Clocks and the Sun (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. Description of my feelings about Phil's picture and Steve's photograph:

    Phil's is a really good picture, IMO. To my eye, everything in it is symbolic. A viewer need not have any awareness of symbolism; symbolism works whether you notice it or not ("weaponized forms"). It works beautifully. It's not a limiting quality; it's an empowering one, though possibly a dangerous one if not presented knowingly.

    I love this kind of picture. From it I get the same kind of pleasure as when I find something new — in nature, or in technology; anywhere — and I pick it up and turn it over and try it out this way and that, with Ohs! and Ahs!, figuring out how it "works" on/for/with me.

    That pleasure, that joy of discovery is why you find me incessantly, in this forum asking "Why?" and "What's it doing to you?" It's not inquisition or an attack; it's the chatter of discovery. To refuse to respond or share is to turn your back and hide your examination from my/our eyes/ears; to refuse to respond is to refuse shared chatter in exploration. (Disagreement is very much a part of that lovely face-to-face exploratory chatter.)


    Steve's is not a good picture, IMO. But it is an amazing photograph. It does none of the things that Phil's picture does (even though the playpen is suggestive); I find no need to turn it over in my mind, to explore it, to find out what makes it "work." In addition, and this is strictly my own feeling, some portraits feel to me like they were meant for people who know the person shown, not for a general, strange public such as this forum. I feel like I'm intruding when I look at the girl in the picture; she seems to be smiling for her friends and intimates, not for a stranger like me.

    However, this is an amazing photograph, IMO, because it immediately takes me into its space. I am there. I think the sun flare does that for me; it makes air, it reaches forward; it makes time, it makes space. The expression, "bathed in sunlight" seems to describe what I'm after. There is a forever "now" about what that picture does for me that I love. It's immediate, it's lovely; it takes my mind like an open window into ... it just takes me. We — she and I — are feeling the same sun now. I find that glorious.

    Supriyo, I think the city gets in the sun's face and competes with its light. I'm rarely in dense urban areas, but in pictures, it seems as if people both seek the sun out between the tall buildings, and are surprised by it, which is kind of crazy (being surprised by the sun!).
  2. While all photographs are pictures but not all pictures are photographs, I wonder why you'd make the distinction between 'picture' and 'photograph' in this case when knowing that both images were made with the use of a camera.

    Is it the sunflare which gives the viewer the perspective of looking through a lens that gives Steve's image perhaps something more 'photographic'?

  3. I was fishing for words to use. I couldn't think of how to separate something that "represents" and engages my thoughts from something that simply takes me over.
  4. The narrator in Phil's video clip says that flare suggests light and heat, and Julie says it gives substance to the air. It got me wondering how these things were evoked prior to photography. In looking at petroglyphs, ancient Egyptian art, Mayan depictions, and paintings from before 1800, there are plenty of depictions of the sun with radial streaks or rays, and some with concentric arcs or circles. It occurred to me that I had never looked at the sun with the unaided eye to know for sure if the rays really exist, so I had to go outside for an experiment. And yes, I could see rays, but they were caused by reflection or diffraction off my lashes because I was squinting a lot. Perhaps lens flare, a fairly recent phenomenon, relates back to dazzled, squinting eyes. But the cool thing about the experiment was that the afterimages of the sun were black.

    The 'why' of including the sun in a photo is hard to get at. A solar eclipse generates strong emotions in people, and I know of people who travel the world just to see them. But pinning down the reason why they are attractive can be difficult, and many people are speechless after an eclipse, or end up using hackneyed words. In August, I'll be driving over 700 miles to see my first one; maybe then I'll have some sense of what it's about.

  5. Heat and light. Energy. The word has become so dried up, commoditized, trivialized that it's almost meaningless. 'Energy' has become just another trinket that we get and spend at our whim.

    As I rode through the Schwarzwald, I said to myself: that little fire which glows starlike across the dark-growing moor, where the sooty smith bends over his anvil, and thou hopest to replace thy lost horseshoe, — is it a detached, separated speck, cut off from the whole universe: or indisolvably joined to the whole? Thou fool, that smithy fire was (primarily) kindled at the Sun: is fed by air that circulates from before Noah's Deluge, ... from beyond the Dogstar.
    Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Restartus, 1833
  6. Nice shot, Supriyo. The sun's heat feels amplified by the buildings and especially the glass, which block breezes and create a stifling atmosphere. I imagine the metal and glass were quite hot after a day in the sun.
  7. I think that lens flare can in some cases add to the effect of the sun, or act as a stand-in for the sun. Flare suggests an intense light source, and including it in a photo or movie seems to make the light even more intense. There was lens flare in the movie Wall-E, which was purposely added through CGI, and I think adding this "defect" gave the feeling of more light, more heat, more atmosphere. Then there was the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, which so overused flare that it became a distraction.
  8. When I see lens flare, I sometimes imagine them as butterflies, or fireflies flying around. It is as if I (or the subject) am surrounded by light.
  9. Thank you Mark. This was in fall last year. Still, everything was quite hot. I think, the musician is a local and used to the heat.
  10. Mark, when I see lens flare I tend to think not only about energy or intensity but also very much about the medium, usually in a good way. I love old Hollywood movies about making movies (one of the best ever is Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels--1941) and also love backstage musicals because, while effectively using their mediums to tell a story, they are also commenting on those very mediums. That's kind of how a flare works for me. While it becomes part of the narrative of the photo, it also makes me aware of the artifice that is the photo itself.

    A photo can be about the sun, about warmth, about light intensity (or portray these things), but it can also be about photos per se. I think including elements of craft or of the means of production can really deepen a connection to the film, photo, painting, or piece of music. There are particular visual symbols which can operate on both the content level and the form (or medium) level. Flare is one example. Grain and noise are others. Grain may make me feel a certain way, depending on the story the photo is telling. But it will also put me in touch with a unique photographic phenomenon, which has its own different sort of "meaning." Think about a well-placed scratch on or bleaching of a negative in the old days, done intentionally. They would serve a purpose in terms of being like an adjective helping to describe the subject or contents of a photo. But they would also serve a material function, reminding me of the physicality or physical process of photo making.

  11. Mark (fifthessence), change that to "a day in the sunlight," and think about it: sunlight, daylight, time light. Is it morning? Midday? Afternoon? Evening? Summer? Winter? Is it gloomy? Bright? Lazy?

    Clocks tell time. The sun makes time — and has done so for all time.

    If, tomorrow morning, your clock said 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and the sun did not come up, which one would you believe?
  12. Fred, I've come around to appreciating "defects" like grain, flare, small depth of field, and blur. What's interesting to me is the inclusion of such things in media where such things are not inherent, like in CGI. They no longer comment on the medium, but they have become symbols or tools that rely on our familiarity with photography. I have some digital music recordings that have hiss and pops (equivalent to grain, dust, and scratches) deliberately added to evoke certain feelings.

    Julie, I've made several sundials, so your comment about the sun making time certainly rings true. Combined with the time, the sun also determines place. I often use the sun's position to orient myself, to show direction. I remember navigating Sydney and getting confused more than once because the noonday sun was to the north. The sun could be a symbol of time in a photo, but I can't think of a photo where it is important as an indicator of direction.

    (How do I get my name to appear below my avatar?)
  13. While at the photography section of PN, click on 'ACCOUNT' from the menus on the left. Then scroll down to "Your info". Change the setting that says "Screen name". Its under "Account Details" right below "Your info".
  14. Thank you, Supriyo. I checked and my name is there, as it has been for some time. Oh well.

  15. I just changed my screen name to 'who am i', and it doesn't show up here. So you are right. The settings are not taking effect. Should be a PN bug then. Perhaps Julie can help, who successfully transformed her screen name from 'unreal nature' to 'Julie H'.
  16. OK, finally found it. The forums and photography sections have different settings and one doesn't correspond to the other.
    Here is how to do it: At the top of the forum page, there are three links: <your screen name>, <Inbox>, <alerts>. Hover your mouse over the leftmost link. Click on 'Signature'. In the next page, in the menus on the left, click on 'Change Username' (last link above 'log out'). Here you will be given the option to change your user name. See, I changed my name from Supriyo to 'who am i'.
  17. It worked. Thank you, Supriyo.
    Sorry to get off topic.

  18. No worries:


    The ancient Egyptians believed that 'the personal name was much more than a means of identification. It was an essential part of the person. The name was a living thing.' All characteristics of the symbol recur in names. (1) They are 'full of significance. (2) when writing or speaking the name of a person that person 'is given life and survival,' which corresponds to the dynamics of the symbol, (3) knowledge of the name 'gives power' over that person, which corresponds to the magical aspect, the mysterious bond of the symbol. Knowledge of the name is part of the ritual of conciliation, casting spells, destroying, taking possession of and so on, and the phrase 'his name will no more be among the living' was the most extreme form of the death-sentence. — The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols

    The power of the name is also the reason why, in the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, the name of the arch villain Voldemort is rarely said, replaced instead with, "you know who." In the fairy tale, knowledge of the name of the gnome Rumplestiltskin will buy power over him. It's an old superstition that a child without a name is somehow without a soul, and is therefore at risk of exposure to evil influences. — The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook


    And what's the name of that place where we live?

    ... Apollo 8 bowled along sideways, like a silver rolling pin, spinning slowly to distribute the sun's intense heat. From the craft's angle of approach the Moon was in darkness, so for the first two days the astronauts saw only the Earth shrinking behind them and a coy black void ahead, bereft of stars and glowing, until finally they were drifting engine-first around the far side, preparing for the "burn that would slow them into the lunar orbit. Still they saw nothing — until suddenly and without warning an immense arc of sun-drenched lunar surface appeared in their windows and the three men got the shocks of their lives, as the ethereal disc they and the rest of humanity had known up to then revealed itself as an awesome globe, cool and remote, without sound or motion, magisterial but issuing no invitation whatsoever ... Upon their return, they described a forbidding and hostile world. It was the Earth that sang to them from afar. — Andrew Smith. Moonrise: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth​

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