways we relate to the places we live in and to record the impact we have on the land and our environment.

Tate Gallery

Landscape photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.

Many landscape photographs show little or no human activity and are created in the pursuit of a pure, unsullied depiction of nature, devoid of human influence—instead featuring subjects such as strongly defined landforms, weather, and ambient light. As with most forms of art, the definition of a landscape photograph is broad and may include rural or urban settings, industrial areas or nature photography.

Wikipedia

From the point of view of fine art and competition centered photography, Minato isn’t wrong here…  In those fields there’s not supposed to be any evidence of the “hand of man”, and that pretty much leaves them with only beauty to work with.  This leads many landscape photographers to work on a broad sweeping scale…  But personally, I find those to be sterile and boring.  Unless you capture an unusual lighting or weather condition, one beautiful picture of a mountain or field of flowers is much like another.

Mountains and Mundanity II
But if you step away from the purist definition…  There’s a larger world to be found, and I suspect it would be right up Minato’s alley.  This picture is one I took a few years back trying to compare and contrast the suburban development in the foreground with the unspoiled Olympic Mountains on the horizon.

Landscape photography, whether broad vistas, or closer views can be documentary in nature too.

Portrait photography

Sing Yesterday - Portrait photography

A portrait is a representation of a particular person.

But portraits have always been more than just a record. They have been used to show the power, importance, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter. Portraits have almost always been flattering, and painters who refused to flatter, such as William Hogarth, tended to find their work rejected. A notable exception was Francisco Goya in his apparently bluntly truthful portraits of the Spanish royal family.

Tate Gallery

Portrait photography or portraiture in photography is a photograph of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses. A portrait picture might be artistic, or it might be clinical, as part of a medical study. Frequently, portraits are commissioned for special occasions, such as weddings or school events. Portraits can serve many purposes, from usage on a personal Web site to display in the lobby of a business.

Wikipedia

Here…  I think Minato is letting his personal emotions get in the way of his thinking about and evaluating his own work.  Falling in love with your own work is an error second only to hating your own work.  In some way though, I can’t blame him.  Honest evaluation of your own work is hard.  It’s a difficult skill to master, and even more difficult to keep honed.

Sing Yesterday - A portrait of Haru
Evaluating his portrait of Haru…  I don’t feel that he forced anything on anyone.  He nicely captured her uncertainty about her future with the juxtaposition of the blank area on the right with her downturned head and slightly averted gaze.

I think he’s just being hard on himself.  Too hard.

(Click on the individual images to see them full size.)

Backing up from classic and formal portraiture, there’s a lot of places that taking pictures of people can take you…  The busker and the photographer can be seen as social commentary (documentary photography by any other name).  The artist and the fisherman were attempts at capturing the scale of time (something I’ve touched on previously).

Minato, there’s a wide world out there waiting on you…  From your portrait, you’ve got talent…  I think you just need to get out of the box.

=========

Thanks for reading!  I hope it was entertaining and a bit educational…  Drop a comment with your thoughts and let’s chat!

7 thoughts on “Photography in Anime – Photographic Genres – Sing Yesterday Episode 5”

  1. Your thought that Minato’s opinion on portrait photography is derived from his ambivalence about his own work is interesting, and not something I had considered myself as a way to interpret his thoughts. I was more irritated by the value judgments he seemed to be making on genres of photography (landscapes as well) and his somewhat stuck-up elevation of documentary photography.

    I am kind of curious what you think about his assessment of portraiture as the artist pushing personal sentiments on the viewer. In your opinion, is he on track with that? And even if he is, is that necessarily a bad thing?

    Personally, I’ve seen a lot of portrait photography (or even just photography focused on a human subject but not necessarily in the “conventional” portrait style), and it’s always interesting to me to see how few shots in this genre seem to resonate with me. Maybe I’m cynical, but I suppose I do agree with Minato in a sense that much of the time they seem to be the photographer using their subject to speak, rather than be a vessel for the subject to speak for themselves. I always prefer the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your thought that Minato’s opinion on portrait photography is derived from his ambivalence about his own work is interesting, and not something I had considered myself as a way to interpret his thoughts.

      I live in a photographer’s head, so I ‘get’ Minato in a way most people won’t. Writing this post helped me clarify my own thoughts, and revealed some mental errors I’ve made over the last few years.

      I was more irritated by the value judgments he seemed to be making on genres of photography (landscapes as well) and his somewhat stuck-up elevation of documentary photography.

      Agreed! And that was the genesis of this post – calling him out for being a pretentious asshole. But the further I went down that road, the less I liked myself. Much of the pacing and swearing of the past few days has been around trying to get across what I wanted to say about the genres w/o being a pretentious ass myself. Once I found a ‘hook’, the post practically wrote itself.

      I am kind of curious what you think about his assessment of portraiture as the artist pushing personal sentiments on the viewer. In your opinion, is he on track with that? And even if he is, is that necessarily a bad thing?

      He’s on track… and he’s… not wrong. But he’s not entirely right either. IMO, both schools (of portraiture) are valid so long as the photographer isn’t making the subject speak contrary to themselves. I’m not really trying to make any kind of statement in my portraits for example, just trying to capture the world-as-it-is.

      If that sounds wishy-washy, that’s because I’m generally not actually all that cerebral in my work. Other than my scales-of-time work, I’m just catching what I see. IMO, you can get too cerebral and thus too obscure. It’s the responsibility of the artist to speak clearly in terms the audience can understand. (My educated artist friends and I have gone around and around about this many times.)

      Like

    1. Photography is fun, and it’s a hobby that you can practice almost anywhere! I combine it with geocaching.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  2. That was an intriguing post to read, both with respect to the show and photography. For example, I completely missed that Minato said he didn’t like portrait photography, and then won with one (I was focussed on that he said he wouldn’t enter because the time has to be right – which itself is interesting considering the episode’s resolution).

    Interestingly, I also didn’t see a contradiction between “camera quality isn’t the most important thing” and “this camera takes fun pictures sometimes”. This looked like a layman’s camera to me (a layman), so I thought he’d just re-inforced that you don’t need “professional gear and lots of set-ups”. What you’re explaining is pretty much how I saw the scene from the get go (though not to that degree of detail, which I’m uncapable of by myself).

    As for the Brian Day photo series: I really like some of the photographs, but many have this stilted 3D-effect I can’t stand. It’s especially apparent in the coloured shots (you can see what a difference the colour makes, because he’s got one shot in two versions and I vastly prefer the black-and-white one). I don’t know what it is; the people stand out too much. Too much emphasis? A lot of recent US movies are shot like that, and that’s the reason I hardly watch them anymore. I wonder if this is supposed to draw me into the photograph? For me, it makes them seem sculpted and distant and harder to take seriously. Documentary as melodrama? I also wonder if this has something to do with my motion sickness, even though still shots usually don’t trigger that (and none of the photos here do). Maybe it’s how my brain processes visuals? I don’t really have the words to talk about it.

    I’m really enjoying those photography post. (I’m still curious what you’d think of Tamayura.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you’re explaining is pretty much how I saw the scene from the get go (though not to that degree of detail, which I’m uncapable of by myself).

      I wasn’t sure if people would catch that, so I went with explaining it. Part of that is because I get so irritated when people say “your camera takes such great pictures” as though I contributed nothing to the process.

      As for the Brian Day photo series: I really like some of the photographs, but many have this stilted 3D-effect I can’t stand.

      If I try, I can make myself see that… But looking at it naturally, not so much. It may come from Brian’s eye. He’s a great urban photographer, but ultimately he’s about the people. I wonder if you see it in his street (https://www.flickr.com/photos/brianday/albums/72157640343990664) and Time Traveler (https://www.flickr.com/photos/brianday/albums/72157623677176793) series? The latter are what originally caught my eye.

      I’m really enjoying those photography post. (I’m still curious what you’d think of Tamayura.)

      You’re not the only person to bring that to my attention… I really need to tackle it one day. (And both the the OVA and full series are available…)

      Like

      1. It varies; the effect is very strong to weak in street, but only medium to weak (and mostly weak) in time traveler. It’s hard to tell what I’d notice if I’d seen the photos one by one out of context, since once I’ve seen it I’m primed for the effect. Interestingly, while it’s normally people, there’s a picture of a man on a bike and car going in different directions, where the car exhibits the effect. I think it might be lighting and/or blur; something like that?

        For what it’s woth, I saw a youtube video about optical illusions today; they told me to look at a picture that’s vaguely castle shaped in blurry colours for a while. I was told a black and white picture would come up afterwards, and I’d know what the illusion is. The black-and-white picture came on and I had no idea what the illusion was supposed to be. Test persons in the video apparently saw the picture in colour, with durations varying. Didn’t work for me at all. Optical illusions of that kind never really work for me (and often make me queasy). I think there’s just something in how I process visual information. I do think that’s related to why I dislike 3D CGI animation, and why I sometimes feel like anime characters are stickers plastered onto the scenery.

        Liked by 1 person

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