Convergence and fantasy

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by wwillemse, Jul 14, 2011.

  1. As a spin off from Luis' thread on social media, where we briefly touched upon this subject, I'd love to hear other's insights on the thought that struck me while posting there.
    As progression over last decades, all media seem to converge more and more (*). Music is enjoyed with video, images come with words, words with images. Music, for the major part, has lyrics, and is presented on vinyl or aluminium with an image. Already from my generation (70s child) on, we are less and less exposed to either of those alone. In many musea, one starts to see mixtures; purely images (paintings, sculptures, photos) does not seem to 'entertain' that well, so there are added videos to tell more about the work, its creation or its creator. And at the same time, novels (those classics, with only words) aren't selling like hotcakes. The internet, for sure, is a pure mixed-media communication channel.
    What I do wonder about, is how these changes influence our fantasy, our abilities to mentally complete a work with the part that isn't actually there. Reading a (well written) book leaves people making images of the lead characters. Seeing a good photo invites one in to make up the story on what happens inside that image. I think this fantasy is not only fantastic to have, but is a large foundation of our creative minds.
    So, what happens if we're less triggered to let our fantasy have a go at words, or an image... if we're constantly given both? How will this affect what we create, and how we create it? If one expects a photo to be "embedded" into words as part of a story (rather that being a story on it own), does that change your approach significantly? Does it change the result too?
    I really have no real thoughts on this yet; if I'd have an idea, I'd share it here. It may sound a bit like crying wolf over something happening as part of a natural progression, but it's not. It's not an attack on 'new media', nor saying that ye' ole' ways are better. I'm just really wondering if such changes matter, and if yes, how they'd matter.
    (*) I admit this could be left to argue as well, and sure feel free to point out to me if this premise is already flawed.
     
  2. I'd say that we have many decades of this, now, in the form of popular magazines (see "Life," back in the day, for example). Some stories have been illustrated in one way or another for centuries. The ease with which this is done has certainly changed. But I don't think it's a new thing, per se. Certainly it's going to be very difficult for someone reading a book upon which a movie was based (and having seen the movie first) to "un-see" the movie's images when enjoying the text. But again, that's been in issue for about a century, now.
     
  3. I've viewed several Youtube presentations that combine still images with music. When done right they work well for both my eyes and ears. IMO there will always be a place for music alone and still images that can stand on their own.
     
  4. What I do wonder about, is how these changes influence our fantasy, our abilities to mentally complete a work with the part that isn't actually there. Reading a (well written) book leaves people making images of the lead characters. Seeing a good photo invites one in to make up the story on what happens inside that image. I think this fantasy is not only fantastic to have, but is a large foundation of our creative minds.​
    Wouter -- What you're describing brings to mind McLuhan's "hot" & "cool" media. A movie (hot) engages the visual and auditory senses but requires little participation from the viewer. Your "well written book" (cool) requires the readers participation and engages them more. Even if we accept McLuhan's categorization of certain media as hot or cool, there are gradations within them. "The Dark Knight" or "The Hangover" require less of a viewer than "Donnie Darko", "Midnight in Paris", or "My Dinner with Andre".
    It's very hard to say what, if any, impact the merging of media will have. As Matt said, I don't know that it's particularly new. The technology has improved and has become more accessible. I think it is the accessibility and the flattening of the learning curve for certain technologies that has had more of an impact by virtue of the media flood it has released: blogs, videos, photographs. I've seen discussions of digital photo manipulation on PNet where some posters say that the same manipulations have been made for years with film. True, but it requires more time and financial investment to dodge and burn, or create the illusion of someone floating in midair, in a dark room than it does in LR or PS. Anyone with access to a computer with an internet connection can create their own blog on whatever topic they desire. Cinematic quality dvds can be made on a shoestring budget (sans multi-million $ CGI effects...but how far behind is the accessibility to that technology?).
    There is a convergence not only of media, but a convergence, and compression, of technology and time as well. As a whole, attention spans are shorter, partly because there is so much competing for them. Imagine a contemporary audience sitting through a mid-nineteenth century lecture or political speech. Not very likely that many people would sit through either one. I'm not sure if he coined it, but paranormal radio show host Art Bell calls this "The Quickening".
    Like you, I don't mean to laud the past and bemoan the present. If it weren't for digital technology I wouldn't even be on this discussion board. But I can see neither what the future holds, nor what the future will hold dear. It might be under our very noses, but we just can't see it. Or at least I can't.
     
  5. Here's a slide-show with three different songs combined that I did. I think the songs complement the three areas of shots pretty well all part of a one day excursion. It's really is a lot of fun to do allowing creativity beyond just taking the shots. Getting the right music and putting it all together takes a lot of time. Uploading to YouTube or sending DVDs to family members have an added enjoyment. Alan
    http://www.youtube.com/user/AlanClips#p/a/u/0/43EynU-XM3c
     
  6. Nice, Alan. Felt like I spent the day there myself! Sounded like you included some ambient sound in the baseball sequence? My only criticism is this:
    Never, ever, put ketchup on a hot dog. ;-)
     
  7. Yes, indeed it isn't very new - it's more that the thread on social media made me more aware on how little we're exposed to 'cool' media (I like the distinction, even if hot and cool are not words that immediately resonate for me). Internet for sure steaming hot... there is always some banner blinking in a corner :)
    Probably what triggers it for me, is what Steve wrote "attention spans are shorter", well, yes, I agree and that's the part where I cannot help to worry a bit too. Attention span also has to do with the effort one is willing to put in - if we have to 'shoot' for the short ones, we'll have to shoot for effects grabbing attention.
    For the record, I am not against these mixtures at all, and I certainly would not want to disregard the effort and creativity Alan put into his work. In these 'media mashups', there is also an enriching part in it for sure. New forms pushing new boundaries. A good thing.
    As said, it's just a thought that came up, as I was listening piano music on a music installation with just 2 speakers instead of 6..... I'm glad to hear your thoughts, and I realise none of us can predict the future but sometimes it's worth contemplating all the same.
    (Steve, CGI effects: can be done at home already - for $0 too if one wishes. For example, the program Blender and some open source renderers can create very convincing CGI. The learning curve is very considerable, though)
     
  8. So, what happens if we're less triggered to let our fantasy have a go at words, or an image... if we're constantly given both? How will this affect what we create, and how we create it? If one expects a photo to be "embedded" into words as part of a story (rather that being a story on it own), does that change your approach significantly? Does it change the result too?​
    I see convergence between the audence and the story becoming even more a feature of digital presentation and allowing creative opportunity to interact with the 'plot' and affect the outcome. There is already some ways to do this, but proper implementation by incredibly powerful rendering might foster creativity in ways we've not seen before.
    Taken to an extreme level we might see 'Oscars' awarded to your next door neighbour for the plot development and story line they interacted with which created an unexpected cinematic gem.
     
  9. Steve: I would never ever put ketchup on my hot dog. Mustard only. That was my daughter's hot dog! Don't know where she got that from. That Nathan's Hot Dog stand in the first sequence we ate in is the original Coney Island Nathans from the turn of th last century. Now they have the July 4th hot dog eating contest there every year. Some guy this year by the last name of Chestnut ate something like 69 in 10 minutes!
    The ambient sound actually happened because I left my camera on video mode by mistake and I was picking up my daughter and me chatting. It was actually a funny sequence. During the baseball intermission, there were a couple of people dressed as hot dogs and relish running in the field advertising Nathan's Hot Dogs. They weren't in the video. Anyway, so I mentioned to my daughter that she could have gotten a job as a hot dog for Nathan's. And she says that she should have gone to Relish University and I chime in, yeah how about Hot Dog U? It was really an inside joke between the two of us.
    That's what's nice about combining music, stills, even movies and narration, especially of family experiences. It takes the photograph beyond the visual. It involves all the senses and especially the emotions . Why limit creativity to one thing when we have so many tools today to excite the senses and accentuate feelings? I think that's what Wouter was getting at in his OP.
     
  10. You ask a very pertinent question here. I know in my own case that my reading now is worse than it was when I was a 12 year-old. I haven't exactly lost the ability to visualise what I am reading, but I am certainly nowhere near as fluent as I used to be. Many people of my generation say that 'radio has better pictures than television' and indeed we used to listen to the radio and create the images in our heads. Now we don't have to, and thus we are losing that ability. These days the media are too explicit - they leave no space for our imaginations. I see the consequences of this in my teaching - I have to 'join the dots' for people because they can no longer do it themselves. Joseph Chilton Pierce has written and spoken extensively on similar matters and I recommend reading his work. This is where mythology and parables are so powerful - they leave space for one's imagination.
     
  11. Wouter,
    Suppose, on a span, at one end you have flux and at the other you have full stop. Suppose also that conversations, the daily noisy, active interactions of people (and critters) are "conversations." When one is in a conversation, where is one's attention focused? What is one intent on doing? It's somewhere on the interactions, on the in-between (chattering, gesturing, touching, doing); it's only minimally on exactly what is being used to "do" the conversation. Note also that a conversation has a form, an existence. A before, a during and an after. So it's an active thing, that lasts some amount of time (it keeps moving) and focus is on that ongoing-ness. It's not primarily self-conscious.
    Suppose that snapshots are, by definition, things that are embedded in a conversation. If that is even partially true, then the focus or use of a snapshot is on the ongoing-ness, not on the what it is as "an image." It is a part of, dependent on, its framing conversation. Suppose the use of sounds, when showing those snapshots (later) is an attempt to re-frame them into movement, duration, mood -- because that's how they "work."
    Now, on the other hand, suppose you are in a conversation with your spouse, your significant other, or a total stranger with whom you've become stuck on a very small elevator and for whatever reason, you both fall silent. Full stop (which includes slow dancing in silence, etc.). That can be incredibly dreadful, or incredibly wonderful depending on how you feel about said other person, but it will be profoundly different from a conversation. Each will see/feel the other. Each will feel what's between you (has been, is, might be), each will be intensely aware of being seen and thought about. But throughout, one is *IN* a high-voltage, binary lock-in that's ... not a conversation. Suppose such high-voltage, binary lock-ins are what an art photograph (without music) might be about.
    Suppose one doesn't set either one or these scenarios (flux or full stop) as necessarily better than the other. Suppose they are just "about" different inter-personal efforts or intents or purposes or processes.
     
  12. What John and Alan point it is indeed one of the things I am getting it, but with a "but...". And the "but...." is exactly what Chris adds. It is 2 sides of the coin, I think.
    Yes, new creative options, why would we limit to one thing if we have all these options at our disposal to reach out and touch people, and as Alan says, appeal to more senses? There are hardly any reasons why not.
    The one reason not to, I can think of, is what Chris wrote. Reading a book (of which I never saw the movie, or not yet), it appeals to one sense that the 'multi-media' approach may leave dormant: my imagination. Making up faces, spaces... colouring in for myself what the writer described.
    So, obviously, there is a time and place for both ways. As far as I am concerned, no arguing needed that both ways are fine, valid and useful. The point is: don't we currently have too much of one and too little of the other? And isn't imagination and developing this imagination a very important piece of your creativity?
    Maybe an interesting slightly related topic: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~wegner/tm.htm. The last link is a recent study how people more and more remember how they found info, and forget the actual info.
     
  13. Julie, we posted at the same time and I only see it much later now.
    Thanks for a refreshing view on what I tried to address. I've got to think it over a bit more, also wondering whether my OP was actually more assumptious than I thought it was... well, let me refrain from commenting a bit and rethink :)
     
  14. Wouter: "So, obviously, there is a time and place for both ways. As far as I am concerned, no arguing needed that both ways are fine, valid and useful. The point is: don't we currently have too much of one and too little of the other? And isn't imagination and developing this imagination a very important piece of your creativity?"
    I agree that both ways are good and there's no point arguing which is better. But one thing about leaving it up to imagination. I believe you can ask this question from the viewer's perspective. Leaving it up to their imagination to fill in the blanks. But what about the photographer's imagination? Shouldn't I be allowed to use as much as my imagination to create what I think is "creative"? After all, I believe my photography is mainly for me to try to become as creative as possible. At the end, except for snapshots of the family, I'll probably be the only one who looks at my work at the end anyway. Shouldn't I be pleased that I maximized my creative ability with all the tools that are available?
     
  15. Alan, good point, but well, that's part where I think my OP went wrong:the imagination as a viewer is the same imagination of the creator. So, my point was more at that: as a creator (photographer), being less triggered to ignite your imagination, how does this affect your creative vision?
    Of course you should not only be allowed to use as much imagination as you can, I think you should push to use as much as you can, and then more. Whichever tools and options get you there. In that sense, I think we fully agree.
    My somewhat messy writing in the OP clouds the question, unfortunately. But I'm wondering about: what you consume in arts, and how this trains and sharpens your imagination, is a direct influence on you being an artist, I think. How does the increasing stream of media which does not require your imagination affect this "teaching" of the imagination, and hence affect your creative potential?
     
  16. Wouter, the increasing stream of media is very different from what I consume in the arts. The internet still has not taken over the arts. Arts still appear in galleries, museums, books, jazz clubs, the Opera House, the theater, even on the street, etc.
    I suppose I could view opera as the addition of singing to an orchestra which, in some ways, could water down the role or imaginative aspects of the orchestra itself. But I don't. I experience opera as an integration of singing and orchestra, inseparable and therefore distinct from either singing or strictly symphonic works.
    When I create a slide show (with the intent of creating one) accompanied by some text, I view that as an integration of photos, text, and serial presentation. The slide show, therefore, has its own imaginative challenges and fulfillments. I don't see the text as distracting from or competing with the photos. My imagination has to work overtime to consider the relationship between the text and the visual imagery and to come up with a rhythm and line to the series presentation.
    In a documentary, text and/or music accompanying photos can make for less ambiguity which other types of photography may seek. Often, text and music make stuff more explicit. In that case, it may be more a desire for the creator to communicate something coherent and direct, even rather concrete, to his viewer. In that case, the creator may be using a wealth of his imagination while not necessarily wanting the viewer to go off into imaginative territory as much as he may want the viewer to get his point in a powerful and poignant way. Of course, this may also be accompanied by a viewer's imagination being stimulated. Directing a viewer's imagination won't necessarily undermine that imagination.
     
  17. When I think back on some of the slide shows I've made over the years I realize, as I sit here this evening, that how I take photos has changed, and is continuing to change based on thinking about how the photos might be arranged and what music or effects I will add. That has only begun in the past couple of years as the tools to do put these presentations more effectively, and the ability to share them more easily have become available to me. So, from my personal experience I am moving more toward merging the media, and I guess I consider some of my best outcomes are related to these merged presentations.
    Certainly that does not happen every time I pick up the camera, but especially if we're off on a special weekend, or I'm out shooting a auto racing event I'm thinking about a sequence of shots and how to tie it together, and even what music or approach I'd like to use. Hadn't even put together this notion of the merged media until this discussion.
    When it comes to reading vs. the cinema, I feel that I have to read the book before seeing the movie. I want my imagination to have built the scenes, and then see whether the director and actors agree. I'm wondering now if that's a generational thing - having grown up in the 50's and 60's.
     
  18. Fred, Julie, sorry for replying a bit slow. I think both your replies are about something else than I was thinking about. My point isn't about the imagination of the creator alone, nor the imagination of the viewer alone. It's about how your imagination as a viewer sharpens the imagination you use as a creator. So, your own internal loop - not an external viewer, but you, as a viewer, and what you take with you from those experiences as an artist.
    Julie, I like the description of the high voltage conversation. Sounds very much like what happens indeed.
    David, thanks, indeed what you describe is part of what I am trying to get an idea on. Shooting with the end media in mind. I'd love to understand in which ways your photos become different? Are they more already made to be part of a storyline, rather than being 'their own entity'?
     
  19. I was just thinking that we've all been doing this for years just in a different format. Albums of pictures especially if it's a vacation or family event. You take those sequence pictures that add a story line such as the shots at the airport, pictures of the departure and arrival display, getting your baggage, as well as the sights of the places you visited. Of course in the album you'd write as to where you where, while today this info would be imprinted on the slide show screen. Music and voice narration is relatively new of course for amateurs, but the process and creativity thinking is very similar. You're telling a story. Whenever I'm out in these kind of situations, I'm always thinking of a story and take filler shots. Otherwise I find the pictures are incoherent and boring and you tend to duplicate shots and include bad ones.
    I don't bother with story lines if my specific function however, is just to get a landscape shot. Then the creativity is in the light and composition and effect. You have to work harder at these where as the former storytelling ones move too quickly and the other senses are engaged.
     
  20. The multimedia approach is nothing new. Think of when people showed slides back in the 60s. Often music would be played (unsynched) and there would also be a verbal narrative going on simultaneously. It's just within the reach of a lot more people, and the means to create an integrated presentation are readily available. There's a lot more college grads being turned out with a multimedia background/degree as well.
    Alan, I consider the GPS coordinates to locate where the photograph was taken an interesting spatial narrative, particularly for landscape pictures.
     
  21. Wouter,
    Integration. I integrate my experience. (As I said, I experience opera as something greater than the sum of its parts, which are music, singing, drama, theater.) In this example, by appreciating the interrelationships of the various elements comprising opera and simultaneously experiencing the distinctly unique and singular medium of opera itself, I as a viewer/listener advance my imaginative capabilities which help in creating photos, series, and slide shows.
    Very few media are singular. There is a consistent shuffle back and forth throughout history. As a viewer, I appreciate that film combines still photos and literary narrative, utilizing music significantly. Painters have used photos in a variety of ways. Ceilings of cathedrals have been used as canvasses, walls present murals. Sculptures are used architecturally. As a viewer, I try to maintain a keen awareness of a wealth of interrelationships and even some dependencies while simultaneously appreciating the new and distinct results produced.
    Photos can emerge out of a cacophony of activity. Is a barrage of media an impediment to imagination? No, one can wallow in it, bounce back and forth within it, and form from it. The Greeks called it χάος (chaos). It preceded creation.
     
  22. Wouter, it's a good question to have brought up and I sense you are struggling with it to some extent. Do you feel it impacting your photographing, this apparent encroachment of music and text and other media upon photography? If so, can you photograph it somehow (or perhaps create photographs inspired by this dilemma)? Might be an interesting challenge. Or maybe you seem some evidence of its impact already in your work?
     
  23. Fred, the struggle I have it does not directly reflect myself. For me, photography is much just photos. I have personally no need, want or intent to integrate my photos with something else. If anything, I want them to stand more or their own.
    While reading some book recently, a nice page turner which had my imagination revved up, this question more came to mind. For me, this type of imagination where you are free to fill in gaps and make up big pieces of the "movie in my head", is an important clue to creativeness. And all around me, I only see less and less words written to be only words, less images conceived to be just images. It all integrates, but the sum isn't always bigger than its parts. And even if they are, the audience may have little room to fill in the gaps. Just imagine how hearing a story teller phrasing the Ilias would spark your imagination, versus a movie like Troy.
    Maybe I'm chasing a big white whale, could well be. At times the brain sprints off in some direction that essentially ends nowhere :)
     
  24. To rephrase the whole. Let me use opera as an example to better underline (hopefully) where I feel I stand myself.
    So far, I've never seen a performance of Madame Butterfly, not on video/DVD, nor live in an operahouse. But listening to the recording I have, brought me close to tears. It did not need faces, staging, lighting - the music was more than strong enough to make me see a movie in my head. And now, I actually don't think I want to see Madame Butterfly "for real". The magic of what happened in my imagination could possibly degrade following that (like the average film after a good book does...).
    I love these worlds, these private personal worlds inside a book, music, painting or photo. The high voltage conversation, to quote Julie. I love being there, letting my fantasy colour the walls, paint the faces and sketch the environments.
    Not only do I love being in those worlds, but it feeds me, energizes, and inspires. On the best days they happen while staring down my viewfinder - my imagination fills up what I see within the frame with a lot of made-up events. What happens inside this imagination is much more "mine", and feels closer. If I can take these imaginary worlds inside a photo, I've got a photo I can personally be happy with.
    So, for me, it's the link between what I take from art I admire (or that fascinates me) into my own work. It's not a direct link, not an attempt to copy, but it's those little sparks that carry over.
    For me, these high voltage conversations happen only with rather "pure" expressions (sorry, a very tainted choice of words, but no idea how to paraphrase it better). A book without pictures, a photo, a painting, music without a staging. It triggers me more, and engages me more. And as a result, I get more out of it. So, part of the fascination is the part that I get to bring in more, more room for my imagination (or, at least: my perception of that).
    What I see, is less and less work created to be such a "pure" expression. And this is where the first post basically starts.
    To be clear, I am not against integrating experiences, nor do I want to say that such works deny the viewer their imagination. Nor that in the creation, there is less imagination put in - not at all.
    But deep down, I have this nagging feel it does make (to me as a viewer) the width and depth of the space available, free for imagination, smaller and smaller. This affects my creative thinking, and not for the better.
    Hope this way, it's a bit less vague where I come from in asking this question, it's not easy to describe so I hope it makes some sense.
    To get rid of my negative perceptions present in the OP, let me then try to rephrase my query accordingly: which role does the such imagination play for you, and how do these experiences (as "consumer" of art) affect what you try to do as an artist? So, is my experience as I tried to describe here one you can relate too?
     
  25. The other/second media is your freedom? Your "envelope" (I'll think of a better word by tomorrow)? In other words, if I understand you, you feel that a silent visual leaves you room to roam in your own imagined inner music, and music without pictures leaves you room to roam in your own imagined visuals. The "unused" media should be, is necessary "space" for your mind?
     
  26. Julie - YES :) That's it!
    Necessary space.... let's say "much prefered and desired space", but yes, you hit the nail on its head.
    For example, I much enjoyed your Equilateral series; there was much room to let me fantasy roam freely. As a series/sequence, I construct some logic in between them... They became buildings, Asian scripts, the results of strong ants showing off construction genius.... Words could have guided me elsewhere, and so would music have. The way I experienced them now is much more close to me, and I think I enjoyed it more profoundly.
    It's not just the mantra that a photo should be able to speak for itself, it's that I much like it if I get a chance to let it do so.
     
  27. Wouter, just as your seeing the opera performed will fill in some blanks, the recording of it is someone's interpretation as well.
    Shakespeare wrote plays to be performed, so my guess is he created with an eye and imagination toward a variety of performances . . . and realizations . . . and not to an ideal or pure "Macbeth." How else could his words and poetry have such latitude? That POTENTIAL for variety and any number of different actualizations on stage went into the creation. (The director and actors, the singers and set designers will likely tell you that their art is to stimulate the viewer's imagination as well, not to stifle either Shakesepeare's or Puccini's or yours.)
    The act of framing may seem like a limit. But isn't this framing an act and realization of that width and depth of imagination you speak of? Isn't the framing the beginning of the new, imaginative world of the photograph itself, even while it is a bounding of sorts. Photographs, operas, plays depend on this co-existence/symbiosis of limit and freedom.
    Adding text to a photo or putting together a series of photos with music can be very similar, in the right hands, to framing your scene to begin with, only it's a kind of framing of the photo. The text or music may supply limits and context and can also provide freedom and potential. Which doesn't deny the fact that there are lazy people who use words or music to enhance visual superficiality. And also doesn't deny that we may each have our preferences.
     
  28. [One addition to the Shakespeare paragraph]: I am aware that my seeing a given performance is but one iteration of the potential the play has. So, that "limit" of the particular stage performance I'm seeing actually helps put me in touch with the freedom not in the words as read by me alone but in a different sort of freedom which is inherent in the concreteness of the words as uttered by an actor on a stage. That concreteness, which surely Shakespeare was in touch with, sets off its own imaginative universes.
     
  29. I think it's also important to keep in mind that there is a big difference between words used as an afterthought (or, worse, an excuse) to "explain" a photo and the creation of an accompaniment of words and text that is more like strings and woodwinds playing together. In the latter case of a project dependent on photos and text, they work in harmony and counterpoint, much like the sections of an orchestra, where you wouldn't say the woodwinds are unnecessary if only the violins would do their job properly.
     
  30. Fred, the link to framing... thanks. Good food for thought. Yes, inclusion and exclusion of things has got a lot to do with it. Those times it happens, the imagination much defines the framing, simply because some elements which are there in reality do not fit my fantasy-story. So, yes, I much agree to the notion of the limit/freedom symbiosis.
    Where I clearly are cheering for more freedom :)
    I do not want to imply that this is the right thing by definition, and sure we all have our own preferences. Possibly my preference is a too strong undercurrent in this thread, and that's not my aim at all. It seems to be against what Alan for example showed earlier in the thread. Just to be clear, I have nothing against it, and I see the skill, originality in it, I enjoyed watching it. But, well, by my preference, it just does not strike me as hard as a single photo can do. I admit, this is just me and should not be taken for any more value than just another opinion.
    Do 'empty spaces' / imagination play a similar role for you? Could you think of ways to create such space in your photos?
    (edit) Fred, in your last reply, you touch on something I tried to address in the OP too, though secondary. How does your approach to a photo change if you know and plan it to go together with text? I can understand how you think ahead to the complete orchestral sound (though sadly, composing is outside my skillset) - but how does this translate back into creating photos?
    (this question is very wide open, and more one of my inexperience - I never undertook such thing myself, so I'm really wondering only)
     
  31. Do 'empty spaces' / imagination play a similar role for you? Could you think of ways to create such space in your photos?​
    Literally, yes, I love working with apparently empty spaces. In THIS PHOTO, I was intrigued by the blankness of parts of the surfaces of the wall and table, especially given the location of the man in the corner surrounded by those spaces. Another less literal method is ambiguity, not spelling everything out, either in my own mind or the viewer's. In THIS PHOTO, perhaps there's some ambiguity introduced by the connection of Ian's hand to John's shoulder along with the contrast in tone. The connection becomes somewhat of a question mark as one figure seems the controlling one (at least as I sense it) and their gazes and posture seem perhaps more individual than connected. The figures seem to share an energy in the photo but also have distinctly unique energies, each their own. The more fleeting imagery (repetitions) reflected in the beveled edge of the mirror might also capture the imagination.
    .
    How does your approach to a photo change if you know and plan it to go together with text?​
    It's a challenge to illustrate specific ideas and situations that I want to explain to the viewer and still allow room for imagination. One challenge with respect to my work at Plowshare is to be grounded and specific with the images while still allowing for some of the ambiguity and richness of imagination present in the people and the place taken as a whole to come through. I need to be a set designer and stage director. The more comfortable I get with setting up specific narrative shots that convey specific activities and occurrences (it's a hard population with which to try and leave a lot to chance, though chance happenings are rich with texture as well), the more room I allow myself to also incite imagination and not just limit myself to that important narrative. This kind of shooting is clearly less free. I am not just guided by my own designs. If my personal photos are more like my acting as composer and performer, this work is more like staying within the constraints of a composition, more like the interpreter than the composer. But we both know the good interpreter has to give to the work his own imagination in order for it to be convincing or worth listening to. In this case, it means being concrete and specific and also transcending that concreteness with bits of visual poetry, ambiguity, impression. It's using intangibles such as light, perspective, color, focus, and of course emotion to deepen what's very explainable and even obvious on the surface. Where I may be perfectly content with ambiguity and/or skepticism in other photos, with the Plowshare work I am after a distinct sort of understanding at least as a starting point.
    What if I show you THIS picture and tell you this was a new house being constructed and that Mark wanted to accompany me as I was being shown all the nooks and crannies, that he got up the stairs with little struggle but was panicked at the thought of going down the stairs, that one of the co-workers simply sat him down at the top of the stairs and told him fairly directly to go down on his butt, not giving him much of a chance to think about it and be afraid of it, that he shouted out in fear at first, but slowly came to enjoy the bumpy ride? Yes, I've shown you how moving was the morning light, the developing geometry of the staircase, the humanity of his face and place in the scene and the moment, but I can also tell you the story of how Mark approached this and how practically the co-worker facilitated the situation. Yes, that fills in some blanks and may direct or even ground your imagination with some practicality, but it gives you information I want you to have about how some of these seemingly fantastical or ethereal-looking situations actually come about. It connects the very concrete with the transcendent, which is so much of what the Plowshare community is about. This should be about more than your own flight of fancy. I hope the text gives you information and the way the photo is taken still allows for your imagination to take off, even if grounded somewhat in the details of what was actually taking place. The photo as presented in my portfolio can speak for itself and can allow you a certain viewing and imaginative experience. The photo as presented with text and in context of a slide show or book will simply be a very different kind of experience.
     
  32. Could you think of ways to create such space in your photos?​
    Now, your photos create space for imagination as well, THIS ONE, THIS ONE, and THIS ONE in some similar ways. Do you see that happening in these three? How have you approached or allowed for that imaginative quality you're talking about, whether intentionally when you shot and processed them or just as you look at them now? What is it about these photos that push your and the viewer's imagination?
     
  33. The original OP referred to the interconnection or convergence of media. Wouter, I have previously reflected a bit about how TV, cinema, opera and other multimedia presentations can rob the viewer or listener of an experience of the type you describe, which you describe as fantasy. Using one's imagination to fill in the gaps may or may not realise itself as fantasy, but simply an imaginative and creative complement that provides one with added dimensions to what is being presented. I love photographs without titles, or unrevealing titles, and those which are visually enigmatic. The next to last POW did that for me. A number of my own photos do that for me, even though I created them and I presumably know what they are all about (No, not always so).
    Making things too evident is quite often the mark of a poorly conceived work, and most notably so in my opinion in much mass produced cinema and TV theatre or series or words and music. Having everything displayed for you on a plate, pre-digested, sometimes even suggesting how it should taste for you, is not art or even good communication to my mind. I believe that the mind of the reasonably intelligent individual has to be challenged by what he sees or hears. Thus our fascination with complex music, radio series of our youth (mine at least) that incited us to use our imaginations, and many books of narratives. Where a multimedia presentation like opera or cinema (combining images, narrative, music, poetry, other) really works is where the various elements are essential to the whole, but the whole is not easily assimilated without the active participation of the viewer/listener, who is incited to think more profoundly than usual about what he sees.
    Multimedia has almost always existed, certainly within the last few thousand years, and technology only simply brings them together more easily. When people were not generally literate, music and theatre replaced books and schooled them in their religion with the aid of parables. Much of our entertaiment or art is presented to a large public and is sponsored by commercial concerns whose main aim is to reach the largest and most impressionable audience it can for its own aims. And why not? They are essentially paying for the product. What you may see as a "convergence" is often a combination of media tools to play to the less demanding of viewers and listeners, where the message must be understood easily by the many, and unequivocably at that.
    Not much room for challenges to one's imagination and creativity, "n'est ce oas"? (whether imagination leads to fantasy, but often not fantasy, and simply personal subjectivity, creativity and enactment). Not much room for participating with the creator of the work. The mass multimedia work of today often requires lesser thought, as multimedia use can provide more unequivocable and easily assimilated results than can singular media (with possible exceptions for singular media - there always are - like Ravel's tongue-in-cheek Bolero or Warhol's 8 hour one camera position video or film of the Empire State building, which can leave little room for creative response, or the case of poorly conceived photographs (postcard type), specific radio theatre or music). I don't see any more convergence than before, except for the mass culture or the undemanding audience. Multimedia has always existed in oneform or the other. More important, perhaps, is how it is used.
     
  34. Arthur: I think you're complicating this. Multimedia works because our senses are integrated. They work together. It has nothing to do with intelligence or people who are less demanding.
    If you have a single picture and you're trying to say one thing, the single picture will work, maybe. If you're trying to tell a whole story, whether cinema or a la National Geographic, having pictures and words together complement each other. In movies, adding speech and music get the message and the creativity of the director and actors across better. When "speakies" came out, they blew away the silent film era. Even the silent film era had subtitles to explain the story along the way. And there was also the woman who played the piano in the audience to give dramatic impact.
    When we talk, don't we use body language to help get our real thoughts across. How many times do we misunderstand one another in these forums because we're only using the "typed" word? We lose a lot because we don't see each other when communicating.
     
  35. Alan, I think you are both introducing apples and oranges and also missing my point. I agree that multimedia has the potential to communicate more, but what is sometimes lacking is the attraction of the unknown, that part that is not communicated. That is where I think Wouter was saying what I am also saying, that the creativity of the imagination of the viewer or listener is often short circuited out by the presence of too many inputs, which are possible through multimedia of sight and sound that remove some of the unknowns, some of the unsaid, some of the enigma and some of the appeals that simpler media can make to our imagination. That is why I think that cinema, TV, opera and live theatre can easily go astray in attempting to appeal to the curious mind, and that only some of the very best really do that.
    The rest? Well, that is what I am saying about lower common denominator presentations and how they have often been orchestrated by the people that decide (advertisers on TV) to get high ratings with easy to understand creations of often very limited artistic content. That thought does not make me an elitist, which can be a facile reproach one may hear in this type of discussion, but simply one who has seen and heard a lot, has studied what makes many works powerful or inept, and who has gained some criteria for an albeit subjective judgement.
     
  36. Faced with a sheer rock face (say, the half-dome at Yosemite) one could free climb it or one could take the stairs (metaphorically). Faced with a New York sky scraper one could also free climb its exterior or one could take the elevator. I for one appreciate stairs and elevators BUT I love the free climber. He makes his own game as he plays it.
    There are times and places for free climbing and there are times and places for stairways and elevators (and cars and trains and sit-coms and evening news).
    Wouter, rather than "leaving" or "allowing" space, I think what I really mean is that the reader/viewer must *make* the space in the sense of generating the "field of play." What I mean is that the artwork provides/delivers (by whatever media) the players (or the "pieces" in a board game)and their trajectories, but the rules, the atmosphere, the conditions of the game are left to the viewer. When I say "rules" what I really mean is judgment (that's what rules really are in any game). Given Ahab and Ishmael and their story, you make the "field" on which they play; you (must) generate judgement, framing, construals.
    Oppose that to interactions that are specifically about and take place in the existing "game"; where the point of the interaction is to discover, interpret, observe, consider, etc. that existing game. For example, the evening news, or political discussions, or even slide shows intended to document one's own existing life in one's own existing culture. Judgment and framing are not being made, they're being met and/or matched in useful, needful, necessary ways as part of participating as social beings. And I mean that from the heights of investigative reporting and social theorizing right on down to the worst cliched soap opera.
    Music, as a second media (applied "over" visuals) is judgment. Imposed judgment. It "says" this is ... (mood, consonance, dissonance, etc.) Its a running commentary guiding/forcing judmental coloration. It is an attempt to prevent the invention of ones own "field" or game as described above; it imposes an existing judgment and prevents or interferes with the viewer making his own game (field, rules, boundaries, judgment). Depending on the intent of the slide show or multimedia project, such guidance/imposed judgment may be exactly what is needed and may therefore be greatly appreciated by an audience (think stairs and elevators).
    Please note that dialogue (theater) is not music; it's part of the game, not an appendage. And music in not necessarily appendage. In some operas, the music is a player or at least integrated with the players so as to be part of, not commentary to, what's in play (Verdi's Falstaff, for example is perfectly integrated).
    Returning to the free climber. If you are on the ground, watching him free climb some insanely difficult rock face, you can't see his game. It's in his head, and it's being made as he goes. He needs the rock and his body and his skills (and gravity) to do it, but those pieces don't make the game; they make it possible. Immanent.
     
  37. [... and, Wouter, thank you for your comments on my Equilateral series. I take almost indecent pleasure in finding that someone has spent so much time with one of my "games."]
     
  38. Music, as a second media (applied "over" visuals) is judgment. Imposed judgment. It "says" this is ... (mood, consonance, dissonance, etc.) Its a running commentary guiding/forcing judmental coloration.​
    Music is actually one of the least imposing of the arts. It is much less forcing and judgmental than visual art. When we sit in the symphony hall listening, is it forcing these same kinds of judgments? If so, how does that independent experience of music compare to an independent viewing of a photo, with regard to forcing judgment?
    Photos force their own judgments. "Art" photos don't simply invent their own game and rules. We see a picture of a pepper. Sure, it may tell us new things about the pepper and it is a creative act for sure, but the photo depends on the recognition of "pepper" to a certain extent to derive its power as such a uniquely creative act. Such visual recognition is often the beginning of the photographic exposé and is already part of a well-understood game. That grounding is why transcendence can occur.
    Too many significant photos derive their significance precisely from the literal aspects that already contain their own built-in commentary and judgment. The pepper is one example. If we don't judge that a pepper is not something we've looked at in this sensual way before, we don't get all there is to get from the photo of the pepper. That's because it's a photo of a pepper. And it's also a photo of NOT a pepper, of much more (and less) than a pepper.
    Is a musical overlay a Fantasia-like mood creator? Do we assume that it forces the kind of literal judgments "sad," "happy"? And if it does, which it does only in some cases, is that any more rule-oriented or part of an existing game than "that's Iwo Jima," which is the beginning of the viewing of the famous photo of Iwo Jima or "wow, that's a really sensuous rendition of a pepper" which can be the beginning of the viewing of the photo of the pepper.
    Why would I think that an independent photo doesn't already direct itself a great deal? It's the accompanying music or text that has that capability? Look how directed all the music in Fantasia suddenly became, how imposed upon, how forced, once visuals were brought to bear on that music. Photos have at least as much inherent powers of direction and judgment as music. If those same visuals were independent art photos, would they suddenly lose those inherently judgmental and directional powers, or would those in fact be the grounding and starting point of the "rest of the story"?
    Art isn't such a free climb. Art forces all kinds of things. Perhaps viewers like to think of themselves as free spirits, playing only by the rules of the their own games and making. A lot of artists know better. A lot of artists know they've actually got their viewers by the . . . peppers.
     
  39. [That last line could read]: "A lot of artists know their art actually has their viewers by . . ."
     
  40. Sometimes, these timezone differences really get in the way ;-) One by one...
    Fred,
    The ambiguity, indeed that "feels" closest to this subject for me, helped considerably by the fact that I find the photo you used as example a tremendously strong photo. The proper word for me would be intriguing, and that's a good thing. It's "activating" the imagination, and inviting it in. Every time I see this photo, it takes on other meaning, shows me something else or guides my thoughts somewhere else. And that's a big part why I like this photo so much.
    The literal empty spaces, your example is a fascinating one. Again, intriguing, but I dare not yet say whether it's the emptiness that does it, or the parts that aren't empty combined with the technique used.... I think my own photos show a lot of emptiness. I've never considered it within this context, strangely enough, and I have to give that link a bit more thought.
    Thanks for sharing the experience, as said, for me that's new territory so I like the look in the kitchen. For what it's worth, the Plowshare photos I've seen do 'look' different too, somewhat less layered and more direct. Well, the example you show here might be the exception. But yes, I see how the photo takes on a different feel with the explanation. Thanks, it may have been a slight offtopic, but it gives me more idea of planning work ahead, which as a photographer is all new to me.
    As I read the reply with links to my own photos earlier this day, I had to smile. Personally, I wouldn't have selected either one, yet I get what you're saying. So, yes, I see how they could work like that. I've got the disadvantage here of knowing what went on in my head as I shot these photos - in all three cases more a fascination with the light, and far less so any object in the frame. As far as they were processed (the last is pretty much as shot), it was done with emphasising that light in mind.
    And when I look at them now, after I read this reply...... yes, the glimpse is there. I'd say it's also a sort of ambiguity, I think neither of these photos has an 'immediate obviousness'.
     
  41. Arthur, yes, we're very much on the same page there. Indeed it's the attraction of the unknown, the part that is not there. Your first reply is much what I tried to say, but worded better.
    Alan, Arthur... well, I'm with Arthur here. Our senses are integrated, but that does not automatically mean addressing them all is better than addressing one. To tell a whole story, sometimes one photo does it. And sometimes it doesn't, and a whole movie, magazine or opera works better.
    It's not about multi-media being inferior to singular media. It's about the way a work affects us. Like Arthur, I see merit in what's not in the work, and what's not spelled out to us. That leaves us (as 'consumers') with something to do - bring ourselves in. But, as with many things, there is a place and time for each approach, so I don't think any of us is judging any approach, just discussing the advantages and disadvantages.
    Though I wholeheartedly agree that body language, intonation and facial expressions are a massive part of a conversation. It's indeed a pity we lack such expressions here sometimes, on the other hand the limitation of having only written words here also makes me consider better what I write, and focus on the clarity of my message. That often fails, but then, just imagine how much worse it is when I talk ;-)
     
  42. Julie, yes, yes, we're very much talking the same thing, I think. Sure as a viewer, I must make the space too, that is: I need to recognise it, see its potential. The proverbial spark. The rock must be do-able, else indeed stairs are much more welcome (disregarding here that I am the world's worst climber probably). But, yes, its the play between what's handed in the work, and what isn't. The tension between the two.
    While I agree with Fred music is a very non-imposing type of art, and indeed less so than visuals, as a second media indeed it can set the mood too much. Film music, when done "right", can colour the image. The standard "now it will soon become scary" music in horror films just works - you could show a field full of spring flowers in a lovely golden sunlight, and still people would start to tension up for what they expect coming. I'd say Wagner's Leitmotive serve a very similar function (which is a indirect way to say "ooops, I do not know Falstaff very well"). I actually like these techniques, and see their use and how they can be used proper in skilled hands. But sometimes they are also too recognisable as techniques, and that detracts. Linking that to the Pepper... well, I'm just imaging one of the Pepper photos with a supermarkt tune as background music. It would make me think the peppers are on offer, just €1,99 for today. Soft, sensual, slow rhythm music, and I wouldn't be thinking of a pepper at all. The Pepper photo, plain and pure without music, leaves me with an ambiguity....
     
  43. Perhaps viewers like to think of themselves as free spirits, playing only by the rules of the their own games and making. A lot of artists know better. A lot of artists know they've actually got their viewers by the . . . peppers.​
    So, the trick is given your viewer enough space, but guide him intellegently enough too. It sounds like a logical conclusion, but something isn't adding up (yet) for me. As what Julie also already refered to, we're handed the players, the field... but we make the rules and dress up the surroundings. The "hole" the artist leaves can be quite significant.
    Luckily, so far in this thread there have been references to photos that to me highlight the point, and which I admire for the fact that they spark my imagination, and leave enough space to let that imagination roam rather freely:
    Fred
    Julie
    and not yet referenced, but fitting my purposes fine: Arthur, Steve and Alan.
    As a very brief review, I can say I like these photos very much. I can give some technical reasons why I do, niceties as contrast/colour, division of the frame, tensions between shapes.... and all that would be pretty true. And somewhat obvious and boring.
    But, all these photos grab me pretty much on first sight. Why? Because I do not know what I am looking at. It isn't obvious, and/or where it is obvious, there is either something ambigious, or missing. For all 5, I can say that these photos jump at me. Because of what isn't there, because of what does not make sense. Not for their visual qualities, not for what they do show, but for what's in between.
    If you all have me by the peppers, as artists, and I would be playing strict by your rules, then you're all asking questions in these photos. No answers, no stories, but questionmarks. Whatever my imagination makes up in the missing parts, as the rules of the game between the objects - the ambiguity does not go away. So, what does not fully add up there for me is how much I am really being led, and how much I am really just some free spirit following whims, loose leads and follies. It's an interesting play between the two, a give and take.
    P.S.
    In retrospect, it was not right to oppose such qualities in works 'versus' multi-media works. Probably, I should have directed this thread towards imagination only, not bringing in the seemingly increasing stream of multi-media work. But the the thought in the back of my head stays: children are less exposed to photos without text, photos without music, photos just being photos. How will it affect their development as photographers? Will they learn to see, learn to see what is not there, learn to see without needing a GPS device to navigate the image? My crystal ball doesn't work, but well....probably, shouldn't be too negative; every generation always delivers its creative minds, with some breaking the barriers. I do hope they keep inspiring my imagination, though!
     
  44. [Wouter, I wrote this while you were posting just above. It was meant more as a response to your general points and to your previous post.]
    Weston himself supplied the music. That's my point. He could have photographed the pepper (as many would) commercially, to sell peppers. He could have photographed it growing out of the ground, with a beautiful landscape as a backdrop or a migrant farm worker hovering above it. But he chose this pepper, isolated, in this light, the sensuality. He chose THIS ambiguity. It's not just the viewer's ambiguity. It's to his credit that a viewer might feel the viewer is doing all the work. That's merely because Weston's music is silent. It's in the photographs, even as something not there.
    I'm not advocating for musical accompaniment to photos. I like looking at individual photos a lot, though I am increasingly interested in series and bodies of work, with or without text and musical accompaniment.
    But this ambiguity, this openness we're talking about is also a sort of (non-musical) accompaniment. It's something the photographer or artist allows for but it doesn't mean he hasn't judged, directed, and projected and it doesn't mean the viewer isn't very much influenced and affected by all of that. We hear the scary music and that makes it obvious where the film wants us to go. But how does the scary picture (independent of any music) get scary, how does the titillating picture get titillating, how does the sensuous one, the intimate one, the quizzical one, the relaxing one, the cacophonous one, get that way? The photographer, that's how! By all the "limiting" (if by "limiting" we mean judgmental, directorial, suggestive, descriptive, narrative, reliably symbolic, nostalgic, era-recalling, anxiety-producing . . .) devices a visual artist has at his disposal. No, he or she doesn't need added music. But that he doesn't have added music doesn't mean he, himself, hasn't often set as specific a mood as any music could. And even when a photo is scary, or tragic, or sexy, or bright and cheery, a good photographer can still allow for open spaces and ambiguity.
    [Strong opinion to come!] I think many photographers don't realize they have this power to create what added music can create and that's often the reason so many photos lack life, lack depth, lack layering, and lack a coherent emotional outpouring. They are so intent on divorcing themselves from the viewer, on insisting that it's the viewer who must be left free and must be, in effect, the creator of the significant aspects of the photo, that they almost intentionally refuse or at least neglect to put anything in or into their photos, something which could act as this magical music acts when it's heard.
     
  45. Fred, I think we're not that far apart - sure the artist leaves room, and sure the viewer is not a pure free roaming spirit. It's an interaction where both, I think, leave one another enough space to "do their thing".
    Your strong opinion is indeed pretty strong, but there is only a part where I doubt whether it's too strong; whether people are not willing to put in this 'extra bit' by intent, that's something I would not say squarely. I think some other aspects play. First of all, I assume we talk people here who take their photography and photos serious, and are trying to show something 'through' their photos.
    Leaving the ambiguity is not all that easy. Neither is making an image in such a way that is holds enough clues (entrances?) for the viewer, without strangling the viewer in literal-ness. It's difficult enough in terms of creative vision, previsualisation and understanding; it is also difficult enough because it asks you to let go of your message, alienate and familiarise in ways you cannot predict. In the ambigiuty, you put in your message, and the option for a gazillion other messages you don't know yet - including possibly some you are really not going to like. That requires an accomplishedness, as artist, that I think takes quite a bit. Self confidence and a confidence in what you create.
    It may be true that many don't realise this power to engage a viewer, but I think for many that do realise, it could also be intimidating and just a bit too 'scary' to try build a tension between control and freedom of your viewer.
     
  46. "They are so intent on divorcing themselves from the viewer, on insisting that it's the viewer who must be left free"
    Ha, perhaps some pleasant music or maybe an artful poem.. Of course we could write a nice narrative to go with the photograph or describe our feelings and emotions as we press the big button.
    In a cluttered world where we are constantly being bombarded with video images, media sounds bytes , and the constant background of noise....


    Isn't it so nice to ponder over a still image in the silence of our own solitude and imagination? without being told what to think, and imagine... and not having a leading hand.
     
  47. Wouter, the third paragraph of your recent post for me comes close to describing the type of creative approach and the benefits of a singular medium that allows the artist to not say too much and the viewer to have his questions and his say. Notwithstanding your previous humility in respect of your three photographs, that Fred gave as examples, I think that they in fact all create that absence and ambiguity of this type. We are not robots as photographers and I think there are many cases where we can reflect on the fact that we were not in complete awareness or control of why and how we approached a subject. It may sound trivial to say it, but I think it often just happens that way because the moment and the content just seems right. This is quite distant from the examples of some spoon fed presentations which call upon all our senses and often provide a content with but few mysteries to unfold.
     
  48. One has to look at what the artist wants to present as much as the viewer of the art. Or should I say consumer.
    In one aspect, there's a financial objective on the part of most professional artists. What's the point having a wonderful idea for a piece of work if it winds up sitting in a shoe box in a dark portion of your closet? Most artists are hired by others who define the art they want. It has to be sold. How many artists make great works in a vacuum? I'm sure van Gogh would have liked to have had it differently rather than winding up poor with one less ear than God endowed him with.
    Then, there is the intent of the artist. It's nice to say we, the viewers, should be given the power to decide intent, to look past what we see and imagine the mind of the artist. But the artist has ego too. He may not want to give you that chance. He wants to make a point, his point. Picture a photo of a forest with the trees gone and the caption, "Man's rape of the environment". That 'artist" is not interested in your viewpoint. He's trying to jam his down your throat.
    How much power to imagine for you do you think the artist should have?
     
  49. the type of creative approach and the benefits of a singular medium that allows the artist to not say too much . . .​
    This is where it breaks down for me. When I think of so many artists, they are generally ones that say so much I can barely keep up. Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Ford, Goldin, Dijkstra, Hosoe, . . . These are not people waiting for the moment and the content to be just right, IMO. They are making it so.
    I tend to like aesthetically-opinionated artists and think most of them are saying something quite distinct, bold, and they repeat and emphasize it over and over again, while still maintaining a kind of freshness over the course of time. I tend to feel stuff forcing its way out of them, almost as an obsession. I don't think they're terribly concerned with the latitude of imagination they give their viewer. They don't have to be. It will be there. I think they're almost compulsively expressing something they need to get out. That kind of passionate, genuine, and well-crafted expression, being so human, will strike universal AND INDIVIDUAL chords in all of us. But that it strikes individual and different chords for various viewers doesn't mean the artists weren't direct and often committed to a very singular passion, at least in a particular work. The artist didn't have to be ambiguous in order to create a work having this quality of empty space or ambiguity in it. A quite impassioned and focused awareness can still lead to plenty of room for ambiguity as the "message"* travels to the viewer.
    *These kinds of artistic statements are not just about "message," they are about the artist's own vision and the viewer's vision as well.
     
  50. Arthur, Fred, reading both responses I wonder whether you are talking the same things. I understand what Arthur tries to say. And I understand Fred's response to it..... and I think there is just one word missing: explicit.
    I do not and would not argue that many artists have plenty to say, and guide us to and through that message. But the list Fred gives in quite spot on: how explicit are any of these in giving us the message? In my view, none of them spells out the message. Yes, it's there, yes, they can bring you there as a viewer, but they're not rubbing it in your face.
    Maybe I am misreading, but to me, Arthur (given earlier posts) is talking about these explicit messages, these works that as a statement shout at you what they are about - and leave nothing left to the imagination.
     
  51. The artist didn't have to be ambiguous in order to create a work having this quality of empty space or ambiguity in it. --Me​
    The photographer and artist can be vocal, clear, distinct, passionately focused, and, as I said, aesthetically-opinionated and still there will be ambiguity, even within himself, as well. There's a human puzzlement, questioning, doubt that will come into play even regarding the most brazen and focused of passionate outbursts. I think the artists and photographers I appreciate most are ones who are like this. NOT ambiguous. Bold, up-front, compelled. And yet with the kind of ambiguity that naturally accompanies that boldness and passion and is even more evidently brought to bear when it's shared with a viewer.
    I know from my own experience as I continue to photograph that ambiguity can be used (I've used it) as an excuse not to make photographic/visual commitments, not to allow myself the freedom that can come from allowing my obsessions to be told. One of my biggest struggles has been not to use this "magical" open space of ambiguity as an escape hatch to avoid something very articulable and even quite concrete and specific (yes, even explicit) within me. At the same time, I recognize that what's concrete and specific goes beyond that into all sorts of imaginative territories. I can be pretty explicit with myself, honest with myself while simultaneously allowing both myself and the viewer breathing room.
    When I'm disappointed in a photograph I see, it's not usually because the photograph itself does not tie up all the loose ends. I, too, don't necessarily want that. I'm disappointed because so often I get a sense that the photographer was not explicit enough with his own feelings and passions that he was able to develop a significant rather than a superficial or escapist level of ambiguity.
     
  52. Serrano. Goldin. Mapplethorpe. Warhol. Segal's holocaust sculptures.
    Explicitness can be made to be expansive. How?
     
  53. Explicitness. Ambiguity. Absence. Boldness. Each term or word englobes so much that it means different things in different contexts. That in part is why we are considering all this from different angles, many of which I acknowledge to be quite valid within the particular constraints of their use. When I suggested, and Fred re-quoted
    "The type of creative approach and the benefits of a singular medium that allows the artist to not say too much . . . "
    it was as a counterpoint to the more evident expliciteness (as Wouter mentions and I believe in his reference to some types of art, and often those of multimedia. My apolgies, Wouter, if I am misquoting you) and to the often power of the singular medium in engaging the viewer or listener in the artist's process or creative statement. A well conceived mutimedia work of art can do the same, of course, however not without the ever present temptation to be too concise in its statement. "The photographer and artist can be vocal, clear, distinct, passionately focused, and, as I said, aesthetically-opinionated and still there will be ambiguity, even within himself, as well" (Fred). Of course, and this is always desirable, yet the work can be such as to be mysterious or ambiguous to the viewer and require his participation in the process. As I mentioned, this is quite distant from what I think are the spoon-fed unambiguous examples that can be seen in popular culture, whether blockbuster films, sappy theatre, or cookie cutter art employing multimedia or not. A capella song, instrumental music, the printed page, and photography, each share a cerrtain uncertainty of message (for the recipient, if not always for the creator) that is more compelling for me than these multimedia examples which need to spell out everything or simply replicate comfortable (read "familiar") messages.
     
  54. this is quite distant from what I think are the spoon-fed unambiguous examples that can be seen in popular culture, whether blockbuster films, sappy theatre, or cookie cutter art employing multimedia or not.​
    Got it, Arthur. I'm not talking about pop culture or blockbuster films. I'm talking about my own work, your own work, and the work of people in this forum, who I am at least philosophically collaborating with.
    I don't think any of us are creating pop successes or blockbuster hits. But I do think many of us are struggling. My own struggle, and the struggle I most often see, is not a matter of being too explicit. It's a matter of denial and avoidance. It's not seeing much of any emotional commitment or explicitness in photographs. And a lot of that, IMO, is because we so admire the magical ambiguity of a lot of the art we love that that can blind us to the explicitness that is so important. I don't think you get to that kind of expansive ambiguity by being ambiguous. I think you get to it by being determined and by actually filling in a lot of the blanks that hang with emptiness and hollowness in so many of our own photos.
    This is why I asked HOW these photographers and we as photographers can make explicitness more expansive. Not in our heads and not on paper. But how in our photographs. What methods? Pick a photograph of yours or someone famous that does have an expansive sort of personal explicitness of emotion and talk about some of the ways that explicitness becomes expansive. Then pick a photograph of yours or someone famous that does not do this and talk about or think about why.
    If we don't do that, we sit here and debate endlessly about words and contexts and "I meant this" and "you meant that." I disagree with Wouter. I don't think we're all on the same page about this nor do we have to be. But I think, until we start talking specifically about HOW this works in our own work or the work of others, that page remains mostly blank.
    For me, and I sense for you, the debate gets tiresome, and frustrating. Until it stimulates talk about actual photographs, especially our own. Can we collaborate instead of debating?
     
  55. Wait, I'm not creating blockbuster hits?? ;-)
    Fred, I think in fact I misread you before, in the sense that you were aiming far more specifically at us ourselves, where I thought it was a more wide generic statement. So, yeah, got it now, and it makes sense you disagree with me.
    Let's collaborate, though I find it hard to find something where I really tried to be explicit and stayed sufficiently amibguous. So, I travel a bit back in the thread, and try with a photo that spurred my imagination while I was framing it. And with that, of course the question whether that carries over in the photo, or whether you get something completely different out of it. It's a try, maybe it's a bad example but I'd like to try all the same.
    It's a warm sunday, I make a nice walk around the city, turn a corner and notice something weird. I look a second time, and my fantasy starts making up all kind of pretty nonsens and hilarious stories. I had to smile, grabbed my camera and tried to catch the scene that spurred me into imaginary storielines:
    [​IMG]
    (link: http://www.photo.net/photo/13792735)
    To me, this photo failed; I severly doubt it communicates the fun I had seeing 2 legs stick out of a wall. It's too real, it makes too much sense and so, I think there is not enough ambiguous left in this photo. It's a bus stop.
    At home, post processing, the picture took on something else, though. I'm still not quite sure whether it's any good, but it was worth a second look .... maybe there is another story in it. If so, it was surely NOT explicitely put in there, as obvious from the above explanation.
    A second one, with a slightly different angle. This is taken very near my apartment, and for this one, I'd just like to ask: what would you say this image is about? This one, for me, has a strong simple reason why I took it, unlike the first example it's one I hope to be far more explicit.
    [​IMG]
     
  56. "For me, and I sense for you, the debate gets tiresome, and frustrating. Until it stimulates talk about actual photographs, especially our own. Can we collaborate instead of debating?"
    Fred, I think that debates are useful, as long as they permit a progression of arguments that attempt to resolve issues. I agree with you that when we can use our own work to further discussion, that is best. Looking at the portfolios of each of us we can find thoughtful discussion of specific images and how they effect each of us as viewers. That is for me a good collaboration and I really benefit from it. Also from the occasional non-requested reference here to one of my photos, just as I appreciate the same thing directed at others, as yourself, Wouter, etc..
    However, what is odd here in PofP is that often when we present some of our own work, as examples of some aspect of a discussion, there is often none or little comment from our peers. Perhaps the engagement on a not one to one basis here has some effect. I know of what I say, I think, as I have posted examples on a number of occasions with some text and have received in many cases no comment. Go figure.
    It's not bothersome, really (nothing ventured, nothing gained), given all the other pluses of the forum and the portfolio critiques, but not the collaboration you propose in your last posting.
     
  57. Wouter, thanks. The story in the first can still be explicitly put in there by you as the photographer in hindsight. You're entitled to look at it and find something explicit that you may not have been consciously aware of at the time. You can even post process it in order to make something explicit that wasn't on your mind at the time but that comes to you now when you see this. Some of the best photos are revelations to the photographer.
    I don't think your first photo is too real or makes too much sense. Where I see potential is in the contrast between the disembodied woman's legs and the man's contemplative pose, with hand on chin, possibly orchestrated against the tune of the couple approaching us. The couple sitting has both expression and gesture, though that would have to brought out in post processing. The couple coming toward us, I'm not as sure, and the street itself . . . ? The distant couple might be worked with. (You may have needed a better exposure in the shadows to begin with in order to get something out of the more distant couple, but perhaps their hands could tell part of a story). Zeroing in on the closer couple might have allowed for a better exposure though you would have let go of the rest-of-the-street context. There's a certain appeal and rhythm to the three hands of the sitting couple that, closer up, might have said something, especially seen against the legs and contemplation, and especially were the gestures expressive enough.
    What I sense here is a distance. While your imagination may have taken flight, you kept a relatively safe distance from the scene, almost barricading yourself visually with that big wall in the foreground and even that tall foreground street sign. Did you feel at all like a voyeur or a gawker? If so, perhaps your own sense of hiding might have harmonized with the fact of the woman's face hiding in the doorway. Does the scene draw you enough that you would have wanted to become more visually involved in it? Just some possibilities and questions to consider, among a myriad of others.
    As I view the photo, the corner wall in the foreground acts ambiguously though not that effectively. It acts compositionally (as a framing device or foreground set up) but doesn't really act emotionally. It's there but it's neither in-your-face nor easy to ignore. I don't want or need to know the explicit purpose behind it but I'd like to sense there was one, even if I then get to make that purpose up.
    I am most strongly visually drawn to the implied line between the highlighted corner of the foreground wall and the Fermata sign. Now, perhaps that's desirable, and the couple is more of an anomaly in the scene, waiting to be discovered, but then something needs to draw me to that couple, to get my eyes to go there. Give me a nudge. That could be your in to a more explicit ambiguity. The couple doesn't have to be as explicit as the distractions of the street but my imagination needs a photographic reason to find them and go along with them.
    By the way, the two arrow signs, especially if hands had been more the focus of this photo (again, just one possibility and not a suggestion for what you should have done or would have wanted to do) could be a nice accompaniment, since hands can be much like arrows which point.
     
  58. Fred, thanks, there is a lot in what you say.
    What I sense here is a distance. While your imagination may have taken flight, you kept a relatively safe distance from the scene, almost barricading yourself visually with that big wall in the foreground and even that tall foreground street sign. Did you feel at all like a voyeur or a gawker?​
    This is my usual problem with any of these. Yes. I keep distance and getting closer I do feel too imposing. It's where most of my attempts at streetphotography fail. I'm torn between having to accept it's just not my style, or forcing myself - the latter may yield more engaging photos, but maybe less mine.
    In this case, this played a role too, though it was also a hasty shot, and I happened to have a short telelens on my camera.
    But yes, when I 'mumbled' in my previous post "maybe there is another story in it", I was thinking about many of the things you mentioned. The distant couple, the road sign versus the Fermata (=stop, bus stop) sign. And for me, it fails exactly about the point you mention: The couple doesn't have to be as explicit as the distractions of the street but my imagination needs a photographic reason to find them and go along with them. The waiting partially visible couple is not present enough.

    And yes, midtone contrast is problematic, but this was taken mid afternoon in a very harsh summer sun - as said, I do not think this photo is very good, but I tried to find an example where imagination led me to take, fail to find that "moment" back, only to find another moment in it.
    Quite sure there are better examples to be found, shots taken with a bit more time and consideration. I'll have to check the mess on my hard disk a bit more for that....
     
  59. "when we present some of our own work, as examples of some aspect of a discussion, there is often none or little comment from our peers."
    Very good point. Arthur.
    "Yes. I keep distance and getting closer I do feel too imposing. It's where most of my attempts at streetphotography fail" Wouter.
    It is a matter of building confidence, Wouter. By thinking you are imposing you have built a wall and the longer you leave it there the bigger it will get. It is also about developing various techniques which will take your mind of imposing and train your eye to see. Look at the techniques on u-tube used by the various Magnum Photographers or the Old Masters.
    I have taken thousands of street photos with dslr's, rf's,and various ps cams in various countries and have only been challenged once in a mild way. If you walk with confidence and don't hover over your subjects....you look like a photographer and photographers take photos. No big deal. If you are nervy and edgy, feel you are imposing, using a telephoto lens then your subjects will be nervy and edgy and also feel you are imposing.They say dogs smell fear.. us humans also feel emotions particulary when someone is acting in a nervous way. You can also build confidence by engaging your subjects until they except you as part of the scenery....many great photos are taken that way.
    Both your photos you posted need cropping to bring the subject matter more into the foreground and removing some of the clutter surrounding them. You need to get closer...as Capa said
    " if it is not good enough then you are not close enough" or words to that effect.
    I personally prefer backgrounds to be part of the image or blurred out totally not the half blur which again just adds clutter. However, with street that is not always possible due to the fleeting of the moment.
    There are some very good photos you have posted where the imposing wall has been climbed.



    Just some thoughts... how you go about your photography and what pleases you is all that matters.
     
  60. Allen, maybe a case of confidence, maybe also a point where one can accept to be as one is and be OK with it. As said, my jury isn't out yet. For what it's worth, I never saw the merit of that Capa quote. If you get closer, the perspective changes. More often than not, it's not at all what I want, the distance can also add something (in my view). So, I'm happily undecided whether streetphotography is "my thing"; in the meanwhile I find enough other subjects to keep me entertained.
    Does the second need cropping to remove clutter? I might have different ideas on that photo, but I'm curious to hear other people's consideration on that one. Does it tickle imagination in any way, or is it too obvious?
     
  61. Arthur, I understand your frustration at sometimes not having your photos addressed. Your addressing them yourself is still helpful to a lot of us and there are also people reading who get something from seeing your work as an illustration of a point you're making who simply don't participate much. In any case, though there may be no responses, I don't think your efforts and willingness go unnoticed. One of the reasons I was quick to respond to Wouter and his photos is that he asked specific questions about them.
    Yes, we do have the critique section, which is somewhat different. Here, we are talking about ideas and methods and other such stuff and we can discuss our photos in light of those ideas rather than critique them much more broadly or fully.
     
  62. Wouter, I appreciate your hesitation and your puzzling about the getting closer / staying back aspects, which I think pertain to many kinds of photographs, not just street. It's one of the reasons I asked if you felt like a voyeur and/or gawker. Those don't have to be negatives. They can simply be honest feelings that could be explored photographically, which might very well mean staying at a distance and even using obstructions. If you felt that way, and I don't know if you do, being honest about it, both to yourself and in your photographs, would probably stimulate your own and others' imaginations as well.
    Moving away from voyeurism, there are some street photographers I like who get something significant and capture a kind of closeness (intimacy?) even from a distance.
    Brassai: HERE and HERE
    Kertesz: HERE and HERE
    I do think, however, getting physically close is also worthwhile considering. There's a distinction between being uncomfortable and feeling like you're not being true to yourself. Sometimes you have to risk that personal discomfort in order to make discoveries about yourself and your photographing which you wouldn't otherwise have known. Sometimes, in order to be true to yourself, you actually have to go against your own inclinations, though perhaps not against your own very core values.
    Often, from a distance, we focus on a particular subject and isolate that subject in our minds, almost denying or negating all the surrounding distractions that don't particularly add much to the main focus. In the moment, we've almost discarded everything but what we want to attend to. We then look at the photo and realize something got lost in the translation and peripheral vision. When we get in closer to begin with, we are more likely to zero in on what (explicitly) stimulated our imaginations. It sounds to me like you were saying something like this relative to the black and white street scene you posted above. The imaginative experience you were attending to at the time was about two legs sticking out of the wall, yet look at what kind of attention those legs got and all else that is going on in this rather broad photo.
    HERE is one where Kertesz may have imposed at least to the extent that one young man seems to be looking at him. It makes for a significant gestural and emotional aspect of the photo. It brings an important connection for the viewer.
     
  63. Fred, we should be clear about one thing. Frustration is not the personal reaction that accompanies the fact that some of our photos and examples may not have received feedback on this forum. We are miles apart in that impression. The case of the uncommented images is rather similar to that of texts that might get read, but are not commented. This doesn't happen always, but there are cases where you and others have noted that disconnect with the development and thrust of the discussion. It is not frustrating, but does seem to be an interaction (or lack of it) that is par for the course on an arm's length Internet forum, as opposed to a close group discussion amongst those seated together at a table and intent on pursuing a meaningful discussion.
    I believe we are best to not place our expectations too high on the collaborative aspect. It is definitely not going to always be there, and when it is it is on a case by case basis and on specific issues that we are compelled not to ignore. You and others may recall that a few years ago I proposed a separate forum or sub-forum devoted to dealing with personal approaches in photography and art. This for me would have allowed a more collaborative activity and perhaps also one entailing more responsibility in a roundtable type of discussion. The idea was rejected by most if not all here, and the response was that the current forum ably treats that subject. Sure. Ho-hum.
    As we are dealing with works of past masters, how is the aspect of closeness divulged in the examples you gave? Brassai and Keretesz are mainly playing with composition and graphical elements in those first three examples and the closeness versus nearness is unimportant I think. Certainlly we learn little about the characters in those images and their juxtapositions are not terribly revealing otherwise. The little boy at the Left Bank bookseller speaks a bit more, and closely. The final Kertesz image is interesting for the positions of the marchers. But that's it. The gaze if the boy towards the lens is in the context of how I see this photo quite superfluous, although mechanistically it captures the viewers attention (we love looking at another's eyes) without saying anything remarkable. Beyond that, ....? (I do have a great respect for some of the Hungarian photographer's greater images).
     
  64. Sorry, some poor editing on my part. Read the following "The gaze if the boy towards the lens is in the context of how I see this photo quite superfluous,...." as this corrected version: "The gaze of the boy towards the lens is quite superfluous in the context of how I perceive the overall photo,...."
     
  65. I don't need to know something or have something specific revealed about a person or character in a photo (this is as true with rocks and vases and houses as with people) in order to feel closeness. For me, composition and graphical arrangement are usually merely a support, not an end in itself. So, I don't view any of these photos primarily as compositions or compositionally or graphically. If I did, I wouldn't feel close, so I can understand why you don't.
    Let's take the second Brassai. The closeness to me comes in the lighting and atmosphere. I feel enveloped along with both subjects, I can relate to the man's being dwarfed by the huge structure next to which he stands. I know nothing about this subject but feel as if I belong with him, that we breathe the same air, are shrouded by the same fog. I can almost feel myself to be his stand-in, to substitute myself for the man looking off into that mist. Even the way his hat stands out, though silhouetted, manages to bring me close, to make him very human.
    The first Brassai, for me, is not at all just a play with graphical elements. It is a very human street occurrence where a single individual stands behind the crowd. The closeness for me comes in that orchestration as well as in the perspective. I feel not as if I am simply looking at a scene but as if I have adopted Brassai's perspective, presumably from a room he occupies above the street. I can feel myself at his window, safe from the rain. Have we not all been in this position, looking out our windows at passersby on a rainy day? The street has lost a lot of definition, becoming as if a sea of water. I can feel the wetness, especially through lighting and because of the exposure. That feel of wet brings me close. It's not a matter of feeling close to the faceless individuals in the scene. They, to me, are not the subject. The street, the rain, the atmosphere, and the view are the subjects. The facelessness, perhaps, actually highlights this. For me, it is not a matter of reducing this to graphics. It's a human story, even a kind of longing, possible loneliness or solitude, told from a very personal perspective. That perspective is emphasized by the inclusion of the vertical line of the buildings to the left. It makes me very much aware of the frame of reference and of the place the photographer occupies. I can empathize with the view and place of the photographer, not just see the scene the photographer saw. That inclusion of me as a viewer is a kind of closeness I can really appreciate, even though there may be little "information" revealed about the people I'm seeing.
     
  66. One can conjur lots of things from any photo (Why is that walker away from the crowd? Is that of any significance, rather is the significance well enough delineated and powerful that it is more than a weak suggestion?). Yes the sea of rain on the pavement is interesting, mood enhancing, but is it enough to create a distant closeness with the secene. Very subjective. It doesn't affect everyone with the power of art, or in the manner of the Paul Éluard quote: « Le monde est bleu comme une orange » (The Earth is blue, like an orange).
     
  67. Arthur, there may be a misunderstanding. I didn't say it affected everyone with the power of art. And I didn't say it should or would establish a closeness with every viewer. I gave it to Wouter as an example of a distanced shot that created a closeness. You asked why. I told you. It is your right to accuse me of conjuring. I can take it. I see what I see and feel what I feel.
     
  68. Wouter -- calling Mr. Willemse:
    If I give you a description of what newspapers attempt to do, and which description I think might be used for the popular media to which you are objecting, might you respond to each of that descriptions ingredients? Here it is. Newspapers are described as intended to provide:
    "... a rounded, dramatic, readily assimilated item, with a stable meaning and a clear message, rooted in received opinion."​
    Do you object to the kind and/or to the degree of "readily assimilated" or "stable meaning" or "clear message" or "rooted in received opinion"? By kind, I mean do you feel that such "kind" of thing is problematic? Or by "degree," I mean do you feel that it's fine to have such "kind,", but the proportion is wrong?
    [And, just to try and keep this on target, I hope we're not simply complaining about poor presentations versus good presentations, or presentations intended for sophisticated audiences versus presentations intended for the general public -- complaining about which is like complaining about the weather.]
     
  69. Fred, this is a discussion I believe of how we react to photographs and what we think is important, and not a question of accusing anyone of anything or of suggesting elsewhere that another is frustrated because personal as opposed to referenced photographs are not being reacted to by others. I believe we all react to and conjur up things regarding most thoughtfully created photographs, but this varies considerably from one viewer to the other and the ability of an image to strike most of us in a powerful way at the same time is quite rare.
     
  70. Julie, I am not Wouter, but I like your question. Popular media (CNN, most newspapers) are like the person who has already reached the age of thirty or so and can add nothing new (of substance) to your knowledge as a result of a chat with him. You may enjoy him for his personal qualities but if you have a curious mind engaging with others (or other sources of information and ideas) might be something worthwhile to consider.
     
  71. Julie, Pronto, pronto? Call received.....
    Very good question, and not one I can easily answer. Two sides to it.
    Part of my work is technical writing for a website. It's shaping information into something that digests well, does not leave questions and gets one from A to B. Taking what I learnt for that, I fully understand what newspapers do, and need to do, both in the kind and degree senses. So, yes, sure they try to take ambuigity out, streamline messages and come up with a comprehensive item that does not leave too much loose ends and gives the idea of answering a question or need.
    However, do I object to the news media doing it? Yes. The fact that I can understand the reasons to do it, does not remove that I think there is something not entirely right about it. I do not directly object doing the kind of thing. It's necessity. However, it's too often not clear in which sense the information is opiniated (I do not believe in totally objective info, so I won't beg for that). I mean: rooted (?) in received (?) opinion. So, it's not the same as an assumed opinion of a assumed majority? What is it; I understand they need some way to present the information, but what, to me, is problematic are the assumptions behind the received opinion. These opinions are self-feeding circles, made by the media, for the media.
    The proportion is wrong, in the sense that the clarity is lacking throughout. Columnists may be the nice exception. I tend to like columns.
    Accidentally, I began reading this book for the second time, just this week. It very much touches on the question you ask. I found it a very interesting read the first time, and it grabs me the same again. More interesting, for this thread, may be the photo used on the original Dutch version of the book. Not an imagination inspiring image, but it does tell a lot of story in one frame, I think.
    The advantage of my mistrust against the newsmedia, though, is that reading the newspaper does spark the imagination: "now what really happened there?". It makes me more active in searching for additional information, and that's not a bad thing.
    Fred, I will get back on the points you addressed to me, but they require a bit more time to articulate in my head, as well as a bit more time to watch the photos you linked to calmly. Now back to work....
     
  72. Wouter, many thanks for the book reference. I have ordered a copy. The few unimportant errors of reference ("Medicins" sans frontières) or translation notwithstanding, it appears to be a very informative read for anyone interested not only "in the news we like to hear, but in the news we need to hear." I like his sentence on page 241: "Somehow in the history of our democracies it has been decided that news should be treated as a product rather than as a good."
     
  73. Fred,
    Part of the distance discussion for me is something that came up in earlier discussions as well. I feel like the external observator, and in that sense I do not feel a great urge to be present in a photo. Additionally, I often prefer the compressed perspective look of longer lenses (it often seems more intimate within itself, to me). So, while I understand the merit of getting closer, and see how this can create different photos that would seem (or be) more engaged, it's to me not a simple flick of a switch yet.
    The 4 examples you linked to are great examples indeed (especially the second Brassai link is great, atmospheric and just tickling my imagination); and yes, to me these are photos I would aspire to make. In my view, all these 4 are observant photos, and well spotted; the result of intently watching and seeing. These scenes aren't made by the photographer, they were there already (*), and they saw the potential (very well) - if this distinction makes any sense?
    Which is not a way of saying that I do not want to move nearer to the subject. I fully realise this would open up new perspectives (in more than one way), new discoveries and surely also breaking a personal barrier, which won't be a bad thing either. Yes, that would possibly have saved the black and white photo I posted earlier from it's extreme ambuigity (and resulting pointlessness) it has now, and made it much closer to what I envisioned. For this, that photo was a lucky example...
    There is also the fear of breaking the scene, the way it is as it attracts me; by becoming very close to it, and even present in it, it changes the scene. Is it still the one I like? The few streetphotos I have now with people in them with which I feel OK, are also scenes I saw happening, and which didn't change because I kept distance.
    And the last example you linked to, shows exactly that. To me, the connection from the young man watching is not added value to the photo. It disturbs something for me, and I can't say it's for the better, at least not unreserved. In the spirit of the original subject, it adds an layer, but not one that sparkles my imagination, instead it leaves me thinking, as if I was behind the camera, "oh darn, he spotted me"....
    I do not want to push any of this to absolutes, obviously. My reaction towards Allen might have been a bit strong, but to me, that Capa quote is quoted too often, and it's too single-sided. Photos aren't better because you smashed your wide angle in somebodies face. Photos made up close can be very good if you interact well with the subject, but that's personal skill and not virtue of subject distance. Well, and there, as you noted, it's a matter of battling discomfort with myself first.
    In retrospect to the topic of igniting imagination, I think at present what works for me are "found scenes", as I tried to describe above regarding the examples of Brassai and Kertesz. They inspire my imagination, and make me reach for my camera. For whatever reason, I hardly ever feel an urge to create a scene in such a way that it becomes what I had in my head before. In this, we're very different photographers, I think.
    [edit] (*) Here I should add that waiting and patience can be a virtue, at least the patience to wait for the 'actors' to fill the right places. One of the few photographic things I learnt the last years is that, and also to walk away if it's not going to happen. Saves me from a lot of half-baked photos.
     
  74. Arthur, hope you like the book; I did not read the translation (since it's originally written in my native language), so the inaccuracies, I wouldn't dare say. Even if what the book tells isn't completely new, it's still a good wake-up call.
     
  75. Wouter,
    I've been looking at Daniel Boorstin's (overwrought IMO) The Image with reference to your response to my questions. In his introduction he says (among other things):
    "We are ruled by extravagent expectations:
    (1) Of what the world holds. Of how much news there is, how many heroes there are, how often masterpieces are made, how exotic the nearby can be, how familiar the exotic can become. Of the closeness of places and the farness of places.
    (2) Of our power to shape the world. Of our ability to create events when there are none, to make heroes when they don't exist, to be somewhere else when we haven't left home. Of our ability to make art forms suit our convenience, to transform a novel into a movie and vice versa, to turn a symphony into mood-conditioning. To fabricate national purposes when we lack them, to pursue these purposes after we have fabricated them. To invent our standards and then to repeat them as if they had been revealed or discovered."
    "We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world. We demand that everyone who talks to us, or writes for us, or takes pictures for us, or makes merchandise for us, should live in our world of extravagent expectations."​
    And, having read that, I was stumped because he seems to be accusing us of too much imagination, not too little. Until I focused on the word "expectations" and also realized that what he's describing is "illusion" not "imagination. If "illusions" are imaginations that are mistaken for reality (or at least real possiblities) then they can displace or foreclose imagination -- as do "expectations" which would be something that's believed to be not imaginary. So, is it useful to think in terms of illusion vs imagination? (I find it interesting, because at first, the two seemed almost the same thing.)
     
  76. Julie, yes, it's at the least an useful thought. Not a very positive one, though! And whether in photography (or art in general possibly), it completely works out, is a second step too, I think. But for the media, yes, it's too bleak a picture it draws, but there is something to it, I think. I'm just letting thoughts flow, because it's rather tricky to catch this butterfly of ideas.
    In the light of your earlier questions, the sequence of imagination to expectation is to me highly interesting. It sounds like Platonic Ideai, with the twist that we only see what we hope to see.
    Without wanting to sound arrogant (in knowing better), a lot of people do seem to expect too much. They expect things to happen to them, rather than setting the scene for themselves which will enable things to happen. Hoping that live will come to them, rather than going out and grab life by the proverbial peppers. Expectation, or hope, is a perfect way to loose common sense.
    On the other hand, isn't it just being human: seeking comfort, rest, calmth, balance, a sense of being protected at home? And aren't we looking for confirmations of that? Are we, then, self-deluding in seeking that, and in wanting to hear and see messages confirming that?
    I'd say, to some extend: yes.
    I wouldn't call it extravagent expectations. More a balancing act, between realising how much you can change the world, versus how much you want it to be different. A mental construct to keep things do-able, understandable, graspable. Wanting to stay positive and not give up.
    I also wouldn't say we expect more than the world can give us - we're not that doomed, I hope. But yes, we're willing to believe our imaginations to gain hope for a better tomorrow. Illusions that give us shelter against the difficulties in life. So, we enter Plato's cave knowing we'll see shadows on a wall, and it becomes comforting to accept the shadows as real, or real enough. Willing to trade down, to reduce complexity.
    But, then again, all this still assumes something is actually "real" - and maybe that's the illusion?
    The first point in the quote, I am not sure I fully get it, though. It sounds so horribly negative. Are we expecting too much of the world, even without imagination telling us about a lot that isn't there? We're deluded before we start deluding ourselves? Or is it the Platonic Idea, versus the perception of it in point 2?
    To step back a bit from what media feeds us, and how we want that food. Does this change from imagination to illusion also happen in photography? I think for most of us here, no. We're not believing what we see in the photo, but we like to play with the options. It stays imagination, and does not need to become more real than the photo itself is. It could be too strong to say all art is like this, but for me, it is. Art does not depends on some notion of reality, or a desire for reality. It escapes it.
    One thought creeps up. Is there such a thing as too much imagination? I always liked the idea of it being limitless. As long as the common sense keeps working.
    (This quote, by the way, made me think of a the type of media we earlier discussed as being an overload in explicitness...hollywood movies. I always liked how the Matrix movie played this theme. For an action movie, it planted an above average nice thought.)
     
  77. Julie and Wouter, you are having a very enjoyable discussion. Ignorant of Dr. Boorstin (touché, he was possibly (sic) ignorant of me...), it was therefore interesting to read the following in someone's Wikipedia profile of this obviously learned man: "In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture — mainly due to advertising — where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or "real" than the event itself." Without going into (read: more fully understanding) his reference context more than that, I find that this neatly fits into that butterfly of ideas Wouter ac/knowledges as progeny of his OP. I think that in general, the available multimedia have been appropriated by culture/advertising, to simulate and tell us what people are believed to want (Ibid for the newspapers, or most of them, most of the time).
    An example comes to mind of extravagant expectations: Artist Henri Rousseau ("Le Douanier" or customs officer) rarely if ever set foot outside his French place of work/life yet imagined fantastic and beautiful images of Africa, which he had never visited, and paintings that expressed that unreal but powerful imagined beauty. I have not read the full text surrounding the three cases given by Boorstin of extravagant expectations, but I feel he is placing too many limits on the power of the human spirit and ignoring (as a librarian!) the extravagant discoveries of the past, in which imagination may have had its source in illusion, but overcame that 'albatross' to provide extravagant creations. In the 1700s there were something like ten thousand books already in existence and wise men were prone to say that we know everything there is to know (or can create or invent) and everything we know cannot be absorbed by one person in his or her lifetime. They were right only about the second part of that (admittedly paraphrased) statement.
    "We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world." I think the trick here is to have smaller expectations about what the world can give us (to have great expectations in that regard is no doubt an illusion) but on the contrary to have great expectations about what we might imagine. Boorstin, who studied for a PhD, should be expected to have had the high expectations of a researcher and a fertile imagination as a tool. That route was one of the more difficult things that I ever attempted, but one which was lit by the light of expectation, even if it was rather small, sensed as existing but distant, and hidden by a mountainous horizon. Julie sees illusion and imagination as existing in some form of tension, which is no doubt true, but it may also be good to view expectations and illusion in that same bipolar struggle. Whatever, Boorstin is too pessimist for me and I think perhaps he spent too much time in the silence of his great library, with imagination having to bear the weight of so many already discovered accounts already in the stacks.
     
  78. Julie and Wouter, you are having a very enjoyable discussion. Ignorant of Dr. Boorstin (touché, he was possibly (sic) ignorant of me...), it was therefore interesting to read the following in someone's Wikipedia profile of this obviously learned man: "In The Image, Boorstin describes "shifts in American culture — mainly due to advertising — where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or "real" than the event itself." Without going into (read: more fully understanding) his reference context more than that, I find that this neatly fits into that butterfly of ideas Wouter acknowledges as progeny of his OP. I think that in general the available multimedia have been appropriated by culture/advertising, to simulate and tell us what people are believed to want (Ibid for the newspapers, or most of them, most of the time).
    An example comes to mind of extravagant expectations: Artist Henri Rousseau ("Le Douanier" or customs officer) rarely if ever set foot outside his French place of work/life yet imagined fantastic and beautiful images of Africa, which he had never visited, and paintings that expressed that unreal but powerful imagined beauty. I have not read the full text surrounding the three cases given by Boorstin of extravagant expectations, but I feel he is placing too many limits on the power of the human spirit and ignoring (as a librarian!) the extravagant discoveries of the past, in which imagination may have had its source in illusion, but overcame that 'albatross' to provide extravagant creations. In the 1700s there were something like ten thousand books already in existence and wise men were prone to say that we know everything there is to know (or can create or invent) and everything we know cannot be absorbed by one person in his or her lifetime. They were right only about the second part of that (admittedly paraphrased) statement.
    "We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world." I think the trick here is to have smaller expectations about what the world can give us (to have great expectations in that regard is no doubt an illusion) but on the contrary to have great expectations about what we might imagine. Boorstin, who studied for a PhD, should be expected to have had the high expectations of a researcher and a fertile imagination as a tool. That route was one of the more difficult things that I ever attempted, but one which was lit by the light of expectation, even if it was rather small, sensed as existing but distant, and hidden by a mountainous horizon. Julie sees illusion and imagination as existing in some form of tension, which is no doubt true, but it may also be good to view expectations and illusion in that same bipolar struggle. Whatever, Boorstin is too pessimist for me and I think perhaps he spent too much time in the silence of his great library, with imagination having to bear the weight of so many already discovered accounts already in the stacks.
     
  79. "My reaction towards Allen might have been a bit strong, but to me, that Capa quote is quoted too often, and it's too single-sided. Photos aren't better because you smashed your wide angle in somebodies face. Photos made up close can be very good if you interact well with the subject, but that's personal skill and not virtue of subject distance." Wouter
    I don't think your reaction was a bit strong it felt very honest to me.
    I never said, neither did Capa, that photos are better if you smashed your wide angle in somebodies face. What I'm saying is that the closer you are the more involved you are in the street scene....you are part of it, and can feel the rhythm of the street. Standing at a distant with a telephoto you are best a remote viewer (google street comes to mind) or, a sniper with little feel for what you are doing. Personal skill has little to do with it.... it is about being able to blend in and acting in a natural way.... you just have a camera not a ticking bomb.
    The photos that Fred linked to are excellent examples of superb compostion and that is their strength. However, for me there is a far away remote look to them more attuned to urban landscape photography than street.
     
  80. Allen, I know that Capa didn't mean a wide angle up the nose, it was a figure of speech. I simply do not agree that closer means more involved. Nor that being at a distance means disconnected. The reverse can be equally true. I've seen people in the middle of partying crowds looking lost, alone and not getting what happens around them. And the reverse. Feeling the rhythm of events is not defined by proximity, but by... feeling it. So, my point is: I dislike the simplification.
    And sorry, but being able to blend in and act natural is a personal skill, in my view. Some people can, some people can't.
    So, i think we simply disagree on this subject. Which is OK.
     
  81. "Yes. I keep distance and getting closer I do feel too imposing. It's where most of my attempts at streetphotography fail" Wouter.
    Just trying to be helpful in response to your own words. It's my practical nature.
     
  82. Allen, sure, I did not mean to say I object to your saying it - and you're right to quote me since I opened the door myself there.
    Me, personally, most streetphotos fail because in the end, I do not manage to connect to people that easily. As a result, I feel imposing (20cm longer than the average in this country - does not always help!), hold back, and instead, choose the safety of distance. Bottomline: I won't blend in, or won't feel blent in. At that point, it isn't just a matter of physical distance, it's about being disconnected and not engaged enough; and that can happen at half a meter distance, or at 20 metres. I think that's the part where we seem(ed) to disagree.
    I appreciate the practical advice, and might still kick myself in the rear for giving a serious attempt at this kind of photography.
     
  83. Allen and Wouter,
    I have never taken Capa's "not close enough" quote literally. To my mind, what he's after is control of content -- which, in journalism is mostly done via moving closer. This doesn't mean you should be "close" in any absolute sense. What I think he means is that you should try to get rid of "extra" stuff; leave out what doesn't need to be left in.
    And, in an interesting way, that boundary, that what's-left-out, and how/whether/in what way that left-out stuff is available to viewers is what this thread has been about.
    Suppose a photograph is a river. If I (a viewer) am going to swim in your river, you should (I request) make it such that it doesn't kill me (too deep, too raging, too unformed, too undirected) but also such that it's worth swimming in (not too shallow, or small, or boring). When you make the kind of multi-media presentation that Wouter is fussing about, I think it often puts the viewer into a boat. He doesn't get to be "in" the river, he floats on or along it and he (may be) piloted, too. There is a degree of separation, a degree of lost control, a degree of directed ness and loss of immediate interaction with the raw water. There's a shell, a gap, an interval; on a multi-media "boat" perception is mediated.
    As in the Capa quote, this is about boundaries; who defines them, how permeable they are, how much access the viewer is allowed to what is left out by being "close."
     
  84. Addendum: I should have made clear (what is obvious but, I think, needs to be said ...) that "access ... to what is left out" necessarily, by definition means to the viewer's own construals -- in his own mind. What is not there in the picture is only "there" in the viewer's (own) mind. Access means at least a permeable boundary and at best an active invitation to ... go.
    [As opposed to Sermons, and Guided Tours.]
     
  85. Multimedia opens up additional channels, or broadens existing ones. It extends the range of potentials for all the channels involved, provided there's synergy involved and allows for modulations between them. It does not necessarily have to put you in a boat, the shore or underwater. That depends on the artist's work and the viewer.
    Julie - "Suppose a photograph is a river. If I (a viewer) am going to swim in your river, you should (I request) make it such that it doesn't kill me (too deep, too raging, too unformed, too undirected) but also such that it's worth swimming in (not too shallow, or small, or boring)."
    The world is full of certified safe rivers, cars, people, websites, drugs, jobs, architecture, significant others, vacations, philosophies, learning experiences, and most of all, insufferably boring and safe photographs. Not "too much" or "too little". While that is legitimate and part of the landscape, I also hunger for and seek out danger, being killed (figuratively), resurrected, whitewater rage, too much, too little, limitless, formless abysses and heights, challenges to the things I hold dear, the unexpected and more than I can imagine. I do not seek safety in art.
    To me, Capa's quote is about not being too safe when it comes to making pictures. Before exposing the film/sensor one has to expose themselves. Humans are instinctively understand the perspective of intimacy.
     
  86. Luis, Julie, good point in not taking the quote too literally, and I think at that point we're quite saying the same: be connected to your subject, know it, seek to understand it.
    On the multi-media presentations, I already previously indicated that my OP wasn;t very well constructed in that sense, and already agreed (discussing with others) that it can be an added value as well, when done right. As Luis basically said above.
    A lot of what I state is driven by personal observations on how I experience photos, how I think I come to make them and things I aspire to learn. They're not meant to be generic statements on how I see photography, or multimedia. It's about my photography and my experience of multimedia. So when I react hairy on the Capa quote, it's just an opinion, because I feel that in my photography, it's not some universal truth. I don't mind disagreeing on it at all, a good argument is more beneficial than a silent agreement. But the difference between discussing the personal experience and approach versus the wider philosophical/'art in general' sometimes makes for switching between "contexts" too much, and obstructing a full understanding of what one another is saying. Not saying the discussion is useless, au contraire. Just putting it up for consideration.
     
  87. Luis,
    When I said "killed" (raging, unformed, undirected) I had in mind "messy" as in poor craftsmanship -- for example gratuitous abuse of color and tone.
    Wouter,
    I understand what you're sayiing. My feeling is that you, we, anybody should take the discussion wherever and in whatever way you like (as long as it's civil); there's plenty of space on photo.net ... we won't run out of paper ... I hope my posts haven't seemed to pressure one way or the other. They're just me thinking about what I'm reading. (And thank you for being an attentive thread meister.)
     
  88. Julie, sure discussions can go anywhere and in no way do I want you to not write...My apologies if I seemed to say that. Also absolutely no pressure felt on my side, no worries. I just blurted it out to ensure we sense those small differences in approach; they can taint what we say. (and thanks, it is an useful discussion that has given me a lot!)
     
  89. "good argument is more beneficial than a silent agreement"
    True. I think like any good street photographer Capa liked to be part of the of the action. The Normandy landings were a classical example he was taking photos as it happened. His photos reflect how he felt and others around him giving true insight to the human condition. Street or War Zone he was part of it.. '''not just listening to the music but being part of it". Being close to him was literally being close (no distant stick people) and spiritually as well.
    At least that is my take on him.
     
  90. Allen, sure Capa was a great photographer, I'm not arguing there; I think his emotional closeness though is what makes the photos, and the insight he gained from doing the war zone work. I don't think our take on his work and his approach differs all that much ;-)
    I'm off for a little break, so I won't be responding for a bit.
     

Share This Page