A question about Camus.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by alan_zinn, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. I sometimes think of a lecture in my first PH101 class on Albert Camus and making photographs. I would like to know where in Camus' writing the discussion of the photographer attempting to be the subject photographed occurs. As I recall it was specifically about him making a portrait of a friend. The thrust of it that I have retained was that one should, near as possible, become that person. Portraiture is an obvious theme that would lend itself to that. I don't recall if it was Camus or my instructor that expanded on that idea to include non-persons. Attempting more than superficial representation of inanimate objects is a conventional exercise in the arts. Never mind anthropological issues like animism. One thinks of dance, music and theater. As a photography student, especially in the Aquarian '60s, being a rock or tree stump in order to obtain a more comprehensive rendering of its essences seemed perfectly reasonable. And still does.
     
  2. Sounds good. How do you go about being the subject?
     
  3. jtk

    jtk

    Feodor: how about "self portrait?" Or "portrait of one's self as person x, y, and z"
     
  4. Can't find it Alan unless it is in Albert Camus's book: "La Postérité du Soleil", which is on landscape photography mainly. See here (if you read French)
     
  5. Whatever Camus I read forty years ago wasn't French. He was not writing about self-portraits. The idea of being the subject is to try and imagine or feel what the subject must be like in more than the usual depth. Casual portraits reveal little that is special about a person. Studio portraits reveal even less. Rocks or a trees have a history, material, and natural qualities that, thought about more comprehensively, even meditated upon if you are so inclined, could produce a better picture as would landscapes or urban subjects.
    The point I believe my instructor was trying to get across was that photographers should not try and make pictures that resemble what a picture of their subject ought to look like. It's not hard being a large granite rock in a stream. Sharing the sunlight with a butterfly, cool and mossy underneath with maybe a trout nearby waiting. Hmmm, sounds like a Chinese ink brush drawing title.
     
  6. Andres,
    I meant to rave about your bridge picture from underneath. Tell me you didn't become as one with the bridge! Bridges affect me more than natural landscapes and I feel them.
     
  7. I was not more part of the bridge than I'm deeply part of history and feel and "read" old stones. Pont Neuf (the "new bridge") is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris. Was build between1578 and 1607 (Interrupted during the seven French Wars of religion). Others might say that it is just another "pretty" snapshot and feel, and "understand", absolutely nothing.
     
  8. Is it possible that your instructor was referring to Roland Barthe rather than to Albert Camus? The former referred to the difficulty of the portrait in his text "Camera Lucida" and what the portrait really revealed, or didn't, about the person photographed. Both lived at about the same time in France. Perhaps Camus, Absurdist movement philosopher inspired by Kierkegaard, may have inspired your instructor by such thoughts as:
    "Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is."
    "It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting."
    The question of feeling how an object (bridge, stone) is can possibly be related to the philosopher's interest in subjectivity and the uniqueness of the individual response. While he doesn't scorn science or the search for objectivity, he feels that the subjective response is what most matters.
     
  9. "Camus, Absurdist movement philosopher"​
    If a philosopher denouncing the absurdity of human conditions ("l'absurdité de la condition humaine") and calling for revolt against the absurdity, is an "absurdist philosopher" then ok but surely too short for the Humanist he was, but he was also a writer (The Stranger, The Plague) strong critic of Soviet communism (before Sartre !) and a celebrated resistance fighter against the German occupation.

    « L'absurde naît de cette confrontation entre l'appel humain et le silence déraisonnable du monde »
     
  10. The question of feeling how an object (bridge, stone) is can possibly be related to the philosopher's interest in subjectivity and the uniqueness of the individual response. While he doesn't scorn science or the search for objectivity, he feels that the subjective response is what most matters.​
    I would believe that it relates to more than the "subjective response".
    In fact the whole discussion on for example abstract expressionism and what Americans called "modern art" turned around the object/subject matter and the relationship to time. Barnett Newman took the somewhat radical position (in "The Sublime is now") that Europeans were attached to the transcendence of objects (the bridge above) where Americans attached to the transcendental experience. On this basis he argued that European art was dead and buried (sic!) and that the future belonged to the Americans (the New York school).
    ARS NESCIENDI !
     
  11. Anders,
    Apart from "ignorant art" (or "knowledgeless art") or "ars nesciendi", which is an important subjective comment you make in your last paragraph but that I am not in this instance in a position of knowledge to evaluate (tant pis, c'est simplement un exemple magnifique de mon ignorance conceernant la distinction entre les mouvements américains et européens en art), the question of the Absurdism philosophy of Camus is well known. See "Absurdism" in Wikipedia and the same source's article on Albert:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus
    "L'étrangeur" et "La peste", in their translated forms were required and valuable reading in my first year English course as an undergrad engineer in Canada. I think more than Sartre I would have appreciated being in the company of this enlightened and humanist Franco-Algerian. Some of the workings of his mind, even without reading those texts or his philosophical essay "The Myth of Sisyphus", can be gleaned by reading many of the quotes (thoughts) he had during his existence. While these are not fully in context in such short form, they are quite revealing of a man, who amongst other valkues, placed love and friendship with others on a very important plane. He knew the resistance fighters and certainly supported them, but apparently not as actively as some of the "front line" fighters. I don't see that as a negative thing, as he was almost certainly under extremely close and handicapping surveillance during Pétin's Vichy regime and the Nazi occupation of France.
    Not the best source, but a bit more complete in terms of the fullness of the individual quotes than others:
    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/albert_camus.html
     
  12. I think Bush II was once spotted with The Stranger, perhaps to seem edgy philosophical and intellectual, and the absurdism of it all being of course that the protagonist in that story kills an Arab, for no particular reason and just because he can. But, I mean, what was he thinking ( Bush ) ?
     
  13. Thanks Arthur.
    Concerning lack of knowledge about the relation between American and European art movements you are not alone, I'm convinced. The extreme patriotic self-understanding of American artists in the 50s and 60s, influenced art schools, art critics (Clement Greenberg et co) and the general understanding of art and artists in America to such a degree that one can still see the consequences of it in current art discussions.
    I think Newman is one of those that most clearly has defended the perceived uniqueness of the American Modern art (abstract expressionism) although he obviously knew relatively little about the European-art-world during and after the Second World War. As mentioned, his use of dichotomies like Object / subject and transcendence-of-objects / transcendence-of-experiences or his discussion on "Beauty" / "Sublime" are replaying many of the debates that continuously are running here in this forum.
    As you read French, I will quote Rimbau on BEAUTY proceeding the forthcoming declaration that Beauty is dead:

    Un soir, j'ai assis la Beauté sur mes genoux. − Et je l'ai trouvée amère. − Et je l'ai injuriée.

    (Rimbeau, 1873)​
    ARS NESCIENDI (the art of ignoring)
     
  14. Phylo, maybe Bush just read this passage from "The Stranger", that made him stop and think:
    For the first time in years, I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me.
    The Stranger
    Part 2, Chapter 3.​
    Someone, might have put a marker on that passage so that he did not need to read it all.
     
  15. Anders, I’m perhaps not very analytical when it comes to art movements (I should be, but I rather spend my time contemplating the art after reading briefly of the overall art movement in which it finds itself), but I am aware of the differences and of the strong nationalist character as you mention in regard to the USA. I never really made many comparisons, as, for instance, between the British Angry Young Men movement of theatrical and novel writers and their American social writers (O’Neil, Kirouac, or the “film noir” writers to name a few) or the similar Canadian movements (The “Refus Global” artists or the equally socialist writers speaking to political separation and/or a more humanist society).
    Each country or significant geographic region has its various movements, and a good dose of the nationalist and nepotism type sentiments. We have a large exchange of artists, writers and intellectuals between the two largest French speaking cities and cultural regions in the World (namely, Paris and Montreal), but when I listen to French TV programs dealing with the arts, they are almost uniquely concerned with home artists, writers or intellectuals (and politicians). Rarely do you see anyone from French Canada (or elsewhere) and there are many French Canadians living in or touring/visiting France. Same case for Britain, the other major “mother country” of many Canadians. Although they are quite happy to integrate Canadian intellectuals and artists, the view and curiosity seldom crosses the Atlantic.
    While I love to read the Guardian and The Economist from time to time, I won’t subscribe any more, as their interest in a country member of the G8 and with 60% of the Gross national product of Britain is not covered in regard to the art scene, and only very very occasionally in regard to economy or politics (not so for the reporting in regard to the USA, due to its unignorable great size). Canadian intellectual life is often similarly viewed by our friends to the south. I find instead more balanced sources of information elsewhere in order to counteract that chauvinism (Note. I am not an Anglophobe by any means, and lived in England for a very constructive 6 years).
    So, it is my impression, Anders, that much of the disconnect between different regions is due in large part to ignorance on the one hand and chauvinism on the other.
     
  16. jtk

    jtk

    Regarding Canada and Europe Vs US, it's outright silly to speak of US as if it is one country, just as it's silly to speak of Canada as if its technically dominant Chinese population (in Canada's west) isn't more like California than it is like, say, Manitoba, which is more like the US Midwest...or French Canada, which I've repeatedly been told is hated by the bulk of Canada's population. Similarly, some say Newfoundland is Anglophone Canada's cultural engine more than anything on the mainland. Some prejudices, yes, but gleaned from Canadians.
    CBC is a fine broadcaster, but it's a mere shadow of what it was twenty years ago (when it seemed to rival English language BBC). I think that if Canadians had any interest in being noticed, and distinguished from Americans they would start by re-envigorating CBC and reinventing Canadian Film Board (for which I once planned to work). In other words, Canada's cultural isolation seems something Canadians want, just as Glen Beck, Lady Gaga et al are evidently something Americans want.
    As well, I doubt that Camus or Sartre are currently seen as comparably philosophically as important as, say, David Foster Wallace by literate young Europeans or Canadians with philosophic inclinations.
    America's global cultural dominance springs from its size, the fact that it's long driven most popular music and literature and media (the significant French film makers idolized Americans and France has been essentially devoid of rock & roll, but is interestingly mixing rai and rap/hip-hop). The events of 68 in Paris were a blip by comparison to the events that had been going on in the US starting around 1950s and fizzling out mid 70s. IMO :)
    Here in New Mexico my impression is that the important art, the stuff that draws curious people to galleries, comes from China and Japan more than from NY or Europe.
    My guess is that Europe's intellectual/aesthetic elite will increasingly have Arabic, Persian, African, and Turkish roots.
     
  17. Europe's intellectual/aesthetic elite will increasingly have Arabic, Persian, African, and Turkish roots​
    Europe always has had those roots, by the Greek and Roman and North African cultural heritage. By definition it travelled to the New World too.
     
  18. "Casual portraits reveal little that is special about a person. Studio portraits reveal even less." --Alan​
    This suggests you've had very different experiences with portraits than my own.
    -----------------------------------------------
    That being said, I, too, sensed that the Camus reference was not necessarily about portraits. There are several ways the photographer can become the subject. He can, as has been said, become one with the subject (to whatever extent that's possible). In other words, he can empathize with the subject and put himself into the subject, living or not. He can also make himself the subject by shooting a certain way, with a particular perspective that suggests a kind of pointing to the photographer, even if the photographer doesn't appear in the photo. In a portrait, the person whose portrait is being made can connect with the photographer in such a way that you almost can't miss the photographer's presence. In other kinds of photos, compositional elements (particularly open-ended geometries) can make the photographer very much a subject of the photo without the photographer (or his/her shadow) actually appearing.
    Also, often in a coherent body of work or even a particular series, the voice of the photographer can become much more pronounced than it would be were the individuals taken as more discrete units.
     
  19. FRED G. I'll stick with my generalization. As we know, the charm of photographs is that they confirm and imprint what we already believe.
    I am certain that the theme was more or less as I described it. Camus wrote about making a portrait of a friend and not about the formal process of making the picture or intentionally inserting himself. Given his views, I think he was saying something along the lines of trying to sensitize himself to the subject's condition. Something more deliberate and complex than empathy. It may have been that Camus felt a sense of intellectual responsibility and of urgency to apply as much from himself to the task of making the portrait as he could. I guess I'ts time I dug into him again and pry this out. This topic has gotten a bit out in the weeds.
    :)
     
  20. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, you're right in a theoretic, ancient history way. But to assert that Europe even existed as an entity before the recent agglomeration is unsupportable (Hitler and several Popes tried). The various ancient states and regions you've mentioned did of course trade with far flung cultures, but I don't think there's much cultural evidence of those influences today (an academic can tease out traces, but an anthropologist would be more interested in what followed from WWI and WWII and Shoah). In addition to Europe's "European" aspirations there appears (to me) to be the touristic residue of Dick Cheney's "old Europe" combined with Americanization and the increasing impact of immigrants (as in America, where Hispanic and Chinese immigrants are reshaping things).
    America's musical impact on the world springs mostly from our African roots (jazz was virtually non-existent in Europe before WW1). Europe was blessed by American black music via Django Reinhardt, who was turned on by Louis Armstrong recordings. Django was a Manouch Gypsy, which means he wasn't European so much as superficially Europeanized. Like Robert Capa his life direction was toward America (Django failed with Duke Ellington, so retired to Samois and died).
     
  21. "Thinking is not unifying or making the appearance familiar under the guise of a great principle. Thinking is learning all over again how to see, directing one’s consciousness, making of every image a privileged place. - Albert Camus"
    Anders, historically speaking, I think the differences you pointed out are mostly due to provincialism, not nationalism.
    Alan - "The thrust of it that I have retained was that one should, near as possible, become that person. Portraiture is an obvious theme that would lend itself to that. I don't recall if it was Camus or my instructor that expanded on that idea to include non-persons."
    I'm sorry, Alan, but I do not know which book the quote came from. I suspect I know from where it came. Camus, like HCB and many other French intellectuals of his day, was no stranger to Zen, where this type of unified gestalt or awareness of connectedness/unity is well-known. It is also found in some physics, where the observer and observed are regarded as a system.
    Feodor - "Sounds good. How do you go about being the subject?"
    It's more about becoming the subject. What are the barriers that presently stand between you and the subject?
     
  22. "As we know, the charm of photographs is that they confirm and imprint what we already believe." --Alan​
    The draw of many photographs, to me, is that they present a challenge, as viewer and as maker.
    I don't find photographs to be much about my so-called beliefs as much as they are about possibility and desire (eros?).
    Portraits introduce me, show me, teach me. I prefer when they intrigue me or ask something of me rather than confirming much.
    Some of the better portraits actually reveal what's right on the surface, which may seem or sound superficial but is anything but.
     
  23. BTW, Alan, I didn't mean to suggest that Camus had in mind the various ways I posed one could become the subject of their photographs. I was talking more generally about how one can become the subject of their own photos. Didn't mean to go off track, though.
     
  24. Some of the misconceptions of the culture of other countries and the question of a not unexpected cultural chauvinism are two sub-themes that have spun off independently from Alan’s Camus question and would be interesting threads in themselves. Why are we off track? I think that part of that is due to the way the O.P. was formulated as well as the difficulty of finding the apparent Camus quote in order to better understand what he meant. The question, whether from Camus or not (I tend to think not, as it might well be that Camus was simply describing the subjectiveness of an absurdist’s view), of the photographer “being” his subject, is mentioned by Alan as follows:
    “The thrust of it that I have retained was that one should, near as possible, become that person.”

    “Attempting more than superficial representation of inanimate objects is a conventional exercise in the arts.”

    Is Alan interested in Camus’ apparent portrait reference or is it to the question of the artist understanding (“being”) inanimate subject matter for what it is? It doesn’t seen clear to me.
    We seem to have gotten off topic, and not just “in the weeds” as Alan informs us. Fred highlighted a subsequent quote of the original poster:
    “Casual portraits reveal little that is special about a person. Studio portraits reveal even less." –Alan

    Does this have a link to the question of the photographer somehow being his subject?
    So where are we in the discussion of the photographer being his subject? Unless we have the context of Camus’ quote, which some of us have tried to locate unsuccessfully (and at the same time renewing and gaining additional insight into a very interesting existentialist type of philosopher and humanist, for which we may thank Alan’s O.P.), it is hard to understand whether Camus was dealing with (1) subjectiveness per se (which is a thread of importance in his philosophy of Absurdism) or (2) was referring to the need for the artist to understand his subject. Or (3) was he interested in transforming the subject by his own personae?
    Studio or non-studio (“casual”) portraiture does not seem to me to be very related to this philosophical question, as each of these types of portraiture can be “orchestrated” by the photographer to one of the approaches I mention in the foregoing paragraph.
    I think it would be useful for the O.P. to be defined more clearly, should Camus’ original statement not be uncovered. Does Alan feel that Camus was referring to “being” the subject as a manner of better understanding the subject? In that case, which is rather practical and an approach used by many, why not? It probably doesn’t incite an extensive argument (but I may be wrong). What is perhaps more important is a discussion related to subjectiveness or to the photographer becoming the object or subject itself.
    In regard to the latter, there are many examples of that, both directly evident and less so. Two examples: When persons familiar with your photography, your choice of subject matter and how you approach that, are easily able to say that an image or a print is yours, then you are in a sense being at least a part of the subject matter. On another plane, and when the viewers may not know you or your work, the symbols you use in the image and what they imply can be a very personal statement, although one that might be only identifiable as one of a group thought (as being part of art movements or social or political movements).
     
  25. jtk

    jtk

    "As we know, the charm of photographs is that they confirm and imprint what we already believe." .. Alan Zinn
    We don't know that. Some of us surmise it, or simply want it it...which explains Karsh.
    "Studio or non-studio (“casual”) portraiture does not seem to me to be very related to this philosophical question, as each of these types of portraiture can be “orchestrated” by the photographer to one of the approaches I mention in the foregoing paragraph." ...Fred G
    I'm not sure which "philosophical question" this addresses but it seems to me that Fred G's work has a consistent Fred imprint...in other words, his orientations, goals, and limitations conspire to make a certain identifiable look. I've seen little evidence that he escapes it, though he clearly tries.
    My own more limited portraiture and my desire to photograph people who are fully aware of being photographed results in surprises, not all of them positive, about my self in photographic relationship. For me, portrait photography is substantially a risky learning process in which each risk springs from previous risks and is valuable almost exclusively as a springboard to the next. I intensely dislike some of my recent portraits (I hope they reflected neither me nor my subjects), which has led to some rethinking, which will (or damned well better) lead to new risks.
     
  26. We are surely off the track although Arthur makes a good effort of calling to order. I'm somewhat responsible too, I admit.
     
  27. jtk

    jtk

    Alan's idea, vaguely/hypothetically attributed to Camus is based entirely upon a long-ago memory. His mention of Camus is peripheral to the idea, and although he was want to pursue a bit about Camus, he expresses it with humor.
    Alan's idea (it's his, not Camus' idea) has to do with "becoming" something other than oneself (as in "becoming" one's photo subject).
    That idea is Alan Zinn's interest, the the subject of his post. Lacking citation or recognition by the various Camus enthusiasts here, the philosopher is reduced to a glimmer of a distracting memory.
    It's not "off track" to explore the idea/belief itself, to which Alan specifically states adherance.
    Alan is looking for angles on his own idea about portraiture. He seems to want philosophic support, yet he's beginning with a belief. In the end he seems much less uninterested in Camus (with good reason imo) than in his own idea.
    He might have more effectively linked his idea to Sesame Street's Jim Henson, who was after all more creative and influential than the forgotten Mr. Camus. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/08/sunday/main5576564.shtml .
    Here's something more to the point than philosophy: Alan's idea of "becoming" something other than oneself is routine and fundamental to theatre. "Become King Lear!" "Become Kermit the Frog!"
    It's the essence of all theatre (save for celebrity monologues, to the extent that celebrities are other than incarnate masks).
    Alan Zinn's idea relates more to an actors mask or the psychologist's equivalent than it does to philosophic formulations, which inevitably become discussions about words rather than ideas.
    http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Bud.../An Introduction to Jung's Psychology/III.pdf
    As portrait photographers do we become one with our subjects? It's an interesting idea. No, IMO.
     
  28. Richard Avedon said ( in another vid that I can't find right now ) that there are "Avedon people" which he photographs to show something of himself through them. There might be other interesting people, interesting to other portrait photographers, but not to him, because he can't express himself in them ( which is only of relevance from his own point of view ). For a portrait photographer I think it's not about the photographer being the subject but more the subject showing something of the photographer, as ego-driven and self-important as that sounds, from the perspective of the photographer.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTJMgqX0mo0
     
  29. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, please work hard to find your "Avedon people" citation. It seems to suggest his photography was limited by his subjects, and I can't concur. I don't meant to argue here, but it disturbs me (it's not bad to be disturbed).
    In view of the evident diversity, I don't find thinking in terms of "Avedon people" or otherwise thinking that he limited his subjects usefully related to his life's work. I think his statements about surface and its relationship to his approach or truth are closer to the mark.
    In The West he photographed the kinds of poor and unsophisticated people who are all around me. He was incisive and respectful. That some viewers think those subjects freakish reflects a dulled, blinkered, inhumane point of view. In "Nothing Personal," his great early book with James Baldwin (one of Avedon's several big/innovative conceptual projects, not just picture-book), he photographed high powered people who ranged from monster to hero, seeing them the way they wanted to be seen as well as the way they actually looked, recognizing their human nature (exhausted, crazy, very old etc)...and in the same book, using a Minox (16mm still) he photographed the inhabitants of an insane asylum...his sister was confined in one, perhaps that one. All the while he photographed models, using the same minimalist way of seeing, despite differing studio/ambient situations. I think "we" are too inclined to interpret him into a box, even if he sometimes laid claim to one or another box.
     
  30. Luis finally arrives with an apt and pithy Camus quote! I didn't mention that my instructor Stephen Foster was fresh from grad school and Minor White - no stranger to Zen! Bing! Now I remember White's, Rights and Passages, self portraits. Sorry, I conflated in my memory of the lecture White and Camus, but not entirely. The class was in 1968 before the book was published. No doubt Foster had seen some of the images. Looking over a bunch of timless MW quotes, I picked two that resonate.
    http://www.photoquotes.com/ShowQuotes.aspx?id=25&name=White,Minor
    "Creativity with portraits involves the invocation of a state of rapport when only a camera
    stands between two people...mutual vulnerability and mutual trust."
    "...all photographs are self portraits." - Minor White
     
  31. I also cannot find the Avedon quote Phylo cites. What I did find that I believe is germane to this discussion is:
    "A portrait photographer depends upon another person to complete his picture. The subject imagined, which in a sense is me, must be discovered in someone else willing to take part in a fiction he cannot possibly know about. - Richard Avedon"
    _______________________________________________
    I experience at-oneness when doing portraits, even apparently casual ones. I can make such snaps of others, or I should say work in the style of snaps, but aside from the increased spontaneity, stylistic stricture, and their informal nature they're still very much mine. The speed (and I do not just mean technical speed, but the heightened awareness/ internal temporal dilation of the entire process) gained through street photography (it is something very similar to when time slows down during an accident, but not trauma-driven or as pronounced) is something I find invaluable in portraiture. There's a kind of spiritual syncopation that happens, often wordlessly, through body language, emotional transparency, a sense that everything happening is significant (almost like in a sacred ritual dance without the mumbo-jumbo) and suddenly the wall between observer and observed isn't there. The distinctions between the "subject" and "photographer", observer and observed cease, and the realization that while at one level we are like islands is true, it is also true that below the water and the waves, we are connected, far more similar than different, and at the heart of things, one.
    This will sound pretentious or weird, but it extends beyond humans... even living things. Perhaps this stems from my meager experiences in Zen, science, because I do not believe in free will, think there's something to animism, my inordinate fondness for nearly out of control Cuban music, or simple useful delusions. I don't know, and yet, I know.
     
  32. Was some time ago that I seen it but I think it was this one, he says that there are Avedon faces ( in which he can express himself ), not Avedon people. But same point.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT3XdQ9I2PU
     
  33. But when Avedon says : "The subject imagined, which in a sense is me" - he is merely repeating what was the all-covering inspiration of the "New York school of modern art", which Barnett Newmann expressed by announcing that "we are, somehow, about to create the world in our image".
    This is what Newman made in his ground-breaking painting "Onement I" (title not by chance!) or Pollock in "Number 8", for example. It goes far beyond portraying and covers all artistic work on all figurative "objects" - from pictures of the tip of my nose to abstract.
    What one could say is that it is an extremely introspect approach to artistic work, prisoned in the mysteries of one self. This might be where Camus or others with him come in, calling for attention to the absurdity of human conditions. Both were images of a generation that was branded profoundly by the horrors of the holocaust and Hiroshima/Nagasaki.
    One could expect contemporary artists to be somewhere else by now !
     
  34. Thought experiment for Luis:
    You and Minor White are alone in a room together and you each decide to do a portrait of the other. Both of you get into a state of perfect one-ness with the other. Minor is one with Luis: Luis is one with Minor. You both make your (photographic) portraits.
    Who ... or what are the resulting two portraits of? Are they identical?
     
  35. Julie, the answer is YES: one showing for mortals Luis, the other showing Minor.
     
  36. "I think he was saying something along the lines of trying to sensitize himself to the subject's condition. Something more deliberate and complex than empathy." --Alan​
    I think responding to this statement from Alan to me (I had mentioned the importance to my photographing of empathy) may add to Luis's statement and Julie's question. I've never achieved at-oneness though I do consider myself capable of empathy. I take Luis's description of how he works at his word. That being said, making things (as Alan suggests) more complex is not always of value, to me.
    As I understand Zen, there are different approaches. From what I've seen and heard, there are more ideological approaches to Zen and then there is Zen as something practiced. Discounting more human and mundane endeavors like empathy in favor of a passage to something "deeper" may very well miss the point of Zen. Enlightenment can be achieved through the swing of a hammer (while putting nails into a house being built for your neighbor) or in putting on the shirt of someone who can't dress themselves. It is not necessarily achieved in quoting famous Zen sayings and reaching for the stars when there are bricks around to be hauled.
    I sense from many things he's said over the years that Luis has done the grunt work and is involved in some sort of practice that makes his relationships with people and with his subjects not something complex but rather something quite straightforward and simple. That would seem closer to at-oneness. I don't know that at-oneness can be a goal as much as simply a result.
    If, through empathy, I find something deeper, well then fine. If not, I'm happy to stay grounded in merely being able to zero in on someone else's perspective, understand their feelings to whatever extent I can, and show something significant about them in a portrait. If I can dance with my subjects, I am happy to do so. Whether I become them, they become me, I lose myself in them, I show more of myself or more of them is relatively unimportant to me.
    Camus and Zen are not bibles with sage advice merely to be quoted. They are starting points to living one's life, not ending it through confirmations or comfort.
     
  37. Camus and Zen are not bibles with sage advice merely to be quoted. They are starting points to living one's life, not ending it through confirmations or comfort.​
    There we agree Fred. Our agreement might also end there. Rapid remarks for comfort are maybe the worse one can encounter.
     
  38. Luis's quotes from first Camus and then Avedon close the loop. Mention of Avedon quite often causes an indrawing of breath in some photographic circles I notice. There are many methods of portraiture and the imposition of a character is one method. Avedon spoke of the reciprocity, but the subject caught in the headlights has a limited range of responses. The starkest example I recall is the dual side-lit photograph of Alfried Krupp, the German arms manufacturer, made by Arnold Newman. The opposite approach to these impositions might be Jane Bown's, a slight woman but insistent in an endearing way, extracting a moment of repose if not generosity from her sitter—see the one of Richard Nixon especially. The environmental portraits of HCB must necessarily also reflect his view of his subject and his views more widely, but the exchange seems more equal. And he was willing to accept what was offered. His portrait of Irene and Frederic Joliot-Curie was apparently made the moment they answered the door. He sensed something of their apprehension, the burden of fate perhaps, and the picture was made. The mention of Camus and HCB's sympathy for Eastern thought is an indication of acceptance of the moment, but also of a life of education and experience determining what the response would be.
     
  39. Painting or photography can never divulge as much about the author as words or writing, in a sense of their potential, although the use of words or writing are no assurance that the communication will be an effective one. Every picture we make is some form of expression of oneself. In my own case it is both a means to explore myself and to communicate what I find. The problem is, and I am not alone I know, is that the language of photography, and especially of one particular person's photography, is not a universal tool of communication. We may find out things about ourselves through photography that we may partially understand, although those results may fly over the heads of others. I think that is a form of the oneness of the pursuit, but it is not a limiting one.
     
  40. "Painting or photography can never divulge as much about the author as words or writing" --Arthur​
    I don't find this to be the case. It depends what "as much" is referring to. As much information? Information of what kind? As much description? Description of what type? A photograph can and has, for me, divulged much more than words and writings. Words can obfuscate, often do. But even when words are put together in such a way as to inform or describe, a picture can provide much that words cannot. A certain emotional hit, a certain visual that elicits a nod of recognition that words may simply not have the power to convey in some instances.
    I would hesitate to compare words and pictures categorically in terms of what or how much they convey. Often they are conveying different things so it's like comparing apples to oranges. And even in cases where they are attempting to convey similar things, one doesn't win out. Some pictures do better than words in some instances and some words do better than pictures in some instances.
    Pictures that one creates can often show unintended truths about the maker, which can divulge much. Words are often more intentionally chosen. (The latter is a generalization meant to offer an alternative, not meant categorically.) The description to we intend to convey of ourselves often does not convey as much as the picture that may unwittingly reveal something of ourselves.
     
  41. jtk

    jtk

    Alan Zinn, very good of you to find the source of your memory (Minor White). Yes. Minor did seem to take "rapport" a half stop further than mere interpersonal communication.
    Consider the staged series of actors sitting across a table from him and his Hasselblad, told to express subtle experiences: he considered that research more than "art," approaching it as a photo psychologist, studying what went on between photographer and subject, mediated by camera.
    Someone may recall the details better, but I think the experiment's questions were: since the subjects were actors who were acting, did photos record the actors masks or did they drop their masks for him, or did the camera penetrate the masks finding some deeper truth? Were the actors the real subjects, or were their masks, or was the photographer himself reflected? I don't think he arrived at any conclusions...Alan, do you recall?
    Some of White's students followed his own Gurdjieff path,
    others were more fully committed to zen (the discipline & reality trip, the opposite of mysticism). Minor seems to have confused Gurdjieff teaching with zen (and his personal issues which included his Catholicism and sexual identity). The Gurdjieff philosophy he embraced (partially) is exoteric, not esoteric: rather than seeking mystical experience it demands formal teaching by a "Teacher" of historic rarity, a crew specifically/literally including Queen Elizabeth, Jesus, and himself (followers claiming also to be Teachers later included Ouspensky, Nyland...and of course Minor was a teacher.
    I'm sure there are better explainers-of-Gurdjieff here than me, and I think Minor White's ideas can't be fully appreciated without considering Gurdjieff's influence. And, importantly, Minor did directly address the OT question: just what/who is in the photograph?
     
  42. Anders - "But when Avedon says : "The subject imagined, which in a sense is me" - he is merely repeating what was the all-covering inspiration of the "New York school of modern art", which Barnett Newmann expressed by announcing that "we are, somehow, about to create the world in our image".
    Which has nothing to do with the one-ness Alan (and others) are talking about. It is more of its opposite, a very Western imprinting of self upon the subject. That's a somewhat ridiculously religious sounding quote from Newman. It's as if Genesis suddenly had a Greek Chorus.
    Anders - "One could expect contemporary artists to be somewhere else by now !"
    That last sentence is written like an old-school Modernist. They were then and now.
    ____________________________________________
    Julie - Thought experiment for Luis:
    "You and Minor White are alone in a room together and you each decide to do a portrait of the other. Both of you get into a state of perfect one-ness with the other. Minor is one with Luis: Luis is one with Minor. You both make your (photographic) portraits."
    [You mean the ghost of Minor White. :) I never claimed to have experienced a perfect state of one-ness, and that absolutism frankly, is a little off-putting. But since it is Easter, let's smoke, drink and don our Saints, break out the mumbo-jumbo, red satin ribbons, three full cut-glass lachrymals, one with the tears of a virgin for a lost love, one from a mother for a dead child, the third of a chrone for a life that apparently has no end, a few chickens, one lamb, one short and one long knife, stropped to razor sharpness on human skin, and resurrect Minor for the sake of this 'experiment']
    JH - Who ... or what are the resulting two portraits of?
    Like all photographs, the result of an interaction between the photographer and something else (unless one leaves the lens cap on). I am not being sarcastic when I say my photograph would be of Minor (The Zombie) and his of me (Son of Zombie). If this is sniffing around the idea that somehow there is going to be a likeness of each other visibly superimposed on the guy at the other end of the lens, I never claimed that to be the case -- and it isn't. This is a lot simpler than this thought experiment assumes it to be.
    JH - "Are they identical?"
    No. How could that be? Besides, Minor's would be infinitely better than mine. Il miggliore fabbro.
    ____________________________________________
    Fred nails it here: "... some sort of practice that makes his relationships with people and with his subjects not something complex but rather something quite straightforward and simple. That would seem closer to at-oneness. I don't know that at-oneness can be a goal as much as simply a result."
    Exactly. On both counts.
    Fred "If, through empathy, I find something deeper, well then fine. If not, I'm happy to stay grounded in merely being able to zero in on someone else's perspective, understand their feelings to whatever extent I can, and show something significant about them in a portrait. If I can dance with my subjects, I am happy to do so. Whether I become them, they become me, I lose myself in them, I show more of myself or more of them is relatively unimportant to me."
    I do not feel this oneness is deeper. The obvious is the last thing we see. Plain sight is the best of all hiding places, and the surface is its source. I think Fred is approaching one-ness in his own way. There are innumerable ways to do this, none inherently superior to the others. Nor is it de rigueur to excellence in portraiture. I did not decide to better my photography by fusing with my subjects/scenes. It just became part of my approach.
    I hope it is clear that nowhere have I recommended it to anyone, nor have I mentioned that it improved my photography. Approaches, specially philosophical ones applied to art, are highly personal, something one has to try out for themselves to see if it synergizes or works at all with one's psychic energies at the moment.
    Like buying underwear.
     
  43. "Like buying underwear." --Luis​
    Yes, but that suggests the most important philosophical question of all: boxers or briefs?
     
  44. jtk

    jtk

    Mr. Camus must be irritated to have been summoned here in error from his dusty, scholastic crypt.
    Minor White was a photo teacher and poet far more than philosopher. His famous and conflicted practices (zen and Gurdjieff) only peripherally suggest philosophies: they're disciplines that one may or may not embrace. Their value seems to me to spring from their embrace, not from interpretations that we may try to extract. They don't live in words.
    Minor's students came to Rochester (why Rochester of all places...how could that have related?) to study photography. They didn't come for philosophy or mysticism, they came for photo instruction. A professor, White taught, wrote, experimented with, and engaged in photography. To turn him into a philosopher or to summarize him with selected quotations misses the point, just as it does with Avedon.
    Avedon's work tells the tale, and that work is famous. White's work tells his tale too: primarily in the lives and careers of his students.
     
  45. Fred, of course I am happy again to disagree with you. I am quite glad that you always have a different view or such a strong need to reformulate things, otherwise it would be quite dull to debate here only with yea-sayers.
    Consider being on that clichéd "Desert Isle" and being allowed to take with you either a painting or photo, or a chosen written text. Perhaps my mind needs the profound challenging that a great text can provide (and all the consequent personal thought processes and avenues of exploration that a great text will provide me during its reading), that no image can sustain longly or challenge me to the same degree. There is infinitely more in the written words than an image can communicate. It's not the fault of photography or other purely visual media, but a consequence of how humans communicate most effectively and profoundly with each other. No contest at all. Sorry, photography, because I really do love you and how you stimulate me.
     
  46. Arthur, I think it's apples and oranges on this secondary topic you have raised. Particularly when it concerns your original assertion about communicating more about the author.
     
  47. Luis, even after re-reading my various posts in this O.P. I cannot find what at all you are apparently referring to. Perhaps it takes more than one or two more lines than what you have provided to precise?
     
  48. Sorry, Arthur, I should have quoted you directly.
    Original assertion: "Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Apr 24, 2011; 09:18 a.m. "Painting or photography can never divulge as much about the author as words or writing....." [Italics mine]
    Second:Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Apr 24, 2011; 03:49 p.m.
    "There is infinitely more in the written words than an image can communicate..."
    Those are two different things.
     
  49. Avedon's work is famous, but so are many of his subjects. Annie Liebowitz's work is also famous. Doesn't make it
    good, necessarily. There is a wonderful discussion of the portraitist's interaction with his/her subject in Geoff Dyer's
    book, The Ongoing Moment. Getting the actor to act, and according to a certain undeclared script, is one of the
    methods of Avedon. Dyer spends more time analyzing the various photographs of Strand by Stieglitz and Stieglitz by
    Strand, seeing what those portraits say at that moment and even what they prefigure of the subject's later life. One of
    Dyer's fascinations is with the picture of the blind man through the history of photography, and how Borges defeated
    Avedon and it was Diane Arbus who took the greater photo of him.

    I don't think the shade of Camus would have been sorry to have been disturbed. His name got many of us here, and
    what other thread on photo.net would have been worth his visit? Photographed by HCB, driving a Facel Vega, he
    probably had his own Leica.
     
  50. "Painting or photography can never divulge as much about the author as words or writing....." (Italics mine .... Luis)
    If I was not accurate enough in my writing, Luis, I apologize for the apparent confusion, but what I was saying in somewhat truncated style can be alternatively stated with perhaps more clarity as :
    “Painting or photography can never divulge as much about their authors as texts of words or writing can divulge of their authors …. (followed by the rest of the original sentence)…”
    That is quite consistent with my other sentence that compares photography to writing arts:
    “There is infinitely more in the written words than an image can communicate..."
     
  51. Arthur, thank you, but I still think it's apples and oranges. Then there's the question of how much text in relation to how many photographs.
    ____________________________________________________
    Here's an interesting little essay on oneness:
    http://www.sfms.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=1369&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&SECTION=Article_Archives
     
  52. Arthur, I specifically avoided reformulating anything you said. I simply said, as Luis has reasserted, that comparing an author's writings to a photographer's photos in terms of what they may convey or reveal about them is comparing apples to oranges and that I had a different take on the matter. I'm sorry that ruffles your feathers or glad you find it stimulating as opposed to yea-saying, whichever is the case.
     
  53. Richard G - "Avedon's work is famous, but so are many of his subjects. Annie Liebowitz's work is also famous. Doesn't make it good, necessarily"
    Richard, are you intimating that the subject's fame makes the portraitist famous?
     
  54. Ruffling feathers only happens in the chicken shack of the barn yard, Fred. If I had any to ruffle I guess I would be there rather than speaking to photography or philosophy.
    Luis and yourself may well believe that photography is a more powerful tool of communication than the pen, which is what you seem to be maintaining in contrast to my thoughts. I accept the limitations as well as the force of the image, but you may well find some others who agree with your viewpoint.
     
  55. Arthur, I (like many others here) practice both. You misunderstand. I am not siding with either as more powerful than the other. Only saying they're different to a degree that makes a "stronger than" comparison meaningless.
     
  56. Luis, that portraitist might be more famous for his subjects, as might any portraitist with famous subjects, if he can get
    them. I just don't have sympathy for the approach of either of those celebrity photographers.
     
  57. Richard,
    I think your comment, although not detailed, reflects the Australian character of independence from the congegation of worshippers that seems to prevail in the North American art world. I have learned a fair amount from watching Avedon's approach and at least something from Liebowitz, which is good for me, but they represent past photographic approaches and I would much rather be concerned with new artists and what they bring to the table, and not just those from my own continent which seem to be a significant part of the horizon of many in this forum or are attached to the omnipresent and rather unfullfilling connection to the celebrity world (what Camus would probably with some scorn refer to as easy pleasures, a condition for an unfulfilled personal subjective life). I assure you that it is not out of envy for some past masters that I say that, which I feel may be your position as well, but simply out of a curiosity and interest in the evolving art that is not bound up in some standard 101 course textbook. A preoccupation with man rather than celebrities may be a good starting point.
     
  58. Richard, the thing is that celebrities end up being photographed by hordes of photographers, of which only a tiny handful (literally) end up being respected in art circles (as opposed to the glamosphere). While there is truth in what Arthur says, do not for one second make the mistake of thinking that is all there is.
     
  59. Avedon hardly only photographed celebrities, so it wouldn't be fair to view the value of his work only on that of celibrities. Its value is an essentially photographic one. And of the celebrities he did shoot, I wouldn't recognize half of them as such ( except for knowing that he did shoot them ) , if any at all. So it doesn't affect me as a viewer. But I was more impressed with the - non formulaic seeming - iconic photographic advertisement craft in Hiro's work, a once assistant of Avedon, when I saw some of Hiro's photographs along with Avedon and Irving Penn.
    Hiro is little known now and didn't become quite as big a name as Avedon and Penn, though with an equal talent.
     
  60. Thanks Arthur - I hope it's not just arrogance or ignorance. Luis makes a fair point, of course. I do like some
    photographs of Avedon very much, but just not those studio portraits. Even when they're good, like one of Audrey
    Hepburn looking off to her left, full of apprehension, in the context of the others I still end up questioning what I am
    seeing and why. It is a method, and it yields interesting results. I am reminded of some interviewers who need to
    discomfit their guest to reveal something and get a scalp as it were. Despite being a long time admirer of Nastassija
    Kinski I cannot even warm to that shot with the snake. I am not against artifice necessarily, and some of the very
    contrived photographs by Arnold Newman for example, work very well, especially the Piet Mondrian portrait. And yet,
    looking at it again just now, he is rather hung on that easle in more than one sense. I keep coming back to Cartier-Bresson. He has no style that is discernible. There has to be bias in what he does, but he is not forcing the issue. I
    have always found the profile of Pierre Bonnard, hands clasped in front of him, very touching, and many of the others.
    I gain an insight, rather than escape an uncomfortable encounter.
     
  61. Camus walks into a brasserie and asks for a coffee, no cream.
    The waitress takes the order and walks away.
    She comes back shortly thereafter and says, "I'm sorry. We're out of cream. Would you like it without milk
    instead?"
     
  62. Interesting examples and final point about forcing an issue or not, Richard. Thanks. I don't know much of Natassija's screen acting, but I kind of liked the snake photo, if only for its theatrical and compositiional audaciousness and the counterpoint or complicity beteween the snake's curves and the form of the pretty young woman. I am not a dedicated viewer of portraiture but I think there is something in the question of not forcing the composition and effect of a portrait, as it often masks the personality or character of the portrait subject in deference to the photographer's perception of his subject or his desire to develop a bit of visual fantasy with his subject. The latter effects can still be very powerful and entertaining visually, while not necessarily adding much to the image. Newman's special lighting of Mr. Krupp in his factory is what Newnman saw in his subject, but not what his subject saw (and apparently tried to suppress), although a historical viewpoint, especially one of the allies, would likely side with Newman. The well-known example of Karsh yanking the cigar from the mouth of Mr. Churchill ("excuse me, sir") provided the characteristic bulldog type defiance that the photographer wanted. H.C-B would likely have had a different take, perhaps one with Churchill walking a domestic animal or painting one of his landscapes. Each can be revealing of the person, and I think as long as the exaggeration is controlled and not allowed to distort the real person's identity.
    I agree with what Luis said about the diffrerence between glamosphere portraits and those made by peoole like Avedon, Penn, Sanders, Brown, Beaton and others.
     
  63. Jeff, your story, funny as it is, must have been made up somewhere far away.
    Where Camus comes from or lived, "Coffee" is black like the deep night, where nights are black (un petit noir - "a small black" - or expresso, caoua) just like in Italy or the Arab and African world, where it comes from (Yemen). If you want a drink with cream or milk (hot) it is called, rightly, something else. Camus was born in Algeria.
     
  64. The point of, to be the subject idea, was to apply a disciplined imagination (I'm only guessing from forty years out and post-modernism PTS that Camus - the un-dead in my head - was talking about standpoint theory.) outside one's self to achieve a more involving if not more accurate understanding of the subject. I don't see it as a method to attain more empathy, necessarily. I agree with Luis and others that photographs are the artist's interpretation for the artist's purposes.
    My instructor also emphasized the importance of sequence. That is definitely from White. Expecting a comprehensive rendering of a subject is often too much of a burden for one image or one photographer. White said he switched media (writing ) not method when he took up photography. That was not an assertion that photographs are a kind of literature. I agree with Arthur - take a book not a picture to the desert island. White looked for mysteries only photographs revealed in his subjects and himself. John K.: I don't know any more about the photographs of the "masked" actors. I'd love to see the pics. The concept was less of a conundrum to him than to us, I'm sure. Method portrait photography - big business in Hollywood!
    Portraitists typically seek to present an aspect of the subject that only appears to present a whole human being, part of a publicity kit and an art in itself. All parties are more happy for that! Karsh is an egregious example with his beatific politicians and other celebrities. Something like Arnold Newman's imaginative approach is more satisfying to me. For In the American West Avedon and his crew traveled around looking for "types" on which to apply his unique method which was - seeming disinterest in the individual - celebrity or not! He had little interest in them beyond his personal artistic expression. For that he rightly is an important portrait artist.
     
  65. The point of, to be the subject idea, was to apply a disciplined imagination (I'm only guessing from forty years out and post-modernism PTS that Camus - the un-dead in my head - was talking about standpoint theory.) outside one's self to achieve a more involving if not more accurate understanding of the subject.​
    Why the need to be outside your self if you aim to be the subject. Being the subject follows that the subject is in your self and that you are the subject, because you can't be the subject without you, just like the subject can't be you without the subject. Not awareness, but the experience of awareness.
    ( this does make sense if you concentrate on the hole, not the donut ! )
     
  66. "Portraitists typically seek to present an aspect of the subject that only appears to present a whole human being" --Alan​
    I haven't found this to be the case, either as photographer or as viewer. I don't think many good photographers convince themselves that they are presenting anything like a "whole human being." Actually, there probably is no such thing to present anyway . . . no whole human being to be found in photographs. Just parts, perspectives, angles, GLIMPSES!
    ___________________________________
    As for the strange book/picture dichotomy, it really depends who's doing the taking and for what purpose. I recently spent a week in Florida with my father and several of his octogenarian friends. Their eyes aren't great anymore and, though all of them used to read, they tend not to anymore. They seem to surround themselves with photos. Most people I've visited who are dying in hospitals want a couple of significant pictures on the walls or the bedside table they can meditate on, not books. So if you're going to die on that desert island, which will presumably happen, a book might at some point become a complete loss. I'm not sure a nice family photo wouldn't be the thing I'd choose to be alone with on the desert island. Hope I never have to choose, unless it's for a week or two.
    Now, up until dying, it's a crap shoot. But I do think about the qualities of pictures as opposed to those of the written word. I think falling asleep at night looking at a favorite photo or painting of mine would fill a very different kind of need than reading from a book.
    Diff'rent strokes.
     
  67. I'm not distracted by the celebrity of famous people in portraits of famous people. That's what they are. If they're good portraits, the status of the subject won't negate the good work. Leni Reifenstahl handled Hitler pretty well. I don't judge her based on what I thought of Hitler though I do judge her based on who Hitler was and how she portrayed him. An integration of subject and photograph takes place, no? A good portrait will make me care about the subject of the portrait. A good celebrity portrait can say something about celebrity, acting, modeling, posing, gesturing.
    Subject matter is important. But . . . Is a Blossfeldt just a photo of a flower, an Adams just a photo of a tree, an Eggleston just a photo of a light bulb? Do we reduce Avedon or Leibovitz to "celebrity photographer" so we can package them neatly for ourselves and dismiss them? Or do we actually look at what they're doing and with whom they're doing it. Johnny Depp may turn you off, but seen in Leibovitz's hands, he's more than Johnny Depp. Then take another look at William Burroughs.
     
  68. Personally, when talking about celebrity portraits, I have always been attached to the portraits of Gisèle Freund who died in 2000, when it comes to expressing the intellectual force of intellectuals such as: André Malraux, Walter Benjamin, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite_Yourcenar or Frida Kaldo/ Diego Rivera or why not Camus. Such portraits are artistic prolongation of reading and appreciating great artist and writers. Mostly such portraits are often either just shuts-of-known-people or integrated parts of marketing efforts.
     
  69. Her portraits of British, French, Mexican, South American and German artists and intellectuals, while hardly what one can call technical "tours de force", have a naturalness that seems to get you closer to the subject, rather than exist in large part as some artistic statement of the photographer. Somewhat like some of the portraits of Sanders and Eugene Smith. She circulated amongst many of her subjects, and this may have incited that ease of approach.
     
  70. There are portraits showing how a celebrity -- perhaps we can consider Judy Garland more than that as well -- can look photographed. (I believe the photographer is Milton Greene.)
    Image-making can be a collaboration between photographer and star to create or continue a persona. A well-conceived and well-executed persona is often more honest and more intriguing than a search for truth within a subject. There may be a different kind of draw to such created drama.
     
  71. Interesting. Contrast the glitz of the Garland image (a photographer's "artistic achievement" if you like) with the naturalness of the Frida/Diego portrait, or the simple strength of that of France's first woman member of the "Academie", Madame Yourcenar. A totally different cultural (or marketing) approach to portraiture.
     
  72. I think the Garland image is one she also helped create. In that sense it is a collaboration. It's no more marketing than so-called naturalness, which in some instances is simply void of personality and merely uninteresting. Many mundane snapshots and lousy photos are "natural." When I look at the photo of Garland, I see more than glitz. I see a dramatic engagement.
     
  73. From the Modernist era Germaine Krull's work stands out for me. I love its unbridled rawness.
    (NSFW NOT SAFE FOR WORK]
    http://www.amadelio.org/volumes_entries/fine_art_directory/germaine_krull_fine_art.html
    ___________________________________
    Judy Garland's portraits are a wonderful longitudinal study of her -- and of celeb portrait trends in the US -- and in different types of studios. The sample provided by Fred is a classic.
    From the 1930's:
    http://www.thejudyroom.com/gallery/portraits/portraits1930s.html
    1940's
    http://www.thejudyroom.com/gallery/portraits/portraits1940s.html
    50's & 60's
    http://www.thejudyroom.com/gallery/portraits/portraits50s60s.html
    _______________________________________
    If I can take a photograph of my choice for every thousand words of a chosen book to a desert island...I'd personally take the pictures. Though, once again, I believe this to be an apples/oranges comparison.
    __________________________________________
    ...and there are great portraitists who did not photograph celebrities, hard to access sub-groups or beautiful nudes. They photographed common, every day people and are therefore much lesser-known...
    Seydou Keita from Mali is a great example.
    http://www.seydoukeitaphotographer.com/#3
    Or Disfarmer from Arkansas USA.
    http://www.disfarmer.com/
     
  74. "rawness" --Luis​
    Yes. Something I find often more intriguing and harder to achieve than "naturalness."
     
  75. It may be my reaction to Karsh and some others, including even the two latter photographers linked to us by Luis, but I feel that the over-obsession with portrait lighting is one of the things that "robs a portrait of its naturalness and the sitter of his self." Naturalness is simply an aid I think to letting the sitter evolve as his or her self.
    I am sure there are some exceptions to this, somewhere, but the zealous use of lighting is for me is too often a handicap, a cliché, and this is exactly what I meant by "glitz".
     
  76. Fred G.- I should have said they know how to a achieve an agreeable approximation of the complete person knowing it is impossible. This idea could be further explored in cases where proof sheets are available. Which frame? We might have a look under the veneer of a celebs's public face. Poor Judy! Poor Marilyn! Would we choose the same images today from our own family portrait proofs? My guess is not.
    I fully agree with you now about pictures being the exact last thing we'd want to see. I remember collecting my dad's bulletin board snaps. Now I'm thinking about which pictures I'd take before heading off to the desert island!
     
  77. Many mundane snapshots and lousy photos are "natural".​
    Obviously, but no-one seem to me to be referring to such shots.
    When "natural" might be a good term for this something that makes a portrait stand out as of special quality, it is maybe because the person in question is, seemly, neither posing nor being imposed a look by the photographer. The portraits of Freund are in my opinion of that special quality.
     
  78. Alan, good question about which proof we might choose from the family proofs. And it might be that Judy's daughters would choose differently from Judy's fans. Those of us who know her more by her on-screen and off-screen persona might just choose one that's familiar, because there would be a certain honest reality in that for us. Her family might well choose differently because of the Judy they got to know. Which is Judy's real self is a question I wouldn't ask and wouldn't want to have to answer.
    __________________________________
    Arthur's notion of the sitter evolving as his or her self fits this discussion well. I've said before and will repeat here that I think the "self" is mostly a flawed notion, especially when it's seen as autonomous rather than social. The topic of this thread, being about the photographer as subject and having already moved in the direction of at-oneness of photographer and subject, can shed some light on this self of the sitter. That self, I think, is not somehow cut off from the photographer. It is in part the photographer, just as all our selves are in part the others who encounter us and add vitality to our lives. We see and are seen and that is part of who we are. And who we are seen by and how we are seen is part of that self, especially that self as found in a photograph.
    The self is neither a container nor is it contained.
    I prefer to think of people and subjects of portraits as parts of interrelated and overlapping webs, not as discrete entities. Lighting is a photographic tool, the counterpart to a dramatic hand or body gesture or a gentle smile. Whose light it is, whose smile, whose gesture, whose expression often is a hard and even misleading question to ask and answer. The photographer's? The sitter's? The viewers? Perhaps these things just are or become . . . and are not owned by any individual party. We each participate in them.
     
  79. I prefer to think of people and subjects of portraits as parts of interrelated and overlapping webs, not as discrete entities.​
    It is Fred's full right to prefer whatever he likes, but sometimes, and for some, they are also discrete entities.
     
  80. Fred - "I think the "self" is mostly a flawed notion, especially when it's seen as autonomous rather than social."
    I would lean towards the word 'relational' more than social, but otherwise agree.
    ___________________________________________________
    Anders - "It is Fred's full right to prefer whatever he likes, but sometimes, and for some, they are also discrete entities."
    I think we can agree that it depends on the level of resolution, type of analysis we are looking at or using, and philosophical approach. We choose what's convenient at the moment. I read Anders' words, and can think of him as a discrete entity, yet he is simultaneously a mobile node in a series of systems and exchanges (energy/food, linguistic, cultural, etc), and an aggregate of innumerable smaller entities and chain-mail cascades of short neurological loops masquerading as the singular "Anders" we know. One malfunctioning hormonal organ and "we" are gone.
    Look at this objectively for a moment, remove the delusion of free will, and Fred's POV becomes readily apparent. I remember an analysis of ecosystems strictly in terms of energy exchanges (and the higher food-chain links as energy sinks) about three decades plus ago. It was a revelation to see a familiar concept in an entirely different framework.
     
  81. "I would lean towards the word 'relational' more than social, but otherwise agree." --Luis​
    Luis, I would too. Though there are significant social aspects of "selves", I was immediately unsatisfied with "social" but couldn't put my finger on "relational" when I wrote. "Relational" is a better qualifier in this case. Thanks.
     
  82. The main point, of course, is not to abstractly dissect the idea of self but to understand what it is a portrait may be trying to show. That a portrait is capable of showing (only) the self of the sitter untainted by the photographer's so-called imposition (perhaps a less loaded term would be "influence" or "perspective" though I personally have no problem with potrait photographers who impose upon their photographs) is questionable given that it takes two to tango. And even a self portrait has imposed characteristics.
    I don't find "natural" portraits or portraits lacking pose or the imprint of the photographer any more special than very deliberate and/or staged portraits. Posing and gesture are tools of photographic character and such character is authentically a part of portraiture.
     
  83. I think Fred makes a good point about the celebrity shots, a portrait of someone known is a photograph showing what
    that person looks like photographed. Apparently Mahler was recognized in the streets of Vienna and fame back then
    was something altogether different to what it is now. An interesting corollary is what a famous person looks like in the
    flesh. Ana ivanovic is much taller than expected from seeing her playing tennis on TV. I have seen scores of people
    file past one of our soon-to-be prime ministers, a man already on TV all the time, and no-one recognized him.
     

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