content/ context

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by chris_autio, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Very much interested in your response. I am having a solo exhibition next year of oil-colored photographs. I submitted 20 images of landscapes, 2 of which were "industrial". Curators looked over my submission and said that they would like to exhibit the industrial landscapes. I have plenty of negs of this style, but would never settle with what I have in the books and am going to venture forth this summer to shoot new landscapes. For those of you interested in what cameras I am employing, I have two medium formats: Fuji 69 and Pentax 67, and a Toyo 4"x5". Medium format is easiest for me to handle, but that is not the issue here.

    I am not sure how to phrase my question delicately. How do I photograph industrial stuff without its content being or becoming most important when my intent is to create a composition? Somehow I believe that by asking this loose question can help define the result. The one hand I have in my toolbox is that half of these will be oil-colored and tinted. cloud tanks card.JPG
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I'm hesitant because of the oil color component, but to me the industrial photo op is based on a combination of light and shape with the added dimension of actual landscape in some cases. Simplicity or intricacy of the devices themselves provides endless opportunity. There is a refinery not far from me that I have probably photographed dozens of times, and come away with something interesting on every occasion. What the equipment does, representing the process, technical illustration never enter my mind.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  3. One way you might consider is to photograph a mood on a particular day. Use the site not as an object or subject but as a conveyer, along with atmosphere, of mood. Think abstractly as much as or more than concretely. Metaphorically over literally. Don't be afraid of the content, just don't make it your primary focus.
  4. Great question!

    It's interesting that curators should have selected your 2 industrial landscapes and rejected the 18 other photos you submitted.

    I don't pretend to understand much about curation. But - as a volunteer for a large photography festival here in NL - I've come to know the festival curators quite well. From conversations with them, my impression is that their initial criteria for evaluating submissions include:
    - their relationship (in terms of subject matter) to the overarching 'theme' for any upcoming festival
    - whether they shed any new/different light on subject matter related to the festival theme
    - whether they are innovative in terms of background research, (video)photography and presentation

    Your curators may well have a different set of explicit or implicit criteria and it's important to know how your 'artistic vision' relates to their curation criteria.

    IHMO, the answer to your basic question is embedded in the question itself: whatever you see around you is just "industrial stuff" for photography. Which parts of this "stuff" you choose to include in a frame (and from which distance, perspective, angle, etc) determines the basic composition in terms of lines, forms, textures, etc. Lighting, exposure, and Dof (sharp/diffuse/blurred), etc. determine how 'whatever's in the frame' will appear in a photo. As will any digital PP.

    So a working title could be something like 'new ways of seeing/appreciating the industrial landscape'. Where your emphasis is not on 'the landscape' (=the "stuff") at all but on enabling viewers to see and appreciate (parts of) this in new ways.
  5. I think the example your showing is a pretty good example of what you say you're trying to achieve. It seems one route to that, in terms of composition is for you to think of in their abstract shapes and how you can arrange them in your frame, and you can use content within that as well. That seems what you did in your photo and the content part of it and of course the lighting seem to work. But you can take an idea like that a long way. Is that what you're trying to do?
  6. Hi Chris. Love your picture and your project. Seems very fresh and alive. I think the combination of mixed media, industrial subject and a great sensibility makes for serious stuff.
  7. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    I get a sense that David Gilmour should be standing with a guitar on the center tank... :cool:
  8. OP...I like your work. Post more of them. As far as your question? Dunno, except shoot a lot and color them and see what you can use. The more you do the bigger the lot to choose from.

    I always liked working with hand-colored / tinted photos in the Archive.

    Search Results for “tinted” – Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection (

    I also liked the freaked out one that are pretty out there.

    Good luck...and if you go to the show take photos of it to post.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2021
  9. If you are after form and shape and not after content, you should make form and shape the content, i.e. look for shapes and compositions of shapes and disregard what the things are that lend their shape to your compositions. I.e. focus on what you're after, and do not shoot a lot and then see what's usable and what's not afterwads.
    I'm sure the OP knows that, viz. "without its content being or becoming most important when my intent is to create a composition?" The composition must be strong enough to catch the eye.
    It helps that you use paint, i think, because that provides a tool to emphasise what you want to.
  10. " How do I photograph industrial stuff without its content being or becoming most important when my intent is to create a composition?"

    I don't understand the question. Can you explain the difference between content and intent? How do separate the content from the intent? In your photographs what do feel is the difference between the content and the intent?
  11. The contrast is the ancient one between form (composition) and substance.
    The intent is to focus on the first, not allowing the second to distract from it.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
  12. That may be your definition, but I'd rather hear from the original poster as to what it means for his work. You'll have to explain how you can separate composition from the substance (whatever that means).
  13. Hmm... A philosophy forum and you do not know about form v. substance...

    And you mean you do not understand how shapes can be considered by themselves, Steve? Circles, triangles, etc.?
  14. I consider the content of a photo to be the identities of the things in it, for instance a casket next to a water tower. The content often suggests ideas and/or stories.

    I consider the composition to be more of an abstraction, form, shape, light, dark, physical relationships.

    The casket next to the tower might be seen compositionally as contrasting shapes, one long, one tall. Contentwise, I’m interested in the casket as a symbol and in the why of its being in the frame with the water tower.

    Both content and composition yield emotional responses, often a bit differently, the content often being more literal, the composition often more abstract.

    I, too, would be interested in hearing more of what the OP means by his initial post.
  15. I think barry makes a good point to abstract.
    Sometimes including too much context makes it more challenging to make the composition the subject of your photo. That challenge can be overcome by seeing the abstraction and letting it guide you through the entire process including pp.

    I think industrial landscapes are a natural fit for your intent. I look forward to seeing otherphotos.​
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
  16. "q.g._de_bakker
    Hmm... A philosophy forum and you do not know about form v. substance...

    And you mean you do not understand how shapes can be considered by themselves, Steve? Circles, triangles, etc.?"

    No, why don't you educate me as to what form versus substance means? Start with substance, what does that mean in making a photograph? Since substance has multiple definitions, it is not one thing and a rather indefinite term without an exact explanation of how it applies to a specific photograph. It can mean the physical material of which something is made or, in a more introspective sense, the ultimate reality that underlies the physical manifestation. One is not the other although both may exist simultaneously.

    The original statement was that the person making the post did not want the content to become more important than intent. I really don't care about substance (whatever that is) I'm interested in how content can overcome intent. If you intend to make an image, then you choose the content to convey your intent. They are inextricably linked. The successful image has to integrate intent and the content. Or, greatly simplified, the content is the subject and its presentation through a composition. That integration of those conveys the underlying intent. They cannot be separated in a communicative image.

    Then you have to consider how the intent is going to be communicated through content. Perhaps your intent cannot be communicated through the content you've chosen - in that case, you've made the wrong choice before you've even released the shutter.

    This gets back to my question to the original poster, can you explain the difference between intent and content? Because until that is no longer a conflict but an integrated presentation, you cannot resolve a successful image.
  17. Don't know if the OP will come back or not. He hasn't since he originally posted.

    My own quick take is that intent is what you want and content is what you get. Much more can be said but I'll rest there for now.
    inoneeye likes this.
  18. Then, you have no control in communicating your intent to the viewer? You simply start with intent and then you get whatever ends up in the photograph? Then I would have to ask why that happens. If you have a specific intent you want to communicate, then shouldn't the content be used to convey that intent?
  19. I’m surprised you’d think that’s what I meant. I did not make content exclusive of intent. Very often you do, indeed, get what you want, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re surprised, sometimes your subconscious or emotions take over. The content can be the result of many things, intent being one of them. Randomness may play a role, as may instinct.

    Even if you get exactly what you intended, though, it doesn’t become the content of the photo until it’s realized. Thus, the old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions are one thing, their realization another.

    Like I said, intentions are what you want. Content is what you get (via some combination of intention, luck, accident, emotion, instinct, and other factors, not all of which are present all the time, of course).

Share This Page