A good photograph/photographer or work of art/artist you don't like . . .

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. This seems to come up often. For me, it's a big discussion about the so-called subjectivity of art. Some claim that no one can tell someone else what is art. Each of us gets to decide. I disagree with that. I think there are cultural, historical, and social determinants of art as well as various qualities that works of art exhibit, whether I happen to like or recognize them or not.
    There's room for a general discussion, but those tend not to go anywhere, since we wind up arguing over the definition of art, which is almost impossible to come up with in a post on the Internet. IMO, it takes a lot of discussion to even come close to defining what art is and it's often futile.
    What I'm interested in, though, are photographs or photographers you recognize as good but don't like. And I don't mean that in the sense that you may be moved by it, but because it's effectively disturbing you wouldn't say you like it. I mean that it really doesn't reach you, does nothing for you personally, but yet you recognize that it's a good photo and you can understand why it would reach others. Likewise, are there works of art or renowned artists who you accept as artists but who don't move you at all, whose work you just don't get much out of.
    I'll start with Avedon. I think he's an important photographer, one who's clearly an artist, but one who just doesn't usually do it for me. Now, that's not to say I haven't learned from reading about him and looking at his work. But, in general, his portraits leave me cold, get monotonous after a while because of the similarity of pose and the lack of context/background. I'm thinking particularly of The American West stuff, which I've seen in books, on line, and in person. There's no doubt in my mind that he's an artist, someone whose work I just don't like very much. To an extent, I feel the same way about Mapplethorpe. He's important, and having recently read the Patti Smith book about her life with him (Just Kids), I appreciate his role as an artist even more. But most of his stuff just doesn't reach me and I get a cold, distant feeling from it. Even the more provocative stuff which I know was very personal for him simply comes across as distanced and cold.
    With both of the above, I understand why people like them and why they have the reputations they do. And I would include them in any list of important photographer/artists. In order to do so, I have to be objective and take into account other things beside my own likes and dislikes, my own personal reaction, and my own subjectivity.
    I'd like to hear what you think and if there are specific people or works you'd want to discuss.
     
  2. I certainly understand what you mean, Fred. I get very little from Georgia O'Keeffe, don't leave Kurt Vonnegut glad I spent the time, and don't feel improved by listening to Wagner. But they obviously Matter.

    I can admire Ansel Adams' long, hard work and perfectionism. And yet I just yawn. Sorry, Ansel! At the risk of sounding like a twit, I don't get much from Weegee or Cartier-Bresson, and I'm not fascinated by Weston's toadstools or peppers. For that matter, Diane Arbus's hand grenade boy pretty much just annoys me. But I believe I get them all, and recognize the footprints they've left.
     
  3. Interesting question Fred. There a numerous "important" photographers who's work just doesn't appeal to me even though I can appreciate that they have originality, etc. A couple that pop in my head just now are William Eggleston and Martin Parr. They do seem similar to me as well. Both seem to have many shots that are seemingly "random" in a clever, self conscious way, as if to say "documenting" culture is enough.
     
  4. Good, interesting post. Let me propose photographer/artist Garry Winogrand.
    He was acclaimed the 'street' photographer of the second half of the 20th C. by no less than the Museum of Modern Art's curator John Swarkowski, who championed his work.
    Swarkowski's enthusiasm plus the enormous body of Winogrand's work (and perhaps his then very close relationship with New York City where he shot 'street' for so many years before moving to places like Texas and Los Angeles), helped impel Winogrand to a place of fame and to book publishing deals. His name is rightfully known among 'street' photographers worldwide.
    His work mostly leaves me cold; not all, but mostly.
    He supposedly was famously undisciplined, but for an undisciplined man, he really was enormously disciplined and dedicated.
    He didn't spent so much time choosing his shots before he took them; he could run through a roll (or two) 36-exposure black and white film in a city block's walk, schmoozing with his subjects sometimes as he went; he was a familiar face among NYC's denizens, even among its other 'street' photographers who also went on to fame.
    I won't spend time enumerating how many contact sheets he had not reviewed when he died or how many hundred or thousand rolls of film he had not even developed when he died, but he was not a man who could instantly recognize a winner.
    He did know, (and here he deserves some praise), that what we 'see' in person does not always come through in the finished production, and as a result, he preferred to 'see' his work afresh, literally after it had 'aged' -- kind of like meat. The good beef ages well, and preserved properly comes out with a little mold on it, its marbling throughout gives it a wonderful flavor and the enzymes break down the flesh, making it taste better and different -- it's prized.
    Lesser qualities of meat, however, do not withstand aging well, and Winogrand knew that was the same with photographs. A stinker or even one that seemed 'pretty good' when taken or even weeks or months later, might on final review be a real stinker.
    Winogrand was as close to a movie maker, I think as any still frame artist with a Leica has ever come. He also was a world class procrastinator when it came to review; perhaps a positive in his case.
    I've seen videos of him at work, snapping away. He was extremely quick, almost invisible in his quickness, often did not frame with camera to eye; and snapped away rapidly, hopefully, often with the horizon tilted - to give his subjects and the scenes the 'edgy' look that he has become famous for.
    Most of his work leaves me pretty cold -- I see little of the humanness that I am pretty sure was in the man revealed in his work.
    In order to take so many photos on the street and not get pummelled regularly, one has to have marvelous street skills, and there is no doubt from recounts (and film/video review) that the man was a street photography wizard when it came to people skills.
    But framing in the camera was something that he could not always do regularly, intentionally and produce winning results on a regular basis -- instead he went for enormous quantity and in the process was a really good critic -- of his own work, and the critic process relied on two things:
    (1) he took enormous numbers of photos, especially for the film era, and especially since he did not use (in videos I have seen) a motor drive, so there are no sequential shots; it's all one-off, which makes him a sort of wunderkind among the prodigious producers).
    (2) He was an excellent, of very tardy reviewer of his work, preferring for years ofen not even to develop his film.
    And, as a Photo.net member who attended one of his photography classes when he was teaching in Texas (at the University of Texas, I seem to recall) noted, he was enormously popular with the students, and warm to them; the forum participant here noted he had great interpersonal skills with the students and was a favorite instructor/professsor.
    So, he did apparently possess the basic humanity and warmth that I find lacking in his photos. His photos portrayed people as a little 'alien' -- sort of like 'objects' in many of them, sorts of disembodied objects to be studied under the lens not of a microscope but of his preferred Leica.
    It is not necessarily such a wonderful, heart-warming or even edifying process to go through the vast part of his work. He was enormously lustful of women, even did a book about 'beautiful women' he had photographed on the street, and was extremely disappointed when it proved in his eyes to be a failure and sales just about flopped, especially compared to his other work which generally was well received critically.
    He wondered aloud on film (now video) that people could want to collect his work, but at the same time, he was producing it before people were collecting it, and when he died, he was in Los Angeles, and last I heard an ex-wife was still processing those rolls and reviewing those remaining contact sheets (this needs an update of anyone has newer information, as mine is a couple of years old).
    He also had a sense of humor - it shows in his shots taken at the Bronx zoo, especially his elephant shot, but it's something that occurs rarely in his exhibited work.
    I have an enormous respect, however, for the intellect of this famously (supposedly) undisciplined shooter. He had thought the process through not only from the standpoint of someone who is a shooter, but also from the critic's standpoint.
    One could literally write a small book of quotes of his that either are of should be famous, and if not famous should or could be remembered by any of us; he was as much a philosopher of photography and an intellectual as anyone I really know of, especially among the shooters, not the intellectuals who only wrote.
    Some of his quotes seem tautological or even outlandish, but they reveal him to be most thoughtful and educated man.
    Lifted from Wikipedia are some of the most famous:
    ********
    * A photograph is the illusion of a literal description of hos the camera 'saw' a piece of time and space.
    * Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.
    * I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.
    * I like to think of photographing as a two-way act of respect. Respect for the
    medium, but letting it do what it does best, describe. And respect for the
    subject, by describing as it is. A photograph must be responsible to both.
    * I don't know if all the women in the photographs (in a book of his) are beautifull, but I do know that the women are beautiful in the photographs. [Book's name: 'Women are Beautiful'.]
    * All things are photographable.
    * I don't have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.
    ********
    The last quote is perhaps his most famous, especially the second sentence 'to see what something looks like as a photograph'.
    It sounds tautological, but it really is quite profound, and worthy of great discussion, as the medium transforms a three dimensional world with all sorts of sensory queues into a two-dimensional medium only of light, often only black, grayscale through white, other times in color.
    So, I have great respect for his intellectual side, and I have reviewed a substantial number of his published photographs.
    I've seen him describe on film (later video) his own work, how it came about and the process of photographing to editing.
    He was an enormously responsible (if more than tardy) editor, because he was a perfectionist. He spent far more time looking through his contact sheets when they were 'aged' then he did actually taking the photographs in them, is my conclusion, and apparently he didn't ever want to rush the process.
    So, he died, his work unfinished.
    It is claimed in LA where he ended up he taught, I understand, though not documented in Wikipedia. It is claimed his work withered there, but I have seen him recorded photographing and seen some of the work he produced there and it was really quit good.
    Not to my taste or showing any warmth in any way, but good.
    Frankly, for all his brilliance intellectually as a thinking man's street photographer, with three Guggenheim fellowships, his work just does not move me at all; I am impressed by his abilities, but still unmoved.
    I acknowledge it, but feel little from it; it is important but 'so what?' is my feeling.
    Maybe that's because he had no preconceptions when he picked up his camera or aimed it (he didn't always frame photos so much as 'aim' it, prefocused and basically 'know' what he was trying to capture in much of his work, and if he didn't capture 'it' that time, there were thousands of other rolls of film, and in some of those were some magic captures. He might take the photos one day and maybe months or years later 'discover' the good ones when he looked at the contact sheet in good time.
    I suggest this man probably had a very warm heart, but his philosophy as a photographer prevented most of it from being transmitted to his work, and as a result, his work comes across portraying his fellow man as 'cold' -- he literally does a visual vivisection on many of his subjects as they walk by, stand on podiums and stages, attend livestock exhibitions, or are carried down wide Southern California boulevards on parade floats.
    Maybe, if I met the man, I'd understand that for all the bonhomie shown on film and described by his students, inside he was that edgy man, horizon tilted sideways, more than a little cold, just as one sees in his photos.
    But gobsmacked by pretty women.
    I hope not, except I'd forgive him the last part.
    Maybe someone who knew him, such as Lee Friedlander, a fellow Gugenheim award winner, might drop by here to let us know. They saw each other from time to time as paths crossed on NYC streets, I understand in the '50s and '60s.
    Winogrand's 'fame' didn't start until the latter part of the '60s, however.
    I was there in NYC in the '60s, even a NYC photo editor in the '70s for a while, attended Winogrand's alma mater as an undergrad in the 60s, began photographing my senior year, [1968] did not even know my university had a photography department however, never took a photo class, and did not learn of his work until after I joined Photo.net 7+ years ago.
    I might still have met the man, as I did many famous photographers including Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson and a slew of Pulitzer winners, but did not.
    From what I have seen of his work, nothing particularly lost.
    But from what I have read, this is a man I think I would have loved to schmooze with.
    (thanks Fred for the most interesting post).
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  5. Sophie Calle is a famous and significant writer/artist-photographer from France. I understand and appreciate the significance of her work, have seen a lot of prints in shows, and reproductions of all kinds, but it doesn't move me personally.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=sophie+calle+photography&hl=en&prmd=imvnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=7gYiT_CJFsSutwepvaGtBQ&ved=0CCoQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=496
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Calle
    At the risk of sounding like an idiot heretic, Andreas Gursky is another, ultra-significant photographer whose work I deeply appreciate and to boot, one of the Becher-wunderkinder, high-profile, top buck guys successfully working through the very difficult theme of globalization, but his work leaves me cold.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=andreas+gursky+prints&hl=en&prmd=imvnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=8QgiT5vRD8zXtweA_bQ7&ved=0CGEQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=496
     
  6. Where to start and when? I think its evolutionary and I spend more time with artists" work I don't get than I do with those I do. Right now there is a lot of work by Thomas(es) Struth and Ruff that I am trying to get a handle on. More Struth maybe. It isn't that I don't like it or don't understand it on one level, I just don't understand it on another level. But then I haven't seen his work in person and many who write about it suggest that you can't appreciate it without seeing it in person.
    It's all just a journey and sometimes you run and sometimes you just slog along.
     
  7. Ansel Adams, for the same reason as Matt gave above.
    The beach portraits of Rineke Dijkstra, to me they're just a bit too cold and lifeless, without getting annoyingly cold and lifeless (which would probably grab me) - it just falls in between things for me.
    There is probably more, but these two came to mind first.
    There is a reverse side too, of course. Liking something and being truely moved by it, despite it being cliché/kitsch/sleezy. Photograpgy-wise, I can't think of something straight away, but certainly in music, the well-threaded path can be very effective (thinking something like Elton John, Candles in the Wind).
     
  8. Just thinking of another thing that might come into play here (for me, at least): doubt. Quite a lot of images give me doubt, on whether I understand somewhat correctly what it tries to tell me. This can work 2 ways: either it 'hooks' me and make me search, study, look more. Or it works as something I shrug off. I don't get the message, and I'm not compelled to find it either.
    The Dijkstra photos I mentioned in the post above fall in the latter category for me.
     
  9. I think of the body of their work when I look at artists. My appreciation of individual pieces can vary all over the place. Once I read why an artist is/was significant, thus informed, I look back at other artists of their kind I've disliked or ignored. For example, I didn't like Avedon or Penn, and now I like them. A gem, just sitting there in the right place at the right time, knocks me out. All artists will eventually disappoint. That is likely the fault of dealers and publishers.
    I'm more drawn to subjects rather than artists. National Parks, anthro-exotic, "studies of...", the list goes on, usually leave me cold. Many of the artists mentioned so far here are on my list too. What, no Karsh or Dali bashers? I often get a different feel for an artist once I've stuck my nose close to the real object. I appreciate craft a lot - can't see how any photographer could not love Weston. I can see why R .Frank and Winogrand are not liked by people who like A. Adams. Presentation and editing makes art and artists better. I have experienced dislike for an artist just because they were not presented well. Or, over-produced: Mapplethorpe. The impresario effect (aesthetic placebo) shouldn't be ignored.
     
  10. Fred,
    It is not really that there are good photographers which I do not like globally. I take a different position: there are single works or series of works which I like, and others which I do not like.
    Take Helmut Newton. I went to the Museum dedicated to him in Berlin. There are some works which are extraordinary, for example "here they come" in which Newton manages to capture a movement where there is actually no room for movement. But in many cases I had the feelings of repetitions.
    I recently went to the exhibition of Steve McCurry. Really beautiful images, he is a master of lighting and colours. As we all know, colours are not only a matter of technology (film or digital equal) but also of light. But there are repetitions as well and I did not like all. Of McCurry I would say that the relationship and his "embedding" in the situation are his really strong points. His photographs of 9/11 have only a fraction of the strength of Lyle Owerko's.
    Take Garry Winogrand. In general I like his work, but not all of his work. There have been changes. Some early ones look like Cartier Bresson's, the later ones are more personal. Some bore me.
    William Eggleston, another master of colour, with an extremely powerful printing technique. Some exceptional, some much less compelling.
    And there could be other examples.
    To come to your question, Fred, it is not so much about taking or leaving a photographer, but rather to appreciate specific photos and to value, but appreciate less other photos. To me it is very much related to the chords which a photo strikes. These chords depend on the beholder.
    L.
     
  11. I like reading that a few of you (and I include myself here at times) feel like a heretic or idiot for not liking a renowned photographer. That's probably a good thing. Why not bhumble ourselves in that way of accepting that we may just not get something or, for whatever reason, may not be drawn to something that is, in fact, good or is, in fact, art? On the other hand, it may take guts and confidence to buck an accepted trend. It can be empowering.
    Part of the mystery of what I'll loosely term aesthetics is this matter of taste and the sometimes inexplicable reactions we have to things. It's like there's a constant struggle going on between the individual and the greater cultural recognition of things. A certain tension seems to ensue when our own proclivities don't align with accepted artists. This tension is good.
    Bodies of work have been brought up, a good focus. I find each happening. Sometimes I will not like some of a photographer's work but sometimes it's stronger than that, and really it's the photographer's body of work or approach or vision as a whole that doesn't do it for me.
     
  12. Some like blondes; some like red heads.
     
  13. Fred: I like reading that a few of you (and I include myself here at times) feel like a heretic or idiot for not liking a renowned photographer.​
    The adjective "renowned" strikes me. You seem to be able to draw a subtle line between the renown and the not renown and make a direct relationship with the level of their work.
    When does a photographer cross the line between the known and the not known, and, more important, why, for what reason?
    I do not have any feeling for "heresy" when I look at a renown photographer's photo and I "do not like it", as you say.
    Again we address the radical difference between "liking" and "recognition".
    As a matter of principle, the photographs of a renown photographer cannot be "not good", simply because somebody who is renown puts his or her main effort into producing photography. As a painter constantly puts effort into expressing creativeness into figurative form developing craft so that it satisfies the goals of artistic expression, and a musician or a dancer practices, practices and practices.
    A "renown" photographer puts his/her time, work and creativeness into creating photographs, from elaborating visions, to creating situations where to unfold these visions. And then, further down the line, come the camera, the means, the editing - wow, how important is editing - the (post-)processing, the printing (for Eggleston, for example, the printing is nearly everything). And then comes marketing, which is one absolutely essential activity closely intertwined with vision and creativity, which makes the "renown" emerge from the undifferentiated mass of "photographers".
    I feel I have the right not to like, or to criticise, some of the works of a renown photograph. For me it is not sufficient to belong to the "restricted circle" decided by somebody. This does not mean that I do not recognise the vision, ability, craft or technique. But still there are other elements, for example the way a photo speaks to me, or more in general, the way I think a photo manages to "speak a certain language".
    The renown photographer, as any photographer, in entitled to create their own language, with concepts, ideas, a syntax and grammar. This "photographic language" is specific to the vision. And still the effect and impact of this language by its creator can show huge variation, like a novelist writing the same plot over and over again. It might be perfect in the craft and technique, but still it is the same plot.
    The renown photographer is able, due to the huge amount of time s/he puts into this plastic art, to create a much higher critical mass of vision, knowledge, abilities, skills and network relationships. And the outcome normally shows this.
    But beyond this, there is what I call the "visual message", which is the output of the "photographic language".
    So I do not have any humble feelings for not "getting" the message of a renown photographer, simply because if I manage to "learn" his or her photographic language, I am able to to judge the resulting visual message, also comparing this message with the one of other photographers speaking the same or a similar photographic language.
    The fact that somebody has "decreed" that a photographer belongs to the restricted circle of renown photographers is not important at all to me, except that I am grateful that the editing process has saved me from the less-than-refined part of the output. :)
     
  14. I totally and wholeheartedly agree with Luca A.R.'s last post, above. Beautifully put.
    For me:
    There are two kinds of "do something for/to me" that art can effect. The first kind of "do something to me,", which happens not that often -- in any form of art including photography -- is that a certain particular piece of art (photo, painting, sculpture, etc.) overwhelms me, moves me, totally "works" for/on me as I am looking at it. These are ones that I would love to possess; that I covet, however absurd and beyond my reach (thank goodness for reproductions ...).
    The second kind, however, is [FOR ME] the necessary qualifier of all good art that doesn't have the first kind described above. If it's not there, as far as I'm concerned, it's not good. I don't give a rat's ass about who did it or how famous it is. This second kind of "do something to me" consists in its means, its how-it-works, why-it-works, what-its-doing. It's crudely analogous to what geometry is/does. Looking at geometic diagrams -- parallel lines, angles, circles, etc., doesn't turn me on, but what it means in the sense of what how-it-works has profound and satisfying power, application, continuity with many, many other areas, things, events. There is ... correlation, connection and so forth. For example, I can find Avedon's "means" echoed or mutated or developed both in other works of art and/or in my own ongoing experience. It "does something to me" in the sense that I feed off of the "means" that I've been shown for a long time both forward and backward.
    These two kinds of do-something-to-me are not particularly connected; some works I find overwhelmingly moving to look at don't have much to offer beyond that intensity-of-contact. On the other hand, good, "chewy," work (stuff that I think about what-it-did/does for a long time) can be downright ugly. Or, in the rare case, work can do both.
    Somewhat on a tangent, it's my opinion, reading what curators' write about exhibitions and museum collections, that the good ones (curators) love a skeptical viewer; they seem to me to be movitivated by the intelligent challenge of those who don't consider art to be a religion.
     
  15. Luca, good points. You are right we have a right to be critical, and some visual languages work and some not - absolutely.
    Yet, I sometimes indeed do feel heretic.... if I read praise everywhere, and yet that work does not spark any particular emotion with me, I doubt myself first: Why am I the "only" one not getting it?
    This question is, I think, realistic and rethoric. Having that question raised in my head, helps me arrive at the point which Luca described: a confidence that you're visually literate enough, developed enough and articulate enough to express your own opinion, to be able to substantiate your opinion, and to uphold also if the whole world disagrees.
    I like landscape work, and I like shooting landscapes. The renowned and default accept landscape-master, Ansel Adams, just manages to remove any trace of life (in my eyes anyway). The photos are too static, too precise and too de-human-ised. They lack a visual spontaneousness to me, which makes them appear kind of flat (in terms of content, I am not doubting AA's technique in presentation). It took me quite some time to figure out, since I assumed I was missing a point. But in this progress of "denouncing a master", I did and do find which qualities work for me in a photo - so investing time on it is time very well invested.
    Maybe it's just my reading, but actually I think Luca and Fred were actually saying the same thing here. And so am I...
    For what it's worth, I mentioned doubt before, and it fits in here. It's when I'm not yet sure I am not getting it, and hence my dislike is a shaky unsubstantiated opinion, or I do get it and it just doesn't work for me. It typically means I need to spend a bit more time, and see more work of the same artist. Bodies of work, or series of photos, can be a big help here, to establish whether I'll eventually get the visual language.
     
  16. "When does a photographer cross the line between the known and the not known, and, more important, why, for what reason?"
    When their work is seen widely by others. Otherwise they are not known. Good examples are Bellocq or Vivian Maier. But I think Luca meant renowned. There you have a consensus that builds up through layers of experts and connoisseurs, the same way that someone like Bach or John Cage became renowned. If you are just a photographer, and have no real connoisseurship or expertise, then you're going by your own personal taste. That was the crux of Fred's question: Are there photographers/artists you appreciate at one level and not at the other? Religion has nothing to do with it in my case. Art can work in many ways and levels for me. No one's work reaches all potentials, but this is very different from something matching my taste in the sense of "could I live with the print on my walls every day?", which is very different from understanding its significance in the medium or its dynamics.
    I was being funny when I spoke about feeling like an idiot/heretic for not personally liking the photographers I listed, and no, that doesn't mean I don't like any of their works (I should have included the usual necessary PN disclaimer, I know.) I get the visual language and understand the work, but I still may not find it to my taste.
     
  17. When I go to MOMA in Monterey or San Francisco I always like the photography. I cannot say I have seen anything that I do not like.
     
  18. As a matter of principle, the photographs of a renown photographer cannot be "not good", simply because somebody who is renown puts his or her main effort into producing photography. As a painter constantly puts effort into expressing creativeness into figurative form developing craft so that it satisfies the goals of artistic expression, and a musician or a dancer practices, practices and practices. --Luca​
    I disagree. There are a great many painters and dancers who practice, practice, practice, work very hard at it, and aren't any good. Some simply don't have the ability, no matter how hard they try.
    ____________________________
    I feel I have the right not to like, or to criticise, some of the works of a renown photograph. --Luca​
    Yes. This was the point of my post. But having the right to be different from everyone else (or the vast majority of viewers and experts), for me, comes with some humility and tension as well as confidence and personal commitment. For me, a kind of tension comes with the territory of individuality, especially when that individuality brings me in discord with, as Luis puts it, connoisseurs. It's a tension which energizes me. I love the "heretic" metaphor precisely because there is discomfort in it. Does everything we do or say, everything we like and dislike, every opinion we offer have to be so damned easy and so damned certain, so damed acceptable, and so damned OK because it's mine?
    _____________________
    So I do not have any humble feelings for not "getting" the message of a renown photographer, simply because if I manage to "learn" his or her photographic language, I am able to to judge the resulting visual message. --Luca​
    Yes. There are two levels here. One is not "getting" it. The second is getting it and still not liking it. I experience both feelings at times. I would suggest that sometimes "getting it" is much more than a matter of learning. One can learn a whole lot but without being able to empathize with the photographer in question. There will be a million reasons for a lack of empathy, often circumstantial rather than anything being wrong with the viewer. The "getting it" may never take place. As regards learning, there are certain things that are much harder to learn and, indeed, not as well understood by even the best of learners. Some mathematicians are much more fluent in geometry than algebra, even with a lot of study. The same would be true of photographers, for whatever reasons. I don't think I can "get" every photographer by learning. I don't claim to be able to "get" every photographer, for a variety of reasons, often my own level of exposure, my own level of experience and worldliness.
    __________________________
    The fact that somebody has "decreed" that a photographer belongs to the restricted circle of renown photographers is not important at all to me. --Luca​
    It's not that somebody has decreed anything. Renowned photographs, or what are generally viewed as great works of art, are not decreed to be so by any one person. There is usually general agreement (Luis used an important word in aesthetics and art, consensus) among a group of critics and peers. And this agreement often evolves over time and gets into the dominant psychology of an era or age. It's not so much decreed, not as if a new aesthetic law had been made. It is often a slow and evolutionary process, determined by many intersecting and interweaving factors and circumstances.
    _______________________
    Luis, I knew you were being somewhat tongue-in-cheek about the "heretic" stuff, but I think there's something serious there as well. I hope I made the serious part of it clear in what I just said to Luca. I think Wouter's articulated it nicely as well.
     
  19. One of the great things about art [IN MY OPINION] is that, unlike science, each different response that I have to a work does not invalidate the previous response(s) I have had to the same work -- that the person I was before in the time before had to that work of art. Each response is as valid as the other. Given that I never have the same response twice, this is a good thing ... And if I had some expectation of arriving at some definitive, ultimate, final "right" response, it ain't going to happen (short of death).

    The only consensus I see in the art world is if viewed from a very, very long way off.
     
  20. My experience with heresy, in this regard, is not my personal sense of being naughty relative to Big Art.

    It's the reaction - from mere eye-rolling to the more melodramatic Righteous Outrage - of other people at my failure to be moved (or - gasp! - my dismissal of a piece of work as being not as important as someone else says it is) that generates the heretical atmospherics. I'm simply not bothered by what other people think, though I begin to take note when the friction between what we think actually impacts me in some real way.

    A grand example might be the newly revealed Eisenhower memorial. Holy schlamoley. Yes, I get that Frank Gehry is Really Important. I even quite like some of his work. But that design is ... awful. It's just big, expensive (for all of us), bad art.
     
  21. Julie brings up an important point, which is that our own responses can evolve. What I liked yesterday, I may not like so much today. What I thought I understood yesterday may today go through a process of revelation the likes of which will make me realize I didn't quite get it yesterday . . . or I got it but get it very differently today.
    On validity of response. A response that varies from the experts can most certainly be valid. But that doesn't mean every response is as literate, as informed, as open, or as nuanced as another. And even the most literate, informed, open, and nuanced response may vary from the mainstream of the art world. That variance, however, is worth noting and is often significant.
    On capitalizing IN MY OPINION. We know everything you say is your opinion. That doesn't make it immune from challenge. But it's good that you underscore that by shouting it. Because it's part of the whole point of this thread. Our opinions are often not as important as the more objectively-decided interweaving of circumstances which may say, regardless of whether I like it or not, that's a good and important work of art. We can puff up our chests and shout, "IT'S MY OPINION." And by that, we can try to declare we're somehow entitled to it. This is exactly what I'm questioning: the relevance of my opinion in the bigger picture and in the scheme of things.
    Art is NOT solely a matter of taste (or OPINION, with caps or without), not purely subjective, and not entirely up to each of us to determine. It has social, cultural, interpersonal, and institutional components, whether we LIKE it or not. Our opinions really can only be seen in relationship to other more objective facts and circumstances. There are many lazy, uninformed, prejudicially-inherited opinions about art. They are as lame as opinions can be about other matters. It's why, when we critique something, we're asked to give REASONS for our opinions, not just an "I like" or "I don't like." That's so others can assess the basis for your opinion. That basis has a whole lot of relevance. If it's based on illiteracy, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, myopia, etc., then it's often a very worthless opinion. The IMO doesn't inoculate anyone from having a stupid, uninformed, or immature opinion.
    Now, surely another photographer might disagree with me about Avedon. That doesn't mean one of our opinions is stupid, uninformed, or immature. Here, it could just be a matter of taste. But giving some amount of deference to an art world that has long recognized Avedon as an important artist seems to me a reasonable point of departure, even when considering my own feelings about the work. I can't imagine simply dismissing, nor would I want to, what connoisseurs, experts, critics, curators, historians, and other important and respected photographers think.
     
  22. Fred, great discussion! It has helped me understand a little bit better why some photographers have become “important” in the art world even though I personally might find their work uninteresting. I will be the first to admit that I am not well schooled in art or art history, so sometimes its just that I “don’t get” a certain photographer’s work and its place in the grand scheme of things, and that its more than simply my “not liking” it. Gee, I’m not the center of the universe? Darn.
     
  23. "That doesn't mean one of our opinions is stupid, uninformed, or immature."
    I really can't keep up with you guys, but don't you think that it is more important to try and understand and appreciate than it is whether we like or don't like? Whether it is Adams, Avedon, Winogrand, Frank or whoever really doesn't matter--like or not isn't the issue. We learn from what has gone before and it informs where things are going--for us and for others.
     
  24. John, I think liking and appreciating are of equal importance and come into play in different ways at different times. Whether or not I like* something is very significant to me and to the way I feel about it. Understanding and appreciating is a different mode of approach for me, no more or less important, just different.
    *To reiterate, I'm using "like" here to refer to my taste, or something that turns me on or gets to me in some way. It can be in a not pleasing way. I can "like" something that is horrific, dangerous, sad, unlikable.
    So, I can like something I know nothing about, am blind to the history of, and may have no greater context for than just how it hits me in the gut and in the moment. Likewise, I can appreciate something that just doesn't get to me like I am told it gets to others. I can understand why and how it may get to them. Of course, liking something and appreciating it often overlap.
     
  25. Fred - "Luis, I knew you were being somewhat tongue-in-cheek about the "heretic" stuff, but I think there's something serious there as well. I hope I made the serious part of it clear in what I just said to Luca. I think Wouter's articulated it nicely as well."
    Yes there is. You did make it clear, and Wouter got it right, too. I should have known the word 'heresy' would be taken literally.
    ______________________________________________
    If one looks at the responses in this thread, it soon becomes apparent that the influence of the status quo of art affects everyone here to some degree in different ways, even if they're ignorant of it and openly disavow being artists.
     
  26. Give me an example of a specific art historian's, or art critic's, or museum curator's, or artist's evaluation of a specific work of art that is not an opinion.
    And if you make this a popularity contest (the weight of opinion >> as if lots of opinions stop being opinion), you lose the leading edge of art throughout history.
    This is not science -- proven by measurement. There is no art-o-meter.
    Art is all about response -- which can only be verbalized as an opinion.
     
  27. Give me an example of a specific art historian's, or art critic's, or museum curator's, or artist's evaluation of a specific work of art that is not an opinion.​
    No.
    ___________________
    Art is all about response.
    No, it's not all about response. It's also about the making. It's about craft. It's about beauty. It's about communication. It's about input at least as much as response. Need I really go on?
     
  28. Part of art being art is its historical importance. While that may start out as a collection of opinions, over time it transcands the opinion. And/but like our opinions, it can evolve. Modern art might be more fluid in this sense, but one gallery promoting a new wave does not make it art either - it has to be a seriously big wave sparking interest of many.
    Each art historian, curator or critic can and should have his/her own individual opinion. The point is: it's not their individual opinion that does the work. It's their collective-over-time-median-opinion, as well as the en-vogue-today-collective opinion. Maybe an oligarchic and little transparent process, but it happens. It's beyond opinions.
    True, nothing scientific and measurable, but to attribute all to being individual opinion is equally unscientific and unmeasured - except for the remarkable fact of how many opinions happen to agree on some works being art and some artists being great.
    ____
    John, I disagree that liking or disliking does not matter, and that we should primarily look at the famous photographers for the role they played and for the development we see in photography. There is room for both, and there not mutually exclusive.
    You can arrive at a point where - despite of, or because of trying to appreciate - you simply dislike the work. That does not mean saying it is historical irrelevant, nor that you cannot learn from it. In fact, I argued earlier on that one might even learn more from the process of building a proper opinion on the fact that you dislike a famous photographer's work - because you have to articulate. Liking a master is easy - nobody will seriously contest you. Disliking a master, you'll have to explain. As Matt said, some people will act like you're crazy for not liking the "accepted" masterpiece.
    Learning why not a famous work does not move you, as it does for millions of other, is enlightning.
     
  29. Julie speaks as if there are two choices here. Art is either Julie's opinion (or any individual's opinion) . . . OR . . . some sort of science with a determinative art-o-meter.
    Could there be something in between those two extremes? Something a little more objective and shared than one person's opinion and something a little less stringent and specific than a scientific art-on/art-off meter?
    I hope so.
    [Sorry, Wouter, we posted simultaneously.]
     
  30. I am aware that my verbose post was confusing about the statements which were really important to me.
    Fred - I disagree. There are a great many painters and dancers who practice, practice, practice, work very hard at it, and aren't any good. Some simply don't have the ability, no matter how hard they try.​
    Correct. But my key statement was in the first part of the paragraph "As a matter of principle, the photographs of a renown photographer cannot be "not good", simply because somebody who is renown puts his or her main effort into producing photography". And when I quoted the painters and dancers, in the back of my mind I had "the renown ones".
    _____________________
    Fred - But having the right to be different from everyone else (or the vast majority of viewers and experts), for me, comes with some humility and tension as well as confidence and personal commitment. For me, a kind of tension comes with the territory of individuality, especially when that individuality brings me in discord with, as Luis puts it, connoisseurs. It's a tension which energizes me. I love the "heretic" metaphor precisely because there is discomfort in it. Does everything we do or say, everything we like and dislike, every opinion we offer have to be so damned easy and so damned certain, so damed acceptable, and so damned OK because it's mine?​
    It's a matter of wording. I would not use the term "humility" simply because in my cultural background it has a specific and unsuitable meaning. I would rather say readiness to use all my background knowledge to understand what I see and openness to recognize, accept and welcome the new I see. Which implies the recognition of what I know.
    But blunt self-awareness I see as one of the highest barriers to openness and innovation, so nothing can be worse than the "so damned OK because it's mine"-attitude. In my opinion.
    ______________________
    Fred - Yes. There are two levels here. One is not "getting" it. The second is getting it and still not liking it. I experience both feelings at times. I would suggest that sometimes "getting it" is much more than a matter of learning. One can learn a whole lot but without being able to empathize with the photographer in question. There will be a million reasons for a lack of empathy, often circumstantial rather than anything being wrong with the viewer. The "getting it" may never take place. As regards learning, there are certain things that are much harder to learn and, indeed, not as well understood by even the best of learners. Some mathematicians are much more fluent in geometry than algebra, even with a lot of study. The same would be true of photographers, for whatever reasons. I don't think I can "get" every photographer by learning. I don't claim to be able to "get" every photographer, for a variety of reasons, often my own level of exposure, my own level of experience and worldliness.​
    I would say that the levels are more: "not getting it", "thinking to get it, but actually not getting it", "openly studying it and getting it", then paired with recognising on the one hand and liking on the other.
    Getting back to my concept of "learning photographic languages" I still believe that it is possible to "get" most of the photographers, of course not limiting the analysis to the visual, but using anthropological, psychological, philosophical instruments, and why not, also technical ones, to learn the photographic language and to "get it".
    ______________________
    Fred - It's not that somebody has decreed anything. Renowned photographs, or what are generally viewed as great works of art, are not decreed to be so by any one person. There is usually general agreement (Luis used an important word in aesthetics and art, consensus) among a group of critics and peers.​
    I disagree. Of course there individual trendsetters. Denying this would mean denying the mechanisms of modern society. Of course there is consensus, but before that trends are set. And these trends can very well be set by individuals. Think of Eggleston's breakthrough with colour photography. It was the merit of John Szarkowski, apparently against the general opinion of the "group of critics and peers", who still thought that "serious photography" had to be in black and white.
    ______________________
    But I agree with
    Fred - And this agreement often evolves over time and gets into the dominant psychology of an era or age. It's not so much decreed, not as if a new aesthetic law had been made. It is often a slow and evolutionary process, determined by many intersecting and interweaving factors and circumstances.​
    except that probably there are many more than one "dominant psychology of an era or age". And I agree that the process can be slow, but it also can be fast.
    We have to accept the potential non-linearity of everything based on human interaction, as well as the "normative Kraft des Faktischen" (the normative power of the factual).
    _____________________
    But my main point of my - again, far too verbose - post was about the photographic language created by some photographers to express their photographic vision and to conceive a visual message. And I still believe that these languages can be learnt and the message "got".
     
  31. Luca, I understand what you mean by a visual language and, like you, think it's important. Beyond each individual photographer's language, I think there is a language of photography. That photographic language has been developed historically and each of us participates in it (whether we know it or not and whether we admit to it or not). This language is passed on from photographer to photographer and from generation to generation, from school to school. So we inherit such a language and also individuate it. Good photographers internalize the language and develop their own voice, adding their own idioms and accents.
    I'm not sure what your point is about "learning photographic languages" relative to the question of this thread. I've heard some very well-schooled and experienced photographers talk about Adams negatively in very much the same way as each other. They seem to recognize that he's an artist but just don't like his work. That's likely not to change with more learning of his language. Actually, there's much about Adams's language to learn. The zone system takes dedicated study. I would say the more one learns Adams's language the more one can separate his craft from the other aspects of his art that many find so wanting. In other words, I don't think learning is a cure-all for the "heretic" who doesn't like Adams. And, while I think the idea of photographic language is an important one, I don't know that it will necessarily bring that heretic into line.
     
  32. Most critics actually cite examples and use other precedents to explain their opinion and often those positions that may be in opposition to their own as well. The idea is to create a sense of context and to use that to explain one's position and contrast it with others. Those critiques we read that are only opinion, without establishing a case for the position, are generally worthless and wouldn't be considered good criticism in most cases. Certainly, there are works that are reviewed that may not be worth the time or worthy of the effort, but good critics rarely review that sort of work--even if they do see it.
    My point about like and dislike isn't that one can't have those feelings but more that, in particular, dislike just takes a lot of energy and, like any negative, is a constant sapping of that energy. I think that a determination of "dislike" also can create a block to further learning and investigation. I don't know what purpose it serves to dislike something or what benefit it yields.
    I think the original set up Fred did here is important as I don't think he described "dislike" at all. I also think most really have talked about a "lack of interest in" rather than a "dislike for" something. It may also be a lack of affinity for it rather than even a lack of interest. For instance, I have seen Fred use Avedon and his photos on many occasions to prove his point about something where they were used as positives. There is maybe a lack of interest on one level but also a respect and recognition of the work's significance on another--that is not dislike or even disinterest.
    I don't "get" a lot of the art I see but I don't know that I actually use the word or have a feeling of "dislike" for any of it--WTF is often more like it which generally makes me more interested. After exploring the work, I often am still in a WTF mode and may end up being indifferent to it, but I don't know that I get to a point of dislike. Certainly, there is work that I have no interest at all in but that is generally not the work of great artists and it isn't that I don't like it, I just am not interested in it.
    I probably used to feel more that way, disliking this or that, but I don't know to what end it really served. I studied with Adams on a couple of occasions and was a guest in his house, I thought he was a great guy, but I don't go to exhibitions of his work anymore except if it is more a social outing. I don't dislike the work, but it doesn't inspire me like it once did. And I am sure what I learned from him and his work continues to be useful.
    I mentioned Struth above. I know I don't fully, or maybe even, appreciate his work but if there were a show of it somewhere I could get to without spending an arm and a leg, I would be there right now. If I "disliked" the work, I wouldn't feel that way, I would be closed to it. After seeing it, I might still not get it but I don't think that it would become dislike. I might feel it was irrelevant to me at that point and lose interest--at least for awhile--or I might try to look for more sources that could help me get it. But one never knows where or when what I did learn about it might not pop up. Disliking something generally wouldn't allow for an open ended response.
    Is there really that much dislike here or is it just currently a lack of interest, indifference or relevance?
     
  33. Fred,
    I agree with your distinction between "photographic language" and the "language of photography".
    This post is about "A good photograph/photographer or work of art/artist you don't like . . .".
    I thought in first instance of "good photographers" and their photos, and I came to the conclusion that before relating these photos to my own personal elements of reference, those which make me say "I like it/I do not like it", I need to understand the photographers vision, approach, creativity, purpose, and craft.
    The language of photography, as you say, is the result of the historical development, passed on from photographer to photographer and from generation to generation, from school to school.
    When good photographers internalise this language and develop their own voice, they add their own idioms and accents, and even more, it seems to me that they can develop their own grammar and syntax: their personal photographic language.
    Your distinction between the language of photography and the photographic language is extremely appropriate, since first I need to understand the language of photography, then I need to learn the specific photographic language of the photographer I am considering. Once I have managed to achieve this in some way or another, I am capable of concluding the process deciding whether I like or not.
    It seems to me that this line of thinking is quite pertinent to your question, since it affects the way good photographers are observed and considered. It is an open way to face photographic work with a careful and attentive eye.
     
  34. When I just stumbled upon this thread I thought that I would be a total heretic (at least around here on photo.net) if I would mention Ansel Adams. But no - his name was brought up already a couple of times...
    Perhaps the reason is that I do not really appreciate technical perfection in a photograph as the most important factor. For me it is really subordinate to other elements of a photograph - like e.g. composition as in HCB or some of Ralph Gibson's work which I admire..
     
  35. If I don't like their work, they're not any good.
     
  36. Holy schlamoley.​
    Good point Matt. I find myself scratching my head and uttering that incantation with a lot of photography and art. I am a lover/hater of architecture. Love to shoot it, but most often wish for everyone's sake it was left unbuilt.
    That some art needs explaining for us to get it disturbs me but a good critical piece is often way better than the art. It answers the "what were they thinking!?" question.
     
  37. Science, too, is full of opinions. Mention any major subject in science, things like global warming, the end of the dinosaurs, gravity, time, matter, consciousness, God, etc., and there are heaps of opinions. Looked at over time, scientists change their mind, argue, and shuffle opinions like a tabletop magician in Vegas.
    The contrast between the individual and the fields he is associated with is neither good nor bad. Think of it as the outcome of conceptual mutations that drive the evolution of ideas.
    Not to downplay it in any way, but measurement is not as definitive as many think. They still have to be interpreted. We've had the measurements from the particle/wave experiments with photons over 100 years, and we're still not sure what they mean, though there are schools and opinions galore. The things backed up by data that we think are totally conclusive often aren't. About fifteen years ago, those who place too much faith in what we think we know were openly stating that we were nearing the point where there was little more to know. The measurements were in, the big shots were getting smug, and then we realized that everything we knew was at best about 5% of the known universe.
    http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy/
    Human faculties, including opinions, are equally valuable in all fields. Ever hear a guy with a Doctorate in a white lab coat hovering over someone in direst straits giving his medical opinion? It will likely happen to you and everyone you know.
    Art is not all about one thing, as appealing as the monad thing is to many. Art is about many things, and they all matter.
    I appreciate any individual's ideas, but when those claims extend into the entire universe of art, and specially when they're lossy ideas, I have to think about the relative values between what we'd lose vs what is to be gained.
    John A - "My point about like and dislike isn't that one can't have those feelings but more that, in particular, dislike just takes a lot of energy and, like any negative, is a constant sapping of that energy. I think that a determination of "dislike" also can create a block to further learning and investigation. I don't know what purpose it serves to dislike something or what benefit it yields."
    I believe that's a misunderstanding of what Fred was saying in the OP. Using my own example, I have gone to see several Gursky exhibits, spent loads of time there (several visits), read reams of books and articles listened to curatorial lectures, etc. I get Gursky, understand his history, method, ideas, appreciate and enjoy him intellectually, etc. But the work does not move me. I have no problem with holding apparently paradoxical ideas in my head. Other than realizing I don't want to own all but a very few Gurskys, I've not given that a moment's thought since, until this post. Benefits? The realization of my own personal energies and expressing them. I am not neutral, unlike John A. or Luca A. R.
     
  38. Luis,
    I am not neutral at all. I just try to keep the "liking" and "recognition" levels separate.
    Of course at some point in time I reunite them. And so there are photographs of renown photographers I like, and others which I do not like.
    As an economist (dealing with the "dismal science") I am absolutely aware of the opinions even there.
    And then there is another point: since (my conception of) photography has a major focus on human beings, I find it absolutely impossible to keep taste and opinions out of the way.
    I am also aware that measurement is not definitive at all. ;-)
     
  39. If you want to really see pictures read art crit. Done well, it follows objective rules of engagement with the subject. I would say that it is never: "This is why this art is good." That is for history scholars.
    There are trends in criticism like everything else. Stress on the formal aspects of art which can be more easily assessed objectively have given over to various more complex ways of assessment. That is why this "get it but don't like it" topic is good.
    Critics also write, it often seems, for other critics - a major put-off for most of us.
     
  40. Thanks, Luis. I was having trouble responding to Luca and John and I think you've summarized things nicely, especially about holding various ideas in your head at once or feeling contradictory feelings simultaneously. I'll take a stab at my own response.
    I don't feel as though I "determine" like and dislike, especially at first. It just seems to happen. And I don't think it "serves an end" either. Not everything I do or feel has a useful end or is under my control. I don't know what use it serves that I don't like tomatoes, but I don't. Dislike doesn't take much energy for me. Liking seems to take more energy because I want to continue liking and looking at what I like. Dislike seems to stake my ground and allow me to move on. Of course, I can change my mind
    . . . and have over the years.
    John, you're right. I have used Avedon to exemplify ideas at times precisely because I respect him and recognize his significance, especially related to some of the things he's said which I find good reminders (for instance, the importance of surfaces). But you're wrong when you say that means I don't dislike (much of) his work. His work leaves me cold. That's often what I mean by dislike. That doesn't mean I don't recognize his importance. And I can by all means use his words and photos to illustrate a point even though I may not like the photos.
    A friend asked me to a Saint-Saëns concert the other night. I declined because I don't like his music. I don't worry that my declining his invitation will hamper my learning or investigative abilities. I used to not like Schubert all that much. It's hard to remember that because now he's one of my favorites. Go figure! Obviously my dislike didn't hamper my eventual like. And I don't feel like I was somehow politically incorrect not to have kept a more open mind about Schubert years ago. I have always recognized Schubert's importance and understood why he is so well liked.
    Guys, there are many levels at which I look at art. While I am all for learning, considering a piece of art at length, putting it into historical context, understanding over time the "language" of the photographer, I am also liberated by liking and disliking, especially upon initial impact. I hesitated with your posts because there is so much of value in both your ideas. But they each also feel incredibly stifling. I love coming out of a museum with strong gut judgments. To me, they're an important part of the experience. I don't do a cost benefit analysis of that kind of reaction. What's more is that, even after careful consideration, study, and learning of the language (which I believe I've done at least to some mature extent with Avedon), I may still not like a renowned photographer and experience that energizing tension of being at odds with the art world.
    Taste is a funny thing. As Picasso said, it is the enemy of creativity. There's an important lesson in that and I think that's what Luca and John are pointing to. It is especially true when taste becomes habitual. But a lack of taste is no better. Not being able to feel strong likes and dislikes and to assert them (at all stages of the game, even before being informed) would also hamper creativity.
     
  41. If I don't like their work, they're not any good. --Dan​
    Reminds me of a holy book I once read. "And God saw that it was good."
     
  42. Not being able to feel strong likes and dislikes and to assert them (at all stages of the game, even before being informed) would also hamper creativity.​
    I guess I would probably suggest just the opposite. I realize that we all think about what we do on some level, but I also recognize that thinking generally makes us move to the middle, where it is safe--to something we like. When making images, I think being neutral to preferences is where the magic happens. If I dislike a certain type of person, a certain type of photograph or whatever, then I end up possibly missing an opportunity to push myself or follow where something takes me.
    For instance, I don't photograph flora as a rule. I may make an image here or there, but never have I worked it in any serious way(can think of only 2 or 3 images in over 30 years until 5 months ago). One could say I "dislike" most images of flora--basically, I am just disinterested for their generally cliched presentation and the fact that they are overdone. There have been some great images done, but they are few and far between and I am just not interested. Then, one day I come across this incredible Lotus growth. I enjoy flora in the moment, just not as a photographic subject, and found these plants incredible. I immediately had this crazy split within me to photograph and yet why--don't do it!?! I would not be inclined to show the work but I felt compelled to make images. Anyway, I have just started a blog series on the process that ended up creating a body of work there, which was a totally different experience for me. Some of the earlier work can be found on this blind web page (it has developed much further now) and I start getting into the lotus narrative in next weeks blog post.
    Personally, and maybe it is because I often haven't always been in control of what I had to shoot over the last 20+ years as a commercial photographer, I have learned that likes and dislikes aren't conducive to creating art, interests certainly push us in this or that direction but then we shouldn't be blocking where we then go with artificial bounds. What I think I like or don't isn't always the truth but an anomaly of the moment.
     
  43. Luca - "I am not neutral at all. I just try to keep the "liking" and "recognition" levels separate.
    Of course at some point in time I reunite them. And so there are photographs of renown photographers I like, and others which I do not like."
    Can you name two?
    ____________________________________________
    Alan, you're right: Most critics, like professionals in other professions, are writing for their peers. Writing for the public, specially the lay public, is really difficult.
     
  44. John, I appreciate your response. We have a strong and clear, almost complete, disagreement. That's exhilarating.
     
  45. Luca, while I agree with some of your likes and like nots, and their originators, would you not say that this like/like not qualification is very subjective. As Julie said, there is no objective "art-o-meter" that can provide a similar answer that everyone of aesthetic taste and education might recognize. Nor is there any profound measure of art and of photography, although science - despite Luis's remarks about few scientists being in agreement (which I disagree with in most cases, and especially those explorations relatively devoid of the direct influence of politics) - is much closer to that objective ideal. Yes, Einstein showed that Newton was wrong in one application of his law, F=ma, that the latter scientist could not have measured, although his law has proven absolutely true in the vast majority of cases for 400 years. He also showed that white light is composed of various colours. Like or like not has little subjective basis in such laws or observations, which are probably the closest to the concept of truth that we will ever see.
    Disliking Newton's observations and laws thus makes little sense, whereas liking and disliking, as Fred introduces in his OP, is not science or some objectivity based upon some irrefutable law of art, but simply a somewhat messy mix of sentiment, aesthetic background and knowledge, emotion, personal values, environment (and namely the EFFECTS of social, historical and cultural influences ON THAT PERSON) and other factors present in the various and equally unpredictable mix in each human.
    The OP may (should) recognize that like and dislike are indeed subjectrive, simply because the factors of the preceding paragraph, as pure, defined or unalterable as some of them they may appear to be, are absorbed as such, or through selective mental filtration, into the spirit of the person, but are later "extruded" within - or after being transformed to - a very subjective personal overcoat.
    But it is interesting, nonetheless, to know who at Photo.Net loves or hates Eggleston, Adams, Beardsley or Bach, and why. It is a forum of engaged and intelligent, and highly subjective beings. Not machines or art-o-meters (Julie, I love that term for an impossible device, or a possible yet assuredly biased or faulty, instrument). I often place this and other questions on strips of paper into a pot, to be picked out at will at my dinner tables, in case the guests run out of challenging topics to complement the exhortation of a deep red Cahors Malbec (sorry, Auxerrois). We get to know the tastes and the nature of argumentation of the fellow members.
     
  46. Arthur, yes, like and not-like are subjective, at least relatively speaking.* I hope no one read me as suggesting anything else. Art and non-art are not as subjective. There are objective and cultural and historical and interpersonal factors at work in deciding what is art. The art-o-meter is simply a red herring. No one suggested anything of the kind.
    *There's a limit even to the so-called subjectivity of likes and dislikes, which is why all of this is a matter of degree and not black and white. We often like stuff based on our exposure, our cultural backgrounds, prejudices and proclivities that come from outside ourselves, we like stuff for evolutionary reasons, biologically-based factors, inherited traits, etc. Why do westerners "like" the sound of tonally harmonic music and people of other cultures prefer, for example, pentatonic-based music? That's not just a matter of individual subjectivity!
    But surely our likes and dislikes are more individuated and personal than is what the world considers to be art. The difference is this. Anyone who claims not to like the Mona Lisa is absolutely entitled to feel that way. Anyone who claims the Mona Lisa isn't art is wrong.
    Being objective, I think, allows one to discuss what's good about the Mona Lisa even though one may not personally like it. It is very hard to pin down an exact definition of art. But I reject what I consider to be the laziness of therefore claiming that art is completely subjective, is anything I say it is, and we're done with it. That's just avoiding a difficult issue. I think it's more productive to discuss things like beauty, symbolic form, expressiveness, contemplation, communication, transcendence, consensus, the art world, transformation, creation, plasticity, etc. Those are the kinds of things we all mean when we discuss art. We can speak intelligibly about what art is. The foregoing ingredients (and many more can be added to the list) will be used in different proportions at different times and all won't be present in all instances. But a complex of these characteristics and circumstances will explain to us what art is. And, at any moment, something new will join the fold, something not considered before. But that everything can be art doesn't mean everything is art. And that someone can create something no one has yet considered to be art doesn't mean that any Joe Shmo (or even any one expert) has the ability to declare a historically-accepted work of art not to be art.
     
  47. Looking at Luca's examples, I had another thought too. Maybe it's just a personal observation, but I think it fits in the discussion.
    There are two types of liking, and two types of disliking. There is work I like or dislike passionately - because it strongly moves me, because it resonates inside. Not always on first sight, but once that strong emotion is there, it's the kind of work that leaves a watermark. They're rare. And so far, I never seem to substantially change opinion. Fred once shared several Brassai photos here in another discussion. They had this effect on me. Piss Christ has this effect (the magic of light in that photo stays stunning). As usual, I have more examples with music, but I'll try to stick to photography for a change ;-)
    And there is what is more liking rationally/emotionally. What grows on you, what you learn to appreciate. Or what you liked (somewhat) but over time find more and more flaws, and start to dislike it as it fails to fullfill your senses any longer. You can explain what attracts you, what not - it is reasoned, though taste still plays a major factor (obviously). To play with Luca's heretic choice, this one I like, but for reasons of composition, colour, original vision - not because it immensely moves something inside of me.
    "It leaves me cold" for me falls in the middle of these, and might well be the worst qualifier. It failed to move, it failed to grab enough attention to dig in and develop your opinion. Out of curiosity, I probably still try to get into its visual language, trying to understand and appreciate its significance, message or aesthetics - and fail. I recall several picture of the week discussions where this happened. As well-crafted as the photos were, they just had nothing to tell to me.
    I prefer disliking, as it at least moves something.
    And to be clear, none of the above has anything to do with something being labelled art, or not. I have absolutely no problem accepting I dislike a work of art. Those pesky sunflowers of Van Gogh really leave me cold, and many of his other later (French) works. I'm not doubting van Gogh is art.
    And I happen to agree with quite some of the like/like not of Luca, but I think that's accidental.
     
  48. "Anyone who claims the Mona Lisa isn't art is wrong." No they're not. You're confusing the art market with art. Yes, the art market is not subjective -- it codifies, packages, commodifies, scolds, harrasses and brow-beats the buying public.
    Art (as opposed to the art market, which is what Fred is talking about) is in the encounter. It's not in the thing. It requires a "me" and that "me" always has the freedom to see it as art or not as art. There is no such thing as art that doesn't require an encounter with a/some/any "me."
    Communication can't perceive and perception can't communicate. Somehow, art bridges that divide. If it doesn't bridge, if the "me" that is a necessary part of what "art" is, doesn't "get" any connection, then it's not art for that "me." Art is what it does. You can't say it does when it doesn't.
     
  49. Luis - Luca, while I agree with some of your likes and like nots, and their originators, would you not say that this like/like not qualification is very subjective.​
    I absolutely agree. I think one of the points we are trying to make here, is that, even if subjectivity has an important role in the appraisal of works of art - but also of any other type of creative work - it should not hamper the appraisal of art - or of any creative work.
    I also am in agreement with the "relativity of science" issue. In science there maybe disagreements on the interpretation of phenomena or outputs, and the discretion will increase the more you approach human sciences.
    With creative craft and plastic art it is even stronger.
    Looking at Fred's response I somehow have the feeling that we are talking the same here. It is about the "dignity" of our subjective perception and appraisal (liking) and the openness to the new, uncharted. The latter requires the freedom from subjectivity and prejudice and preconceptions.
    Maybe this is it.
    Julie, I absolutely love your coming up with the relationship between "art" and the "art market". There is a whole wealth of factors coming into play, and I am not sure it is possible to define and explore them.
     
  50. Of course there is a difference between art and the art market. But Julie is still wrong about art.
    .
    "Art requires a me." --Julie​
    So what? Peeing requires a me. "Art requires a me" is a great example of sophistry or empty rhetoric. It sounds poetic, passionate, and profound but says nothing, at least nothing unique or informative about art.
    The difference between art and the art market has to do with purpose. It has to do with consumerism and commercialism. It's about sales.
    Again, it is simply a matter of intellectual laziness and incoherence to say that we each determine what is art. It ignores and undermines art's rich history.
    And, again, any one of us has the freedom to call the table a chair or to claim that the Mona Lisa is not art or declare that unicorns exist. In a world of subjectivity, anything goes. It's the stuff dreams are made of. It can also show one to be completely out of touch or delusional.
    _____________________________
    You can't say it does when it doesn't. --Julie​
    Here, Julie and I agree. That's why, from the beginning I've said that there is art that just doesn't do it for me. I think we all experience that, or at least many of us seem to. I just don't see myself as the art Goddess, ordaining what is and is not art just because it "doesn't" for me, just because of some all-powerful and supposedly definitive subjectivity.
     
  51. "I think it's more productive to discuss things like beauty, symbolic form, expressiveness, contemplation, communication, transcendence, consensus, the art world, transformation, creation, plasticity, etc. Those are the kinds of things we all mean when we discuss art. We can speak intelligibly about what art is." (Fred)
    Fred, that is what I also believe the discussion should be in regard to specific works and our feelings in regard to other photographers, among other such parameters that also allow us to evaluate a specific photograph or work of art. My own objective in making images is to provide a visual communication with a viewer, including my desire to identify and share little seen or not often appreciated things of beauty, complexity or mystery, or to try to pose questions for the viewer about our world and our existence. Oft seen pretty flowers or birds or sunsets are not my bag, unless their visual effect on me trascends my perception of their oft seen reality.
    While I think that art cannot be qualified in so concrete or unambiguous terms as a scientific law, I do subscribe to factors such as you, Luis and others have mentioned, which are interpreted and applied in respect of my own understanding of their meaning in regard to the work. Although not a musician but simply a music lover (a term which doesn't ignore the elements of subjectivity, although it is not exclusive to that), and it is easier for me to understand music of an 8 note rather than a 5 note musical structure, I can listen, enthralled and moved, to a full concert of the music of a Ravi Shankar and his musician friends, gaining very much from that experience, even though it is not part of my daily cultural fare. My appreciation in such case is partly subjective and partly based upon some elements of form, harmony and communication.
    Terms such as like and dislike are general and seem to privilege a subjective view, whereas I am sure your interest lies in the specific evaluation of a work or the works of a photographer based upon those elements of art evaluation and human appreciation that are based upon concepts or ideas that are understood by those having some familiarity with the world of art. Liking and not liking can imply wider and personally more evocative and often subjective terms than more specific questions, such as "Do you appreciate or not the works of Eggleston for the assumed importance of his statements on contemporary culture" or "Do you believe that Weston's series of peppers are important in respect of their qualities of transcendence?" The OP and its responses are most valuable (I admit to the fact that I must do some re-reading), but we give a lot of effort to definitions and perceptions of art and photography (Not a bad thing in itself, of course) rather than in discussing the why, namely the very specific qualities of a work that is appreciated or not or in considering the opus of the photographer. In many examples of like and dislike, considering here only those interesting recent ones of Luca, the objective fors and against can be further qualified with the likelihood of enlightenment.
     
  52. the specific evaluation of a work or the works of a photographer based upon those elements of art evaluation and human appreciation that are based upon concepts or ideas that are understood by those having some familiarity with the world of art​
    Very true, Arthur, and that would make a good discussion too. But the question Fred posed here is simply another one. Indeed subjective, but our mutual subjective opinions can be most interesting too. Not for comparison, not for gaining a 'shared' better insight into something - but for the exchange of thoughts, ideas. How much does the label "art" influence your opinion? Can you see art and say "yes, sure, it's art for all the right reasons. And I don't like it because....".
    The list of likes and dislikes of Luca can be further qualified with a likelihood of enlightment with highly subjective fors and againsts too. Let's say: we take that list, choose 3 or 4 photos and describe why we like them, or dislike them, for all our subjective reasons. I am sure that makes interesting reading. You may make me see things I did not yet see before, and vice versa. Objective points are no better than subjective ones in that respect. It's an exchange of experiences, rather than facts.
     
  53. By accident just trip over this article; not exactly new (though for me it is). It does touch upon this discussion, I think. Does the 'label' art change context enough for you to change your perception? Disliking art seems an active "choice", but what if you do not recognise it as art?
     
  54. Wouter, in the case you cite, context matters. When I'm catching a train, I am often without a lot of time on my hands, and focused on getting to the platform. Plus one's expectations of finding a master violinist on the way are sub-zero, so we don't hear it. OTOH, people who know art have found great works at garage sales, antique shops, etc., out of context and with low expectation.
     
  55. Luis, fully agree... if I'd be rushing to work before morning coffee, anyone playing the violin would probably just only make me far more annoyed. While I like the Bach piece discussed immensely... But that was a bit the point: yes, some people find great works out of context, with low expectation. Most of us don't, and our perception of art is contextual. But I saw a link to this discussion.
    Isn't this "context to recognise art" something we develop, much like we train our eye to 'spot that photographic oppurtunity'? The way we develop our sense for art (and learning to recognise it out of context), does affect/intertwine what we like and dislike as well, I think. The better one gets at spotting art, the easier an solid, founded opinion is formed. But does one still tend to dislike as easy, or does one also get more perceptive to spot the strong points and dig in deeper? Appreciate, even if one does not like it wholeheartedly?
    My sense is not that well developed, especially for many modern art I'm in infancy. However, that limited experience tells me that it becomes easier to spot the strong and weak points of a work, and with this have more appreciation, more tendency to postpone saying "I like it/ I don't like it" in favour of studying better. Earlier on I spotted two sorts of liking, and this would be a development towards more and more 'rational liking'. Does that make any sense?
    I'm just thinking out loud, maybe I'm way off topic.
     
  56. tendency to postpone saying "I like it/ I don't like it" in favour of studying better.​
    Why postpone? Why not feel whatever you feel and then continue to study, learn, or otherwise experience it and be willing to alter or let grow your original reaction or perception?
    I don't see "I don't like" as any sort of proscription. It's sort of like an exclamation. Here's what I feel. Right now.
    I would worry that too much of a tendency toward "rational liking" would undermine one's more blind passion, which can be a key here.
     
  57. Luis, I understand your point of context being important, when our mind is necessarily elsewhere or temporarily shut off from other stimulae because the adrenalin is making us hurry elsewhere, that can happen. But I venture to think, that whether you would be naturally interested in the music or not, that in the case Wouter mentions, the sheer beauty of the playing and the sublime nature of some musical compositions would likely make you completely stop in your tracks and listen. Correct me if I am wrong, but all art has quite a bit of overlap or crossover with sister media, in terms of what is capable of interrogating and enchanting the human spirit. Not subjective parameters, but those that relate to the fineness, the structure and the emotion expressed by the media, whether visual, tactile or audible. In commenting photographs and visual art I bring some objective parametes into play that I am to some degree familiar with. But when music or poetry or architecture or sculpture catches my attention, with which my experience is less developed, I am influenced by some qualities of the experience that pervade the various media without their being unique to any one.
    Wouster, art is just a descriptive word for me that perhaps just separates what it is from craft or the assembly line creation. I don't see it as a title. Whether it is art, or not, depends upon a personal evaluation of a person who has some experience in regard to the qualities required to make it art. While being informed and educated by art movements, one can think outside of their constraints. And, as has been said before on like versus dislike, opinions on what is art also vary.
    We know that Mahler's art had been forgotten for very many years before being rediscovered, largely by the research and perceptive abilities of only a few persons. If it was also art during the dark period of its rejection, why was it so hard to be so recognised? Time is the key variable of much scientific observation and measurement, and it also seems to have some effect on the progression of art in the minds of the viewers, or the abstraction that is useful in appreciating art out of its normal context, like that of Wouter's violin example.
    If you get a chance to see a DVD of "The Red Violin", mentioned in the rather long Washington Post article, it is one of the better films emanating from my own small country, quite an exhilarating visual/audible and romantic experience and an ode to the beauty of both the art of Italian violin creation and playing.
    Fred, you are right about the importance of what is passionately liked versus what is rationally or objectively appreciated. The passion can also be based partly on the art parameters we privilege. Maybe we should make more attempts to express in writing such passionate reaction. Like "which works of art/photography touched your passionate spirit and why". That is badly worded perhaps, and it sounds a bit psychoanalytical but I think the question might be a good addition or corollary to your OP. If I am lucid enought to recall some of those fabulous moments I will certainly try to convey them in your OP. Unfortunately, not all, but a good number of them occurred long ago for me.
     
  58. Arthur - "But I venture to think, that whether you would be naturally interested in the music or not, that in the case Wouter mentions, the sheer beauty of the playing and the sublime nature of some musical compositions would likely make you completely stop in your tracks and listen."
    In an ideal world, I would like to think that, too. But...er...objectively speaking, it didn't happen in the case mentioned, except slightly, for a literal handful of passers-by. Why do you think that was? The concertgoers don't take the train? None happened to go by?
    I think the same thing at play in the violin train station concerto is happening all the time (in spite of the differences between hearing and seeing and all that goes with it) with both viewers and creators of art.
    _________________________________________________________
    Wouter, I agree with you that there are multiple levels of opinions. Like/dislike, which is not something I personally spend a lot of time thinking about, but nevertheless is a realization, is an analog to the difference between state and trait type conditions. There are also informed and uninformed opinions, etc.
    About postponing like/dislike...it's not something that happens de rigueur, though as Fred points out, it happens in real time, and one can disavow it, or balance it, but there it is. A kind of first-impression chemistry or lack thereof.
    _______________________________________________
     
  59. Context plays an important role, as does presentation and even packaging.
    Had Joshua Bell been playing at my local train station, the crowd of mostly gay men would surely have stopped in their tracks, more because he's so cute than because they would have immediately noticed his playing. It helps to have a hook, even for the finest of art!
    I think it may not be so simple as the art being great, the music being sublime, and the playing being so skillful. This is pretty sophisticated stuff and it's not heard just on the surface and just in passing. There is something to be said for drawing attention first and then allowing the beauty and complexity of expression to sink in. It makes sense to me that people might pass something like this by. And there's nothing nefarious about the fact that if people are told it's great music and he's one of the great violinists that they would then listen with a different kind of focused attention and they might just hear exactly why both the music and the playing are so notable. There's no rule that says people have to detect it without guidance or without introduction. This is why good curation can be so important.
    This is, to some extent, why there are museums. They can help focus our attention in a certain way. Remember, Duchamp DISPLAYED the urinal in a museum. That was part of the art statement he was making. He didn't just tell us to look at any toilet bowl in any old bathroom. He put the toilet bowl into an "art" museum, an art context. Subsequently, we might begin to look at all toilets differently.
    All this being said, I can imagine someone walking down the street, hearing Joshua Bell's playing and being completely swept away by it, even without any kind of attention-grabbing or focusing context. There are so many possibilities.
     
  60. Fred I agree very much with most of what you write in this very interesting thread.
    Concerning the role of museums, I think it is fair to say that museums serve as witnesses drawing conclusions, sometimes mistaken, from long circles of considerations over time by multiple persons and institutions on what is art and what is probably not, at a given moment of history. Duchamps' "chosen" ready-mades (that by the way all have disappear - what you see now in museums are replicates) did not start in museums, but in expositions and the urinal was rejected by the Armory show (1913).
     
  61. Fred,
    Why postpone? Why not feel whatever you feel and then continue to study, learn, or otherwise experience it and be willing to alter or let grow your original reaction or perception?​
    Luis,
    it happens in real time, and one can disavow it, or balance it, but there it is. A kind of first-impression chemistry or lack thereof.​
    Valid points, but I did not mean postpone what I'd feel or surpress that first reaction. I meant it more in the sense that I'll refrain from publicly commenting, discussing. It is, however, fair to say that it's typically also a case of lack of first-impression chemistry.
     
  62. Arthur,
    We know that Mahler's art had been forgotten for very many years before being rediscovered​
    Not quite. One of the best things coming from my little country (genuinely little): the Concertgebouw Orchestra. One of the best (if not the best) Mahler orchestras in the world, with a continuous tradition (except from 40-45) of playing Mahler. The NY Philharmonic Orchestra also continued playing Mahler - it wasn't Bernstein who rediscovered Mahler in the US, but he did bring him to a larger audience.
    The underlying point, however, is art art when nobody recognises or knows it? Was Joshua Bell a famous violin player playing exceptionally beautiful music, while nobody listened? Winogrands undeveloped film? Vivian Mayer's work? Again, a valid question, again: not what this thread is about.
    What would you have thought listening to Mahler while he was in relative neglect? Would you have liked it, even when most critics those days told the music was too heavy, too complex and basically too much in every dimension?
    Maybe we should make more attempts to express in writing such passionate reaction. Like "which works of art/photography touched your passionate spirit and why".​
    Agreed. Early in the thread, several tried to describe why some photographers or photos completely fail to touch their passionate spirit, though. Equally interesting, I'd say.
    ____
    Fred, agreed on your last post.
    I did not post the Joshua Bell article to imply otherwise than what Fred and Luis posted in reply. But I liked the practical experiment done, how it turns out. Not completely unexpected, but it helps remembering why Mondriaan-wallpaper does not quite work as well as a real painting of the very same Mondriaan.
     
  63. Was Joshua Bell a famous violin player playing exceptionally beautiful music, while nobody listened? Winogrands undeveloped film? Vivian Mayer's work? Again, a valid question, again: not what this thread is about.​
    Wouter, good questions. It seems related enough. Naturally, Bell is only famous if a lot of people have listened to him or heard of him. But, yes, he was making beautiful music, beautiful art, even alone in his studio. Yes, Vivian Mayer is an artist no matter how small her audience. Likewise so many unheard of folks are making art in their studios all over the world.
    Before anyone pounces, this does not mean that any individual determines what is art. It just means that any individual can create art or come into contact with it, even alone. Just like the carpenter working alone in his workshop. He can create a table all by himself even though he, alone, doesn't determine what a table is.
    The question about undeveloped film is interesting. It might be similar to an unplayed score though an unplayed score can be "read" by musicians and even heard (inside their heads). An outside observer doesn't really have access to undeveloped film. I think there is art both in the process and in the result. I'm trying to imagine a photographic project centering around undeveloped film. Perhaps something akin to John Cage's silent 4'33", 4 minutes and 33 seconds of a performer sitting at or with his instrument not playing. Cage's piece allows for the ambient sounds to become part of the experience of this particular music. I suppose whatever is in a viewer's field of view when looking at undeveloped film could somehow be considered, though it's not quite an analogous situation.
    ___________________________
    Re: Joshua Bell. A friend pointed out to me that an artist might very well be more pre-disposed to recognizing the magic in the air, even out of context. I think Luis was getting at that when he talked about finding art at garage sales, etc. While art is a process of creation, art is also a way of life, of being, of looking and listening at and approaching the world. Many go about their days in a sort of rote or habitual manner. That's the equivalent of many "snap shooters," who sort of shoot by rote, in a fairly predictable way with a fairly predictable rhythm. Artists tend to notice what others don't and tend to experience the world with fresh eyes each moment. An artist/photographer would be more likely to notice that special picture forming before his eyes that would cause him to grab his camera even while he was rushing to catch a train, maybe even cause him to miss his train. And the artist might be more likely to recognize the beauty emanating from Bell's violin even though surrounded by hot dog vendors and guys in suits on their way to work. It's a way of paying attention to the world.
     
  64. My feeling that sometimes the reasoning becomes too "linear" here. Photography, and the works of renown photographers, no matter about how wide their audience, are not watched first considering some elements and then others, and then "I recognise it" and after having recognised it "I like it" or "I like it not".
    We are exposed, or expose ourselves, to photography, and other works of creativity, plunging into them. I am drawn into photographs or reject them. If I am drawn in maybe I start looking better. But I do not believe that ordering my appreciation in a rigorous sequence ever happens.
    More than a line of appreciation probably it is something like a spiral going up, if I let it go up. I have tried to say it in this forum before: my reaction to an image involves my whole being, my skills, my experience with life and my specific experience with photographs in a completely non linear way and iteratively. This does not mean that I do not have perceptional and interpretative patterns, but again, I am aware that there is no linearity in the application of them, and that they are not rigid. The reason is that I try not to be constrained by my patterns. I take advantage of them but at the same time I wonder whether I should work to be more or less detached from them to be open to the innovative and the unseen.
    In respect to Joshua Bell's experiment, I believe it is a bit unfair to draw general conclusions. Imagine the situation: a rush hour in the metro, everybody is trying to get where they have to get, there is no time to appreciate and in that situation the right perceptive patterns will seldom be activated. Moreover, sophisticated classic music requires background, interest, attention and time and probably the situation depicted is one of the worst I can imagine to appreciate such a piece of music.
    Most passer-bys in that situation either did not have appropriate perceptive patterns to understand what they were listening to or these perceptive patterns were not activated simply because their minds where busy with something else.
    I would like to talk about perceptive patterns, about how they come to being, what elements flow into them, how they change and evolve. When I look at the photographs - the likes and not likes I have mentioned, and all others - I apply my perceptive patterns to them, in a non linear fashion. And at some point in time I ask myself if my perceptive pattern hinders me to "see" something really good or some kind of innovation. And so my perceptive patterns evolve.
    That's why I am unable to accept or reject a photographer as a whole, without considering single works or sets of works. I have to look at pieces, apply my patterns to them and develop them.
     
  65. Luca - "That's why I am unable to accept or reject a photographer as a whole, without considering single works or sets of works. I have to look at pieces, apply my patterns to them and develop them."
    Except that the type of like/dislike Fred mentioned has nothing to do with "accepting or rejecting" a photographer "as a whole". Part of the importance and beauty of what Fred made this thread originally about has to do with the ability to hold opposing points of view simultaneously, in this case about different levels (the very personal and the less so). It's not about being "fair", "just", "logical" etc. Nor may it be justifiable, the like/dislike.
     
  66. "Re: Joshua Bell. A friend pointed out to me that an artist might very well be more pre-disposed to recognizing the magic in the air, even out of context."
    I'm glad you mention that, Fred. It is related to the type of question I was also considering a bit earlier.
    It has at least some importance to your OP. For instance, one does not need to be sitting in the acoustically or architecturally most beautiful concert hall in the world, clutching the stubs of long anticipated top seat tickets, before world-renown musicians (there are many superb musicians not in that highest sphere), to be acutely receptive to something of beauty. While it might be true that an artist might be more predisposed than a non-artist to hearing and being affected by a situation such as Joshua Bell's playing, amid the distraction and noise around it, but many equally sensitive persons have similar antennae for such occurences. Bell may not have been playing in the best milieu for that (given the panic of rush hour and the probability that many otherwise sensitive commuters may have been too focussed on their own routine, as Luis mentioned), but I'm surprised that not many recognised the quality of what was going on around them. Whether it is Bell or a lesser known player of high quality is of little or no importance I believe (I cannot give you an example here of one from an unknown, although I no doubt could from the Photo.Net galleries if I looked - but something like a superb and life-affecting photograph - I am reminded in a flash of Capa's falling Spanish war fighter - or Frank's little girl and the open hearse on a London street of monotonous row houses), it is instead the quality event and the experience that are all-important.
    I find this aspect of human and cultural behaviour at an impromptu musical event or sighting of an unexpected image to be quite defining in regard to perception of art. It gives me some small comfort and optimism, as in my own photography where I am often sensitive to things that arrive unexpectedly and are not so evident in a mass of life and events that are going on around them, whereas they are not visible to all who tread the same path. Art is in large part exploration and interpretation in the making, also in its later viewing, and it may not be discernible to those who may be mainly preoccupied by or more sensitive to other considerations. This is not something somehow restricted to a few, it is simply an attitude and a way of looking at the world.
    Wouter, I agree with you about Mahler (and much enjoy listening to your fine Dutch orchestra, Haitink and other famous Dutch musicians) having had a certain popularity before and during Bruno Walter, but it was quite limited. While it is true that some find his music too "heavy" or complex, it certainly isn't more so than that of Bruckner (an interesting case, an artist so different from the cosmopolitan Mahler), R. Strauss, Sibelius, or other composers of about the same period. I think it relates mainly to the degree of acceptance by the overall population (the Dutch have always been avant-garde, in many fields). The art of Beardsley, Britten or Vaughan-Williams may constitute other examples of exploratory visual art or music that is not recognised or liked quite as much as other art, but merits more attention. Which comes back to what Fred was saying about passion in response to (and making of) photographs.
    As a local sculptor who exhibited in my small gallery once said (and I did not "like" him or much of his work very much, but thought it should be exhibited), it is the "passion and not the compassion" that is important. I think both are important, but would love to see any comments that display a passion for particular works or approaches of photographers, and why. I have a passion for many great images I've seen (Frank's little girl running, Picasso's Guernica or The Drowning) and those probably relate to my love of certain aspects of the human condition and how that has been represented pictorially (to generalize what are no doubt more complex emotional/aesthetic feelings, as well as appreciation of the genius of beautiful composition).
     
  67. Except that the type of like/dislike Fred mentioned has nothing to do with "accepting or rejecting" a photographer "as a whole".​
    Luis, excuse me, probably a linguistic failure on my part. Like/dislike a renown photographer to me has some acceptance involved as well as something concerning the entirety, so I used the terms as equivalents. Can we agree on that?
    Part of the importance and beauty of what Fred made this thread originally about has to do with the ability to hold opposing points of view simultaneously, in this case about different levels (the very personal and the less so). It's not about being "fair", "just", "logical" etc. Nor may it be justifiable, the like/dislike.​
    But that's the point I'm trying to make. What do you mean?
     
  68. Fred et al,
    A contemporary image (a few minutes ago) of a certain like-dislike issue, where a love of the beauty of four distinct seasons is mitigated by a certain dislike of some of its encombrances. I am culturally at peace with winter and its imprint in the psyche of me and my fellow citizens and our consequent dance with nature, and while I can maintain opposing points of view about it, I might enjoy also not being encapsulated by both (Ah, well, "tant pi", 90 degrees F climes are only 4 or 5 months distant) views. Not being a "snowbird", I am content to hold my opposing views about it (perhaps those in Mexico or California or Morroco hold opposing views about the predominance of continuous sun and warmth?).
    00Zx2N-438267584.jpg
     
  69. Anders: "Duchamps' "chosen" ready-mades (that by the way all have disappear - what you see now in museums are replicates) did not start in museums, but in expositions and the urinal was rejected by the Armory show (1913)."​

    I took this picture of the original a year ago on a sort of Duchamp pilgrimage after thinking about it for almost thirty years. He is a rare paradigm shifter. After him, going home again is impossible. True, many of his other items, like the urinal "Fountain," are replacements. But that is the point isn't it?
    Art theoreticians are essential to art the same as they are to physics. The Big Bang for Duchamp or Beuys isn't their material remnants. It is what remains as their cosmic background noise. It doesn't matter that we don't get an aesthetic thrill from the work. Each piece of art, in its own way, is theoretical - a proposition.
    00Zx3P-438285584.jpg
     
  70. Each piece of art, in its own way, is theoretical - a proposition.​
    I agree, Alan, if you are referring to "conceptual art". There are however many other forms of art and expositions and museums are filled with them.
     
  71. I would agree with Alan that the most provocative and ultimately (with time) the most interesting art are propositions (theoretical, questioning, enigmatic or challenging, often unanswerable), coming as much or more so from the mind of the artist as from his skilled handiwork.
     
  72. We have to be careful.
    I think of Michelangelo's David as the apex of skilled craftsmanship which, as skilled craftsmanship, achieves a kind of Beauty that is very much art. We might extrapolate a proposition from it (or project one onto it) but more important than the proposition is that I want to be in its presence. Just to feel it (literally and/or figuratively . . . I know I'm not supposed to touch it.) Such craft transcends itself and is art but, I would claim, not mainly for propositional reasons. Duchamp is another matter and I agree with Alan's take on that type of work.
    The Impressionists? The Expressionists, in particular? Please don't force a dichotomy of conceptual/propositional and skill. And, of course, we'd want to add sensuality and several other things. They are all too intertwined to be pitted against each other. Expressionist color is provocative enough in itself, on a purely sensual, even physical, level . . . but that's not all there is. It's provocative also within the context of what it is "expressing." Art can show every bit as much as it can propose, conceptualize, or express.
    Something to learn from Duchamp is that what he has shown us (it wouldn't have been the same if he had just proposed it or conceptualized it, say, by writing about putting a urinal in a museum, he had to or at least chose to show it) about art and about the world is that it doesn't just apply to "conceptual" art. There is a little bit of the urinal in all art, even a Monet. As I said, I think it's at least to some degree about attention.
    Shiny white porcelain has its own kind of beauty.
     
  73. The most interesting and provocative art transcends craft for me, even though I rejoice as well in the latter, and have spent considerable viewing time in touching sculptures (in a gallery confine, not a museum) as well as walking around them and thinking about them. Propositional creative art, not limited at all to Duchamp, is what ultimately touches me more. A question perhaps of personal taste, but the conscious welcoming of a different art experience and its power of communication.
     
  74. The word 'proposition' means a statement that asserts a judgment or opinion. It is easy to append the idea that all art is a statement, but there are different kinds of statements. DuChamp's were (and are) of the Ultima Thule variety.
    In Michaelangelo's work we see perhaps the pinnacle of realism, and the extreme craft necessary to achieve it. For a work of art to be realized, it needs the right amount of craft to actualize the vision behind it. With things like realistic sculpture, that means a considerable amount that is as Fred alludes, palpable. Transcendence doesn't come from one aspect leapfrogging the other, but from the synergy between the two.
    As Michelangelo's faculties declined with age (his drawing suffered from hand tremors) and his sculptures lost their signature spectacular realism, he gives hints or glimpses of what was to come in art as he was forced/limited into expressing his vision in a different way. I think this is perhaps most apparent in his latter drawings and sculptures.
    Just like our DNA, our thoughts, individuality, etc., are all derivations and recombinations of prior configurations, all statements in art are derived from other statements, and about other works of art, all tempered to some degree by external reality. It could be said they aren't so much statements as they are additions or constructions of language. It is easy to forget, but each work of art is in its own way a (re)definition of art.
    Pythagoras was looking for the art-o-meter, as have many others. IMO, in photography, the most influential, recent --- and closeted --- Pythagorean was Ansel Adams, whose Zone System is analogous to Pythagoras' mathematical analysis of the string instrument. Neither could take their system any further, but perhaps someone will in the future.
     
  75. I think that you might almost call Ansel Adams Descartesian or Cartesian as much as Pythagorean (although the zone system is a good analogy), where structure is more important than the message. Sometimes when viewing his works, I feel an appetite for judgement or opinion, but am left wanting. But a master craftsman he definitely was (and he spawned many others).
     
  76. For me, what's lacking in Adams is not a message. It's a kind of sensuality and evocativeness that's absent. That's what Michelangelo's sculptures have, not a message or propositional element. Some art, of course, does have that propositional* aspect, in which case its incorporation into the work is significant.
    *"Proposition" is not a word I would choose here, because propositions are too specific and imply a kind of verbalization potential. "Conceptual" seems more appropriate.
    I'm on board with Luis's notion of synergy. I've also referred to it as integration. It is when the craft is integrated/synergized with the vision that I think stuff happens. The vision can be suggestive, evocative, ambiguous, propositional, message-oriented, conceptual, what have you. It's how that vision is achieved or rendered, the integration of the vision with the made, where I am moved. Sometimes the message (so-called) is precisely in the craft or structure, not in some idea or mentalization.
    I don't think Adams's work is any more craft-oriented or structured than DaVinci's or Michelangelo's. I think it's the craft itself of Adams that leaves me cold, not that he relies on craft. The David is sexy and sensual and strong and beautiful, all in the craft. Adams's landscapes don't have those kinds of intimate qualities that reach me or turn me on.
     
  77. I mentioned Adams only in the context of the Quest for the art-o-meter. I would not compare him in any way, not for a moment, with Michelangelo or Da Vinci. All that aside, AA is at his most sensual in his macros/close-ups and this picture, taken with a 35mm Contax:
    http://cleveland.about.com/od/artmuseumsandgalleries1/ig/Ansel-Adams/Ansel-Adams---O-Keeffe.htm
    Which is to say not often.
    Da Vinci's work is very structured/systemized, perhaps more so than AA's, but I mentioned AA only as relating to photography and in recent times. Systemization guarantees nothing beyond itself. Did any great music come from the Pythagoreans? I think the David extends well beyond craft. Otherwise, I'm mostly in agreement with Fred in his above post.
     
  78. That's why I am unable to accept or reject a photographer as a whole, without considering single works or sets of works. I have to look at pieces, apply my patterns to them and develop them. --Luca​
    Let me clarify. Of course one has to look at individual works in order to get a sense of the whole. In many cases, one also has to look at the whole in order to get a sense of the individual works.
    When I said I might not like a renowned photographer's work in general, I meant it. But, yes, I do get to that by looking at the individual works which comprise the body/bodies of work.
    Let's look back at Schubert, for example. At this point, I love his chamber music and his songs and song cycles. I don't much care for his symphonies. So it's a case where I discriminate among the different formats he writes in. Still, I recognize the art in his symphonies and recognize his symphonies as art. There are a couple of his chamber pieces I don't like that much but I still comfortably say I like his chamber music.
    Mozart, I like all the forms he dabbled in. There's an occasional piece I don't love. A couple of his piano concertos get on my nerves but, overall, I feel comfortable saying I like Mozart's body of work.
    And, it's on this basis that I don't like Avedon as a photographer all that much. Sure, I've seen stuff I like and sure I've been to exhibits where I've learned a lot and was very glad I went. And I feel comfortable saying that, on the whole, I don't care for Avedon.
    At some point, we have to be able to speak without parsing every word. I have to be able to say I don't like Avedon and mean by that I generally don't like his style or approach to photographs without it being seen as a complete and universal indictment of his work, and it being hopefully understood that there will still be stuff I might like and that might act as exceptions.
    _____________________
    I'm not exactly sure, Luca, what you mean by linear thinking. But I can fairly easily differentiate between an initial reaction and exclamation on the one hand and a deeper study of a work on the other. I agree with you that there is no one easily-identifiable rigorous system of approaching photographs. It depends on the photograph, the moment, the context, all sorts of things. But I do palpably feel the difference between being in the moment with a piece of art and studying that piece of art over time. Of course, whatever studying I've done will influence my reactions in the moment. Certainly, we bring to our in-the-momentness all we have previously experienced and studied and just as certainly we bring to our studies the reactions we had in our gut and in the moment. But I can talk about these in somewhat different terms and as somewhat different sorts of experiences.
    Luis has latched onto something, several times, which is important. And that is being able to adopt what I would call different stances simultaneously. It's similar to how one can understand a kind of scientific determinism at play in the world and yet act as a human with free will. There's my personal stand, my taste stand, and there's my more objective stand which accepts goodness and art despite my own taste. It's these tensions which invigorate me.
     
  79. When we are speaking of music or visual art it is I think an error to apply the same measure to all works in the same medium. Caravaggio and Michelangelo were working in a different time and a different ethic to ours (Everything changes with time, even ethics, certainly societal values - consider the lowly place of the woman in society in the 18th century and before, and even more recently of the person of dark skin, notwithstanding the fact that he has the honour of representing the origins of humanity. Michelangelo and Caravaggio create for their audiences an idealism, religiously oriented, one with his sculptures, the other with bold realism accentuated with chiaroscuro effects. The message is simple, but the craft is sensuous. Do we apply the same measure to Turner or Beardsley or Klint or an abstract artist? Their work is sensuous, their craft impressive, but the messages are different and often appeal to a different audience. To compare Mozart with Bach, Strauss or Debussy is also difficult. What these different musics do are each different. Those who are absorbed by the Songs of the Wanderer and their great intensity and human sadness may not be fans of the delightfully musical and light Symphony of Bizet (a sip of Beaujolais compared to the personality of a Cahors) or the drama in Strauss's Elektra of Strauss, let alone the transcendence and humanity implicit in Britten's War Requiem.
    Some of the listeners or viewers have very catholic tastes and find it relatively easy to go from one movement or creator to another and benefit from each, others less so. When we say we like or dislike a photographer or his work, and that artist has already achieved a certain credibility for a reasonably sized public, are we not simply recognizing in that way these differences of taste? I think it often boils down to that, simply, and knowing more about why a person likes or dislikes a certain photographer or artist and his works may not divulge anything more significant than that. Most who seriously view art and photography are equipped with that specific taste, which is related to the cultural, aesthetic, emotional and intellectual background of the viewer, in addition to his history, personality and values.
    That 35mm photo of Adams, not completely foreign to his visual craft, but definitely more expressive, is for me one of the few Adams I can appreciate, notwithstanding my admiration for his impressive craft and what he did to bring a majestic part of America to public attention, but which have little life for me.
     
  80. When we are speaking of music or visual art it is I think an error to apply the same measure to all works in the same medium.​
    I'd add one crucial word here: "When we are speaking of music or visual art it is I think an error to ONLY apply the same measure to all works in the same medium."
    I think art throughout the centuries and from one medium to the next does have some significant overlaps and similar "measures" ("characteristics" might be a better word). So I think we can talk intelligently about some of the same stuff accomplished by statues of Michelangelo and paintings by Mondrian, as different as those two genres and periods and mediums might strike us. While there are ties among all the arts, I agree with you, Arthur, that we also have to consider some very different measures or characteristics which will be relative to the times, the mediums, the religiosity, etc.
    So, while I certainly didn't mean to suggest that Adams and Michelangelo are comparable artists and I don't think Adams is in Michelangelo's league, I do think the perfection of craft is something they held in similar regard, though I think Michelangelo was able to take it to a much deeper, more sensuous, and more feeling level. Of course, there was a different sensibility in Michelangelo's time and I do take that into account. Nevertheless, comparisons can be made.
    Yes, on a certain level comparing Debussy to Mozart is like comparing apples to oranges, except that we still know that apples and oranges are both fruits. It only deepens my appreciation of Mozart and Debussy to compare the music of each, to know what Debussy was, in part, reacting to or against from the classical tradition. It's helpful to assess Impressionistic music by comparing it to the more structured and less nature-oriented sounds of Mozart's music. I can like both Mozart and Debussy for very different reasons and they will fulfill very different aesthetic needs and desires in me. I'm glad I don't have to choose between them. And, yet, I can understand when someone says they "like" classical music better than romantic or impressionist music. Yet, just as the two different styles of music fulfill very different aesthetic needs in me, they also fulfill some of the same . . . the desire for rhythmic structure in time, the desire for a transcendent experience that takes me out of my head for a while, a non-representational experience (the abstract side of music and so much art) . . .
     
  81. "There is a little bit of the urinal in all art,..."​
    Fred,
    That would make a swell epitaph! Can I use it if you don't?
    00ZxIq-438549584.jpg
     
  82. All that aside, AA is at his most sensual in his macros/close-ups...
    ....which have little life for me.
    ....though I think Michelangelo was able to take it to a much deeper, more sensuous, and more feeling level​
    We're not exactly the Ansel Adams fanclub, it seems. And sure, that is a matter of taste. Still, the reasons above are quite similar. My apologies upfront if I misinterpret, but how I read it: it sounds like a missing touch of humanity. It leaves you cold, because it does not communicate with you on a human-to-human level. The passion/sensual being a human element, or relating to a human emotion.
    It's for me what I do miss in Ansel Adams. It just transmits majestic nature being beautiful, which has got nothing to do with me - as a viewer, I am fully missing in the picture, so to speak.
    Which brought on another thought. Maybe it is just too much perfected? The landscape, shot with impeccable sharpness, showing all details, in near perfect tones. What can you say after seeing it? It doesn't really tickle me to find more inside it, it already shows everything there. And where Da Vinci and Michelangelo might be equally craftsmen, at least they leave a gap in their communication, an opening to unleash my thoughts/fantasies/ideas/passions into the work.
    For the same reasons, I don't really like quite a lot of Rembrandts, but I do like quite some Vermeer - but for craftsmenship I'd rate them both very highly. But one engages me, and the other don't.
    This won't explain every liking and disliking going on, sure not, but going back on the earlier discussion on the visual language, I get the idea it not only depends on how well we feel we can read that visual language, but also in how much we find questions, open ends, ambiguousness in it - things that actively engage us.
    ___
    P.S. Somehow now it's posted, I feel like I kicked in an open door. But not enough to remove it ;-) If it's superfluous, it will get sufficiently ignored.
     
  83. Fred - In many cases, one also has to look at the whole in order to get a sense of the individual works.
    When I said I might not like a renowned photographer's work in general, I meant it. But, yes, I do get to that by looking at the individual works which comprise the body/bodies of work.​
    This is true. I guess that I need to refine my point. I can recognise photographers, and then I can be attracted or not attracted by their work. I might not be attracted by a flower photographer or by a fashion photographer ans not be interested in their work as a whole.
    First level.
    And then I might be attracted by a photographer, like all those mentioned above, and then consider their particular works and recognise them and then like some and not like other.
    Second level.
    I'm not exactly sure, Luca, what you mean by linear thinking.​
    What I mean that the processes and developments we are talking about not necessarily have a beginning and an end. I do not think we proceed from start to finish through a pre-definite sequence of steps. I believe it's more like proceeding along a grid, where we touch upon different stages and bring in known and also unpredicted elements, driven by different ideas and stimuli.
    But as renown photographers develop their own photographic language, also (us) viewers develop (our) pattern of observation, which includes very important elements as our (photographic) culture, our background, our feelings, what we know and what we have learnt, photographically and not.
    Time is one of these unpredictable and fuzzy factors. It can take seconds or years. It can be seen once or infinite times.
     
  84. I wouldn't carry the anti-linearity thing quite so far. I agree that not everything is linear and that stuff happens, happens again later, and that we don't always use the same process in the same order when working or when viewing. Yes, there is much that's open-ended. But, some stuff is linear. Prime among them is that a first reaction is a one-time thing and, to me, has significance. And it ONLY comes first. Sure, you may remember it, or you may in some sense recreate the experience. You may build on it and even reject your first response as you go deeper into the photograph in question. But the first gut reaction and experience of something is a unique place to be. And I have found it's very much worth paying attention to mine. I can embrace that without feeling like I've somehow succumbed to linear thinking. Also, things do have a kind of end. At some point, you have to look at a photo and say, "I've committed to this vision. It's done." Now, of course, you may revisit it and it does go on living and doesn't become dead at that point. But at various points, a photographer prints and frames his work and displays it. That's an important stopping point. It's an important kind of completeness and end, even if there can be more to come on that photo at a future date.
     
  85. I think that the case of Caravaggio (Which, poor fellow, is not even his name, just the place he hailed from) is revelatory of how fragile like and dislike has been in history, and down to the present day. So what does it ultimately mean in the process of making art (rhetorically speaking, not very much)? He had an infamous reputation while he lived, much like the composer Gesualdo, a contemporary of Monteverdi (both he and Caravaggio killed someone, in their rage), and then was promptly forgotten to all intensive purposes after his death on the road to Rome (being absolved by the then Pope), until resurrected in the 20th century in recognition of his importance to Western art.
    Of course his influence did get recognised by some (the Dutch Baroque art school) and Rubens as well as Rembrandt owe a lot to him. Vermeer is a different case, and perhaps as Wouter is alluding to, his style, approach and brush are very finely tuned and introspective and perhaps his fame is in some small part increased by the scarcity of his paintings. But back to Caravaggio, whose work should seduce many a photographer (including the black and white art crowd) bent on exploiting the effects possible with chiaroscuro. Not many like hits from the Renaissance to the start of the twentieth century. Is his work any the lesser for the fact that intelligent viewers, like those of the present forum, have a negative reaction to his work? As I am not a converted Adamite, of what importance my lack of enthusiasm for what he has done in photography? Am I not like the many thousands, nay millions, who turned their back on Caravaggio for so many years?
    Consequently, it is of more interest I think not to gather any statistics on what you like or dislike, as that is no more useful or reputable than knowing the number of economists or politicians that saw the US financial meltdown in 2008. Better to hear exactly why those more hip economists saw what was coming, just as it is better to know exactly why a piece of work excites someone or it doesn't. Not why it had something to do with what someone ate that morning, because a furtive glance quickly wrote it off because of X and Y, or whether the development of that appreciation followed a linear, circular or three dimensional path. Why, in the most direct sense, can be related to specific reactions that are aesthetic (and which), emotional (and which), cultural, historical or other.
    What Wouter mentions, in terms of the ability of a work to question or provide ambiguity for the viewer, is something I have also been attracted to in my own prior comments. Those qualities are desirable deposits that remain to be fully mined.
    On a secondary issue, not related specifically to like and dislike, but one you may have been confronted with, is that the small number of paintings attributed to Vermeer has I think an interesting spin off lesson for the photographer, that limited quantity is often preferable. I first started to number all my prints and anticipated prints of the same image, but soon realised that a) predicting too many copies was not only optimistic and unsustainable in several cases, but b) it was hypocritical, as additional series could be "invented" simply by changing the print size, and c) the large but unsustainable number (say, 20) served to perhaps devalue those existing prints. My present approach is to simply sign the border or back of the print and to keep records of where the prints have gone (when providing a certificate) and to provide to anyone the ultimate breakdown of number of prints at any time or at the end of the series. Brett Weston (if I have the right Weston son in mind) destroyed all his negatives at the end of his life, as part of that reasoning was that the photographic process did not stop at the negative for him, and his final prints represented his art.
     
  86. Appreciating a photographer's work is perhaps easier when the viewer has some reasonably close association with or enhanced knowledge of the photographer. The nature of the image is not changed, but the understanding of it can be augmented by knowing the values or priorities or the historical or cultural specificities of the photographer. Sometimes the photographer does not even recognize those effects of his work. I am sure you have your own personal examples of this. I have been surprised that some of my friends or acquaintances or frequent visitors will say "we know that is one of your works, as it mirrors to some degree what we know about you and what is important to you". In that sense, and extrapolating to the works of the masters or any other photographer we wish to contemplate, is not the familiarity with the photographer's personality, character or "crusades' not something that will immediately interact to partially affect whether we warm to his work or not?
     
  87. I think that the case of Caravaggio (Which, poor fellow, is not even his name, just the place he hailed from) is revelatory of how fragile like and dislike has been in history, and down to the present day. So what does it ultimately mean in the process of making art (rhetorically speaking, not very much)?​
    Arthur, in no way would this kind of story, which we hear not infrequently throughout history, minimize the importance of likes and dislikes for me. When I look back and realize that a great artist was not liked in his own time, it's simply a matter of history and context for me. The folks weren't ready or even able to like what they saw for a variety of reasons. It doesn't make me think any less of them or dismiss their dislike in any way. If anything it makes their dislike that much more palpable. It may amaze me to think that an artist history has come to love was not liked at one time, but it reminds me how PRESENT and how unique and transitory something like "liking" is. History doesn't prove those people wrong, in my eyes. It merely sheds light.
    Understanding why a certain now-considered-great artist was not liked in his time would tell us a lot about the times, about expectations, about what can and can't be accepted, etc. The truly creative and especially provocative artist MUST be aware that many will not "like" his/her work. It kind of goes with the territory.
    I think as often as one aims for being liked, one should revel in NOT being liked. I'd suggest that if you're universally liked, you should stop and take stock because you're liable to be pandering instead of creating and demanding.
    _________________________
    As I am not a converted Adamite, of what importance my lack of enthusiasm for what he has done in photography?​
    I can't answer for you, but for me it's of great PERSONAL importance. I don't fool myself into thinking that my taste is going to be relevant to history, but it's very relevant to my own life and my own creative life.
     
  88. Fred, just a precision about what I was saying. Caravaggio was apparently liked in his time (or was at least very newsworthy then), but fell into relative neglect after his death and from the 17th to 20th centuries. Perhaps the tastemakers of the intervening periods had other styles or movements to occupy there thoughts. My remark about my personal view of Adams supports the same argument and what it means to be part or not of the mass of opinion. In other words, the thing that is ultimately of importance to me, and you seem to be in agreement with that, is how I perceive the works of these artists and what they mean for my own art. Statistics of overall public appreciation aside, it is more interesting for me to understand how (and why) you or others view a photographer's work. On a parallel OP in this forum, I have given three or four examples of images that communicate passion to me, and a few photographers who seem to be able to create images of that emotional quality. The why could be further elaborated.
     
  89. The key here is that "viewing another photographer's work", for some, is not a homogeneous experience. My own views of Adams are complicated.
     

Share This Page