Details, photography and the power of less

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Historically, photography has persuaded many of its value as an art form or form of communication in the works of photographers who have aptly brought to a two dimensional image the "big view", be it of grandiose natural landscapes (Ex. The "Half Dome" of Adams), impressive manufactured or human landscapes (Ex: those of Edward Burtinsky), cityscapes, panoramas and other images containing multiple objects or subjects.
    At the other end of the scale, Ralph Gibson and Michael Kenna excel at images of restricted content, often preferring or concentrating on details from much larger scenes. On the weekend, the pioneering Canadian feature film producer, Gilles Carle, came to the end of his nearly two decade battle with Parkinson's disease (a State funeral is scheduled this week or next). This 80 year old cinematographic artist exploded with creative dreams, many realised, many unfinished. When it was suggested that he might have benefitted more from greater financial resources and the opportunity to make more epic films had he plyed his craft south of the border, he replied that his fascination was more with details than with the big scene, that his goal was to "see things that other people don't see". He echoed from a cinemaphotographer's point of view what Kenna and Gibson apparently attempt in their photography.
    Carle's approach seems to me to be one of great appeal for photography as well as cinema. I took a photo I remade in October in Georgia and reframed it so as to concentrate on one of its aspects, a detail of the original image. The two photos appear at the end of this post. The reframed image is just one of many possible examples that I or another might offer based on a detail, of a fragment (we know that "fragmentation" is an approach loved by some contemporary painters) of an overall scene. My objective is to raise the question of the validity of my expression, "the power of less", in photography, and implicit in the approaches of Gibson, Kenna or others in seeking out fragments of a scene (Kenna often photographs expansive scenes, but reduces the elements by selective focus and other techniques including blur).
    Do you think that "seeing things that others don't see", and concentrating on details, is of some importance in the evolution of photography and the art that sometimes accompanies that? Visually meaningful, or simply decorative? Is there a significant power of less? Does less interact better with the viewer?
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  2. The original image. More information, less appeal?
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  3. jtk

    jtk

  4. jtk

    jtk

    A) Yes. Less is often more, as in this instance.
    B) Someone quoted Gertrude Stein saying something like "artists notice important things that others may miss, such as grass growing through cracks in sidewalks." (I can't find that quote online... heard it on the radio of a 1972 Volkswagen, passing through Santa Rosa, CA in 1982 or so...remembered it, sort of).
     
  5. For me, it depends on the photo and what I'm wanting to capture or express. Sometimes less is more and sometimes more is more. When I first started photographing, I would often come in quite close to my subjects. As I mature photographically, I generally tend to prefer stepping back a bit to include a little more context in my portraits. I often find that gives them a bit of personality. But this is by no means a general tenet. I have some photos that I've cropped way down from their original because I find them much more effective that way.
    I do find that many doing portraits come in very close, almost to where all they capture are the eyes, and often I don't find them compelling portraits. It's as if some photographers rely on the extreme closeup for expression instead of actually expressing something. A closeup of eyes is not necessarily proof of the adage that "the eyes are the mirror of the soul." Sometimes, you need more to go with eyes in order to make them speak, or at least you need to capture the eyes in a particularly compelling way. Sometimes that's accomplished in just a closeup head shot and is extremely moving.
    In the case of the two photos you've posted, I prefer the second, tighter shot. I find it has more significance to me, is more personal, and reads somewhat more essentially. The woman's pose in the first one I just don't find that compelling. She just seems to be sitting and protecting her eyes from the sun while looking at something but I'm not particularly engaged with her as a subject nor do I have much wonder about what she's looking at. In this case, more information, depending on what it was, might help me. Seeing what she was looking at could possibly add a lot of dimension, depending on what it was or who it was. Your second version eliminates the woman and I do find the shadow with no source and the empty bench a more moving image. But it's not because I think closeup detail by nature is any more compelling. It's more about the comparison put before me. In another pair, I might very well choose the photo with more information.
    I find it a stimulating concept for you to work with and think it might lead you to some interesting work. Again, that's not because I think there's anything inherently better or more interesting about shots with less information but because I think if it offers you a challenge, and so it is likely to move you and wind up feeling genuine.
    I can as easily find myself responding emotionally to visual sparseness and visual lushness and visual excess. It will depend on a lot of accompanying factors. There's Mondrian and there's Kandinsky, both of whom I love. There's Antonioni (the sort of sparse Italian new wave cinema) and there's Von Sternberg (the German Expressionist filling the screen with a lot more information whenever he can). I wouldn't say I love the former's The Passenger any more or less than the latter's The Blue Angel or The Devil is a Woman.
     
  6. jtk

    jtk

    Everything has the same amount of informaton. The eye fills, the mind fills. They don't half-fill.
    A photograph of a ball bearing on a white background shares as much informaton as a Kandinsky.
    To me, "less is more" has to do with expressiveness or coherence of the information rather than relative amount of information. Arthur's full frame image is cluttered with divergent stories, the tight image tells a more coherent, focused story.
     
  7. I certainly tend, myself, to respond more to less ... though I hesitate to build a general principle on that.
    What is important is the photographer's vision, and how that transfers to the image. Whether that image is small or large, or any number of other divisions, probably owes a great deal (not everything) to the context in which they learned to see?
     
  8. There's energy and access to the viewer's mind in simplifying and paring down. The process of art is mostly a reductive one, and this kind of image emphasizes that. An image stripped bare by its author has fewer elements to wade through, and less dead weight. It's a refuge from the apparent chaos and usual noises of the real world.
    Gibson's strong graphic design, beautiful, inky blacks, and elegant geometries have a certain compelling, clear is-ness that is seductive and contemplative. I have had the pleasure of handling scores of Kenna prints. I don't see them nearly as simple as Gibson's. One thing about Kenna that is really different is the small size of the prints. Here's one of the top print-selling artists in the world and he's making 8x7.5 inch prints at a time when obsession with print size is rampant. For most, big is good, bigger is better, and biggest = best. Even Gursky has pulled away from the gigantic prints and has shown many smaller sizes, though not as small as Kenna's. In my opinion, the smaller prints are also a way of paring down. They also make the experience for the viewer intensely intimate, in the way that straight Polaroids are. But that's probably a subject best left for another post.
    No matter what one thinks of Kenna or his work, his prints are exquisite. There's no sign of vacillation or timidity. They are extraordinary parables on feeling, intelligence, and decisiveness. A lot of his work reconciles things like well-known and oft-photographed specific locations with mystery, universality and transcendence. He is also a master at dislocating time from the thin slice produced by the shutter curtains towards the long, almost eternal view.
    Complex images have their strengths, too. Photographers like Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston are adept at handling a multitude of elements simultaneously. The viewer is confronted by a kind of horrovacuity that deals with multiple ideas and/or aspects thereof. It is facile to think of this type of image as being primarily about quantity. They're not. Contemporary viewers are used to dealing with complicated (if not cluttered) visual fields in their daily lives. These images provide access and energy in a familiar, natural way.
    The eye integrates. It has no problem dealing with a stroll through dense brush in dappled afternoon light, and seeing through all that. In a dense fog, blinding ice, or bleak darkness, for that matter. A simplified image is neural relief from the usual torrents we deal with in our daily lives.
    Historically, degrees of complexity tend to come and go. For the individual, this can be an ingrained way of seeing, or another dimension that can be creatively explored.
    I respond to simplicity and complexity on a case-by-case basis.
     
  9. "The process of art is mostly a reductive one" --Luis
    Luis--
    Yes, in the sense that by framing something or by choosing what to paint or sculpt, we "leave out" a lot. We isolate. We do not photograph or paint or sculpt the whole world. Making that initial choice is, as you say, mostly reductive. In making that reductive choice, we may simultaneously be expanding what we've isolated. Calling attention to can be a very expansive act.
    So this particular statement of yours, as I see it, may refer to the nature of art itself rather than to the handling of individual photographs, paintings, or sculptures. Baroque, to me, is not about reduction. Nor is Expressionism. Nor are the photographic examples you point out, like Friedlander and Eggleston. Except in that very fundamental way that describes all art. But once we get inside art, inside the frame, which is, I believe, where Arthur already is with his two examples, I am much more inclined to agree with your final thought and I, too, respond on a case-by-case basis.
     
  10. Fred - " Making that initial choice is, as you say, mostly reductive. In making that reductive choice, we may simultaneously be expanding what we've isolated. Calling attention to can be a very expansive act."
    Of course. In no way was I implying that the reductive nature of a "less" picture makes it lesser. My comments on Kenna and Gibson show that, I hope.
     
  11. What does "more" mean? I'm reminded of the old question (that I am going to hash up) about how long should one's legs be? Long enough to reach the ground. Some songs are perfect when barely heard hummed under the breath; others require a full orchestra. What one wants is "enough." Not one bit more, nor one bit less. Whatever that means.
    In spite of my unhelpful comments above, I do see a qualitative difference that I think relates to closer versus longer shot (taking the eyes at the height/range of a standing human as origin). For me, there is a zone of closeness in which I find things to be more ... familiar, comfortable, safe, easy, relaxing, simple. If those adjectives are appropriate to the subject matter or what I'm after in making a picture or to what I want to look at in a picture (one probably doesn't want Guernica in the dining room), then less = enough.
     
  12. No worries, Luis. I didn't think you were saying that the nature of a "less" picture makes it lesser. I think we both agree that "less" is more and "more" is more is a matter we take on a case-by-case basis.
    I was more interested in honing the idea of art and reduction. I see the fundamental aspect of art, in choosing, framing, and isolating as reductive. But what we do inside the frame may be reductive or not, according to what we do. Some styles and genres minimize and others are more complex and more full of information, like Baroque and Expressionism.
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    "Visually meaningful, or simply decorative? " - Arthur P.

    "Meaning" is an interpretive response. It doesn't reside in anything external to one's mind. A haiku or image of ball bearing may stimulate more or less meaning than a Kandinsky or philosophic essay, depending on the recipient mind.
    The original, fuller-frame image seems a nice-enough back-of-head "street" shot, but Arthur's revisualization found almost all of its value reductively.
    Virtually all of the image's value sprang from reduction. The cropping organized and focused attention, removing distractions. Minds identify value through selective attention and organization.
    An attempt to identify value seemed intended in the photo's "explanation" in its earlier thread...which didn't work for me. I saw a photo accompanied by words that tried to elevate it (in some galleries the curators attempt to add value with explanitory essays: usually competition between the mere photographer and the curator's ego).

    Here, Arthur helped us (me, anyway) find value by eliminating distracting peripherals...first by loosely framing the original scene and rendering it in B&W, subsequently through butchery.
    Arthur is a perceptive person...he can (and does, presumably without knowing it) create value everywhere...his mind crops snapshots, Kandinskys, traffic noise, bird chirps, Bach performances, advertisements, letters, films, dinner etc - 24/7. Actually, humans all do that....
    The "power of less" to which Arthur refers is demonstrated by his perceptive decision to find value by harshly cropping a weaker image. That power is Arthurs, not the image's.
     
  14. Julie, you mean an actual physical distance/range, right? In that sense, closer or more distant does not equal "less" or more for me , going back to John K's comments on information. I take "less" from Arthur's original examples of Gibson and Kenna, as having fewer elements/lower level of complexity, and this is relative. Kenna often uses telephoto lenses, but his sparse style remains the same (save for spatial compression) as it does when he uses normal or wide lenses.
    Gibson has experimented deeply with some of the simplest visual elements that most take for granted, particularly the representation of space and volume in relation to the graphic. He creates finely tuned, perfect pitch tensions between all these things, often using for content things most of us walk by without a second glance.
    "What one wants is "enough." Not one bit more, nor one bit less. Whatever that means."
    To me it means a kind of parity between desire or expectation and outcome.It also implies a kind of null balance and control or extraordinary serendipity.
    I don't like getting exactly what I want, either as a maker or a viewer. It's not 'enough' for me, it's a yawner. I like those missing bits, both greater and lesser ones. As a maker, I am open-minded enough to shift on the fly, absorb new ideas whether my own or from others, and embrace accidents or the unexpected when they serve the work or take it further. As a viewer, I love surprises.
    John - Not that I found either version of the picture that Arthur used to illustrate his point to be particularly strong, but the before version has its charms. The woman sitting on the bench with the gesture of looking in the direction of the sun, might be waiting for something, seemingly oblivious to the cemetery behind her, her shadow on the gravestone, literal mortality. Her condition in this reading is that of a huge percentage of humanity. Most look away, living in denial about their mortality, but eventually, it's door we all get to go through, often unexpectedly.
    Fred - Thanks.
     
  15. jtk

    jtk

    Luis, we all try to find/construct meanings. You've explained pretty much what Arthur (or somebody) also explained in the other thread..succeeding in bringing a little meaning to the image...not the meaning I draw (see below), and not nearly as well as the cropped image does on its own merits. Arthur's OT involved "power of less." I think he's demonstrated that.
    I do accept and appreciate those long explanations, but the whole seems closer to painting by numbers (Fred's recent phrase) than its "art" aspirations. As it happens, I don't find those itemized symbols as relevant to the original larger view as its passive, quiet, sunlit character...which others seem to have ignored...though identifying those nearly-numbered-items is secondarily interesting. The tombstones are nearly irrelevant to the larger image, for me...could as readily be replaced with lawn.
    The cropped version is another matter: it's resonant, seems vital...a good demonstration of one of Arthur's points.
     
  16. John- " The tombstones are nearly irrelevant to the larger image, for me...could as readily be replaced with lawn."
    Then, why do you think Arthur included them? Was it a casual oversight?
    John constructed meaning with: "The cropped version is another matter: it's resonant, seems vital.."
    How so? Why is the 2nd version "resonant" and "vital" as opposed to the first?
     
  17. jtk

    jtk

    Luis, remember that I said "for me."
    I don't know "why" Arthur included the tombstones, except that he sometimes likes symbols. Ask him.
    I think he subsequently resolved a conflict between image and symbol by cropping tightly, creating an image that worked better with those symbols ...creating more resonance, vitality, punch, clarity. More mystery, as well: I love the new emphasis on the shadow. Editors and designers do that sort of thing, don't they? Some photographers enjoy and utilize that potential, some don't. Arthur evidently did enjoy it in this instance. Maybe this is the difference between a "street" orientation and some other kind of orientation?
    For me, the original photo is cluttered and has now become burdened by explanations. The cropped photo is less cluttered and doesn't require explanations. One makes its points on its own merit, the other has less merit than its explanations do..IMO of course :)
    A verbal response to a non-verbal phenomenon will inherently be off base by a few degrees at the very least...the two redundant discourses on the uncropped image are for me quite a bit further off-base than my simple statement that the cropped image is more resonant or vital "to me." Do you prefer the uncropped image? Which is better? Or is it unfair to make value judgements?
    Others are into symbols and interpretations, I rarely am. Arthur and Fred have both indicated a taste for them.
     
  18. jtk

    jtk

    Luis, by the way... Do you prefer one or the other of those images? Arthur asked a direct question. How about answering him. I tried to. Why replicate comments by others, and why rely on me to frame your ideas?
     
  19. John, Fred (the two G's), Luis, et al,
    I am glad to read your pertinent insights on this topic, which are thoughtful, original and much related to the problems and opportunities of what to photograph, specifically whether photography is particularly suited to present "things that other people don't see" (that many consider a seminal artistic challenge), and if photographs of details can have an impact that is sometimes greater than that of the overall scene or subject (in a slightly related context, we know that B&W photography is often less and sometimes preferable to color, in order to simplify or better underline the image qualities).
    Thanks for your comments on my example. While I enjoy the prospect of the revelation of a strong fragmented image, at the moment of photographing, or later, I admit that I am not usually conscious of that possibility during the making of the image, and succeed rarely. Like others, I am often attracted to a subject but I often act without fully understanding why. Perhaps that is as good an argument as any for the fact that we engage both conscious and unconscious personal approaches in our photography. I think John alluded well to that.
    The photography of Gibson, Kenna and other "minimalist" photographers is worthy of comment and analysis, as Fred, Luis and others have begun ("minimalist" is probably inaccurate, or at best, incomplete, as I am considering by that only the physical restrictions imposed by some of their subjects).
    I have to spend too many hours this week and the next on work for a client (alas, extraneous to the practice of photography), which is enough challenge for my brain and imagination, to be able to contribute much to the discussion. I look forward to catching up when I can. There is also a lot to re-read and ponder, in what you've contributed. Thanks.
     
  20. In taking a careful second look, I notice that Arthur hasn't employed the same angle and so doesn't have as dynamic a relationship to the second tombstone behind the main one in the original, wider shot. Had he simply cropped that shot down, this more moving (to me) relationship to the secondary tombstone would not be there. When he shot the detail shot, he actually added something significant (tension?), even as he was going for "less." For me, the way the second tombstone works, out of focus, behind but tangent to the main tombstone (in the detail shot), has a particular emotional effect which the photo would lack without that added relationship. So while "less" is busy being "more," "more" is very much helping it be "more" as well.
    One could easily say, and I wouldn't argue, that this relationship gains power because it comes in a more sparse photo. I guess it gets back to Julie's question of what's "more" and what's "less."
     
  21. To me, the tighter version is stronger graphically, feels a little crammed, and has more immediate impact, yielding its meager secrets quickly. In a magazine or web page, and for the average viewer the "less" one would probably work better. If I had to live with either on my wall, it would be the full-frame one.
    There are subtle differences in the shadow in the "less" picture. On the viewer's left, it edges uninterrupted into the edge and side of the tombstone. In the "more" version, there's a little sliver of light that lifts that shadow a bit. A similar thing happens with the base, too. That 2nd stone emerging OOF behind the main one doesn't add a thing, and is a little distracting.
     
  22. I think what Luis's and my different reactions show (perhaps with a wink and a nod, perhaps not) is that it's not just on a case-by-case basis whether "less is more," but it's also a matter of that elusive thing called taste. It's less about whether "less is more" and more about what each of us is seeing and how it's striking us.
    Visual elements seem to strike us visually and emotionally and seem also to mean something. It's almost as if these visual elements are acting as symbols. ;) Interpretive words like "quiet," "passive," "waiting," "mortality" have been used.
     
  23. I agree, Fred. I think one thing that lies at the bottom of it, is that each picture has a different kind of power. In terms of magnitude of overall strength, for me, the "less" slightly edges the "more" out. In terms of amplitude, it's the other way around, which is why I would rather live with the latter.
    BTW, when re-reading my prior post I realized that this sounds bad: " In a magazine or web page, and for the average viewer the "less" one would probably work better."
    By "average viewer" I meant a visual near-illiterate, and exclusively in that context, not that anyone who likes the "less" picture is an average viewer.
     
  24. It brings up an interesting side point.
    Are we after the better picture (the one that appeals more) or the picture that best expresses what we want?
     
  25. Arthur, I find the 2 pictures actually totally different. They tell different stories, and ask different questions.
    The "wider" one makes me wonder what the woman on the bench is looking at, and partially which genius considered parking a bench straight in front of a tombstone. The second one makes me wonder what the shadow on the stone is exactly, and makes me focus far more on the tombstone: whose is it, how old etc.
    In a way, as I read through your opening, I had to think for the somewhat obsessive use of (extreme) wide angle lenses in many photos these days. For me, it makes many photos messy and somewhat lacking in direction. Yes, they have the ability to supply a lot of context to the subject (at the cost of focus on the subject itself), but they do lack in the intimacy and clarity that a long lens can bring (at the cost of context), or the calm balanced nature of a normal lens. Yet, all these have their uses. I do not feel it is "either/or" but all means to a goal.
    As to the ability to see what others would not see... Photography is learning me to see more, pay more attention to details, see "lines" between subjects and so on. But part of that is also seeing the oppurtunity of a wide grand overview. The power of less is real enough, but so is the ability to connect the dots between all the small stories and telling (or constructing) their grand story.
    So, of the 2 posted pictures, which one is better? Depends on what you want to tell with the photo. To be honest, I can't tell. Graphically, the first posted works best for me, but that's surpassing the content of the photo.
    Fred,
    Are we after the better picture (the one that appeals more) or the picture that best expresses what we want?​
    As photographers, I think the picture that expresses what we want, will automatically appeal to us most ("yeah, nailed it"). But towards the viewer, it strongly depends what the viewer is expecting of the picture. A photo in an art-gallery will make me more comfortable with less appeal in favour of more intent, but for wedding photography it does not sound like a very good businessplan.
     
  26. I'm for the second (uncropped/less cropped) version partly because it deals with a concept that intrigues me and partly because I prefer it as an image. It is more memorable.
    The first is cropped to make a solid image but it strongly reminds me of a fairly stereotypical grave stone and photographer (implied by the shadow) style of picture.
    The second one takes the viewer on a conceptual or mental journey and much of what we "see" is in our minds and going on outside the picture, there is an interesting cleverness invested in having the woman looking out to the right beyond the edge of the picture, at what we cannot tell, life, death, her kids, a clock on the town hall, who knows?
    and light puts her in the grave.
    All in all a much more interesting picture - Clive
     
  27. Great read :eek:) and many responses I find right on target for me, especially ones highlighting the fact both approaches are equally valid, equally important, both can be quite enjoyable to see in photographs. Obviously the possible meanings, implications, stories can open up more as the view does, I think for today anyway. Everything in my work or at least the way I interact with mine (and others) is constantly changing.

    I would describe my longest running body of work primarily as isolated urban landscapes and as the years have progressed I have generally gone from tighter views to larger views. I am not married to either one but I find the larger the view (currently) the harder it is for me to make an interesting photograph due to the fact I have now chosen to include so much information. I find including a great deal of information a fantastic challenge (more difficult- maybe?).

    Interestingly, I find many times in the best of my work (whether a tight or larger view) its seems for me anyway a higher mind or greater force than me is orchestrating things (my arrival at a certain place at a certain time and so forth). My job is to show up, follow my intuition or queit mind, be open and work to make competent or interesting images (base hits if I may) and the best ones will show up when it is their time to.

    An example of a tighter view early in my work is here: http://george-elsasser.blogspot.com/2009/10/road-and-sky.html
    An example of a wider view w people in my current work is here: http://george-elsasser.blogspot.com/2009/11/book-cover-image-cycle.html
     
  28. "One could easily say, and I wouldn't argue, that this relationship (Fred, speaking to the image of more restricted field) gains power because it comes in a more sparse photo. I guess it gets back to Julie's question of what's "more" and what's "less."" (Fred)
    Fred-
    I agree, and if we want to make an analogy with current affairs, that type of imagery may be similar to a well-known contemporary verbal expression "Yes, we can", which does not need to reflect on everything to make its point, but which says everything it needs to. Some image details are able to do that to varying degrees of success, which probably supposes a certain familarity of the viewer with the subject or theme or experience.
    Luis-
    You have made some interesting observations (like the one Fred made, but with a different result in terms of effect or appreciation). While perhaps implying the limited force of my tighter shot, your observations of smaller details of a tighter shot (the one in question, or any other) may suggest that the power of less may not be working so well if the limited subject does not manifest well its intentions or impact. To quote Fred's comment, "Visual elements seem to strike us visually and emotionally and seem also to mean something."
    "In terms of magnitude of overall strength, for me, the "less" slightly edges the "more" out. In terms of amplitude, it's the other way around, which is why I would rather live with the latter." (Luis)
    Luis- I am trying to better understand your comment. If we plot "image perceived impact" against something like "durability of the perception", we might have a curve or histogram in which your appreciation might show a high but narrow peak of overall strength for the detail image, but a larger area and broader but lower curve signifying the "amplitude" of the appreciation (or durability of the perception), as you seem to have felt with the large image. If so, that is is an interesting way of seeing things, albeit a bit quantitative.

    "It brings up an interesting side point.
    Are we after the better picture (the one that appeals more) or the picture that best expresses what we want?" (Fred)
    Fred- I think that your point is really very central to any discussion of comparative images. Altough I haven't seen it yet, a hypothetical image of the Half Dome as an abstract image (with, say, specific color playing the role of highlights, and so on) may cause me to react even more favorably to the subject than Ansel Adam's famous (unique, and masterfully crafted) photograph. The Adam's image probably works splendidly for many others, which simply brings us back to the question of intention of the photographer and the question of his and the viewer's taste.
    Wouter and Clive-
    Your comments and thoughtful analyses of the examples, and particularly of the question of the post as much as any specific examples, are very interesting. Some might think that the larger picture tells all, and you have questioned that. Is it possible that the larger picture says too much and that the smaller detail provides more impact by not saying everything (although it may seem cliché like another shadow of the photographer - although in fact it is not the photographer in view of the angle of vision)? But the larger picture probably does not say everything and maybe the smaller picture does not communicate anything specific, or perhaps it does?
    What is probably important is the strength of the image, of the message. A larger view does not necessarily mean more, or a smaller view less. George shows an interesting and attractive tightly cropped image (the B&W one) of a swimming pool ladder, but which also can pose the question of the completeness of the message of the image. I find it more interesting, however, than the busier people shots in larger views that he also showed. Is this a subjective reaction to otherwise interesting images or does it mean that larger views have many elements that we may or may not perceive, or at least perceive in the manner the author wished?
    It is often a question of taste. The question of big versus small is complicated by that; the perceived power of the image, big or small, may be different than the actual effectiveness of the aesthetic elements. Does the viewer want to accept the game of a truncated image statement that may or may not be as easy to consider or as powerful as the equally brief statement "Yes we can"? Or does he need all the dots to be crossed?
     
  29. There's no more or less just if the photo works.

    I sort of feel guilty i have not written a ten page essay but i could not think of anything else of relevance to say.
    Sorry if it offends.
     
  30. Hi Allan,
    I for one see absolutely no offence caused by your considering philosophy of photograhy and the creation of images in the simple and uncomplicated terms you state. Most people appreciate art in the same manner. Enjoy.
     
  31. Ralph Gibson and Michael Kenna excel at images of restricted content, often preferring or concentrating on details from much larger scenes.​
    But this is what every photographer can't escape to excel at, from the photographer photographing the grand canyon to the one photographing a small piece of rock in it, they both - we all - take something out of anything and restrict content. So the quantitative visual detail that you're concentrating on as being essential to the qualitative specifics and character of both Gibson's and Kenna's work for example ( but also applicable to every other photographer working with creative intent ), I take to be more a quality because of a conceptually conceived "detail of seeing" first, and which is only thereafter attained by visualising it through the language of photography, and this being a literal visual detail of something or not I see as irrelevant to the question of the image's completion or not.
    I would say that completion of the image ( the question of the "more" vs the "less", both by viewer and photographer ) is achieved, not when there is nothing more to be added, but when there's nothing more to be taken away. It is this what is responded to and what makes that photographers work his and not someone else's, or what makes that photograph this way, and not any other.
     
  32. Phylo-
    In advocating the approach of photography as being particularly suited to images of lesser content (in relative physical terms, not in terms of the message communicated), I am not ignoring that images of greater content (your Grand Canyon example) should be governed by the same consideration of what is needed and what is not needed. This subjective decision is part of what makes a great image, or not.
    It is also relative to the subject. Photographing at very small scale an entire ant colony is not a photograph of detail, although the detail of an ant carrying a load of some material within that community is, and that might even better communicate what the photographer wanted to show.
    Photography has often been more concerned with the bigger picture, of nature and of human activity. Obviously this is not unique to photography but is also found in cinema and painted art, and in writing. The photography of Gibson and Kenna, for example, allows us to reflect on the power or impact of details, and what I propose is an apt role of photography, the sometimes strong impact of "less" rather than "more". Both the smaller picture and the larger can be judged by an appreciation of what is needed and what is not needed.
     
  33. Arthur--
    My conclusion is that "less is more" is both true and false. Same for "more is more." For me, there is no such generic statement that covers photography per se. It depends on the photograph and what the photographer is doing.
    A particular photographer might make great strides in exploring the "less is more" maxim in his photographs. As is being stated, bodies of work might be devoted to it. But they won't be better than bodies of work equally well photographed that explore "more is more." They will just be different. Photography doesn't seem particularly suited to one or the other.
    "Yes we can" is a sound bite. I'm not looking to make photographs that are sound bites. Neither do I think are most good photographers who photograph detail. Sound bites (even ones used by guys I like) are superficial and pretty much designed to reach an audience one knows will not penetrate something deeply. A sound bite is usually merely catchy. A sound bite is infective, but usually doesn't accomplish much that is of substance. Good "detail" photographs are not often as shallow as sound bites, though some may be so intentionally.
    Mozart would likely have considered many of Tchaikovsky's flourishes "unnecessary." That would have been Mozart's loss. (By the way, I like Mozart and Tchaikovsky equally well and don't think one is using music more suitably than another.) Fortunately for us, though Tchaikovsky idolized Mozart's music, he was able to give the world something different and just as wonderful. After Tchaikovsky, music did not keep growing larger and larger, with more and more flourishes. Some Debussy is much sparser as are some modern composers like Phillip Glass and Arvo Pärt.
    Photography will have such ebbs and flows of "less is more" and "more and more." I think it will depend more on the times and the particular photographers than it will on the nature of photography.
     
  34. Arthur, I still don't see why you would consider the photography of Gibson to be any more about details, photographically, then your own uncropped picture here is a photographic detail, one out of a much larger scene.It's not the power or impact of details that makes Gibson's work but it's the power of abstraction in it. Power of abstraction which is attained by "seeing what others don't see" in looking at things out there, things for everyone to see, differently.
    It's not attained only by zooming in or cropping out a detail, like in your own example, which starts from a fixed static visual referencepoint, that of the uncropped image. The cropped image then becomes "less" visually, which is then questioned and conceptualised as perhaps being "more" for it being a detail, and this only in retrospect to the uncropped version.
    You would have to take an uncropped Gibson photograph, and then crop a visual detail out of it, just like you did in your own examples, starting from a fixed point of reference, because now you're comparing something starting conceptually to something starting visually and conclude that the power of the concept of abstraction is the same as that of cropping out a detail ( which is what all photographers do anyway when pointing their camera ). I hope you understand what I'm getting at here and why I'm getting at it, because I think the premise of your post mixes up two different aspects to arrive at the same conclusions in both of them.
    I also see no real basis to consider that photography has historically always been about the larger, wider view. Atget >.....>.....>
     
  35. it seems to me that to answer this forum question you need to account for the photographer's intent. What he/she is trying to convey and their ability to creatively express that intent. One can express much with a word, or two, and one can equally express too much, like flogging a dead horse (pardon the metaphor), and yet express no more that those few words.
    I've often found innuendos or suggestive metaphors act like subliminal messages filtered and understood instinctively by the viewed. That's the 'significant power' of a photo as I see it
     
  36. Arthur - " Luis- I am trying to better understand your comment."
    In this case, for me, the simpler picture yields what it has in a brief time. I wouldn't say the same for Gibson or Kenna's pictures.
     
  37. I think something important here, and I gather it's at least part of what Luis is getting at, is initial impact vs. staying and growing power. Take PN thumbnails, for example, which is what we are often exposed to first on the Internet. Certain photos have a much more immediate impact, a "wow" factor if you will. But that's all they have -- kind of like a sound bite. Some photos nurture the viewer and allow the viewer to nurture the photo. They age well, they reveal more over time. In this day and age, viewers often don't have the time for that. But, when I do take the time, with a good photo, I am rewarded with more every time I look at it.
    Many of the suggestions I see made in the critique forums on PN are making photos have more immediate impact and often losing significant subtleties, because people are in a rush and they want everything to be as clear as can be as soon as can be. Immediate coherence and clarity can be good things . . . or not.
     
  38. I think Fred's point has a lot of truth (not only for photography, but for many arts - countless pieces of music have grown on me rather than blown me away the first time). The immediate "wow"-factor can be good too, but as many times, it comes down to the intent. A billboard or newspaper picture should have this wow-factor, while most of the documentary style photos in National Geographic demand a 3rd, 4th and 5th look to catch all the story-telling elements.
    A bit to further on my initial comments on the 2 pictures the discussion started with; as I said, the "close up" photo does not tell me the same story as the "zoomed out" one. When I went through the newer reactions in this thread, especially Phylo's, something dawned on me: in order to have a "simpler" picture tell a story, wouldn't one have to rely more on strong symbols, famous landmarks etc.? Items that trigger a "predictable" reaction in most of the audience? In other words, in order to simplify, isn't there a point where you must rely on your audience to pick up on your intent rather than trying to make it a self-contained message?
     
  39. jtk

    jtk

    Seems to me there's a lot of rationalization going on in support of the scattered image.
    Nothing wrong with rationalization, but how does that relate to photography?
    The evidence in these responses seems that the "better" photo requires a lot of explanation. The condensed shot, with the disturbing bit of bench, doesn't. One is visually stronger than the other.
    The scattered image is more attractive, certainly. fwiw.
    Was relative attractiveness Arthur's concern in posting the two images?
    Is strong good? Van Gogh evidently thought so. Can you think of many painters whose work requires windy explanations?
    "... in order to have a "simpler" picture tell a story, wouldn't one have to rely more on strong symbols, famous landmarks etc.? " - Wouter
    answer: no, not unless one is into complex symbolgy, famous landmarks etc. Consider Japanese brush painting, for example. Or Edward Weston. Or anybody's portraits or nudes.
     
  40. jtk

    jtk

    Seems to me there's a lot of rationalization going on in support of the scattered image.
    Nothing wrong with rationalization, but how does that relate to photography?
    The evidence in these responses seems that the "better" photo requires a lot of explanation. The condensed shot, with the disturbing bit of bench, doesn't. One is visually stronger than the other.
    The scattered image is more attractive, certainly. fwiw.
    Was relative attractiveness Arthur's concern in posting the two images?
    Is strong good? Van Gogh evidently thought so. Can you think of many painters whose work requires windy explanations?
    "... in order to have a "simpler" picture tell a story, wouldn't one have to rely more on strong symbols, famous landmarks etc.? " - Wouter
    answer: no. Consider Japanese brush painting, for example. Or Edward Weston. Or anybody's portraits or nudes.
     
  41. "In order to have a "simpler" picture tell a story, wouldn't one have to rely more on strong symbols, famous landmarks etc.? Items that trigger a "predictable" reaction in most of the audience? In other words, in order to simplify, isn't there a point where you must rely on your audience to pick up on your intent rather than trying to make it a self-contained message?" (Wouter)
    Wouter-
    I believe that may be the case at times, in view of the limited subject, but I disagree strongly that it is something that can be accepted as characteristic of a detail photograph. In any case, the audience should normally be challenged by the image. An image that makes someone think is in my mind a good one. The contrary to that can often be only simple decoration.
    "Arthur, I still don't see why you would consider the photography of Gibson to be any more about details, photographically, then your own uncropped picture here is a photographic detail, one out of a much larger scene." (Phylo)
    Phylo-
    We seem to be talking about different things here. I appreciate what you may be saying in regard to cropped images, from a prior image of a larger scene. However, my detail photograph is not that at all (you might want to look more carefully). No reframing of an easel projected image, or the use of a PS crop tool. When I said i reframed te image you may have understood that as cropping, but it was just a second visualisation of a scene and the search for a different meaning in its components, and how to capture them. A different intent. All detail images have to come from a larger scene, but not a simple cropping, or truncation, of another visualisation. There is little similarity between the intent of the two images.
    I think however we are on the same wavelength about Gibson. His choice of details from an overall larger scene, with his choice of light and dark areas (chiaroscuro), the balance of masses and the use of sharp and out of focus details to provide abstract or enigmatic effect is consistent with the statement of Gilles Carle said (and no doubt of some other artists): "seeing things that others do not see". Both seek to provide more than just the details per se.
    "My conclusion is that "less is more" is both true and false. Same for "more is more." For me, there is no such generic statement that covers photography per se. It depends on the photograph and what the photographer is doing." (Fred)
    Fred-
    That is not one place I wish to go. My OP was simply related to the power of details. "Seeing things that others fail to see" (partly because they are often looking only at the "big picture"). While I said the "power of less", it was in the sense of the detail and the above comment of Carle (and not that "more is less", "less is more", "more is more", or whatever. I find that sort of qualification unfruitful, and I expect you think so too). Baroque music will always be more embellished than 19th century music, Debussy more expressionistic or abstract than Copeland. More is not necessarily more, but the comparisons are meaningless, only valid when comparing composers of the same style I think.
    Marcel Duchamp once said "I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste." Although sound bites or TV newsbites were in my mind when I suggested that a detail image (or in fact any image) does not need to spell out everything, this was based upon a firm belief that the viewer must add to the equation. We all know what Obama was getting at with his sound bite, but I admit my use of the analogy was not the best. It would be better to revert back to the concept of the photographer "seeing things that others do not see". In such case, the viewer receives a partial message, one which might yield more as he contemplates the detail scene (which may first appear like a "sound bite"), but which will reveal more as he continues to look at it.
    I cannot speak for others, but that is a goal for me. I find the photography of expansive scenes often distracting in that sense (purporting often to simply fill one of photography's roles as that of a mirror, a too realistic purveyor of what is around us), and that details of life, and/or of the physical world , offer a particularly interesting potential for photographic art.
    John-
    I think you are absolutely right on in regard to your comment about symbols and the fact that detail images do not depend on them any more than the expansive views.
     
  42. "It would be better to revert back to the concept of the photographer "seeing things that others do not see". In such case, the viewer receives a partial message, one which might yield more as he contemplates the detail scene (which may first appear like a "sound bite"), but which will reveal more as he continues to look at it." --Arthur
    It sounds to me like you may be describing the viewer seeing something the photographer did not present rather than the photographer seeing things others did not see.
    I don't know Carle's work, but from the context of the quote in your original post, I didn't have the sense he was photographing detail because he wanted the viewer letting his mind wander in contemplation. I interpret him to mean that he is filling in with his camera what others likely would have missed, not that he is giving the viewer something partial to complete. I actually think Carle is talking about himself as photographer completing the picture for the viewer, not providing the viewer with raw materials to create "more". Naturally, the viewer is free to do what he wants in looking at a photo. But I sense that Carle is saying he, as cinematographer, is present with and aware of the details. This seems more about attention and awareness -- and it is there that I find the idea's significance -- than about stimulating viewers' imaginations.
    I don't quite understand how you make the move from "seeing things that others do not see" or a more "detailed" view to "the power of less." I think Carle was trying to show people more than what they would otherwise have seen. I think he was talking about adding something to their experience (the details we often miss), not stripping the greater picture down so that the viewer can then build it back up again the way that viewer wants to.
    He was showing his viewer something.
     
  43. Ah Arhur, sorry my mistake ! I concentrated more on what was written then what was shown, and since you were talking at one point about the wider image as the original image, I thought of the tighter one as a crop.
    Now, in such direct comparison with each other, even though they are two different seperate uncropped photographs, they might as well be considered as coming from one and the same thing ( with the two sharing important content ).
    Meaning that if I would have to express my preference of one image over the other, I would find it difficult not contemplating either one of them as solely existing in function of the other, of their direct opposite. Suggesting to me that they aren' t that much two seperate things but rather two ways of looking at one thing.
     
  44. jtk

    jtk

    They aren't "looking at" "things." They are photographs.
     
  45. Yes, they are images, thanks John for such deep inner factual knowledge and ever expansive corrections on "what things are", as always. But it is the "thing", "seen" by "looking at" which I was talking about. The "thing" that Arthur was questioning as being present or not ( "seeing things that others don't see" ) in either one of the images. Got "stuff " ?
     
  46. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Dec 08, 2009; 12:06 a.m.
    They aren't "looking at" "things." They are photographs.


    Although this is technically correct, and obviously stems from the Rene Magritte "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe) painting, it is still as problematic as it was the day it was first pronounced. Of course a painting of a pipe is not a pipe, and a photo of a grave stone is not a gravestone.
    At the time and ever since, artists, art writers and art historians get very excited about this statement of dubious usefullness.
    I always imagine Magritte going home to his mother, she asks him, "What have you been up to lately then?", "Ah", replies Rene, "I've had a major breakthrough, I'll show it you." Rene produces This is not a pipe.

    Mother says almost in tears and very distressed says "Oh Rene what am I going to about you of course its a bloody pipe you idiot, what is it if its not a pipe"
    Rene "Its a painting....of a pipe"
    Mother "Durrrr, that's all I need, that's absolutely stupid, you'll be the death me, be bloody careful no one sees this, they could have you locked you up"
    Although art got very excited by Magritte's perverse and possibly clever observation it is of no real consequence as people economically describe things depicted in art without always saying "painting of" or "photograph of".
    Clive
     
  47. Arthur, I agree that details offer a lot of potential, and that it takes "seeing what most do not see". I'm not in photography all that long, but it sure made me look at things (including images) and see things differently. But I get a sense of "either/or" when you describe the less-detail images as "purporting often to simply fill one of photography's roles as that of a mirror, a too realistic purveyor of what is around us".
    To me, that is just another, and equally valid, intent. Photography as a means to "capture the world as you perceive it" is to me as good a reason to take photos as it can be to show a detail, and extend a story on that. Sure, one of the styles may be more demanding on the viewer (extrapolating the message), but again, horses for courses, personal preferences etc. It depends strongly on what you want the image to do.
    The question I raised on symbols, by the way, is not far off from your link to soundbites, or at least I meant it as such. It is giving the viewer/audience a simple clue of what you want to say, a handle for them to open the door.
     
  48. jtk

    jtk

    Clive, it was good to bring up Magritte...for me Van Gogh's work makes the "just a painting" sort of case even more strongly (his angle seemed to be "paint itself" rather than "just a painting" . Van Gogh was more visually concerned than Magritte, who seemed more into ideas IMO). The work of non-photographers has contributed as importantly to photography as most "popular" photographers, also IMO. For example, a case might be made for a parallel between John Cage's musical work and much of today's "street" photography.
    Phylo, Various viewpoints are expressed on this interesting thread. Many are by people who enjoy looking at ideas multiple ways. Consider Clive's post, for example.
     
  49. I wouldn't want to short shrift what Magritte is saying. On the "semantic," level, I'm with Phylo and Clive. I think it's fine to say "an image (or a photo) 'looks at' something." I have no trouble understanding what that means and relating to it.
    But, I don't think Magritte was talking about how we talk. I think Magritte was talking about what we see.
    To illustrate, I'll copy and paste from an e-mail dialogue I had just yesterday with a non-photographer friend about portraits:
    Friend: I am always amazed at how photographs can generate two different looks. This photo of Nicholas Hoult from OUT is very like he was as a younger kid -- a very hard edged look, very "European". . .
    http://images2.fanpop.com/image/photos/8700000/Nicholas-Hoult-in-OUT-Magazine-skins-8732256-800-534.jpg
    This next photo, on the other hand, is a PR shot from his upcoming movie, A Single Man, with Colin Firth. Here he actually looks like the relaxed California college kid -- a kid who is straight, but also intense and fascinated by his literature professor:
    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3621359104/tt1315981
    Me: Yes. It's something very interesting about portraits. Many people look at portraits I've done and say they feel like I've really captured the essence of the person. Yet, like you've noticed, depending on decisions I make with the camera (never mind hair, clothes, and makeup), I can so affect how someone is going to read in a picture. That being said, I still feel like I do capture something true about my subjects, but I know there's an awful lot of me in them as well, and an awful lot of "photograph" in them, too. I often remind others that they are not looking at a person, they are looking at a photograph of a person, and that makes a big difference.​
    If you have any doubts that it's not a bad idea to remind people now and then of the difference between a photograph and what the photograph is of, check out the Casual Conversations thread about whether photographs can glorify war. Never mind the answer to that question, which is being debated. Notice how many people can't help talking about whether or not the soldiers in some photographs being discussed were glorifying war, as if that were the question. There is much conflation between subject matter and photograph in that thread and I see it all the time in critiques here on PN. Also, check out the PN nudes section sometime, where the breasts of the model determine the quality of the photograph.
     
  50. jtk

    jtk

    "About" and the "stories" are secondary verbal responses that may not even be our own (someone may have told us what we're seeing, as on this thread).
    Fred, regarding the "glorify war" thread: you've forgotten that there are no photos. Nonetheless, images of war are in the minds of everybody who posted, just as surely as if the thread included photos. That's what photos ARE : images in our minds.
    The "aboutness" or "story" in Arthur's photos has been repeated many times here in order to argue in favor of interpretation (verbal concensus) and against the direct responses of individuals.
    Interestingly, the views of Arthur Plumpton, the man who made the photos, appear more individualistic than the concensus.

    Something like political correctness seems at play: ie Don't respond as an individual! This is the story! This is the subject!
    Consistent with the rest of my upbringing, I was raised photographically to be responsible first for what I personally experience from a photo, only later to consider explanations. That leads to arguments and bumpy roads, of course, but nobody gets out of here alive.
    Minor White taught the usefulness of "reading" photos...a standard "art appreciation" technique. However, he emphasized that a photo first consisted of each individual response to it. That's why he taught meditative techniques.
    Is a verbal explanation the same as an individual response?
     
  51. Actually, John, in that "glorify war" thread, I did reference a specfic photo: Rosenthal's Iwo Jima flag raising photo. By the PN terms of agreement, I am not allowed to post it there or here, otherwise I would have.
    People just seemed not to be able to address the photo itself because they were distracted by the politics of war and whether or not soldiers are heros.
    I'm not sure what you're getting at by saying, in bold, "That's what photos ARE : images in our minds." Aren't photos also things that hang on my wall?
    I take the various storylines people have shared as followups to the direct responses they have. I don't see those interpretations as being instead of an immediate reaction. Like you and Arthur, I actually prefer the detail photo. But not because I think the other one is only about interpretation or "aboutness."
    I haven't gotten the sense anyone is trying to take away or diminish your individual responses to Arthur's two photos, or mine which are similar to yours. Most, including me, have only been arguing that there's nothing inherently better or more gut-response-producing about a detail photo than a wider shot.
    Also, I don't think detail photos have anything to do with "less is more." I think many detail photos have "more" than many wider shots.
    Example. Seurat's Sunday Afternoon in the Park. I respond immediately . . . to the pointillism, the mood, the sun and shadows, the warmth of the park and the coolness of some of the poses, the lady's butt, the formalism, my own visions and experiences of afternoon park respites. No, I don't immediately think of all those things, but they are at play in my immediate reaction, whether I consciously think about them or not. Then, when I talk about the painting, I may talk about an array of stuff. And I will likely talk a lot about the storytelling, much of which comes about because he gave us a wide view. I don't think it would be a better painting if he'd focused in on just an umbrella and I got to respond to each little fold in the material and a more abstract play of color and light. And I don't think it would be more appropriate to limit my discussion of the painting to "It moved me!" and perhaps, allow the words "warmth" and "light" but not the words "picnic" or "dog" or the phrase "little girl dancing."
    Some photos seem made for storytelling. I make some that way. There's a photo I'll probably be posting sometime today of two people sharing a meal and there's a figure in the background walking out of the room. Without her, there would be less story and I imagine many people would consider it a cleaner photo and a more immediately coherent photo. I, on the other hand, am glad I got her in it. Now, my guess is that most people will talk about the story they see because I included that additional element. But I don't think that means they are responding any less immediately or any less with their gut. I think it just means it eventually gives them more to talk about. That's fine with me.
     
  52. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, I'm not particularly interested in "most people."
    I'm interested in individuals.
    Have you tried this? : I showed a half dozen prints to total strangers, buttonholed on the street, listening to what they had to say. It's a Minor White exercise. Scary. They didn't respond as "most people"...they were individuals. Like many of us, I've done the same sort of thing with dozens of architects and art directors, learning a lot from their individuality.
    That you or I may want to tell a story is fine. But that's not what people see initially unless they've been prepped (eg perhaps with your school project or my livestock auction project).
    On reflection "the" story may occur to them...alternatively it may have been prodded into their heads with contextual expectations, titles, explanations. The story/interpretation approach is a natural for journalism and advertising, and many photographers do think in primarily those terms. But it may restrict individual responses...
    There would have been zero utility for you to post the Iwo Jima photo because we all have it in our minds, IMO. For discussion purposes we don't need it in front of us.
    I doubt a photo "is" "what hangs on your wall"...except for purposes of word games. :)
     
  53. I road test all my work (sculpture) by having my studio open to the public 4 days a week, and I agree with John that it is most instructive.

    But just as you mention "prints" and I "sculpture" as physical things almost all the first contacts with our "art" is via a computer screen.

    Never an ideal situation for gaining any appreciation of a good or great Gibson as so much relies on the physical quality of the print itself. The screen takes away any notion of surface quality, this becomes a serious problem because increasingly people rely on thumbnails to decide whether they are going to bother to look or not.

    I am guessing but print quality may be a major component in the pictures of yours that we are discussing. The imposition of this constraint on the way people are introduced to a photgraph, a sculpture or just about anything we can think of is something we are forced to attempt to find/invent a mechanism that allows our art to work at thumbnail scale.

    I may have said it previously in another thread but I believe the artist should take responsibility for any reading or interpretation that a veiwer may have, it is never sufficient to say that someone is looking at it wrongly. Many people consider this view extreme.

    Although my view is that the full version of your picture is much more interesting than the cropped one I do appreciate that it will struggle to get people to look at it via thumbnail. This is because at any size it's stillness and precise composition almost screams out "this picture is asking me to do some work". The fact that it appears to be completely (and maybe clinically) considered can frighten people because they associate it with difficult art.

    I actually think this is a good thing because you are making your work select its own audience.

    A spin-off from this topic was that I thought I'd apply the reasoning to a very non-art subject. As the only artist in a tiny rural community I'm often called upon to apply my knowledge to anything vaguely visual - a role that I thoroughly enjoy.

    Our major fund raising event for our volunter fire brigade is a Ride-on Lawn Mower Race day, in my part of the world we've stopped calling it summer - it's now the fire season. The local shop keeper and I sponser the town's community built racing lawn mower.

    This is a link to the whole event:
    http://halfa.smugmug.com/Other/Cowwarr-Cutters-Cup-09/10549526_MGRZ7#732762059_3b24L

    But the attached picture was one that came directly out of this discussion, I purposely cropped it to a very minimalist less is more and almost rediculously static composition (given the subject), no nice golden section composition just two blunt halves. The crazy thing is that the town could easily pick this picture as the one that says most about them because the flying red lawnmower is theirs.
    00VCpT-198993684.jpg
     
  54. "I doubt a photo "is" "what hangs on your wall"...except for purposes of word games. :)"​
    John--
    I was actually thinking very much along the lines Clive just brought up. You have talked much about the significance of prints and I have always considered you to be more physically involved with your photographs than many others, something I very much respect about your individuality, by the way. So when I said a photo is the thing that hangs on the wall, and not just an image in our minds, I meant it. And I was thinking of you in particular. Sorry that's not what you got from it.
    If a photo were just an image in my mind, I don't know why I'd need a camera to produce one. My memory has never been that good and is worsening with age. I'm glad I have stuff hanging on my walls because I know the image in my mind would be very different and I like looking at the photos. It's a different act than remembering, for me. And there is something very physical about it, even when it appears on my computer screen.
     
  55. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, images exist in our heads, not in prints. My prints hang on walls but their images exist elsewhere.
    A print is primarily a vehicle for an image, though it can also be an object, perhaps decorative. I like the physical substance of prints and I like the fact that they don't require electricity. I'm proud of my print skillsets but I've got a long way to go. It's good, to my way of thinking, to pursue rabbits I'll never catch.
    Others find print making a waste of time, much like physical fitness, reading intensively, or playing a musical instrument :)
    Below are Minor White's fundamental thoughts about images. I'm on a Minor White bender currently, have never really read him carefully, previously, despite years of influence by his students. The concept is "Equivalence," developed from Stieglitz's original idea. It's obvious that you use it but I don't recall you saying the word. It's different from "illustrating" something, and to the extent that it "tells a story" it does so non-didactically. It's like Charlie Parker's music or oxygen...some of us (including me) accept it and rely on it and don't even notice it most of the time.
    http://www.jnevins.com/whitereading.htm I think this requires a couple of reads for comprehension. I don't think there's a better source, but I'll soon post some angles that relate to it. Some of the ideas reflect American consciousness pre-Sixties.
     
  56. Great essay, and reading list, John. Thanks, and you are right, it transfers to the reader naturally, but needs to be re-read more than once.
    It is interesting, Clive, that as an accomplished sculptor, you mention the physical quality of the print as an important variable. The sculpture beckons us to touch it, to come into contact with the material and the manner in which it has been formed by the artist. The surface texture and appearance of a print, impossible to fully express in a monitor reproduction of it, is often equally divulging of the photographer's intentions. He can use those physical qualities and the luminance of silvery greys and other tonal qualities to express an added feeling. The light on bench and stone in the graveyard photographs, for instance, becomes more potent in the print. Are such things in the photgrapher's mind at the time of the image-making? Perhaps not always, but it is certainly a useful tool of post-exposure expression, or re-expression.
     
  57. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, You and Clive seem to be speaking of prints as if they are images.
    I see them differently: my appreciation of prints is parallel to, but not the same as my appreciation of their images.
    The image is in the viewer's head. The prints are on the wall, or they're in sleeves, or they're involved in a transaction, or they're in my beloved waste basket. To make my particular images work I feel that I need to make good prints. So my images are largely print-dependent. Currently. But I've seen some wonderful flat screen monitor images in galleries, some of them moving slightly.

    "Photograph" is a generic term that doesn't work as well for me as "image" or "print." It's too vague, I'm often reluctant to use it. I like it that cinematographers and videographers are increasingly credited as "photographers" because it recognizes that they own it as much or more than do "we." I think of Chuck Close's non-camera work as "photographs" for the same reason.
    I am usually thinking about the possible print/s when I photograph. I rarely photograph without a print in mind. In fact, I sometimes think about the print long before I photograph. I previsualize something that may come together, somehow. That's a leftover from Zone System...the part that was usually overlooked by folks who read about it but never got to use sheet film. The best part, IMO. I don't previsualize digital images as well as I did with sheet film, but I do it better than with roll film.
    More effectively when shooting digitally than with roll film. Why? Because I find it easier to make the print, looking again at the file on my monitor to remind myself of where I intended to go with it originally...before executing post processing (such as B&W conversion or contrast adjustment) and print. I'm not claiming to be good, but I'm sure this experiential learning process is underway. I think it's telling that few participants on these threads talk about their own development. What does that mean?
     
  58. I do indeed think of prints as objects, often very thin objects, but objects all the same.

    I think it's telling that few participants on these threads talk about their own development. What does that mean?

    If they are anything like me, they tend to sort their ideas out by throwing their hats in the ring in forums like this, whilst they may not directly mention their own development I would hazzard a guess that it underpins their arguments.
    Clive
     
  59. jtk

    jtk

    "...a guess that it underpins their arguments." - Clive
    Yes, your "hat in ring" metaphor works...I've certainly used it that way.
    ...but I've found that "they" usually get defensive if they're read closely. In other words, posts seem usually to be expressions of beliefs rather than hypotheses. I don't see many question marks, do you ? :) I think that "belief" orientation leads to the attacks we see here...somehow it's assumed that if someone holds a different view it's as rigid as one's own.
    I'd like to see a little less theory and a lot more personal risk taking in expression of ideas. Its easy to wimp-out and refer exclusively to the work or ideas of others ....without being open about one's own current activity/experience.
    Maybe it's the "current" piece that concerns me? (another ?)
    I'm more interested in active photography and ideas than I am in references to the interminable NYC-oriented lists of "famous" photographers. That's why my own references, unless they're to work I've just seen, are mostly restricted to a few historic reference points (eg Stieglitz, Weston, M. White, Avedon, B. Davidson, Brandt). Does that make sense to you? (?)
    ..and...Do you make a distinction between prints and images?
     
  60. John-
    Gilles Carle's expression "seeing things that others don't see" (in the case of details in art and photography) might be related to your question of print versus image. Do you think that print and image are really very different, and if so, why (my apologies if you have already explained that)? Can we not also consider analogies in other artistic fields, like painting and the image, or the text and the thought? Both begin with an "image" in the mind of the artist, but that is (or must be, so as to archive it) transformed to another media in order to both preserve and present it to others.
    The print to me is one way of expressing the perception of the image originally present in one's mind. The latter can certainly also take the form of a monitor image or an electronic image file, sometimes even an exposed and developed negative or positive film. Once we have transformed the captured image to a print or a manipulated electronic file we have added other aspects to the original "image", if there ever was a concrete original perceived image (so many things can happen between visualisation and final "image"). Darkroom print modifications and type of substrate are two areas of re-interpretation of the original image, as you are very familiar with.
    But maybe I am missing your point. Is there another aspect of "image" that I am overlooking? In regard to your desire to consider the personal approaches of photographers, we may well have to seek the creation of a new forum distinct from philosophy, or at least a sub-set of it (all I see to date in sub-sets is simply "the history of...", which is hardly embrasive of most discussions here) in order to incite such responses.
    In my own case, I am simply trying to complete a series that has the tentaive title of "Traces", in which I am attempting (sometimes by detail photography) to reflect on the traces left by man or by nature. It's too broad a concept at present, but I will have to see which subjects inspire me most (and which few I am capable of perceiving and interpreting at least well enough) before defining the approach in more detail.
    What do you think is most valuable to communicate in regard to personal approaches? What might be of real value to those struggling with similar tasks? It's true, it is often easier to speak in the third person, rather than providing example of one's own approaches, demons, challenges, etc.
     
  61. I tend to think that there is a serious problem with the way we quote the artist/photgrapher's name most of the time as it is too general.
    I once saw a class of art history students get themselves into very deep water when their lecturer showed a slide of a very famous section of the Parthenon frieze. The lecturer asked them what they thought about it - this developed into a sort of list of all the things that made it "good".
    She then showed a fairly similar section of a Roman work, the class, in the main, said this work was also good because it had all the things that were in the famous Greek work.
    The students committed themselves to liking the third slide - probably second rate manerist, and on she went with the examples getting worse and worse each time. Until someone had the courage to say that although all of the pictures contained many of the same creditable features as the original the overal "quality"or artistic merit was deminishing very rapidly.
    Of course it was a lesson designed to point out that argued rightness is only half the question as our gut response is at least of equal importance. Her idea was that we would do better to talk in more precise terms about individual works by an artist as opposed to the all encompassing generality of the artist's name.
    In terms of personal approaches - the main difficulty lies in the question that the artist asks us to idscuss - if its "to crop or not to crop" that's where the discussion will go and only after much ferreting about do we start to appreciate that there are some much deaper, probably infinitely more interesting issues lurking in the OP.
    More often than not development questions really mean that the artist percieves some kind of glass ceiling that they are trying to think their way through, whilst the standard "Relax, take more pictures, try not to think too much" style of answers are really good, the artist can't let go enough to put them into practice. Often something quite random happens to break the impass and strangely you are left wondering why you thought it was such a major deal.
    One of the most useful tools I've ever seen for inventing new things is the Claes Oldenburg trick, he would make himself make several versions of the same idea, A soft one, a hard one and a ghost version, soft and ghost really produce some interesting results. Similarly you take yourself out of yourself by, saying "I think I'll spend a day being Gibson, Lartigue, Frank or Wegee" - It works because you don't really know what being Gibson and the others really means. It is just a device to help you find yourself.
    Clive
     
  62. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, thanks for that expansive response.
    Certainly the "thinginess" of prints and paintings is potentially part of "image." And that thinginess, too, lives in our brains...as tactile, sculptural, auditory, olfactory sensation and memory.
    An easy example: many of us know some of Van Gogh's or Picasso's paintings first hand (I mention those two because they're not esoteric examples)....as well as in reproduction. They're strong, therefore we know them at this very instant in our minds. Even when we confront the original linseed-smelling paintings, unframed/unglassed, we still know them only in our minds. I'm not claiming to make an original observation, simply referring to our nature as animals.
    I'd like to know more about your project.
     
  63. jtk

    jtk

    Clive...interesting... I especially like that Claes Oldenberg trick..it might be fun to attempt "soft, hard, and ghost" photographically ... appeals to me more, at this moment, than being somebody else :)
     
  64. John:
    opposites work well too.
    I go some of way with you on how much we know a picture in our mind, I know what I look like (as idea) but I still need to look in the mirror to see.
     
  65. jtk

    jtk

    The mirror idea is crucial.

    If that doesn't ring bells for somebody, click on the Minor White link in Philosophy. Photograph-as-mirror is one of his key concepts.
    As well, by focusing us on ourselves as individuals, perhaps mirrors demonstrate "the power of less" in Arthur Plumpton's original topic.
     
  66. Arthur, yeah, the crop tool is very handy... :)
     
  67. John,
    I agree that the mind and memory are important stockholders in our appreciation of images. The print can be remembered in such a way, but the re-viewing of the print it is important too, as not everything can be confided in the mind.
    "Traces" are simply that at the moment. I expect to have to give a lot of time and effort to developing the as yet premature theme. Thanks for your interest. I will communicate something when I can.
     
  68. jtk

    jtk

    "What do you think is most valuable to communicate in regard to personal approaches? What might be of real value to those struggling with similar tasks? It's true, it is often easier to speak in the third person, rather than providing example of one's own approaches, demons, challenges, etc. " - Arthur P
    Arthur, You've asked a potentially very useful question. I've used this Forum for my own "struggle" with "approach" for as long as I've known about P.N . Openness or individualistic perspective typically results in desperate criticism rather than response. I've even been attacked for my intentionally sparse writing style :) (I use short, choppy paragraphs because superb webmasters say they're easier to read online than are long, nuanced paragraphs)
    My experience (impression) is that non-normative (non-conforming, quirky) photo ideas scare some of us... incredibly long and convoluted responses result, trumpeting norms, sometimes relying totally on quotes ...as if photo books are holy writ.
    I've benefitted by a few trusted observers who read and write well, taking risks of their own, both among the contributors here (you, for example) and face-to-face.
    Writers often talk about the importance of editors, good commercial photographers (eg Avedon and Penn) trust art directors, well-known "art photographers" have supportive critics and publishers. I suspect you provide helpful responses to the artists whose work you exhibit in Canada.
    Maybe P.N could invent CuratedGalleries, in addition to Forums? Places for photos along with curator thoughts. Invitation-only, or highly selective. "Photo.net > CuratedGalleries > Plumptongallery" :)
     
  69. John typed: " My experience (impression) is that non-normative (non-conforming, quirky) photo ideas scare some of us... incredibly long and convoluted responses result, trumpeting norms, sometimes relying totally on quotes ...as if photo books are holy writ."
    You really never stop, do you? Another thinly-disguised attack. Just who is "some of us" , John? More of your bullflux innuendoes, hoping the moderators won't get it? There is nothing you've said in the six years I've been here that "scared" me, and I doubt anyone else. It says something that you think yourself to be scaring anyone, and everyone can see it. Where is the beef, John? You can only live off the fog machine for so long.
     
  70. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Moderators are not a topic on the forums. Please don't reference them, it's not part of the program.
     
  71. Arthur, to return to the original topic, have you seen this?
    http://miksang.com/
    It's a way of photography concerned with, or that at least seems to generate a lot of work that fits the power-of-less theme.
     
  72. Luis-
    Thanks. It is new to me and appears quite interesting. It certainly encompasses photography of details, but while I think the concept and approach is interesting, I have one important reservation about it.
    To elaborate on that a bit, let's first consider the Miksang "credo": "The Miksang "good eye" means that our mind is uncluttered by preoccupation, relaxed and open. Its innate nature is clear, brilliant, and extremely precise."
    As one of the Miksang photographers says, "Miksang is all about clear seeing. Using photography as the technique, we tune into the details of how we see. We learn to recognize the brilliance of direct perception. We learn to see how concepts obscure rather than clarify, and how projections overlay experience." (Andy Karr, Miksang photographer; my highlighted words)

    The website description of Miksang is also pertinent: "Miksang, at its most basic level, is concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception. We see something vivid and penetrating, and in that moment we can express our perception without making anything up—nothing added, nothing missing.
    The detail is aparently in the question of what constitutes "pure perception".
    I believe that photography of details, like all photography, can comprise the alternative actions of "seeing" (or "pure seeing" like Miksang) and "seeing and conceiving".
    For me, "seeing and conceiving" is one of the things that is different from Miksang (which proposes "making nothing up", "nothing added") and which is also different from a desire to reproduce a scene as precisely as possible (without the photographer's imagination or fantasies getting in the way).
    I guess that I believe that art in photography (or in any other artistic discipline) necessarily requires the act of "conceiving" an image, of "making up" a part or all of its content.
    Marcel Duchamps once said "I have forced myself to contradict myself, in order to avoid conforming to my own taste".
    So, perhaps upon reading more about Miksang I may not react against its concept of "adding nothing" to "pure perception", but for the present I think I would rather try to mix together the various elements of image content (objects, light and dark, composition, sharp and out of focus and other components) in order to purposely construct what I might have in mind. The act of creating something from something. Seeing and conceiving.
    I think it is good that you have brought to this discussion a novel (and possibly just one of other) psychological and philosophical approach to the photography of details.
     
  73. John-
    I must admit that I have to read over again the prior posts on your statements about the relationship of the "image in our mind" and that on exhibition (whether in one's house or in a museum), and to relate that to the photography of details, for instance. Your Van Gogh example is appreciated, but I probably missed something else along the way.
     
  74. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, closer to your question: I'm interested in personal takes on philosophy (or experience) and photography. I want to know what people who actually make photographs have to say about their paths and experiences in connection with the images they're making currently. That's why I responded so positively to Fred Goldsmith's interview: insightful guidance by Josh Root, concise response and photographs by Fred. Fred spoke clearly for himself: he never has hung his hat on other people's formerly-popular work.
    The links I've provided over the years have typically been visual or auditory, not "quotations" because I find photography experiential rather than bookish. I like his plays, have a hard time reading Shakespeare.
    I posted the Minor White stuff only after I found that hardly anybody on P.N seemed to remember his influence. Browse and you'll see what I mean. I think that tells a very specific story: many are interested more in yesteryear's trendy collectable photographers (Gibson, Goldin, Sherman etc) than they are in their own photographs. To me, pixel-peeping seems closer to photography than academics.
    I'm on my own rocky path, but my experience with White's people and some of his ideas has been meaningful... I thought somebody needed to provide a reminder, so I did it. But 'm interested in my own and everybody else's current photo issues, I don't give a damn what they think they've read: I want to know about lives in motion.
    My own photo issues ("the beef") include the desire to significantly develop my currently awkward portraiture to my own version of something, analagous to Fred Goldsmiths but not necessarily similar. Maybe more like Bill Brandt's. I also need to reconsider early shallow experience with Aaron Siskind...I thought to study with him but "temporarily" concluded (a lifetime ago) that he'd done Aaron Siskind...nobody needed me to do that, anymore than they needed me to do Edward Weston..
    So, I'm interested in personal stuff related to photography. What about you?
     
  75. "So, I'm interested in personal stuff related to photography. What about you?"
    John,
    Absolutely. I wouldn't be actively involved in photography and also interested in the philosophy of art (as a learning/sharing experience) without being interested in sharing my personal views and receiving those of others, in relation to my own interests and approaches
    For me, photography is above all communication. I enjoy writing and speaking with others when that is favourable (often through relaxed dinner conversations - I sometimes provide a bowl of pre-written topics of conversation, usually provocative, at such parties, and seem to still get return invitations!), but I feel that my long term goal is to do that through photography, and perhaps other art forms, as that means most to me in terms of personal fulfillment. You may note from my prior posts, here in this forum or elsewhere on Photo.Net, that I usually state my own opinions in regard to photographic approaches. My response to Luis above shows, for instance, that I do not share the view of the movement he cited and prefer an approach in which I don't just perceive or see something, but see and also conceive the image through a personal need to do so.
    Another example. I tried last year to put myself in the shoes of a 17th century explorer and settler to North America, in which my objective was to re-create, using selected images of actual unspoiled landscapes, artefacts, period writings, and other elements, the feelings he might have had when he first visited these places. It was only partially successful, but it is one theme I intend to follow, as my understanding of his time and mind set, and my own perceptions and attempts at this particular communication, improve.
    Only one instance of interview has ever been presented to me - an art critic who had the dubious task of critiquing my work a few years ago. I am not looking for another at present, as I feel I must mature in my approach before that might re-occur. But I see nothing wrong with expressing viewpoints, often in response to particular posts made in this forum, in casual conversations or elsewhere.
    Does this respond (at least partly) to your question?
     
  76. Arthur - DuChamp's quote: "I have forced myself to contradict myself, in order to avoid conforming to my own taste" is like bobbing for eels blindfolded, because MDC made a career of doing just that, so contradicting himself in such a fashion would have made him utterly conventional and normal, which he certainly wasn't. He loved creating conceptual spaces for art through the resonance of ambiguity. The seeming graceful casualness of a string dropped onto Bride turns out to have been anything but. For example, the urinals... Seems straightforward enough, doesn't it? A ready-made recontextualized, elevating auteurship to another level, and simultaneously doing away with it in the conventional sense, while refining big "givens" about art. But it's not so simple. There's evidence he may have had those urinals custom-made(!). Also, the snow shovels. Others, however, seem to be exactly what they appear to be.
    I am not seeing how you are contradicting your own taste. How does channeling a 17th century explorer (something that the film The New World did admirably, btw) do that? Your basic tenets about art (as you put it, what's required, your "givens") seem to be reiterated, not contradicted.
    ___________________________________
    I was trained/mentored by one of Minor White's (MW) colleagues. I was given detailed notes from the workshops (revised and approved by MW) that remain unpublished to this day, and have shared extensively from my personal experience and tidbits from my papers on the MW thread. John, who put up the post has yet to tell us anything more personal than the name of the guy who taught MW self-hypnotic relaxation techniques and something about working more like Fred.
    I share my personal views on here every day, and learn much from reading those of others. I'm also a guy who is interested and versed in yesterday's, today's and looking for tomorrow's prominent photographers and the art world, while continuing my own work. Arthur, it's all interesting and inspiring to me. I'm keenly aware we are each in our own path, but have much in common.
    ___________________
    Only a simpleton would surmise that a person is one-dimensional and label them thusly, like "academic". They are speaking from their own lives, obviously. Most people lead multifaceted lives. Some of us can even pat our heads and rub our bellies simultaneously -- on a good day.
    I've posted long replies about my personal experience and advice in the Minor White post. John, has been uncharacteristically reticent, almost tar-baby-ish silent when it comes to his experiences with White's teachings. As Fred asked: "Where's the beef, John?". Days later, we're still waiting.
    Disingenous vaporspeak like: "I'm on my own rocky path, but my experience with White's people and some of his ideas has been meaningful"
    What experiences? How have his ideas been meaningful? Which ones?
    _________________________
     
  77. Using a Duchamp quote could be described as being a little unfortunate as it was by no means an original; artists and teachers have seen saying similar for eons.
    The trouble with Duchamp is that his pronouncents are coloured not only by his own work but the squillions of words written about it, many of which quite unjustifiably inflate his contribution to art. It is one those situations where a form of deification means that no one really dares to look at the truth.
    The truth being that at best Duchamp was only the first person in Western art to name the use of non-artist made elements "Ready mades".
    Chinese art had used the readymade (entire readymade objects) since BC, Chinese Japanese and Koreans have been doing it for centuries before Marcel Duchamp ever thought about it in a Western context, Picasso, Braque and others had used real things as themselves in artworks for sometime before Duchamp. It is one of the great examples of wooly thinking in Western Art, one of those lies that nobody dares to contradict.
    The crucial issue about this thread is that it is about that extaordinarily difficult to express situation that many artists have to find answers to. The occasional soppy or sloppy word here or there should not be the cause for people to jump up and down.
     
  78. I regret using the Marcel Duchamp quote for two reasons. Firstly, it has created a tangent to the main discussion of details in art and photography (the tangent being largely a discussion of the importance or not of Duchamp), and secondly, that it may not be the best way to state an uncertainty about my present take on Miksang, given an eventual further study of the subject.
    My personal preliminary evaluation of Miksang was not particularly positive. Rather than the Miksang concept of "adding nothing" to "pure perception", I prefer to consider the various elements of image content, seen or imagined (objects, light and dark, composition, sharp and out of focus and other components), together my own fantasies or mental constructs, in order to purposely construct what I happen to have in mind when confronted with, or having partially spatially organized, a particular scene. The act of creating something (imagination) from something (original perception or viewing). "Seeing and conceiving."
    There is nothing new in what I am saying, of course. I state it simply to suggest that Miksang is not the only approach to attempting to create art from, or with, details.
     
  79. Ok, we can leave all that Duchamp stuff behind. When it comes to Miksang, I'm neither practitioner nor advocate.
    I do better with a definition when I also know what it excludes. How would you define impure perception? Does it lead to more complex/textural compositions per se?
     
  80. jtk

    jtk

    Luis,
    For the moment I've done my best to suggest the photographic issues that concern me.

    I'm interested in my own current photography. I'm not interested in handy-dandy quotes from popular photographers. Different strokes.
    Luis, earlier you mentioned your teaching failure with some sort of Minor White material or experience...tell us about that. We've all failed: When I was shooting 8X10 every other sheet was tossed....I can't begin to do the math about 4G cards!
    I've never paid much attention to White's writing (that 1963 piece is plenty), but I've had wonderful learning experience with a dozen of his students. More than anything else, their attitude toward photography impacted me. They all thought their experience with White was centrally important, and they didn't all pursue photography subsequently...many moved into new ventures, such as writing, teaching, performance, and various trades. IMO photography isn't a terminal state unless it's turned into a collection of quotations...which is a death trip.
    Many here know how relaxation techniques and quite attention-paying can contribute. That's the essence of the hypnosis Gene Saunders taught to Minor White, and that Minor White used and taught to his students, and that I experienced with one of his students (I had been trained in it previously at Sausalito Behavior Therapy Institute). It's a lot like za zen, not rocket science. Gene mentioned his own practical use of it related to the stress he faced in simple travel to work, and in retail sales.
    For me photography is a personal discipline and perspective, like zen or physical training... it's closely related to the physical aspect of Sufi Islam, which is of course directly related to Minor White's involvement with Gurdjieff groups. I've learned more from photography than I've learned "about" photography. I think we all do our own versions of that discipline, unless we're just reading about it.

    I don't sit za zen. I'm not interested in spiritual bla bla. From what I've seen, zen practitioners frequently avoid spirituality (they're often athiests, like many Buddhists). But I'm increasingly happy with my photography: it's evidently got a life of its own and I'm following it.
    Luis, do some photography. Tell us about it. You don't need me.
     
  81. Luis-
    "Impure perception" means very little to me. I certainly don't think of that as an opposite of "pure perception" (à la Miksang), at least not in the sense of "seeing (things that others don't see) and conceiving" (is that what you think Miksang photographers would call "impure?"), which for me is an integral part of photography and the art of details.
    Alas, this discussion of details in photography or art, and the related "seeing things that others don't see", do not seem to be generating many ideas from other posters, and in particular how such ideas influence their personal photography. I acknowledge that this is not as easy to do as to say.
    Perhaps we could use another forum, "Personal philosophies of Photography", which might run parallel to the current forum. The actual forum, with some exceptions, seems more apt at discussing how OTHERS formed their philosophies of art and photography, and not how the Photo.Net members conceive of them.
     
  82. Arthur, I'm sorry the respondents are not thinking in ways you would like them to, but at least they're interested in your topic. This thread has gone to eighty responses, which isn't bad, and with relatively little thread drift. A lot of people read and donated their time and effort to your post. Delete all the ones that weren't done as you would want them done, and you'd have maybe a dozen responses.
    I use degrees of emphasis on detail, and can handle my pictures being of either kind (more or less, no pun intended!), depending on a lot of factors. I tend to integrate all the elements within the frame, not just the details, though they matter. I pay a lot of attention to negative space, too. Dead weight is far easier to detect in sparse compositions, yet harder to manage in complex ones.
    Personally, I brought up Miksang because of the pictures, which I mistakenly thought might be of interest to your theme, not the philosophy. Once again, I haven't studied, practiced, or advocated Miksang.
    In my opinion, the initial samples you provided, while personal, did not serve well as examples of the theme. At least two people thought the "more" picture was stronger. And we spent our time and efforts to tell you why.
    Many agreed with and validated your expression that less can be more. I disagree with Carle's and your idea of seeing things that others do not see. Not entirely, but enough to significantly differ. Philosophically speaking, I am from the school that it's not so much about seeing what others see or don't see, but how one looks at it. I do not believe that the hardest things to see are esoteric, unique, or in exotic locations, but under our very noses.
    At one AM, just now, during that one minute, 3,400 pictures were uploaded to Flickr. Sometimes that goes well over 10,000/min. Multiply that by years, and soon one would realize that everything that can be photograph probably has been.
    In practical terms, it's hard to go wrong with being efficient, and paying attention to details. It's where the Devil resides.
     
  83. John, I practice meditation. I don't preach spirituality. But you should have known that already. I do make pictures, always have. Obviously, I don't talk nearly as much about myself or my work as others here do, and that has become a problem.
    Before leaving this thread, a quick answer to some of your questions...
    I had problems with the MW teachings. There were key concepts that I understood, but disagreed with, like the "dominant" picture, which as you probably remember, is central to MW, but I found analogous and too close to the Decisive Moment in some ways. Too Modernist, and too close to an ideal for me. And I constantly had to be en garde for things my mentor added unwittingly to what was MW's, one of the reasons he generously gave me a copy of the book of notes, for which I am forever grateful. Frankly, the initial workshop time was dizzying, totally overwhelming, like a Boot Camp of sorts, but this was MW's pace. Several of his other students mentioned it. Things like his notion of preparation, concentration, made one a lot more efficient, and reduced visual "warm-up" time considerably. The idea of walking around in a receptive instead of projective state, listening to, instead of imposing, ideas also made a big diference. My pictures mysteriously became more varied and eclectic as a result, though still all mine. I also learned a lot about reading pictures, not so much directly, but MW's rigorous viewer training displaced where I was at, and I ended up being freed, and able to develop my own abilities. I became fluent in the ZS, which, aside from its importance in the age of film, is very useful in the digital age.
    Need you, John? Hey, don't overdo it.
    Anyway, it hasn't been much fun today for me here. It feels like I am a total misfit because of how I think, which I have zero intention of changing. I am wasting my time and PN's bandwidth here. Even though it's allowed by the TOUs, it's not in reality. Arthur's right: This should be the Personal Philosophy of Photography Forum.
     
  84. jtk

    jtk

    What is the difference between Philosophy of Photography and Personal Philosophy of Photography?
    Luis, thanks for your last two insightful posts.
     
  85. John, I am surprised that you of all must ask the question of your recent post.
    I believe that philosophy in this forum should be less the thoughts of others (of well known philosophers, artists and all), but more the expression of the philosophy of the person who speaks ("personal philosophy"). If I want the former I know where to look. Some recent posts on the other thread, on Fantasy, come a bit closer to expressions of personal philosophy, but in general we seem to be much happier in repeating the philosophies of others and not ourselves. Maybe that's safer? In any case, perhaps you might reflect on whether or not for you, others, and admittedly sometimes for me, it may be a paradigm of these discussions.
    Which is how I perceive it.
    I too appreciate Luis' discussion, but not for his personal enunciation of philosophy, except perhaps for some of his values related to photography. I don't agree with him that only some dozen responses to this post are of value. They all are, in their own way (there is no "right" response). There are many things that might come out of the discussion that are still latent. I hope though that some personal philosophy of art and details might be more forthcoming, but that may have to wait until many of us have thought through our own philosophies of art.
     
  86. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I asked because I mistakenly thought "Personal Philosophy" was intended as this Forum's substance...so have tried to express myself in personal terms, indicating that I'm exploring rather than attempting to make the classic linear philosophic connections (if this, and this, then therefore that). I don't recall claiming I was "right": I regularly indicate the tentative or iffy nature of my ideas.


    Paradox, doubt, and complexity...even confusion...attract me, that's for sure. They're anathema to some, but I find them closer to "truth" than most "answers" are.
    It's evidently easy to confuse "personal" and "opinion" and "thought" and "philosophy" and "perception" and "photography" and "photographic quotes."
    My photography derives substantially from curiosity about myself and my world, and from the technical characteristics of perception, than from anything nominally philosophic. To the extent that I adhere to any "ism" it's probably "existentialism."
     
  87. Let there be no doubt: Here is what this forum is in fact about, as per its charter:
    "What is the Philosophy of Photography? It's more about the "why" of photography (sic) then the "how". It encompasses ethical, aesthetic and sociological aspects of the subject."
    I don't see the word "personal" anywhere, do you?
    People bitch about my (or others) sometimes being impersonal, not talking enough, or in the "right" way, about myself or my pictures, or focusing on theory or the philosophy of others too much, but if not in this forum, where? Again, if one wants to make the "personal" the law of the forum, or to make everyone conform,then get the charter changed. Until then, with all due respect, it's just not. It's not even mentioned.
    Apparently, I'm not conforming to this forum's unwritten rules, and... I'm not about to. I'm in line with the charter, and unlike a few people, also with the Terms Of Use.
    Arthur, I meant that perhaps only a dozen posts came close to the 'personal' paradigm, nothing more. I agree that all were heartfelt contributions.
    I was a little taken aback yesterday, less so today. Sorry to have further derailed your thread, Arthur.
     
  88. jtk

    jtk

    Luis, you're right. As I said above, I mistakenly thought personal takes on photo-philosophy were the mandate.
    Therefore, I agree with Arthur's thinking...we need 2 Photo Philosophy forums...one of them Impersonal/Academic (or equivalent), the other Personal/Experiential.
    Can they co-exist? Do many really think answering academic questions with personal responses (re experiences) is likely to work any more than the converse:
    Q. "Here's my experience so I have this question"
    A. "Here's Mr. Famous Photographer's epigram"
    As I mentioned somewhere, I'd understood Minor White in personal/experiential terms.
    Say...maybe we need 3 Photo Philosophy forums...one just for opinions :)
     
  89. With John's line of thiking, I may not even need one Philosophy of Photography forum. If what John really wants is for me to be thrown out of here, he's welcome to try it. If he wants me to think like him, or post to suit him, it's never going to happen.
     
  90. And on and on and on....Maybe you can both work on one forum called the philosophy of john kelly vs the philosophy of luis g forum.Statler & Waldorf style.
    How about that ?
     
  91. To return to Arthur's theme... If we keep simplifying an image, we end up with a graphic. If less is more, then graphisme would be the mostest, no? I've made my share of this type of picture, long ago, particularly with longer focal lengths and flattened out perspective in city or country environments. I'm talking about planes interleaved like collages, blocks of colors and tones, and strong lines and angles. It's a very Modernist look.
    I wonder if the idea of less is more extends that far, or is there a spot or space where there's a line of diminishing returns?
    Since Arthur used the impersonal examples of Gibson and Kenna, I'll use this as an extreme example of a minimalist "less" type of picture:
    http://giannigalassi.typepad.com/
     
  92. Phylo wryly remarked: " And on and on and on....Maybe you can both work on one forum called the philosophy of john kelly vs the philosophy of luis g forum. Statler & Waldorf style.
    How about that ?"
    Frankly, Phylo, it feels more like being in an endless Spy vs Spy loop, just not half as funny.
    But let's be honest. John's gotten under your skin several times, Phylo, and you let him have it when your temper got short. But I get your point, this is a waste of PN bandwidth, & I know it's a waste of my time. Thanks for the heads-up.
     
  93. Luis G [​IMG], Dec 16, 2009; 04:12 p.m.
    Let there be no doubt: Here is what this forum is in fact about, as per its charter:
    "What is the Philosophy of Photography? It's more about the "why" of photography (sic) than the "how". It encompasses ethical, aesthetic and sociological aspects of the subject."
    I don't see the word "personal" anywhere, do you?
    Ever since reading this yesterday I've been thinking about it, something didn't quite ring true, because I feel that the "why" of photgraphy can imply the "personal" more than the "how"of photography.
    The title actually alows for it to be the philosophy of john kelly vs the philosophy of luis g forum. along with Arthur , me, John Cobbley and all.
    It also conveniently alows for the arguing methodologies to range from highly personal to totally objective - Very clever definition of the forum - No need to change it as it covers everything.
    Another thing that has been taxing my mind is that the idea of Less is More doesn't only mean extremely simple photographs. This is exemplified in the un-cropped and cropped pictures supplied, neither is more or less "less is More" than the other and if anything the cropped version, if I really wanted to argue, is less sparse because the many details take on the role of being clearly described individual things.
    But the whole LiM idea is not really about sparseness but, instead, economy and precision of expression. Given that the term originally came from painting and sculpture where people were fashioning images and had many choices about how they rendered volume, surface, texture etc we have to realise that photgraphy by definition eliminated that side of the question all together as it simply records how light and colour fall on a subject.
    You could say that a main feature of photgraphy is that the machine automatically produces "less is more" images. In other words its a given.
    Purge the colour out of an image and you've done another automatic LiM.
    Because the details in the cropped picture have now become full blown things it is really a "what you see is what you get" picture and has nothing to do with LiM.
    These pictures should have got us questioning the validity of cropping on this occasion because if we go through all mentions of a personal view it is not hard to form the opinion the artist should have seen that image and taken that picture, rather than finding it, maybe as a bonus, in the original.
    All the best Clive
     
  94. Luis has provided a good example of a minimalist "graphic-architectural" approach, which he rightly says takes the detail to an extreme point. I once enjoyed visualising the world in the manner that G does (sorry, I forgot the gentleman's full name...) and pursued that for a while. I personally find that while the approach is interesting graphically and he does it very competently, it does not communicate much to me and I fatigue quite quickly.
    The use of detail has been proposed by other artists who I believe want to combine it with the communication of subtler and perhaps more meaningful visual messages that illicit deeper responses from both the artist and the viewer. At least, that is what is likely their intent, and increasingly mine, as I think that photography is well suited to it.
     
  95. "These pictures should have got us questioning the validity of cropping on this occasion because if we go through all mentions of a personal view it is not hard to form the opinion the artist should have seen that image and taken that picture, rather than finding it, maybe as a bonus, in the original." (Clive)
    Clive, thanks for reviewing the basis of the forum. I agree with all you say on that and detail in art, but would like to point out that most of the examples we have been using here in regard to photography are not CROPPED images but two differing perceptions by the photographer from the same overall scene. One is more detail because he wanted that part only. It says something different.
    Same subject yes, but just like an uncut stone which may have differing internal veins and texture, the sculptor might decide to form a work that includes most, or appreciably less, of the stone and of the internal/external structure, while maintaining a similar overall concept of creation. They are both intended different yet are somewhat similar, but the smaller one is not "cut-down" from the larger.
    I think that less is not necessarily more, but it can have a different and sometimes greater "power" or impact on the viewer.
     
  96. Clive - What a good diplomat you would make. I have much to learn from you. Maybe some of your gentlemanly manner will rub off, God knows I could use it.
    CMW - " But the whole LiM idea is not really about sparseness but, instead, economy and precision of expression."
    That was one of the things that hadn't been made clear in my mind. They're two different things, and what tipped me off to that possibility was Arthur's inclusion of Kenna. That aspect of LiM has been with us for a long, long time.
    CMW - " You could say that a main feature of photgraphy is that the machine automatically produces "less is more" images. In other words its a given."
    Whoa...not sure I agree with that, except maybe in a relational way to other media. I would definitely disagree with the purging of color. Many color photographs would not work as B&Ws.
    Arthur - " The use of detail has been proposed by other artists who I believe want to combine it with the communication of subtler and perhaps more meaningful visual messages that illicit deeper responses from both the artist and the viewer. At least, that is what is likely their intent, and increasingly mine, as I think that photography is well suited to it."
    Arthur, at times (like above) it sounds like you've already taken this a lot further than you're telling. Is there a budding movement, or group underfoot? Manifesto? I brought up Gianni's work, not because I personally like it or found it unusually strong, but was testing, feeling along your line of thought to understand what you mean better.
     
  97. jtk

    jtk

    Clive: "It also conveniently alows for the arguing methodologies to range from highly personal to totally objective - Very clever definition of the forum - No need to change it as it covers everything."
    YES.
     
  98. jtk

    jtk

    ... this discussion of cropping and "less is more" machines is timely, relating directly to "Evidence," the famous (to some) collaboration of the recently deceased Larry Sultan with Mike Mandel.
    Another PofP thread refers to Larry Sultan
     
  99. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Very clever definition of the forum - No need to change it as it covers everything.​
    Except equipment. :)
    Concentrated is more. Less can be more concentrated. The eye arrested by a single element is the eye absorbing more, perhaps.
     
  100. The introduction of Larry Sultan is indeed timely, because it really highlights the "problems" that have always faced photography as an art form. The fact that photographic images are used so widely by some many different sections of the community for so many reasons makes the artist's choice extremely difficult. Add in a touch of Sultan's subversive take that highlights our inclination to attempt to find meaning or interpret images and the problems get further exaggerated.
    The "Evidence" pictures come with an alarmingly dispassionate or clinical aesthetic, which is automatically associated with objectivity. (implying that there is a point to each picture)
    This reminds me that the media (sorry to be so general) creates an aesthetic for each war which has the ability to set a context and trigger the viewer's receptors.
    There are, as we know, many aesthetic formats that do this and threading our way through the minefield of implications is one of our most difficult jobs as we just can't allow our work to be placed in the "wrong" context, genre, club. Because of the huge number of images that we see we develop our own personal system to rapidly sort what we are actually prepared to look at.
    In many ways this is extremely dangerous because it closes our minds. One of the stranger things about these photoforums is that they have caused a whole lot of over the top enthusiast aesthetics, some of which each show some fine art photography pedigree. Now while Sultan and others introduced non-art aesthetics, my guess is that currently the most fertile area for artists to exploit is the one they hate the most............
    In Less is More terms an aesthetic that automatically transports a viewer into a massive range of in-the-mind experiences has got to be one of the tools we'd be very prepared to use.
    Clive
     
  101. I think that any discussion of someone else's work (e.g. Sultan), and in this case in regard to the power or impact of detail in art and photography, should be presented with photographic examples. Much of the discussion is tangential to the main theme, partly so because it seems to involve concepts that are opaque to most ears or perhaps intended mainly to impress a particular following. Why not a few photographs of the artist to communicate the pertinence of his or her work and its philosophical connection?
    Are the photographic examples also opaque? Luis has brought some of the discussion back to the original thread, which then was warped over to the question of what constitutes the definition of this forum and then, from Clive (who normally provides quite clear and personal viewpoints), the discussion without introduction of some photographer named Sultan. How is he using detail in art? Examples? I realize that it is hard to come across with personal examples or personal philosophies, but if those are ignored please give some photographic examples of the artists mentioned.
    Luis-
    Thanks for your interest in my photographic approach to the subject of the thread. My extra-photographic experience has involved a number of decades as a scientific researcher and this has imbued me with a desire to seek answers, to research, and to discover and try new things. It is an on-going challenge to do what I have indicated. In art, I do have a great interest in the interaction of fantasy, personal philosophy and values and the creation of the image, and in the use of minimal subject matter to communicate bigger issues, little visited situations, and reflections on mankind, his products and his interaction with the physical world.
    I am piloting no movement at present. I think that if ever my attempts were to be considered in that sense I would sense failure of communication with the viewers, as I believe movements tie down an artist, reduce his or her freedom and serve often primarily to provide a support group for sollicitation of grants and peer comments or to convince the great unwashed public of the value of some art form and interpretation.
    I will look and see if I want to present some other images that support this theme. I was hoping of course that other examples than mine might be presented to provide separate takes on the theme. These might be accompanied by the what, how, and why of the creators.
     
  102. Incidentally, my questioning of the use of this forum (Being in most cases 3rd person philosophies, rather than the philosophy of the posters themselves) was in a small part incited by the presence of the only sub-grouping supplied by Photo.Net to date: "History of philosophy of photography".
    That in itself says something.
     
  103. Sorry Arthur.
    John Kelly introduced Larry Sultan a couple of posts ago, I've been addressing the Less is More part of this thread more than the detail side of it:
    http://theexposureproject.blogspot.com/2009/06/contemporary-reading-of-evidence.html
    But now you mention it "Evidence" seems to be primarily about detail, albeit of the conceptual kind, the pictures are in effect all out of context and are probably parts of a whole (which we never get to see). We are given a bland detail with no title, no help is provided so our imaginations go wild trying to invent the correct context for the images we are given to look at.
    It is like being given the script of just one actor in a play and never seeing what everybody else get to say.
    In this way one detail can generate numerous "wholes"
     
  104. Arthur - It does seem like you've thought this "less is more" thing out further than you've let on. I do not mean that as a form of dogmatism, or rigid exoskeleton, but as a fluid, living, personal conceptual structure. I'm just doing my best to understand where you're at, and I may be totally off-base, but it feels like there's more. I agree this is well worth further exploration, and you know I agree with you on furnishing examples.
    As to the forums, it seems they're divided between two kinds of people. Those that tolerate others expressing themselves (as long as they comply with the TOUs and forum charters), and those that do not.
    Clive - " my guess is that currently the most fertile area for artists to exploit is the one they hate the most............"
    Yes.
    Clive - " We are given a bland detail with no title, no help is provided so our imaginations go wild trying to invent the correct context for the images we are given to look at."
    Conceptual horrovacuity. Sultan understood very well the function of art as a psychic generator, and was an expert at tuning that point where signal and noise get close enough to unlock the fetters of reason.
    Clive - " Because of the huge number of images that we see we develop our own personal system to rapidly sort what we are actually prepared to look at. In many ways this is extremely dangerous because it closes our minds."
    It is dangerous. As to whether it closes one's mind, I think that depends a lot on the individual, but it is unarguable that the sheer torrent of images around us, if nothing else, tends to desensitize us to certain types of imagery, and set up filtration to keep out the visual locusts.
     
  105. Congratulations Luis - for, horrorvacuity not a word that I'd come across before, not a word that was in my dictionary and only a couple of other references to it ever being used before on Google. I like it a lot, though I had a sort of gut feeling that there was something tautological when it was teamed with "conceptual' - but couldn't actually make it stick.
    Last night I went to an art gallery opening:
    http://www.wellington.vic.gov.au/Page/page.asp?Page_Id=1069&h=0
    The show I went to see was the Vernon Ah Kee, but as the link shows there's a photography show on too - Disappearers. Very impressive but more to the point almost entirely devoted to our current dicussion. Sadly the whole show is not on the net and you would have google each artist.
    I've included this link to one of the sets of photos that are in the show
    http://www.izabelapluta.net/worksmenuframe.htm
     
  106. jtk

    jtk

    I decided against purchase of Sultan's 3X4 Graflex reflex. IHe'd been photographing freeway on-ramps, presumably on the road to, uh, horrorvacuity. The 3X4 was one of those photographic red-haired step children that mestasticize on shelves. I think he'd adapted it to Polaroid. The shutter seemed OK but everybody knew, even then, that 3X4 was doomed, and I wasn't interested in Polaroid. Anyway, what I wanted was a 4X5 Super D.
     
  107. Clive - No big deal, really. I've been using it for a quarter century. It's a useful idea to describe something one often encounters in the art world (and elsewhere). I made what seemed to you, but not to me, a needlessly repetitive distinction between the visual manifestation of the idea as opposed to the idea itself. BTW, as far as I know, horror vacuity is two words, horrovacuity is the singlet.
    I see what you mean with Ms. Pluta's work. I think it is in line with Arthur's notion.
    The Desert Cantos by Richard Misrach fit in with this...
    http://www.utata.org/salon/20487.php
    As opposed to Friedlander's Sonoran series:
    http://blog.adnanchowdhury.com/post/199356100/review-on-looking-at-lee-friedlanders-book-the
    Both masterworks, but very different philosophically with respect to Arthur's point. For Friedlander more is more, Misrach opts for the LiM approach.
     
  108. My December 17th semi-diatribe grew out of a long day of weary driving and the gloom of a less than palatial motel room at my stop-over point. My comments then were not too constructive and I hope not too impolite to those providing well thought out discussion. Since then I have read more carefully the comments of Clive, Luis and John, and have also visited the photographic creations of Sultan and Mendal.
    I think Clive has it in regard to the works of the latter. The details are interesting but the message is often incomplete. Clive's play analogy of one actor's script is a very good one. Perhaps the photographers have created that to incite us to interact more with the detail, to give it flesh, or perhaps they are more likely commernting on the lack of "Evidence" we must often confront in life? Luis' comment on Sultan, that he understood very well the function of art as a psychic generator, and was an expert at tuning that point where signal and noise get close enough to unlock the fetters of reason, adds another dimension to the use of detail, one which had not been addressed to date, I believe.
    "It is unarguable that the sheer torrent of images around us, if nothing else, tends to desensitize us to certain types of imagery, and set up filtration to keep out the visual locusts." This is an important sharing of opinion between Clive and Luis, as well as an important point of discussion, and I venture to think (yes, I do, occasionally...) that it may be a significant "raison d'etre" for the contemporary photographer to concentrate on details, which may be more directly absorbed by the viewer, or which may convey by their restricted image a message that is more singular and deeply etched.
    "Disappearers", a quite magical title, is perhaps relevant to details in photography. By concentrating on the absent figure in contemporary photography, it purports to stress the detail of the absent part (maybe the same could be said of Sultan's work?). Ms. Pluta provides a series of detail photographs (or photographs of installation elements) that would seem to require a reading of the whole, instead of the individual elements, in order that the meaning be grasped in full. The individual details do not seem to speak as strongly as the overall message of their combined tautological companions, or indeed not as much as some other individual detail photographs that succeed in doing that alone. Personally, I find that to succeed with the latter is a greater challenge.
    A quick look at the UTATA site Clive mentioned, and at some 2009 exhibitions and one destined for early 2010, shows Misrach's work, which is also compelling in respect of details in a more expansive scene, and in regard to the intent of its creator, but I particularly noted the piece of Chantal Faust (May through July 2009) called "The Children" and the photo of Ann Zahalka (early 2010 show) called "Marriage of Convenience" in the early 2010 program of an exhibition called "Hall of Mirrors". Her Van Eyck like photograph has several elements to it but the singular detail of interest is in the viewer's perceived relationship of the not very close standing couple and their apparent armour (by clothes type) and detachment.
    We recognize immediately some colleagues or acquaintances by a twich, a body physical characteristic, a voice tone, or some other detail. The perception of the whole individual may be recalled by the small detail that announces his or her presence. Can a detail in a photograph provide a similar experience? Can the absence of a detail in another (as per the "Disappearers" exhibition apparent theme) do the same?
    I remember my first sight of the Battalia site in Portugal (I think it was near Coimbre). The unfinished monastery was lit by a soft and very warm late afternoon sun, sublimely attractive, but that wasn't the main eye-arrester for me. The staunch character in armour on horseback (the King who defeated the Moorish army), holding absolutely vertical and calmly his long sword, isolated in the middle of the large square opposite the monastery, had a very strong effect. This was not just the hero (detail), but an image of a whole nation, and a turning point in Portugese Medieval history. The Iwo Jima flag raising, not with a full battle ensuing in the background but simply a few soldiers on a summit, is perhaps similar in impact.
     
  109. Many very interesting thoughts on the concentration on details in art and photography have been generously offered, and it is worth reading over the comments. Here are just a few, from the first week only and not recalled in any attempt at conclusion (Should one ever conclude a discussion of philosophical nature?), but more to uncover other thoughts or examples on the subject.
    (John K) : « Someone quoted Gertrude Stein saying something like "artists notice important things that others may miss, such as grass growing through cracks in sidewalks." (I can't find that quote online... heard it on the radio of a 1972 Volkswagen, passing through Santa Rosa, CA in 1982 or so...remembered it, sort of). »
    « To me, "less is more" has to do with expressiveness or coherence of the information rather than relative amount of information. »
    (Fred G) : « I do find that many doing portraits come in very close, almost to where all they capture are the eyes, and often I don't find them compelling portraits. It's as if some photographers rely on the extreme closeup for expression instead of actually expressing something. A closeup of eyes is not necessarily proof of the adage that "the eyes are the mirror of the soul." Sometimes, you need more to go with eyes in order to make them speak, or at least you need to capture the eyes in a particularly compelling way. »
    (Luis G) : « There's energy and access to the viewer's mind in simplifying and paring down. The process of art is mostly a reductive one, and this kind of image emphasizes that. An image stripped bare by its author has fewer elements to wade through, and less dead weight. It's a refuge from the apparent chaos and usual noises of the real world. »
    (Julie H) : « I'm reminded of the old question (that I am going to hash up) about how long should one's legs be? Long enough to reach the ground. Some songs are perfect when barely heard hummed under the breath; others require a full orchestra. »
    (Phylo D) : « I would say that completion of the image ( the question of the "more" vs the "less", both by viewer and photographer ) is achieved, not when there is nothing more to be added, but when there's nothing more to be taken away. »
     
  110. You might find this short video also interesting, in context to the thread, it's about how Joel Meyerowitz describes his view of description in photography, and the less & more in it ( he sees the detail in the power of more ) :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24X3YPmhpsE&feature=related
     

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