It all started with this shot which I posted at the end of last week (slightly different edit):
I was coming home from a few hours shooting in the city and I stopped off at the shopping centre to buy some fruit when I saw this image across the street. Normally, there would be a vehicle of some sort parked outside the café, but on this occasion, the space was empty and the sun was hitting the chairs with all its force. I amped up the contrast a little to give the image some additional “punch” but I didn’t intend to post it to Flickr because I didn’t think it was good enough.
Later that afternoon, in posting my last shot for the week, I had intended to thank everyone for their contacts, comments, favs and invites. It had been a good week for me, getting my first Explore, quickly followed by two others. But I forgot to add the message to the pic I posted so I uploaded the chairs and added the message to it. To my surprise, I received some positive comments and it got me thinking: maybe I should try something different next week, just to see what sort of reaction it generates.
What follows, is the story behind the shots I posted in my “market research” week.
I was waiting for a bus to take me home when I saw the reflection of the two girls in the glass wall of the bus shelter. I am not a smoker so I can only imagine what it feels like to smoke a cigarette but the multiple-image reflected in the glass seemed to me that it might be what the “hit” would be like. I have no idea what the red square on the side of the smoking girl’s head was but it seemed consistent with the idea of “frying your brain”.
The reaction to the shot was interesting (literally, in one case). Some respondents didn’t know quite to make of it and thought I might have been on drugs. Others were politely compl1mentary. A couple of them sounded as though they genuinely liked it. Fabuchan said: “This is so clever and the reflection gives a nice feel to it – well done!”.
Okay, I seemed to have survived the first day. Courage, mon vieux!
On Tuesday, I posted this shot of two men reflected in a shop window. I had taken a series of these but I selected this one because of the way the reflection on the right seemed to be fading into the “body” of the woman in the back. That’s what suggested the title to me.
Again, the reaction overall was lukewarm, although a couple of respondents called it “Brilliant!”.
Okay, still alive. What next?
One of the photographers I admire greatly goes by the name of Gremxul. He works a lot in abstract and his vision is incredible. I’ve tried to see what he sees as I roam with my camera but I usually come home with nothing and I feel that I have been walking around with my eyes shut. When I saw this flight of steps I immediately thought of him and what he might do with it.
I wanted one person to be on the stairs, dressed in black, preferably a woman with shapely legs. It was a cold day so the chances of finding someone like that weren’t bad but I waited a long time for the shot I eventually posted and even then had to settle for a man.
You can imagine how thrilled I was when the second comment I received was from Gremxul himself, saying: “OH wow – great high contrast work.” Other comments included: excellent, brilliant, awesome, superb and wonderful. And please bear in mind that these are from photographers whose work I truly admire. I am not in Flickr just for the numbers, although I WAS thrilled to be Explored last week.
Okay, that one earned me some cred. Let’s press on.
This shot almost didn’t happen. I was in the process of shooting something else – a girl, seated, with the light nicely modelling her head – but I wanted her to turn to face me and she persisted in looking in the other direction (people can be impossible at times!). I took my eye away from the view finder just for a second and saw the young couple embracing. I turned, shot, and the rest of the work was done later in the digital darkroom. I know there is a school of thought that condemns post-processing but my point of view is that the final image is the only reality as far as the viewer is concerned and the photographer should be free to do whatever is necessary to create that image. Reportage and photo-journalism have their own, more stringent, ethical standards but I was not trying to report a truth here, only convey a mood.
I liked this shot. I thought it was one of my best of the week. But the reaction to it was muted. James Yeung liked the dreamy effect; and Mchl4237 said: “Great mood in the shot!”; but apart from one “Wonderful” and one “Heavy!!!”, the general consensus was that it was “Nice”.I don’t know if it was the subject matter, or my treatment of it (i.e. the post-processing) but this one didn’t go down nearly as well as I thought it would.
So, Friday arrived; and I thought to myself: “I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb”. So I went for broke with a minimalist effort in Black and White. Another photographer whose work I admire very much is imagejoe from Las Vegas. He is a “master of noir” and I find every shot he posts mindblowing. Imagine how I felt, therefore, when the second comment I received (soon after posting) was from the man himself, saying: “On top X Man !!!!!! FAV !!!! JOE>”
YESSSS! (and how cool is it to be called X Man)
A little later, Udono, who hardly ever comments on my pics, said: “Most beautiful black and white ever!”.
At time of writing, it is still early and the jury is still out on this one; but with Joe’s approval, I am already satisfied.
And so the week ends…
For my sign-off shot I chose this still-life called: McBokeh (a hommage to Jai Yung, who would have done this much better than I ever could). I was having lunch on Wednesday at the foodcourt of our local shopping centre when I looked across at the french-fry oven in the McDonalds next door and thought: “maybe there’s a shot in that”. I set my camera on my table and shot across the table next to me to get the meal in the frame. Trouble was, the old couple sitting at that table thought I was taking pictures of them and I had to leave before they called Security. But after a week of posting “unusual” (for me) shots, this one seems like a fitting way to end.
So what have I gleaned from my market research?
1. A few of my regular respondents seem to have deserted me; but I guess that’s the risk you take when you step out of your comfort zone to try something different.
2. People are generally kind and supportive, even if the shots I posted were not appealing to them.
3. I am NOT a good judge of what will win approval and what will not; but that is precisely why I conducted this experiment, to improve my ability to judge that.
4. No addition to my Explore list this week; but I’m okay with that because…
5. The opinion of photographers whose work I admire matters more to me. This is how I judge my progress.
So, next week, it’s back to work…and who knows what I will come up with. That’s the fun of it.
Oh, and…thanks again to all of you who gave me your support and encouragement during the week. It means a lot to me.
The Final Analysis
At the time of writing, the pics I posted last week ranked as follows in terms of my most interesting (according to Flickr) out of 150 items posted overall:
And for reference, the pic that prompted me to run the experiment was ranked at #19. So, of the six pics posted, three fared better than the control and three fared worse.
The surprise for me was the pic I titled “Love is in the air…” (ranked at #24). Although it did receive 10 (positive) comments and 2 people faved it (thank you so much to those who responded), I’d love to hear from any of you as to why you think this one didn’t connect so well.