Do your photographs objectify?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jun 23, 2010.

  1. Photographs have the power to objectify and exploit. Do you notice a line, in your own photographing, between objectification of subjects (people, places, things, situations) and exploitation of them? How would you characterize the difference? Do you judge objectification negatively? Exploitation?
    Luca Remotti observed recently that all photographs probably objectify. In that sense, it does not seem a negative, just a part of photographing. But it's also a matter of degree. When objectification takes place without awareness and in such a way as to degrade or diminish the subject, it can be offensive.
    I intentionally objectify people sometimes. I try to do it with consciousness and to achieve something human. I "use" people and try to go beyond mere use. I hope I avoid base exploitation when I establish some sort of connection to my subject. (It can be a connection established just in the photograph, not necessarily verbally or directly with the subject).
    I think homeless people are too often objectified, used for immediate gratification of pathos, yet I've seen many fine photos of homeless people that connect me to them as individuals or that significantly document what is happening on our cities' streets. I think women (and men) are objectified in many nude photographs, yet I've seen fine photos of nude women and men that go beyond such objectification. And it doesn't always have to be by connecting me to the woman or man as a person. Some nude "studies" do it. This probably goes back to what kind of "gesture" the photograph or photographer seems to be making.
    When I first started photographing, I often hid in shadows snapping pics of people unaware. Aside from it giving me an uneasy feeling after a time, I noticed distance in my photos: not aesthetic distance . . . emotional distance. They felt static, lacking in a kind of kinetic (not necessarily literally moving . . .) energy I now seek.
     
  2. Fred, to me, the line you draw between objectified and going beyond that is very fine, or very broad and grey... Tricky, with a lot of risk of just talking something slightly different....
    So, my take on it may miss the mark with regards to your starting point, but then again, that would still leave ground for discussion. I hope.
    Objectify, yes, and in a large extend I think that it is inherent to photography. A photo tends to loose something that a "real life moment" does have, and that is its uniqueness. That one single moment... once captured it's repeating itself. It "becomes" an example/representation of what it shows, rather than staying what it shows. It's not John Doe, it is a portrait of John Doe. John Doe is an unique person, but we could shoot countless portraits of him, showing John Doe as an object, but none of the portraits will actually be John Doe. And some of those portraits maybe are taken in such a way that it's representative for all John Does in the world. Regardless, there is a huge level of objectification, I think. Literally, a photo looses a dimension.
    So, to me, there is little negative to judge about it. It's what the black box with light sensitive material does.
    Exploit it, not for my own photography, but mainly because of subject choice. There is little to exploit in what I shoot. Anyway, exploiting it is more a matter of use, presentation, interpretation. I do not see it as an inherent value of the photo itself. Photos of homeless people are seen as "complaints that rich countries let people out in the cold like this", or "how life can point the wrong way".... It may be the intent of the photographer, it may be the inabaility to connect and show them as normal humans, rather than homeless. It may be you, as a viewer, who sees it (while the photographer never put it there). It's outside of the photo, it's interpretation.
     
  3. jtk

    jtk

    Fred's "hid in shadows" phrase has a lot to do with objectification.
    If we're hiding in shadows, literally or metaphorically, we're not engaged with the subject or photographic concept ... perhaps that means we're objectifying it. I doubt sculptors would generally say they're "objectifying" when they carve stone...it's so tactile.
    I don't think "all photos probably objectify."
    #1, A logical thinker can't combine that "all" with "probably." It's a crippled construct. A logical thinker could combine "most" with "probably" whether or not she was saying anything worth attention: "Most photos of Grand Canyon are probably tourist snaps" vs "All photos of Grand Canyon are probably tourist snaps.
    #2 Many photographs engage rather than objectify. Most of what "we" love about them has to do with that, IMO. For example, Fred seems to have seen homeless photos that engaged him. I think engagement eliminates objectification, can't cohabit with it. Some will say that this is a matter of degree, like "relative evil" or "a little pregnant." But I don't think calibration like that is as reliable or rewarding as making my own judgement calls, taking those risks ... and reflecting later.
    I usually try to find more than a written summary of subject might (just as Fred seems to)...maybe that's something puzzling, maybe emotional, maybe ephemeral. I work so hard to make and print the few photographs that matter to me that I know I'm engaged, rather than objectifying.
     
  4. How do you define "engaged" in terms of street photography? Making sure the subject is aware he/she is being photographed? Asking permission? Can't there be some value in an unaware subject? I think you could catch someone laughing with delight unaware of the camera in a way that you'd never get if they knew the camera was there, and still maintain an emotional connection with the subject. Similarly, someone expressing grief...it's unlikely someone in that circumstance would wish to be photographed, but the resulting image could very easily generate a strong emotional connection with the subject.
     
  5. Fred, my motivation in a photograph is to objectify. But clearly not just to turn a subject in front of the camera into an object. If that was all I felt an image accomplished it would fall on the wrong side of the line for me. If I see or sense that I have objectified an emotion an insight an experience, humanity, spirituality etc. then I am satisfied. Then my measure becomes aesthetic and other qualities. But to give 'concrete' (in my eyes) meaning to the emotion etc is objectification that is good, very good for me.
    To objectify and or exploit homeless is similar to objectifying a sunset to me. Most often a built in energy level that is ineffective on me. Works for many but leaves me wanting. May be pretty, may be sad but I want more. I want the 'objectify' that reveals more than the mere object. But of course I do have countless object pictures.
     
  6. Jay, I think you've answered your own question well. No, I don't have to ask permission and the subject need not be aware of me or the camera. Yes, there can be value in an unaware subject. Connection is my answer, too . . . photographic connection. I think many street shooters (at least in the PN street forum) put way too much a premium on "candid." "Candid" doesn't always reach out and touch me.
    John, I like your picture of the sculptor carving. There's a sense in which a sculptor is making a heavy object . . . objectifying. In a more significant sense, he is not.
    Wouter, I agree that objectification, of a sort, is probably inherent to photography. Others won't see that as objectification. They will call it artistic distance or something like that. I understand your saying that a photo loses something that the "real life moment" has. Your thought leads me also to say that a photo may gain something that a "real life moment" doesn't have. I think, when a photo ONLY loses, it is likely to be objectifying in a negative sense, even becoming exploitive. When it also gains, or adds to the moment, or at least preserves the moment, it is probably less negatively objectifying.
    I have trouble with your statement: "It's outside of the photo, it's interpretation." I don't want to rehash the metaphysical "what's in the photo and what's not in the photo" discussion the forum recently addressed. I'll stipulate that no meaning and no interpretation is actually in the photo. But what one interprets are usually a series of signs, otherwise one couldn't interpret. I think people can come to some agreement about different signs in photographs that show exploitation of homeless people. Not always, but generally speaking, pointing your camera down at someone tends to have a less "engaged" effect. Shooting from a distance with a zoom often seems more objectifying than shooting more closely. I think the photo itself plays a significant role in the interpretations. Some viewers are visually less savvy than others and will greet photos with only their own prejudices and predispositions intact, not being open to actually seeing the signs placed before them by the photographer.
     
  7. If one thinks photography 'represents' -- re-presents an object -- one will accept the notion that a photograph "objectifies". I think photography 'describes' objects, and so am not certain photography objectifies.
    The idea that a photograph 're-presents' is very common. Most non-photographers act as if photos re-present. Casually, at least, most photographers do (which leads me to think it is a deep-seated species-response to descriptivie images generally and probably as old as the hills). It seems a lot like the proverbial 'savage's' reaction on seeing a photo of himself: 'You stole my soul".
     
  8. Josh, I appreciate the addition of making concrete. I think emotions, insight, experience, spirituality become visual signs, symbols, and embodiments in photographs. Concretizing is perhaps one of the special purviews of photographs. It's interesting how making concrete and transcending can go hand in hand. Taking this a step further, say with the photo of the nude woman, if something else other than her womanness is objectified (concretized), that will go a long way in making for a more compelling and less exploitive photograph.
     
  9. Fred, yes, the inside/outside line is a bit too hard in my first post. Your analysis on it is sound, and most certainly the photo iself plays a very significant role in the interpretation. Rephrasing what I meant: it takes a viewer to make the exploiting work.
    As for the objectifying, sure it can gain something. The uniqueness it loses can be replaced with something more universal or long-lasting. I did not mean to imply it is a one-way street, though rereading I understand it seems that way.
     
  10. jtk

    jtk

    I think the idea of "homeless" intrudes an interpersonal/values/politeness aspect that steals attention from Fred's more fundamental question about "objectification."
    Objectifying a human being seems nothing like objectifying a flower (whatever that means).
    My "sculptor-with-stone" metaphor referred to the first third of an equation: something being envisioned or discovered or created by a human being.
    The second third involves the sculpture (or photograph) "itself." That can't be appreciated without whatever's in the brain of the viewer. It may not even exist (tree falling in forest metaphor).
    Appreciation/recognition/awareness is the third part. That's not necessarily "interpretation," which I think means verbalization. "Oh, poor homeless waif!"
    I don't know what it means to "objectify" a non-human subject...I think that's not the right word if we're talking about "photograph-of" vs "photograph qua photograph."
     
  11. "I don't know what it means to "objectify" a non-human subject."
    I don't know either, but I'll take a shot at it: photos of flowers in a florist's ad. Maybe a flower macro? Some Nature photos?
     
  12. Fred,
    (I was thinking of posting this question, thank you for doing it for me).
    When I posted it under Igor's photo I was reacting to Pnina Evental's remark on objectified women and I think it is clear what she meant. It's a common use of the term.
    What I wanted to say actually is that there are other types of subjects which can be made to objects, apart from nude females.
    In our common conception, considering a human an object has an extremely negative significance. Objectifying is usually associated with marketing, with using, with reaping some sort of egoistic advantage.
    In that sense Fred, I do not think you really objectify your human subjects when you photograph. As far as I have understood from our conversations and posts, you get into a relationship with your subjects - and that is clear when I look at your photos. You say that you no longer photograph people from a distance. This means that you get involved with your subjects, that you create a relationship in any case.
    (There is a very active "street photographer" here who takes almost all his street shots with a 180mm on a DX sensor: 270mm. He does not get involved with his subjects and his photos show that in an absolute clear way.)
    I personally aim at "getting involved" with (most) of my subjects. This does not mean that I ask for permission or that I start a conversation, but they can see me, sometimes only after I have taken the shot, but I'm visible.
    But we might consider "objectification" in another, more subtle way. This has to do with the creation of an icon (the photograph) of our subjects and the more or less unconscious appropriation of a part of the person/subject we photograph by means of this icon.
    When we photograph a subject, in some way we appropriate something of this subject, even if we don't take away anything physical.
    In brief:
    • there might be an objectification for "marketing" or "usage" purposes.
    • and there might be objectification because we want to appropriate something which comes in our way. We want to make it our own by means of a photograph.
    In this sense I would say, yes, photography is about objectification and appropriation.
    What vary are the level of personal engagement in the act of objectification and appropriation and the reasons for our appropriation.
     
  13. Wouter,
    it takes a viewer to make the exploiting work​
    Exactly. In this case, the photographer becomes the viewer. And he objectifies to view, and review, which is a means of appropriation.
     
  14. Luca, I agree with you that we commonly use "objectification" negatively, toward "using" and egoistic advantage or marketing. One of the reasons I brought this subject up is to fine tune my own thoughts about it. And, as a photographer, I do often feel a tension between participating in those relationships you talk about and, at the same time, objectifying as well. Yes, relationships with my subjects are significant to me but I am also aware of looking at my subjects as objects. I often try to establish something human and certainly I engage most of the people I photograph, yet I am in touch with the curves of their bodies, the texture of their skin, the muscles and the way they're highlighted, sometimes playing intentionally with my middle-aged male subjects with clichés of how women or younger men might be photographed and objectified. There's a lot at play for me that's very much visual and objective, somewhat the way I might look at a flower or a piece of furniture. I really don't want to deny the part that might be seen as base objectification, which I feel is a companion to the more human relationship I establish.
     
  15. jtk

    jtk

    I wonder if Luca's use of "icon" isn't more to Fred's point than his own use of "objectification?"
    Fred?
    Perhaps my photos serve occasionally as icons for something that I've experienced but can't express verbally. I do print them in order to share them, similar to the reason New Mexico's "santeros" create "santos," folk sculptures of favorite saints.
    Greek and Russian Orthodox have literal icons but do not seem, in my limited exposure, to worship them. Whereas Roman Catholics sometimes do literally worship figures of Mary as well as appropriate saints (though RC priests deny that). The issue, which relates to the commandment against worship of idols, has to do with "objectifying" something important but ephemeral: Mary's intercession, Christ's suffering, the flamboyant way a particular saint died (eg shot full of arrows or burned alive), the Holy Spirit (objectified as a dove in pre-Renaissance paintings).
     
  16. I think Luca's use of "icon" adds to the discussion, but as you, John, said in the beauty thread recently, I am "hoping to avoid the usual semantic bullshit" so I don't think it valuable to get into which, if either, word is more to the point.
     
  17. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, that's OK. Still, I do wonder what something ephemeral or important becomes when it's "objectified."
     
  18. I'm wondering about photographs and how I make them.
     
  19. Per the dictionary, objectifying - besides its negative connotation - can mean to express something in a concrete form : good poetry objectifies feeling.
    I feel subjects, perhaps more than I see them when going out *looking for them* to be photographed. Like the subjects themselves are quite concrete I consider the photograph to make concrete and *objectify* the feeling / sensing that was evoked through / upon looking at the subject.
    The photograph objectifies, which doesn't have to mean that the subject photographed is being objectified ( in the negative meaning of the word ). So yes, my photographs objectify, by which I don't mean that they're good ( like in "good poetry..." ).
     
  20. I also think Luca's soft (subtle) use of "icon" adds to the discussion... an very interesting subplot.


    Fred ."..as a photographer, I do often feel a tension between participating in those relationships you talk about and, at the same time, objectifying as well." As a viewer of your work, it speaks to the tension. It is often what I get and like from your photos. Isn't that one way to objectify an emotion, experience, to make it concrete. By the very act of presenting your tension you have given me more than a body as an object.
     
  21. Phylo "I feel subjects, perhaps more than I see them when going out *looking for them* to be photographed." I feel see in your work the very thing you are describing. Your objectifying is the very thing that gives them life apart from the object, while accomplishing a distance and connection from the subject as an object.
     
  22. Both Josh and Phylo are going through an editing process of their PN portfolios. Their now-unseen portfolios have similarities in terms of their concreteness and also in terms of the intangibles (spirituality? . . . another word I hate for its connotations) they seem to deal with. Josh, thanks for seeing that tension I described in my work. What's clear about both your portfolios is that "good" is not your concern. When "good" is a concern, I think there's more likelihood of a negatively objectifying or exploitive photo. Ulterior motives can very much trump one's being in touch with their subject (even as object).
    Regarding my own photos, I do think I am talking about objectifying the subject photographed in addition to Phylo's view of the photograph objectifying, which I also think takes place. I own the objectifying of subjects I may go through in creating photos. I would reject such photos if that's all they did. I want more than that and have rejected many that only go that far. But, when they strike the right chord for me and express what I want to show or what is there to be shown that I find compelling, I can be very comfortable with whatever level of objectifying (even what some might consider the most base) has occurred. I may objectify a subject in service of a photo that does not limit itself to that.
     
  23. jtk

    jtk

    "I'm wondering about photographs and how I make them."
    I don't have that impression from the last post. No questions are asked or, from what I can see, implied. There's a confident statement about what two other photographers are doing... other confident statements are made about "rejecting," "owning," being "comfortable,""striking the right chord" and being "in service" of a photograph that evidently has its own identity independent of the photographer or viewer.. No questions are asked, no question marks are used. Does that suggest "wondering?"
     
  24. John, if you want to address the topic, I'd like to discuss it with you and others. If you want to address the way I address the topic, do it somewhere else.
     
  25. There is no such thing as "objectify" (or there is no such thing as not objectifying: same difference) but setting that minor detail aside for the moment, here is how I think [would] think of "objectifying" [if there were such a thing]:
    To objectify is to consume, use up, limit, make smaller, take part and throw out the rest. The builder uses the "woodiness" of the tree and throws out the rest of what a tree is. The diner uses the "meatiness" of the chicken and throws out the rest of what a chicken is. The photograph of a homeless person uses the homelessness and throws out the rest. And so forth. It removes, destroys, discards, wastes!, all the other, all the rest of what might be (have been) attributable to those phenomena; tree, chicken, homeless person.
    This is not to say that this kind of act is necessarily a diminishment. If used well, that which is consumed can be put to good use.
    Much more interesting, to me, is the ways in which the subject(s) of pictures objectifies him/her self. Which they/we (all) do all the time. Think of a dancer. Think of a flower (color and display intended to attract, etc.). Think of yourself; your clothes, your poses, your lingo, your whole self presentation.
    Much less interesting, and more irritating is where the photographer objectifies the viewer (and, by implication, himself). Think of all those pristine nature photographs, and politically biased/motivated pictures -- any strenuously affective pictures. If you start from my definition of objectifying, above, I think that it in this case, it is the viewer that is consumed, used up; being prompted to take one point of view and throw out the rest.
    All of which leads me back to my initial claim: that there is no such thing as objectifying, or more precisely, not objectifying. It's my belief that behind one mask you will find another and behind that, yet another. The kind of "objectify" that I think Fred is describing is an effort to peg one mask and throw out the others, but that's not so much a transformation as a choice or a valuation/privileging of one mask over, at the expense of, the others inherent (at the moment) to the pictured phenomena. I don't think you ever get "behind" some (final) mask. The best you can do, what is done in great photographs, in my opinion, is to simultaneously make clearly visible as many masks as possible and/ or masks that are particularly fascinating in combination -- of a given phenomena.
     
  26. I'm a big fan of masks and personas. Though it's often claimed that a good portrait should break through the persona to the "real" person or the "essence" of the person, I often prefer portraying and exploring masks and often think that by doing so I can get to what others mean when they say the "essence" of a person. I have played around a lot with masks, mostly figurative and a couple of literal ones. There is often something very honest and genuine about the masks we choose to wear or wind up wearing and the personas we choose to adopt or wind up adopting.
    As Luca did with icons, I think Julie has struck on a significant subplot in this story. Also significant is your idea, Julie, that subjects may objectify themselves. Many of the people I do portraits of tell me how much they like being "molded" (to come back to John's sculpture analogy) and, at least to some extent, letting go of control . . . they don't know exactly how they will be seen and portrayed. They enjoy their own intentional portrayal. I hadn't considered objectification of the viewer, which I think can take place as well, though of course a viewer can also be enlightened.
    I think the objectification I'm talking about and the masks Julie describes co-exist. One doesn't replace the other, though there may be overlaps. I don't think an actor necessarily objectifies himself when he adopts the mask. When he forgets to take it off after the performance (actors or others who are always ON), he is at more risk of objectifying himself. Now, one might say we are all always ON and so everything we do involves a mask, but I don't see it that way. Everything we do involves a context which affects how we see things. But, just as I usually know when someone is ON, I know when they are OFF as well, when they are being (to the extent they can be) themselves. There is a point in that continuum where I'm comfortable saying they've taken off their mask, and a point where I think some photographs can do that.
    Except when we're at a masquerade ball, the word "mask" is being used figuratively as is objectification in many cases. Josh and Phylo have significantly used "objectify" literally. Something made into an object, made concrete. A photo, among other things, is an object. Something concrete.
     
  27. I'm sure that if I stopped to consider this question before making any given photograph, the photograph would not be made. If my photographs objectify people, places or things, maybe that's because I objectify people, places or things. I'm much more comfortable making the shot and letting someone else figure it out for themselves. In the end, as has been stated above, the viewer will make his or her own conclusions about an image, regardless of whatever Truth is used to create it.
     
  28. Doug, I appreciate hearing how you work. I don't mind anywhere from a bit of to an extensive amount of questioning somewhere in the process of photographing. Sometimes it's in the moments leading up to a shot, more often it's while lying in bed before sleep, often when I'm in the shower. It's typically how I use this forum, which is specifically not when I'm photographing. Rather than a question like this getting in the way of my making photographs, I think of such questioning as a faithful companion. Questions can be a spur and I'm OK when final or complete answers don't come.
     
  29. HCB said he didn't like photographing actors because they are always posed. Those were the days. Following Julie's somewhat Baudrillardian comments, JB refers to Disfarmer's photos of sharecroppers and farmers who did not know what they'd look like photographed.
    “...who have no idea what they are going to look like (‘what they look like in a photo’). They don’t smile, they don’t cry, and the image does not cry for them”. JB
    Today, everyone poses; everyone knows what they look like photographed. JB calls 'the object', what we refer to here as 'the subject'. By posing one becomes 'objectified' by oneself. The distaste for the candid or street shot, seeing it as a "violation" or "invasion of privacy"-- to be "caught off-guard" expresses this very well. We know what we look like in a photograph because we pose, but the "off guard" shot may reveal something else that "objectifies" us in a way we did not intend. Like any celebrity, we want to control our image, our mask; we are all celebrities, today.
    http://athensboy.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/sup-wid-miley/ -- who was awhile back supposedly 'objectified', made a "sex object", by a famous photographer.
     
  30. Don,
    when I photograph people, on streets, at places, I realise that most of the time they don't care.
    I don't agree that
    Like any celebrity, we want to control our image, our mask; we are all celebrities, today.​
    It seems to me that most of the people around know just one perspective of them, which is the one of the mirror in their bathroom.
    Only those surrounding us have a real 360° view of ourselves. We might think which is our "best angle". The others would not care, they see all our angles. We might try to pose, but the effect is uncertain.
    I wonder who has such control over their appearance to be able to determine the level of objectification when photographed.
     
  31. "I wonder who has such control over their appearance to be able to determine the level of objectification when photographed."
    Besides Lady Gaga?
     
  32. Besides lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Mick Jagger, and the other real celebrities.
    I think we are talking about the ordinary here: ordinary photographers and ordinary subjects.
    And ordinary objectification (iconisation).
     
  33. Everyone is a "real celebrity" only most of us aren't very good at it. Because people don't seem to care whether you photograph them or not doesn't mean they -- we -- don't "want to control our image, our mask; we are all celebrities, today."
    Or perhaps, they've learned the pose of giving the appearance of ignoring the paparrazi...who knows what fantasies (I mean, besides your own) you've been involved in by just pushing the button.
     
  34. "By posing one becomes 'objectified' by oneself." --Don
    Most often, people who I photograph in "poses" tell me they feel liberated to do so. The objectification some of us are talking about is multi-dimensional. My sense of photographic posing is a joint effort between photographer and subject. We may create the pose together and there's usually some spontaneity thrown in as well.
    "The distaste of the candid or street shot, seeing it as a 'violation' . . ." --Don
    I'm not sure who has a distaste for candid street shots. I think many people think it a violation to be photographed without their permission. But that's the photographing part and I don't think it translates to a distaste for candid photographs. Many viewers seem to love those. Humans are inconsistent. The photographing is not the photograph. I think many street shots fail, not because of a violation but because of a lack of connection to me as viewer and a lack of showing me anything significant.
    Unlike HCB, I love photographing actors. They tend to be expressive and I like photographing expression and creating an expressive photograph using that expression. It gives me a couple of layers to work with. The thing about actors is that they still don't have complete control (or anything near it) when being photographed by a photographer who also has his or her own vision. The actor may shine through, the photographer's vision may trump the actor's self-imposed mask or pose, or it can be a creative collaboration. I try to be flexible and let it unfold all different ways.
     
  35. "Besides lady Gaga..."
    I named her not as a placeholder for any "real celebrity", but herself. Brad and Angie are fodder for supermarket tabloids, LG is one if she so decides to be. She could publish her own supermarket tabloid. Perhaps it is not Madonna but Cindy Sherman who blazed her trail. Takeshi Kitano has been 'lady gaga' in Japan for decades.
    Lady Gaga joins Kobayashi Hirofumi as a film photography Saviour: "I am so excited to extend myself behind the scenes as a designer, and to as my father puts it--finally, have a real job."
    http://www.polaroid.com/About/News/Press+Release:+Lady+Gaga+Named+Creative+Director+for+Specialty+Line+of+Polaroid+Imaging+Products/4339
     
  36. Luca, the reason I see iconization as a subplot of objectification is that I think icons typically represent and I don't think photos necessarily do. I think a photo often has the tendency to lose touch with its original context and therefore not represent. I think the change in context from the photographed to the photograph is very influential in terms of how photos operate. Photos look forward as much as back and they may create anew as well as presenting again.
    That being said, I find we use "iconic" in a variety of ways. One is as a sign whose very form suggests its meaning. That is eminently photographic and certainly would relate to many of the things we're talking about here. Another is that when many say "iconic" (John Ford utilized the iconic landscape and blue sky), they are referring to something approaching universal recognition or ultimate cultural familiarity. Ford's landscapes stand for the West, the expansion, and a lot more, and they bring together a culture around a shared history (and its myths).
    I think icons are more literal, more like analogies . . . one thing standing in for another. I think of photographs and objectification more metaphorically, although again I've been moved by Josh's and Phylo's very literal understanding of the concretizing effect of photographs.
    When I talk about objectification (of my own subjects), I am not talking about analogizing those subjects or having them stand in for something else (though I recognize that may also happen and may also happen simultaneously). I am talking about them becoming something or undergoing a change in character in themselves.
     
  37. "My sense of photographic posing is a joint effort between photographer and subject. We may create the pose together and there's usually some spontaneity thrown in as well."
    I think that is true. It is a joint effort. The photos I especially enjoy taking and viewing are my 'unseens' -- the photographer unseen by the subject and the subject unseen by the photographer. It is another kind of "joint effort"
    00Wjjr-254159584.jpg
     
  38. Don,
    Thanks for the lesson on celebrities. I guess I needed it badly.
    I thought we were discussing another topic. But next time I promise to be better documented.
    L.
     
  39. Luca: "It seems to me that most of the people around know just one perspective of them, which is the one of the mirror in their bathroom.
    Only those surrounding us have a real 360° view of ourselves. We might think which is our "best angle". The others would not care, they see all our angles. We might try to pose, but the effect is uncertain.
    I wonder who has such control over their appearance to be able to determine the level of objectification when photographed."
    And I replied: "Besides Lady Gaga?
    Luca replied: "Besides lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Mick Jagger, and the other real celebrities."
    And I replied: "I named her not as a placeholder for any "real celebrity", but herself."
    Luca: "Don, Thanks for the lesson on celebrities. I guess I needed it badly. I thought we were discussing another topic. But next time I promise to be better documented."
    It's the same topic. I think LG is topical to your comments above responded to, include having more than "just one perspective of them", and who demonstrates a "360° view of ourselves", who sees herself "from all our angles", and who determines "the level of objectification when photographed." LG is quite an interesting artist.
     
  40. "It seems to me that most of the people around know just one perspective of them, which is the one of the mirror in their bathroom."
    These days (these decades) they know themselves in photos and in videos and in a way that mirrors cannot due to their reversal of the image. We never did know our material appearance until photography. Before it was the mirror-image, or "through a glass darkly". But these decades, all is revealed and concealed.
     
  41. jtk

    jtk

    "But these decades, all is revealed and concealed." DE
    This is one of many references to today vs "the old days" (back when our ancestors walked barefoot for miles through snow storms and burning deserts to get to school).
    It's true that many of us routinely see images related in some way to ourselves in videos, security monitors, photographs and mirrors. But I doubt that even the most self-conscious of us have as carefully studied ourselves in mirrors (single and reflecting each other) as did European dandies in the 17th Century (for example).

    I think we're becoming especially adept hiding or distorting our "material appearance" and anxious specifically to avoid revealing.
    The desire to hide may explain the heavily tattooed and pierced oddities among us, the beards of "artistes" and bohemians. Sunglasses. Tough-guy leather jackets. Costumes (eg camo and pretend-well-worn levis). Many of us are working to appear to be players rather than ourselves virtually all the time.
    Our "material appearance" may even be vanishing, if "our" refers to us as individuals. To experimentally play with Don Essedi's sentence at the top of this post "...these decades, LESS is revealed.
     
  42. Julie - " It's my belief that behind one mask you will find another and behind that, yet another. The kind of "objectify" that I think Fred is describing is an effort to peg one mask and throw out the others, but that's not so much a transformation as a choice or a valuation/privileging of one mask over, at the expense of, the others inherent (at the moment) to the pictured phenomena. I don't think you ever get "behind" some (final) mask. The best you can do, what is done in great photographs, in my opinion, is to simultaneously make clearly visible as many masks as possible and/ or masks that are particularly fascinating in combination -- of a given phenomena."
    So it's masks all the way down. I agree on the idea of how many portraits work. And sometimes, as a photographer, you can go outside the masks, because people are always subconsciously running through a repertoire of facial expressions that are like momentary masks reflecting on their state.
     
  43. " To experimentally play with Don Essedi's sentence at the top of this post "...these decades, LESS is revealed."
    Yes. Why I wrote "revealed and concealed".
     
  44. Don and John, your talk about mirrors is apt. I have, in fact, spent quite a bit of time in front of mirrors. They tend to fulfill the more objectifying (and vain) side of me: an aid in helping me look good . . . keeping my hair in place . . . getting my sideburns even . . . making sure my nose is clean, etc. In recent years, as I photograph more, I just spend more time getting to know my reflected body, my newly-forming wrinkles and receding hair line, changes in the rest of my physical structure. I watch myself smiling, eating, laughing, making various facial expressions, body poses, and gestures. A lot of this is in the service of my portrait work with others. Honing how I look and see, what's to be found in these gestures and exploring what there is on the surface.
    Did a self portrait recently while staying in a hotel in Reno. My window overlooked a fabulously domed building that was reflecting light beautifully (!) in the morning. Direct sun was coming in the window at a low angle. Seemed a great setup. I started out using myself very much as a piece of meat. I was a body that could stand in the right place. I kind of liked relating to myself that way. The experience of standing there, nude, in the morning light of the window, still half asleep, was both objectifying and humanizing. I felt some sense of self-acknowledgment. Being photographer and subject felt like the completion of a circle, like talking to myself out loud and getting away with it. It was a good first step in terms of a self portrait. Something to build on. Many say a self portrait is different from looking in the mirror. I agree. But there is some similar stuff. There are some significant things about me lying right there on the surface. The object I am is not insignificant.
     
  45. Luis,
    It's sort of "mask all the way down," only worse. "Masks all the way down" would be at least linear and fixed; what we get is anything but. "All the way down" suggests a bottom; a ground, a default, a First Time, First One, an original. I doubt that there is a default Luis, a First Luis, a (or "the") Luis" that is the First One that I could somehow drill down (or up or sideways) to.
    What I think we get is that which can be experienced as happening within the sliding, highly fluid brackets of our (each, own) current memory.
    When I say "mask" I did not mean disquise or false front or something that conceals a more genuine "other." Rather I mean something that puts a fixed "face" on (part of) what is, in fact, far in excess of fixed representation. A mask is a/one face that stops. [I hope that clears up Don and Luca's misunderstanding of my post; I don't mean masks as tricks or lies.]
    [Fred, I'm not ignoring you. Far from it; I'm pretty sure you "get" my last post -- which is very satisfying (and unusual considering the way I write.)]
     
  46. Julie typed: "It's sort of "mask all the way down," only worse. "Masks all the way down" would be at least linear and fixed; what we get is anything but. "All the way down" suggests a bottom; a ground, a default, a First Time, First One, an original. I doubt that there is a default Luis, a First Luis, a (or "the") Luis" that is the First One that I could somehow drill down (or up or sideways) to."
    Agreed. I've seen firsthand hundreds of ultrasounds and sonos, and seen facial expressions shifting en utero. While there may not be a First, there will be a Last mask.
    JH - "What I think we get is that which can be experienced as happening within the sliding, highly fluid brackets of our (each, own) current memory."
    The experienced and quick get what they are able to cajole and/or anticipate. Or one can direct, which in turn is an interpretive resonance between masks. It's not one mirror, but a hall of mirrors. with no original mirror, of course.
    _______________________________
    Don, that "unseen" picture had a creepy feel, in a surveillance/stalker way, something artists like Sophie Calle have used successfully.
    _______________________________
     
  47. This post, and many others like it seem to stem from one of the core shadows on the medium. The nagging suspicion that photography (specially that lacking the imprimateur of convention, commercialism or institutions) is less than honorable, and photographers morally rudderless. Manifestations of this shadow come in different familiar guises, like arrogance, aloofness, righteousness, pious devotion, maniacal behavior, delusions of greatness, and sometimes borderline -- or outright -- criminal behavior. The latter specially today, when legal restrictions and a fearful populace can profile an unwitting snapper as a potential terrorist. As seen here, there seems to be a particular metaphysical unease regarding street photography, which bears superficial similarities to what voyeurs, creeps and tourists do.
    These darkside doubts are a wellspring of creative energies for some, a drag shadow for others. A very few seem to make peace with them, most deny them, or spend considerable energies (over)compensating their fears.
    http://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/11602#
    ____________________________________________________
     
  48. "This post, and many others like it seem to stem from one of the core shadows on the medium."
    The thread has come quite some way since the OP. I would understand what you're now saying, Luis, if there hadn't been fifty or so thoughtful posts since then. I've expended quite a bit of personal energy in this thread listening, thinking, and fine tuning my thoughts on the subject. My post from last night was a true story about making a self portrait, not meant as a Sontag-like deconstruction of the medium itself by any means. The more I read of others and the more I personalize this subject, the more I find objectification to hold a place of honor, especially in my own photographs. Far from it being a nagging suspicion or some kind of shadow or cloud hanging over the making of photographs, it becomes another tool. As with any tool, it can be used, overused, or abused. It can be nuanced or blatant. It is helpful for me to discuss it from an intimate, practical, and experienced (lived) standpoint.
     
  49. Fred, I didn't see your self-portrait post as any kind of deconstruction of the medium. I read it as a backstory to making a photograph. My response had nothing to do with that post. Zip, zero, nada. It was not directed at you, or anyone in specific. Not tacitly, either. I had been keeping up with the thread, responded to Julie, and felt I had something to say that had built up cumulatively, so...mistakenly thinking I was free to speak my mind, I typed it. It's not a retort to anything you've said here. There was no intent to offend you, but I'm sorry if I did.
     
  50. "Does that mean the fifty thoughtful posts obfuscate the meaning of mine?"
    It kind of does, for me. I had originally posted with that very shadow hanging over the subject, that suspicion you mention wafting through the opening statement. But the thread evolved and I felt it had moved beyond the shadow and was heading into the light. I actually saw your post (the one about shadows) as the Sontag-like deconstruction.
    "My response had nothing to do with that post [the self portrait post]."
    My point exactly!
    [Luis: I quoted you here based on your last post before you edited it. I edit my posts often as well, so I understand your doing so. But I'll maintain the quote I used because my response to it explains where I'm coming from.]
     
  51. Fred, I understand where you're coming from. No problem.
     
  52. "Don, that "unseen" picture had a creepy feel, in a surveillance/stalker way, something artists like Sophie Calle have used successfully."
    Unseens have a surveillance quality, yes. I was on the bench at the barber's waiting my turn; the window is 90 degrees to my left. I was interested in the window decor's framing of the sidewalks and watched as people walked by. I like activity in such scenes and figured if someone sat on the wall, or if children or dogs came by, I'd have a shot. I set up the exposure and focus, cocked the shutter and placed the camera on my bag against my left thigh and paged through a magazine. The best part of my eyesight is peripheral vision; when I saw a flutter of activity, I released the shutter without turning my head to see what was going on.
    Would it have a "creepy feel", I wonder, if the photo were of a couple of dogs passing by instead of two women having a Starbuck's snack?
    Julie, I didn't think you meant there was a "real" underneath the poses. Sorry if I gave that impression. For me 'real' means what exists materially. 'Real' comes from the field of law and property (as in 'real estate') and is photographable. The poses, or 'masks' are real. People know about photography and they know what they look like in photographs. What I don't want is a pose or mask assumed for the camera (I've no dislike of such photos, I just am not interested in the phenomenon enough to want to photograph it). I photograph people living their lives and don't want to stop them from doing that, which they will if they see a camera pointed their way. Doesn't matter if it is on the street or chatting with family and friends around the dinner table. I've learned a bit from both Fred Goldsmith and John Kelly about portrait-taking -- not the issue of materials or technique, but the psychology of subject and photographer.
     
  53. The part that fascinated me most about that picture, Don, was the large black rectangle, the way it just sits there, oppressive, geometric, and black. Of course, the fact that women are depicted (and obviously by a male gaze) is part and parcel of the creep effect. I appreciate that it's not easy to make photographs that look like that (when one wants to, and too easy when one doesn't!).
    _________________________________
    Fred, I read everything you write, and to this day, find your lengthy, er... voluminous... forays into the near-orbital ether among your best. They go in so many directions that by the end, I feel like I just got a free shave & a saltwater-taffy machine brain massage, and am so chill with the universe that I could re-sell Manhattan for $23 and a handful of plastic beads.
     
  54. I hope that my photos clarify. That seems a little less aggressive than to objectify.
     
  55. I hope that my photos clarify. That seems a little less aggressive than to objectify.​
    Seems worthy enough a photographic goal, but often I am wanting / knowing my photographs not to clarify, if only because I know that if I wanted to be specifically clear ( as a means of communication ) I could use the written / verbal word probably to greater effect ( with a "non lyrical" discipline ) instead as the photographic image. Perhaps I do want my pics to clarify ; which is that things aren't all that clear...
     
  56. Julie's post long ago actually injected some other take on the subject in my brain...
    To objectify is to consume, use up, limit, make smaller, take part and throw out the rest. The builder uses the "woodiness" of the tree and throws out the rest of what a tree is.​
    Does it make smaller and chop up? Or does it make bigger and more whole?
    To play it with Plato's cave allegory: is the objectification the object itself, or the projected image, the human perception of it? I read it initially (considering my earlier responses many moons ago) as transforming one instance into something more universal, and hence make it bigger, not smaller.
     
  57. "Of course, the fact that women are depicted (and obviously by a male gaze) is part and parcel of the creep effect."
    But there was no "gaze" at all (except the camera's). I only knew there was movement at the edge of my peripheral vision when I pushed the button. My gaze was 90 degrees off-frame throughout. It could have been two dogs pausing for a scratch or to look in the window. Afterwards, I saw the two women setting out their Starbuck's snack. I got the negatives back two days ago. The only person (a woman) to see it (on computer display) so far saw a dance (another minuet?). Well, our eyes see more than our brains allow us to see. Maybe my eyes registered two young women and a 'dance' even if my brain wasn't informed of it.
    In the joint effort of photographer and subject, I believe the subject is the protagonist -- or perhaps just the more powerful presence -- not the photographer. 'Unseens' attempt to eliminate the photographer except for the necessities of the taking including a sense of the frame -- and not a specific one since at no time do I look through the viewfinder. I use a 50 for them. So, they may be 'objective' or 'objectification' to some, which to me implies representation. I think they are descriptive.
     
  58. Fred "The object I am is not insignificant." so true so I think it it should be explored. You know that I use myself as a subject frequently. Your post re self portrait led me seamlessly to thinking about the impact of my relationship to a subject and my feelings for a subject as significant to objectification and exploitation.
    I am quick to objectify/exploit myself. relentlessly. there are no ethics boundaries for me to consider. I am more aware of exploitation boundaries (my line) with all others. I rarely consider that while shooting but it is a frequent consideration in editing. I cross that self imposed line more than not. and it leaves me wanting.

    The line seems tighter to me if I am attracted to my human subject. Or maybe I find it easier to cross that line when there is attraction. Or connection that is potentially exploitative..?.To cash in on the characteristics of the lure that attracts me... and nothing more. Without more it becomes a one trick pony and that doesn't satisfy me.

    Exploitation seems to be an moral issue for me only when it relates to my human subjects reaction to the product. If I exploit a non human subject it is not a question of morality. Exploitation of non human subjects without objectification (per Phylo and I have presented) leaves me empty but my trash can over flowing. Taste.
    .
    Wouter "Does it make smaller and chop up? Or does it make bigger and more whole?" a useful continuum. I think that this may be one driving force for many photographers. Wanting to stake out or slide back and forth on this axis.
    .
    Phylo "Perhaps I do want my pics to clarify ; which is that things aren't all that clear..." doesn't Phylo's comment go to one heart of the original topic. [Objectification] "... besides its negative connotation - can mean to express something in a concrete form : good poetry objectifies feeling."
     
  59. Josh, you may have struck on something . . . or at least helped me strike on something. I often objectify myself even as photographer (when I'm photographing someone else). Your mentioning being attracted to a human subject helps here. In my own fantasies, I can feel like a subject in the photo. Even when I'm not in the picture, it's like I'm photographing the other person and me . . . like the me in the picture is a disembodied but objectified me . . .
    A second take: I am sometimes very conscious of my subjects watching me, watching me work, watching me sweat (which often happens on a long shoot). People have talked about seeing my wheels at work, etc. Sometimes I feel like I'm the one performing. When I've been a model, I've certainly been very aware of the photographer's performance. I'm not saying I'm necessarily self conscious when photographing (though that can certainly happen). I'm saying it's my own awareness of the responsive gazes on me.
    A third take: You've pointed to a couple of my photos (and photos of others) where you feel the presence of the photographer (even though the photographer is actually unseen). Certain perspectives and geometries seem to set that up . . . other things as well. In that sense, the photographer, while unseen, does become concretized (objectified).
    Don, in light of what I just said I'll tackle something I wanted to say about your photo above. Though you were unseen by the subjects in that photo, I don't think you're at all unseen in the photograph itself. I find the framing of the women and the big black obstruction to be almost heralding the photographer here. As a viewer, I am not simply seeing your subjects. I am seeing your subjects looked at and very much seeing some of the context not looked at. I understand you didn't actually look at them and that it might have been two dogs for all you knew. And that comes through to me: the seeming interchangeability of the subjects themselves and the significance of the staging (not posing!) and the outsider looking. OK, I may be substituting you for the camera, since you didn't actually see them and the camera did. No matter. You, who pushed the button, were looking for something . . . whatever. I don't see the women as the protagonists here. I see and feel the photographer much more.
     
  60. Phylo and Dan, I actually think there's a way to look at clarifying and objectifying in a very similar light. As Josh recognized, what becomes concrete becomes clarified. Like Phylo, I think ambiguity has a place. For me, it's often in tension with commitment. Funny, I sometimes seek out being more aggressive in photographing.
     
  61. "Though you were unseen by the subjects in that photo, I don't think you're at all unseen in the photograph itself. I find the framing of the women and the big black obstruction to be almost heralding the photographer here."
    They do herald the photographer. It was the window decor frames and the chair backs (the black obstruction) that caught my attention. I look for 'frames' within the vf frame. I wanted to have something 'animate' as well and that is what I was set up for; it is "staging" as you wrote. In fact, if I had been looking, I would have taken the photo that I'd got by not looking.
    "And that comes through to me: the seeming interchangeability of the subjects themselves and the significance of the staging (not posing!) and the outsider looking. OK, I may be substituting you for the camera, since you didn't actually see them and the camera did. No matter. You, who pushed the button, were looking for something . . . whatever. I don't see the women as the protagonists here. I see and feel the photographer much more."
    Both you and Luis noted the window's framing and especially the rectangular "obstruction". Perhaps because of this thread's topic you both have taken the two women as the subject, but the window's frames within the frame of film and the obstruction are also the subject, and both you and Luis have confirmed the subject's power, sensing the same power it had on me and which caused me to set the stage. In that way it (the subject) was the protagonist.
     
  62. Fred, yes, I can see the similarity between objectifying and clarifying. I'm trying to clarify my vision, i.e. what I thought was interesting about that particular viewpoint at that particular moment.
    Objectifying sounds as though one is trying to create an iconic shot. On rare occasions I get a shot of something that IMO almost defines a new way of looking at the subject, but that's more pressure than I want to put on most of my work. A casual but well-executed interpretation of a subject is entirely satisfactory. I don't feel compelled to shoot "a photo that you'll never forget" every time I point my camera at something. "A photo that someone might enjoy" is just fine and provides my creative side with a nice taste of fulfillment.
     
  63. Below is a long quote that I think is relevant to this discussion (prompted by Fred's last description of himself while shooting):
    "... Sartre's watcher is objectified by the other's gaze, just as the other is objectified by his gaze, but the fundamental terms, of subject and object, remain intact throughout the encounter. ... The subject's sense of being a subject is heightened, not undone: and this, following Nishitani's argument, is because the entire scenario is restricted to its twin poles of subject and object. What is not thought through is the question of vision's wider frame."
    "... Stabilizing the entity as a fixed Form, with a bounded outline, is possible only if the universe surrounding the entity is screened out and the entity withdrawn from the universal field of transformations. The concept of the entity can be preserved only by an optic that casts around each entity a perceptual frame that makes a cut from the field and immobilizes the cut within the static framework. But as soon as that frame is withdrawn, the object is found to exist as part of a mobile continuum that cannot be cut anywhere. If the object is, say, a flower, its existence is only as a phase of incremental transformations between seed and dust in a continuous exfoliation or perturbation of matter: at no point does the object come under an arrest that would immobilize it as Form or eidos."
    "... In Nishitani's descriptions, an object's presence can be defined only in negative terms. Since there is no way of singling out an object x without at the same time including it in the global field of transfomations, what appears as the object x is only the difference between x and the total surrounding field. Similarly what appears as "the surrounding field" is only its difference from the object x. Nishitani's thinking is morphologically close to Saussure's account of the location of an individual word in a language. The word, Saussure maintains, is nothing in itself: it lacks all the properties of the entity. Rather, the word is constituted "diacritically" in its difference from its surrounding field, in this case all the other words in the language. In the same way, Nishitani argues for the diacritical existence of objects: the system of objects "knows no positive terms." Moreover, since the object field is a continuous mobility, individual objects are constituted by différence, deferral in time, as well. Nishitani's thinking here is close to Derrida's portrayal of différance in language. The meaning of a word never stands forth in full array. If we want to know the meaning of an individual word, and look it up in a dictionary, what the dictionary gives is not the meaning of that one word, but other words, synonyms. As one reads a sentence, one does not know what a word in mid-sentence means until one reaches the end of the sentence, and that sentence in turn changes as one moves to the next sentence, or paragraph, or page. Meaning in a sense never arrives; and in the same way, for Nishitani, being never arrives (beings never arrive). The form of the seed is already turning into the form of the flower, and the flower is already becoming dust. The present state of the object appearing as the flower is inhabited by its past as seed and its future as dust, in a continuous motion of postponement, whose effect is that the flower is never presently there, any more than the seed or dust are there."​
    -- from an essay, The Gaze in the Expanded Field by Norman Bryson
     
  64. Don - "I look for 'frames' within the vf frame."
    In this picture I did not get so much a sense of sub-framing as I did of an overlay, or occlusion. For a barely looked-at picture, to me it came across as heavy on the male gaze, and Don himself seems to refer to this when he typed: "In fact, if I had been looking, I would have taken the photo that I'd got by not looking." For me, the initial feeling is one of voyeurism and scopophilia, which are mostly about the photographer (supporting Fred's observation). The surreptitiousness & lack of involvement are remarkable. Yes, it would have been different if a dog had been there instead of women, but the fact is that women are in this particular picture. Their inclusion as "something animate" points to objectification, perhaps not originally of gender, but easily mistaken for it.
    ____________________
    By the original definition of objectification, one could say consciousness itself is objectifying, which is connected to Julie's earlier quote.
    ____________________
    Fascinating as all this self-revelation at the PoP confessional is, I'd like to descend to the nuts 'n bolts level and ask a question related to this thread: How can the way we use color increase or decrease the level of secondary objectification (the first is the idea that all photographs objectify per se)?
    _____________________
     
  65. "Their inclusion as "something animate" points to objectification, perhaps not originally of gender, but easily mistaken for it."
    'Animate' and 'inanimate' are grammatical genders in some languages, especially ones that remain, due to isolation, little changed over time -- also the oldest known language (Sumerian) is thought to have the animate/inanimate form. 'Animate' things display 'will', 'volition', and it need not be alive -- for example a tornado or flood. 'Inanimate' things are passive, or patterned (growing things like grain). Of course, a photograph is a still, but it can imply the instant prior to the taking and the instant after, giving a sense of animation.
    "For a barely looked-at picture, to me it came across as heavy on the male gaze, and Don himself seems to refer to this when he typed: "In fact, if I had been looking, I would have taken the photo that I'd got by not looking."
    It was an 'animate' moment.
    About the male gaze, I note the viewers' sense of "obstruction" of their view. Their gaze is interfered, partially blocked. They look into the image, into its virtual depth, to see a 'main subject' which they assign to the two women.
    Contra Sontag: photon particles, like spermatozoa, enter the vestibule of the lens; the photographer opens to the penetration of the particles, and a new object comes into being.
    The male gaze, as an analogy and as a concept in relation to photography, strikes me as being too convenient, supporting the photographer's sense of being promethean, the dramaturge, the demiurge -- creative, potent, in charge.
     
  66. Dan, to objectify or to create an iconic shot, I don't think one has to try, though one certainly can. I think it often just happens, sometimes rather thoughtlessly as a matter of fact, and to either good or bad effect. As I said earlier, "iconic" has too much representative flavor for me to use it to define or replace or even stand right alongside "objectify." The iconic aspect of things (photographs, films, paintings) is often the larger-than-life aspect, the universalizing effect (especially universal within a culture). I think objectification often takes place at a much more intimate and personal level.
    Lange's Migrant Mother is an intimate and personal look at a particular woman and her children, telling a story within the greater context of the Depression. It may be said to objectify (concretize) a lot about the depression and about this woman's life and family. It has become more iconic over the years as it becomes a symbol of a historical era and also epitomizes a type of photograph-making. Its iconicity has to do with it being also larger than life and universally understood (in our culture). The objectifying aspects and the iconic aspects overlap but don't substitute for each other.
    Were this merely an iconic shot or merely a politically incorrect form of objectification, it wouldn't matter who this woman was, it would just be about what she represented. Here, you get the feeling that this specific, living, breathing woman matters very much.
     
  67. [I'm not ignoring either Julie's quote or Luis's question. Do either of you have something to say about what you've quoted or asked? That might engage me. I understand if you prefer to let them stand without comment, in which case so will I.]
     
  68. Luis,
    I've been having fun thinking not-too-seriously (am busy) about color and objectification and I've decided <tweak>that color is the ultimate objectifier when used as, say Callahan [in his color work (duh!)] or Meyerowitz [in Cape Light] or Eggleston have done. However, I can't decide who is the master, the agent of this objectification. I think perhaps color is a rogue objectifier -- it is its own master. </tweak>
     
  69. Fred, good read on 'Migrant Mother'. It does seem to reach the quick of your topic.
     
  70. [Sorry I didn't get to this earlier. I was busy. It's been a long, hot (in more ways than the temp) objectifying day.]
    __________________
    Julie tweaked thusly: "I've been having fun thinking not-too-seriously (am busy) about color and objectification and I've decided <tweak>that color is the ultimate objectifier when used as, say Callahan [in his color work (duh!)] or Meyerowitz [in Cape Light] or Eggleston have done. However, I can't decide who is the master, the agent of this objectification. I think perhaps color is a rogue objectifier -- it is its own master. </tweak>"
    Photographs automatically objectify because, as Julie put it: "To objectify is to consume, use up, limit, make smaller, take part and throw out the rest." That covers a lot of ground beyond photography. It'd be difficult to find ideations, constructions, depictions or descriptions of anything that aren't objectifying. Soon, it's everywhere, as pervasive as the physicist's ether, and just as useful, except in relative terms, or degrees of objectification, which are a form of objectification in themselves, and so forth.
    Color, in some ways, is like that. So obvious, it's almost impossible to see. The photographers Julie mentioned are often groped under the category of American Luminists (before them, there were what one could call Euro-Luminists). They all work in different ways, but their awareness and use of color is extraordinary.
    [ I could not help but notice that in this discussion, stylization is at least form of objectification.]
    For me, color is not the ultimate objectifier. It's probably a PN member. :)
    A stand-alone autonomous _inert_ (Ok, I know, in this French-philosopher-designed universe, nothing is really ever inert, but play along) objectifier? I think objectification is too perverse not to require a human mind behind it.
     
  71. Inert? How is that done? Where do I find this "inert"-ness?
    You are saying that color can be domesticated? Made to serve? If you shout "sit!" when the tiger is already sitting, does that mean it did your bidding?
     
  72. Fred ~ "Were this merely an iconic shot or merely a politically incorrect form of objectification, it wouldn't matter who this woman was, it would just be about what she represented. Here, you get the feeling that this specific, living, breathing woman matters very much."
    But no one knew who the woman was for decades, or what happened to her. She was, in fact, a generic, fictional symbol.
    The photo, from the beginning, was heavily iconized (and fictionalized) by Lange. She wrote in her notes: "
    "Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food."
    Lange later wrote of the meeting:
    "I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food."


    One of Thompson's sons, Troy, had a different version of the story: ""There's no way we sold our tires, because we didn't have any to sell. The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them."
    The photograph fictionalized (through the narrative of the caption), not concretized, the plight of this family.
    The subjects in the pictures remained generic and unknown for over forty years. Florence wrote in a letter to her local newspaper: "I wish she hadn’t taken my picture," she declared. "I can’t get a penny out of it. [Lange] didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did." and at a later interview: "...what good’s it doing me?".
    The family weren't new arrivals to California, either. They had been there since 1926, ten years before the picture was made. Her children said the photograph was a source of shame about their poverty. After the picture was published, money and food poured into the camp, but the family had moved on by that time.
    Roy Stryker wasn't shy about promoting the work of his unit: "“She has all the suffering of mankind in her but all of the perseverance too. A restraint and a strange courage. You can see anything you want to in her. She is immortal.”
    ...and anonymous.
    The photograph came back to Thompson's aid when she got cancer. It helped bring in $30,000 in contributions to help with her medical bills, but it didn't save her.
    I agree with the rest of Fred's comments regarding the iconic and objectifying regarding this picture.


    [ It should be noted that in spite of the pseudo-scientific approach claimed by documentarians like Lange at the time (partially as a signifier of legitimization), the objectivity we now assume is part of documentary work hasn't always been so. ]
     
  73. Julie ~ "Inert? How is that done? Where do I find this "inert"-ness?"
    OK, you're not playing along. Sigh. I still do not think color is autonomous and conscious, or as you put it, a "a rogue objectifier" or "its own master." As long as you're going to be a stickler about inert-ness, what is rogue in this universe? Its own master? Immune to the warp and woof of the weave interconnectedness and spacetime?
    [I could sense Julie's shiny obsidian scalpel paring closer and closer...]

    Julie tweaked ~ "
    You are saying that color can be domesticated?"
    Can line, form, tone, texture, perspective, natural light, symmetry, or reflection be domesticated in the absolute sense of the word? Not without killing their spark.
    Worked with, teased, utilized, danced with, spun. timed and chosen towards the actualization of one's vision, yes.
    I would not want to domesticate it, even if I could. In my holograph, wildness is a good thing. I want to dance and whisper sweet nothings with the medium, not cage, enslave it and issue orders.
    JH - "Made to serve?"
    Made? No. Asked, teased, played with, maybe. Engaged in the inverse subtextual relationship between master and slave, to a point.
    JH - "If you shout "sit!" when the tiger is already sitting, does that mean it did your bidding?"
    [We are all under the Big Top, aren't we?]
    Timing is everything. For a semblance of grace, you have to shout "sit" a moment before he appears to be sitting. Just like releasing the shutter.
    Seriously, of course not, Ringmistress. But if I am aware of it, choose color temp, the color of background, de/saturate, alter hue or value, color contrast, etc., I am at least cajoling the Tiger, no?
     
  74. objectification (n.)

    1.the act of representing an abstraction as a physical thing
    2.a concrete representation of an abstract idea or principle
    I understand the points made by Luis in regard to the Lange picture and agree with them, at least in the way photography is used to make a statement about a situation.
    The situation, however, was not an abstract idea or principle (If so, the subject would have received attention based upon some such principle - yet did not, until she was dying)
    I have not read all the prior discussions, but I see in the Lange case very little clear concrete representation of an abstract idea or principle, or especially in representing an abstraction as a physical thing.
    In fact, photography can allow the contrary metamorphosis, the using of a physical thing to create an abstraction or to represent a principle. But rarely the other way around, at least in the context of the forgoing discussion.
     
  75. Luis, to me, your response conflates the back story and the "situation" of the photograph with the photograph. That no one knew who the woman was for decades has nothing to do with what I see when I look at this photograph, which is where I see at least a significant part of who this woman is. I wasn't claiming to know this woman's name. I was claiming to see her as a living, breathing person. Compare Lange's Migrant Mother to this week's POW (Photo of the Week). In the former, I am in touch with the soul (there, I said it) of a woman, not with her actual identity. In the POW, I see a stand-in, a type, a model, not a person. You're talking about biography and history. You're talking about what you or I or a viewer knows. I'm talking about what I see. No one needs to know the name or life story of one of my portrait subjects in order to feel like they've been put in touch with something significant and human about them. I'm not in search of accuracy. I'm in search of humanity (sometimes). Fiction is not necessarily generic! It is often meant to get at very specific and very real, if not accurate, human emotions. Were I looking for representation, I'd worry about accuracy. Lange's photo gives me a view that's accurate in some ways but also allows for something much more important . . . empathy, internalization, personalization, understanding, connection . . . This woman comes across as an individual, not a type and not (just) an icon.
    Arthur, I hope you'll read what Josh and Phylo have said about objectification and how photos can make feelings concrete.
    Back to Luis, I agree with some of your take on color . . . the molding part. You and Julie seem have connected color in some way to objectification, but there I'm lost. If you could plainly state in what way you see color as an objectifying factor (if you do or you think Julie does) I'd be interested, since I love working with color.
     
  76. As to how color objectifies, I'll be happy to plainly state it after you plainly state how line, tone, texture etc. work as objectifying factors.
    Just because I've only responded a couple of times in this thread, it doesn't mean I am not "connected" to the topic.
     
  77. Ok, a brutally simple example: I can take a portrait, and deliberately set the color balance to tungsten to objectify a mood.
     
  78. Luis, I wasn't asking you to do this for competition or because I didn't think you were paying attention. I was genuinely interested.
    As for the way I use color, it often does make my own feelings about a subject concrete. In my most recent color photo, I used color to finely differentiate but also bring closer together various layers of the photograph, as well as to convey a mood. There are two mirrors behind the main subject and I used the transparent feeling the mirrors and light gave me to explore shades and gradations of color. In that sense, my color work made concrete my feelings about the photographic scene.
    Here's what I wrote to a viewer who asked about the color:
    "A lot of what's developing with my color palettes is happening from gut instinct but it's helpful to sit back and think about it.
    "Color is a place, aside from content, where I feel my individual voice developing. What I mostly notice, and it started way back when I worked on my Hopper-like photo, is color overlaps: the way one color or color base seems to contain other colors. I am drawn to deconstructing colors in that way and reconstructing them with their inherent similarities exposed and explored. It's why I like the transparent/translucent effect I experience with the foreground mirror here. It's as if you can see through from one set of colors to the next. Color traces.
    "I wonder if we're more used to relating to the expressive possibilities (the abstract possibilities are also related) of black and white. Color seems to want to tie us more to the real world, the situation. I like playing with that tension between the photographed and the photograph. We probably have less expectations of being tied to 'real life' with black and white. Black and white is, on some level, freer from what we actually photographed because it's not how most of us see the real world. Maybe I'm trying to get to that black and white place with color.
    "I think I'm seeing color as a continuum rather than as distinct moments, with some exceptions as balance. I've long been a fan of transitions, of the spaces in-between, doorways, rivers along a border, the neither here nor there. I've always been moved by color spectrum wheels where colors seem to evolve into adjacent ones. When does yellow become orange. When does a pile of sand become a heap. When does inside transition to outside?
    "The problem with talking is that the minute I read my own words I tell myself I see other things in the photos regarding color. I also see, in some of my works, an almost monochromatic approach to color. That probably fits in some way with what I've said here, maybe the influences of black and white photography on my own color work."​
    As for how I view objectification in the thread previous to this point: This photograph of Stuart came to mind when I was wading through Julie's reprint of the excruciating quote by Bryson. To me, this makes visual, concretizes, objectifies, what Bryson is so clumsily saying and what he's ultimately answering, as far as I'm concerned, much too simply and one-sidedly. I think he's wrong to claim the existence of a flower is ONLY a phase of incremental transformation between seed and dust. The photograph of Stuart, to me, asks a question about whether the flower is part of that transformation, whether it is the seed, or whether it is not the seed. It concretizes a question I have and a feeling I very much have about my own self at the moment.
     
  79. Reorientating...
    http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/objectify/males/pics/objectifymale1.jpg
    http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/objectify/womanobject/pics/womanobject10.jpg
    http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/objectify/womanobject/pics/womanobject30.jpg
    http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/gaze/pics/malegaze87.jpg
    http://www.ltcconline.net/lukas/gender/objectify/males/pics/objectifymale2.jpg
     
  80. "Arthur, I hope you'll read what Josh and Phylo have said about objectification and how photos can make feelings concrete."
    I did, Fred, but my understanding of objectifying is more abstract and different from what I am reading here. The example of Mapplethorpe's lily is for me not objectification but a visual mutation of how we normally perceive the lily. But, objectification? It is quite beautiful in an aesthetic sense, but not made concrete or turned into a physical thing (which it already is). The opposite may be true, though. What Josh and Phylo have said about emotion or feelings comes a bit closer to "derived from an abstract idea", but not quite convincing enough for me.
    I don't mean to nit-pick, but the word objectify does not communicate well to me what the thread is apparently concerned with. If the photo is objectifying altruism, or existentialism, or Utopia, or some other idea, I might feel better about the use of the term, and perhaps understand better the thrust of the thread. It is always possible, however, that common usage in photography has given the word a different meaning that I have yet to meet. Has someone put forward such a different definition in that sense? Or maybe a better word?
     
  81. Don, your examples show one dimension of objectification: making sexual "things" out of human beings. These examples, rather than a reorientation, seem to go right back to the beginning of the discussion. Some hot guys in there!
    Arthur, whatever word suits you to explore the concepts and photographic considerations being discussed. I think Mapplethorpe's lily is an objectification (in the negative sense, like Don's examples above of boys and men as meat) because it doesn't capture "flower-ness" or the individual characteristics of this flower. It captures Mapplethorpe (like a couple of Don's links capture underwear). It transmits a style, a signature. It is a high-contrast, stone-cold view of a flower, much like his stone-cold distanced view of so many male nudes. A lot of them might as well be bookshelves. They are excuses for a distinct, honed, and "appealing" execution, not honored as subjects. Some of his forays into sexuality are daring and provocative and still negatively objectifying. The phrase "beautiful in an aesthetic sense" leaves me wanting. I think most of his flowers and male nudes are hard, cold, and aloof. My posts about Migrant Mother illustrate some of what I consider to be the positive aspects of objectification with regard to photographs. More important to me than whether these characteristics of Migrant Mother would be considered to fulfill the definition of "objectification" by all in the room is that these are significant ways in which the photograph Migrant Mother works. We could discuss in more depth Migrant Mother on many related levels if only we could get past debating the choice of words used to describe the ideas.
     
  82. Don's examples also show how the male gaze objectifies gay men as well as women, and in very similar ways.
    _________________________
    Color is apparently hot-wired to the subconscious. It's rarely absolute, almost always relational, fluid and dynamic. Our perception of it changes with degrees of excitement, and depending on the language we are speaking. We see red, feel blue, buy green, and mellow yellow.
    All of us do not see the same colors. Research shows a 38X range of color perception (outside of clinical color blindness). In spite of the many well-known pioneers in color and the popularity of their work, only a tiny minority of artists (and few photographers) are chromatically fluent.
    BTW, the point at which one color becomes another is relative to what others lie around and/or behind or in front, and the temperature of the light they're being viewed under. That's what makes color so incredibly exciting and trying. Shift one thing, and everything changes -- provided one's aware enough to see it.
    In the film era, people went to great lengths (and a whole other magnitude of previsualization) to manipulate color in order to actualize their vision (within the range of materials/processes then-available). It's a lot easier now, but the understanding of color does not seem to have kept up with the technical.
    ______________________________
    ____________________________________
     
  83. "Don's examples also show how the male gaze objectifies gay men as well as women, and in very similar ways."
    And now, for the rest of the story...
    http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-04-29T13%3A18%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=8
     
  84. "Don's examples also show how the male gaze objectifies gay men as well as women, and in very similar ways."
    --Luis
    Gay? Huh? What makes you think a woman couldn't have shot Don's examples and that women viewers aren't getting off on them. What makes you think the underwear ad is not intended for straight guys who think they look like those models or think they could look like those models if only they had the right underwear on? And who's the gay man that's being objectified here? Which man in which picture is gay?
     
  85. Fred - "Gay? Huh? What makes you think a woman couldn't have shot Don's examples and that women viewers aren't getting off on them."
    It's not that a woman couldn't do work like that, it's that they aren't, Which could be due to a great number of things, including stereotyping.
    Women doing men's underwear ads that look like that? Who? Find, say, three women that are photographing men's underwear ads that look like that for major campaigns in the US. Fred....a significant number of the most beautiful and desirable men are gay -- and women do get off on them. Homoeroticism sells men's undies to the people that buy them, and there's nothing wrong with that.
    Ok, I found Annie Leibovitz photographed soccer players in their undies, but it's not an ad, and even though the dudes are cut & buff, no, it doesn't look anything like the stereotypical undie ad pic. It's in the latest Vanity Fair.
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_uklineVK_iY/TBu1W82pF0I/AAAAAAAAEdk/nG329y8pN_0/s1600/world-cup-01.jpg
    Here's a mock-up/send-up of what a woman photog thinks men's ads should look like:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_OQVXTcn3nlQ/ScwHQK5Gr8I/AAAAAAAAASU/3H1uOG5FsfA/s1600-h/Eli-Underwear-2-copy.jpg
    Women are used to sell men's undies...but it's rare.
    http://www.kiwipulse.com/how-to-sell-mens-underwear-version-ii/
    :)
    What's amazing is how few new ideas have been generated in this field since Bruce Weber's early work.
     
  86. Consider the differences between the images on photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com and genderads.com. Many of the photoshop disasters are simulacra; they neither represent nor describe anything or anyone real -- material light delineating material objects (Is there a Photoshop raytrace plugin yet?). Many of the genderads looks so 20th century in comparison.
    I ceased being concerned about objectification in 1999.
    Ps, so, one can double-post by posting, hitting 'return to the forum', then hitting the 'back' button.
     
  87. I think those ads are more acts of "stereotyping" or "classifying" or "myth creating", in this current "age of persuasion" (to use a marketer's lingo), and not objectification, whatever that may mean to you (outside the dictionary definition).
     
  88. There has been a lot of great material approached in this thread, a lot of which remains unresponded to and unexplored. My interests seem to be in line with Dan, Luca, Josh, Phylo, and a couple of others who I'm not surprised have dropped out of the discussion, I imagine for lack of much substantive tackling of the issues. I'll join them for now.
     
  89. "I think those ads are more acts of "stereotyping" or "classifying" or "myth creating", in this current "age of persuasion" (to use a marketer's lingo), and not objectification, whatever that may mean to you (outside the dictionary definition)."
    Arthur, the first dictionary definition I find is "To treat as an object". The 'stereotypical' presentation has a purpose or meaning alien to the 'subject' being 'typed' yet the typifying or "objectifying" of the subject can have consequences both personally and socially for them that are also alien to the subjective person typed. Objectification comes from another perspective than the subject's. The classic example is the chattel slave in which the person is an object of commerce, utility and is treated as such, and may come to think of themselves as such.
     
  90. Luis,
    If you're still there, backing up to something you said last night, "Color is apparently hot-wired to the subconscious. It's rarely absolute, almost always relational, fluid and dynamic."
    For me, color is sort of like Proust's madeleine (cookie). Color is a trigger to *my* associations and those associations may -- and often do -- have nothing to do with the object that is presenting the color. Just as Proust's cookie does not "contain" the character's mother (he could not give it to someone else and say, "Eat this; it will remind you of my mother.")
    In other words, color associations are personal triggers, either due to association or differences in primal response, and cannot be pinned down (you can't make a "mother reminding cookie"), my responses often have nothing to do with the surface or substance that is presenting them to my senses (which is why/how they objectify), and they they are also usually/often overwhelming; Proust's character can't eat that cookie without thinking of his mother.
     
  91. Arthur, in the US we used to have the Unemployment Office. Now we have a Department of Human Resources. The first is descriptive. The second is not. It is something else.
    "...who I'm not surprised have dropped out of the discussion"
    We call it "the weekend" around here.
     
  92. Don, your stereotyping examples are interesting, but the definition "To treat as an object" is missing the part that would define objectifying as "To treat as an object (or concreticize) an abstract idea", which is of rarer occurence.
     
  93. Julie - "For me, color is sort of like Proust's madeleine (cookie). Color is a trigger to *my* associations and those associations may -- and often do -- have nothing to do with the object that is presenting the color."
    For me, color-memory is very similar to smell-memory in the way it triggers associations. Whenever I go to a restaurant that serves the authentic cuisine of my native country, the smells, taste and colors of the food unlock gates to things I had totally forgotten, flooding me with memories from decades ago -- as if they had just happened.
    It's going to sound cliche'd, but yes, it is like the Madeleines and on a lesser level, in the book Like Water for Chocolate.
    And as you say, it's not locked into the object reflecting the color. While one can reason out the color wheel to a point, the understanding of color is infinitely more complex, involving pinball wizardry and the limits of one's perception, which varies considerably with color. In a way, this is why "nothing" pictures sometimes work through their colors. The color can be the content It reaches us like a forgotten language that we still understand, like a lullaby hummed by one's mother.
    Color can be like a non-verbal, non-linear emotional caption mainlined into the brain.
    ______________________________
    Speaking of which, the "Migrant Mother" picture, much like Eisie's Kiss on VJ Day, always lived with a caption, from its initial publishing. That kind of parallel narrative attaches itself to a photograph like a remora to a shark, so I think it becomes very hard to separate the two. The caption objectifies the photograph (at least in the way it was expressed in the OP).
    --------------------------------------------------
    Fred - I know how hard you work at directing some of these threads, and how frustrating it must be when they veer and wander, as threads always do. But it is objectifying to divide the posters here between those who think along your lines, and those who don't do lines. This is not uncommon among photographers. Also to assume the role of spokesman for half-a-dozen people who are probably perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, and to objectify the rest of us as "unsubstantive".
    Think of music. Often it goes way out beyond the theme, and eventually returns to it. Some of these meanderings have charms of their own. And there's too many variables in this forum to expect predictability.
    ____________________________________
     
  94. Arthur, do you think a stereotype is an accurate description? What is reified in the creation of a stereotype? In any event, the OP refers to objectification and I am taking it that you do not recognize what is refered to, and so recommend the following, if you are interested:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectification
     
  95. Hi, Don,
    In fact stereotyping in the example I referred to was part of my point - that it is NOT an example of reification (converting an abstract concept into something material) or its synonym, objectification. Your reference to Martha Nussbaum's factors that create 'for her' an objectification is welcome, in that it probably comes close to the way objectification is understoood (or misunderstood?) in this thread. Those factors (and not the originally stated definition) I have trouble with - the connection of the process of objectification with an abstract idea is not always evident.
    If we say that a dove in flight is an objectification of the idea of striving for peace, that for me is an objectification. If we say that the practice of regarding or treating another person merely as an instrument (object) towards the person's sexual pleasure is sexual objectification, that is another thing. The latter does not strike me as being the materialisation of an abstract idea, but more a (possibly uninvited) appropriation of another person's features or rights to satisfy a personal desire, wheher restrained to the mind, or otherwise.
    Perhaps I am nit-picking about the definition, but it might be useful to mention your Wikipedia reference as a basis for most of the examples given in this thread. My insistence on the meaning of objectification is simply for clarity in a philosophical exchange. It is definitely not intended to deride the intent of Fred's most interesting thread, which has provided many very good exhanges about what is commonly referred to as objectification (or whatever, as provided by Ms. Nussbaum) and its use in photography.
     
  96. "Perhaps I am nit-picking about the definition, but it might be useful to mention your Wikipedia reference as a basis for most of the examples given in this thread. My insistence on the meaning of objectification is simply for clarity in a philosophical exchange."
    I wish these threads began with the OPs defining their terms rather than assuming they are unambiguous and undisputable.
     
  97. "I wish these threads began with the OPs defining their terms rather than assuming they are unambiguous and undisputable." --Don
    Were the terms "defined" from the beginning, we could spend the thread debating the definition, which would certainly suit some. It would likely avoid photographs. I wanted a philosophical/photographic exploration. Rather than the begninning, I thought the goal would be a loose and varied definition (I prefer discussion) come upon by the group, in photographic terms. Had I restricted the term by "defining" it at the beginning, I may not have encountered Josh's, Dan's, Wouter's, Phylo's, and your own takes on it, takes which I hadn't already considered (so they couldn't have gone into the OP), but rather invited by starting the thread. My purpose is not to define "objectification" here, it is to discuss photographs in light of it. Some may understand "objectification" differently than others. Some may even misunderstand it. But even in so doing, if they talk about photographs related to a different understanding or even a misunderstanding of "objectify" we all have the chance of benefitting from whatever they say which will likely be related if not absolutely precise. I figure as long as we're in the general vicinity, if we're using the idea of objectification no matter how we understand it as inspiration for talking about photographs, we're ahead of the game.
     
  98. Humpty Dumpty, sitting atop his wall, said to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—nothing more nor less.
    Alice replied: “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    Humpty replied: “The question is, which is to be master—that’s all.”
    _________________________________
     
  99. Regarding definition, consider the difference between:
    "Objectification: to treat as an object" (from the dictionary) and " Objectification...treated as if it is... an object" (from Wikipedia entry)
    What is "it" that is the something that is objectified, treated as, or as if it were, an object? What is the significance (if any) of "as if"? Would that answer to Arthur's criticism?
    You open the discussion with: "Photographs have the power to objectify and exploit". Better (as your further comments support) to say photographers have the power to exploit, and I added 'so do viewers' (even if the photographer has not "exploited"). If photographers and viewers exploit, then so do subjects (I think we agree on that). Thus, everyone can be said to play the game. It is a "joint effort".

    "Were the terms "defined" from the beginning, we could spend the thread debating the definition, which would certainly suit some. It would likely avoid photographs."
    The photographs are merely exhibits here, evidence of objectification or exploitation, or the absence of them (can they be absent from a photograph?). It seems to be more about behavior than about photographs. The thing is to define the terms used in relation to photography. Asking whether or not one exploits or objectifies in one's photography, leaves the meaning of the terms undefined for everyone's understanding, no matter they approach it from the perspective of physics to critical theory in their understanding of photography.
    "Do you notice a line, in your own photographing, between objectification of subjects (people, places, things, situations) and exploitation of them? How would you characterize the difference? Do you judge objectification negatively? Exploitation?"
    To answer means one has definitions in mind. I don't think there is a need in an OP in this forum to "phrase it in the form of a question". I'd prefer a statement on photography and objectification proposed for discussion. I don't think photographs themselves are anything but evidence about photographers, subjects and viewers in regards to objectification.
     
  100. American Girl in Italy
    Ruth Orkin accomplishes different forms of objectification in thisun.
    some personal explorations on objectification a common topic in my work.
    objectifying objectification
    treat as an object or express an abstract - express (something abstract) in a concrete form, that was the hope.
    objectify the subject... degrade to an object - the act of treating people as if they are objects, without recognition of rights or feelings of their own. I did, the voyeur did and the model did and often the viewer sees the exploition. I keep the photo alive because it went beyond the impersonal objectification that is also being discussed here and is in common use among many photographers and viewers.
     
  101. Josh, I think truly impersonal objectification is a lot less common than you suggest. Most photographers are ham-fisted egoists who can't help but inject their personas into everything they do, and that inclides their biases towards the model. Your picture fails to objectify to what I would consider a sigfnificant degree for the following reasons: The gesture of the model's hand carries a certain individuating personal quality. Same with her "pose". Her head is cropped out, and this is also more common than one might think, I've had several models, particularly in the past, who agreed to nudes and some to risque images, as long as their faces didn't show. Does facelessness or headlessness objectify per se? I'm not so sure it does.
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/W/weston/weston_torso_of_neil_full.html
    http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5275904
    http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/156198/Torso_of_a_Bodhisattva
    http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425959098/119116/ruth-bernhard-classic-torso.html
    To return to Josh's photo, although the tonality leaves me cold, and the personalized objectification tepid, what makes this picture for me is that lighter-toned rock angling from the middle right of the frame, up towards the upper fourth or so. Maybe I'm reading tea leaves, but it looks like....a headless female torso.
     
  102. Josh, thanks for posting some photos that make visually concrete some of the things we've been discussing. Consciousness of my own de-humanizing objectifying proclivities, and visual expression of that, will often provide me with a view beyond it. I allow myself to address it, contemplate it, see it, and (as you have suggested) objectify objectification itself. I always appreciate others' visual admissions of objectification, since so many hide it or try to run from it . . . I guess because it's so human.
    ______________________________________
    "The gesture of the model's hand carries a certain individuating personal quality. Same with her 'pose'. Her head is cropped out, and this is also more common than one might think, I've had several models, particularly in the past, who agreed to nudes and some to risque images, as long as their faces didn't show."
    --Luis
    The objectification, for me, comes not from the subject or her gesture or lack of gesture itself, and certainly not from headlessness alone, but rather from a much more significant dynamic set up in the photo which reveals itself somewhat intimately.
    "Her head is cropped out, and this is also more common than one might think, I've had several models, particularly in the past, who agreed to nudes and some to risque images, as long as their faces didn't show. Does facelessness or headlessness objectify per se?" --Luis
    Does Josh's photo lose its objectifying quality because some may consider it common or because someone else has done something similar in their own (unshown) photos? That would be a very unique take on how photos do or don't accomplish objectification. Besides which, the cropping out of this head, unless told otherwise, I assume is an expressive choice of the photographer, not a limit imposed on a photographer by a model.
     
  103. me "...objectification that is also being discussed here and is in common use among many photographers and viewers." language use, when viewers or photographers talk about the objectification of A subject.
    Luis "Does facelessness or headlessness objectify per se? " not for me. But it does lessen the likely hood that my viewers will see it as a portrait. I often 'cut' heads off the models I've never ask me to avoid their face.


    I chose this photo because I objectified the model. I chose to treat her body without regard for her uniqueness, as an object. That day I would have treated any body type equally with indifference to the individual characteristics. She was a 'piece of meat' for me to use as I could. I posed her, use her, as I saw fit. Through the lens she had no personality to me. The reason was that I was exploring the surface of human flesh as a standin for marble.
    If not for the voyeur lurking behind the boulder this was destined for the trash. If he were not there it would serve no purpose for me. The original purpose was in the exploration of surface.


    The cold tone observation pleases me. A rare choice of base color for me. It is intended to leave the viewer distanced. It is intended to objectify the body negatively. It is not meant to please the viewer with a tonality wow. If in having intent it personalizes me the photographer ... OK by me. "...which reveals itself somewhat intimately"
     
  104. There is one thing that upsets me. Could be a lexical issue due to me not being a native speaker.
    But treating human beings as pieces of meat upsets me. A lot.
     
  105. me too Luca. It is an expression that is often heard in response to objectified nudes and that is my reference, the expression. I can be accused of treating a model 'like a piece of meat' and agree to the spirit of it without agreeing with the facts of it. "Through the lens she had no personality to me" like the voyeur in the background was doing.
     
  106. The world as an object, the world as is. A piece of rock ?! Detachment as in objectifying can be a state, surely not equaling indifference.
     
  107. Phylo, Your example is not with lack of interest for the 'unmanipulated' unique characteristics as it was for me the day of the case i cite. Detachment, indifference, headless, impersonal etc. I doubt we could point to any one thing that would qualify as objectification. I wouldn't attempt it myself. It is easier to determine what it is not.
     
  108. Fred - "Does Josh's photo lose its objectifying quality because some may consider it common or because someone else has done something similar in their own (unshown) photos? That would be a very unique take on how photos do or don't accomplish objectification."
    As a viewer, I am not privy to what Josh's intent was. All I have to go on is what I am seeing, and what's inside me. My commentary was in part an explanation of my reaction as a viewer. My viewing is perfectly legitimate as are my reasons for what I felt, whether Fred or anyone else likes or agrees with them or not. Catty comments like Fred's simply have the effect of damping my participation here. To (re)view out of one's experience is hardly "very unique".
    _______________________________
    Josh, that picture didn't make much of an impact on me. While I understand your intent from reading it, that's not what I experienced as a viewer, save for the tonalities. The "voyeur" flatly fails to create the tension you refer to -- for me. Nor did the piece-of-meat thing come across for me. At best, what I got was a charming, witty, campy send-up theatricality, in the sense of a late 50's biker movie still.
    I do not get the idea of detachment from it, either.
    That doesn't mean it's fodder for the circular file/delete key, nor does it in any way negate your intent, nor my experience of it as a viewer. It might work better in a larger form. Lots of things get lost on the monitor, and though I may be wrong on this, my guess is that you were thinking of this in print, not monitor form.
    You did send it as an example, and should be flattered that I devoted time out of my busy life to look at, and comment on it twice, even if it didn't fully reflect what you intended.
    [ There are many other photos by you that I find more engaging, but they are not germane to this discussion.]
     
  109. Homage to Doisneau
    00Wlrm-255661584.jpg
     
  110. Luis, I'm not sure what was catty about my comment. I wasn't questioning your individual take on Josh's photo and you are allowed to critique others' photos, even though I think critiques are better kept to critique forums and photos posted in philosophy forums should be considered in light of their exemplifying the topic. In this case, I was merely questioning your saying that one of the reasons you didn't find it objectifying was because others and yourself have chopped heads off similarly. I don't see what the ubiquity or commonness of chopping heads off would have to do with whether it is objectifying. Chopping heads off, I understand. How common a practice it is, I don't see what that has to do with objectification.
    If it's the part of my comment where I allude to the fact that we've never seen a photo of yours that you find catty, too bad. It's pertinent. You have referenced your own work in specifically criticizing Josh's yet you don't show it. That, to me, is bad form. The reason I want to see your photograph is to see if its characteristics make it in any way similar to Josh's. NONE of your examples chop off the heads in at all a similar fashion to Josh, except on the very superficial level of not having a head, so to me they are terrible comparisons. All the photos you chose are simple nudes, studies, or statues, that have no head. Josh's no head is part of a story, with the potential for more life, more personality, more gesture, where the chopped head feels much more an interruption of something, an intrusion, or a push away (if even just a rejection of identity, which is the way some might see it). It certainly reads to me as if it has intention behind it whereas all your examples seem much more matter of fact. This is the way they did it. Your examples merely are headless. Josh seems to have lopped off the head. Much more active.
    So, yes, if I could see your photo, I'd know just how shallow a comparison you are making from Josh's work in chopping off a head to your own. You don't allow us that benefit. I have defended you on other occasions (and would continue to in most cases) for having your reasons for not sharing your work. On this, and a few other occasions, I won't defend it. Because here, you, yourself, have made your own work relevant by your words. In this case, only your work could substantiate your words and your claim. Something feels off about someone claiming to be a photographer and in a non-critique forum offering a critique of another photographer's work, likening an aspect of that work to his own, and then refusing to post examples of his own work. I feel perfectly fine in articulating that. If you think it's catty, that's also fine.
     
  111. Fred posted, I need to check for redundancy
     
  112. Please Luis "I chose this photo because I objectified the model."josh. I treated her as an object and viewers tell me they find these sort of nudes exploitive. Meat. This particular one came to mind because of the additional figure in the background who sees a naked lady.
    But Tension? I don't recall going there. Or detachment. Distanced yes..is that what you meant.

    It is not a question of how successful you think my intent. I would have been flattered to have you pick up on the ideas I presented in context of the topic . not by a critique of the photo, or my intent as a photographer.. Save your valuable time for something that matters.
    I am not here to hear what Luis thinks about my work. That is why I don't care to post photos in these forums be it mine yours or theirs.
    I don't try to supply answers just offer food for thought.
     
  113. Detachment, indifference, headless, impersonal etc. I doubt we could point to any one thing that would qualify as objectification. I wouldn't attempt it myself. It is easier to determine what it is not. - Josh​
    Yes. Perhaps kinda - and paradoxically - like still photography objectifying motion and change even though we know * it is not *.
     
  114. Josh: "objectify the subject... degrade to an object - the act of treating people as if they are objects, without recognition of rights or feelings of their own. I did, the voyeur did and the model did and often the viewer sees the exploition."
    Luis: "...what makes this picture for me is that lighter-toned rock angling from the middle right of the frame, up towards the upper fourth or so. Maybe I'm reading tea leaves, but it looks like....a headless female torso.what makes this picture for me is that lighter-toned rock angling from the middle right of the frame, up towards the upper fourth or so. Maybe I'm reading tea leaves, but it looks like....a headless female torso."
    Josh, I wonder whether you saw the compositional elements that Luis notes. I'd go further and say the model and the rocks, in that light and in b&w, in terms of tonality, texture, form, and composition make a photograph to my eyes, but I don't know if it did to yours.
     
  115. The how and why of the photo as it stands is explained here. In my intro located below the link to Voyeur Nude.
    Don, long story short ....
    Yes it was calculated top to bottom. Seen down to post processing notes incl. toning. but not the cold tone base until after the fact. The guillotined (lopped :) approach of the head and identity of the model even suggested where on the rock to pose. It took several minor changes to minimize the hair on her legs, etc.
    But did it make it as a photo? Yes. For the original purpose which was initiated as a response to a very common viewer reponse I was getting back then... My nudes (photos) were being viewed as access to sex objects, which put me off. This is a old photo. 30 years.
    But like I said it would be in the trash if it had not gone to another than planned place. Too many like this to care about it without the other objectification. I often walk a fine line between treating as an object in a negative manner and concretization. It was saved from trash by the concretization that the unplanned voyeur offered up. Then my approach of treating the model as an object gained 'momentum' and value for me.
     
  116. Thanks, Josh. I didn't want to speculate, but I thought the relative 'symmetry' was unlikely to be accidental. Sometimes a good idea encounters the implacable resistance of the materials. I also enjoyed your post in the linked thread. I was not here for that and am glad you linked to it.
     
  117. I think that Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative is apropos here:
    "Always treat persons as ends, never as mere means." [emphasis mine]
    Photography is a form of objectification, but when it is only that, it becomes a form of exploitation.
     
  118. We're seeing an interesting example of objectification, based on photos, playing out in the current news cycle. Ms Anna Chapman, charged (I think) with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government is the "sultry" "femme fatale" "Russian spy".
    "The circus is in town"
     
  119. in my humble opinion, great photographs sublimate a person, an animal or a place.
    in order to do this, the photographer has to fully understand or feel the present situation and connect with what's in front of him or her. In such a state, he cannot objectify, let alone exploit.
     
  120. "In psychology, sublimation is a term coined by Freud which was eventually used to describe the spirit as a reflection of the libido. It has its roots in Freud's psychoanalytical approach, and is sometimes also referred to as a type of defense mechanism. According to Wade and Tavris, sublimation is when displacement "serves a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_(psychology)
     
  121. @Don Interesting that Freud calls it erotic energy; I do not completely agree that this is what drives us to create photographs. The article on Sublime might be more relevant for what photography can be : nothingness of photographer and oneness with Nature (oneness with subject), self-forgetfulness, seeing the greatness in the subject and being astonished by it.
     
  122. "nothingness of photographer" and "the greatness of the subject and being astonished by it" are ideas I find intriguing and attempt to work with, but I don't need the "oneness of Nature" to get there, just the scene in the viewfinder whatever it may be.
     
  123. Freud may have borrowed the term sublimation or sublimate in the 20th century, but the original sense of these words I think was outside of psychology, as a scientific term to depict matter going from the solid state of existence to the vapour (gaseous) state, without passing by the liquid state. This happens to carbon dioxide with great effect on theatre stages, or to snow when it goes directly to the vapour phase.
    When you sublimate something, and condense the vapour back again to solid, the result is often a purification of the original material. When we allow a photographic subject to be sublimated, are we not passing it to the vapour state (our imaginations) before re-condensing the subject in a photographic form that we have purified.
    I like that idea more than the very lofty and unattainable one of seeking exalted or noble perfection that Heri seems to suggest in invoking sublimation. In any case, the result is probably not objectification, but rather a transformation. That we do often to our subjects in photography, or via traditional art media.
     
  124. Heri, thanks for bringing sublimation into the mix, which I certainly wouldn't have thought of. I think it's a great counterpoint to objectification.
    "Sublimation" is commonly used two ways. One is as Arthur has said: a substance going from a solid to a gas. In that way, it would seem the opposite of objectification. There are many ways I can look at that from the standpoint of photographs. One is going from what I see as viewer, the photograph as object, to the ideas and feelings the photograph stimulates. Another is Arthur's sense in which the physical becomes the imaginary in the mind of the photographer. Going from solid to gas suggests to me a lack of restraint. Maybe a nice description of some photographers' method of visualizing.
    Heri, I disagree with this: "In such a state [of sublimation], he cannot objectify, let alone exploit." I think the photographer, and anyone, can do both. I see both objectification and sublimation in many acts and in many photographs. The tension of seeming opposites is found in a lot of photographs. Any portrait I make can be an objectification in the sense that it makes concrete (and visual) qualities of that person and it also can utilize that concretization to open up from the specific person being photographed to more universal emotional expressions and appeals.
    Sublimation is also used to talk about transfers of "psychic" energy: "He sublimated his anger by chopping enough wood for the week." Seems somewhat related to the old Aristotelian idea of drama as catharsis. I can sublimate a variety of emotions and feelings (both negative and positive) in producing a photograph.
     
  125. SUBJECT, OBJECT
    Well, this is all very fascinating, but I am having trouble knowing when the line has been crossed into either objectification or exploitation. Here is one by Josh previously commented on:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/9783274
    Here is yet another by someone else:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11133215
    Does the model's bold gaze take away the perception of exploitation, or she is merely complicit in it? to what extent is she objectified?
    To what extent is any photographic subject not also object?
    --Lannie
     
  126. Don,
    by oneness with nature or oneness with subject, I meant understanding the subject, by being in the same state. The opposite of "oneness with subject" would be acting like a movie director and viewing the scene and its elements as if they were mere props on a movie set, to be setup and placed according to your own vision of what they should be instead. That's where objectification begins; and instead of capturing the essence of a moment and a subject, you are instead adding your own reality. It works and many do it, but in my opinion, a great photograph taken in the "movie director" mindset requires much more preparation time than just capturing the essence, since you need to fine-tune every object or person's position and pose and light, and spend a great deal of time to try to make it look good. In the other mindset, it requires more time at the beginning to recognize what's in front of you, but imho it makes ultimately better photographs.
    Fred,
    For what is sublimation, for me it's more about transformation. You see a lone crane looking for food on a shore. You like the scene. You sit down and take the time observe it. Then you realize it's the gracefulness of the crane that makes the scene beautiful. The way its thin long legs dip into the water. Its delicate yet precise movements. How the crane stops serenely time to time. As a photographer, you fully dedicate your skills to capture it... And a great photograph is taken.
    So you transformed an ordinary scene into an illustration of gracefulness. The crane was sublimated into gracefulness.
    Never in the process the subject was objectified. Instead you understood the nature of the crane.
    ... and yes of course, it's possible to objectify or exploit in photography. A camera is only just a tool after all
     
  127. Heri, you talk about "essences." Is the crane taking a crap less essential than the grace of the crane's neck?
    I do what I consider to be a lot of staged portraits, yet many of them happen quickly without the kind of preparation you describe. There are many non-arranged aspects of a "staged" photograph and staging can be accomplished in the same instant as "just capturing an essence." "Staged" can be a way of seeing as well as a time-consuming setting up. I've gotten a staged feel in some fairly instantaneous street shooting. I also think one can objectify in the blink of an eye . . . or not.
     
  128. The ubiquitousness of objectification seems to nullify the concept. Perhaps some examples of photographs (not necessarily your own) that do not objectify, or are minimally objectifying would help to contrast with the apparent omnipresence of objectification.
     
  129. Ubiquitousness of objectification in no way nullifies the concept. Up until a certain time in history, every photograph was taken in black and white? Did that nullify the significance of how to think about and work with black and white in photographs? That all photographs may objectify does not make it like a simplistic on and off switch. It's not important to me whether every photograph objectifies. The way in which and the extent to which they do is what I, and many of us, have been considering.
     
  130. FG - "Ubiquitousness of objectification in no way nullifies the concept. Up until a certain time in history, every photograph was taken in black and white?"
    Apples and oranges, Fred. One concerns the limits of available materials, the other is purely conceptual. When we were busy chipping flint, there was no question of drawing a french curve. Later, when we could, when to employ it, and how, became an issue.

    I said "seems" to nullify the concept, Fred, anticipating your response. All I was doing was asking for examples of photographs that minimally objectify. Instead, I got the usual intellectual machismo. I never alluded to a "simplistic, on-off switch" as Fred tries to pin on me (why, other than to aggressively invalidate my thinking and/or self-aggrandizement, is beyond me). This kind of thing drives people out of this forum, and makes me (sadly) understand why JK brought up the authority thing.
    The question is still open: Where are some examples of non-or-minimally objectifying photographs?
    If the idea is not important to Fred, why does he bother to shoot it down?
    It cannot be a new concept to anyone here that sometimes we can learn about something by studying its opposite, or its absence.
    Fred - "The way in which and the extent to which they do is what I, and many of us, have been considering."
    But surely you can't be positing the idea that what you (and the Substantifs you speak for) been considering is all there is to this. Would you be happier with a forum of your own? Or dictating the limits of the very topics you've chosen? Unfortunately for you and your group, and fortunately for the rest of us, this is a much richer vein than you realize, and so far, PN staff isn't censoring or admonishing anyone.
     
  131. If everything is objectification, then nothing is objectification.
    --Lannie
     
  132. Luis, instead of consistently asking others questions and asking others to come up with examples, take a risk sometime and put forth some ideas. Perhaps if you stopped lying in wait for our responses and put forth some independent ideas yourself, these interactions would be more productive and less contentious. Yes, I know you ask questions already anticipating responses (your own words). That's why it was so easy to see through your transparent request and I didn't take the bait.
    Lannie, every photo being an example of objectification is not the same as "everything is objectification." Kind of Logic 101.
    With that, I'm going to take a long break from this forum. It's been getting more and more unproductive. You guys deal with it the you want from now on.
     
  133. It was a good thread, Fred. Thanks.
    --Lannie
     
  134. Fred's parting wisdom was: "You guys deal with it the you want from now on."
    Er... we sure appreciate going off-leash hereabouts, but....that's exactly the way it is supposed to be, isn't it? How else should it be? The leash stifles discussions here, and keeps them monotonic.
    Suggestive, open-minded guidance is an entirely different matter, but we had wandered far from that.
    __________________________

    No one was plotting against Fred or his thread. Some of us had our own (unsubstantive) ideas, and thinking we were free to do so, dared to voice them. Not with any intent to take away from the discussion, but with the intent of adding to it in our own way.
    _________________________
    Asking for an example of a photograph with low (or little) objectification is not irrelevant or counter to anything regarding this thread. If we can't account for the absence, degrees, or dearth of something that is claimed to be everywhere, how can we account for its presence in our photographs --- or anyone's? If everyone objectifies in their pictures, and we can't tell by how much, not even to the blunt level of more or less than, it renders the OP and the claims of those busy objectifying in their work less than substantive.
    _________________________
     
  135. Geez Louise, Luis. Don't make these kind of "I dare you" posts while I'm trying to work. I can't help myself. How about this as an example of a low-objectifiation example [disclaimer: I'm in full Devil's advocate mode. I changed into costume in the nearest phone booth ...]:
    http://www.metmuseum.org/Imageshare/ph/large/DP143679.jpg
     
  136. The way in which and the extent to which they do [objectify] is what I, and many of us, have been considering.​
    Actually, what Fred was saying was quite useful.
    Julie, thank you for another winner.
    --Lannie
     
  137. Objectification or not, Julie, those chairs and "head shadows" offer a lot of possibilities to explore, visually and metaphorically. It is in fact dangerous to show them to other starving photographers like me..... Next visit to the Met, ...
     
  138. Fred almost always has insightful, thoughtful, helpful pearls scattered throughout his writing. That's never been in doubt.
    Fred - "The way in which and the extent to which they do [objectify] is what I, and many of us, have been considering."
    ...and the rest of us have been considering the same thing in our own way. To grasp just what that is, specially the extent, it may help to see pictures that are relatively low in objectification. I wasn't daring anyone to come up with one. They're all over the place.
    A hearty thanks to Julie. That's a start. It's hinting that "is-ness" is a low objectification factor. OTOH, there's a strong human presence manifested (or objectified) in that picture.
    Ps. Anything that brings Julie out in a devilette's costume is a good thing. I didn't know there were any public phones, let alone booths left!
    ________________________________
     
  139. Luis, it isn't a costume. . . . That's Julie as, um, God made her.
    [Objectification taking place without benefit of photo. . . .]
    --Lannie
     
  140. I wonder if this topic can be recast since "objectify" seems to trip up just about all of us.
    "To ojectify is to mess with the definition of an object or being." Nah. Never works. Our conception of stuff is infinitely fuzzy and fluid; contingent, etc. To some greater or lesser degree, the instant you perceive something/anything you objectify it in order to make sense of it. But you also don't objectify because it is "in play." Becoming.
    "To objectify is to mess with the field (or board if you're a checkers/chess sitting-down kind of person) on which this game is being played." Nah. In experience, you can't separate the players from the field. They are the same stuff. What is not "player"? What is not "field"? If there's no division, how can you "objectify"?
    "To objectify is to put the players on/in a non-native field (take them out of their native setting)." Heck no. That just makes them less objectified. They look weird and so more individualized.
    "To objectify is to bound/limit/frame the field. Make it smaller. Very much smaller." Nope. All photographs do that, just as they all "objectify." Close-up photography is usually not about objectification; it's about native detail.
    "To objectify is to make those boundaries the POINT of the picture. To force (more or less) the thing/being/subject into a frame that is either non-native or highly constricted and then make that constriction the point of the picture, or at least the overt means to the point of the picture." I think this one gets me the closest to what I think of as being meant or pointed to when someone talks about "objectificatioin" in photography.
    Of course, the big requirement of that last one is that the players have to play on the new constricted or non-native field. If they just lie there looking pissed and out of place ... "Houston, we have a problem."
    One last little bit: both "concrete" (or "concretize") and "inert" are, in my belief, simply not possible in experience. To make overt boundaries is not to "fix" or stop the content of the image. It is to condense it. Like soup. As soon as you take it in, play with it, it ... dilates.
     
  141. That was a breath of fresh air! Much more realistic, organic, gestalt-y and full of possibility. It harkens back to what we were skirting with the exchanges on color. I stubbed my toe on it when catching myself on the "inert" word.
    That condensation has its opposite effect as well. Boundaries are like someone whispering in your ear not to think of a pink elephant (or whatever lies outside). Perhaps this is why so many conscious efforts to objectify end up looking so hamfisted/contrived/artificial.
     
  142. Photographs describe the appearance of objects. The appearance is excerpted from the real object. The absence of the other attributes of an object encourages the desire to complete or 'fully realize' the appearance, to give it what it lacks (realness), not only meaning or significance (and a means to communicate it), but sometimes also to 'flesh out' the appearance with constructs of its missing reality by introducing sound, music, text, and sequential images. These seem to be attempts imbue the appearance of the object with the realities of its real world model which lives and breathes, has volume and depth, sound and smell, movement, change and history.
    Another response to the photographic appearance of objects is to accept they are without meaning or significance, life or reality, and therefore are exploitable, mere raw material for art or just goofing around in Photoshop.
    Another approach is to enjoy and participate in the theater of appearances, to let the object appear as it wants, to not demand that mere appearance display more than itself evoking meaning or significance, and be more than what it is -- or, in sum, to be what it would be if it were real.
     
  143. I'm still thinking of a non-objective photograph. Do abstract photographs objectify?
     
  144. "Do abstract photographs objectify?"
    <p>

    Was there an object in front of the lens when the photo was taken?
     
  145. Mr. G,
    "Do abstract photographs objectify?" No.
    Objectification is dependent on, plays off of, requires that some part of the native identity of the "thing" remain or even (probably) be accentuated/intensified. It's the tension between that native identity and the constricting/non-native boundary imposed by the photographer that does what I believe is being suggested in this thread as "objectification."
    Abstraction* depends upon, requires that native identity be wiped out; effaced. Effectively, it's gone. Not there. It's like the graphite left by a pencil; used but not seen as such. I get the words without the graphite ever "rising" to consciousness.
    [*speaking theoretically about the idealized, perfect and perfectly complete abstraction]
     
  146. Objectification is dependent on, plays off of, requires that some part of the native identity of the "thing" remain or even (probably) be accentuated/intensified.​
    And perception itself can be that "thing" photographed, and intensified and expressed, through an abstraction. With the photograph as subject matter ( *to objectify*, or not ) rather than the subject being photographed.
     
  147. As Phylo rightly suggests, the perception is what is photographed, and if that perception is, or is then rendered, in abstract form, then the photograph becomes the subject matter rather than the object (subject) photographed. A very strong statement about the nature of abstract art or photography, without going into a discussion about the visual elements important in abstract art.
     
  148. I think you misunderstand Phylo, but in any event, the topic at hand, and the local question in particular ("Do abstract photographs objectify?") is a discussion of "the visual elements."
    Representation of texture and form are rarely entirely absent even in the most abstract photograph -- detached/divorced from native identity though they will be.
     
  149. Whether I misunderstand Phylo or not is one thing. What I said, however, was inspired by what Phylo was saying, and my contention that whatever the object is, the abstract image need not have any relation to it. We photograph using our minds and not simply a device. A complete transformation of any physical object or subject is entirely possible, with the end result bearing little or no relation (that is, a significant one) to the original....if that is our wish. Many so-called abstract photographs are not that, but may be more easily classified as expressionism, with the image containing recognisable source characteristics.
     
  150. Agreed, but I don't see how that differs from what I said earlier this morning.
     
  151. Julie, in that sense we are agreed. I was reacting positively to Phylo's comment that it is the perception that is the photograph (or is being photographed), and not the object.
     
  152. You guys must have good cameras. My camera only photographs objects.
     
  153. Don, cameras don't photograph, but people (sometimes with imagination) do.
     
    1. objects are objects, they remain objects when photographed;
    2. "objectifying" applies firstly to human beings - as it was intended by FG who quoted me in the original post. "objectifying" human beings means depriving the same human being of their human essence. The soul, if you like;
    3. are there objects with a soul? maybe yes, it's the soul their authors put into these objects, or rather our projection;
    4. are there objects which are subjects? probably not. If we "see" a lively essence it probably is our own projection;
    5. abstraction: an abstract depiction of an object still shows an object. The abstract representation of a human being could be objectification and it could be not. It depends on whether it deprives the human being of the human essence.
     
  154. "Don, cameras don't photograph, but people (sometimes with imagination) do."

    <p>

    So, you don't need a camera, and you photograph your "perception".

    <p>

    You are the photographer. You are the camera. You are the subject. You are the photograph. That's what I call "entanglement".
     
  155. "So, you don't need a camera, and you photograph your "perception"."
    "Perception" is how the photographer is going to treat his subject, often quite different from how he first saw it. It is a mental process, of "decomposing" the elements (visual, emotional, compositional, etc.) of a subject and then "recomposing" or "reconstructing" them (the "perception").
    The selective image he then makes (with the camera, of course) is the result of that "perception" and the approach he applies to creating the image (creative use of light, chiaroscuro effect, manner of composition, use or not of texture and form, camera angle and lens perspective, selective focus, and too many other aspects to mention here).
    I am sure that if you look hard enough you may find examples of this in your own work. If not, there are others who will be glad to provide some. I hope this clarifies a bit the "perception" issue for you.
     
  156. Luca listed:
    1. objects are objects, they remain objects when photographed;
    In my opinion, objects are reduced to representations of the echoes of light riffing off objects when photographed. They are not interchangeable with the original. What we know of objects is our interpretation of objects, or of the instruments we use to measure/detect them.
    Luca "objectifying" applies firstly to human beings - as it was intended by FG who quoted me in the original post. "objectifying" human beings means depriving the same human being of their human essence. The soul, if you like;
    Luca is misinterpreting Fred's intentions. Non-human objects can also be objectified as per Fred's original definition. Fred explicitly mentioned it in the OP:
    "Do you notice a line, in your own photographing, between objectification of subjects (people, places, things, situations )..."
    1. Luca - "...are there objects which are subjects? probably not. If we "see" a lively essence it probably is our own projection;
    [See the Fred quote above. Fred said 'yes'.]
    Luca - "abstraction: an abstract depiction of an object still shows an object."
    There are photographs that show no discernable objects or humans.
    How would you define the objects/humans in these photos?
    http://willsimpson.org/images/lights.jpg
    Or this?
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3341/3514308804_b06779e6d6.jpg
    ____________________________________
    Arthur: "Perception" is how the photographer is going to treat his subject, often quite different from how he first saw it."
    What exactly do you mean by "how he first saw it"? Pure sensory input? The unmediated staccato neural impulses of the optic nerve before it reached the brain? Do we see anything (save for movement/flash/contrast/color shifts) before perceiving it?
    Arthur - "It is a mental process, of "decomposing" the elements (visual, emotional, compositional, etc.) of a subject and then recomposing them (the perception).
    That's not what comes up in my dictionaries when I look up the word. Perception happens before that. If the incoming photons that your sensory organs were able to pick up do not conform to your preconceptions, odds are they will remain unseen or an unidentified visual phenomena. Unperceived. Everyone is not seeing the same way, or seeing everything in their visual field.
    Arthur, sounding a little patronizing, to Don: "I am sure that if you look hard enough you may find examples of this in your own work. If not, there are others who will be glad to provide some. I hope this clarifies a bit the "perception" issue for you."
    It doesn't clarify it for me. In my opinion, it muddles. What Don said is far clearer to me than what Arthur just posited. If I can't perceive it, how can I consciously photograph it?
    _____________________
     
  157. I believe Arthur has given an illustration of the dictionary definition he wanted for 'objectify'.
    <p>
    1 : to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality
    <p>
    2 : to give expression to (as an abstract notion, feeling, or ideal) in a form that can be experienced by others
    <p>
    To objectify is to make art
     
  158. If I can't perceive it, how can I consciously photograph it?​
    Perception. In the end I think it's about the photographer being able to make conscious to the viewer of the photograph, whether or not this *it* can be actually photographed need not be relevant to the actual experience of the photograph.
     
  159. Concise Oxford dictionary: PERCEIVE: v.t. Apprehend with the mind, observe, understand.
    Luis, does the mind always understand at first glance?
    I think not. Therefore, to me at least, perceiving is theresult of a process, from our first visual absorption of the object to the process of and leading to the perceiving of it in our mind.
    Although mainly used in regard to visual things, perceiving of something has been used in regard to the way we consider social and political issues, events, etc., or how we "perceive" the opinions of others.
     
  160. Phylo, the simple elegance of your initial answer would work if perception was flawless, but the fact is that it is not. There are reams of experiments proving this, and boatloads of philosophers who've made a career out of swimming through that chum.
    Here's one experiment:

    http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html
    If you can't see the gorilla, you can't photograph the gorilla. Oh, you might by accident release the shutter while the bugger is frolicking in the frame and a UFO hovers above, but you made no conscious input into what Arthur talks about re perception: "treat his subject, often quite different from how he first saw it. It is a mental process, of "decomposing" the elements (visual, emotional, compositional, etc.) of a subject and then "recomposing" or "reconstructing" them (the "perception")."
    That seems impossible to do with what you cannot see.
    I do agree with Phylo that this "need not be relevant to the actual experience of the photograph." It is relevant to what Arthur wrote. We also don't know what, in our photographs, a viewer will fail to perceive.
    _______________________________
    Arthur - "Luis, does the mind always understand at first glance?I think not. Therefore, to me at least, perceiving is theresult of a process, from our first visual absorption of the object to the process of and leading to the perceiving of it in our mind."
    I don't disagree entirely with Arthur. I'm not arguing about whether perception is a process or not. I think it is. What I'm saying is that it is an imperfect process, and that our minds often do not detect or understand things after the process, sometimes over a lifetime (unless someone points out the gorilla to you) that we are all partially blind. All of which ties back to Don's statement.
     
  161. Arthur: I was reacting positively to Phylo's comment that it is the perception that is the photograph (or is being photographed), and not the object
    <p>
    Phylo: And perception itself can be that "thing" photographed...
    <p>
    Arthur did not write about his perception of the object, but "...it is the perception that is [...] being photographed, and not the object".
    <p>
    Arthur: "Perception" is how the photographer is going to treat his subject, often quite different from how he first saw it. It is a mental process, of "decomposing" the elements (visual, emotional, compositional, etc.) of a subject and then "recomposing" or "reconstructing" them (the "perception").

    <p>

    Phylo: Perception. In the end I think it's about the photographer being able to make conscious to the viewer of the photograph, whether or not this *it* can be actually photographed need not be relevant to the actual experience of the photograph.

    <p>

    It is the dismissal of the object itself, its absence, the dematerialization of the object that got my attention.

    <p>

    Photography is unlike other representational visual arts, like painting and sculpture, because there's no need for sensitively trained motor skills, no need to work with one's hands the 'blank' matter, a block of marble, paints and canvas, to materially construct and compose the object of art. Even in the darkroom era, and even in alternative printing methods, the precision control of tools working 'blank' matter is not in play. And in the computer era, materials become virtual, as do the tools, for photography. So, I think there is this tendency to lose track of the real, the material.

    <p>

    For me, such a style of photography is too confining and airless. I like being outside taking pictures. The working conditions are great. I like surprises and moments of discovery. I like not being serious about it and living in the same material world in the same material light as those objects I photograph. We get along. I just can't dismiss it or step back a distance and view it objectively according to my preconceptions of what it ought to be or can be.

    <p>

    Politically, socially, such dematerialization is bad juju, I think. I don't want to contribute to that.
     
  162. Luis,
    :).
    "Luca is misinterpreting Fred's intentions. Non-human objects can also be objectified as per Fred's original definition. Fred explicitly mentioned it in the OP."
    I am not. Mine is the original interpretation before the discussion drifted off to other realms. Fred was referring to one of my posts under one of the last Picture-of-the-Week threads.
    "Luca Remotti observed recently that all photographs probably objectify. In that sense, it does not seem a negative, just a part of photographing. But it's also a matter of degree. When objectification takes place without awareness and in such a way as to degrade or diminish the subject, it can be offensive."
    Fred broadened the concept, but it was originated from the picture of a human subject. An extremely clear conception of objectification.
    "Luca - "abstraction: an abstract depiction of an object still shows an object."
    There are photographs that show no discernable objects or humans.
    How would you define the objects/humans in these photos?"
    Good point.
    These are lights. Are lights objects? I think they can be.
    Can lights be subjects?
    I believe that the main issue is that we are dealing with concepts with no borders. It seems to me that we are considering the range from realism and hyper-realism to hyper-abstraction.
    Any discussion requires an initial definition of concepts and subsequently their consistent elaboration. If concepts become "moving targets" the discussion goes astray.
    The point is that photography - however you define it - is material, visual if you want. It's definitely not a concept of mind detached from a real representation, as it is treated here.
    Every person commenting here - I am sure - has specific photographs in mind when s/he writes. The issue is that most of these "implicit visual terms of reference" are not shared with the others. So every statement bears in itself the arguments for its contradiction.
     
  163. Between "the photograph" [definition of which cannot be agreed upon] and "you" [definition cannot be agreed upon] there is always/necessarily "perception" [definition cannot be agree upon]. That is, if you are willing to agree that there is a "between," which I am not ...
    Point being that, in order to have and enjoy discussion, we (should be) willing to weave with our verbal/mental threads [whatever threads serendipity brings to the fore in our wandering explorations] "as if" they submit to the broadest possible, commonly assumed parameters -- OR, just for the joy of turning over and examining ideas, whatever parameters a particular commenter specifies as applying to his/her interpretation (which we can/do and always will then argue about vigorously). There is, at least for me, enormous pleasure in "trying on" different ways of weaving, braiding, mergings of ... anything interesting that the creative minds assembled here (coming and goings of which just add to the mystery of what will or will not happen...).
    I enjoy your (Luca's) point of view and I also enjoy Luis's point of view and I enjoy ... everybody who has posted's point of views.
    Having said all that, I'll add my two bits to today's mix by stating:
    Every perception is new. Every perception is new every time. (Every perception of a picture is new every time.)
     
  164. Luca :)
    I hadn't looked at that picture by Igor that originated the thread. I now see where you were coming from originally. And as you say, "Fred broadened the concept."
    Luca - "I believe that the main issue is that we are dealing with concepts with no borders. It seems to me that we are considering the range from realism and hyper-realism to hyper-abstraction."
    I agree on both counts. If there are borders, they're fuzzy. The dizzying pace with which concepts are explored here makes it hard to keep up with in real-life terms. We also lose lots of potential sideboard ideas/strayings because they do not conform to the pace or conventions of this forum. Admittedly, a lot of these could branch off as threads of their own, as this one did.
    Luca - "Any discussion requires an initial definition of concepts and subsequently their consistent elaboration. If concepts become "moving targets" the discussion goes astray."
    True, but as a wise man who used to be here and I wish would come back has pointed out, the opposite is also true. If we restrict the definition too much, we lose the potential evolution of the concept (along with the straying). Thread Drift seems to be a near-universal effect in conversations and web discussions. The scattering effect (I forget who said it) of anything looked at long enough becoming everything.
    Luca - "The point is that photography - however you define it - is material, visual if you want. It's definitely not a concept of mind detached from a real representation, as it is treated here.
    Every person commenting here - I am sure - has specific photographs in mind when s/he writes. The issue is that most of these "implicit visual terms of reference" are not shared with the others."
    Photography is also conceptual. Some of those concepts have very clear-cut referents, others tenuous ones. Philosophy is something else.
    Amazingly, PN lacks an Art forum, something so many users engage in, or aspire to, and have nowhere to discuss. It is also where many of the issues here belong, and that's only my opinion.
    There are only a handful of people well-schooled in philosophy on the forum, and when they do talk hard-core philosophy, it quickly ends up in tense Mexican stand-offs. I think that's telling, albeit in a nebulous way.
    So the forum is "flawed" (by design), and consistently inconsistent. As with every group, there are those who feel compelled to lead us across the desert to their Promised Land version of PoP, others who are happy making their own way, and some who are sitting in paradise. This will never be a philosophy classroom, let alone a school, nor was it intended to be.
    As photographers and viewers, we see what we know, what we are, what we expect to see. On the surface, we are very similar, and can agree on many things, but as we get to less obvious levels, we soon discover we're also different. Same medium, many paths.
    LR -"every statement bears in itself the arguments for its contradiction."
    Yes! Just as in Newtonian physics for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction, or in many Oriental philosophies everything contains the seed of its opposite. There is a wellspring of energy in that apparent paradox, not just confusion.
     
  165. Julie - "Every perception is new. Every perception is new every time. (Every perception of a picture is new every time.)"
    ...and to complexify matters, some things elicit multiple, near-simultaneous, perceptions.
     
  166. Yes, dear.
    Could you please pass the marmalade?
     
  167. It'd be my pleasure. Is the Clementine OK?
     
  168. Objectification: Willingly taking a (visual, verbal, gustatory) prompt to fall into a role that makes you laugh out loud. The perfect perceptual tennis game.
     
  169. I think by it's very definition to objectify carries with it negative connotations, but I also believe (like some others here) this objectification is inherent in photography. One cannot photograph a scene, a moment, an individual/s etc... without presenting a voyeuristic perspective. We see with the lens rather than the eye. We use tools (camera, lens etc..) to, not only capture a moment in time, but present it to others to view over and over again; and in so doing allow whatever personal appeal it may have had to us (as photographers) at the time, become a collective voyeuristic moment. Does that then beg the question of voyeurism as essential in objectification? perhaps. But it is unavoidable that through the use of a camera, much like the use of CCTV, we turn even the most innocuous and mundane moment into a voyeuristic journey (let alone an important and significant moment). I think this is the unavoidable element of objectification, and conesquently, photography as a whole.
    In terms of exploitation I think intent is what defines it. The photographer's intention with which he/she photographs determines whether 'people, places, things, situations' are in fact exploited. Fred, you mention homeless people as an example of possible exploitation and I'm glad you did because no more is this evident that in this type of photography (in earlier forum threads you and I have had a similar discussion regarding intent as it applies to homeless people). I'm not suggesting the documentation of the plight of homeless people isn't a valid means of awareness, I am however, suggesting the intent of the photographer, determines the validity of such documentation.
    And so I see a clear difference between objectification and exploitation. Additionally, even though by its very definition, objectification can be interpreted in negative terms, it's more or less a bi-product of photography; where as exploitation is almost always defined by intention.
     

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