body of work

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jtk, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. jtk

    jtk

    Seems to me that a photographers' work is only appreciated (or evaluated) by a large body of work, not by (for example) a mere dozen individual images, certainly not by her/his "best" few.
    "Richard Avedon Portraits" convinced me of that again yesterday : 27 full-8X10 contact-print size portraits in a Japanese-style book.
    I've owned it for months, not understanding why it was Japanese-style until the lightning struck ...I unfolded it on the floor (well over 20 feet long on each side). It's a treasure, an entire exhibition, beautifully printed. And this is only one slice of his work, doesn't include fashion, West, politicians, or the insane (as in his book with James Baldwin).
    http://www.amazon.com/Richard-Avedon-Portraits-Morris-Hambourg/dp/0810935406
    http://www.metmuseum.org/special/Richard_Avedon/portraits_images.htm
    Here's Christina Garcia Rodero's body of work (part of it) in another format. Humbling. :
    http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/between-heaven-and-earth
    I've got thousands of slides, a hundred good soon-to-be-burned wet-darkroom prints, books of tear sheets, but all I care about is the recent stuff, maybe a cat's paw into a future body of work...or maybe the future will just be more scattered images. The only thing I know about them is that the images won't be significant until/unless I've printed them to my satisfaction because their significance (for me, not for Rodero or Avedon or you, necessarily) has to do with being made by my own hands (the craft) and shared.
    Are a few images worthwhile as depictions of your work? How many?
    Are you consciously developing (focused on, working within) your own "body of work?"
     
  2. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 17, 2010; 02:30 p.m.
    Seems to me that a photographers' work is only appreciated (or evaluated) by a large body of work, not by (for example) a mere dozen individual images, certainly not by her/his "best" few.
    John, I agree. This is America, where more HAS to be better, it's the law, ya know...........
    Are a few images worthwhile as depictions of your work? How many?
    Yes, a few images should represent my body of work. Perhaps two dozen should do it.
    Are you consciously developing (focused on, working within) your own "body of work?"
    No, not consciously. I try to shoot a proper photograph, and it should, by definition, fit into my "body of work" by default.
    Bill P.
     
  3. Every shot is part of the "BoW" it's only a question of merit - does it belong among the others?
    I wonder if comparing a photo essay (designed and executed as such)- with singular images is valid?
    Certainly the singular image can stand alone - while a composite of singular images become a "BoW" I believe it's simply who you are. You can't control the output if your shooting from your gut.
    Many photogs strive purposely for their "style" their "look" when to my mind it's there all the time waiting for the shooter to get out of the way.
    Don't destroy the history- your history - it will become important one day and your feel great pain.
     
  4. Gary Peck , Jan 17, 2010; 03:08 p.m.
    Many photogs strive purposely for their "style" their "look" when to my mind it's there all the time waiting for the shooter to get out of the way.
    Great advice for shooters of all levels.
    Don't destroy the history- your history - it will become important one day and your feel great pain.
    Important lesson.
    Bill P.
     
  5. Great topic, John. Thanks for introducing it.
    "Are you consciously developing (focused on, working within) your own 'body of work?' "
    --John Kelly
    I am now. I don't think I did when I first started.
    When I began photographing, I put more stock in getting a "good" photo, was more results rather than process oriented, more singularly occupied, a masterpiece mentality.
    As I noticed a body of work developing, I paid attention to that and it affected my shooting, feeling, thinking, choice of subjects, perspectives, lots of stuff.
    I'm almost done with my documentary slide shows from the special needs community. Several good individual photos didn't make the slide shows because they didn't adequately contribute to the feel of what I wanted to present, as a series.
    I think I get more something different of the body of my personal work than the individual photos. I think someone looking at my portfolio will also get something different from just looking at a couple of individual photos. I think individual photos taken in context will feel differently and express somewhat differently from individual photos seen in isolation.
    The individual photo, of course, has great power. I think many -- many of mine included -- stand well on their own and have a lot to offer as individuals. (It's another case where it's not an either/or matter. It's a matter of a variety of perspectives from which to see and experience photos.)
    I mostly share images on line and I'm happy with that, for the most part. I'm excited about working on my own web site because I'll have more control over the viewing context, background color, presentation, what else may be on the page.
    So, I'd like to add presentation to body of work, two very significant contextual players in the photographic experience.
    Also, a word about developing a body of work, and about learning. One of the comments I frequently get is that someone would prefer to see one of my color photos in b/w. I've done several color photos that I think would be more "impressive" or more "attention-grabbing" in b/w. That's not always my goal. And my goal is also not always to make the "best" photo in each instance. With color, in particular, I am trying to develop my own way, my own usage, my own visualization. I will choose to photograph in color as a step in my process very often knowingly sacrificing the "better" photo that b/w might yield. I can do that because I have my eye on a different prize than the necessity to make masterpieces. It's a desire to develop an ability to express myself with a personal approach that requires experimentation and "failure" (in terms of individual pieces) in order to create. In that respect, I find seeing the forest for the trees significant.
    I'm not judgmental about those, myself included at certain times and stages, who consciously develop a style.
     
  6. What will define my body of work is an on-going process and may well not be similar to my past approaches. About a decade ago I ceased entering photo salons and competitions in our city and those elsewhere, because I felt that I had both contributed to (as judge or participant) and learned sufficient from them to want to move along into other spheres. I guess that I had an approach then or small body of work that was identifiable. Other photographers would see the hundreds of images shown before the judges and when the final 15 or so images were placed anonymously before the judges for final comment some of those photographers could generally pick out quite well my images (they did not always make that journey).
    More recently, a critique from one of the local film, art and photography magazines came to a show of my B&W work and provided an analysis of the body of images. He noted a theme that pervaded the images (in his words, translated roughly from French, one of his various comments was "the photographer has an ability to deconstruct what he sees in (or what is in) nature and to recompose it in a poetic manner into his images"), which more or less was consistent with what I believe I was attempting to do at that time.
    I believe a body of work is what really defines the photographer or any other visual artist. As others have said, some individual pieces can soar above the body of work, but they are often tied to the photographer's philosophy and approach that results in the body of work. I am presently working on a theme called "traces" (of human activity), a fairly common title, but it is too early for me to fully understand what motivates me, to fully explore the posibilities and to see much of what I eventually want to achieve. That theme and body of work may or may not continue, depending upon my satisfaction with own progress. I worked on another body of work a few years ago entitled "1608, re-visited", in which I tried to put myself in the head of a well-known European explorer and what he felt on his travels in the new land. I haven't given up on that body of work, but it hasn't yet progressed as I had hoped it would, so my inspiration has turned for the present to other and different themes.
    Style means less to me than the importance of the visual communication I can achieve, and what I am trying to communicate. That others previously denoted a certain style or particular visual pre-occupation in my former work is fine, but that consideration usually only occupies a superficial plane in my personal approach, not the real intent. I am not always conscious of my themes (whether defined by personal creative dispositions or external pulls on me) when making a particular image, but I have found that indvidual images often fit well into the body of work that I am producing at that time.
     
  7. question and response and response:
    John- "Seems to me that a photographers' work is only appreciated (or evaluated) by a large body of work, not by (for example) a mere dozen individual images, certainly not by her/his "best" few."
    William- "John, I agree. This is America, where more HAS to be better, it's the law, ya know..........."
    John and William- Of course a body of work has greater value- and not just in America. As we commonly see here on PN, anyone can shoot great pictures every once in a while- that doesn't make them a great photographer. Consistency and commitment to the medium are more highly regarded. This doesn't just go for photography though. Any restaurant, sports team, composer, writer, accountant, plumber- everything pretty much- everything where quality is a concern is based upon consistency of technique and product. Its nice to have shining moments, but a body of work is a better gauge of the persons true talents.
     
  8. Martin Sobey , Jan 17, 2010; 05:43 p.m.
    question and response and response:
    John- "Seems to me that a photographers' work is only appreciated (or evaluated) by a large body of work, not by (for example) a mere dozen individual images, certainly not by her/his "best" few."
    William- "John, I agree. This is America, where more HAS to be better, it's the law, ya know..........."
    Martin, I was commenting on the word "large". The sheer volume of work, good, bad or indifferent, doesn't tell me anything. Show me 10 great photos out of 10 taken, and that's great. Show me 10,000 out of 10,000 and I'll show you someone who needs a life. Like I said, this is America, where having five cars must mean you're worth having five cars. And on, and on, and on.............................
    As we commonly see here on PN, anyone can shoot great pictures every once in a while- that doesn't make them a great photographer.
    That's why I appreciate 10 out of 10. If I see 10 out of 100, I'm seeing some lucky shots, that's all.
    Bill P.
     
  9. Bill-
    I agree, 10 out of 10 would be nice, but that still doesn't really constitute a true body of work. It does, but small- more like a story. If we were talking about painting, we'd say 10 was a body of work, but photography is too easily accessible to qualify 10 a total body of work. I can see where 10 photographs that are extremely difficult to produce, or has very special circumstances.... I'm really playing devil's advocate. I, like many, would love to show my best 10 and leave it at that, but its just not enough. And as for bigger being soley American, it isn't. The standard of more photographs creating a body of work is universal. I'm not referring to your 10,000 images, but 50-100 is pretty solid. Keep in mind we also talking about professional photographers vs. anyone else. Professionals should have larger bodies of work- its their job to make photographs.
     
  10. Martin/Bill, How do you view your own bodies of work differently from viewing various of your individual photos? When you are creating an individual photo, does your "body of work" come into play at all, have any influence? Do you work with themes from one photo to the next or think of each photo as individual? Is it an either/or matter or does some amount of both come into play. If there are thematic or visual or stylistic ties among individual photographs you make, can you talk about those? What are those about? Did they come about accidentally, intentionally?
     
  11. Fred: That "masterpiece" urge that you've backed away from on a per-image basis... do you find that it's simply moved over to the creation of the body of work, or did it simply go away? You mentioned presentation as an important (context-giving) element of presenting multiple works, but I suppose that - the way you're describing it - that contextualized collection is the work. Though it's multiple images, it's a piece of work?

    I can think of a novel as a masterly piece of work, though I might also linger on specific, especially wonderful paragraphs (or chapters, or even single word choices). Not trying to play semantic games - just curious if you find you've merely changed the scope of the masterpiece urge, or changed whether it's there at all.

    In my own modest little photographic world, I've realized that expressive, communicative works - for me - are going to turn out to be far more useful as collections, essays, or perhaps serially shown works meant for an audience that's aware of what came before. Just entertaining that notion completely changes how I think about some shooting, or whether to even do it.

    That said, I certainly wouldn't use the word "body" of work until I've been doing it for another twenty years. I guess I've cringed a couple too many times at sophomore art students referring to their oeuvre!
     
  12. Matt, food for thought. Thanks. When each photograph seems like part of a process or a continuing exploration (not that it is the case with all my photographs), I don't feel the tendency to think of the body of work as developing a masterpiece because the end result seems less important to me than the expressive process. That may be because time is much more stretched out over the development of the body of work. Also, for me, the goal is less obvious when it comes to the course of my work than when it comes to individual photos, though with individual photos there is plenty of room for spontaneity and forks in the road on the way to the completed screen image or print.
    I didn't mean to suggest that presentation is any more important to presenting multiple works than to presenting an individual work. Presentation is something we don't talk about that much and I think it is really crucial to the experience of a photo or a group of photos.
    "Though it's multiple images, it's a piece of work?" --Matt
    I find significant differences. Water running out of a faucet is water just like water sitting in a glass. I can call them both water, but "running water" and "still water" contained in a glass express different experiences for me. "Photo" and "body of work" express different kinds of experiences for me as well. I think there's a substantial difference between a piece of work and a collection of pieces of work. There are relationships among various works in a collection that I think are different from the internal relationships of elements in one work, though there are, of course, similarities as well.
    I also think we have to differentiate between a series, on the one hand, and a body of work, on the other. Because, in a series, I might well not consider each individual work a "complete" work in itself. So there, the analogy from individual photos in a series to various elements within a single photo might be more more interestingly applied. But when it comes to a body of work, there is more "completion" to each individual which would affect the interrelationships within the body. Probably, in a body of work, though relationships are significant, those relationships might be more emergent than with a series. With a series there is likely to be more intended and actual dependence by individuals on each other from the start.
     
  13. "I guess I've cringed a couple too many times at sophomore art students referring to their oeuvre!" (Matt)
    Therein lies the more general issue as well. As Matt says, twenty years is probably about right in defining what constitutes someones "body" of work or "oeuvre".
    This doesn't stop us from either being deterministic in our approach (recognizing of course that, that too is a moving target) or attempting to recognize and reconcile in our approach the more personal and anything elements of our photography.
    There is nothing wrong, I think, with attempting to not create a body of work but to achieve only some single or few images that are remarkable, that define what we are trying to achieve, or who we are and what want to communicate.
    I can think of some singer/composers who have made great individual works, but little else (I forget the name of the author, but "...Down on the Levy..." ("American Pie"?) and also Quebecker Georges Dor's essential romantic song "Manicougan", are two examples that come to mind, not to forget Bizet's only symphony (G. Bernard Shaw's favourite), but then he did also compose "Carmen").
    Fred, your point about a series versus a body of work is good. A series is often one thought manifested in fragments. A single work in fact.
     
  14. I don't determine a time frame to define a legitimate application of the term "body of work."
    I have a "body of work" and I've been photographing seriously for 6 years. I had a body of work after one year. It's more rich and more substantive now than it was after 1 year and I assume it will mature and evolve over the next ten. But my body of work as compared to my single images had the same considerations it did after 1 year as it will after 10 or 20. That I have a body of work doesn't mean I'm any good. One has to determine whether someone is using it to fluff themselves up or simply to describe something, but the term itself does not have the connotation of artificial fluff to me. I'm glad when I hear newcomers to photography or sophomore students taking themselves and their work (individually or as a body) seriously. Plenty of academics and photographers spin their wheels for 20 years and wind up with less compelling bodies of work (in my opinion) than young kids who've had a cell phone for a year or two. It may not seem fair, but it happens.
    My favorite example of having one stand-out with no other film-directing body of work is Charles Laughton: Night of the Hunter. The film certainly stands on its own merits regardless of whether it was a one-note wonder.
     
  15. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 18, 2010; 10:27 a.m.
    Martin/Bill, How do you view your own bodies of work differently from viewing various of your individual photos?
    Not really. I enjoy my individual photos, and where they fit into the body of work is where they fit. My body of work sorts itself out, it wasn't created as such, it just evolved.

    When you are creating an individual photo, does your "body of work" come into play at all, have any influence?
    No. Not to sound glib, but really, I see what I think is beautiful and I drop the shutter release. If I'm shooting a project, then I have an itinerary, and that's a different story.

    Do you work with themes from one photo to the next or think of each photo as individual?
    That's an interesting question, Fred. Looking at what I think is beautiful, I seem to have an attration to the Empire State building, Chrysler building, and how they fit into their environment (NYC). I'm not doing this consciously, which I find fascinating. Sunsets also interest me aesthetically.

    Is it an either/or matter or does some amount of both come into play. If there are thematic or visual or stylistic ties among individual photographs you make, can you talk about those?
    I shoot from the heart, without thinking about themes, connections, threads, collections, etc. So when you see my work, you're seeing what I think is pleasing to look at. After the fact, when all is said and done, there are obvious thematic elements in my work, but you're seeing my soul, not my photography. The photos are just the gateway.

    What are those about? Did they come about accidentally, intentionally?
    The themes just evolve unconsciously. There is nothing telling me to shoot tall buildings, dark alleyways, etc. They are not accidental, the intention is to shoot my version of beauty. The themes evolve by themselves.
    I am not trying to prove points, make statements, etc., although sometimes it seems that way with my love for the unretouched photo, but I want to present the honest view of what I see and feel, that's all.
    Fred, I hope I have shed some light on the questions you've presented. Since it's a holiday, I get to spend a bit more time addressing your thoughts.
    Bill P.
     
  16. Thanks, Bill. There's a lot you bring up about intention and consciousness that I would find worth pursuing in another thread, and someday I'm sure we will. But for the purposes of this thread, you've given us a great picture of how you view your process.
     
  17. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 18, 2010; 11:52 a.m.
    Thanks, Bill. There's a lot you bring up about intention and consciousness that I would find worth pursuing in another thread, and someday I'm sure we will.
    You're welcome, Fred, and I look forward to those topics, too.
    Bill P.
     
  18. I think that few well-known artists whom we have viewed in recent years have declared that they have a "body of work", unless thay have been compelled to do so for interviews (although declaring that is a rare desire for many of them) or on CVs sent to Art Councils or other funding agencies, or someone has described the ensemble of their work in that manner.
    It makes a nice "package" or "classifier", to describe what we are doing as our "body of work", we feel empowered by the thought and cited position. But to mean anything distinctive (as in different, unique or highly specific to us) I think that we must let the dust first settle.
    Quantitatively, a body of work may mean something. In a qualitative and not quantitative sense, a (unique or distinctive) body of work is I think often best recognized by the viewers, and not the artist or photographer, who is often concerned more (or simply) with his or her approach to (and why of) making images.
     
  19. I'm concerned with making photographs, with thinking about them, and with discussing them (among other things). Athur, if you want to concern yourself and judge others ("cited position") for how they refer to their collection of photographs, you are of course welcome to do so. I sometimes look to the photographs I have so far completed for further insights and stimulation in the continuing of my work. Sometimes, a new photo I take feels like the first one. Looking at my own body of work may well have to do with empowerment. Making photographs does empower me on many levels, yes. It also has to do with learning, utilizing context, understanding relationships, developing a voice, none of which I shy away from discussing for fear that others will completely misread my doing so. After a period of time and when the dust settles, yes, I will have a different and perhaps richer perspective on my body of work. That seems to me no reason not to discuss it now.
     
  20. Fred-
    I almost certainly shoot every photo for itself. That being said, we as photographers have the capacity to shoot many photographs in the same scenario to get the best results, per our desires. If I'm not just shooting from the hip, say with my iPhone or just walking and seeing something intriguing, I usually have some sort of agenda. I do, like most photographers, have several categories to potentially work with and always keep that in mind- but most of my shooting is done with specificity. My various bodies of work are definitely differing in style and theme. Sometimes they come up quite naturally with no intent in the beginning, just something overall that I wish to further explore. Other times they have been chosen- New York street photography in B&W in the year 2000, documentation of my street art (ongoing), abstract work. Some work of course is driven by the career as photographer, but that tends to drive a body of work in itself- you've got to have stories, themes, consistency and relevance. Of course some bodies of work accrue over time- like my photographs of my kids. I have known it from the start that these photographs would be a body of work, but you can't always see the long story, as changes continually, along with life.
    Arthur- "Quantitatively, a body of work may mean something. In a qualitative and not quantitative sense, a (unique or distinctive) body of work is I think often best recognized by the viewers, and not the artist or photographer, who is often concerned more (or simply) with his or her approach to (and why of) making images."
    Yes I think viewers can help to identify a theme- but I disagree that a photographer would be unaware of it or more concerned with their approach. Actually the photographer's approach to photography will guide their body of work and sometimes keep them on a track to creating a body of work, not just doing impassioned shooting. I don't think you are giving photographers enough credit here.
     
  21. jtk

    jtk

    I don't think selecting beautiful subjects and photographing them perfectly/beautifully qualifies as a photographer's own "body of work."
    The results seem too generic to be credited to an individual . No sense of origination.
    Photographed a Dan Flavin fluorescent tube sculpture at DIA Gallery in a novel way (from outside the building)..is it my photo or just a record of part of a famous artist's body of work?
    Watched a dozen photographers with max $$ DSLRs and studio-scale tripods photographing sunset cranes at Bosque del Apache (in New Mexico) recently. Bizarre mechanical-looking birds, exploding orange sky, the whole disaster. The photographers had made fine purchases and gotten themselves to the location in their RVs and SUVs, but the boids and weather own the images.
    I made gorgeous studio photos of oysters for a pharmaceutical company...I don't think the results were "mine," and not just because I was paid. They're in his tear sheets, but I'm not that guy anymore. Still, when I look at them I remember the pleasure of eating those oysters with the food stylist, drinking champaign with her...etc... so I'll keep the tear sheets, whether or not I think the images are relevant to my body of work.
    There's a fundamental apples/oranges difference between postcards/calendars/kiddie-snaps and the kind of photography I personally find interesting. But that's just me, a culture snob. I read lit and history, listen to Mingus, go to experimental theatre, posture in non-tourist galleries etc.
    Nothing wrong with this: Somebody does buy truck loads of postcards/calendars after all. And there's endless justification for kiddie snaps and vacation memories :)
    Incidentally, I don't understand treasuring old images unless they appeal to today's rendition of who we are as individuals, or to our families as we understand them in retrospect: I'm simply not that interested in who I was decades ago. When Georgia O'Keefe was asked, late in life, about her response to Stieglitz's images of her genitals, she said it didn't bother her because that wasn't her (anymore). Americans are said to be uniquely able to reinvent themselves...how about you? are you the same person you were a decade ago?
     
  22. John, are you consciously developing (focused on, working within) your own "body of work?" Or, if you're not doing so consciously, do you see something developing anyway? If so, what can you say about the body of work itself and some of the processes that may tie that body of work together?
     
  23. Fred,
    possibly you misunderstood what I was saying, about "body of work" versus one's personal approach or artistic approach (which eventually and hopefully defines a body of work that really characterizes our approach). I think we should be very much concerned with our personal and artistic approach to our work, which I enjoy discussing with others as much as I think you do, to have feedback, to explore different postulates or ideas. Quite often I provide examples for comment by others. If I get comments back, they can enrich and nourish my thoughts or cause me to reflect on my own development, or they can simply provide me a view that is different from and possibly incompatible with my own. Both are perfectly acceptable, of course.
    "Americans are said to be uniquely able to reinvent themselves." Of course, John, and to their credit, but it is a common trait among most thinking peoples. Thanks for your examples. I think also that in one of your examples, Georgia O'Keefe was simply saying that it was Stieglitz's choice, an appropriated one if that. And that art can represent anything we want it to.
     
  24. Martin,
    I agree with your points about body of work and personal approach, especially that the latter is what determines the former. Personal approach in art and photography is what determines the former, as you say, and I thought I was also alluding to.
    Personal approach, as I see it and feel it, is a fairly complex "equation", made up of artistic constructs, personal view of what is around us, subconscious actors on our conscious responses, what someone said to us within recent time, whether we accept the world passively or passionately, our philosophy, our relation to humans, our aesthetic sense, our challenges, our defeats, our "sanity" (I wish at some times that I could enjoy lack of sanity and witness the effect on seeing things), our values, and probably many other factors.
    It is the personal artistic approach that is important for me, rather than whether at any one time it corresponds or not to my body of work. We shouldn't forget that a body of work can also (in some cases) be an albatross on the freedom of the artistic spirit. I enjoy the freedom of not being categorised, of the fewest possible paradigms on my actions, until such time as my personal artistic approach (which is pardigm enough to deal with) is communicating what I wish it to. Now is a period of exploration.
     
  25. Arthur-
    I do agree about finding a that particular vein in which to explore further. I say "finding" because sometimes the idea, the moment of realization, hits us over the head only after doing so much various types of work before we can commit to a specific program. That is growth. I do think that many people, myself included (sometimes), choose their program, their subject from the sidelines. I have been involved in events that I felt were engaging and exciting and thusly took them on as subject, with objectives and style in mind. Sometimes these things happen and we just know it. Our experience tells us wether what we are trying to communicate is going to look better color or BW, grainy or smooth, small, medium or large format, framed or unframed, video or stills. Or, like I said, it creeps up slowly and hits you over the head. I think the most important aspect is continuing- working through the bugs and creating something. Your stylistic "albatross" is important. It is important to have freedom, and that itself can be a style, but there must be enough work and a great enough grasp of the medium to show that there is a reason for it. Otherwise, parameters can be healthy. I only say this because I personally take an approach firmly outside the "normal" zone of photography in my abstract work. In a few pictures it says something- in a body of work it illustrates it.
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    Fred G asked: "...are you consciously developing (focused on, working within) your own "body of work?" Or, if you're not doing so consciously, do you see something developing anyway? :
    Yes and no :) Whether or not I'm developing that body of work, I'm consciously exploring (to use Martin S's term), hope I always will, as intentionality is a big part of my personal discipline and the alternative is nowhere ... or falling and being unable to get up, ie photographing without intention. Luck is big, but it plays most usefully off intention...as raku' potters know.
    ...I'm intentionally exploring in three specific veins, as I have been consciously for the past two years. I virtually never have a camera with me unless I'm pursuing. I would have been incapable of naming the three veins six months ago, but have only recently realized what they are. They're all online.
    1) darkness and complexity ( photography is inherently a reductive process: it entails finding order selectively, using light to reduce darkness (ie exposure) ... this may already be overworked in a ham-handed way but I won't know until I print a suite of big prints.
    2) portraits of people to whom I've reached-out or who have reached out to me ...either acquaintances or strangers I've just approached, but not "candids," not "street" though perhaps in street environments (I explored potential for a later portrait in a locally famous Albuquerque restaurant this AM).
    3) depictions of seemingly emotionally-loaded situations that I have used some effort to find after it occurred to me that the effort might pay off in some fairly specific way (eg portraits of new former strangers or involving found phenomena).
    I've come to dislike having a camera near me when I don't anticipate 1/2/3, above. I don't want nice accidents. Next time I'm in Paris I'll be in trouble photographically unless I figure out how to talk with musicians or develop a need to make my own postcard/calendar photos.
    Arthur, Georgia O'Keefe was speaking in specifically existential terms when she said denied those Stieglitz photos were of herself...images made of that youthful body were in the most absolute sense not images of the Georgia O'Keefe in the interview, as far as she was concerned...that's my view as well.
    As well, the frequent, routine, and very specifically American "remake themselves" metaphor is used to distinguish us from natives of UK or other colonially involved, communist, or tribal societies.
     
  27. jtk

    jtk

  28. John Kelly , Jan 18, 2010; 01:06 p.m.
    I don't think selecting beautiful subjects and photographing them perfectly/beautifully qualifies as a photographer's own "body of work."
    My photographs originate from the visions placed in front of me. I capture those images. That is my body of work.
    The results seem too generic to be credited to an individual . No sense of origination.
    My photographs originate from inside of me. I select the vision. I capture the vision. It's totally personal and individual. That's as original as it gets.
    Origination. Originate. Original. Simple.
    Bill P.
     
  29. jtk

    jtk

    Bill P, I'm glad you're happy and that you find this such an interesting topic.
     
  30. John, very helpful post (the one at 3:58). That whole notion of exposure being a sort of initial darkness reduced by light is intriguing enough that I don't even want to say much about it, just let it percolate a while.
    Obviously, I can relate to your Number 2 quite well and very personally.
    I also appreciate hearing your Number 3 thoughts. For me, I will often look to find ways of engorging a situation with emotion through the act of photographing. So that I find myself bringing emotions to a lot of situations and creating photos out of those relationships. Sometimes it's my own emotions that find the subject. I sometimes find that the photographing itself can even create the emotions.
    Am I the same person I was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago? Yes and no. In many ways, the older I get, the less physically tied I feel to the 20-year old who could pee with a lot more force and look at his stomach and see a straight line, but the more I feel emotionally tied to my younger self. I do find a me, even though it's one whose nature it is to change.
    Hume talks about whether or not a boat is the same after decades. Imagine that plank by plank, each one of the planks has been replaced, new rudder, new everything over time. It's very hard not to think of it as the same boat, even though all or many of the physical and even conceptual elements have changed. But there are significant ways in which it is the same. It docks in the same spot, perhaps, is called by the same name, perhaps, fulfills the same purpose, perhaps. It's changed so slowly that, by the time we realize all the planks have changed there has been enough overlap among new planks and old, that the consistency is as strong as the difference.
    When I was back in New York recently, I spent an evening with a guy I haven't seen since Junior High School. Not sure I would have recognized him, but it was at a party and I knew he was going to be there. His voice gave him away more than anything. He's mellowed, changed a lot. Still the same guy, though.
     
  31. Tried to add to the last post, but didn't have enough time:
    Coincidentally, whether I'm the same or different and to what degrees I am ties in nicely with parts of my body of work.
     
  32. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 18, 2010; 05:47 p.m.
    Hume talks about whether or not a boat is the same after decades. Imagine that plank by plank, each one of the planks has been replaced, new rudder, new everything over time. It's very hard not to think of it as the same boat, even though all or many of the physical and even conceptual elements have changed.
    Fred, I'm sure you're aware that the entire human body replcaes itself, cell by cell, over fairly short periods of time. I think it's the essence of the boat, like the essence of Fred, or Bill, that's important.
    Bill P.
     
  33. jtk

    jtk

    ...actually, I suspect Fred has long known that there's no homunculus inside, messing with the machinery, having visions and snapping postcards. I suspect he knows he's fully responsible for his own images.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7BfNBj6hzs
     
  34. John's question about whether I'm the same or different over time is so significant to me because questions like it swirl around in my head when I take a lot of my photographs. Am I comparing myself and others to who or what we once were? Am I seeing us in the present, with less baggage? Can I do one or the other or is it on a continuum? Do those things make me sad, resigned, energized, forward-looking, back-leaning? How do they affect the people I photograph? What do those things look like.
    In addition to thinking about those questions, I feel them. Such musings and feelings guide me as if without thought and just through my gut, even at those times when I'm deliberate and intentional in expressing what I feel, through a photograph.
    Conscious and nonconscious, feeling and thought, spontaneity and deliberateness.
    What's significant to my idea of "self" (same self) is memory, experience, physicality, sensuality, sex, bodily functions, wisdom, weathering, betrayal, innocence, evolution, the other(s) in my life . . .
    The questions I bring to photography are for exploration and many of them can't be clearly answered. I make commitments. Any paradox here can sustain itself for me as a photographer.
     
  35. I think it's not so much the collection of photographs or works by itself that provide the very substance for a body of work but more the tying concept that each individual image as a photograph must give substance to, if they want to succeed as such individually as well as collectively, resulting in a body of work rather than a portfolio of "good" images or photographs.
     
  36. Phylo, great distinction.
    I like the idea of "tying" rather than "collection."
     
  37. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 19, 2010; 09:59 a.m.
    William, too simple for me.
    Fred, I enjoy the simplicity and spontaneity of it all. It's like when Timothy Leary says "Wow!". That's usually all I need.
    I've come full circle. I was born saying "Wow!", then I started to take it all WAY too seriously, now I've come back to "Wow!".
    That's not to imply that you or anyone else haven't come full circle, I'm just speaking for myself.
    Few will "get this, but I think you will.
    "Wow!"
    Bill P.
     
  38. John and all of you
    I read and don't write as it is harder expressing myself in a foreign language, but I think it is a very interesting/important question.I will try to write what is my point of view.
    I think that a body of work takes a long time to build, and is a long developing process with a lot of changes and an unending way of learning, trial and errors, accumulated life experiences, a long search for your own voice. I think that one work or a series of works (of mine) is not a good enough index( for me), even they can be very successful., but they can be a trigger to follow my way toward a substantial meaningful body of work.
    I think that even the best of artists, well known have acquired their name through the process/ way of their development. Richard Avedon was getting his name as a fashion photographer and his portraits were another/added change in his way as an artist.
    I do think that asking myself questions , printing many of my works ,trying to get real critique ,but most of it is being loyal to my inner truth and voice, gut feelings,not being afraid of failures ,admit them but seeing them as a way to grow. As human being we are subjects to changes mental and physical, but I think that one thing is not changing, is our inner need to express ourselves ,first and most for our own sake. Fame is not my aim, doing the best I can with my skills and persistence .
     
  39. Pnina,
    Very well said. Expressing ourselves for our own sake is a great guiding principal or approach, and you recognize also the need for real critiques while doing so. In my own case, which may be similar to yourself and others, my creativity goes in cycles, inbetween which I am either moribund or (hopefully) in a state of re-evaluation of my purpose and mental approaches. Any body of work is therefore in flux and can sometimes be dismissed by me, or integrated into a newer one.
    This progressive change and development is recognized by some presenters of work. Our local art museum has a program of acquisition of works of local artists, which differs from its more prominent determined program of art acquisition. For a photographer or artist to qualify for a personal submission, he or she must satisfy several criteria, one of which is that the work must be no older than five years.
     
  40. jtk

    jtk

    "Wow" doesn't even hint at Leary's life work or identity.
    It may however summarize what he was reduced to during his aging pop star phase .
    A Berkeley PhD, until fired for non-attendance he'd been a Harvard lecturer (not professor) who postulated something he identified as physiological brain rigidity. It may be relevant that his wife had committed suicide, and that he hated his work. He claimed LSD broke brain gridlock, and it did seem to scramble things for him personally. His only lucid work, to my knowledge, was published in Journal of General Semantics, edited by S.I. Hayakawa (later "Sleepy Sam," a Senator from CA).
    A psychedelic hobbiest (far from scientist), TL remained generally ignorant about the substantial research successes in physiological psychology in his era, as in EEG studies of alpha waves/meditation, sensory deprivation, sleep cycle studies (REM etc), the downside of pharmacological restraints in mental hospitals, scopalomine's role in schizophrenia etc .
    In grad school I met Ralph Metzner, one of Leary's formerly close Harvard associates, who was said to subsequently to be connected to US Army Intelligence (interested in LSD as a weapon). Metzner stated that Leary was brain damaged, had lost his mind to years of daily doses. Leary's other widely famous associate was Richard Alpert, invented later as "Baba Ram Dass " in order to hit the road peddling purported mystical experiences. One of Leary's groupies, perhaps one of the Mellon heirs who had supported him financially, lived after the breakup of Millbrook in a fine home among teepee-dwelling hippies outside Boonville, CA (they seemed to worship her for her osmotic connection to TL).
    speculative sidelight: After getting his BA in Alabama, Leary got an MA at Washington State University (central Washington: Alabama sans catfish...read Ken Keysey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" for an accurate description). Someone famously killed an elephant (central washington !) by massively dosing her with LSD on the basis of body weight (a pop-fantasy recommendation for LSD). I'm not sure Leary was an elephant-killer, but the timeframe may work :)
    Somehow it makes sense for Leary to be cited to promote "simple" photography :)
     
  41. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 19, 2010; 02:44 p.m.
    "Wow" doesn't even hint at Leary's life work or identity.
    I never said it did. "Wow" was his term, by the way.
    Bill P.
     
  42. John,
    Maybe I'm reading parts of your posts wrong, but do I understand correctly that to you, the body of work is/can be only a part of the total production of an artist? Removing older work because they do not have the same annotation anymore as when they were created? So, ultimately, it is you yourself who defines your body of work?
    If I read that correctly, I find that quite weird. Bill may come with a textbook definition, and some may find that too simple, but it does bring one major point forward: total or substantial output of an artist. Not a selected bit. The selected bit shows a selection, and "body" implies completeness, even if flawed.
    To me, it leaves out the development an artist has, and how can we think we understand the artist if we do not know his/her development? If you grow to dislike your older creations, that's OK, but they were made by you, and denying them as being a part of your production is denying the path you took to get where you are today. It's denying it took development, a gain of insights, skills, vision and knowledge. People who reinvent themselves change direction, not themselves. To me, it always sounds like a feeble attempt to take distance from the past, trying to hide that you needed growth to grow up. Shame for your own youthful mistakes even maybe. Doesn't work for me. Then again, if the self-reinvention is an American thing, I cannot do it anyway.
    I think the failed attempts determine more how the total body of work will develop itself, and as such may play a more significant role, than succesful attempts.
    And if I read it incorrect, then I will stand corrected soon enough.
     
  43. Arthur.
    Thanks. I think that it is a very nice tribute of the local museum and a nice push for serious local photographers /artist. A recognition.
    I know the feeling you are talking about , sometimes fulfilled and vs.....
    What helps me to continue is some successful feedback in the past year( 2009) ,in some countries in Europe (have found my work through PN....;-)) . So this is a blood infusion for the times of "moribund" and debt....
     
  44. Wouter Willemse [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 19, 2010; 03:09 p.m.
    Bill may come with a textbook definition, and some may find that too simple, but it does bring one major point forward: total or substantial output of an artist. Not a selected bit. The selected bit shows a selection, and "body" implies completeness, even if flawed.
    Wouter, I'm with you. The definition is simple, so is the concept. My body of work is everything I've done up to this point. If I start selecting my best work, then it's a selection from my body of work, not the complete body of work.
    Bill P.
     
  45. Wouter, your points about development ring a bell for me. I didn't at first see as much of a generic or universal relationship between one's personal identity (are we the same as we used to be) and this discussion about body of work, though I did at first relate my own feelings about self to my body of work. Something intriguing and new I'm getting out of the continuing discussion is precisely that relationship between any photographer's own personal and photographic development (self) and his or her body of work.
    The body of work is like a living entity because of that development.
    What exactly is the enhancement (?) that takes place when an individual work is seen as part of a development or collection? There is something about the very first, naive hearing of a piece of music or seeing a photograph for the first time, the way it seems to come out of nowhere and hit me in the gut, that can't often be reproduced on a second hearing or viewing. Nevertheless, the more I hear or see something I love, the more "depth" it often seems to have. I think they are two differing experiences, neither one competing with the other. There is something about being in the moment, about NOW being significant, but that coexists with the significance of the past and the continuous flux that got me here.
    I also think, Wouter, your mention of failed attempts has a lot of potential to build on. Some of my close calls (failed attempts) have had such a great impact on me. They seem to set the course of a challenge that informs my work for quite some time, sometimes in ways I can't even put my finger on. A friend and I call them "near misses." They are so often the ones where I have really stretched myself, taking a great stride, but not quite achieving what's there to be achieved. But it's those that excite me and that have usually come about by allowing myself to let go of just enough of my past (or, from another perspective, let me incorporate or build on my past enough) to take a liberated leap.
     
  46. jtk

    jtk

    "total or substantial output of an artist. Not a selected bit. " - an online neo-dictionary
    What happened to "substantial?"
    Do you really believe "artists" consider discarded work part of their "body of work?"
    You and Bill imagine that a photographer's body of work includes every frame of every film, every file, every embarassment, every vacation snap, every bad exposure, every kiddie pic, cornball "scenic" or postcard knockoff image of equal value... no erasing, no discarding, no editing. Astounding.
    Your tactic, echoing Bill P, consists entirely of a careless reading of an online dictionary-lite, as if it was an authority...attempting to redefine a common phrase (not a word) whose use among creative people (writers, photographers, artists) has traditional meaning.
    The definable term is "body," with "of work" as adjective. Use a real dictionary, if you own books, and you'll find a "substantial whole" as well as "trunk," as in trunk of tree or trunk of human, specifically excluding limbs. It specifically mentions that the "body" can be a "part."
    That you consider your rejects part of your body of work is fine with me. If you actually make photos I hope you don't print much, because space will become a problem, much like that of the old ladies who live with the bodies of hundreds of dead cats.
     
  47. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 19, 2010; 04:19 p.m.
    You and Bill imagine that a photographer's body of work includes every frame of every film, every file, every embarassment, every vacation snap, every bad exposure, every kiddie pic, cornball "scenic" or postcard knockoff image of equal value... no erasing, no discarding, no editing. Astounding.
    John, get over it. You know exactly what we're talking about and you insist on running everything into the ground.
    Your tactic, echoing Bill P, consists entirely of a careless reading of an online dictionary-lite, as if it was an authority...
    Actually, John, we all know that YOU are the authority here, and will correct us on everything from grammar usage, dictionary selection Timothy Leary facts, and who lives with dead cats and why.
    Bill P.
     
  48. John,
    too bad you're not very skilled at debate. I expected a reaction like this, though a bit more stylish and considered. Half your reaction is utterly uncalled for. And the other half reveals you read only half my post, and half of those of Bill. Fine. So we can play, but only according to your rules? Too hard to admit your point of view may not be the only correct one?
    if you own books​
    Very mature, impressive. Is this part of the body of work that is your life? Insulting when people disagree?
    If you actually make photos I hope you don't print much​
    Yes, I do not print much, so according to your definition, I am not a photographer. That will probably be a good excuse to discard everything I say. Fine with me.
     
  49. jtk

    jtk

    I differ with Fred here, because I have a near religious belief in the importance images that are fixed in moments of time (especially prints, which seem not to be my photographs if I've not made them).
    If we're still photographers I think we deal with instants, isolated from continuums. It's fine to play, modify, and reprint, but if we never get around to nailing it down, it's a matter of fear, limited personal something.
    What about integrity?... photography similar to science... putting out something that's fixed ... putting it at risk of repeated evaluation by others. Isn't that a central thrill?
    Science, like a photographic print, doesn't allow continuing wiggling about. Wrong, rejected, or ridiculed? Tough luck. Try again. IMO that's shared by "scientist," "artist" and photographer.
    Just my personal view, I don't mean to impose it: the virtue in a print is that it is fixed, the photographer makes her point. Things stop sliding around: that commitment is central to any value it has, the very identity of the photographer. Selection is the essence of still photography, and editing is a part of that, which in turn leads to a body of work. Not "the" body of work, "a" body of work...the one we want to share, IMO.
    For me, an unprinted file or film is un-risked ... it's nearly nothing, not even fluid which means it's even less like "art" or "truth" than a "vision".
    Writers classically make a point of destroying much of their work, leaving only the stuff they want to be remembered by. That, and not "history" or "background" or weepy nostalgia is central to "body of work" for everybody, photographer or otherwise..
    If we can't commit, accept unexamined work, deny intentionality, are afraid to edit harshly (or fail to admit it, per several above)...we don't exist in any meaningful way. We become camera owning cliches.
    What would Zorba do?
     
  50. jtk

    jtk

    "So, ultimately, it is you yourself who defines your body of work?"
    Absolutely. Yes. It's me that defines my body of work. We (includes you) do that by default. Some define closely, some don't.
    "To me, it always sounds like a feeble attempt to take distance from the past, trying to hide that you needed growth to grow up." I'm disappointed to read that something "always sounds" one way to you. But you're just one person, somebody else hears differently. I like gypsy jazz, you may prefer celestial harps.

    I doubt you've seen any photographs by any photographer who does not edit brutally, and you've seen nothing from photographers you admire that wasn't a survivor of harsh decisions. The "great" photographers have left bodies of work. They try not to leave their rejects.
    I didn't say you were less of a photographer by not printing, but I feel that I would be. And I reserve the right to my own way of understanding, and even expressing thoughts about, the photography of others.
    Why is that hard to accept? Perhaps I have an American perspective.
     
  51. "Wrong, rejected, or ridiculed? Tough luck. Try again."
    The comments of others are also sometimes "wrong, rejectable and ridiculous". There is no ultimate authority. It's not a one-way street.
    "Trying again" is often what we do when re-evaluating a work or even a significant part of a body of our work and improving our own creative thoughts and approach. I have gone back to a formerly made print on some occasions, and re-print it differently or with some added nuance, because it did not stand up to my re-evaluation and did not mirror my real intention. Hesitating to put it out there is in some cases perfectly fine. What compulsion, other than the mere words of others, forces you to do that? There is no compulsion to communicate a particular work until you are happy with it. I really don't think it is a question of fear, but more a question of personal taste and personal confidence. There may be a few examples to the contrary, but probably not very many.
     
  52. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, first of all...you as a gallery owner surely know that some photographers and "artists" are in fact subject to, even driven by "compulsion." Do you object to that? Some say that's a good thing.

    And what's wrong with fear? Actors, ballet dancers, and opera singers sometimes vomit before performances, just like hockey players ( for the Canadians in the audience :)

    In any case, you're not qualified to say something isn't "a question of fear." You prefer more vague terms. Fine with me. But I call if fear, and it's easily measured: The photographer hopes you will exhibit her work, brings you her best (having hidden the other), her heartbeat rises, she perspires and hopes you won't notice. It's fear, not a question of "taste" or "confidence."

    Your assertion that "probably not many" artists/photographers fear to show work that doesn't please them seems entirely unfounded. I think they ALL do.
     
  53. "The score of Mahler's Fifth Symphony appeared first in print in 1904 at Peters, Leipzig. A second 'New edition', incorporating revisions that Mahler made in 1904, appeared in 1905. Final revisions made by Mahler in 1911 did not appear until 1964, when the score was re-published in the Complete Edition of Mahler's works."
    Mahler is probably one of the most committed composers I know.
    I know several playwrights. They revise well beyond the opening curtain, often for new runs.
    I know several print photographers. I've seen various versions of a lot of their prints, made for a variety of reasons, sometimes presentational context, sometimes an altered vision.
    I often work only with screen images. I do very little tampering once I consider something finished. Tampering I've talked about recently is simply part of my initial post-processing. Occasionally, I will come back to something I considered finished and will rework it. I have a clean conscience about doing so.
    Photography is no longer limited to the print. So the supposed unchangeability of the print likely won't apply in the same way to digital images, though for some it may.
    I understand that the print medium affect you greatly, John, and have come to appreciate that over the months. Medium and work process seem like they have so much potential to have an intimate relationship. I understand why that would make you not want to tamper with something once you consider it done.
    I'm not as moved by an unyielding tie between photography and instant as you are, John. I addressed that in another thread, where I brought up "scene" as playing perhaps as vital if not more of a role for me in many photographs.
    Even if I did consider "the instant" the most significant aspect of photographs, that might well play a part, but not an overpowering one or create a ruling doctrine, in whether I revisited or tinkered with prints or screen images.
     
  54. Addendum to above:
    My commitment is to my expression and to a photo that I think achieves as much of that potential I think is there. It would feel arbitrary to me to necessarily commit to what I once considered complete.
     
  55. Wouter, I'd love to hear more about your own work at this point and if you have any specific feelings or things to say about your body of work, if you see one developing, if it affects how you shoot at all, if you have something in mind in terms of a body of work. Is there something overriding the individual photo for you that you would like to explore or accomplish?
     
  56. jtk

    jtk

    Wouter and to Bill P: I responded angrily and unfairly, taking your "definitions" of your own bodies of work unnecessarily seriously...
    Fred understands my point about prints, doesn't agree. We have a lot in common, but unlike him I find "photography" as an abstract concept somewhat boring. I've never liked cameras much, despite decades of involvement with them, seeing them as commodities, like television sets or electric toothbrushes. I understand "photography" to be an activity, uniquely suited to recognizing and exploring moments, not an interesting subject in itself...and for me the activity doesn't empathise beauty.
    ...my interest is mostly in the personal, which for me inherently means risk-taking between people. as between photographer/subject/viewer (not that it's necessarily obvious or successful for me).
    I'm not interested enough in decor to prioritize "simple" or "wow" ...I'd rather puzzle viewers, worry them, hang them up, make their possible rejection easy, than use beauty to make them happy and relaxed.

    Bill and Wouter, I apologize. Different strokes.
     
  57. John, thanks, I appreciate the last post. For my response to you, I regretted it (after the edit period), my apologies for being rather aggresive in that response. The subject discussed here certainly interests me, so it would have been a shame if it would have gotten stuck on that point.
    My first post, I understand that it comes across as somewhat argumentative (and it is), but for me those points kind of hit the 2 different views we seem to have. Sometimes simplifying the view reveals the more fundamental differences, and, though abstract, make it easier to learn from those differences. For me, at least, but I should probably touch a mellower tone in that.
    Yes. It's me that defines my body of work. We (includes you) do that by default. Some define closely, some don't.​
    I see your point, yet it keeps me limping on 2 thoughts. Yes, of course I throw out some photos because they failed in each and every way. Then again, I have also photos I started to appreciate later on more. The point of editing photos is certainly a good one too, though Fred's Mahler comparison also tears my thoughts 2 ways there. Does editing change the message, the intent, or more the presentation of something unchanged?
    The ones who define closely, well, it leaves me with the idea that if they would have been Beethoven, we could possibly only have the 9th symphony, the last string quartet and the Missa Solemnis left. Still an interesting body of work, but we would have lost some masterpieces. Sometimes, maybe the artist would do good to let the audience and prosperity decide. But yes, still be critical on what you do want to expose to that audience.
    Nice that Fred brings in Mahler (I love Mahler); to me, in this discussion the sketches left of the 10th are more interesting that the 5th, though. Whether or not Mahler decided on what would be his body of work, he would have lost control over these sketches, because he died before completion. He could not decide whether they should belong to his body of work. Some conductors insist on performing only the finished Adagio, because as a finished piece it is his work, and the rest can't be since it is unfinsished drafts. But that one movement out of five, it is like looking at a tail and imagining whether it's a cat or a dog. It only hints at itself, while the complete symphonies complete the story on themselves.
    Some do not object playing the performing versions made later. And these performing versions, even if they show just a work-in-progress, show a rather dramatically other work, one that cast a shadow forward to younger composers, rather than back to the Romantic period. It's a fascinating work, that tells a lot of where the body of work could have gone if..... So, even if here the artist did not decide whether it belongs to his legacy or not, it still is a clue to the artist's development, creative process, a look forward. To dismiss it as a "source of information", to me, would not do full justice to the artist.
    To me, I think one should always keep an eye open for development, change, dynamics in a life. Defining a body of work has a very fixed and static sound to it, and that's the bit I'm not (yet?) at ease with.
    Fred, your question.... It's not going to be a very clear answer, I think. I do not feel I have a body of work yet. Photographically, I am still very developing and also shifting interests in subjects. At the same time, I doubt whether I am actually looking for a body of work. Maybe there is a red herring in my photos, maybe there isn't. I'm not yet at a point where I feel I can decide whether I want to put one there consciously.
    Yes, that does not sound very ambitious. But photography is not only a creative pursuit for me (and I'm not all that creative anyway). It is also "just" relaxation, hobby, and a break from daily things. Some of my photos I like most, are taken when I desperately needed to relax. They're of a nature spot I know like the back of hand, and walking there watching through a viewfinder gave me massive relaxation and peace and calm. Are those good photos? Possibly not, pretty standard landscapes, but to me they are: I experienced that place that day, rather than only saw it, and managed to capture that experience. All that is working on a rather personal level, and may very well not at all be picked up by an audience.
    For now, it is much picture by picture, and use my older photos to learn from, develop further. Possibly find a voice, possibly just keep it a hobby without any aspirations beyond that. Too early days to be able to fully answer your question, I fear.
     
  58. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 20, 2010; 01:37 a.m.
    Wouter and to Bill P: I responded angrily and unfairly, taking your "definitions" of your own bodies of work unnecessarily seriously...

    I'm not interested enough in decor to prioritize "simple" or "wow" ...I'd rather puzzle viewers, worry them, hang them up, make their possible rejection easy, than use beauty to make them happy and relaxed.
    John, Like I've mentioned before, I've come full circle, from the "Wow" of the child seeing that first train layout at uncle Bob's house, to the '60's counterculture, where we analyzed everything to death, where everything had a hidden meaning, an ulterior motive, etc., to now, where it's back to that one great vision, and "Wow"!
    Due to the proliferation of the computer, digital cameras. the amount of bad work creeping out from under the carpet is astounding, so anything that isn't horrible gets at least a "Wow".
    Yes, for me it IS that simple.
    I would love to see everyone go back to the childhood glee of that first visiit to the beach, or whatever it was that gave you that wondefful sense of delight.
    I still don't "get" what you mean by "decor".
    My work is a lot deeper than that.
    You gotta know where to look.
    Kinda like the Concorde; sheer beauty in the simpicity of form.
    Beneath that simplicity lies....................
    Bill P.
     
  59. Wouter, Mahler's 10th sketches are a nice example.
    Kandinsky's sketches, which I just saw at the Guggenheim in an exhaustive retrospective, were a significant part of his body of work.
    A Liebovitz exhibit was recently shown here, A Photographer's Life. Includes family snaps, personal shots, previous versions of photos that made the book, cropping instructions.
    Perspectives on individual members of a body of work vary. Within a body, I can appreciate differently the sketches, snaps, earlier versions. They may move me differently, inform me differently.
    Your answer about your work is very clear and makes sense. Ambition is probably not as important as your openness to exploration.
    John, I've talked about "scene" being as important to me as "instant." You and I attribute more or less significance to certain aspects of making or viewing photographs. That's not a difference of abstract vs. concrete.
    I may have misunderstood how you applied "instant." You were using "instant" in context of the print. My response had more to do with taking the picture, where "decisive moment" is often used. So you seem to feel that the print itself gets isolated, as an instant, from the continuum that got you there. That makes sense. One might say that I was focused on the front end while you were focused on the rear end, an irony in itself ;-)
    Also worth emphasizing is that, though commitment applies to both, it does seem like a print generally is more committed to than a screen image (which can be changed easily enough). I use PN differently than many. I post only what I consider to be finished work, and I've only gone back to a photo once or twice later on to make changes. But if I wanted to tinker later on, it's a lot easier to do so with software.
    An unprinted image considered "un-risked, nearly nothing" rings hollow for me. Is there an internalized prejudice in "unprinted image"? Does it assume "print"? That assumption would be an anachronism. This does not diminish the print. I recognize a significant difference between print and screen image. Since the screen image will be the sole viewing medium for many, I know my screen images are not "nearly nothing." I don't relate to the screen image as a print waiting to happen, though it may be for some. I take the screen image for what it is. When I have a print and screen version of the same image, they are two iterations of a vision. I understand that you may use your screen images as more of a sketch or reproduction, which likely accounts for our differences.
    "Risk" is not unique to any one medium, except maybe skydiving.
     
  60. I follow the interesting discussion.

    My personal point of view,is the word substantial , not ALL my photography in my computer( or film before I have switched to digital) is my body of works, as I have a lot of experiments, nearly good ones,( maybe -work in progress) that I keep for maybe rework in the future. When I expose my photos some critique will help me to enhance a detail here and there, enhancing the image NOT change it, develop my understanding how to express myself better.
    So my body of works will be defined by myself. I will print the ones I am in agreement with myself they are as I wanted them to be, final. As time passes I know better what I want my body of works to be, what are the subjects I want to photograph and concentrate on, to enter deeper in understanding human behavior, our life, surrounding, and problems. Still I have my mistakes as well , I see them as my own voice in progress, as I think there is always a process in progress.I see it also in other form of arts like the Mahler example, in literature after first edition can be a second one with changes and added part by the writer. An unending circle.
     
  61. Pnina Evental [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 20, 2010; 08:53 a.m.
    So my body of works will be defined by myself.
    As well it should.
    As I mentioned before, I shoot from the heart, so my body of work defines itself, it's beyond my conscious control. There is no thought process involved, just instinct.
    So for you (or any artist) to define your own body of work makes perfect sense to me.
    Bill P.
     
  62. Addendum to last post:
    When I print, I print from a second file that is technically and aesthetically geared toward the print medium. I don't simply print the same screen image that gets viewed by others on line. That's because one is not a substitute for the other, as I see it. Backlighting and reflective lighting are so different and have to be engaged differently. Glows are achieved differently, contrasts appear differently. I'm just starting to learn all about that.
     
  63. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 20, 2010; 09:14 a.m.
    Addendum to last post:
    When I print, I print from a second file that is technically and aesthetically geared toward the print medium. I don't simply print the same screen image that gets viewed by others on line. That's because one is not a substitute for the other, as I see it. Backlighting and reflective lighting are so different and have to be engaged differently. Glows are achieved differently, contrasts appear differently. I'm just starting to learn all about that.
    Fred, you're so right. It's the science of transmittive vs. absorptive color, among other things.
    Remember in grade school when we learned the three primary colors? they were Red. yellow and blue. That's the absorptive model. The yellow card is absorbing every color except yellow.
    Then we wandered onto the stage in the auditorium and wondered why the grid had red, green and blue lights. The green light is transmitting only green light. That's the transmittive model.
    So from jumpstreet, you can't treat one like the other. Of coure, things get really goofy when you consider the color temperature of the gallery lighting......
    Bill P.
     
  64. jtk

    jtk

    Regarding "body of work"....
    I wonder what the response would be to this body: http://www.coloursmag.com/?p=231
    Is Simeon's body of work more substantial than beauty?
    I've been told that in zen, beauty is likely to be a distraction...since it's an end-point. A worthy product, but not the point (nice paradox). One's practice (eg dishwashing attitude) is the goal, rather than some outcome. I don't know if a zen practice can be a body of work, the way a dancer's might.
    I went to a party celebrating an illustrator's new book. It sold for $1500 when published, cc 1980. The entire run was snapped up before the party. Hand-illustrated open heart surgery, step by step. Virtually pornographic. Said by surgeons there to be the best instructive they'd seen ( think of themselves as artists rather than scientists). Beautiful book, once you understood what it represented.
     
  65. There you are, John. The illustrator and his "body of work." Perhaps even carnal.
    The zen attitude has its good points (sorry for my obvious plays on words). I do like their goal or journey as being the essence, and that could certainly comprise the body of work. In any case, beauty is a subjective thing.
    Some photographers I've met claim they have done everything in photography. Nothing else to do. They may have a body of work, but I would rather not have one like that but still be curious and even entralled by the possibilities.
     
  66. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 20, 2010; 04:23 p.m.
    Some photographers I've met claim they have done everything in photography. Nothing else to do..
    Arthur, I addreesed that point earlier. It's best to just smile walk away slowly. It's not good to agitate people like that.....
    Bill P.
     
  67. Thanks, Bill. I guess I missed your same comment. There are lots of words up there, what? In regard to body of work I enjoy listening to Mahler in his entirety (and not just his 9 or 9/10 symphonies), but also his somg cycles (One, the "Erde" or Earth cycle of songs communicates as much to me as his larger works). I was lucky to attend (with 12,000 others in an indoor stadium) the Symphony of a Thousand in Quebec City, on March 15, 2008, during a major snowstorm, as only the third time it has been done in its entirety (last time in Pennsylvania, in 1916) since the late 19th century, with a thousand musicians and choristers. Even his smaller symphonies, just as those of his contemporary Bruckner, or one of the other B composers, often gets cut by the director, removing sometimes valuable repeats.
    What then is his body of work? Must it include the eighth symphony with three orchestras and 700 chorists, or other symphonies with all the repeats, or just a significant part of his work? The latter pleases me, just as a smaller section of photgraphic work, if it truly defines the artist, would probably as well. Alas, Mahler and the other 9 symphony masters would likely have shown a somewhat different body of work had they lived significantly beyond their 9th.
     
  68. jtk

    jtk

    "What then is his body of work? Must it include...or just a significant part...? ...pleases me, just as a smaller section of photgraphic work, if it truly defines the artist, would probably as well" - Arthur P

    Exactly. Our understandings of "body of work" seem to coincide...AND with those understandings as resources we may be more able to credibly evaluate (per the OT) the work of you, me, Mahler or anybody we care to, with or without their enthusiasm :)
    Not that "evaluation" is necessary: many camera operators are uninterested, may fear, or may actually produce no significant personal body of work (one roll of C-41 for Christmas, new car, Disneyland, and Grand Canyon).
    If we want evaluation as photographers (who photographs for himself alone, after all?), we want it of what we consider representative work.
    Do we want someone rooting through our erased files and waste baskets, our earliest snaps, our failed extravagances, or are we genuinely concerned about the curiosity of some garbage man? :)
     
  69. " I shoot from the heart, so my body of work defines itself, it's beyond my conscious control. There is no thought process involved, just instinct." William
    Bill , I agree with you that the heart is a part of creating, and gut /instinct as well, but what you want to photograph, what you want to express IS part of your conscious thoughts.(at least for me)

    Arthur "It's not a one-way street ."
    Zen , for me, is part of the way to understand yourself, your motives your choices, your selections, not necessarily your body of work.In the beginning I tried some different subjects and with time I was aware of what is essential for me and what I want to express. It is a trial and error, but also a conscience decisions. So my body of work is what I decide is MY selection that will communicate with my viewers( positive or negative) and will be what I want to expose as my final results.
    Thanks John for what I see as an important issue. ( despite my language barriers).
     
  70. Pnina Evental [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 21, 2010; 09:37 a.m.
    " I shoot from the heart, so my body of work defines itself, it's beyond my conscious control. There is no thought process involved, just instinct." William
    Bill , I agree with you that the heart is a part of creating, and gut /instinct as well, but what you want to photograph, what you want to express IS part of your conscious thoughts.(at least for me)
    Pnina, I shoot strictly from the heart. Unless I'm on a project, I never "chase" anything. Here's an example of what happens when I go into Manhattan for a quick bite with a friend. This scene presented itself to me, and that's all there is to it. No "intent", nothing philosphical, just a nice shot.
    Bill P.
    00VZ1d-212433784.jpg
     
  71. When I print, I print from a second file that is technically and aesthetically geared toward the print medium. I don't simply print the same screen image that gets viewed by others on line. That's because one is not a substitute for the other, as I see it. Backlighting and reflective lighting are so different and have to be engaged differently. Glows are achieved differently, contrasts appear differently. I'm just starting to learn all about that.​
    If you're printing with a pigment ink printer it's far more than that. Dye-based photographic prints look totally different than pigment ink prints. There is an interaction between the ink + paper as the light is mostly reflected from the surface of the pigment - and not from the paper underneath. With a dye-based photographic print (C-print, Ilfochrome, dye inkjet print), the light travels through the dye and is reflected by the paper base.
    This is often lost in pigment inkjet prints unless you are very careful with paper profiling, and most importantly the inking level. A lot of inkjet prints that I see are over inked. If you look at a hand printed, fine art lithograph made from a stone or plate, even "solid areas" are never a totally filled, flatly printed surface. When examined with a loupe, the areas have a slight grain to them as small white areas that give the area and color a twinkle. This is due to the grain of the stone or plate, as the ink never reaches the spaces (valleys) between the grain peaks. Stones are normally levigated (grained) with 240 grit, so the white areas are very small, but that tiny amount of reflected light from the unprinted areas gives life to the lithograph.
    My advice is to make sure you do inking tests with every paper you use, and use the paper setting that gives the minimum inking needed for coverage - and many of the paper manufacturers don't do this, they just use a paper setting, run the profiling targets, and then make the profile. In many cases, a change of paper setting (this controls inking unless you're using a RIP) - can make a surprising difference in the print.
    Sorry for the digression - I have no "body of work" I just make whatever photographs I feel like making. Perhaps, that is my body of work - everything is unrelated....
     
  72. Steve Swinehart , Jan 21, 2010; 02:18 p.m.
    I have no "body of work" I just make whatever photographs I feel like making. Perhaps, that is my body of work - everything is unrelated....
    Steve, that would be your body of work. Nothing has to be related.
    Bill P.
     
  73. Picked up a few photo mags (USA "Photo Techniques" and "B&W Photography", from UK) in my usual ways of skimming the Table of contents before purchase rather than "subscription take it all". I usually purchase very few mags. I didn't purchase "Shutterbug", as most was not of interest to me, but there is one article there titled "Body of Work" by Roger Hicks, which may interest others of John's post. If anyone wants to post the text or e-mail a copy (with credit to the author to avoid conflict), I wouldn't mind reading it, too. Thanks.
     
  74. jtk

    jtk

    Steve, interesting comments re: printing. Very much to the point IMO, not a distraction...because :
    ...maybe, if you cared to identify a body of work, it would especially include things that are finely printed, reflecting well on your sensibilities and influences, photo or litho or whatever. Or writing. As we know, that "body" concept needn't have to do with "subject," medium, or technique.
    I'm particularly troubled by over-inking, such as you describe, currently. I used to make neo-platinum-looking darkroom prints (flat, absolute minimum spots of white/black), but I'm currently working through a blatant Agfa #6 kind of look because I really do want bright emerging from dark. I know what I'm after: arguably melodramatic, not nearly as subtle as you've described. :)
     
  75. Another current reference to a photographer who has a very defined body of work is Julie Blackmon, who like Fred, has been photographing seriously for only part of the recent decade. Two themes permeate her work, but the images, one series in black and white ("Mind Games"), and the other in colour, seem to be concerned with the same questions. She states in describing her approach to the colour series "Domesic Variations": "The stress, the chaos, and the need to simultaneously escape and connect are issue(s) that I investigate in this body of work. The paintings of Steen (17th C Dutch painter), along with those of other Dutch and Flemish genre painters, helped inspire this body of work."
    Her colour work would be a suitable example also for the post "The wonderful world of color", but like most PofP posts, once attention has been given to another more recent post, the well of inspiration dries up. The images are most definitely "deterministic", not "anything" or accidental in approach, a methodology that I also favour, if not exclusively, in my own work. Her images can be surrealist as well as surprisingly real, and her compositions involving mainly small children (undoubtably her own and those of her sisters) show many dfferent things going on (chaos, escape, dreamworlds).
    See Photo Techniques Jan/Feb. 2020 issue or http://www.julieblackmon.com.
    It shows an example of deterministic photography in a body of work in which the theme defines the eventual content.
     
  76. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Body of work is what survives, what other people determine is worth keeping. We are who we are and the works we leave behind us become their own creatures, have their own friends. In the long run, things survive because people want them to survive. Sometimes, those people are not the original artists (Max Brod made Kafka what he is today).
    The body of work has its own lovers who may extend well beyond the timeline or location of the originator of the work.
    Which works fit into that composite and abstraction self made of art works are parts of the body of work. Our bodies are not the pared away fingernails of yesterday, not to speak of other things that contributed to us in part but passed through us also. Our bodies of work are the things that provide others with a coherent sense of a personality in the work.
     
  77. jtk

    jtk

    Thanks Rebecca, Steve and Arthur for zeroing-in. I appreciate your efforts to address the question.
    I especially enjoy R's "fingernails" metaphor, and the way she might ignore the photographers's intentional choices (the one's I'd make) in favor of the "things that ...passed through us." I'd be embarassed to have the work of, say, Bill Brandt attributed to my own "body of work"...despite the fact that I've mentioned him many times, he's "passed through" me and I have not hesitated to do Brandt-derivative work on a few occasions.
    I'd also mention that her "other people determine" and "timeline" ideas may be in conflict with the "deterministic" ideas Arthur mentioned.
    Do I understand that correctly as a conflict of ideas?
    An unaddressed question is "What survives?" Prominent, painters, and writers have, since forever, destroyed most of their work selectively... vanishing it from their body of work in order to define that body.
    These digital posts are immortal: unless we've posted them on line our photographs are only "archival" :)
     
  78. "I'd also mention that her "other people determine" and "timeline" ideas may be in conflict with the "deterministic" ideas Arthur mentioned.
    Do I understand that correctly as a conflict of ideas?"
    John, perhaps, but it may just be a conflict of, or differentiation of, optional approaches. I think that we gain in being partly deterministic and partly timeline, influencable, accidental, motivated by experience and partly influenced by our particular state of being at the moment of exposure. This mix is our mental palette in creating a photo and different mixtures apply in response to different occasions or different objectives of the photographer. Probably no one single mix leads to the creation of an extensive body of work.
     

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