Some of the prominent photography we see around us is heavily”produced” – Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, Mary Ellen Mark. The work often elicits a kind of sneer – oh he has a bunch of scouts looking for locations for him. Mary Ellen Mark had interns taking polaroids of potentially interesting couples on the prom dance floor that she could pick from to put in front of her 20×24 camera that came with a professional operator. For us scrappy photographers, there’s a tinge of envy to these remarks – could we ever have the foreman of a football field sized factory in China stop the assembly line for a few minutes so we could get a sharp 8×10 (like Burtynsky)?
Interestingly, this is a not a new phenomenon. I found out that for “Small Trades”, Irving Penn’s landmark fifties’ studio portraits of workers with their tools, he had two scouts in Paris looking for interesting subjects – and one of them was the young unknown Robert Doisneau!