Connecting with the photographer

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Jan 24, 2015.

  1. We have all probably felt at some point, in our reading of novels or other books of opinion, a bond of some sort with the author. What he or she writes reverberates with our own thoughts, values, perceptions or ideals to the point that we feel almost as if we know the person very well, despite the fact that he or she may have lived in a past period and/or presently in a country far from our own. We embody his or her world and experience and feel a sort of friendship with the author. Sometimes this does not arrive from reading one book, but from several, and to some degree in knowing (and sharing) something of the life of the author.
    This can also happen in music and visual art. Benjamin Britten, Michael Tilson Thomas and Felix Leclerc (two generally known, one generally unknown) are composers who are my "friends" and who share similar views with my own on humanity, the stakes at play, and our environment. There are some authors, musicians and visual artists with whom I particularly bond to in terms of shared values, and a few much more than others. When I read, listen and view their works I feel that I am communicating with a "friend", and with whom I may even disagree on some things.
    Many photographs we see over the years can leave us impressed by their insight of things or events or of their impact on the viewer. But, importantly, this can happen without having anything to do with our feeling a close connection with the photographer. What I am referring to here is not that but instead the sense we might have of understanding and knowing where the photographer is coming from, of appreciating (and admiring) the values, thoughts or perceptions that come from reading the nature or intent of his or her images, and of feeling a bond or (albeit sometimes distant in place or time) friendship with the photographer.
    Does this occur for you, who, what and why?
    Is it possible to know and connect in friendship (shared values, experience, desires, etc.) with the generator of images, like we might with some author or composer we greatly appreciate and whose life has some parallels with our own?
     
  2. Interesting thought Arthur. For me, I don't think this applies, or maybe perhaps not in ways that are obvious to me. I can admire the work of an artist but I wouldn't even begin to guess what his or her mindset is at any given time of their career. Remember, artists are products of their time and culture and since those things shape us as individuals they work to shape the art they produce. The term "Decisive Moment" as coined by HCB has almost become a marketing term that some street photographers seem to think holds the key to creating great work. I see the term tossed around in various street photography forums now and then. I disagree. HCB and his methods were unique to him because he simply was who he was. I'm not a Frenchman who lived in the early and mid 20th century so to me there is no way to compare his methods to my own or to adopt his to mine. Sure we can read interviews and watch video of him and others but such things barely scrape the surface. Daido Moriyama is another, his work is often described as an expression of life in Japan post WWII. Since I've never been to Japan and I wasn't alive back then, it's hard for me to see this. Moriyama has cited Andy Warhol as an influence and other then one or two photographs of canned food in a super market, I don't see this influence either.
     
  3. One may relate to the photographer if his photos are editorial in nature and you have the same outlook. Salgado comes to mind. I don't relate to the photographer if it's fine art, however. I relate more to the style and effect it has on me. Knowing the photographer might be interesting, but not important.
     
  4. "Daido Moriyama is another, his work is often described as an expression of life in Japan post WWII. Since I've never been to Japan and I wasn't alive back then, it's hard for me to see this. Moriyama has cited Andy Warhol as an influence and other then one or two photographs of canned food in a super market, I don't see this influence either."​
    Influences and inspirations don't always result in a pastiche or homage as an end product. Eddie Van Halen cited Eric Clapton as his primary inspiration, but it's nowhere to be heard in Van Halen's actual playing.
    There's much more to Warhol than cartoonish pop art allusions. His 1970s Polaroid Big Shot portraits were very influential on later photographers, notably Terry Richardson. His 1960s b&w photos were not so much influential or unique as they were products of that era's pop culture sensibility. In some respects Warhol's 1960s still photos are reminiscent of still photos from Russ Meyer movies.
     
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    In some respects Warhol's 1960s still photos are reminiscent of still photos from Russ Meyer movies.​

    And in most respects, some of Warhol's movies aren't much different from still photos.
     
  6. I find Warhol to be a fascinating person. I do own a few books of his diaries, correspondences and also his book "Andy Warhols Exposures" which seems to be mostly celebrity pics. Maybe someday I'll get around to reading these. Back in the late '80's - early '90's I used to spend weekends in Santa Cruz with a group of friends. We would stay up all night watching films by Russ Meyer, John Waters, and Warhol among others. Good times.
     
  7. Arthur, in my mind the image of a sort of funny dog-chases-tail pops up after reading your post. In a sense I can understand your post, also because having read your ideas and thoughts here - a similar sort of 'projected friendship' as the one you descrive - and it fits in with ideas that have formed in my head from that. At the same time, I don't feel what you describe applies to me as strongly.
    Yes, there can be a sense of bonding, the sensation of being touched directly emotionally; a sense of dialogue, discussion between that artist and me. Typically, I think I certainly do draw inspiration from that, ideas - but much as in the examples above, that doesn't need to translate literally. I love seeing and studying Brassaï photos and each time I see some it just gives me ideas, thoughts..."this is how I should try to do it next time" - only to find that I live in a different era, different city and have a different pair of eyes in the end. Well, much what Marc already said - we are who we are, and we're trying to personally express ourselves. Nonetheless, a level of inspiration/interaction is there. We're not isolated either, though there is a considerable difference between being influenced and being part of a school. I'm a bit too freakish about my independence to be able to be part of a school, but influeces: yes, and plenty. The cliché about standing on the shoulders of giants creeps up - except: it's not one pair of shoulders, and the shoulders may well not stand face to face. We cherrypick where to put our feet, I guess.
     
  8. I guess Marc (re Warhol) and Wouter (re Brassai?) come close to feeling some sort of kinship with the life and approach of certain photographers, but I must apologize to both if I am exaggerating that out of context. Yes, we can be influenced by other photographers, as suggested By Alan, Lex and Jeff, but that is something that may be based upon one or more images that we may admire for their quality but not necessarily a link or connection with the spirit, values and life of the photographer. Maybe this is not easy to connect with in photography, although I would challenge the comment of Alan that it excludes fine art photography. That would be similar to saying that you can connect with the values and existence of a writer on politics or economics, but not with one involved in creating fiction, which is in a sense the "fine art of written communication."
    I hesitate to cite a photographer with whom I share an appreciation of his work and a bond of "friendship" or communality of thought and experience, because we are not usually involved with the thoughts, values and life experience of photographers and quite happy to concentrate mainly on what they produce.
    If I had to cite one photographer with whom I share values if not largely similar life experience it might be Edouard Boubat, the French romantic photographer who died some fifteen or twenty years ago. He was deeply affected by the strife of war in Europe (His father's memories of WW1 and his own two years in a forced hard labour camp in Germany) and sought thereafter to photograph the simple things that bond humans together and provide some beauty. He won the Kodak prize in Paris for his first image (Rolleicord - he sold some of his books to buy it) of a small girl covered with collected fallen leaves. He showed considerable sensitivity in photographing people including women of his era, as well as small things in everyday life. Some of his photos of children at play are multidimensional and enchanting in their communication. His quote "Over a lifetime I have noticed that everything is woven together by chance encounters and special moments. A photograph gives you a deep insight into a moment, it recalls a whole world.” He operated a bit like Cartier-Bresson, but I sense more of the quality of magic in his images. I think his objective was not to capture the sensational but to show us the common thread that connects the everyday life of humans, irrespective of where they may live. I relate absolutely with another of his thoughts: "Photography reveals the images within us."
     
  9. I'm thinking of Wagner, and how much I appreciate his music and how his life and values got infused into his music and how much I abhor his politics and values. So, understanding or being familiar with some artists' lives can and does deepen my appreciation of and intimacy with their art while at the same time I remain very unsympathetic to their views and values. Ezra Pound and Edgar Degas also come to mind as great artists who were likely pretty awful people. I wouldn't share their values but can appreciate their art despite their values and also may appreciate the connection between their art and their questionable values as a matter of understanding. Only on a case by case basis might I reject someone's art based on who they are. Plenty of my older relatives could not get past Wagner personally and refused to listen to his music. That is understandable. I won't go to see a Mel Gibson film, but part of that is that I won't support him monetarily by paying to see his films. Were Wagner still alive and making money from my listening to his music, I might well choose not to listen. It would be an artistic loss to me, but one I'd be willing to suffer because the politics might outweigh other things.
     
  10. When making photographs of landscapes and some waterscapes, I try and tap my inner Ansel. Sometimes, when seeking additional inspiration in difficult landscape situations, I’ll try to channel Mr. Adams directly. Occasionally, especially if the connection is weak or difficult at the time, sub-channeling the master via Shirley MacLaine helps get the job done.
    [​IMG]
    San Francisco Bay, Millbrae, California • ©Brad Evans 2014
    .
    Making photographs on the street or in bars (like the photo below), well, that's a whole different ball of seagulls. In those situations others would likely draw inspiration from the usual suspects such as Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, Daido, etc. Not me. The individual from which I draw street inspiration is not even a photographer, but the well-known and great philosopher Chuckles the Clown. Chuckles' views and maxims I hold very close, especially this one: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
    My view is you can never have enough Chuckles in your life...
    [​IMG]
    San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2014
    .
     
  11. I might have said Chuckles the Clown, but Brad beat me to it. ;-)
    Arthur: What he or she writes reverberates with our own thoughts, values, perceptions or ideals to the point that we feel almost as if we know the person very well, despite the fact that he or she may have lived in a past period and/or presently in a country far from our own. We embody his or her world and experience and feel a sort of friendship with the author.
    I have had this experience with authors, sometimes going so far as to have had imaginary conversations with them. Ernest Hemingway, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Joshua Chamberlain (the latter of Civil War fame) come to mind. Not that my life mirrors any of these men, but more that certain aspects of portions of their writing, or my impression of certain aspects of their outlook on life as expressed through that writing resonated very strongly at some point and created a sense of kinship and understanding. But this discussion is not about that sort of "friendship" with authors, so as adolescent as it may sound to lay claim to a feeling of kinship with Hemingway or Coleridge, I will just have to let that go without qualification or more detailed explanation.
    What about photographers? I'd have to divide this up to different aspects -- photographic outlook as expressed through writings or spoken word; approach or viewpoint as expressed through photographs; biographical similarities.
    Limited only to documentary/street photography, the written and allegedly spoken words of John Szarkowski and Garry Winogrand resonate with me. Specifically in relation to the paradox of a photograph being both a fiction and a self-contained reality or fact. But this hardly resonates to the point of feeling a "friendship" with them.
    Certain photographs by Vivian Maier, William Klein, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Helen Levitt, Louis Faurer, and Josef Koudelka have struck strong chords of recognition within me -- as if I had taken them myself. I don't intend this in a deluded or egotistical way and I'm not even sure if I can explain precisely what I mean. But I am willing to bet that almost everyone who has contributed to this thread can say the same thing about certain photographs by well known photographers, so really what value lies in me even mentioning it? I am not special in that regard, and it still does not quite approach the level of "friendship" that I think Arthur intends. As for a life or "biographical" connection with any photographer, forget it. I don't know enough about any of them to approach friendship on that basis alone.
    The closest I can come to even approximating what I think Arthur is getting at is what I might call "the Chicago connection". I think particularly of Ishimoto and Maier in this regard. Ray Metzker and Harry Callahan (among others, including even a few not so well known photos by Winogrand) did work on the streets of the Windy City, but something about certain photos by Maier and Ishimoto seem...I don't know, familiar? Approaching, but not quite equaling the sensation of "I took that photo!" or maybe it's more like, "Yes! I know and feel this moment and this point of view captured here even though I was not there at that moment." Again, any of us can say this, but in this case, and for me, it is specifically related to the provenance of the Chicagoland area. I have very little in common with Maier, yet she haunts me sometimes, or maybe she haunts the streets of Chicago and its suburbs. As a child, I walked the same areas and streets that she did and wonder, now as an adult, if I might ever have been within a few feet or blocks of her. And she lived here in this area when I moved back to the Chicago area in 2008. But...so what? Mere wistful adolescent romanticism? I don't even know what I'm trying to say anymore.
    I tried, Arthur. And I think it is an interesting discussion, but in the end, for me, I don't think what few scraps of kinship I may feel can quite meet the level of what I think you mean by "friendship".
     
  12. Having thought a bit more about it, I wanted to go back to Vivian Maier. I still don't think this qualifies as "friendship", but I think I have a better way of explaining what she means to me.
    First is the Chicago connection and age. Although she was an adult when I was a child, in many ways I passed through the same world, country, city... the same eras, the same historical events, that she did.
    Second, her apparent fascination and drive to use a camera to record life, people and places around her, particularly in Chicago. And this seemingly without any hope or expectation of recognition or monetary reward for doing so. I sometimes ask myself why I persist in taking the types of photographs I do, in the style that I do, when so many before me, and currently around me, have done, and continue to do, the same thing? Shouldn't I move on, or explore the avenues of some slightly different types of photographs that I sometimes take? Shouldn't I make the attempt to do something photographically different that might gain me more recognition, popularity, or money? The answer to now has always been a resounding "No!". It is not even conscious. I am driven to photograph what I photograph and I love doing so*. I have no idea what motivated Maier to do what she did for so many years but I think that I feel a kinship with the kind of drive, demon, or obsession, that caused her to do so. I could be wrong, but I suspect that it is the same for many of us here, even if we do not all work in precisely the same way, or even within the same genre.
    [*Even within the genre in which I work, I feel a bit alienated from what might be considered the "mainstream" or populist view of what street photography is, or should be. Marc touched upon this when he mentioned HCB and the populist SP obsession with "The Decisive Moment" on some SP websites. Off topic, but I often feel that the Decisive Moment has been completely misinterpreted over the years and that, even if it is not, it is terribly outdated and only leads to a "one trick pony" style of photography --- In a similar vein, I think there is too much love and fascination with both visual puns and shots that include slices of bright late afternoon sunlight reflected off skyscraper windows into darker urban canyons. Good heavens, get over it already and move on! So many street photography memes as Lex would call them. But that is my prejudice showing, and to paraphrase what Brad and other photographers have said, "Why worry about it? Just do what pleases and seems right to you."]
     
  13. Shouldn't I make the attempt to do something photographically different that might gain me more recognition, popularity, or money?​
    Steve, if I were to wonder about things like this, which I do, I'd be considering it for my own personal growth and in order to expand my own horizons, not for recognition, popularity, or money.

    Recognition, popularity, and money are interesting considerations and, quite frankly, those popular artists who tend to seek it out are somewhat of a mystery. Sure, sometimes it's a turnoff. But not always. I think Warhol's work as an artist has much to do with popularity and pop culture and much of his recognition rests on his ability to tap into while simultaneously creating what appealed to a certain time in history. Though I can't imagine myself seeking that kind of popularity or being able to do it or handle it, I can imagine myself emulating to some extent and certainly do respect him for making art and life pretty inseparable in his terms. And more power to him for gaining a foothold AND having something significant to show us and say to and for us. Annie Liebovitz is another commercial success who's sense of commercial viability drove her photography and who, in my eyes, greatly succeeded at what she was doing and at carving out a niche for herself. I find her an extremely strong and effective voice in the kind of photography she's best known for. Interestingly, I look at her more personal photos (of family, friends, etc.) that were clearly more than just snapshots, and yet they don't reach the level that she did in her commercial work. There are personal photographers much better than she, and yet she achieved something quite exceptional in her more popular and commercially successful work.

    I recently had a session in a pro studio, a venue up until now I haven't been terribly interested in pursuing, but found it very instructive in how I might add some lighting to my work outside in more urban and natural environments, where I prefer to shoot. I also got some ideas for how I might use the studio without falling into traps of more typical studio work which I tend not to like that much. I mentioned to you in one of our recent conversations that I plan to do more street shooting in the coming months, not necessarily because I want to become a street shooter but because I think the type of spontaneity and quickness that can go into street shooting might serve me well in my own kind of work. I haven't nearly finished what I want to explore with the work I'm currently doing, so I'm not necessarily looking for major changes to my baseline. But there are certainly ways I can grow, change, and expand by exposing myself to more and more.

    I'm constantly amazed when I read about artists and their influences, like Lex and Jeff have talked about. A lot of artists are somewhat singularly focused in their own work, and I have no problem with that. But among those singularly-focused artists, they seem to have a broad base of influences, so that you find so many rock musicians influenced heavily by classical or jazz music. And a lot of visual artists even talk about their musical influences. Interestingly, here on PN I tend to look in at the street photos in the critique forum more often than I look at the portraits. Partially for influence, more for inspiration. (Interesting to consider the difference between those two.) Partially because I find a lot of the portraits posted here rather staid and stagnant, more along the lines of head shots that don't do that much for me. Because street work often has a lot of narrative to it, and I like doing story-telling in my own people photos, I find it generally very exciting to look at.
     
  14. Steve, just saw your additional edit. As to your question: "Why worry about it? Just do what pleases and seems right to you." You were speaking of questioning memes. Why not? The reason to "worry" about it (not sure why it's worry and not just consideration or thoughtfulness) is to challenge myself beyond what seems right to me and what pleases me. I'm not just doing this to please myself. It has a more far-reaching purpose to me. Some of it is downright upsetting and irritating and that's just how it is.
     
  15. If I am not mistaken, and in the light of the direction of recent discussion (however interesting), the question of the OP is more directed at questions of the "rapport" or shared equivalences between the reader (Photo.Net photographer) and other photographers (known or not, distant or local) and not just who influences you.
    We seem to be getting a little off topic and onto other topics that for sure might be interesting if someone wants to follow it on a new OP. Note that I use the word "friendship" to communicate a communality of spirit, values and life experiences that bring us close to a particular photographer and allow us to profit from his or her work, not solely from an appreciation of it, but from an extra insight and empowerment owing to common values and objectives that a close connection ("friendship" or "kinship" for lack of better terms) can enhance in our own work.
     
  16. Arthur, frankly I fear you indeed would be exagerating the role that Brassaï plays for me - with shame-red cheeks, I have to admit I know just the photos quite well and the short wiki-style bio, but haven't found sufficient time yet to dive deeper into the personal background etc. What you classify as 'inspiration' in your 10:23 reply - that is what it is. My whole point is that I'm *not* experiencing that deeper kinship, nor really searching it.
    Fred's example of Wagner is exactly spot on for what holds me back. As much as I like Wagner's music, he's not me, and I'm not him (and I am happy about that). That's not only for the political and sociological visions of Wagner I despise. It's also because of the interpretation that happens in between - in classical music, theatre or opera more obviously than in photography, paintings or literature, but in all cases, the relationship between us and the artist is also in a large extend one we want there to be, and coloured the way we want. That's why I am wary of such a kinship, because it's an inherent bias I actually try to avoid.
     
  17. Steve (and apologies to Arthur for stretching a bit more slightly off-topic, but it's a quick thought I wouldn't want to let go):
    I think that I feel a kinship with the kind of drive, demon, or obsession, that caused her to do so. I could be wrong, but I suspect that it is the same for many of us here, even if we do not all work in precisely the same way, or even within the same genre.​
    Somehow, and that also reflects in Fred's response to you: I think people with a passion recognise passion better. It's a certain kinship - sharing a love for the art and craft of what we're doing.
     
  18. >>> Decisive Moment has been completely misinterpreted over the years and that, even if it is not, it is terribly outdated and
    only leads to a "one trick pony" style of photography --- In a similar vein, I think there is too much love and fascination with
    both visual puns and shots that include slices of bright late afternoon sunlight reflected off skyscraper windows into darker
    urban canyons. Good heavens, get over it already and move on! So many street photography memes as Lex would call them.
    But that is my prejudice showing, and to paraphrase what Brad and other photographers have said, "Why worry about it? Just
    do what pleases and seems right to you."]

    Spot-on on all counts, Steve. In the so-called "sp community" there is so much hero worship. It's fine being acquainted with, informed,
    respectful, etc of what others have accomplished in the past. But IMO, going beyond that does one a great disservice in
    developing a personal eye. In fact, I'd go so far to say it greatly stifles and in many ways, leading some to taking themselves
    much too seriously, more so than their photography. IMO, that can foster a sclerotic rigidity that often shows in the
    photographs they make. It's easy to spot.
     
  19. Looking back at the original premise, sure, I've imagined conversations with artists whose creations I admire or which have inspired or influenced me. These are musicians, actors or writers, not photographers or other visual artists. I get more food for visual inspiration from abstract lyrics, fragments of thoughts and a writer's vivid description of a scene than from seeing someone else's photographs or paintings. Conversely, I get more inspiration for verbal narrative from images, and often captions pop unbidden into my head upon one glance at a photograph. It's a weird dysfunctionesthesia.
    Occasionally I imagine a conversation with a musician, writer or actor whose work I enjoy, if we happened to be alone in an elevator and had only a few moments to chat. No matter how carefully I rehearse these scenarios, it usually ends up with an imaginary restraining order against me.
     
  20. If I am not mistaken, and in the light of the direction of recent discussion (however interesting), the question of the OP is more directed at questions of the "rapport" or shared equivalences between the reader (Photo.Net photographer) and other photographers (known or not, distant or local) and not just who influences you.​
    Arthur -- Thanks for the clarification. In the spirit of what you have said then, I probably feel a rapport (not influence) with the work and approach of Maier and Winogrand, notwithstanding the biographical differences my own life has with each of them. That rapport, friendship, or kinship, indeed provides a kind of "extra insight and empowerment owing to common values and objectives" that encourages and reinforces me and the work I do (which itself is still evolving -- I am nowhere near where I want to be, but feel like I can get there...)
    Fred -- "Worry" was probably the wrong word to use. "Irritated by", or a simple "disagree with" is probably nearer the mark. But I do agree that it is interesting to discuss and expand upon why any of us might disagree, or even find irritation with, a certain photographic style, approach, or aesthetic theory. I can only speak for myself, but sometimes I can help myself find where I stand, and where I am coming from, by putting into words my objections or disagreements with other approaches. Provided I guard against simple envy or being stubbornly closed of mind, it is one way to achieve growth and self-understanding.
    Brad -- Thanks. I think we are of a similar mind about some of those things and the importance of a photographer going their own way.
    Lex -- My imaginary younger self once had an imaginary conversation with the imaginary younger Helen Levitt (a bit of a cutie back in the day when Walker Evans took this photo http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_xCykdpQhX...+Collar+Beneath+City+Hall+Sign+1941+evans.jpg) of her. And she put an imaginary restraining order on me.
    Wouter -- Quite right and I think recognition and sharing of passion is one element of feeling kinship with someone else's work. I feel a similar kinship with many of the people who have contributed to this thread. There's a reason all of us are in here, talking about these kinds of things and part of that is a certain overall like-mindedness despite our differences and occasional quibbles and misunderstandings.
     
  21. Steve, just to clarify, I used "irritating" not to describe how I feel about what other photographers do, though like with you it does happen sometimes. I was saying that instead of doing what pleases me photographically, I sometimes find myself being irritated by what I do that has actually led to some good photos. I've worked with a couple of people as subjects, for example, who have really irritated me and I've come away from the shoot not feeling that personally pleased about the interaction and how it went, yet I've come away with some really good photos. Why I do photography is a complex issue and it does not always feel right to me or pleasing yet I still do it, in part to challenge myself through those more negative emotions.
     
  22. I regret what may well be perceived as throwing cold water (and in Canada at this time cold is an understatement) on the discussions by trying to steer it. Fred's post and those of Wouter, Brad, Lex, and Steve are more on target than I thought and much appreciated for what they teach or witness.
    Wagner is perhaps a good example of sharing the passion of much of his music and its version of the Nibelungenlied (amongst other compositions) yet not wanting to be often in the same room with the artist, given what I know of his social views. Boubat is indeed someone I feel that I share a lot of values with and perhaps it is his simple and modest manners that enhance that intimacy of thought or association. On the other hand, I have never met or talked to him so perhaps I can be criticized as entertaining some illusions. I think not, but it is hard to be very definitive about the relationship of values that I sense through the photos and other information about the photographer. Perhaps sharing certain values helps to better appreciate the photos
    When I look at some of the work of my fellow photographers I can sense some of the relationship of their approach and image related values via what I know of their views expressed in these columns. That reinforces and explains their work, and I find that such a limited degree of intimacy with their thoughts helps an appreciation of their work. It is interesting to me how the values of each can help to understand better the photographs and in cases where these values overlap with mine it makes that association even more clear.
     
  23. Fred -- I feel like we're sailing on a sea of confusion here! Sorry for the mix-up -- My use of irritation was actually in reference to how I sometimes feel about certain dogmatic opinions about what the "rules" are for what street photography should be, or for the social media popularity of certain types of shallow and mediocre work (not just SP), etc. I was trying to explain that I agree that it is sometimes important and beneficial to explore the things with which we disagree so we can understand why we disagree with them. Yet at the same time, I think that we need to go our own way, in the direction that we really feel is right for each one of us, without allowing popularity of prevailing attitudes in certain circles to adversely affect our movement in that direction. That's a more accurate way to state what I meant by my use of the word "worry".
     
  24. Got it, Steve. And on confusion, it's often just a step on the path to enlightenment. :)
     
  25. and in cases where these values overlap with mine it makes that association even more clear.​
    Which is not to say that having very different values is an obstacle to intimacy of communication or an understanding of the photographer, but rather that being on the same wavelength with someone contemporary or deceased can add a lot of value to the communication between the two. Some of my best friends are those with whom our values are not completely common. I think that is in fact a requisite for further personal development, rather than staying fixed within a confined framework.
     
  26. All righty then.
     
  27. Arthur, your last post seems to be a bit at odds with itself, or maybe I'm misreading a bit.
    Certainly it is easier to connect with somebody who is more or less on the same wavelength, and certainly it is really important to connect with people on different wavelengths if you want to grow. Agree on both those points. But in the context of the topic, where does that fit?
    Let's say you find a quite deep connection to an artist, and it inspires you deeply. In a sense, you become part of his school. It grows naturally, because you feel you're on the same wavelength.... That is in fact little challenging then? Isn't it in a sense saying that to grow as an artist, as a human being, it is actually better to resist? Instead, rising to the challenge of gaining appreciation and understanding for those on different wavelengths (empathy, essentially) isn't more likely to render us more complete persons, and as a result more interesting artists?
    I know I am painting it in very broad strokes, in black and white. But well, it just had me wondering when I tried to connect the dots between the first post and your last one.
     
  28. I read a great quote by Leo Tolstoy on this topic:
    "The receiver of a true artistic impression is so united to the artist that he feels as if the work were his own and not someone else's - as if what it expresses were just what he had long been wishing to express. A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist - not that alone, but also between himself and all whose minds receive this work of art. In this freeing of our personality from its separation and isolation, in this uniting of it with others, lies the chief characteristic and the great attractive force of art."
    I really like the idea Tolstoy puts forth that there is a connection not just between the artist and an individual viewer, but between everyone who experiences the work. Also, there's an important distinction between what you learn about the artist through knowledge of facts about their life and what you learn by experiencing their art.
     
  29. I like it, too, Vince. Thanks so much for the Tolstoy quote. It's a good antidote for the oft-quoted cliché about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, which so many use to isolate the individual from other viewers and from the intent of the artist. Tolstoy's has a much more empathic ring to it.
     
  30. Wouter, you are quite right that by being one with the approach or mindset of an artist, or being on the same wavelength, seems to be quite different from being at odds with his or her work. But is that related to his output or his manner of living. I guess I was as much interested in the equivalences of life experience and outlook as the parallels with the nature of the work of the artist and the person interested in him and his work. That bond can provide insight and understanding of the artist, even if there is a disconnect between the values and the output. Being on the same wavelength as the artist in a human rather than an art sense can allow differences of outlook on artistic creations, so one doesn't have to be in the same school of art expression or understanding.
    Perhaps i explain these thoughts rather poorly. By being intellectually and emotionally connected to another (artist in this case) does not mean a dependence to me, or sameness of artistic expression, but simply some commonality of spirit that makes understanding of what the other is about an easier task. That I am sure can be debated with valid exceptions to it.
    Vince, perhaps the fact of understanding a work is the key. I believe that sometimes we may understand some works and enjoy them for what they are without wanting to make them our own. Closeness to the mind of the author does not necessarily mean we would want to express something the same way. Understanding the author and his work is another thing than being in close harmony with what he has achieved.
     
  31. Arthur, I think it's best to take Tolstoy's quote as one man's passionate declaration. It's not meant as a provable or even arguable thesis and I don't think it's meant to exclude other ways either. It's just one significant way to look at things. More like poetry or metaphor than an essay. What Tolstoy is talking about is the importance of stripping away those boundaries among us and of an empathic approach to art. I don't think he's saying this is the only way. And I think he would surely recognize that we each would express things differently, which doesn't prevent us from adopting anothers' expression for the moment so that we fully get it and feel it. I think he's asking us to look at it that way in order to understand something important, but he would still allow us to build and expand from there. You'll notice that great thinkers frequently tend not to qualify their ideas by saying there are other ways to do things as well or by saying IMO or by saying everyone's opinion counts. It's just not usually done that way. They are generally leading us in a particular direction to get us to look at something from their particular point of view, hoping that point of view expands our horizons but probably rarely thinking to limit our point of view to only the perspective they're emphasizing. It's one reason I started the "dogmatic" thread a while back. Important artists and thinkers often come across as dogmatic because they are passionate about a point of view they've discovered or created and don't feel the need to water it down by viewing the other sides and ways equally. That dogmatism can simply be taken for the passionate expression it is and not as a universal and exclusive method being propounded. I think the way Tolstoy says what he says, even if he would believe what you've added, is much more effective and passionate than if he had added the additional qualifications. It just doesn't seem necessary to me.
     
  32. Reminds me that I have both a sympathetic eye and a critical eye when it comes to art and also when it comes to thoughts like Tolstoy's. When I'm in sympathetic mode, I'm fairly accepting and I'm doing what Tolstoy suggests, which is adopting the point of view of the artist or author as if it were my own. I am in the moment with his artwork or his words and I am experiencing it without judgement. I accept it, to the extent I can, for what it is. When I'm in critical mode, I stand back more, allow for other ways, compare to other things, etc. The sympathetic and the critical aren't necessarily completely separable but they are different stances I tend to take. If I am too critical and allow in opposing views or how I might express things too quickly either when viewing art or when reading important thinkers' thoughts, then I don't feel like a fully gave it a chance or really got it or empathized with it. The critique comes after the more immersing and accepting experience. If I look too soon for opposing equally valid viewpoints or means of expression, I risk giving the artwork in front of me or thinkers' thoughts only a shallow viewing or reading, and a somewhat self-centered one at that.
     
  33. If I look too soon for opposing equally valid viewpoints or means of expression, I risk giving the artwork in front of me or thinkers' thoughts only a shallow viewing or reading.​
    Various interesting thoughts starting with your reading of Tolstoy's quote, Fred. I have read mainly your second post and what you say as applied to art appreciation. My main experience has been in scientific research and if I had observed your advice above while in that mode I would never have arrived at any truth, or, more realistically, an approximation to it, as I would have omitted exploring other paths to a solution. I'm quite happy looking at differing postulates in art and in science. That process can at the same time be both sympathetic (willing to attempt to understand, as opposed to "in absolute agreement") and critical, within my own limited competencies. Being close to the generator of the ideas ("scientist") or the art (the creative "engineering" in the world of graphics) is another thing and part of the overall equation of connecting with the work(s).
     
  34. if I had observed your advice above while in that mode I would never have arrived at any truth, or, more realistically, an approximation to it, as I would have omitted exploring other paths to a solution​
    A couple of things in response, Arthur. If you had observed my advice you would not have omitted exploring other paths. Please re-read what I wrote and I hope you'll see that my advice had nothing to do with omitting other paths. Secondly, I'm not sure art invites us to arrive at a kind of truth resembling those truths sought and found in scientific inquiry.
     
  35. Good. I think I mentioned that truth is an objective in science and engineering to which I referred it, but not necessarily key in artistic expression.
     
  36. I don't want to hijack this thread, but I'll add one more thing about the Tolstoy art essay involving an interesting personal reaction.
    To illustrate how the artist communicates, Tolstoy included a sentence about a boy who experienced fear upon seeing a wolf in the forest. He described the feelings transmitted by the boy when the boy recounted the experience to other people from his village. Tolstoy used it as a very basic example of how artists communicate. Here's the part I found interesting. As I was reading the sentence Tolstoy wrote about the boy's encounter with the wolf and the fear the boy felt upon seeing the wolf move near him, my heartbeat quickened slightly and my breathing changed. I'm not an author. If I wrote a full story about a boy encountering a wolf in the forest, I doubt that anyone reading it would feel anything. Tolstoy wrote a single sentence that was meant to communicate an intellectual point and I needed to increase my blood pressure meds.
    The wolf story leaves very little for the audience to interpret, so it's easy to understand the shared experience of that story (as told by an accomplished author like Tolstoy) and how the experience "destroys the separation" between artist and audience. We all feel anxious at times. How do I know that I'm not alone in my response to a dangerous situation? Other people are able to share their experiences, whether they are actual experiences or imagined experiences, in a way that causes me to re-live the feelings I've felt before. I have no doubt that what I'm feeling is not identical to what they're feeling, but I understand them and they understand me. When art is open to wide interpretation and there is little or nothing of a shared experience, my reaction is different as is my connection to the artist. I don't mean to imply that it's an empty experience, just different.
     
  37. Thinking about significant influences on my work, I can say frankly that “permission” to do art in a particular fashion was always too important early on. If it was OK with someone I really dug, I could then go ahead and do it.
    The people that dominated the emblematic mid-century, 35mm, gritty, non pictorial trends were for me: Frank, Klein, Metzker, and the like.
    I think the painters of Warhol’s era pretty much set everyone with a camera free. I see more painting I like a lot now than I do (non-altered) photographs.
    There is no way to get in the head of some long-gone artist. I am interested in the mood they have on me NOW.
    Degrees of originality or creativity which I value in an artist supersedes crafting skill – their willingness to ignore conventions of craft and conventional formal/aesthetic concerns. Some would insist there is a due-diligence requirement for craft. I can see it both ways. Too much and it is too precious. Too little and its absence gets in the way (the worrisome “permission” thing.
    The influences of literature or music is only an accompaniment to my work. It is all I can do to express things graphically. The picture is THE text.
    I firmly believe that all art is completely of its time and anything I make is of mine. I shamelessly appropriate stylistic qualities I fancy - knowing that I am making them my own.
    “PoMo seeks other PoMo for casual relationship.”
     
  38. Connection need not be one that mimics or in some even distant way replicates the artistic approach of another, as we might do if inspired/impressed by the work of Frank, Kertesz, Boubat, Penn or another. Getting into the head or values of another is something that can be done through personal contact but also by a famiiiarity with his (sometimes ancient) writings or 3rd party reports of his values or actions that characterize the photographer or artist-painter. It is interesting to discover that cohesiveness of spirit and sometimes beneficial for us to have that connection and the shared values, as we can begin to understand how they influenced his work and may influence our own in future.
     
  39. Alan Zinn -- The people that dominated the emblematic mid-century, 35mm, gritty, non pictorial trends were for me: Frank, Klein, Metzker, and the like...
    I am interested in the mood they have on me NOW.

    Degrees of originality or creativity which I value in an artist supersedes crafting skill – their willingness to ignore conventions of craft and conventional formal/aesthetic concerns. Some would insist there is a due-diligence requirement for craft. I can see it both ways. Too much and it is too precious. Too little and its absence gets in the way...
    I am interested in the mood they have on me NOW.

    Degrees of originality or creativity which I value in an artist supersedes crafting skill – their willingness to ignore conventions of craft and conventional formal/aesthetic concerns. Some would insist there is a due-diligence requirement for craft. I can see it both ways. Too much and it is too precious. Too little and its absence gets in the way
    The picture is THE text.
    F'n A, Bubba. And a hearty "Amen!". The only change or addition I might make is to the emphasis on the last sentence. The picture IS the text.
    But to get back to what I take to be the spirit of Arthur's original post, there can be connection without imitation (possibly even without influence). I feel a connection with Klein, Frank, Metzger... and to some extent with Maier, Winogrand, Faurer, Levitt, and Ishimoto.
     
  40. Vince - "To illustrate how the artist communicates, Tolstoy included a sentence about a boy who experienced fear upon seeing a wolf in the forest."
    That's interesting as it relates to Arthur's remark: "I think I mentioned that truth is an objective in science and engineering to which I referred it, but not necessarily key in artistic expression." Interesting because of the distinction made between 'the world' as described by science and 'my world' as portrayed in art, the desperate descriptions coming on the one hand from Logos and on the other from Mythos, if I may fairly interpret Arthur's science/art dichotomy in that broader way. Tolstoy's boy and wolf story is a case in point.
    In the objective world of science a wolf is nothing to fear when seen in a forest. Informed by Logos, wolves fear us and run away from us upon a chance encounter. But in the 'my world' of Tolstoy's boy, the world of mythos, a wolf is a creature that elicits fear. Art can make the story of wolf and boy more interesting, a wolf made to represent childish domination by fear generally and a Peter and the Wolf story a telling of a boy's triumph over fear itself. A boy/wolf story isn't about a wolf at all and the story can leave intact a mythic misperception of the wolf as nevertheless a legitimate object of fear. The wolf is an artifice in the telling where the point of the artistic telling isn't to tell us that a wolf isn't to be feared. Instead it tells us to overcome our fears, the wolf with artistic license deployed as a fearsome object. The lesson from the artfully told boy/wolf story is to not be ruled by fear regardless of the fearsomeness of the thing. The thing may or may not objectively be fearsome - no matter - just don't be ruled by fear as the story goes. Fear is what we, as Vince I believe points out, share in common and we are not alone in our fear response in dangerous situations. In that sense that we all can be ruled by fear, art can destroy the separation between artist and audience, destroy the separation between audience and audience cathartically.
    I saw the movie Wild recently, didn't read the book, and in the movie a fox is used to symbolize an encounter with 'wild' as a curative for a woman who had been merely reactive in her life. And after her encounter with pure 'wild' as represented by a fox, began to instead live her life, 'wild' a curative for the destructive taming that assuming a culturally specific identify is. For a shaming culture such as ours, particularly harsh on women, wild is as objective a mythic truth as is e - mc2 a truth to Logos. The problem generally is that Logos has no soul and we can't live there exclusively and yet be satisfied. Water is not just H2O and air is not just a mix of oxygen, nitrogen and inert gasses. Art's descriptions of air is up for grabs because, all things considered, Logos just doesn't cut it. Some problems find their cure in catharsis. Some instead require a confrontation with the wild nature that objective psyche as a term was coined to describe in scientific terms, but which has always been described by one art form or another, along with all the other things that are the subjects of art.
     
  41. I’ve been fact checking my recollection about influences.
    I remember taking a more scholarly look at poets and photographers once I began reading more critical art writing. Not wanting to “get in the head of some long-gone artist I admire.” is not true.
    The imagist poets were and continue to inform my work when I drift into a particular frame of mind. It is right there in my bookcase “Cubism, Stiegitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams” by Bram Dijkstra among other similar titles.
    The imagist poets were part of the turn of the century (19th) avant-garde. Literary and graphic affinity can’t get any closer. I like their determination to see and feel what is clearly there to be seen - the mood or tone of the thing. There heads are accessible even with (dated) obscure metaphor and symbolism. They retain a timeless tone.
    The certainty of a poet’s choice of words covey in photographic clarity what thoughts transpired in the “seeing” of things. It is the camera-like record or brief sketch that flicks into a more complete realization.
    00d7lF-554888884.jpg
     
  42. Not sure I feel a bond with anyone, but I do keep Helmut Newton as an imaginary playmate! I did find the below quote and the larger text it was part of interesting.

    But to get back to what I take to be the spirit of Arthur's original post, there can be connection without imitation (possibly even without influence). I feel a connection with Klein, Frank, Metzger... and to some extent with Maier, Winogrand, Faurer, Levitt, and Ishimoto.​
    ..and Newton, and Opie and Moriyama and, yes, HCB and Sultan, etc etc.. Its not about imitation though I must confess I'll take a shot I recognize when I come across it, but I don't find that a primary motivation to base my work on. I do find that the sort of slavish involvement with a couple of popular platitudes such as the now ubiquitous "decisive moment" an impediment to evolving one's own vision. Not that there's anything wrong with HCB's photography or his concept, I love his photographs, and virtually all subsequent street and documentary photographers were influenced by his work. I don't find any value in diminishing or dismissing it. Problem is, and to use an analogy from the Rock world, its sort of like the effect of Ginger Baker on rock drumming in the late 60s-70s. I loved his drumming, but it became such a distinct style, that I recall so many drummers trying to play like that way that it tended to obliterate other drumming styles and evolution for a certain period of time. Not Baker's fault.
    Vivien Maier I find interesting in the sense that she reminds me of a lot of people I know, she just went out and shot and did her thing. That's what I resonate to with her and I feel a certain kinship in that regard. I've seen one of the exhibitions of hers and I thought she had some really good photos, but I wasn't really inspired by her work per se. Its more the idea of what she achieved because she loved it, the citizen-photographer. I find myself wondering how she would have interacted with social media of today and how that might have affected her photography and its presentation. I presented these thoughts without reading the whole thread because I was inspired by a couple of the comments so I hope these remarks aren't to obtuse or repetitive.
     
  43. Alan and Barry,
    Glad to read of your personal experiences. They fit well I think with some of my original thoughts on the matter, namely:
    (we may experience).... a sense we might have of understanding and knowing where the photographer (or poet..) s coming from, of appreciating (and admiring) the values, thoughts or perceptions that come from reading the nature or intent of his or her images (or writings).
     
  44. Just with close friend I met and conversation over vast serious of thoughts closely not officially but informally and discussion over vague of past shoot photographs, questions about their intentions and was hopping his past shot photographs. However photos shot were not mixing like watermarking for authentication but had zeal to prove him a delighted. many thought shared many ideas may come to above questioning , I am summing up in shortly there happens anything but like my close photographer friend in one point a progressive work itself prove authentic when one always keeps or dream with truthfully that goal is hypothetically thought have to be indeed true. It lastly keeps to any patience.
     
  45. I doubt if connecting with a photographer to advertise a commercial site is consistent with the theme of this OP, or am I missing something of profound nature?
     

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