I Heart Ovation TV

The other night, Anna put me on to this channel Ovation TV because they were airing a show called The Genius of Photography.  I watched it and then set my DVR to record the whole series as well as Close up: Photographers At Work.  Last night I watched that one, Close Up, and it focused on different photographers and their methods, experiences, etc.  It was pretty good.  Didn’t blow my mind, but I like seeing how different people work.  At the end there was a long chunk of time allotted to Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  I have seen a few documentary style shows on Mr. Greenfield-Sanders.  He gets around.  

I  have mixed feelings about him.  On one hand, I appreciate that he shoots straight forward portraits.  I like that he is a large format shooter…keepin‘ the dream alive.  He seems to understand people and their idiosyncrasies, as he discusses what he might say to a subject to make them feel comfortable at the end of the show.  He talks about how everything he says to the subject is extremely calculated, although it’s coming out of his mouth in the form of normal everyday conversation.  I can relate to this.  On portrait shoots, there are lots of things going through my brain – technical stuff, camera focus, composition, lighting – if it were up to me I probably wouldn’t even talk to the person I’m shooting in efforts to keep my mind on all the other things.  Like “Hey man, if you could just do different stuff in every shot that’d be great.  Make sure it looks good, and don’t step out of the plane of focus.  I’ll be over here.  Thanks buddy.”  Too bad it doesn’t work that way.  

Seriously though, of course I like meeting and interacting with all of the interesting people that photography offers.  It’s one of the best parts of the job.  In what other job would you gain insight into so many different worlds and people and just plain weird shit?  We (photographers) should all write books.

I digress.  Now onto what I dislike about Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ photography.  I feel like he is so consistent in his work, that it cancels itself out and becomes inconsistent.  He shoots the same way all the time, and some of it works out well.  The porn star book was decent…nudity, large format portraits…what’s not to like?  It’s good just being what it is – a document of a group of interesting people.  Other books I’ve seen of his, namely the Olympus Fashion Week book just didn’t do it for me.  I don’t need to see the same thing, just not executed as well (in my opinion).  Also, it’s interesting how someone can shoot essentially the exact same way for so long, yet some of the work looks really dated and some of it is totally classic and timeless.  I figure that has largely to do with the subject…their clothes, hair, etc.?

Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying that I like Ovation TV.  

3 comments to I Heart Ovation TV

  • anna

    stick me in front of the tv and cover me in nerd sauce.

  • Terence Patrick

    I have the series + Close Up on my DVR protected from deletion and ready to watch over and over as many times as I like. I wish there were more of them. Or maybe I wish there were other people around me who I could just talk about the history and future of photography without getting into hostile debates about copyrights, digi vs film, yada yada yada.

    One thing I notice about LF studio portrait photographers is that they typically get the subjects to mirror their own personality or way of being. I used to assist Robert Maxwell, and he’s this grizzly, old surfer dude with tattoos and a joint hanging from his mouth, but with slight nonchalance to his vibe. He always got this “laidback honesty” as he likes to say out of his subjects. Or Avedon, who was confrontational, would get his subjects to confront the viewer with a sort of ‘here I am, take it or leave it’ attitude. TGS seems rather mellow, like a guy who’s on too much Prozac and his subjects usually look the same way, to me at least.

  • Emily Shur

    One interesting thing about shooting a large format portrait is that the photographer is never looking through the camera – we’re looking right at the subject. I think that allows us to interact differently…it’s face to face rather than face to camera….some people respond to that well and some seem to squirm a little more than usual.