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Thread: Who is Joe McNally?

  1. #1

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    Who is Joe McNally?

    For those who haven't heard of Joe, and want a bit of inspiration as to what's possible with a camera + lights + knowledge & experience, pop along to http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/ - click on "portfolios" - and spend a few minutes going through them (there aren't THAT many).

    THIS is what photography is all about.

    Post a reply here when you've had a look, and tell me what you think!

    PS: To the best of my knowledge, none are composited in Photoshop.

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    I was reading his cv, looks like he has done just about everything, and his photo's are really difficult to achieve. I wonder if he got some really good formal training because he knows just about everything.

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I was reading his cv, looks like he has done just about everything, and his photo's are really difficult to achieve. I wonder if he got some really good formal training because he knows just about everything.
    As far as I know he cut his teeth as the "apprentice" to legendary photographers of the time at the likes of Life & National Geographic. I've heard him called "THE most versatile working photojournalist in the world today" (after me of course)
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 11th September 2010 at 10:13 AM.

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Having been here a while, I am already quite familiar with his work and how some of it was achieved, thanks to his blogs and videos.

    What can you say; undoubtedly a master of 'painting with light', but he has even more resources and expensive kit at his disposal than you do BUT we both know he could, if not under commercial pressure to deliver a specific image for a client, deliver almost as good with far less resources and he often does so.

    Sure he has access to places we are unlikely to ever get to, and in many cases wouldn't want to, which helps. Beyond that he's that good because he's out there doing it, almost every day and not shy of hard work or personal discomfort. A weekend photographer, all most of us will ever be, is unlikely to reach this level while they remain a 'weekend photographer'. Practice makes perfect.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    For those who haven't heard of Joe, and want a bit of inspiration as to what's possible with a camera + lights + knowledge & experience, pop along to http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/ - click on "portfolios" - and spend a few minutes going through them (there aren't THAT many).
    What can you say. Every shot in that portfolio is - well there really are not words, they are just that good. I don't think many people would be able to achieve this level, no matter how hard they worked. He is in a class of his own. He is to photography what Nureyev and Nijinsky were to Ballet, or what Olympic athletes are to sport.
    I like to dance and I like sports, but I don't even think about or want to achieve those levels, and even if I did want to I think there is more than just hard work involved here.

    THIS is what photography is all about.
    His photos make me feel like I'm shooting with a disposable camera.

    Post a reply here when you've had a look, and tell me what you think!

    PS: To the best of my knowledge, none are composited in Photoshop.
    I'm surprised that many of them are not composites. As I was looking through them, I thought that about 50% or so must be, because they just looked too impossible.

    I'm curious what was happening in #10 and 23 in the Classic portfolio. They both gave me chills. Looks like weird Medical Science with kids as the subjects.

    Thanks for posting the link. I think that even if most of us will never get close to what he can do, each photograph in his portfolio could be looked at and studied for hours trying to figure out how he does it

    Wendy

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for that!

    If you want to find out how he does most of them, just buy the book. Seriously, it's very insightful, and very inspiring

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Actually, I would like to get the 911 book for historical purposes. I've been thinking about getting "The Moment It Clicks" That book comes highly recommended. I had not seen any of his work until you posted this link though.

    Wendy

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Quote Originally Posted by ScoutR View Post
    Actually, I would like to get the 911 book for historical purposes. I've been thinking about getting "The Moment It Clicks" That book comes highly recommended. I had not seen any of his work until you posted this link though.

    Wendy
    If it helps to convince you, I have both the Kindle edition AND the printed edition!

  9. #9

    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    A place where art, cash and technical ability collide. I have seen his work before and whilst not the greatest fan of aerosol can saturation his creativity is incredible. But his creativity is imprisoned by his style.

    This high end polished commercialism is what caused Brian Duffy to lay down his camera and burn his negatives (that and a touch of artists madness). And I can see why. Whilst NcNally's images are undoubtably highly refined they lack a certain honesty and emotion. They are for me a world of Album covers and plastic people. It is America as America wants to be seen not America as it is. Hence his popularity.

    So is it what photography is all about? Well I sincerely hope not.

    I suspect I am a lone voice on this but it is something I feel strongly about. For example When we are young, free and unconstrained we are quick to drop music that becomes 'commercialised' we see the artist as selling out, shunning his roots and paying the 'Man'. This is the feeling I get when I view McNally. Which is good actually because it makes an old duffer like me feel young again

  10. #10

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    I think Joe is a spectacular artist. Some of his images do stike me as being a bit unnaturally lit (they are) and a little heavy on the CTO gel, but overall, they are pretty fantastic. It is always interesting when I meet local photogs that "only use natural light". They are giving up such amazing creative potential and opportunity by not using Speedlites. Their excuse is mostly just a cover for not understanding electronic flash.

    Steve, I certainly see your points, but they seem contradictory to what art photography is. It is more about perception than reality. Some of Joe's work blurs the line between art and documentary photography, some of it is pure art.

    Joe's book, The Hotshoe Diaries, is a must read. Now, if I can just afford a few more Speedlites...

  11. #11

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    A place where art, cash and technical ability collide. I have seen his work before and whilst not the greatest fan of aerosol can saturation his creativity is incredible. But his creativity is imprisoned by his style.

    This high end polished commercialism is what caused Brian Duffy to lay down his camera and burn his negatives (that and a touch of artists madness). And I can see why. Whilst NcNally's images are undoubtably highly refined they lack a certain honesty and emotion. They are for me a world of Album covers and plastic people. It is America as America wants to be seen not America as it is. Hence his popularity.

    So is it what photography is all about? Well I sincerely hope not.

    I suspect I am a lone voice on this but it is something I feel strongly about. For example When we are young, free and unconstrained we are quick to drop music that becomes 'commercialised' we see the artist as selling out, shunning his roots and paying the 'Man'. This is the feeling I get when I view McNally. Which is good actually because it makes an old duffer like me feel young again
    Hi Steve,

    Interesting point of view. To be honest, I've watched quite a few training videos featuring Joe (where he pretty much just talks us through as he goes about a typical shoot) and personally I really don't think that he goes about his craft any differently to many others. Possibly his style has been dictated by the requirements of editiors of the like of Time, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated? ... and at the end of the day they're the ones approving the commission cheques (most of which I wouldn't rip up!).

  12. #12

    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    You mercenary you. I think this was my point. His very obvious creativity is constrained by his success. An example of this is in the 9/11 images. To me it looks like a Dorling Kindersley book of American Heros. Those people went through hell and back and I get no feeling of that from the images. Maybe that his not his brief but for meI want to feel those people not see what they were wearing on the day. I suppose there is a political brief in the US and going against that brief will not bring in the dollars.

    Steve, I certainly see your points, but they seem contradictory to what art photography is. It is more about perception than reality. Some of Joe's work blurs the line between art and documentary photography, some of it is pure art.
    Eric I would be the first to agree with that sentiment about perception and realityand in the end it is down to individual taste. But art for me has to be untamed, unconstrained and if necessary highly contraversial. I suppose it is the difference between commercial art and what you have termed 'pure' art. I can see no pure art in McNallys work. It is all about saleability. It is the reason why artists that are popular in there own lifetime are seldom remembered at a 'VanGogh'.

    I wouldn't mind betting one thing though. That McNally has a dozen hard drives full of stuff that is spectacular but does not sit comfortably with the commercial art set. When this work is 'discovered' he will be a Van Gogh.

    Steve

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    (...)

    Eric I would be the first to agree with that sentiment about perception and realityand in the end it is down to individual taste. But art for me has to be untamed, unconstrained and if necessary highly contraversial. I suppose it is the difference between commercial art and what you have termed 'pure' art. I can see no pure art in McNallys work. It is all about saleability. It is the reason why artists that are popular in there own lifetime are seldom remembered at a 'VanGogh'.
    Not sure it's that simple: artists like Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven (to name a few), all had to live from their art, and they were rather succesful in their day iirc (and not really forgotten today, I'd guess :^) ). I think that the whole issue of commercial art vs. pure art is actually fairly modern and dates from the time when a large middle class appeared that can afford to buy art, making for a market where even the low-selling pure artist can make a living.

    I wouldn't mind betting one thing though. That McNally has a dozen hard drives full of stuff that is spectacular but does not sit comfortably with the commercial art set. When this work is 'discovered' he will be a Van Gogh.

    Steve
    There's that as well

  14. #14

    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Not sure it's that simple: artists like Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven (to name a few), all had to live from their art, and they were rather succesful in their day iirc (and not really forgotten today, I'd guess :^) ). I think that the whole issue of commercial art vs. pure art is actually fairly modern and dates from the time when a large middle class appeared that can afford to buy art, making for a market where even the low-selling pure artist can make a living.
    Remco,

    OK, bad generalisation from me. I was really trying to get across that commercialism and its personal benefits can gag pure art. You are correct commercial art in the sense we know it is fairly new. In this particular instance the artist is producing commercially valuable images that, for me, have little soul. I am not saying it cannot be done but Mr McNally is certainly not taking any risks.

    Steve

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Perhaps commercially successful images are a good thing when you make a living out of selling them!

  16. #16
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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    I think Remco has a point of view I haven't considered so far. I don't think Rembrandt et al was remotley interested in anything. Shame on me.

  17. #17

    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    True, so true. I wouldn't get far with my work if I insisted on approaching everything in an off the wall manner. I suppose that is one of the reasons amateur photography is so attractive.

    At the end of it all art is in the eye (and mind) of the beholder and if someone is willing to pay who am I to argue...did I say that...I am getting all Liberal Democrat in my old age. Have to dash old chap, Wire Vixen has just arrived with my heated slippers and pipe full of Balkan Sobranie.
    Last edited by Wirefox; 13th September 2010 at 01:11 AM.

  18. #18
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Is Rembrandt any good? You got to ask is it all worth it, is it worth the effort. Money... Is it still worth it if you aint got money...Rembrandt,

  19. #19

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    All those remembered artists were very good craftsmen to start with, as they needed to be to make a living. From there they managed to add something which was fairly unique for their times.

    Now, I'm not even going to try and touch on what defines art, let alone pure art, but I get the impression that for some that implies a critical/conflictual(?) approach. Not sure that is a good way of making a living. Also, when working for a client, better deliver what was agreed upon... Otherwise, not only would you lose the client involved, new clients might be slow in coming.

    Also, what is published on the web or other media might not be the most controversial works of a well-earning artist (he has to be a good business man as well to make a living at all from his art). So indeed, he might have a good stash of less commercial work that is not so well published (if at all).

    @Steve: for Rembrandt it was worth the effort: he got to eat Don't ask me whether he is any good in an objective sense though.

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    Re: Who is Joe McNally?

    Coming late to this discussion, so just some quick comments.


    In the dance portfolio, his use of subject contrast in 05/13 and 13/13 shows a keen eye to see the big picture.

    Not knowing enough, I find it hard to grasp how photos like Dance 08/13 and Classics 15/29 and 29/29 are not composites.

    In the current portfolio, 30/30 just blows me away for its directness.

    Finally, the previews of the Ground Zero book was a total turn off. The style is very similar to a book I have about breeds of horses. The pictures are posed and artificial looking - actually they look like cut out dolls pasted against a white background. Just too overdone for me.

    Overall, of course, he's definitely a master of his craft. No doubt about that!

    Myra

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