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Author Topic: A good photographer is BORN....not made  (Read 14070 times)

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« on: April 20, 2008, 05:42 »
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OK here we go with another controversial issue from me.

A friend I met at an art gallery where I was displaying some of my landscapes ask me:
"How do you see the shots that you take?" "Can anyone learn to spot the same shots you do?"

My answers to both questions were terse and to the point.
1. I was born with it
2. No

I have attempted on numerous occasions to try and teach various friends interested in photography
how to spot good shots. I have pointed them in the direction of helpful websites, different books.
and answered all their questions. all all the friends (I count 7) only 1 shows promise, although I doubt
he will aspire to any great level.

Important, keep in mind I'm not referring to the technical aspects of photography. Just the aesthetic end.
For instance when I'm scanning for images, I have the ability to scan a scene through a range of wide to telephoto
lenses.

The human eye sees at about 52mm. In my minds eye I can change that from 16mm thru 200mm easily.

So? What say you? I say you either have it or you don't.
Are you are born with a talent, and if not, can you learn it?

Do you agree or do you think I'm some sort of pompous a**hole on an ego trip.

The MIZ


« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2008, 06:12 »
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Do you agree or do you think I'm some sort of pompous a**hole on an ego trip.

My answers to both questions were terse and to the point.
1. Almost agree.
2. Skip this one  ;)

I think that people have or don't have a "sense of aesthetic" and that you cannot learn it.

 

« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 06:14 by araminta »

« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2008, 07:23 »
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Can the aesthetic concepts be taught? I believe so, but it is not something that is taught through the traditional teacher/student method. It takes longer - much longer. And the "student" must also want to learn. It is not a matter of teaching someone to look outward to see the beauty, but inward - to discover not only what they like, but why. Our world population has become involved in a "race to see who's first" mentality. That doesn't work with any artistic creativity. Before the aesthetics can be taught, you first have to break down that thinking and instill a concept of "slow down and SEE what you are looking at."

I was in a mall with a friend of mine (this was many, many moons ago) and he was hurrying from store to store, take a few minutes to see if the store had what he wanted, then on to the next store. We were between two stores when I told him to slow down. He asked why. I asked, "What do you see?" He replied, "Stores." I then went on to explain to him what I saw: a woman washing the face of a child, a man with a girl young enough to be his daughter (probably was, but more fun to think of her as his mistress), four high school girls giggling, two high school boys puffing out their chests trying to impress the four girls, a woman in a business suit looking very serious, and old couple sitting on a bench watching people go by, two women stopping at every window display and oohing and ahhing over each one, kids watching the fountains, mothers watching the kids, etc. With each person I gave a quick one or two sentence explanation of why they were doing whatever or who they were. The explanations had nothing to do with "knowing", but adding imagination to the scene, giving each person a purpose that fit their actions.

My friend had been taught from an early age not ask why. Children are taught "don't ask why, just do it", but it is the "why" that makes any artistic endeavor successful or not. The effort of teaching someone anything artistic is to teach them to ask themselves why. Why do I like this shot? Why do I feel an emotional surge by it? Why do I want to share it? Why would I care about remembering this moment? Why? Why? Why?

It is not until a person can answer this question that they can begin to grow. It does not matter whether the answer makes sense to anyone else, it only needs to make sense to the artist/photographer. So, yes, you can teach the aesthetic to someone if you can teach them to wonder "why".

« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2008, 08:31 »
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can of worms on this one, MIZ... 
..having been doing this thing coming up on 50 years...  IMHO

1. Yeah,  you are born with  'the eye'...  or 'the talent'.  Same as everyone can't be a Michealangelo,  a Frank Lloyd Wright,  a Bach, a Da Vinci ,

2.  Yeah, I agree with Pywrit on this one... It can be taught/learned... but only with extreme effort and dedication over years and years.  On the other hand,  that in itself may imply that a shred of the talent was there in the first place.

 8)=tom

vonkara

« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2008, 09:12 »
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Beware, you can lost that also. Since I make microstock and since the technical aspect have been more important than the view point or the esthetical, my pictures aren't come as easily than when I pass from drawing to photography.

At my start, I was walking and taking pictures at the same time. Now I have to think if a designer can do something useful whit, how it will look on thumbnail size, what can I improve whit photoshop, logos, copyright...

And there goes the inspiration and the artistic aspect. But I still like what I do :)

« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2008, 09:21 »
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I'd rephrase this a little bit. I think a good photographer can be made, but a great photographer is born.

I think we can learn basic rules of composition and lighting to get us from mediocre to good, but I think there are some who possess an eye for extreme detail and are very astute observers of the world who do things at an instinctual level that many of us could never learn. Or if we could learn it, it would too much time to actually think everything through and execute, and we'd still probably forget a lot of things.

Every see the movie Amadeus? That what this is about. No matter how hard Salieri tried he could never come close to matching the genius of Mozart. Things that never even occurred to Salieri were instinctual to Mozart.

With that said, I think there is case to be made for salesmanship.  I think a few good artists can become great if they can convince the right people that their work is also great.

But remember, we don't all have to be great to be successful. I think very few people recognize true greatness.

Just my thoughts.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 09:27 by steve-oh »

« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2008, 09:57 »
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Good topic to stir things up .. I'll take a stab at it .. I come at this as being just a few years into photography but having been a music composition teacher at the University level for the last decade ..

1. In my opinion 90% of the time the word "Talent" is used it is used by those who haven't put in a billion hours of hard work to rationalize why those that have are successful and they are not.

2. There are so many variables in any nature/nurture debate that any sweeping generalization is guaranteed to be inaccurate.

3. Being a child prodigy is not necessarily a great indicator .. lots of child prodigies disappear .. their early success being based on a hyper enforced technical proficiency .. despite popular conception many gifted artists are late bloomers .. that does not negate the idea of a large degree of their talent being innate (it may have taken longer for other elements to come into focus).

4. Being innately talented does not mean that the creative process flows easily .. Mozart like from thought to final draft in one sweep of the pen  .. Beethoven drafted and redrafted and redrafted and redrafted ..

5. No matter how talented finding one's unique voice takes time .. time to synthesize all of the things that have influenced one profoundly into a unique whole. Yet individual style is more than just an easily definable combination of technique and genre .. I always have thought that those people that really, really "have it" are the ones who I can identify in one momentary view or listen .. you can identify Stravinsky, Carlos Santana, etc.  in 0.2 seconds .. after just one note or chord .. the same is certainly true in the visual arts as well.

6. To be successful one has to have in intense drive, desire, and something to say .. those are things that shouldn't be underestimated.

all that said .. it is interesting that you bring up spatial conception issues .. because that is also what I consistently see in music "genius" as well .. Peter Maxwell Davies having all nine Beethoven symphonies memorized in piano reduction by his early teens .. I have this video of a young (maybe six year old) Yehudi Menuhin hopping off the swing set and playing the Bach Chaccone for unaccompanied violin ... the technical ferocity and phrasing from a child grabs you  .. it is a piece typically played by upper level college majors .. but more than that it is that it is a fifteen minute unaccompanied work being played by memory that I think holds a real clue to the spatial conception going on.

.. and that kind of artistic understanding - visualization - conceptualization of relationships over large and small scales of space, and of an infinite number of complexly related layers .. can be honed certainly and I think taught to a large degree .. but I also think there is a wide spectrum of innate skill ... and there is most likely only so far it can be pushed .. so maybe your post should be "a great photographer" .. hopefully we can all find "good"

then again it is early and I haven't had any coffee yet .. this will probably make less sense to me in an hour .. thanks for the morning topic. 

John

« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2008, 10:55 »
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John,.....no single malt in the coffee I hope

« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2008, 11:13 »
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John,.....no single malt in the coffee I hope

no I would never desecrate a single malt that way : )

.. stimulants in the morning .. depressants in the evening .. the circle of life ..

.. actually I am going to be without drink for a while .. I haven't been submitting enough to get enough rejections to fill my single malt piggie bank .. need to get some shooting time in here ..

« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2008, 11:21 »
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Either you can feel it.. or you don't. I have seen plenty of music graduates not able to create a simple tune. Anyone can read a book. Being able to identify/create the subtle things that make the "art" work or not work is something you are born with.

To quote John Lennon
"I'm an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I'll bring you something out of it"
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 11:55 by cdwheatley »

« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2008, 11:28 »
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John,

You make a good point about finding one's voice. This is probably the hardest thing for an arist to do. A lot of artists are taught by examining the works of previous and current greats. I think many artists get too obsessed with trying to copy others and forget that honing ones own voice is very important. Of course, this requires confidence and independence, and throughout an aritst's journey confidence is something that can get lost easily.

-Steve

« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2008, 11:46 »
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Steve_oh said the best!

« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2008, 14:12 »
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I would like to make an comparison.

All can try to sing. Not all can master it.

Some of us can take lessons and do well, OK at least somewhere near that.:-)

Someone can be a worldclass soprano, not all, no matter what training they are going through. 

I am sure it is the same with photo. Some have a natural feeling, maybe not born with a wideangel or tele, but close to.

I like the question, its a perspective that often comes up at dinnerparties, why do you charge "millions" when everbody can take a picture, yea right?!  :D

« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2008, 16:12 »
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Nah - the top stock photographers are 'production machines' working to carefully researched formulas.

There is a difference between stock and 'art'.

Mozart and Beethoven both died destitute, and Van Gogh could hardly make enough money to feed himself.

On the other hand Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Spice Girls are production machines worth millions.

fotoKmyst

« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2008, 16:22 »
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Nah - the top stock photographers are 'production machines' working to carefully researched formulas.

There is a difference between stock and 'art'.

Mozart and Beethoven both died destitute, and Van Gogh could hardly make enough money to feed himself.

On the other hand Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Spice Girls are production machines worth millions.

wholehearted agreement here with hatman.

what photographer do you mean to be born?
w. eugene smith, richard avedon, cecil beaton, henri cartier bresson,etc
would have 100% rejects by atilla as they shoot "snapshots" in stock definition.

stock photograph is  like pre-fabric factory outlet. not to be confused with art.
hatman puts it so profoundly:  stock=andrew lloyd webber
snapshots to atilla = beethoven , brahms, chopin.
 ;)

vonkara

« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2008, 16:24 »
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Nah - the top stock photographers are 'production machines' working to carefully researched formulas.

There is a difference between stock and 'art'.

Mozart and Beethoven both died destitute, and Van Gogh could hardly make enough money to feed himself.

On the other hand Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Spice Girls are production machines worth millions.
LOL... that's true Hatman :D I'm more interested to be in the spice girls category

« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2008, 16:28 »
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Nah - the top stock photographers are 'production machines' working to carefully researched formulas.

There is a difference between stock and 'art'.

Mozart and Beethoven both died destitute, and Van Gogh could hardly make enough money to feed himself.

On the other hand Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Spice Girls are production machines worth millions.

well said  ;D

let's just say, as both a serious musician and photographer.
when i just joined stock, i have now to think like david foster instead of paco de lucia  ::)


« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2008, 17:16 »
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not sure I agree with this.

I agree that some people have an ability with the arts, and some others are suited to other things. But imagery could be expressed as writing, painting, sculpting.

I think most people who are "arty" struggle with the technical aspects of photography.

« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2008, 18:15 »
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I think most people who are "arty" struggle with the technical aspects of photography.

I would have to categorize this statement as a generalization - especially in regards to photography and writing. These two seem to have a mental association that is very similar. There are plenty of writers who are quite decent photographers and vice versa. I would hazard a guess that the same areas of the brain are used in the composition of both. Don't get me wrong - not every writer is a photographer nor is every photographer a writer - but it seems that the concentration of the two is higher than similar combinations of artistry - say between painter and sculptor or sculptor and writer or writer and painter.

I do agree when it comes to stock photography, often the artist has a tougher time because he/she tends to stretch themselves creatively which doesn't always mean "commercial". I know I tend to try different things and a lot of what I shoot is not stock photography at all. It does not mean that I am less technically proficient, only that sometimes I sacrifice "technical perfection" in order to achieve something more emotional.

On a personal level, I have a tough time leaving a photo "unfinished". It is like writing a short story and stopping after the first draft. I always want to finish the photo and that is what so many microstock agencies do not want. They want the image raw, as in uncooked, and I want to add spices and grill it to perfection. It is often a dilemma, but I'd rather have this dilemma than to have no creative spark at all. It keeps everything far more interesting.

« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2008, 09:57 »
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I think that everybody has the possibility to do anything in them.  Creativity is inherent in everybody.  Talent however IMO refers to the ability, partially technically, partially by feel, to transfer what is found in the mind into what something that can be communicated to others.

Whether via spoken words, written words, visual art, photography, film, musical composition, musical performance, architectural/engineering design, scientific discovery, all of this is nothing more than various forms of communication, something that humans have mastered relative to other creatures on the planet, yet still humans communicate very rudimentary.  The ability does not exist to communicate to others what exists in our heads exactly.  We can get close, especially in some areas, other areas are very lacking.

I think that musical performance gets the closest, musicians exist that can communicate the sounds in their heads to others almost exactly as they hear it in their minds eye (I saw a fantastic Santana show with Prince as a guest musician, both literally seemed to be taking to one another via their instruments, both clearly had the ability to play back exactly what the other had just played and expand apon it, it was really amazing to hear).

Spoken language, as rudimentary as it is, works, though the eloquence of a thought is often lost in the translation into language, and thoughts and ideas exist that there is no way of expressing verbally.

Wheras mundane concepts that are easily described by language and musical notes are fairly easy for humans to communicate, visual ideas are much more difficult, and non-mundane concepts are the most difficult of all. 

Everybody has the ability to visualize things somewhat, they inherently recognize the aspects that make a good photo/painting, etc..., but to transfer that from recognition to creation is a big step (even communicating why it is good is a difficult task to master, it is not something that language is good at describing inherently), not only requiring technical proficiency to use the medium but also the ability to communicate via the medium, which is often referred to as talent, but the ultimate teacher could teach the "talent" to anybody, the problem is the ultimate teacher does not exist, not even close, due in large part to the limitations of verbal communication.  Words do not exist to properly describe the mental process of artistic communication, it is something that you have to kind of figure out on your own, some people can, others that need help to see the way are considered to be lacking talent, they could do it if their mind could be shown the way.

The one place that I think that our teaching is most advanced is in the field of engineering and architecture.  Everybody has the ability to visualize something that doesn't exist.  Though education engineers are taught via endless practice to hold and refine a model in their head, ascribe forces, materials, money, and feasibility to it, and learn the technical proficiency to communicate this to others via agreed upon standards for communication of the design via plans.  Anybody can be taught to be an engineer or architect, the ones that make it however are the ones that can be taught to be effective in a reasonable amount of time.

I really feel for theoretical physicists, their creativity is on fronts where there is no effective language to communicate, and no predetermined system to describe their ideas to others.  Numerical equations exist, but they are but a small part of the understanding of the concept.  Einsteins special theory of relativity is a prime example.  It is a very simple concept mentally, yet there is no equation that can describe it, and it is very difficult to put into words.  Einstein's explanation with trains and clocks is very bulky and difficult to understand, others have described it better, but it still is always a very bulky and difficult to understand explanation, but the concept at the core is so very simple.  Scientific explanation as seen by outsiders is so very far behind the true forefront of understanding, at the very edge there is absolutely no means developed yet to communicate that understanding to others, it only exists in the mind and nowhere else.

Sorry for my spiel and back to photography.  I firmly believe that everybody has the ability of a master photographer in them.  But they need to develop it (there are no savants that can pick up a camera and be Ansel Adams from day 1), both by learning to describe what a great picture is using the boundaries of language (Flickr is fantastic training for this), which also codifies it for ones self so it doesn't require extra thought at each execution attempt, and learning the technical aspects of using the medium.  Over time and practice the visualizing of a great picture comes easier and easier, to the point where it becomes possible to "see" prior to clicking the shutter.  All of the aspects; lighting, composition, color, framing, become visible with honed practice, and findings one voice reflects a comfort level with regard to subject where the previsualiztion of the shot and subsequent execution of it comes with the most ease of all to the photographer, almost natural compared to other subjects and styles.  I am one person that feels strongly that your first 10,000 clicks are crap, that any great successes are more the result of an accident gone right than a meaningful success compared to later more refined photography that comes through experience, where understanding all of the variables involved and the having the ability to have complete control over them has been learned.  Even then this just makes a good photographer, a great photographer has complete and total mastery of every aspect of the image, from previsualization and subject, to execution and delivery in a finished form.

RacePhoto

« Reply #20 on: April 21, 2008, 15:07 »
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I won't be calling anyone a pompous anything, but I will disagree. I'll add that Hatman also has a good view of the circumstances.

Here's my take. We are born with nothing. We do not have innate skills or a many inborn traits and behaviors like most other animals. Whether we have any is debatable, but I'll avoid that argument by saying, we possibly have some.

No one is born a photographer, or artist anymore than they are born a fireman or airline pilot! Until someone finds a gene for creativity and perception, my opinion will remain unchanged.

The environment we are raised in and the education can mold a person into what they will see, feel and become. How we take in and use that information can vary, and for certain intelligence is a factor, but not an absolute. I'm of the opinion that the environment while someone is developing and growing up, is more important than any genetic, or inborn skills. We aren't born Artists or Not-Artists.

Someone can be trained to see and feel empathy for their surroundings. They can be taught to visualize and project. Taking an art appreciation course doesn't make you and artist, but it exposes you to composition and color. Music paints mental pictures.

The older one gets, the more difficult it is to add the new information and teach them to perceive things from a different viewpoint. It's not because you can't teach an old dog new tricks, it's because their brain has already formulated ways of thinking. (that, and sometime old dogs are too stubborn to learn new tricks) ;)

Young minds are more impressionable, flexible and more easily shaped. It's like soft clay vs some dried up clay. You can change the latter, but it's much more difficult to get it back into the state where it's able to be molded and formed.

What one person sees as "Art" and what another sees as pure trash, are very different. Still, if someone is shown the fundamentals and basics of that broad fuzzy thing we call Art, they will have a better feeling and understand for what they create in the future.

Learn the rudiments and the basics and all the techniques you can that go into anything. Then spread your wings and fly, with that knowledge. You can't fly without first growing the wings. :D

For those who believe we are born artists, you should have proof by showing someone who's never seen any art and never took a class, or never spent long hours training or even muddling through on their own, and they pick up a brush or camera and they are instantly... an artist. It doesn't work that way! Many people who I've seen who pick up a camera and are wonderful photographers in a short time, are already trained in some other form of art.

There's no magic, nothing inherited. You need the basics and a foundation to build on. True, not everyone can be taught and not everyone can see things from an artists viewpoint. That doesn't mean that all people can't be taught, only that some people, can't.

« Reply #21 on: April 21, 2008, 15:24 »
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* you guys are getting long winded

« Reply #22 on: April 21, 2008, 16:39 »
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I would entirely agree with your observations.  I also believe that there are a few artist's amongst us who have such finely tuned BS skills that they are able to convince a vast majority of viewers that their technique and images are rare and stunning.

When in fact their technique is sloppy and sorely lacking and their images are average at best.  They understand that perception can easily be manipulated with carefully honed site PR and they use this to full advantage. Just look at some of the overly saturated images with bizarre color temperatures that are accepted on some of the MS sites.  Without the carefully placed PR, most photographers would have images like these rejected!

I'd rephrase this a little bit. I think a good photographer can be made, but a great photographer is born.

I think we can learn basic rules of composition and lighting to get us from mediocre to good, but I think there are some who possess an eye for extreme detail and are very astute observers of the world who do things at an instinctual level that many of us could never learn. Or if we could learn it, it would too much time to actually think everything through and execute, and we'd still probably forget a lot of things.

Every see the movie Amadeus? That what this is about. No matter how hard Salieri tried he could never come close to matching the genius of Mozart. Things that never even occurred to Salieri were instinctual to Mozart.

With that said, I think there is case to be made for salesmanship.  I think a few good artists can become great if they can convince the right people that their work is also great.

But remember, we don't all have to be great to be successful. I think very few people recognize true greatness.

Just my thoughts.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 16:53 by gbalex »

« Reply #23 on: April 21, 2008, 17:02 »
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I would entirely agree with your observations.  I also believe that there are a few artist's amongst us who have such finely tuned BS .......

Amen to that, gbalex!! I couldn't agree more with that statement!!   And I am sure that some of my stuff is in that very category,  fact,  I know it is.  ;)
None-the-less, .........it sells. 
   I put it in this frame of light.  I'm sure there are many, many top notch, world-class chefs that wouldn't be caught dead eating in a McDonald's....
Yet,  if I told you how much my McDonald's stock has grown in the last 30 years...  it would become immediately evident that it doesn't matter what world-class chefs think of their menu fare.
    Yeah a lot of my stuff isn't  Ansel Adams excellence or whatever/whoever... but magazine and book publishers are buying it. I'm making money doing it and that is why I'm doing it.  For the money. I  don't expect anything I ever shot will be hanging in a museum in 100 years and if I drop dead tonight,  by this time tomorrow, no one here will even know it or miss me.  It's just business.

I do have images that I do think are beautiful and of high quailty. None of those are on any microstock.  But they do hang in private homes.  Some have fetched pleasantly remarkable prices in auction. And I have no doubt that many, many here can say the same or similar   
      .......sooooo........          ...  so what.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I know a shot is crap, as a pro in the biz, you know it's crap....  but some guy somewhere saw it and just paid for an EL....   that's why I'm in the micros.... to sell ..whatever will sell,  I'm not here looking to be in the Louvre by 2050.  And if I ever did make it to a museum anywhere.... It's not likely it'll be something that came out of my micro stuff...              unless, of course, the museum curator is the next Andy Warhol... :D

And, gbalex,  please don't take this the wrong way.  I am actually  agreeing with you.  peace 8)=tom
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 17:09 by a.k.a.-tom »

« Reply #24 on: April 21, 2008, 17:20 »
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LOL a.k.a.-tom

You prove my point exactly.

You are starting to sound like Rinder ;) 
   


 

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