Breaking free

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. "Where do you go from there" is a recent OP here that seems to have intrigued many. I admit to not having been around on the net when it was in full swing. I am also not sure I absorbed very much of the discussion, but it led me to think that success in art and photography, other than commercial or client-directed approaches, is our ability to create something fresh.
    The ability to break free from former approaches is probably recognized by many as an essential element of that freshness The past is important (whether it is our own, or in contemplation of the works of the masters of the practice before us), but I think what is more important is the desire and effort we can make in breaking free and establishing something different in the way we photograph (I am not ignoring the importance of subject and its perception in this).
    A few years ago I photographed in B&W a scene in a mild snowstorm in Quebec City (yes they can be mild!) that I then hung in the hall between the kitchen and dining area. I have perhaps a half dozen of my photos hung in the house and distributed among much more artwork of friends and artists that I know and respect.
    The little winter scene, where the feeling (as well as presence) of snow is quite palpable, has interested visitors more than other photos and I consider it as an example of a small beaking free from my other work.
    Attached is a photo from a current series I began in August that I call "Sense of Water". It is a departure from my other themes. The desire to depict "wet" (sense of rain or water like the aforementioned sense of snow) in a photo is the driving force. You can see several other examples in the portfolio still in progress, which has yet to be trimmed to avoid repetitions. There are no doubt traces of my past manner of seeing in the photos or those compositions that are perhaps less fresh, but some aspects are new, at least to me. All of the images are realised in-camera with only minor PS balancing of light.
    I wonder what you feel about "breaking free" in photography and whether that motivates you or not? Is it appropriate in the sense of a resolution to a question of where you might go from where you presently are?
  2. Damn, Arthur, that one hits me like a ton of bricks. I'ld have to say that's pretty close to being an iconic image with an Eggleston sort of vibe.
    Had to go to your gallery folder to see if you made the right choice compared to the others taken at different focal lengths/angles and you chose wisely.
    Not sure why I'm liking this shot. Maybe its my screwed up sleep schedule that's affected my energy levels but irregardless I'm actually getting chills looking at the above shot. It's the best out of the bunch.
    Yeah, comparing the rest of your gallery images I'ld say you broke free from your typical decisions and reactions to choosing the defining moment with this one.
  3. I wonder what you feel about "breaking free" in photography and whether that motivates you or not? Is it appropriate in the sense of a resolution to a question of where you might go from where you presently are?​
    Mostly I feel doubtful and uneasy whether I'm breaking new ground or just fooling myself with what seems spur of the moment choices. Would love to be able to just not think and just shoot and still have it show me something I haven't seen before. I don't think that's considered "breaking free", though.
    Not having a lot of resources I'm pretty much limited to shooting what's around me. Overcoming my laziness to venture out seems to be a daunting task. Couple that with the fact I already have too many images I can't seem to find the motivation to toss or even cull through because I've either grown attached to them or I see them as a record of my existence covering 8 years when I first took up digital photography.
    The only way I can even realize I'm breaking free creatively is to compare what I did with film 35 years ago. With that perspective my Bridge thumbnails representing a body of work look like a dream. I just love looking at my own images because I've never seen anything like it that came before what I did with film or what anyone else has done in the photographic medium now and in the past.
    35 years ago I didn't have the technology I have today and I'm now just realizing how its contribution is affecting my POV on my own work I now feel I've taken for granted, dismissed and not fairly evaluated.
    For instance back then I didn't like Hawaiian shirts because the design patterns looked hackneyed. But in the last 8 years of rummaging around in thrift stores I've come across some with really beautiful print patterns that I'm now wearing.
    Then I got into this mood where instead of looking at them in the mirror I started just looking down and to the side showing close-up perspectives that create a strange abstraction depending on how their patterns drape on my body. I decided to start shooting that with a "where ever I go there I am" mentality. No judgement.
  4. Tim, thanks for at least two examples that I think are relevant. The idea of our preferences changing with time and a second look (the Hawaiian shorts) which can often be important in breaking free or generating something fresh. Also your playing with different viewpoints and the in focus-obscure in your arm shot. What is probably essential for the two (and other visual approaches) is that they come from some reason or what is behind the approach or what does the approach allow us to discover about ourself or the surroundings.
  5. One thing that just came to mind I'ld like to break free from after reviewing some of my images is this persistent visual mindset of forming compositions with a graphic design sense which is hard to shake seeing it was my former career.
    I can sense it in the image I just posted. It shows up in all my shots. Compare it to yours which has a wild spontaneity of negative and positive patterns in the back lit trees against a white sky with an off kilter horizon. It looks almost like an abstract sans the geometric balance of mine.
  6. Tim, I agree that compositional graphic forms and lines are hard to shake, perhaps more for you as a graphicist or former graphic art professional. I see breaking free more as a getting out of a rut that can be as much emotional or symbolic or a particular way of seeing as much as one related to point line and form or repeated compositional approaches. Thus, one can continue using the graphic or emotional "tools" one has been using, but in new or different ways and according to choice of subject. It is not bad that your graphic approach appears in your work, it is part of you. I also am conscious that the ways I frame a subject and its surroundings follow some quite graphic paths I have trodden before. Breaking free is an attempt to go beyond what went before.
    Phil I like your point about not rejecting but expanding. Todd Hido makessome inyeresting images, but he does so unlike me, letting the close dirty or wet matter create out of focus. If you look closely you will see that I have managed to keep both the rain and the distant matter in focus, something i had to struggle with given a full frame camera and the depfh of field of the optics. The apparent out of focus of distant objects is due instead to the prismatic effect of the rain drops. In fact everything is really in focus although it appears not to be. That fitted my feeling about water and gloomy days.
  7. I tend to look for connection. So I usually see art and photography, including my own, in terms of threads or strands. I want to be connected to past canons of work and find myself maintaining threads throughout my own. That allows me growth while helping me slowly to try to develop a voice. It helps situate me in an ever evolving chain of linked ideas, expressions, pictures, and action.
    My own notion of photography and art is that they are shared and entail a sense of community. Any freedom associated with either would involve a collective and not simply individual freedom.
    For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. —Nelson Mandela​
    If my photography can, even in some small way, address and respect the visibility and dignity of others, that may be freedom enough for me.
  8. Arthur, since you mentioned that the sample image you posted substantially resulted from in-camera settings and only a minimum of postprocessing, I looked at the image on your workstation and noted that it was taken at 1/60 second and ISO 320. However, I did not see the aperture setting. Can you please provide it? That will help me better to understand the use of the image in connection with the OP.
    In the meantime, to respond to your question about breaking free . . . I freely admit that sometimes I find myself stuck in the routine of shooting photographs using at least similar settings, even though this may vary with the subject matter and the ambient conditions at the time of shooting. There may be an easy way to get myself out of the rut, primarily by taking more time before clicking the shutter.
    More importantly, given my predilection for abstract work, I find myself breaking free when trying novel postprocessing techniques. This seems to open up entirely new dimensions, not only in terms of the images themselves but also - and maybe more importantly - in terms of my thinking about them and about my growth as a photographer.
  9. Fred, your consideration of freedom in terms of the situation of an individual and how photography can be applied in that context and create links to others is of interest.
    My use of the word free in the OP relates more specifically to the action of breaking out of a mold (a manner and approach of photographing or of seeing a subject) that has served its usefulness in past work but which sometimes can constrict (even restrict) one's development as an artist or photographer. In other words, a question of evolution rather than of remaining static (I say this generally and not in regard to anyone).
    I do not reject the various formative influences in my art, or that can be related to some movement, current and temporal context. While acknowledging these as useful bases and appendices to my development I am more concerned in the OP about breaking out of certain manners or approaches or of seeing (a subject) and evolving in new directions. A matter of being continually involved in exploration. That is not always easy I have found, and the OP is interested in how others see and tackle the same issue.
    Micheal, I think that abstract art and photography that you and others practice (using Photoshop or in camera) usually necessitate breaking free of certain ways of seeing subject matter, and the avenue of abstraction can drive new ways or approaches of the photographer. However, good abstract art also requires an adherence to many of the principles of graphic art, line and form, color and texture, their symbolic and emotional qualities, so it is not always so different from more representational photography. And technique alone is obviously insufficient for its creation.
    The f stop of "Sense of Water (8)" was not recorded but I remember using f5.6 or f8 for many of my photos. I hope that is what you were looking for. If not, I am not at all closed to discussing the technical details of exposure in this series of about a dozen images (to date).
    Having said that, the more general comment and question of my OP about breaking free is not based upon a technical approach but more one of evolving the manner of seeing and creating, or of innovating novel subject matter or its representation, which many artists will likely tell as being essential for their development.
  10. Yes, definitely, Arthur, I was considering freedom differently, though I don't think that's a reason not to consider it with some degree of depth. The reason I added my thoughts to the thread, even though I was considering freedom in a different sense than its relation to breaking out of a mold, is to offer that for me, breaking out of a mold is not necessarily "essential" to freshness. I also wanted to communicate that freshness, as an element of art or as a goal, is not as important as other things I am after. My work may not be the most innovative or freshest or most groundbreaking on the block. And I can point to other photography and art that is similar in that respect but still significant. Things that I prioritize over freshness and the breaking of molds are connection among me, my subjects, and my viewers and honesty of expression, even sometimes through the use of artifice and artificial device. I do think the freedom connection to our different priorities or different emphases is something worth considering.
  11. I'm not sure I entirely understand the term Breaking Free in the sense that this occurrence happens by sheer will of the photographer or if in the passage of time ones output just ebbs and flows on it's own. I think a lot depends on what the photographer is hoping to get out of their pictures. Personally, this is not something I've ever really given any thought to. Growth and changes happen and to the involved photographer these come and go. When I started out in photography on a serious level back in 2005 there was no way for me to know what I would be shooting in 2015. Somethings I explored only to discard them shortly after discovering them and other things I've kept and will apply it for as long as it makes sense to me. Sometimes a realization strikes suddenly and one finds themselves at a fork in the road.
    For example, the picture at the bottom of this post I took in 2008 when I re-incorporated 35mm cameras to my work. I did so because I felt the need to have a smaller camera to use more casually then the big medium format camera I had been using exclusively. Shortly afterward I was in a gallery looking at work by Eggleston when I saw this picture, one I had not seen before:
    I was struck by the similarities but when that passed after a few seconds I realized just how hard photography really is. By that I mean the difficulty in taking pictures that have never been attempted before. It was the first time when I really thought to myself that it's all been done before, there's nothing new to photograph. So I had to decide how to continue. For me it was easy, I just simply decided to keep photographing the things that draw my attention. It no longer mattered to me if it has all been done before, part of the challenge is to build upon the past and to try and put ones own personal spin on things. I think when a photographer can clear their mind of all the chatter about what they "should" be doing and just let their instincts guide them, they will get more enjoyment out of photography and really, isn't that the most important thing? It is for me.
  12. In appreciation of the notes of Marc and Fred I would like to mention here that for some the chosen term of the OP "breaking free" might be considered as describing too strong an action, too deliberate, or too contrary to one's on-going practice or manner of photography or art. Perhaps I might have better used the analogous terms "evolution" or "exploration" of one's approach, and "discovery" instead of "freshness". Perhaps that better situates the intention of the OP. The specific terms chosen are secondary I think to the discussion, as they can be easily taken alone with different meaning than that intended in the OP.
    I do think that it is useful to us that our individual approaches or the ways we photograph, or just the subject matter we have newly explored, or the themes that are important to us, evolve with time. I personally dislike being in a static position. Perhaps my former main career in minerals and materials research and its challenges has affected my view. Exploration and photography are important partners for me. Of course, I like them tied to some theme I am pursuing and those themes need not in themselves be new. As Marc mentions, it is difficult to do something new ("fresh") in photography. There are also only so many techniques and methods related to sculpting and painting, although subjects and themes seem to evolve in those areas as well.
    Exploration and discovery ("breaking free") are probably as much a part of the work of many of us, even those who suggest that the process is somewhat involuntary and part of a natural evolution of their work to date and their interests. Whatever your overall approach, I am interested in hearing what your exploration and discovery may be or what you feel you want to do to evolve your approach or manner of perception of subjects, and perhaps the cases where you "broke free" from a former manner (in thought more than technique) of photographing that added to both your pleasure and results. And if you don't feel the need of such exploration or discovery in evolving your work, the why and related comments are no doubt equally of interest to this topic.
  13. Well Arthur, the following few pictures are part of a series I titled "Meet Exciting Singles." The are pictures of a free locally published adult themed magazine. These are kept in newsstands throughout the LA area. Many of these newsstands are in varying degrees of neglect and vandalism. I started taking these several years ago on my usual street shooting rounds. I wasn't thinking of breaking free, it's just that for some reason these intrigued me. So whenever I'd see one, I'd take a close up picture and then print on a very hard contrast filter in my darkroom. I quickly became quite fond of these so to this day I still take pictures of them whenever I'm out. To me it's just another path, a different way of exploring. I like taking these and printing them, the newsstands are all different and even ones that I've been to before gets new graffiti or an extra layer of grime.
    Last year I took a portfolio of these into Keeble & Shuchat in Palo Alto CA. I know several of the guys that work there so I wanted to inquire about doing an exhibit there. They have a nice well lit room dedicated to exhibitions. They liked the pictures but unanimously thought that it wouldn't pass the review board due to it's adult themed nature.
    So no big deal to me. Like I said, I still enjoy these even if I'm the only one. I wish I could be more specific for you but as I've mentioned so many times here before I don't question these kinds of things, I just go with my instincts. One of the things I like about this series is that to the best of my knowledge I'm the only one taking pictures of these so they may be my most original and creative work so far.
  14. I don't question​
    A perfectly reasonable stance.

    Philosophy does question.
  15. Marc, I was particularly interested in your mentioning neglect and vandalism. That rang true for me, especially looking at your photos. Another concrete thing you talk about is hard contrast in terms of your choice of photographic darkroom filter. It may not be thought or questioning that goes into that combination of neglect and vandalism with hard contrast, but it's something.
    I empathize with your statement about the passage of time and the natural ebb and flow of what the photographer experiences and produces. How I relate that to the topic of this thread is I've found along the way that I've tried breaking my own molds, etc. and it generally feels forced to me. And, to be honest, not speaking about anyone in this thread but an observation in general, a lot of so-called creative work I see when I go to galleries and when I browse on line feels forced. The first thing I notice is that the photo or painting feels like it's trying hard to be art or to be different for the sake of being different, which often just doesn't work. I don't know if you've felt that as well, but what you said reminded me of this feeling I so often get when looking around.
    [Phil and I were writing simultaneously and on some things we seem to be echoing each other!]
  16. The following statement in Arthur's post of 09/23 3:58 PM really caught my attention. "Having said that, the more general comment and question of my OP about breaking free is not based upon a technical approach but more one of evolving the manner of seeing and creating, or of innovating novel subject matter or its representation, which many artists will likely tell as being essential for their development."

    Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough, so I will try to amplify my previous post. When I mentioned the use of different postprocessing techniques in the same sentence as the mention of breaking free, I wasn't strictly referring to technique only or primarily. And I do fully understand Arthur's point about technique alone not being sufficient for the making of good abstract photographs. To me, trying new or different postprocessing techniques is a bridge to my trying to think about the entire photographic process differently. Here lies the tie-in to the other principles of representational photography to which he referred. I also consider the use of these techniques as encouraging alternative ways of thinking about the goals I set for my photographs. Ultimately I suspect that my engaging in abstract photography is motivated by the reasons I started in philosophy years ago - to try making sense of the world and my connection with it, and to discover reasons why making sense may not necessarily be possible. Herein lies the best way I can describe "breaking free."
  17. Arthur, I tend to think a lot about content, narrative, subject matter, and expression. I often find myself focusing on the task at hand, which in my case often enough is providing visibility to the communities I work with and seeking authentic and meaningful gestures and expressions which I think are vital to my portraits.
    I do experiment and am trying to push myself to do more, and I try to maintain a connection between my experimenting and what I'm working with. So, for instance, I am interested in continuing to pursue the effects of both flash and motion blur, sometimes separately and often together, particularly on the gestures of my subjects.
    To me, the best photography has some sort of passionate relationship to the world, and that may be true of photography in a unique way among the arts since we do point our cameras directly at the world to start.
    I use other photographers as inspiration and am not shy of even stealing from them, in terms of idea and style. But since I put that all into my own individual relationships to the people I photograph (whether I know them well or have just met them for the photo session), I sense that there's an individuality there that's enough for me.
    I can name (even though naming reduces it to words which aren't enough to fully describe pictures, which is why I photograph) the things that matter to me. The list continues to grow. And that's where my energy is going. These things are concrete even as photographing with them in mind is less concrete and more expressive. People, under-seen communities, expressions, gestures, their environments, artifice, masks, personas, how they as subjects connect through a photo to a viewer. These are my overriding focus.
    The idea of "breaking free," or whatever term we want to give to it (you are right that it could be given any number of terms and the term doesn't matter as much as the ideas expressed) is much more abstract an idea, IMO. For me, the abstractness wants to be accompanied by specific and concrete passions toward or connections with the world. In that respect, I related most to your word "wetness." Just that word makes me think of tearful wetness, cleansing wetness, baptismal wetness, ecological wetness, even sexual wetness. The word "wetness" starts to open up a lot of possibilities to me that the words "breaking free" in themselves do not.
  18. Fred make some interesting points, I also think stealing is necessary to evolution. I steal from Michael Kenna at times (his minimalist and down to the bare essence approach), at other times from Martin Munkacsi (I've not recently seen his works but I loved his inventiveness when I first encountered it), other times from Edouard Boubat (a quiet and civilised mind, attempting to understand our existence and showing it in simple and respectful fashion), at other times the elder Weston (provoking his subjects, their emotional connections to life). Why? Because they communicate what I too feel is important. By adopting parts of their process (and others too, as I learn from the photos of PNers too, one in particular being Fred - the photos reveal a place and community I know not) I break free a little from the baggage I have accumulated and discover other ways (not the specific images but the approaches or aesthetics) that allow my own evolution.
    Marc's series should certainly interest the gallery in question. There is little I can personally see that would (should) be offensive to others. The response of the gallery may be just hiding another acceptance criteria. I would continue to develop the series, relating it to some value or documentary intent. You may discover different things about yourself as a photographer or about the community you photograph, by pursuing it.
    The explorstion of "sense of water" I started in August needs continual input and iteration. My original desire was to show how wetness or rain can be perceived by images. I also wanted to show how it can affect us on an emotional level. The choice of showing both the rain drops and the background in focus was part of the intent, with any effect being wrought by the optical interaction of the water. Although the water is not seen everywhere in the image, its effect on the scene is omnipresent. An otherwise obscured scene, like that of photographing through a vaseline covered lens or a dirty window, did not appeal to me. The sense of water or wetness had to be crystallised in the image. I am glad that the scene is as expressionist as it is real, yet crystal-like in nature.
    I guess it might be agued that my sense of water images are simply an evolution of technique (and one that may exist elsewhere already but one which I had not seen before) rather than an evolution of approach. That may be so, whatever the value of the theme I am trying to express, but the approach has nonetheless opened up another avenue of symbolic representation for me (symbolizing the depressing nature of rain and its effect on our humor - wetness as a condition of human existence - images of water being materialized as an element of life), and where it will ultimately lead I know not. Like the otherwise compelling music of Wagner, it may be somewhat dead-ended and not further evolve through the subsequent compositions of other musicians.
    The closest musical analogy to wetness and sense of water for me is in the works of Debussy, uncoralled as much as is rain, a natural choice from that repertoire probably being his "Engulfed Cathedral."
  19. Fred, by connecting experimentation with subject-matter and maintaining a passionate relationship with the world, in my opinion you have gone right to the heart of the concept of breaking free.
  20. The explorstion of "sense of water" I started in August needs continual input and iteration. My original desire was to show how wetness or rain can be perceived by images. I also wanted to show how it can affect us on an emotional level.​
    I had an immediate visceral reaction to your posted image above that goes back to my two fears as a child, water (swimming pools specifically) and being the front seat passenger in a vehicle driving fast on a paved narrow road and the possible hydroplaning that might ensue.
    Combine that with the obvious "driving on the wrong side of the road" and the first person view from what appears to be from a high position creating an even more precarious feeling of losing control of the wheel pretty much rattled my nerves which influenced my post above.
    The converging lines of the road and the tilt of the horizon amplifies the feeling of uncontrolled speed. Since you have a different take or analysis on your image, how is one to know if you were breaking free without having a reference from what you were breaking free from? I'm seeing a lot of decision making in your "sense of water" shot but I can't tell which is intentional and thought out versus intuitive and whether that came about or was influenced by your notion of breaking free from your previous attempts.
    For instance you could have shown more of the steering wheel with hands at the helm in control of the situation which would've made the image have less of a visceral feel of uncontrollable speed and become more of a tourist shot which would've been affected by how you made your decision framing the image at the time of capture and/or how you cropped it in post.
  21. "breaking free is not based upon a technical approach but more one of evolving the manner of seeing and creating, or of innovating novel subject matter or its representation, which many artists will likely tell as being essential for their development."
    Don't think do...leave your imagination alone to be free...stop overthinking it.
  22. "Philosophy does question." - Fred G.
    You are absolutely correct Fred. This is why I'm a photographer and not a philosopher. I find that philosophizing about mine or any other photographers work just results in a lot of useless navel gazing leading to no factual conclusion. That's not to say others cannot wax philosophical about my pictures, it's just that it's of no concern to me. Many years ago when I was using the darkroom at Pasadena City College one of the students took a liking to what I was printing. She asked if she could see some previous work of mine. So we met up for breakfast the following week and over bacon and eggs she looked at the stack of prints I brought. After she looked at them all she said was "You're living vicariously through the people you photograph." I just shrugged and smiled and wondered when my coffee mug was going to get refilled. She's welcome to her interpretation; it's no business of mine.
    I can relate to Freds impression of some photographers who "try too hard." What I mean is I see a number of photographers who imitate other famous well known photographers and others who in my opinion shoot mediocre work but become unglued if uploaded to a critique forum and anyone says anything other then glowing praise. Some of these folks even charge for workshops, self publish photobooks for sale and so on. I actually admire their chutzpah since they are either completely unaware of the actual merit of their work or they are simply in denial and don't care. Either way, they have marketed themselves well and they have a devoted following with disposable cash to send their way.
    Arthur, I forgot to mention in my previous post that Keeble and Shuchat is not an established art gallery but a camera store, a rather large well established business that is actually two buildings across the street from one another. They do have a nice gallery set up in the upper level of one of the buildings. Photographers can apply for an exhibit (which because of the number of applicants can take up to two or more years) and their work goes before some of the mucky-mucks for approval. I've been going to K&S for years which is how I know several of the employees there so when I brought in my portfolio I figured I'd get their take on it before leaving it behind since I live out of town. Basically, they said they only want to show "G rated" pictures because they don't want any blowback from anyone bringing kids in there and seeing these. I agree that these aren't pornographic pictures but they do lean that way and these days it seems there's always someone getting offended at something. So they told "family friendly" is what they look for in considering exhibits and they are correct; I always visit the gallery to see what's on the walls whenever I visit the Bay Area and as far back as I can remember it's always been landscapes and scenics, exotic travel pictures and so on, you know, pretty pictures that sell. They were nice though and praised my portfolio and one guy there upon finding out I live in LA even gave me the name of a bookstore/gallery in Venice that shows "edgier work" and suggested I look into exhibiting them there. I did look into it when I got back to LA but before dropping off the portfolio I visited the place and didn't like it so I didn't bother.
  23. Keeble and Shuchat is such a great camera store. Don't get down there too often. Palo Alto is only about a 40-minute ride from SF and it's a fun town. Have actually rented some equipment from them just to check it out. And they've been really helpful in answering some questions.
    Reason I mentioned Philosophy and questioning was just as a reminder than this is, after all, a Philosophy forum, so it's a natural place to ask and ponder questions.
    And as I've mentioned before, for me it's not about conclusions . . . or facts.
  24. Yes, it's hard to mention K&S without mentioning the wonderful staff there, I feel bad I neglected to do this so thanks Fred for mentioning it. I bought some of my darkroom and camera gear from them and also rented a Mamiya 7II for the weekend last year. Just couldn't get the hang of the whole rangefinder thing, but I'm glad I rented first because I was getting awfully close to pulling the trigger on purchasing one.
  25. I feel there's some benefit to taking up another creative activity, something you've never done before, to keep things fresh, even if its say interpretive dance, yodeling, basket weaving, wood carving, etc. Something expressive and maybe a little primitive where I feel there is some cross pollination with photography as a side benefit to taking on something new with some level of commitment.
  26. Tim, it is interesting to me that your comments on the image I posted is quite visceral - sense of speed, possible uncontrollable situation re the "wrong side" of the road, fear of water at an early age, converging lines, childhood memories of being in the front seat of a car and the risk of hydroplaning on a wet road, the unusual high viewpoint (perhaps more visible in the other photos of the series).
    This is a very good example of how different takes are possible with many photos. I may misquote Fred, but such considerations "are not about conclusions or facts", but rather about subjective perceptions. Of your impressions, that of a discomfort (fear) of water comes the closest to what I was trying to evoke, although I was attempting to show the heaviness of the atmosphere, the "rain and a wetness in one's face" so to speak. How does rain affect us? The distortion of the trees and road are important to me, including their underlying clarity (again, the effect of the water droplets in distorting the rays of light but retaining sharpness. My desire was as much related to providing an atmosphere or ambiance as a specific symbolism.
    Marc, I like your reflection about abstract work being related to your desire to better know oneself and the world (or the philosophical quest). Perhaps we can see at some point some examples. Your current series of posters, while figurative, may contain some more abstract notions in that sense? Before you mentioned the camera store in Pao Alto I had guessed that the owners of the exhibition space had the thoughts of their viewers in mind. I read today that the prominent "Musée d'Orsay" in Paris is holding an exhibition from this weekend onwards on prostitution and the paintings and photographs over the centuries that relate to this subject. No doubt some will not be interested in seeing it.
    You are right about the high position as the photos were made in a British rural two-decker bus (whence wrong side of the road). Phil is right about my technique of using a glass medium (very large front window which accepted my choice of a wide angle lens with sufficient depth of field at small apertures (Intentional but unrecorded - I had mentioned f5.6 to f8, but in retrospect it was likely f8 to f11) to register the droplets on the pane as well as the background.
    Phil, your analysis is correct. I have used a large pane of glass previously in light snowstorms to record snow flakes before and after they melted on the glass. To answer yours and Tim's comments, i should say that breaking free or exploration and discovery for me in the present case was that I had seldom before attempted to create images that showed how I perceived ancient yet contemporary philosophical and natural elements (air, earth, fire and water) and how I react to them. My evolved approach ("breaking free") in photography is attempting for the first time (for me) to provide a visual sometimes symbolic representation of various media about us - air, light, sound, water, heat, dense matter - and how they are both important to us, to what we see and live in contact with, to our emotional state, to our relationships.
    Charles, I have just noted your suggestion, which I also believe is a good adjunct to stimulating evolution in why, what and how we photograph. Accessory activities that are new to us can contribute to our approach and also there without the aforementioned (sorry, I forget who suggested "just do it". Allen?) "overthinking" of what we are doing.
    This is a big chunk and a sense of water is just a very small part. I once lived for a few years in this part of England where I shot the photos and the frequent rain did have an effect on me I guess. Whether or not the little series of photos to date represent well my feelings of wetness (Fred's appropriate term) or the sense of rain or water I am, not yet sure. But I am glad to try approaches like this ("sense of air", "sense of light", "sense of sound", "sense of snow", "sense of matter" are likely to be challenging but also informative) which are departures from my past directions. Intentional, in part. But I will let both my previous knowledge or habits in photography and the subject take me where they want.
  27. … forming compositions with a graphic design sense which is hard to shake seeing it was my former career …
    … taking up another creative activity …
    A couple of good points, I feel. Professional graphic designers are certainly under pressure to produce images with an immediate impact, as are amateur photographers who frequently enter club competitions and need to catch the judge's eye in the split-second in which this rests on their work. It seems to me inevitable that work with a strong immediate impact will have little if any emotional depth to it – if a photographer or other artist has reached the point where emotional depth is an important factor, then a change of approach is vital.
    A relatively simple way of achieving this is to ask oneself two questions. The first is "What is this subject matter trying to say to me?" (as opposed to trying to force your preconceived vision onto the subject matter). The second question is "Have I avoided the obvious?" – attempting to answer this question sincerely may at first be difficult, even painful, but can also be regulatory. I feel that this approach helps artists to break free without falling into the trap of egotism ("Look at me, look how clever I am!") and overthinking.
  28. "What is this subject matter trying to say to me?" (as opposed to trying to force your preconceived vision onto the subject matter). . . . falling into the trap of egotism . . .​
    I question the dichotomy you're making, as if the only two choices are allowing the subject to speak to us or forcing a preconceived vision onto it. What if someone is able to impose a newly-arrived-at vision onto it rather than a preconceived one, a spontaneous revelation they've had when viewing the subject that is very much their own imposition? What if they don't force it but suggest it? What if the subject matter itself doesn't much matter to the photographer and he's using it (yes, even exploiting it) precisely to express himself?
    Must every photographer really eschew egoism? I don't think so.
    It's counterintuitive to me to insist on breaking free to have such clear and distinct restrictions. Breaking free sounds to me like it can have a much more active voice. Sometimes subject matter needs a good swift kick in the a**. ;-)
    It seems to me inevitable that work with a strong immediate impact will have little if any emotional depth to it.​
    Nick Ut's Napalm Girl
    Stan Stearns's John John Saluting
    Alfred Eisenstadt's Kiss
    Andres Serrano's Piss Christ
    William Eggleston's Red Ceiling with Light Bulb, Greenwood, Mississippi

    I'd say there's a lot of work with only high initial impact that, after a few minutes, falls flat. But high initial impact doesn't mean it will fall flat. A photo can have high initial impact AND plenty of emotional depth as well, as I think the above examples show.
  29. "What is the subject trying to say to me?" Interesting statement and Fred and David have provided a part (although probably different parts) of interpretation of it. David may give most of the control in that process to the subject: Wait long enough and observe critically and the subject may reveal something unique or significant of itself. I see this as a somewhat passive and yet somewhat engaged approach, incomplete in itself but also important as an element of photography. Fred suggests kicking the subject in the a__, provoking a perception of it that may not be obvious at first sight. Exploring a subject means a certain willingness to postpone decision until it has suggested something to the photographer. I think that, except in spontaneous cases where everything comes together quickly and an opportunity is recognized as there and not to be missed (such recognition having a lot to do with the photographer's experience and subjective response), exploring the subject and what it means to the photographer is a valuable initial part of creation. But as I think Fred suggests, we are not passive and have a will to make of the subject what is important to us, whether that is part of a personal need and desire or extended to a desire to communicate one's perception and creation to a wider audience.
    I forget who said “I photograph in order to discover what is not obvious”. I like that statement as it implies making of the subject (and the “subject” may simply be a theme) something that the photographer actively engages to produce. It would be nice to see a “half-dome” image that has little to do with what we have been shown to date. Unfortunately, geography means that I cannot contemplate that objective myself. Not change for its own sake, but a different image that would attack our senses on a different level and convey something else about this popular site. Probably Atget did not consider the Eiffel tower particularly Parisian or part of his theme, but with so many similar images of this site there is an appetite for something quite different and yet meaningful (whatever one things meaningful is) and this also would imply an analysis of the subject (exploration) and creative personal action. Perhaps another example of a situation here breaking free is useful.
  30. “I am at war with the obvious.” –William Eggelston​
    And he also calls into question the significance of the "subject" of a photo.
    “I want to make a picture that could stand on its own, regardless of what it was a picture of. I’ve never been a bit interested in the fact that this was a picture of a blues musician or a street corner or something. ” –William Eggelston​
    And another photographer's thoughts about his relationship to "subjects":
    "You see something happening and you bang away at it. Either you get what you saw or you get something else--and whichever is better you print."
    –Garry Winogrand
    "Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts."
    –Garry Winogrand​
    I think Winogrand's first statement is really cool. He covers both scenarios, getting what you saw and getting what something else. Also, importantly, a lot happens after the shot's in the bag, choosing which photos to process and print and how to process and print them. A lot goes into why we push the shutter and a lot goes into the decisions we make after we've pushed it.
  31. It's not just what the subject can reveal to us or what we can give to the subject. It's also what our own photos can reveal to us . . . about subjects . . . about ourselves . . . about lots of things. And I'd even question the "about," because "abouts" tend to point to something else and imply meaning, which we don't always need.
  32. "You see something happening and you bang away at it. Either you get what you saw or you get something else--and whichever is better you print."
    –Garry Winogrand
    “I want to make a picture that could stand on its own, regardless of what it was a picture of. I’ve never been a bit interested in the fact that this was a picture of a blues musician or a street corner or something. ” –William Eggelston
    Thanks for these various quotes related to making images by photography. Eggleston is I think quite clear that simply recording is not his game, in fact I would assume that he is stating what abstract artists might say about any relation of their work to what may be reality or what seems to constitute the apparent apparent figurative nature of the image. In that way he is breaking free or going beyond that constraint.
    The word "saw" is important in Winogrand's statement, insofar as seeing is quite different from just looking. That he accepts that some image may be quite different from what he saw is like the element of chance operating (but chance usually favors the prepared mind, so the second option is not fully chance. I am not one who gets a lot from his gritty approach to street subjects, although I see much that is revealing of his subjects in them which is attributable to the way he sees.
    Phil, that is a very intriguing shot of the Eiffel tower and the best I have seen. Given the domestic architecture and trees it must have been seen and made with a fairly long focal length so isolating this frame no doubt took some effort. Nature's "towers" blend nicely with Gustav's structure.
    The heart of cities is often more evident and real in the small sites and human activity than in the impressive architecture or images of well known monuments.
  33. That he accepts that some image may be quite different from what he saw is like the element of chance operating​
    Good point, Arthur. Chance is important.

    I think it's also photography operating. He gets home, he goes through his shots. Some work and some don't because of the photos they make, not because of its relation to what he "saw" or what he was "looking at" at the time.

    I think in many instances the relationship to what was seen is very important to a photographer, at least to me. But I do think he's introducing an important idea that comes into play even when we are concerned with what we actually saw. I think one can incorporate both into photography, and may actually have to. The relationship to what was seen and the non-relationship to it.

    Going through my photos when I get home is as important as whatever goes into the making of my shots, from the most thought-through shots to the most instantaneous and spontaneous. All that pre-pushing-the-shutter planning, spontaneity, and pre-visualiazation (if I was able to) is done now and I'm at a different point in the process, where the photos as photos will speak to me and I will learn from them and perhaps still mold them into something else. Now the seeing starts again . . . seeing my photo and the potential it has and choosing it from among many rejects.
  34. ready at an instant to grasp an image,
    Which can be as important and sometimes more important than grasping a subject.
  35. Going through my photos when I get home is as important as whatever goes into the making of my shots​

    Phil, I could not agree more. This was (still is, occasionally) the same when going over a series of negatives, printing out a contact sheet and deciding which image we want before printing, and then comparing different printing approaches with each other and improving what I want from the final image. Given the facility of digital photography in producing many images, I think we have to be practical or selective in the making of images. At a recent outing of a group of photographers I made 37 images, while a colleague came back with nearly 1500. Maybe I could have seen more but I would not like to have 1500 images to review, especially of a subject with which interaction is important (for example, portraits).
    Your trees are no doubt important but fairly common in form to my eye, so I would definitely first appreciate the image as one of the tower and grasp on the the form analogy between it and the trees. I guessed 100 to 150mm for your lens, but the apparent lean of the tower* does really suggest a less lengthy focal length that you mention (*and the toponomy in the region of the tower is quite flat, being the valley of the Seine).
    Fred and Phil, re part of the quote:
    ".....ready at an instant to grasp an image,
    yet with no image pre-formed in it at any time."
    I know that you are both supporters of that remark. I am, too, but I would qualify it by saying that the grabbing in an instant of a particular image is not without plan, however unidentifiable that may seem at the moment. The difference between someone using a camera or seeing subjects in that manner for the first time and a photographer who has thought about images and experienced various scenarios of making pictures for some time, is that the latter brings in less than an instant all that baggage and values to making that instantaneous grab. Various degrees of intent, exploration and spontaneity occur in making photos. It is a combination of these inputs that are important to me and there is much satisfaction in that grabbed image that coincides with our approach or values.
  36. Small addition to the forgoing - When we "grasp" an image in an instant that is different for me from an image being created without any grasping, such as that which occurs entirely by accident. The two are quite different, the latter having no input from me, but sometimes something that I later recognize as valuable to keep. A gift.
  37. And yet the best accidents seem to happen to the best photographers!
  38. Fred, that may be possible, but I have not seen that particular proof or statistic. What the best photographers have perhaps is a better eye for discovering an accident once produced. A lot of less competent photographers would not find or recognize the quality of the accident among their work!
  39. Fred, that may be possible, but I have not seen that particular proof or statistic. What the best photographers have perhaps is a better eye for discovering an accident once produced. A lot of less competent photographers would not find or recognize the quality of the accident among their work!
  40. Arthur, I wasn't making a scientific statement that could be proved. This is not a matter of statistics, it's just a way of looking at accidents as possibly less entirely accidental than they may seem. A breaking free, if you will, from a way we might generally think about accidents.
    It's related, but a slightly different way of looking at it from "Chance favors the prepared mind."
    Accidental things happen each day that don't get photographed. Our capturing of them may be due to the way we've trained our instincts over time to respond. Our unconscious and our gut is always working and that goes into so much of our photographing that we can be surprised about later.
    I believe we are each predisposed, because of our past experience, our training, our influences, our genetics, our culture, etc., to seeing a certain way or even to breaking free in certain ways. Whether we noticed the surprising element or not when we were shooting, our non-thinking, non-intentional eye may have picked it up non-accidentally (for many reasons, in fact) and it's only later that we recognize its significance. We would later recognize it (as you say, based on our competence, and I would add other factors beside competence) but we may have been prone at the moment of snapping to find it even though we didn't recognize it at that point.
    It's in the same vein that we learn from our own photography. It doesn't necessarily teach us about things that weren't there. It can teach us about things that have been there all the time.
    A lot of less competent photographers would not find or recognize the quality of the accident among their work!​
    I also agree with this.
  41. Fred, you make some very interesting points about the nature of and recognition of accidental potential inputs and that which allows us (or not) to capture them and perhaps to break free from other responses. Your point about learning in photography,
    "....It doesn't necessarily teach us about things that weren't there. It can teach us about things that have been there all the time,"​
    fits into that potential to capture accidental effects as well as to recognize them later in post process.
    Maybe part of any act of breaking free is to reconsider an image or series of images we have initially made and to redo them in a different way than originally in mind, or to select just a part of an image or series as offering something quite different.
    Sometimes the changes we then make are fairly subtle but they can also be a little more adventurous. Having photographed (in B&W) at an oblique angle a series of row houses of eclectic ("Victorian") architecture I took the single print later on and chopped it into several vertical slices that I then reassembled with gaps to make a different image and final print. The repetitive effect of row architecture was accentuated.
    I think we can do a lot of things with the image first captured or the actual print (an object that can be further altered) and I recall a fellow photographer who had made a B&W print of a somewhat controversial restored building and before exhibiting it she decided to tear it in two and reassemble it (with the jagged edges) before framing, together with the gap and a red line drawn through that open intersection. I guess this and my example are partly physical breakings free and are getting into the area of graphics and sometimes, as with her image, communications of social or political nature.
  42. Phil, I much like your last contribution to the discussion. Frank, with all his experience and success with single images, wanted to break free from them and what he termed their limitations, but probably also to find new avenues of expression. The use of words or phrases in photos is not new and among other artists, a number of those photographers who are in the contemporary photography collection in Ottawa present images, multiple or single, with words. The breaking free (or exploration and evolution) of the photographer in those cases may be apparent mainly in their initial such departure from single photo. What happens in the mind of the photographer, and not just changing presentation, is also important. In my water series, quite yet undeveloped, that will be an important thing if it is to really break any ground. I have repeated the same thing in succeeding photos and have not explored any other aspect of sense.
    Your series on Palermo is to my mind really good. The initial photo is great (love it) and that with the dog forming only a part of one image while part of the background sounds of the place (which seem well integrated overall). Will have to take a more extended look at it. It is likely a breaking free exploration in your approach.
    Personally I think photography exists even when it is combined in multi-media work, such as a mixture of photo, painting, prose or poetry in one work. And your are right in saying what happens outside of the frame (two dimensional limits) of a photograph can be in synergy with its content and communicate beyond it. Interesting things to consider. My chopping up an image and representing it (adding spaces that are part of the effect) was just a simple aspect of that.
  43. I loosened my grip on traditional photography but have not broken free entirely. It is more an additive thing. I now have an art journal where I muse on photography. Digital photography provides an expanded and extended creative life to all of us in ways too numerous to list.

    When shooting I am more aware of what will become traditional B/W, or some kind of “arted” rendering. I have really broken free from printing, mounting and displaying. I do mostly books.
    I have a small “Work in Progress” book going at all times where I test images to see how they hang together with others. From the WIP books – I’ve done ten, with around 60 pictures each - themes arise for monographs. I keep several larger, deluxe volumes in the works.

    I believe there is a well developed instinctual ability we nurture and strengthen all our photographic lives. We just know when a picture is right. “Serendipity” favoring the “prepared” mind expression significantly applies to photographers. I shuffle images around in the editing process and seem to reach the right image before I see it.
  44. I only feel the need to break free from former approaches when I'm feeling especially pretentious or frustrated i.e. "stuck". Generally it seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Just following your natural interest, and really knowing or discovering that (always an evolving process) what that is, and then committing to doing it consistently is what leads to a fresh approach. To certain degree, we do have to each re-invent the wheel for our selves. Whether it is "breaking free" is really irrelevant, isn't it? Pushing for fresh approach, meaning something new, seems to most powerfully arise organically from ones own explorations. I'm not sure Eggleston, for instance, woke up one day and said, how can I break free? I think he got very interested in exploring color and composition and the craft to accomplish that, and then spent quite a bit of energy and time developing it. Breaking free, or what people think of as a new approach, usually comes when it does, after a long commitment to a process/idea. I'm not sure it should necessarily be a goal in and of itself.
  45. Alan : I loosened my grip on traditional photography but have not broken free entirely - When shooting I am more aware of what will become traditional B/W
    Barry : I only feel the need to break free from former approaches when I'm feeling especially pretentious or frustrated i.e. "stuck". Generally it seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Breaking free, or what people think of as a new approach, usually comes when it does, after a long commitment to a process/idea. I'm not sure it should necessarily be a goal in and of itself.
    Phil : In my personal works I try to tone down on stylization. I don't want the form or style of a picture to become the subject. The subject should already be wholly formed in the frame ….and… then to be further subjected in the way the individual image and its subject may relate to other images (from Walker Evans & Co. link).​
    If I understandyour points, Allan is breaking free from traditional photography which is a common thread in most of our experiences and may have greater implications for him in regard to the way he sees subjects. Barry does not see it as an intentional decision to change picture approach values but rather an evolution of an original process or idea. But is evolution unconscious? I wonder also if we are all aware of what that (process/idea) is in our photography and instead see some opportunity to define one (clarification of intent, as much as breaking free from an already conscious process). Phil seeks to minimize the effect of form or style in his pictures (whatever presently that is) in favor of the subject.
    The link regarding how pictures relate to each other rather than each being a totality is something that we can certainly pursue if we wish as an approach to breaking free from traditional single image photography. It is the well known use of a series to communicate additional information or meaning. I guess I personally am interested in that approach and the research it implies, but also see a breaking free as a personal mental re-orientation (or simply and more often, a continual re-evaluation) of my picture-making objectives, subjects or manner of seeing them.
  46. But is evolution unconscious?​
    I don't know but making a commitment to one's interest is conscious. I agree with Barry on the importance of a commitment to what one is interested in. It may well be that through commitment breaking free occurs.

    I don't think one has to will the kind of freedom we're talking about in this thread. I think that freedom is a given. I think we will our own slavishness. Regardless, one does have to will a commitment to what one is doing and why one is doing it. To commit is not only to choose but to act on that choice, which is to be free.
  47. Hi, I'm new to Photonet. Your 'Breaking free' struck a chord with me. I practise Mindful Photography and as my journey as a photographer has now taken 3 years, I'm trying to become more creative and individual. At the moment, I'm drawn to abstract water reflections. I don't have Photoshop and only do minimal post-processing (some cropping and contrast adjustment) [​IMG]
  48. Welcome Sarah,
    You will no doubt find some ideas on the subject here of value. Your new subject matter may lead to exploration and a evaluating your approach, important I believe to the idea of breaking free.
  49. Minor White quote from Phil above: The state of mind of the photographer while creating is a blank. . .
    Sounds Zen like?
    So from that I guess that breaking free would be a process since breaking is an action word and might translate as 'traveling to' or 'working toward' freedom'. Having a blank mind when creating would then be the 'free', the destination of the breaking. So free = a blank mind that nevertheless: a very active state of mind really, a very receptive state of mind,
    ready at an instant to grasp an image,
    yet with no image pre-formed in it at any time.

    Which isn't a description of a blank, so White might be saying something like: When photographing creatively my mind is a blank, but as a blank mental state it is a very active state of mind, a very receptive state of mind that is ready at an instant to grasp an image with that blank mental state having no pre-formed image in it at any time. So does White mean a mental state blank of pre-formed images, but not blank of the intent to nevertheless take a picture of something anyway?
    These self-descriptions by artists of their photographic mental apparatus I read while making allowances; and I do get a sense of what White is saying despite my half-hearted attempts to glean more specificity from White's words than are there as just written on a page. And I take what seems to be Phil's point that breaking free may also involve an exercising of a state of mind as much as an exercise of skeletal muscles. Yet the mind thing is quite a struggle for me.
    Could White's description of a photographer's creative mental state also be a description of a painter's? It's very hard for me to arrive at a place and call forth from myself a blank mental state devoid of pre-formed images. So when doing a portrait, I think of other portraits, lighting, posing and those then are pre-formed images in my mind, my mind isn't a blank and I'm not sure that, for instance, a sports photographer wouldn't also have in her mind not a blank, but a bank of pre-formed images to in some way emulate even if approaching the sporting subject with an artist's intention. In fact, if I read Michael Freeman's photography books, if I remember correctly he describes his experience as a photographer as collecting a set of pre-formed images and attempting when approaching a subject to call those forth. I believe he would look for juxtapositions for contrast, i.e., large next to small; or leading the eye and he writes of studies of how viewer eyes generally visually read a picture. Some things generally get visually read first; so when Freeman knows that something will be noticed second he makes the second thing significant in order to impart the experience to the viewer of a sort of delay that is then followed by recognition. That delay is supposed to be satisfying to the viewer. I would compare those techniques to a category called 'viewer expectation management' and though I find such pictures satisfying, I can see where musical compositions are also arranged to meet my expectations, as are flower arrangements I suppose. But if Freeman's books catalogue elements of craft that doesn't suggest that art is a slave to craft. Which brings me back anyway to White who can't be unaware of the elements of craft and yet seems to say he can clear his mind of them.
    Adding: so it may be that White is describing a mental state as a blank one when it can just look at what is there.
  50. Charles, having quickly read your text (and needing to re-read it later when time permits) I do not think White really is starting from an absolutely blank state. And do you think he is clearing his mind of crafts or rather of crafts and mental pre-conditions (a state of incipient or nascent creation?) of what the captured image should look like? Sometimes we listen to music and are extremely sensitive to it, to the sonorities, to the composition, to the mind of the composer (insofar as that is attainable). At other times we are less receptive. Do appreciation and perception require a so-called ideal state of reception and/or blank mind? I tend to think not and that is part of the question of exploration and evolution (or "breaking free"). To what point are we in control (which allows in my mind an ability to explore) and to what point are we simply receivers of what the subject is. As soon as we perceive the subject in one manner or the other we seem to be engaged and not blankly waiting for the subject (and time and environment) to manifest itself.
    This is probably hogwash... I haven't yet had my morning coffee.
  51. Other thoughts,
    Arthur: "The ability to break free from former approaches is probably recognized by many as an essential element of that freshness."​
    I like that for Alfred Stieglitz his break from his former approach, pictorialism, was in part precipitated by depression and furthered along by falling in love and remarrying into an even fuller life.
    So I guess there are many ways to picture water, the sense of it, its fluidity, effect, tactility. Rain clouds approaching a landscape say one thing. A downpour over a broad landscape can speak to cleansing, catharsis, and imply the coming renewal that rain invariably brings. Tears are water, cleanse the soul, and ritualized purification baths suggest also the cleansing sense of water. There are a lot of things water can be. I'm not so sure my dogs know that the water in the bowl is the same 'water' they are bathed in or is the same water that comes from sprinklers or comes down in the form of rain. They experience water in its many forms and respond not to water, but respond to how water behaves in each situation. Is it really all the same water in the final analysis, or are my dogs wiser than I to consider irrelevant the fact that it's the same water? It may be water but my dogs will break free to get away from baths anyway. Would it be a breaking away if in your water series you included a picture of yourself all refreshed in a warm bath? Why not! can be a breaking away?
    What is water then? How have humans experienced water and used it to express even their most intimate and varied experiences of life? Water is as fundamental as breath, and it simultaneously is trivial and even a nuisance despite that water indeed accompanies and announces every birth of a human being. Baptismal rituals anoint with water although each birth is naturally accompanied by anointing water and our current base of knowledge suggests that our origin stories begin in water. Water is sensed differently in different situations.
  52. As for water, I can recommend Window Water Baby Moving, a short "experimental" (or non-narrative) film by Stan Brakhage documenting the birth of his first child.
  53. "Breaking free" could be a state where your ego does not lead your work but rather your spirit, to be taken to places that are formed by the unconscious. But art copies life for most. Who can say that their life's actions were generated by the senses rather than the goals and fears of the mind? It's a very difficult thing to do to step out of oneself and trust the results for whatever they are.
  54. Alan it does sound like Minor White's The state of mind of the photographer while creating is a blank... might refer to an egoless state. I mean it probably does. I've heard about egoless states, maybe that's what he means. If so, how achieve that state in order to be more creative, more fresh? On the other hand, Minor White can read, can read about blank states of mind, thinks he can achieve that state and describe it. But he is saying his mind as a photographer while creating is 'blank' and then goes on to describe the activity going on in that 'blank'. It isn't a blank he is describing. Instead it is a very active, so active you could hardly call it blank. An active, receptive, ready mind isn't a blank. He still has a mind, it's still his, and it is doing something. What?
    So I think that part of the problem with decipherability of such statements, statements like finding your center or Phil's attribution to Duane Michals a '...zen like metaphysical understanding of how things truly are' is that a road map isn't included in such descriptions or references of a mental state. Because what I find in my mind isn't a blank unless I am asleep. Language is my constant companion and I can't shut it off entirely. Where's the off switch then? With what manipulation of language might I push that off switch? Is there in language a language that could shut language off, it's still language then, and language isn't a blank. When are we not talking to ourselves? And if someone knows how to blank that off, what language is used to achieve the shutting off of language, of spontaneously arising thoughts.
  55. When are we not talking to ourselves?​
    When we're anticipating, expecting what's coming next as is often the state of mind when I search with my eyes for something to photograph. At that moment I can't think of creating the greatest photo ever taken or any other scheduled drudgery such as cleaning out my refrigerator while I'm in this state of mind.
    Or maybe it's impossible to have a quiet, blank mind for those that can multitask and compartmentalize all that cross talk.
  56. Well I think that those who can advise others to become centered are responsible then for a detailed self-description conveying how they got there. So I can get there and decide once there if it is somewhere to get.
  57. And it may be that language just itself isn't up to the task.
  58. Tim "Or maybe it's impossible to have a quiet, blank mind for those that can multitask and compartmentalize all that cross talk."
    I think it isn't possible, whether one can multi task or not. Cross talk is part of the inner landscape out of which creative expression nevertheless comes. Clarissa Pinkola Estés speaks to the subject of cross talk and creativity along with all the feelings about that in an audio talk The Creative Fire: Myths and Stories About the Cycles of Creativity (1993) (mp3s/CDs). That's about creative expression generally. Natalie Goldberg discusses that cross talk in intimate detail in her writing and in her writing workshops.
  59. Maybe one way to understand this, especially as it relates to art/photography is not to approach it literally. Would it help to read "a blank mind" as "a blanker mind"? If that helps, I think that would be fine. If this were a science, I'd expect a provable analysis. But it's not . . . so I don't. I don't read "blank mind" objectively. I think about what it could mean to me and work with that. There are meditative exercises one can do to reduce the internal dialogue and particularly the noise. They can be found on the Internet. I imagine they work for some and don't work for others. To put it in terms of photography, a clue may be focus.
  60. OK, that makes sense, focus and noise handling.
  61. Arthur P. This has been a rewarding topic. Thanks.

    Phil S. – Evans quote is best ever RE seeing photography as an additive process of expression.
    Got in a creative rut? Go to galleries and museums. Study work you usually blow by. Soak up their creative aura.

    Alan Z.

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