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MayorMeanBeans

Photo Portfolio Critique Thread.

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As discussed in the photo thread, this thread is where we'll take turns posting 10-20 photos with the idea that they form a body of work to be discussed, critiqued, appreciated, etc. For the sake of each getting the most possible out of it, there should be some discipline posting-wise, giving each of our work a sufficient amount of scrutiny. Maybe half a week to a week between posts of photos... Unless problems arise, the order (according to the order posted in the photo thread) is wafflecakee, oddio, loseryouth, mn1fuckos, leland palmer, artifacts and load limit. as more people respond/get interested, they can post subsequently, in the order that they respond.

 

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The work I'm choosing to post is all from the neighborhood I currently live in, called Casco Viejo, in Panama City, Panama. It is a really small neighborhood, 8 blocks long by 3 blocks wide, and is a peninsula that looks out on one side of the high rise downtown and on the other, the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Pacific Ocean. It is UNESCO (United Nations' cultural body) protected for its historic architecture of spanish, french, art deco and colonial influences. Up until UNESCO gave it this status (in 1997), it was home to 14 thousand very poor people and was considered one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in all of Panama. Now, that is changing very fast as it gentrifies (the govt. gives a lot of incentives for rich people to restore the architecture which had fallen into serious disrepair). Today there are a little over 6 thousand people here, as two and three bedroom apartments that once had 5-10 people in each room are converted into luxury apartments for single professionals. Also, as UNESCO's co-sign filters out, Panama's tourism industry has really begun to take off, and backpackers are a daily sight.

 

Normally I post in the photo thread in all color, however for this I've decided to use strictly black and white. Not sure if it works better, but I've found that its harder to create sequences with the color photos, because this neighborhood is so colorful, and the colors can distract from what I'm trying to get at. For the most part, I've just been focusing on what interests me, namely the seedier sides of the neighborhood. Graffiti, street-side drum circles, men my age in varying degrees of delinquency, a couple of photos deal with the gentrification of the neighborhood, some focus on the violence (which was once pretty extreme, but in the past couple of years its become much safer), others focus on what its like to be a kid living here. Without further ado:

 

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The graffiti on the door and wall translates to "live your life and don't be bad", but bad had been scratched out by the time I took this photo. This is one of the more dangerous houses in a 'Zona Roja' (Red Zone).

 

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The kid choking the other kid's dad and mom are both locked up for drug dealing and the kid himself definitely already has discipline issues. His aunt does not take care of him sufficiently.

 

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Music is a big part of daily life here. Ruben Blades, a grammy award winning musician, was raised here, and Danilo Perez, another grammy award winner, has a jazz school here.

 

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A blind lady jumpropes for exercise. She has never learned how to walk with a cane and cannot get anywhere without assistance.

 

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A waiter at an American Embassy event that was announcing a new 10 million dollar initiative to help at-risk youth. The building it was in was previously a hang-out spot for the Hot Boys (many of the gangs are named after AMerican pop culture), and the graffiti said stuff along the lines of 'the streets are like baghdad and vietnam' and 'without fear', 'dillinger' etc.

 

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Valerie, the sister of the kid from the second photo.

 

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Since more wealthy people started moving in, the police presence has magnified immensely. There are police stationed on most street corners, which has had a marked effect on street robberies and other such crimes.

 

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A room inside one of the historical buildings.

 

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A reggaeton concert inside the ruins of the Arco Chato (Flat Arch) church. It was one of the first buildings constructed here, in the 1500s.

 

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A former gangmember puts on bug spray before cleaning up the ruins of a building across the street from his home. The ruins create an everpresent threat of Dengue Fever, as the mosquitoes require clean water sources for their larva and many of the ruins are relatively inaccessible yet susceptible to flooding.

 

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A member of the City of God gang helps with the Dengue clean-up activities.

 

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At a reggaeton concert. Roughly 1 am.

 

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This building was once a night club that was open to American and French workers on the canal. It is the same building as the calibre22 graffiti. Since I took this picture, the pool extension that juts out into the sea has been torn down. It will become a hotel for tourists one day.

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wow, I've been really interested in your photos since you started posting them and it's great to see them filtered slightly along with some narrative. I think the black and white works really well also. One problem I had with some of the shots you've posted in the photography thread was that I wasn't really sure what you were trying to convey because I knew that you weren't taking them just to create a nice image. Because they were posted with fairly large time gaps between them and differing amounts of explanation, some shots didn't seem to speak to me as much as others. When you take the time to make some editorial judgments then they start to form a really cohesive body of work. I think you made a good decision by converting them to black and white as well, the colour can be distracting.

 

The clash between the community and culture in your neighbourhood and it's regeneration is also really interesting. I've actually just started a short course that deals with a lot of similar issues of conservation in preparation for applying for something else next year. Trying to ballance the desire to preserve important architecture with preserving a sense of community is a pretty awkward situation. Something that the UK experienced during the 60s and 70s when a lot of people were moved from overcrowded and run down buildings and rehoused in new purpose built estates which quickly showed the problems of uprooting long standing communities. If the area is being gentrified then where are the people that are being squeezed out going to now? Have you thought about maybe following some of them out and exploring what issues arise from that?

 

I need to get off the internet now but really dope post.

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thanks for the comments leland. funny you should say that i should go out into the burbs to photograph where the people end up, i'm actually starting that next week. It's been really tough to get that side, as obviously the most insecure/poor people who were just squatting got kicked out first, so in turn it was the drug addicts, gangsters etc. who got pushed out there, making out there extra dangerous. I found an NGO to work with which will give me that side, cuz its really hard to be an [obvious] outsider and just walk into those neighborhoods.

 

as i've been continuing this project and showing it to people, it's kind of surprised me how universal its themes are. This idea of housing, land and who ultimately claims ownership over it is a process that seems to transcend all sorts of ideologies, cultures etc. Shit, it happens in India, China, United States, here in Central America, in England, everywhere. I'm not saying that it doesn't receive due attention, but all of that attention is pretty much locally-oriented - what has happened to THIS neighborhood, rather than more of global scope that examines the process itself.

 

I'm still not sure I'll use black and white for the final version. I think it definitely makes the project more cohesive because the neighborhood is so colorful, I feel that the color transitions distract from the thematic transaction. But the fact that the neighborhood is so colorful also says something, I fear that black and white makes the whole thing a little too gritty. I want to be able to draw contrasts between the suburbs, the rich people and vibrant community part of neither, still in this neighborhood. black and white might conflate all three a little too much.

 

thanks again for the comments, much appreciated

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yeah great pics indeed must be quite an interesting place to live for sure. do you ask everyone you shoot if it's ok to take their picture? i would love to do more street photography like that, but i'm terrible about approaching strangers.

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@ wafflecakee thanks for the compliment, although that is a toy gun, i hope its not misleading...

 

@loseryouth what i usually do is ask people if i can take multiple pictures of them, rather than just one. The initial photo is usually just them posing (which I've used in acouple here), but for the most part they don't really translate into the image I'm looking for. Then, I hang out for a little while, and sort of wait for them to forget that I'm there, before I take the shots that I end up choosing. A couple of those photos I took without permission though, the moment was too good to pass up (the last two images and the first image).

 

yeah though, it was tough to get used to being open with people. For me, i felt a disconnect between what i wanted a lot (a good image) and the fact that for the most part people don't care at all. When i think too much about what I want, it makes me start to think that I'm asking a real lot of them to take their pictures, which isn't actually true.

 

and at this point, I've been photographing for months in this small neighborhood and I definitely stand out that I don't really have to go through that introductory process anymore. People know what I'm about more or less.

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The black and white really brings a cohesiveness to your work and let me really examine the people in the images rather than being bombarded with vibrant colors. The waiter, the blind woman jumping rope, the lighting of the cigarette, and the 2nd to last all really reminded me of Henri Cartier-Bresson's non-wartime editorial work.

The picture of the waiter really stood out to me. The juxtaposition of a man in a tuxedo and the wall behind him is fantastic. Also, the combination of it being b&w and his hairstyle/mustache really give it a timeless feel. I can say the same for the lighting of the cigarette, well not the hair/mustache part obviously. But, if I didn't have a reference to when it was shot I don't know if I would be able to correctly identify the decade. The tonal range on the face in that image is perfect.

I'm glad that you posted first so now I know exactly what we're going for. And since it took me so long to respond, I'll have time to really get some things together/work further on a cohesive body of work and a narrative to accompany it. I've been working on shooting my neighborhood since I moved to Chicago only about a month and a half ago, and have never lived in a truly urban setting where street shooting is so accessible.

I've always liked your work, and it's always interested me since you live in Panama. But, being able to see it all together with a background of the neighborhood and short descriptions of the images really gave me a deeper appreciation of it.

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Mayor- Amazing images. I agree with the others that the black and white brings cohesiveness and also allows you to see more of the subject /composition in a way by not distracting with the bright colors. However, I really like them in color as well.

 

I really learned a lot just now by your answer about how you ask peoples permission. I can relate about worrying if they care and thinking about it too much. I also have experienced losing what you were going for by them being to aware of you and posing too much. The idea of multiple pictures never really occurred to me for some reason. But that is a major tip.

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by the way, the first two, the lady jump roping, the man in the suit, the girl lighting the cigarette, and the second to last one, are my favorites.

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Really dope man. Nice work. Without reading any of the other replies yet, I think that the black and white adds to the tone of the pictures. I really like the lady jump roping, and the person lighting the smoke. That kid with the gun is really nice also. Its cool to hear a little bit about some of the flicks. I think the flicks you chose go really well together. Id like to get down on this thread. Good idea. And again man..nice work.

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Not sure if anyone is really on your level of photography that posts in here so not sure if this will be much help for you.

I can see this being more helpful to others on the come up who aren't already establishing themselves professionally.

On that note next time a you touch down in NYC holler, I'm actually trying to get a portfolio together.

I somehow managed to strongarm/bullshit my way into a top notch design team recently and see the potential of having a solid photo portfolio to share clearly now.

 

I'll try to critique but honestly know way less about this profession, so my opinions don't have much weight professionally as they do personally.

If I were reviewing this on the basis of hiring you I'd prefer to see more variety, it looks more like an essay than what I'd imagine an ideal portfolio should look like.

I'm not sure if showing a single focus or field of expertise is better for photographers as opposed to variety.

I know a lot of people do get hired on the basis of being considered "the expert" on whatever subject an art director has as their next project.

But I still somehow think that at this point in your career showing a little versatility might lead to more paying gigs or grants.

Keep in mind the only stuff I remotely have any insight into is studio photography.

 

 

Also, I'm sure people enjoy a good B&W but I'm not so sure they get printed/published or payed for so much outside of the purely artistic value market.

I'm fairly certain most people in general prefer looking at color photo's over B&W aside from what the rest of the thread is saying.

You're personal take on color is the only reason I bring this up because I get a sense of good artistic taste from your color shots.

In fact, it convinced me to warm up some of the tones in my own work since I dug your take on colors.

Again, I have no experience when it comes to portfolio review, so I'm not 100% convinced color would be better myself.

I just think showing off your full skill set might be more convincing.

 

That's the only things semi helpful I could think of.

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@ohsnap - HCB got some mighty big shoes to fill into, to say that some of my photographs resemble his style is about as big a compliment as I could hope to get.. And you can do whatever you want for your body of work, I just chose to show this because its been the only thing I've been working on these past couple months.. Maybe I should branch out.

 

@oddio - Thanks for the compliments. Personally, I like each photo better in color when viewed individually, but together I'm still leaning towards the idea that it looks better in black and white. Personally, I like color photography better because bw reminds me of trying to emulate the priors (this pessimism was in a way validated by ohsnaps compliments) but I'd hate to have to exclude a good image just because its colors clash with the colors of the other photographers.

 

@lorum - I can definitely help you out. I think I'll be in NYC sometime in December, here in Panama until then, then probably back down here again in january.. And i definitely think my photos look better in color, I take better photos in color etc... but when im looking at the images going from a pastel ass yellow to a dark green to a bright blue etc etc seems pretty distracting. And for sure, there is probably only value for these in the artistic value market, and im not even sure they crack the surface of that market, quality wise. Also, imagining these photos in a gallery or something - I can avoid that problem of color clashing simply by moving the photos around on the wall, as opposed to them being seen only on the computer screen. Also, regarding the versatility stuff of the portfolio, I agree with you. I'm a little hesitant to put the commercial stuff I've done into the same portfolio though, I feel like it takes away from the reality stuff. Going from some G shit to a picture of a restaurant, or some model wearing a shoe, etc. seems like a bad look. I should definitely assemble a commercial photography portfolio though.

 

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Oddio you're up next - Post whenever you're ready. Thanks to everyone for the comments, they've been really helpful.

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I can't really critique because I'm pretty amateur, but these are fucking dope. major props. I'd be interested in reading your opinions/methods on post production if you feel like writing one, whether it be a thread or whatever!

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the picture of that little boy with the bottle in his mouth and a gun in his hand is so powerful. The juxtaposition of an obvious symbol of youth and dependence (the bottle) against the gun in his hands captures an amazing loss of innocence. sad. but amazing amazing photo

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wow. this stuff is just beautiful. there is a lot of energy in these shots. i really don't have the words for you. i love the life you were able to capture. i'm just waiting for the rest of the story.

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Thanks for the compliments - to be clear though , that wasn't a real gun. I think I wrote that in one of the responses, if not, apologies if I misled

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OK, so here goes. I have had a pretty busy life the past few weeks and haven't had much time to think of what I wanted to show as my Portfolio work in this thread, but time is up, its my turn to go. One of the things I like to show through photography is how our society is so temporary. Old technology no longer in use, belongings left to waste, signage covered with new disposable forms of advertisement etc. So I am going to start with a few shots along the lines of that and finish off with some more photojournalistic approached shots, which is more the direction I have been working on more recently. I think that many of these have already been shown in the photography thread. But let me know what you all think.

 

 

I've got a thing for drive-in theaters. Last summer on a two week road trip with my girlfriend, we made it a point to track down a few along the way. Unfortunately all but one had been completely leveled and removed. In most cases replaced with housing developments. The photo of the drive in marque was the only sign of any drive-in we found. the development was still being built.

 

The hippo is an old parade float, found hidden away between two buildings in Portland's NW Industrial district.

 

The "Forlorn Luggage Cart" "Writer at Impasse" Fuel distribution station, and Oil refinery pipes were part of a series for a show I took part in at Compound Gallery called After Hours, with the idea of showing what our city is like when the majority of people are home asleep.

 

And last, the fire fighters are fighting a fire that completely destroyed a century old church that had been converted to a book depository. I was told the owner was a life long collector and was well known for the amount of one of a kind and extremely rare books.

 

 

 

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all the photos in here are wonderful, im a sucker for old signage and this one take the cake for me.

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good shit - i've had experience before trying to photograph long periods of slow change, in one shot, and it is not easy at all. Photography probably isn't even the best medium for it, for the simple reason that it takes a 200th of a second or whatever. You definitely make it work in some of the shots though. The decommissioned hippo, for example, is a great shot. I think you'd do a great job photographing a 'parade float graveyard', if such a thing even exists (here in Panama, there are warehouses full of Carnival floats that they use every year, I've been meaning to get in there).

 

I also like the minimalistic approach you take to your shots. I tend to try to jam the photo as full as I can, and your work is a reminder to me that the subtlety of the minimal approach is just as effective (the booze bags, the discarded stuffed animal, etc.).

 

Just to get your brain moving, here are a couple links I've seen recently that are kind of line with yoru artist statement. Might give you some food for thought:

 

http://www.burnmagazine.org/essays/2010/10/lesley-louden-%E2%80%9Cevelyn-nothing-fancy%E2%80%9D/

 

 

Again, I'm biased to my own personal tastes, but I think it would be awesome for you to incorporate your 'fine art' shots more with your photo-journalist approach you took to the fire. You have a great photo of the hippo, if you had the means, I'd have loved to know why it was discarded. Another idea - I've been waiting forever for a great photo-doc on the graffiti buff-stars. Their job is so futile, is in line with your idea of things being temporary (in this case, both the graffiti, and the buff, is temporary) and I think graffiti is a great metaphor for both neglect and care at the same time.

 

I really like your continued efforts though, keep it up.

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Photo Portfolio Critique Th

 

Lucky git. Its been 4 months now, without a single can of beer. I promised myself Id cut down - so I havent touched the stuff in a long time.

 

Im man enough to admit, I used to have a drinking problem - at my age, this is rather sad, but it couldnt be helped. I got through 5 bottles of vodka a week. I needed to give it all up, because it was hurting my wallet, and I was already pretty dependant on it.

 

 

All is well now, though. As I said, I havent touched any alcoholic beverages in a long time.

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i also like the photo of the old signage. also the 2 brown bags next to each other is pretty awesome. did you happen to get any pictures of the actual fire or just the firefighters? also maybe in this thread can we post what kind of cameras were used? digital, film, etc? i'd be curious to see what everyone else uses.

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Good Point. Most of mine were taken with my Canon Xti with either a 17-85mm f4-5.6 or 50mm f1.4, with the exception of the Painted sign and Hippo float taken with my Canon A-1 w/ 50mm f1.4 s.s.c. using Kodak Portra 160NC film.

 

I wasnt able to get any shots of the actual fire. at that point the fire had been going a while and the flames werent any higher than the structure. It was more internal at that point.

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