Photo: Portfolio Prep – due 9/11


Look at these compelling photos shot at County Fairs.

Post comments which consider:

What is he interested in capturing and what does he want to express?

How would you describe his photographic style? (what photographic choices does he consistently make?)

Choose a favorite and explain why.

Shoot a roll at the County Fair! Take notes ahead of time about your goals and interests in the fair and attendees.


12 responses »

  1. I think that for many of these pictures, Miller is trying to show barriers that can separate people. Observe, in at least six of the eleven pictures, there is a physical barrier involved, separating two different people or groups of people. For example the fence in the first picture, the glass in the third, the wooden wall in the ninth and the counter in the eleventh. Even in the photos with no actual physical barrier, there is almost always a barrier of another kind, or some stark contrast. The old and the young in the second picture, black and white in the fifth, and human and machine in the sixth are all great examples of this kind of barrier.

    This is what gives Miller’s pictures there mournful quality. Although the pictures don’t really show anything very sad, the constant barriers and differences between people in his pictures make us feel alone and separated.

    My favorite picture is the eleventh. The multiple sources of light make it more interesting, and the subtle barrier between the two people is striking in a way that’s not overpowering. The contrast between the inside of the stand and the outside only serves to aid the barrier created by the stall counter. Overall I think it is a very well designed and interesting picture.

    Although I can not go to the county fair, I will try to implement some of the techniques used in Miller’s work to improve my photographs.

  2. I really like this artist! It seems his goal is to capture relationship. And not only does he do this, but he takes pictures of relationships that would be very uncomfortable and awkward to approach with a camera. I love this idea of doing things for the sake of them being out of ones comfort zone. His photographs are almost a societal shock because they are so awkward and tense. It seems he uses a lot of contrast in his photos which makes the scenes feel almost alive. He also uses Irony and takes photos of the people as apposed to the beautiful bright colors one might want to first photograph at a fair. He uses a lot of wide angle lenses, and puts a lot of thought into the angle he wants to take his photos from. I think my three favorites was the one with the two black guys and the girl, the little girl and the robot, and the lemonade boy flirting with the girl. I would have to say the photograph of lemonade guy stood out most to me. He really captured a moment in that photograph that screams youth…and a very bright colorful youth. The image is a bit uncomfortable because you cant quite tell what is going on between the two, but something about that awkwardness is very beautiful because it captured this kind of classic youthful moment.

    • You have a lot of insight into the meaning of these photos and the nuanced ways a photo conveys the emotions. Your comments about size of lens and contrast show your understanding of the means by which a photo can underscor the irony, the shock, or the tension. These are good things to think about when shooting and choosing your exposure settings!

  3. Well he wants to capture drama of the people at fairs. He chooses to capture relationships of people where you get to think about what’s going on there. When I looked at these photos, I couldn’t help but think about what the people were thinking, or in what kind of situation they were in. It’s not just pictures of happy people laughing and having a good time at the fair. If I had to choose a favorite I think it would be the fifth picture of the two guys and the girl in the middle. This photo can have a lot of meaning to it. I can’t really say anything because I don’t know who they are or what the relationships between each other are. Somethings that stood out to me was that under the table the girls legs are touching the guy to the lefts, the guy to the rights bingo plate was touching the girls, and that both the guy’s hands are on the table and the girls are hiding under. These could be totally random and useless factors, but they stood out to me and made me think about the picture a little bit more than the others. I’m exited to shoot some photos at the Fair!

  4. You make good observations and comments that bring up ideas about interpretation in a photo. I think photos invite us to ponder and read into relationships and meaning in a photo by what they include (or were able to capture). Unlike a legal trial, we can take the evidence and allow conjecture and “leading the witness”. The lighting at the fair can be tricky in the barns but the amusement areas and outdoor booths are rich with contrast for black and white.

  5. Wow, these pictures are really fascinating. I love that he’s not just trying to capture the front of games and fun from the fair, but instead trying to find the relationships of the kind of people who go to the fair. I think it’s definitely true that new couples go as a place to get to know each other, which gives off an air of nervousness and deception. His pictures are vibrant and at first appear happy, but are generally of people sitting around in a melancholy way and aren’t actually doing much. I liked that he was clearly taking portraits, but not just of one person, instead of groups or couples, and showing what they were doing. His interpretation was a lot more realistic of what I thought of fairs, in that they are a little depressing and creepy, but give off this front of excitement.

  6. I liked the relationships between the people in the photos. All of them have a relationship with something, whether it’s another person or if it’s an object that they happen to be interacting with. County Fairs invite all kinds of people to come together in one place. People of all different styles of life are gathered together simply for living in the same county, which can really backfire in certain situations. The other thing I noticed was the way that none of the people looked like they were having fun. Some of them were neutral, but few of them were smiling and thrilled the same way that movie script County Fairs are. Their solemn looks remind me of why I don’t like the County Fair. It demands you to have fun, and if you can’t genuinely have fun, you have to at least look the part. It’s a complex dynamic, one of those things people do even though they know of the discomforts involved, like fireworks. (Common annoying obstacles include overbearing heat, too many people, crowded and too much different music playing at the same time.) I’m looking forward to taking pictures, but I’m a bit worried about what strangers will say if I ask to take a photo of them. It’s been ingrained in my mind not to talk to strangers and to suddenly have to talk to them is strange. I’ll figure it out, but the details of people’s expressions might be lost on me in comparison to the Greg Miller photos.

    • Yes – it is tricky taking pictures of strangers and we will talk about this more. In the meantime, you have a lot of other things to take photos of at a county fair. You have good ideas about the associations that we have with fairs and the expectations of what images of them convey.

  7. He’s trying to show that people at county fairs are depressing and have no life. Maybe he’s showing that most of the people who go there are trying to escape their sad lives, but they still can’t be happy at the fair. For example, the family with all the girls looks like they went to the fair to have fun, but it seemed meaningless when they got there.

    He uses a lot of opposing angles in a lot of his pictures, which make them stand out a lot. The most notable would also be the picture of the family, where they are all standing apart and not looking at each other.
    Many pictures seem to have subtle color themes in the background: The old lady’s blue clothes match the sky and the ring around her head. The green swirly thing matches the guy’s shirt. The shop behind the hot dog stand is also red, yellow and white. The cow is the same color as the barn.

    My favorite is the hot dog stand. The expression on the lady’s face is hilarious and it contrasts with the smile of the stick figure. I also liked the color combo and the angle of the glass barrier, which kinda matches her figure.

    • You have excellent insights into meaning and observations about composition. I also love those coincidences like the contrast on the lady’s face and the stick figure smile. When you see things like that, it’s so exciting to get the photo of it. Some photographers are always on the lookout for those visual ironies and coincidences and when they find them – snap!

  8. I think he is trying to show that no matter where you go there will always be someone sad. I really like the fact that there is always a strong color presence in each picture, like the old lady in front o f the color wheel in all blue, the focus is always on a certain color scheme it seems. The fact that there are very direct angles in the photos seem to suggest something, lots of sharp right angles that could mean bluntness or abruptness.
    I think the fact that he captures the sadness of the fair really makes his work stand out, at least in my mind. I love the fact that he used an 8×10 view camera, since it has such a long exposure time this makes the pictures even more interesting with contrast between something that is a blur and the people being perfectly still. I agree with what he says about people always seeming to be breaking up, on the verge of a new relationship or can’t tell. Overall I find his work very interesting to analyse.

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