Dogmatism

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Sep 9, 2014.

  1. I've recently been considering what allows a photographer, artist, or critic to appear somewhat restrictive or even absolutist in discussing photography and/or art. It seems to me a lot of artists and critics, because of a certain commitment and passion, might focus intently on what they're doing or what their approach is or what qualities they're emphasizing that they would more often than we would think come off as dogmatic or exclusionary. Very often, in creating and discovering a new kind of vision, there's a resounding rejecting of the visions of the past. I often feel I understand and can relate to such strong rejections made by artists even while I, myself, maintain an appreciation for some of those older schools and ways of seeing.
    "It is high time that the stupidity and sham in pictorial photography be struck a solarplexus blow... Claims of art won't do. Let the photographer make a perfect photograph. And if he happens to be a lover of perfection and a seer, the resulting photograph will be straight and beautiful - a true photograph." —Alfred Stieglitz
    “Any work of art that can be understood is the product of journalism. The rest, called literature, is a dossier of human imbecility for the guidance of future professors.” ―Tristan Tzara​
    Part of me actually likes it when an artist, critic, or philosopher is as firm and sure of himself as Stieglitz and Tzara are, even if I recognize there's so much more to it than what they're saying. I may well go on to broaden it beyond what they're saying, but I can appreciate such a strong statement, as if nothing else matters but how these individuals are seeing and what they are each striving for at the time.
    "The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude." —Friedrich Nietzsche​
    Nietzsche is very single-minded here. There are so many other qualities to art besides gratitude, yet I find it worthwhile spending some time with the more restrictive notion that it all boils down to gratitude, or as John Schaefer says in talking about Ansel Adams, art boils down to substance and eloquence, or for Plato it's all representation.
    "No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition." —Claude Monet​
    I'm sure other painters would disagree with this, ones who allow the picture to develop without first seeing it and I'm sure many critics could talk about a lot of other ways to paint and many would fault a statement like Monet's for claiming to know what would exclude others as artists. Why not just speak for himself? But I'm kind of glad that Monet says it the way he does. It leads me to believe he's right there, sort of at one with his method of doing things.
    So, please, without getting into a tired debate of the merits of Pictorialism or manipulated photos over more straight photography (that was just an important example!), I'd like to hear things you yourself are dogmatic about regarding your own likes and dislikes, regarding different schools of art and photography, and regarding how you approach your own photography. Also would like to hear some dogmatic yet insightful things you've read about photography and art. Do you ever feel blinded to alternatives (or at least heavily resistant to them) because you're so involved and passionate in a particular way of doing something at the time? How focused is your passion?
     
  2. Add to Fred's quotes one from Ad Reinhardt: “Artists who peddle wiggly lines and colors as representing emotion,” he wrote, “should be run off the streets.”, where the guilty employ "dramatic gesturalism characteristic of many Abstract Expressionist paintings." (Quotes from MoMA here: http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=78976.)
    For me it's tough to take in new information from the external world. With that information I'm compelled to come to a judgment and be done with it and I become more and more irritated with each new piece of information, making coming to a judgment even more necessary. That's how my mind deals with new information coming at me from the external world and I'm sure I come off as dogmatic: that's because at some point I just want to cut off the inflow of external inputs and shut it all down. If can't place an idea or image within contexts I just don't want it. To make me want it, I need the context.
     
  3. I've reversed a dogmatic assertion from the past. I used to believe that only a fully manual approach to making photographs was legitimate - that one must have known exactly what one was doing at every step of the workflow, imposing one's skill upon every detail of execution. But now I'm fairly old enough to know this has to be nonsense for me. My photography has evolved in a new and better direction, since employing the many facets of technology that are completely automated, thanks to engineering that is galaxies beyond my understanding in electronics, physics and more specifically, sensors, processors, and algorithms. I point the camera, compose, trip the shutter, and miracles seem to happen, in a childlike delightfulness. It's not my personal and private execution anymore. For this I'm grateful, since at age 65 after a mild stroke all of that past cognitive glory has faded. I am often forgetful or confused about details of settings. But I still seem to recognize a beautiful, or story-telling image.
     
  4. I'd love to make a pithy and insightful post here (I think Charles and Howard already have, each in their own way), but I cannot think of anything related to art about which I am dogmatic. This is partly due to a lack of knowledge, or let us say deeply informed knowledge. Seven or eight years ago I might have been dogmatic in rejecting certain types of art (highly conceptual, appropriations, theoretical extremes such as a large canvas painted white, or a photograph of an empty and featureless sea), but a little bit of knowledge, and a desire for more, has tempered that considerably. Does this make me wishy-washy? I don't think so. A willingness to investigate and learn before condemning does not translate to a heartfelt appreciation. There are still works I dislike, but instead of being snarky about them I wonder what lies behind them (or if they just lie, which can sometimes be the case). If I'm interested enough, I will look into it.
    Which leads me, perhaps to a bit of dogma about dogma: Only the truly ignorant or the truly brilliant can be dogmatic about art.
     
  5. Doctrine: Our mutually agreeable standards, based on the irrefutable evidence that those who agree with us do indeed agree with us, thereby affirming our standards, and those who do not don't count.
    Dogma: (1) Those sound standards, good values and erudite philosophical assertions upon which you, unaccountably, persist in disagreeing with me and furthermore have the audacity to publish same in journals of art, muddying the waters that I had just clarified in last quarter's edition of that same journal. (2) Two or more dogs barking at our ma, the loudest of whom wins the argument and gets the scraps leftover from her dinner entertaining artists.
     
  6. Photographers are dogmatic, or opinionated, just like everyone else in every other endeavor in life. Canon vs. Nikon, film vs. digital, color vs. BW, HDR vs. no-HDR ink vs. platinum, etc. etc.. Street vs. landscape vs. portrait vs. whatever.
    It's what keep the forums going.
    My own story is I can be creative but I'm not original in what I do. I'm very stubborn in my beliefs and don't change very easily. I try to create the best I can do in the things I believe in.
     
  7. This wasn't really your question, Fred, but when I do come across a dogmatic statement in a PN thread (particularly one with which I strongly disagree) I do tend to "participate" in that thread. I can understand your appreciation of significant artists or scholars who make dogmatic statements...but I still find myself in disagreement with them.
     
  8. The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.​
    Aristotle provinding another contender for a dogmatic truth on art; one that seems so true, and yet doesn't quite make it all the way.
    If this question reveals me one thing to myself about myself, it is how incredibly inconsistent I am. My likes and dislikes in photography smell of a bad flavour of dogmas, yet I tend to dislike dogmas with passion.
    My problem with dogmas is that sooner or later, they tend to go wrong. They're claiming some sort of universal truth, but they're not. In the meanwhile, people fix themselves on this singolar beliefs, block an open-minded approach and close discussion. It's teaching a dog how to bark at ma (thanks, Lex), but not why, not when not to bark at all, or when to bark at other people. It's anti-creative in the sense that it stimulates cloning, not discovery. The way I see a dogma it's also not an opinion: it's repeating somebody else's opinion.
    That said, they have their use as a starting point, to get acquainted in a certain field. If you just start out photography, shooting landscapes at small apertures isn't a bad idea. After all the rule states for those who shoot 135 format to use f/11 or f/16 for this kind of work, so you'd better. As long as sooner or later you discover that sometimes it's not the most interesting choice; break the rules and shoot landscapes at f/2 - because it fits your vision.
    Yet, I am inconsistent about a lot of it. What I want my own photos to be is in parts harder edged than probably is good for me. What is shot on colour film will never become B&W (in other words: "made a wrong choice, now live with it"). Some corrections I will not make because it offends a certain sense of integrity. And some corrections are all OK, while others will despise those edits. I guess it is part of building an idea and a vision where things slowly do get cast in (mental) stone, where some decisions become so deeply part of the style of working, the desired result and/or the 'look' one is after that they do become internally accepted facts, a sort of personal rulebook.
    But there is a noticeable difference between having that internal rulebook, and proclaim it the yardstick for all photos to be judged against, or accepting it as a personal way of working, versus an open curiosity for what others do. And in all honestly, it is always a bit a mixture; staying curious and open-minded is something to actively do and pursuit, while accepting one's own beliefs and hold them for universally true is zero effort. And dogmatically I'd say most people adhere perfectly to Newton's law of inertia, so zero effort comes a whole lot easier.
     
  9. A reactionary response is one of the benefits that accrue when the photographer encounters certain dogma. The dogma can aid us in finding our own approach. The f/64 group had its adherents, but when highest possible resolution (not sure f/64 even allowed that, even with wide diameter large format optics due to diffraction effects) from front to back becomes a goal or the goal, what other values may go unresolved or that may suffer? Debating is an iterative human process of possible clarification or resolution that sometimes allows the participants to further their notion of what is really important to them. Dogma has that characteristic of seldom going unchallenged. I for one welcome it. As we used to say in my ragtag research group in the UK (I cannot help being nostalgic at times....) "you have to have a wall to piss against" (reference also to the sanitary equipment at some pubs).
     
  10. Fred, I'm inclined to distinguish between dogmatism and aesthetic/photographic arrogance. The latter is exhibited in a tired old tv commercial which states in part, "My dog's better than your dog." Dogmatism, on the other hand, may involve a set of parameters, standards, methods, theories, etc., without necessarily any accompanying attitudes towards competing sets. I see no harm in the statements from Stieglitz, Tzara, Nietzsche, and Monet you quoted in the OP until and unless one decides to use such statements as clubs by which to bash opposing viewpoints over the head.
     
  11. Charles, while I'm a big believer in the importance of context, probably context is more a matter of helping to shape and influence understanding. Sometimes, taking something completely out of context can be a joy. So, for example, there have been occasions where I've stumbled upon a photographer I'd never heard of, perhaps don't know the era in which that photographer shot, etc. More often it's happened with some music I've heard on the radio. Don't know when it was made, by whom, etc. Just looking, just listening, without any context to go by is a different sort of experience and one that can be quite profound, in a somewhat sensual, instantaneous, and free-floating way, often lacking in that greater understanding which can also add dimensions to the art experience.
    Howard, LOL. Dogmatic assertions about process run rampant in photography discussions. I generally take a pass, but I do understand that others have an investment in methodology and it's always fascinating to hear the passion behind those debates. They can border on bizarre at times, but I assume there's a reason why it's so important to the players. I'm glad you brought up an ability to change one's dogma, as that's probably a crucial mechanism for people. Certainly Stieglitz changed his at an important period in his own development and in the evolution (which he helped effect) of photography itself.
    Steve, I'm with you in thinking that not being dogmatic isn't necessarily wishy-washy, though it certainly can be in the right hands. Something worthwhile considering, for sure. I take away from your post that, to be dogmatic in a "successful" way (whatever that means) could require knowledge of the alternatives. It's when I suspect someone is being dogmatic without really knowing what they're talking about that I become skeptical. Obviously, most of those quoted, like Monet, Nietzsche, and Stieglitz, probably were pretty worldly about the subjects they were dogmatic about, which is all the more reason for me to give them a good listen. Nietzsche, for example, knew enough about all the other potential qualities of art, that if he asserts that it boils down to gratitude, it's worth a careful look at that position, to see just what he means by gratitude and to see in what way gratitude might be so far-reaching and might encompass all other qualities one could attribute to art (though I probably still wouldn't ultimately buy it).
    Lex, like Wouter said, your post reminds me that I do get more upset (perhaps unfairly so) with dogmatists I disagree with. So the quote Charles supplied about Expressionism ticked me off on first read, because it's such crap (intentionally dogmatic on my part). Yet, I have to step back from that and give the guy a break, assuming he knows something about Expressionism and has formed his dogma authentically. I'm also allowed to turn around, allow him his dogma, and say "His loss!"
    Alan, your post reminded me of a favorite quote by Picasso: "Taste is the enemy of creativity."
    Wouter, Aristotle had it easy, because there weren't as many great thinkers that came before him as his successors in later centuries had to contend with. His dogmas didn't have all that much competition! LOL. Another favorite quote of mine is from Avedon: "My photographs don’t go below the surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues." At first blush, it might seem the opposite of what Aristotle is saying, but where, after all, do the clues lead us? Probably beyond the surface to a place not far from Aristotle's inward significance. And yet, I prefer Avedon's statement, because it includes both the inner and the outer. But, something to consider is that Aristotle, with his seeming dismissal of the outer appearance, is reacting to Plato, who thought that's all art was, a mere representation of the surface and not worth very much. It's interesting to note, as with Stieglitz, that some of the more dogmatic positions in history come as a reaction to dogma of a previous thinker, school, or generation.

    Arthur, very interesting that you would bring up the notion of challenging dogma, which probably does make for the evolution of ideas. It's those who express dogma and then are surprised by the vehement challenges they face that are a puzzlement.

    Michael, I don't know. Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Stieglitz, certainly Tzara and the Dadaists, I think, did have a negative accompanying attitude toward alternative positions. That was part of their juice, IMO. Arrogance, yes. But, to me, it is often part of the dogma though I agree with you that it can be separate. Not all dogma has to be arrogantly stated but there may be an inherent arrogance in stating an ideology that is supposedly incontrovertible, a word I associate with dogmatism.
     
  12. "Inherent arrogance:" Fred, I like how you used this in making your point about dogma. Yet I think there may be a fine line between arguing for one's position as if it's incontrovertible and doing so arrogantly. I can't help but think of the scene in "Young Frankenstein" in which Frankenstein states quite emphatically, "My father's theories were doodoo."
     
  13. Michael, from your first post, in my 'reading' is dogma is exactly the club to hit others over the head with. Before that, it is just an opinion, often a common shared one. The second it gets elevated to being universally true and hence used to indicate others are wrong, it becomes a dogma. But I admit, I might be completely wrong in the way I read the word.
    Fred, somehow I figured you would oppose Avedon's statement against Aristotle - and rightfully so. Between the two of them, they do capture a lot worth considering. And I think, as you point out indirectly, is considering the context of these dogmatic statements - historic, who's the author and so on. Possibly also some of these quotes are taken out of a context and sound more absolute than they would have within their original context.
    The point in question to me seems to be more the tendency of (some) people to accept any of these statements as a singular truth, and dismiss anything that contradicts it, or seems to contradict it. It is pure arrogance: it is the inherent unwillingness to consider alternative views.
    The dogma in itself isn't necessarily a problem; it may be stated too absolute, and that might rub the wrong way. But often enough, they also contain something of value, something to consider and ponder about. Even the simplest photographic dogmas (Rule of Thirds, Landscapes at f/22, portraits must be shot with a 85 f/1.4, lensbaby isn't a serious tool, and so on) have a certain value. In my experience, breaking the rules tends to work better if it is a deliberate action, otherwise, those rules are more foolproof. Dogmas as starting point for a discovery trip isn't the worst of things - but it already implies that you do not hold them universally true, and hence they're just ideas, not dogmas anymore.
    So I keep coming back to what I expressed earlier: doesn't it much come down to the preference of many to seek the simple and warm comfort of a single belief without the complexities of questioning it? Reduce the effort needed and accept blindly, enter your comfort zone and stay there, rather than understand, challenge and seek? Or am I too cynical?
     
  14. Not too cynical at all, Wouter. I lived and moved with people like that, every day for a whole career. I'm a retired minister!
     
  15. The point in question to me seems to be more the tendency of (some) people to accept any of these statements as a singular truth, and dismiss anything that contradicts it, or seems to contradict it.
    . . . doesn't it much come down to the preference of many to seek the simple and warm comfort of a single belief without the complexities of questioning it? Reduce the effort needed and accept blindly, enter your comfort zone and stay there, rather than understand, challenge and seek?​
    Wouter, I think your observation would apply mostly to those who accept or follow (especially blindly or unthinkingly) someone else's dogma. The folks I mentioned in the OP are ones who certainly never sought the comfort of non-questioning. I think they adopted their dogmatic stances after much exploration and discovery. So I tend to give their dogmatic approaches much more weight than those who simply espouse something they've read that sounded good or easy or simple to them. So, when in the OP I say I like the kind of dogma I'm citing, it's not that I like dogma per se but rather a certain subset of dogma where I respect the way it's been achieved and understand the passion, purpose, and focus that's behind it.
     
  16. Alan, your post reminded me of a favorite quote by Picasso: "Taste is the enemy of creativity."
    Ah. But I have good taste.
     
  17. The strength of a message or statement depends a lot on the method of delivery. If I'm passionate about stating the sky is purple and not blue with whatever passion and charisma I can muster up, over time I may succeed is having some people doubt their own eyes. I mean there are still some people who think the earth is flat.
    Now as to art, what it really boils down to is that we all want to be right. It's human nature to want to be correct in our choices because it gives us a (false) sense of control over our lives. We like to be right and we like our choices validated. However, when we make choices, they are often hardly the result of careful research and consideration. For example, I've stated a number of times that I think contemporary street photography today is lacking in content, depth and form, all ingredients I think are necessary for a good street photograph. However, I also mention that I'm no expert...because I'm not. I arrive at this conclusion based on my own individual bias which is the result of my upbringing, my culture, and many other influences, just like everyone else. Now does that mean I think all of today's street photography is bad? Of course not, because I don't have the time to go through all the many, many websites devoted to street photography and consider each and every picture that gets uploaded every day. So I'm looking through a very narrow window through a prism unique to myself. Whatever I spout off after this takes place is just an opinion. Anyone who takes it as Gospel is delusional. You know what they say about opinions - opinions are like a@#holes, everyone has one and they usually stink.
     
  18. Wouter: As I've come to expect, your post is well reasoned. There's one point you made which bears further discussion in my opinion.
    You state: "Michael, from your first post, in my 'reading' is dogma is exactly the club to hit others over the head with. Before that, it is just an opinion, often a common shared one. The second it gets elevated to being universally true and hence used to indicate others are wrong, it becomes a dogma." My first post states: "Dogmatism, on the other hand, may involve a set of parameters, standards, methods, theories, etc., without necessarily any accompanying attitudes towards competing sets. I see no harm in the statements from Stieglitz, Tzara, Nietzsche, and Monet you quoted in the OP until and unless one decides to use such statements as clubs by which to bash opposing viewpoints over the head." You then assert that my second post involves moving to dogmatism in the form of universal truth. That's where the mistake lies, in my opinion. I didn't say that at all. Insisting that one's theory of X is incontrovertible isn't equivalent to stating that it's universally true. It's simply stating that no opposing theory so far has been successful in refuting - and then supplanting - X.
    Besides, I make no claims to know what is universally true. Such a claim would be both arrogant and dogmatic.
     
  19. Fred, then my niggling background itch that we were talking different things turned out true.... Yes, it matters a lot who expresses the statement, and understanding how they reach their statement makes a world of difference too. I think overall, we agree and it's more interpretation of words that seem to set us apart. To me, the way you describe your approach to it, is already a sign that you do not treat any of these dogmas as a dogma, but as an opinion (of which you thoroughly validate how well-informed the opinion is, enabling to take the best from it, and leave the parts that smell wrong). Calling them dogmatic stances is a much clearer sign still :) Much like what Marc described, except maybe the sources are more famous than any of us here, so their words carry further. The line where a strongly-worded opinion ends and a dogmatic stance begins to me sounds like a very grey area.
    And I guess somewhere is those grey areas and the non-dogmatic uses of the word dogma, I got a bit on a different track.
    Howard, could it be we're both cynical? But yes, I see it a lot and I'm still having an active career (or something that resembles it, well, work of sorts); it's not just an age thing. So many young people (much younger than me anyway) without this curiosity, that little nagging inner voice asking all the time "really? Are you sure?"... all the thoughts aren't always a blessing, but I'm happy to have a bit a critical mind and always happy to ask more questions.
    Michael, I just see your post and can just about edit this one. I did not mean that as a rebuttal to you, or as contesting what you wrote, and my apologies if it seemed that way. You are right in distinguishing between 'universal true' versus 'no contradicting theory proved better' - and possibly that also goes back perfectly to what Fred replied. Those making the dogmatic statements, as in the OP, are most likely wise enough to know that it is a case of "no contradicting theory proved better", and be well aware of the limits of their statements.
    Those who (without thought and much deliberation) follow those statements and assume them as their dogmas, are a different matter. I think there the difference between universally true and theory with limits is a another grey area, to say it mildly.
     
  20. Wouter, although I appreciate the sincerity of your last post, no apology is unnecessary.
     
  21. I lived and moved with people like that, every day for a whole career. I'm a retired minister!​
    Howard, it's interesting to consider religion, and there's certainly plenty of dogma to go around in religious circles. Here again, I make a distinction, knowing many very religious people and having had a lot of religious training and exposure in my youth. I have little use for those who toss around Bible verses as if they were Cheerios especially when they use those verses to judge others. They reek of unconsidered dogma and often appear to me as mindless sheep. On the other hand, there are very religious people who've studied, prayed, learned, and internalized a lot of religious thinking and dogma who I have much more respect for, because they've walked the walk and arrived somewhere with the help of others but also by being on the path themselves.
    This is one reason why originality of thinking isn't always necessary to an evolved and thoughtful mind. One can come to the same conclusions as others and adopt similar thoughts to others and still be very genuine and authentic in one's thinking.
     
  22. As I read through this discussion my mind kept wandering off towards thoughts provoked by it, mainly because dogmas in the arts are always changing - which, in essence, means that they can't quite really be dogmas.
    The process by which art dogmas change or are changed is particularly interesting, each new generation somehow manages to subvert the previous generation's values either by calling it dogma, exaggerating those values to the point that they become ludicrous or use a technique that converts a past "good" into a present "bad".
    Architects are fabulous practitioners in this area. Sometime back now, the agreed criteria for art gallery design concentrated on providing spaces that optimised the possibility that all or any art would be able to be shown without being subjected to undue pressure from architecture. But as cities decided to "upgrade" their art galleries the architects started to get the idea that "really wild" buildings would excite the clients more than functional ones!
    The way they got their message across was to bundle the old dogma up into the expression "white cube", which actually sounds quite reasonable and desirable, but the architects would add inflections to it to make it sound, boring, old fashioned, static, restricting and something you really wouldn't want - turning "good" in to "bad" seems a very effective technique!!!
     
  23. "...dogmas in the arts are always changing - which, in essence, means that they can't quite really be dogmas."​
    I'm not sure the most dogged dogmas do change.

    The familiar variations on the "golden section" rules for composition keep popping up, no matter how thoroughly and persuasively refuted. While composition theories can be interesting and useful for understanding art, some folk are uncomfortable living life in the free-floating existence of free will and choice, without rules or guidelines. That's why coloring books continue to sell even though most kids would do fine with blank paper and crayons.
    The ghost of St. Ansel continues to haunt many photographers who carry bits of him around in mental reliquaries. His dogma is misquoted and misapplied almost as often as religious books among fanatics. Note the persistent myth about light meters calibrated to 18% gray (the ISO standard is closer to 12%). A credible anecdote indicates Adams even contributed to his own mythology, reportedly camping out in an office at Kodak until his protests were heard and obeyed to not change the 18% gray card standard. And while Adams' prints were hardly the product of "straight" photography, the f/64 group dogma was taken to such an extreme that Adams depicted William Mortensen as the devil incarnate for his fanciful photo/fauxteaux creations and "gamma infinity" voodoo.
    A Facebook group I follow has codified "pure" street photography, citing Larry Fink's fine essay on the subject as if it were gospel. The group's guidelines disdain "snapshots", preferring "well thought out complex imagery. Images that tell a story, images that evoke". While I don't disagree with the latter, I'm not persuaded that evocative visual narratives and the physical action of the "snap shot" are mutually exclusive. Disdaining the snap shot is akin to a boxer disdaining the left jab. The ability to react instantaneously to capture a perceived moment or opportunity is a basic skill, not something to be disdained merely because some folks happen to be able to snap a shot like a Muhammad Ali jab.
    Still others in the street genre are doggedly dogmatic. They disdain the human touch - a moment of contact or engagement between the photographer and "subject", however brief. They prefer the sniper, the hip shooter, the disengaged, alienated, uninvolved, fly-on-the-pavement approach as the only pure street photography. Never mind that ubiquitous surveillance cameras have effectively made that form almost obsolete. When Google Street View cameras can emulate HCB's classic "decisive moment" photo, it's time for photographers to up their game and reconsider the dogma about the detached, uninvolved, disengaged street photograph.
     
  24. So much food for thought.
    Clive --The way they got their message across was to bundle the old dogma up into the expression "white cube", which actually sounds quite reasonable and desirable, but the architects would add inflections to it to make it sound, boring, old fashioned, static, restricting and something you really wouldn't want - turning "good" in to "bad" seems a very effective technique!!!​
    I have not followed the aesthetics of contemporary architecture, but in regard to what you say I have only to think of Gehry and Bilbao to see the evidence of its truth. I applaud imagination, experimentation, and the breaking of rules, but sometimes form should ever follow function.
    Lex: A Facebook group I follow has codified "pure" street photography, citing Larry Fink's fine essay on the subject as if it were gospel. The group's guidelines disdain "snapshots", preferring "well thought out complex imagery. Images that tell a story, images that evoke". While I don't disagree with the latter, I'm not persuaded that evocative visual narratives and the physical action of the "snap shot" are mutually exclusive.​
    Hmmm, I wonder what group that is. I read the Fink essay you linked to and I cannot fathom how they derived "well thought out complex imagery" dogma from it. And outside of the frozen mid-stride levitation aspect of it, I see little else to compare that google photo to "Behind the Gare St. Lazare". I don't think anyone should lose any sleep over surveillance cameras rendering any type of photography obsolete. We have been seeing amazing "up close and personal" nature scenes from unmanned cameras for years now. That doesn't seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the "tack-sharp osprey with a fish in its talons" school of photography in the least. To get back to your point about dogma in street photography, however, it just doesn't make sense to me to favor only one approach and eschew all others. Different situations require different approaches and techniques depending upon the desired effect. I guess I'm dogmatic in that I prize the end result, be it well thought out and composed, alienated and disengaged, philanthropically engaged, or taken from a google street view camera. Point me toward that FB group so I may give them a sound thrashing and free them from their aesthetic straight-jackets! ;-)
     
  25. [EDIT -- Off topic, but I found the group, Lex. Nowhere near as bad as I thought. I don't know how often they cull out what does not meet their definition but I saw a lot of photos that I would not consider very good examples of street. Did see one I liked that a chap put up for critique and one of the group critiquers made what I thought was a valid and helpful point.]
     
  26. Steve - In actual practice that particular street photography group on Facebook generally shows good work, but I suspect it has more to do with careful moderation/curation, and to some extent peer pressure/examples. Some FB groups require all photo submissions to be screened by a mod/admin before it appears.
    In contrast another street/documentary group on which I'm a mod/admin has yet to establish a consistent vision to distinguish itself from any other S/D group. We've avoided any sort of dogmatic mission statement, and the only guideline is the Winogrand quote about street photography being a stupid term. As a mission statement that might be interpreted many ways, including "Anything goes" (which might explain some of the hum-drum touristy travel photos, long range sniper shots of bicycles and baby strollers, and literal photos of the street).
    I was rather hoping the Winogrand quote might be interpreted as irony, resulting in some interesting and colorful interpretations of photos suitable for the group. I've even suggested with the group founder that we change the name and mission statement to emphasize more connection or engagement with the people we photograph. Not necessarily formal documentary. But it might be interesting to emphasize *people* in the group title and mission statement: show us, and *tell* us, something about the people you photograph in your community, your neighborhood. Not merely grip and grin or pose-in-front-of-(your tourist landmark here). But an emphasis on developing the photo essay, and encouraging each other in that pursuit, to develop a vision and sense of mission and purpose. The web doesn't really need another generic street photography group for folks to emulate their favorite random snaps of urban alienation, ironic juxtapositions and all those tropes we know and love and enjoy practicing ourselves. Those are all fine. But a group should have a purpose. More Brenda Ann Kenneally, Larry Clark, Jim Mortram, Zun Lee; less Winogrand, Moriyama and Maier.
    But in actual practice I doubt anyone actually reads the group guidelines or mission statement. Very few photo.netters or members of any participatory website or forum ever read all, or any, of the guidelines.
    I suspect that's why dogma is so prevalent. In the absence of actively involved mentors, and lacking a coherent mission statement that inspires rather than discourages participants, we always have dogma to fall back on. Thou shalt Rule of Thirds. Thou shalt not bullseye thy subject. Thou shalt not disturb the scene. Thou shalt gritty contrasty b&w. Thou shalt Keep It Real. Thou shalt not question what "Keep It Real" means.
     
  27. The web doesn't really need another generic street photography group for folks to emulate their favorite random snaps of urban alienation, ironic juxtapositions and all those tropes we know and love and enjoy practicing ourselves. Those are all fine. But a group should have a purpose.​
    Now, that's what I'm talkin' about. Good, solid, passionate dogma.
     
  28. I think I shall start my own Street Photography group, but Lex will need to be the head of it since he inspired its name, which also contains its mission statement:
    Trope-free Street Photography
    "Let he who is without trope cast the first aspersion."
    ;-)
     
  29. The art of photography is not fundamentally about the pleasing spatial arrangement of objects within a two dimensional space; it’s about communication. “Composing” pictures by the golden mean switches the whole enterprise from creatively constructing and communicating emotionally and intellectually engaging meaning, to hollowly making pretty or striking designs through rote application of a formula. Likewise, analyzing pictures by the golden mean switches the enterprise from trying to understand what pictures express, to checking how they compare to the dictated formula.​
    Lex, I have to pick on one of the authors you linked to, even though I found the article of value. He's restricting understanding of and emotional response to a photo on the one hand with analysis of a photo on the other to an either/or affair. His assumption seems to be that a viewer or appreciator can only do one or the other, which is not the case. Many viewers do both and many other viewers could do both if they wanted or thought about it.
    Let's look at grammar for instance. We use grammatical constructs in order to communicate by the written word. And good and sometimes clever and often creative grammatical usage can lead to good communication and more expressive communication. But that doesn't mean the communication is about the grammar. Just as having a sense of design doesn't mean the photo is about the design. And an analysis of the grammar (or syntax, or vocabulary, or other structural elements of the written work) might help to understand just how the emotional communicating took place and why it may have been so effective. In any case, analysis or not, the grammar and structure and word use is what can lead to the good communication.
    Yes, of course, people dwell too much on design and forget all the other elements that go into communicating emotionally with photography (though I don't think all good photos have to "communicate" something). But understanding spatial relationships, understanding what makes a static and what makes a more active photo, understanding how the eye moves and how a light can make the eye move in certain ways around a photo, understanding how to make a flat and how to make a more deep photo (in terms of depth, not emotion) are all tools the photographer can use in his communication.
    I think what the author above is addressing overall is not to get stuck in the design-mode of seeing or expression. But I don't think the way he expresses himself in this particular paragraph is helpful, as he seems to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    He talks about a hollow sense of design, and rightfully so. At the same time, there are hollow expressions of emotion, often because of a lack of compositional and other structural skills that would have supported the emotional content.
     
  30. I just did a search on Facebook for street photography and came up with mostly books about the subject. There was one group called streetphotographers.com. Is this the group you mention Lex?
     
  31. other structural skills that would have supported the emotional content.
    Marc Todd, Sep 15, 2014; 11:20 a.m.
    I just did a search on Facebook for street photography and came up with mostly books about the subject. There was one group called streetphotographers.com. Is this the group you mention Lex?​
    Marc -- I think this is the group that Lex was referring to:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/135301913329329/
    Fred: He talks about a hollow sense of design, and rightfully so. At the same time, there are hollow expressions of emotion, often because of a lack of compositional and other structural skills that would have supported the emotional content.​
    Which perfectly aligns with my dogmatic assertion that it is the final image that must be served. (Semi-kidding here...) Adhering to the Golden Mean, Phi, whatever we call it, may help serve the impact of an image. Other images might be better served by not adhering to it. So I agree with your taking exception to the way that particular author phrased it: making it potentially subject to an either/or interpretation. (I do not think that is what he intended as you already implied.)
     
  32. Adhering to the Golden Mean, Phi, whatever we call it, may help serve the impact of an image. Other images might be better served by not adhering to it.​
    Yes! And in order not to adhere to it, I often find it helpful to know what it is I'm not adhering to. A bad kind of dogma I often hear asserted, and have heard it often on PN pages, is that "I don't want to read or learn about art or photography or rules of design" because I want to establish my own path and be creative. As if creativity happens in a vacuum. Only God, the story goes, created from nothing or out of the void. The rest of us mere mortals are the inheritors of culture, biology, genetics, parental guidance, previous eras of art, influences of all sorts. Learning and knowledge are not the enemies of creativity, as so many prefer to think. And my sense is that they think this because it's the easy way out. I just do my thing and, voila, it's art. No one declared that art was easy, yet people seem to think that's just what it is or should be. But easy art is what often leads to endless pretty sunsets and pics of animals and adorable kiddies. A more honed sense of craft and a perhaps more painstaking outpouring of emotion can sometimes, together, produce deeper and more impactful images. I'm with you, that my choices ultimately serve the image, and those choices shouldn't necessarily depend on some external notion of what's good or necessary. Adherence to any strict rule can be stifling. But knowing, absorbing, and analyzing said "rules" (after all, physics and geometry are worthwhile sciences with worthwhile insights into the natural world around us and our relationship to it) is probably not such a bad idea as a groundwork either on which to build or to try to tear down.
     
  33. it's time for photographers to up their game and reconsider the dogma about the detached, uninvolved, disengaged street photograph​
    Yes. And no. All it does it is swap out one dogma for the other. (Lex, I realise I take your quote out of context, and I certainly do not mean what follows against you - as I know your view on the matter is more open-minded.)
    It is much what Clive said: take the old which was highly regarded, proclaim it bad and now redo it the new way. A lot of art movements, especially those that have dedicated groups with a proclamation, are anti-movements to whatever is mainstream at the moment. There is obviously little wrong with these action/reaction circles, but it is an endless circle of dogma and counter-dogma; as a problematic side-effect, it raises followers that live by the word blindly. In the long history, it loops through a gazillion different ways to express ourselves, partially iterating, partially innovating. On a large scale, perhaps those dogmas are what keeps pushing the evolution forward.
    In a way, it amuses me that it is specifically street photography that got mentioned now; I see so much bickering and senseless discussions on what is and is not street photography; so much photographers telling others that their photos ought not to be called street for one reason or another. Probably more fundamentalistic drivel than actually good street photos. I completely fail to see any value in those discussions, it's shoehorning photos into some tight scheme that does do nothing to improve them; just makes them adhere to some random rules, depending on where you've put your faith.
    It is exactly the reason why I am not a street photographer; while there is a lot of interesting photography going on, to me a lot of its allure gets completely destroyed with those dogmas. Too much discussion that doesn't discuss the presented photo, but gets down to "oh no, a 60mm lens, that's surely 10mm too long", or "colour obviously won't do" - what is that good for? I'm not playing by those rules as they feel completely opposite to what I try to do. Does that make the photos less street, though? No idea - but it's a thought.
    Before I go off in a silly dogmatic anti-dogma rant... I think a lot of the street photography discussions make a pretty perfect example of dogmas in photography. It's not all useless, I know. Reading up on those dogmas (background sketches by believers, analysis by critics and so on), considering them, playing with them and against them is, in my view, really very useful. For example, "detached images, registrating life as it happens without trying to impose on it" versus "the photographer as active part of the everyday life and displaying the interaction" - even if you do not make a choice between the two, it is something worth pondering about if you want to get to know yourself as a photographer.
    Maybe on a small scale, it is also in part dogmas that can help keep pushing our own personal evolution forward.
    __
    Edit: Fred, you posted while I was writing this, and much more to the point I'd say you condensed perfectly what I was trying to get at.
     
  34. In a way, it amuses me that it is specifically street photography that got mentioned now; I see so much bickering and senseless discussions on what is and is not street photography; so much photographers telling others that their photos ought not to be called street for one reason or another.​
    One thing I've always wondered about is whether a site like PN, or any photography site for that matter, could avoid the compartmentalization by genre. When we submit our work for critiques or ratings, we have to choose a category. That can immediately set up a very forced and often misleading context for a lot of work. In many cases, though, it can be meaningful and important. It should be a choice, not a rule.

    Many of my own photos get tossed in "Portrait" even though I don't necessarily think of them as such, because it's the best of a bunch of inadequate alternatives. The very idea of categorization is restrictive and exclusionary by nature, and therefore presents a lot of problems, even as it also presents many opportunities.

    The infighting you talk about, Wouter, is amusing and often disheartening. It's much like "Your manipulated photo isn't really a photo. It should be called 'digital art.'" People tend to feel better about themselves when they can exclude others from their group. It can, of course, be much more serious than bickering among street photographers. It can become a kind of sociopathic dogma and has, in the more extreme instances, led our species into some pretty dark territory.
     
  35. Lex - I'm not sure that the Golden Section/mean etc is in itself a dogma as in effect all it is a mathematical system for creating harmonious proportions and divisions, the dogma comes in when people add it in to their the list of things in their manifesto/s.
    It also intrigues me that it translates what many people intuitively do, i.e. compose with horizon line off center, main subject similar etc and that its proportions are repeatedly found in nature.
    In the discussion about "street photography" forums, I get the feeling that a lot contributors (not here in this forum) would like to be able to treat their photography as if it were a sport, with a firm set of agreed to rules, and that assessment was conducted in thoroughly objective manner with 1-10 scoring in various categories. And modifications to the rules were nutted out annually by members voting.
    Can't think of anything worse myself..............
     
  36. Sometimes posting a photograph for critique involves choosing a PN category either by reading tarot cards, throwing dice, or by some other randomization technique. Would we agree that this is anti-dogmatic?
     
  37. "Now, that's what I'm talkin' about. Good, solid, passionate dogma."​
    Hah! Ya got me.
    But, in my lame defense, I'm not opposed to any of those streety tropes. I enjoy 'em too. I just don't think the web needs another outlet for that stuff. Or, more specifically, I don't have any enthusiasm for moderating/curating another such outlet. I'm more interested in the photo essay.
    But could that be closer to ecumenical doctrine than dogma?
     
  38. Fred: I often find it helpful to know what it is I'm not adhering to...​
    Precisely. And this is key to so many different discussions we have had on this board, not just this particular discussion on dogma. I think the same notion (simply put: understanding) applies to reading an aesthetic critique, an artists statement, or some pronouncement made by someone in the so-called "art world". Before you reject or embrace it, you should at least make the effort to understand it. Don't reject it because you think it's high flown bull manure, and don't accept it just because St. Ansel or St. Bresson said it is so.
     
  39. With respect to pigeonholing sp, why get wrapped up about it? I have my guiding view (Photos of people or evidence of people in their environment), others can have theirs.
    If someone sitting in the back of the classroom desperately looking for weird boundary conditions gets to squirming in their seat with right hand bobbing frantically in the air and left hand over their mouth trying desperately to get out, "buhbuhbuh but wait, what about an NFL photograph of a quarterback throwing a pass, or a wedding photograph in a park," well, knock yourself out and go with something more restrictive if that's really important. It's OK with me.
    iSnap, on approach to PDX last week:
    .
    [​IMG]
    Portland • ©Brad Evans 2014
    .
     
  40. "One thing I've always wondered about is whether a site like PN, or any photography site for that matter, could avoid the compartmentalization by genre. When we submit our work for critiques or ratings, we have to choose a category. That can immediately set up a very forced and often misleading context for a lot of work. In many cases, though, it can be meaningful and important. It should be a choice, not a rule."​
    Good point. Unfortunately in practice it's difficult to receive (or give, for that matter) meaningful, useful or relevant feedback without some context.
    A recent example, at the local level here in N. Central Texas...
    Photographer Terry Evans, acclaimed for her essays on the Midwest, was commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum to photograph the Trinity River. Evans admitted it was an unexpectedly difficult assignment. And the admittedly (by me) lackluster results reflect the difficulty she experienced trying to interpret the river and its regional significance. If the Amon Carter was hoping for something comparable to Avedon's "American West" series, I'm afraid history will never elevate Evans' work to that status.
    The Trinity "river" throughout the Metroplex is mostly a tarted up drainage ditch, designed along with the US Army Corps of Engineers reservoir systems in response to massive flooding decades ago. Fort Worth and Dallas have done the best they can to dress up the "river" where it meanders through public parks. But it looks and smells like what it is - a flood control drainage ditch with nice, uniformly landscaped and manicured grassy banks along the public parkways. Some folks actually go tubing and swimming in the ditch, which seems like an incredibly bad idea. I've fished in the Trinity, mostly for the challenge of using ultralight tackle with lines a typical panfish could snap with a hard wiggle, but always tossed back everything I caught.
    Personally, I thought the Amon Carter should have commissioned a Texas photographer for the Trinity series. Someone who would grok the significance of a serpentine body of water with the charm and personality of a Texas water moccasin. We have plenty of qualified fine art photographers with solid resumes, gallery shows and whose work hangs in fine art galleries and museums.
    But one particular local photographer - Brian Luenser - is a social media maven and pretty good downtown upscale lifestyle snapshooter of folks enjoying the rejuvenated parts of downtown (mostly the safe, pretty touristy areas like Sundance Square, the new pavillion, stuff within a block of Main Street and occasionally the Water Gardens). In that enthusiastic boosterism capacity he's filled the niche once occupied by newspaper society page photographers. And the downtown lifestyle crowd love him for it. He's very good at what he does. And he does it gratis, for the social media accolades. By profession he's an accountant. He also lends his social media clout to community aid programs by photographing their events, which is a very good thing.
    He also takes pretty photos of the nicer parts of the Trinity River that local newspaperman Bud Kennedy described as being reminiscent of "postcards". Nothing inherently wrong with that. Luenser's photos of the Trinity would grace any local calendar, corporate brochure, Chamber of Commerce promotional material, and might even hang comfortably on some walls. Those photos are good and do fairly represent some - but not all - parts of the Trinity. But Luenser lacks the cachet of a fine art photographer in the conventional sense. He doesn't have an MFA. His work isn't critically acclaimed, outside of his Facebook fans. Neither he, nor I, will be commissioned by a museum like the Amon Carter, which has earned international prestige for its photography collection and curation. There is a very definite velvet covered rope line, manned by a very polite but immovable sentry, between us ordinary folks and the rarified level of the critically acclaimed and recognized fine art photographer.
    Evans' photos depicted the funkier aspects of the Trinity: the muddy waters, unenhanced by a polarizing filter, punchy color saturation settings, or twilight reflections of deep blue skies, full moons and fireworks. Where Luenser's upscale downtown photos depict pretty people dressed to the nines, Evans' show ordinary people with a bit of tummy pudge tubing in brown water, with real un-veneered teeth, with crinkly eyes, and evidence of makeshift homes under bridges and overpasses.
    The dichotomy provoked an uproar among Luenser's fans, who chastised the museum for choosing Evans, Evans herself on an unnecessarily personal level, and even the journalist who reported on the hubbub, with some folks taking cheap shots at his weight. It was all very high school cliquish. And hilarious, if you're not among those personally targeted for angsty abuse. To some extent Luenser himself contributed to this mini-hysteria by expressing his personal disappointment over not having been commissioned to do the series, or asked to contribute or participate. And he didn't do much to ask his supporters to tone down the unnecessarily personal abrasive and abusive comments from his fans.
    They are quite assertively dogmatic about what is and isn't good photography, especially of *their* Trinity River - their idealized perception of the Trinity, filtered through the occasional local concerts, fairs, and considerations for property values in the increasingly gentrified downtown. And that's understandable. I remember the 1970s when downtown Fort Worth was a ghost town, and the surrounding Trinity really did look like little more than a drainage and flood control ditch.
    Back on topic - forgive the drift...
    Lacking any sort of context - categories, genres, etc. - here on photo.net or elsewhere, Luenser's photos of the Trinity would draw the same accolades and praise as on Facebook. Great capture! Wow! Bellisimo!
    Evans' photos, in contrast, might draw a few suggestions for editing, personal favorite Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets for punching up that contrast and saturation, and cropping or cloning out those awful looking people. A few folks might actually get what she was trying to accomplish.
    But even in full context - specified by genre or category - the most open minded fan of street, documentary and realistic, naturalistic urban/suburban photography might find her Trinity series uninspiring - although some individual photos do stand out.
    And even though I know this area well, I'm not sure that my own photos would stand out or appeal to many viewers. I'm more likely to photograph people I meet on the bus or at the bus/train depot than debutantes posing downtown. I am more drawn to the oddly abandoned bit of clothing on the street than to the slit skirts and high heels of the upscale downtown denizens. I have my limits and comfort zone, just as Luenser has his.
     
  41. "Lex - I'm not sure that the Golden Section/mean etc is in itself a dogma..."​
    Oh, it isn't, in itself. The application of it tends to be dogmatic.
    "...as in effect all it is a mathematical system for creating harmonious proportions and divisions, the dogma comes in when people add it in to their the list of things in their manifesto/s. It also intrigues me that it translates what many people intuitively do, i.e. compose with horizon line off center, main subject similar etc and that its proportions are repeatedly found in nature."​
    Whether you agree or not, Mike Spinak presents an interesting case that none of the characteristics attributed to the Golden Section and its offspring is actually true. Maybe not even mostly true. It's certainly not always true. For example, many of the assertions of patterns in nature - popularized by Dan Brown's hyperthetical novel "Da Vinci's Fibber Nachos Code of Everything in the Universe (The Smart Guy Gets the Girl in the End)" - have been refuted. It turns out the center of the Fibonacci Spiral isn't really the Eye of Horus or Jesus or guidelines for the perfect cut of Porterhouse steak. In many cases it appears that the characteristics of the Golden Section and its offspring are assigned retroactively - often with generous modifications, allowances and fudge factors - to satisfy the dogma of the true believer.
    If the Golden Corral universally encircled every Golden Calf of art, how do we explain wabi-sabi, and the absence of emphasis on rhythm and harmony in traditional Asian music? Perhaps the concepts of "harmony" and pleasing-ness are Western conceits adopted to justify our personal comfort zones, and our penchant for coloring and playing music within the lines. The theories dominate because the Western world developed the printing press.
     
  42. Lex - I think I'd characterise what you've you've just written as a very good example of a number of stereotypical dogmas or dogmatic stereotypes.
    The blunt truth about the Golden section was that it was perpetuated over many hundreds of years through successive generations teaching it to their students, apprentices and assistants, with or without the aid of the printing press.
    It is particularly interesting that in order to avoid using the golden section you have to know what it is to start with.
    Sure for our entertainment we can prove that all the angles in a room are greater or lesser than 90 degrees, walls are curved and the sun travels in an arc over my head.
     
  43. Thanks for the link Steve G. I was shooting street photography even before I knew there was such a genre. I didn't know there was such a thing because I was new to photography and it wasn't long after my father gave me my first camera that I just simply started street shooting. I guess that's why throughout the years I've never been concerned about my photographs following a a particular..well...dogma. Even now, I don't care. A former teacher of mine a couple of years back told me "Most street photography is being done in color these days." You know what? It went in one ear and out the other as I went to the store and bought more B&W film. I think there is a great deal of freedom one gets when they shoot the subjects that are dear to them without regard to concepts and accepted norms. Shooting street photography takes tremendous concentration; why compromise?
     
  44. Lex's last post got me to thinking....
    If we express Phi (i.e. the golden ratio) as a mathematical value of 1.618034 (rounded to the 6th place), but reduce it to a simpler geometry based formulation via an equilateral triangle construction (ala George Odom), but substitute the Steiner inellipse of an isosceles triangle to account for the dichroic intangibles encountered when translating a Fibonacci sequence to units of lumens (since we are talking about photography here), we arrive at a value of 1752.8701.
    [Phi divided by the base angle of an isosceles triangle multiplied by the mean average of lumens striking a full frame sensor at f16 on a sunny day for 1/100th of a second, or 1.618034 / 72 * 78,000]
    Now this is where it gets very interesting. If we look at 1752 not only as a mathematical expression but also as a year, we see that Rousseau's opera "Le Devin du Village" premiered in October of that year.
    Because the 8701 appears on the opposite side of the decimal point from 1752, it becomes a reversed value which expressed on its own should be seen as the year 1078.
    In 1078 AD, Johannes van Fecamp, an Italian mystic writer, died. “Devin” translates into English as soothsayer. Our mathematical expression of Phi in a photographic formulation is bookended by a mystic and a soothsayer.
    Futhermore, if you subtract 1078 from 1752 , you are left with a remainder of 674! If any photographer in this forum types in the sequence of numbers 6-7-4 on their cell phone, their fingers will inscribe the key points of a golden spiral!
    Coincidence? I think not. Mock the Golden Mean at your own peril, my friends.
     
  45. Oh well - any applause is better than none.
     
  46. Where the Golden Mean was actually derived from:
    http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/005/848/ancient-aliens.jpg
    (I can't seem to get the hot link button to work when I select text....)
    Back to a more serious aspect of this thread -- Marc Todd & Brad Evans (and Lex, Fred, Clive, and Wouter now that I think of it): I hear you. I share your attitude and approach to, whatever it is we want to call what we do. I'm not trying to put words in your mouths, but my take is that "we" do it (SP, portrait, narrative documentary, if we must use labels) in the ways that we do it because we love it, it satisfies something in us and we need to express it in a certain way regardless of what the current fashion is, or is not, in the genre. I've read all of you talk about SP before (and photography in general, not just SP) and none of you is ignorant of styles, history, or past practitioners. Taking this back to dogma, it is my opinion that the best approach in any genre of photography is to find something you can call your own, that is important to you, that satisfies your creative itch, and practice it without fear of violating dogma or being seen as derivative, a dinosaur, or hopelessly out of fashion. How many photographers out there would envy having a calling? A path to follow?
    Brad brings up the point about why worry about it (something to that effect). I'm not sure why I belabor it at times. For me personally -- partly because I don't have many people I know who I can discuss these kinds of things with, and at times I do enjoy thinking about it and trying to put down in words why I feel a certain way, or what my reaction is to a certain group or dogmatic approach. And I really enjoy hearing what other people think, what their attitudes and approaches are. The other part of it is a bit crude and immature, in that it can be a bit like gossiping or "dishing": "OMG! Did you see what that person wrote about ____!? What a _____!"
     
  47. We all want to create good work that is thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing. We enjoy the praise and attention that producing such works brings us, and it encourages us to continue fourth. However, we also have to be aware of where we are at any given time in the sense of how our work is. I've seen some pretty crazy exchanges in street photography critique forums online where the photographer cannot accept honest appraisal of his/her work and lashes out in response. These are the people who seem to be simply seeking attention and acceptance for their work which is OK but they seem to be too wrapped up in themselves to be able to take a step back from their work and see what it has truly going for it.
    Here's a bit of family history. When I was in my late teens to mid twenties, I did a lot of painting. My mother and grandmother were both painters so this was no real surprise. I gravitated toward Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. Picasso, Klee, Mondrian, and Rothko were my influences. Me and a girl I was dating at the time even made a drip painting together that maybe even Pollock would have liked. Perhaps this was because as a child, I simply could not color in the lines and my coloring books were a absolute mess and I have vivid memories of how angry my mother would get at me because I just couldn't seem to stay in the lines.
    Anyway, I was living with my grandmother at the time I started painting. Now my grandmother was an exceptional painter. She painted very detailed landscapes, mostly desert scenes. We would go to used book stores where she would go through stacks of old Arizona Highways magazines looking for pictures. She also painted ships on the ocean and of course flowers but they were all copied from magazines. So there we were, the two of us in the spare bedroom with my grandmothers easel on one side and all her oil paints and brushes and turpentine and me on the other side. And we would paint. Now my grandmother used to chide me for making splotches of paint on a canvass, bringing in dirt and debris into the house so I could mix these into the my paint etc. Meanwhile, I would silently wonder how she could throw away her tremendous skill in painting on copying work from old magazines. "Where was the creativity in that," I wondered. Different approaches to art, and different forms of dogma.
     
  48. Marc, very good points. Just want to add that it's also important to know in one's heart, gut, and intellect what critiques to heed and which ones to ignore. I'm more likely to be skeptical or dismissive of a critique that comes from a dogmatic place ("A photographer should never . . ." "It never works to . . . ") and more likely to give careful consideration to one that seems to consider my own vision and goals. So, your and your grandmother's critiques of each others methods were rightfully ignored by each of you and it was nice how you kept painting in your different ways by each others side. Had you or your grandmother fully accepted the very different ways you were working and critiqued WITHIN the visions you each sought rather than from WITHOUT, you each might have made substantive and constructive observations that could have been valuable to the other. Who knows, maybe you did!
    While I don't "enjoy" negative critiques, I've had my share of them and have learned to grow from them over time, even if I was resistant and even hurt at first. Enjoyment isn't necessarily the key here. For me, a lot of it is willingness. Willingness to take the bad with the good, to be an adult, and to assume that, since I'm wanting to learn and grow, some critiques will probably have value. The important part is trusting my gut enough to know which critiques will guide me well. When a negative critique or a suggestion on why something isn't working stings a bit, I try to give it some sway and consider why it's stinging. On the other hand, some critiques and suggestions just don't register or ring at all true, and those I usually put at bay even if I may come back to them at a later date.
    I'm not dogmatic enough about my own work to not listen and consider what others say about it but I am dogmatic enough to insist on achieving what I want and hopefully not to fall into someone else's formula of success. I want an individual voice, but in order for that voice to at least have the potential to be heard and understood, I've found it wise to make adjustments and listen to some good advice along the way.
     
  49. Interesting. Just a thought: with respect to proportion, golden mean, rule of thirds: our bodies are bilaterally symmetrical, with body parts placed relative to each others. Things in our environment that aren't proportional, that are instead randomly placed: such things can't move around and bother us on their own; and those random things don't interest us: they aren't food; they can't eat us. So I entertain the idea that at our core, in our tap root, we're wired to respond to living things, things that are laid out in proportion as opposed to things that aren't living and instead have random placement. Good architecture, furniture: looks alive, etc. etc.
    Proportion means living, random means dead. Likewise we respond quickly to things that move on their own as opposed to things that just fall, get blown around, tip over, etc. Proportion and movement are biological signifiers for our core biology, for food and reproduction. If stuff is just splattered around in a painting or photograph, some visual medium, we're programmed as living things to not look. We're biologically predisposed to see nothing interesting in 'no visual order'. That surface layer of intellectual constructs called our reasoning faculty might find something interesting in visual art with no life though, which takes more energy and as a result is physically tiring. When we focus and concentrate we're biologically supposed to get something sustaining back, either food or reproduction. After walking through some exhibits I'm so tired I just want to collapse.
     
  50. If stuff is just splattered around in a painting or photograph, some visual medium, we're programmed as living things to not look.​
    And some artists have attempted to look and have us look at those things we may not have otherwise been programmed to look at. Art can be both a feeding of the naturally programmed and a thwarting of it.
    The artifice of art.
    After walking through some exhibits I'm so tired I just want to collapse.​
    Like I said above, no rule that I know of says that art should be easy or relaxing or whatever. I think the response you have to some exhibits is similar to mine and I often feel great for that "tiring to collapse" experience.

    Speaking of nature, don't you sometimes come home from a great and nourishing hike feeling tired enough to collapse? On that hike, weren't there times when you were able to push yourself beyond what you thought were your own physical limits and come out the other side?
     
  51. >>> Brad brings up the point about why worry about it (something to that effect). I'm not sure why I belabor it at times. For me personally -- partly because I don't have many people I know who I can discuss these kinds of things with, and at times I do enjoy thinking about it and trying to put down in words why I feel a certain way, or what my reaction is to a certain group or dogmatic approach.
    Hey Steve... That's cool. For me, seeing how the sp "industry" has evolved over the years to where it is now with workshops, "influential" spokespeople defining it restrictively for others in an attempt to keep their relevancy, collectives, flickr/facebook groups of people who seem unhappy/frustrated/sad (seems misery really does love company), etc.
    I found it best to jump off the sp treadmill-o-drama and not give a flip about what others, especially the self- proclaimed spokespeople, think. Not that I don't like discussing photos with photographers who are knowledgeable and shoot on the street, such as yourself - I enjoy and do that a lot. But I really am happier doing my own thing not treating sp as a "thing," and not worrying about others who really are more about making noise rather than photographs - it has helped me become a much better photographer in the process. Give it a whirl - GW will nod in approval from up above...
    .
    [​IMG]
    Up Above • San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2014
    .
     
  52. Actually, Fred, yes, at times I do find it worth the effort to get absorbed in abstract/conceptual art. It does take more effort though, that's for sure.
     
  53. "We all want to create good work that is thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing."​
    But I don't. Not always, anyway.

    Sure, I intend some of my photos to be thought provoking. Others have no particular conscious intention at all and are primarily visual representations of an impression gathered in a fraction of a moment in time, perhaps with some subconscious baggage but no other overt message or intention.

    And I'm not even sure what aesthetically pleasing means, other than the clues other folks give about what they find aesthetically pleasing. Regarding my long winded and barely relevant anecdote earlier in this thread regarding the Trinity River, Brian Luenser's admirers are adamant about what they prefer - pretty, colorful, well composed and exposed, conventionally pleasing photos that extol the virtues of the Trinity River because it flatters the downtown revitalization that a lot of people have invested in both financially and emotionally. And in their opinions, Terry Evans' depictions of the same river were just plain ol' butt ugly. Possibly blasphemous too. One does not simply wade into the Trinity. It is a baptismal font, not merely a flood control drainage ditch.

    But when I see an abandoned house slipper in a parking lot, a hat on top of a cigarette butt on the ground without a dapper gent to fill it and smoke it, a single baby shoe, a gimme cap next to a syringe on a mattress under a tree in a vacant field, I see a kind of beauty that resonates with the Southern Gothic aesthetic and the Christian evangelical beliefs in a rapture. And even if I don't happen to share some of the specific parameters of those beliefs I can understand the appeal of a hopeful sort of beauty in a hopelessly frightening world. Even when it's held by folks who can lift their voices in praise to the great raptor in the sky on Sunday and then on Monday through Saturday, with a brief break on Wednesday evening, decry a photographer as the spawn of satan because her icons did not flatter their vision of their personal west bank of the Jordan River where the father, son and holy spirit will trine to wash their sins clean. Selah.

    In this sort of world artistic and religious dogma are inextricably intertwined and rules of thirds and golden rules are embraced and applied to every situation wherever possible, and sometimes impossible, because they help frame a seemingly chaotic universe in small, manageable, definable, digestible and reassuring patterns.
     
  54. Unfortunately in practice it's difficult to receive (or give, for that matter) meaningful, useful or relevant feedback without some context.​
    Lex, I only partially agree. (Imagine that!) I think it depends on the photo. I do agree that some photographers will benefit from critiques if they provide some context for the photo. I have a bunch of work that I provide context for when showing it. And some I wouldn't even show independent of an entire series, because for me they are not meant to be stand-alone photos. So both text and other photos can provide context. But I think there are lots of photos that do stand on their own and don't require context in order to be critiqued or viewed with depth and appreciation.

    Take a look at this week's POTW. Several people have talked about whether or not this or that was the intent of the photographer . . . for instance whether the face and hair was purposely so dark and messy to provide a sense of mystery. Well, if it were intentional, that wouldn't help it much. I'd still say it doesn't look very good. Now, where I do think some answers about intention might be helpful would be if the photographer was then asking me how to improve it. I'd want to know if the darkness was a mishap or intentional. Then my critique would either talk about the possibility of lightening it to see the face clearly (assuming that could even be done at this point) or the possibility of keeping it dark but making it more effectively mysterious yet not quite so unsightly and outstanding relative to the rest of the photo. If I were asked how to do that, I'd first suggest the photographer give it a few tries or at least that we discuss various thoughts he or she has before diagramming a solution. As a critic, I wouldn't want the solution to be mine. That would bore me and wouldn't much benefit the photographer.

    When I post for critique, I'm not always looking for suggestions or judgments, though I welcome them and learn from them when they come. Sometimes I just want to hear reactions, interpretations, whatever. And I don't necessarily want to direct those reactions by giving a context or back story. It's more fun for me to hear what the viewer sees, especially when there's some ambiguity in the photo. Often, people want to know what was actually happening. That is usually less interesting than what the photo shows to a viewer or what the viewer imagines he's seeing in the photo. If I'm documenting something, then what it was at the time will be important. If I'm making a different kind of photo, one that has a potential reach beyond what was actually happening, then my providing context could very well severely shorten that reach.

    HERE'S one I preferred not to say too much about specifically (as you can read in the discussion below it), though we all did get into some interesting areas of discussion. And if someone had asked at the time what I was trying to accomplish, what my goals were, on what basis I wanted to be critiqued, I'm not sure I'd have even known what to say.
     
  55. In any case, Lex, I wasn't suggesting that we not be able to submit our work into categories, just that we have the choice whether to do so or not. And, as always, we have the choice to make any kind of artist statement we want along with the work we submit either to our portfolios or for critique. I like having that choice as well.
     
  56. My real art is sculpture - photography just came along because I was dissatisfied with the way/dogma that surrounds the photographing of artworks, so I set out the develop my own way of giving my viewers some sort of photographic potted version of what I see in my own sculpture. Its funny really because most people who think of me as a "good" sculptor have only ever seen my photos.
    Of course once you've got a camera and know a fair bit about art there is a temptation to see if you could put the two together.............if you really want to see dogma at work you should listen to my dealer and others who get terrified that I may give up sculpture for photography, you would hear every weighted comment possible.
    Enough of that, lurking in the back of my mind has been a particular kind of landscape photo that delves into a major perceptual problem, forgive the expression but the "normal" landscape photo is composed in a hierarchical way meaning that the photographer has fixed the way he/she wants you to see it (usually employing "good" composition). This is completely at odds with how we actually see, we choose things at random that for some reason interest us, we look at them for as long as we are interested and then move on to something else. So the idea is to give the viewer the right to choose what they look at in whatever order they like.
    I try this out in forests that are by anyone's standards very messy and where hundreds of little details will start to pop out at you if you care to look........so far they don't really work because everyone is so used to "normal" that all they see is a mess!!! no "subject" etc. For fun once, to test my theories, I posted one of these in a landscape section of a forum with the caption "Am I crazy?" and of course got the desired result getting an almost perfect cross section of every stereotypical landscape dogma that could be imagined.
    I wonder what would have happened if I accompanied my picture with "Look I've mastered democratic composition at last"
     
  57. I wonder what would have happened if I accompanied my picture with "Look I've mastered democratic composition at last"​
    LOL. But in all seriousness, sometimes, as Lex suggested above, a few words of context (even direction to the viewer) can help them see in a different way, so if it worked to direct your audience, and they then got something more out of your photos, more power to you. I suspect that, without a decent image that would capture their imagination, whatever you called your photo or your series wouldn't matter too much, but it still might. The trick can sometimes be utilizing at least some of the tropes of the past in order to give enough familiarity for something to grasp onto while at the same time creating just the kind of new vision you're contemplating. Not always, of course. Sometimes a photographer or artist will make a complete break and be successful at communicating. Sometimes, he will only be successful long after he's dead and culture has had time to catch up with his vision. Sometimes, he just misses the mark completely.
    We do get used to normal, and sometimes even when we're reaching beyond normal we have to use it a little and effectively as a ground to transcend.
     
  58. This is completely at odds with how we actually see, we choose things at random that for some reason interest us, we look at them for as long as we are interested and then move on to something else. So the idea is to give the viewer the right to choose what they look at in whatever order they like.​
    Clive, thinking a little more about what you said, I also am thinking that how we "actually" see when we're in the landscape is likely somewhat different from how we see when we're looking at a framed image that's been isolated from that actual scene. It may be that, when we look at a photo, our senses and brains react differently and have different expectations from those we have when we are out and about in nature. You mention our choosing things at random, but when part of a scene has already been framed by the lens, have we already lost some of the randomness? What might seem random and acceptable in nature might just be a mess when seen as a photo.
     
  59. I agree a shot of randomness isn't although in the frame it can come close. Democratic shots on display frustrate me a little because I look for 'Waldo' somewhere in the frame and he isn't there. So, to create dogma here is my formula. Identify some preference peculiar to me. Then strike out 'me' and substitute 'we'. Add modifiers like 'all', 'every' and emphatically characterize opposing views as defective. To cleanse dogma, run the formula backwards. For example:
    "No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition." —Claude Monet
    Which becomes: I don't feel I am an artist unless I have a picture in my mind before I paint it and further, for me to feel like I am an artist I must also be sure of my method and of my composition before starting the painting. I am so committed to pre-visualization and to planning both composition and method that I cannot acknowledge art in my own work unless I have done so.
     
  60. Your comments have clarified a few things for me Fred re: how we actually see, and a chance look around my office had me stopping on an interior design magasine, what caught my eye was that although the picture was well composed, undramatically lit, and was a thing (a view of an interior) all the things within that room got looked by me in much the same way as I would have done in real life - I don't think it inspired to replace landscapes with interiors though.
    Charles - Monet's quote is but one of many very possible ways to create a picture and I for one can't see the point of imagining something and then going out and making it. I find the opposite way much more interesting, finding out what I'm trying to achieve by making it and discovering through the process of making.
    I would even dare to suggest that Monet wasn't quite honest about pre-visualising, I think he'd have a general concept about what he hoped to achieve and then let reality of making add in the magic.
     
  61. "No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition." —Claude Monet
    "I don't feel I am an artist unless I have a picture in my mind before I paint it and further, for me to feel like I am an artist I must also be sure of my method and of my composition before starting the painting. I am so committed to pre-visualization and to planning both composition and method that I cannot acknowledge art in my own work unless I have done so." —Reconfiguration of Monet's words by Charles​
    Though I agree with Clive that there are many other ways to work and to paint, the rewording of Monet's statement really loses in the translation. I say, keep the dogma and keep the universality. It's emphatic. It's committed. It liberates Monet. It allows him to go beyond himself, and to speak to and for a wider audience. If I, as Monet's audience, need to, I can simply acknowledge to myself that he's really just speaking for himself and that I have a different view, but I'd still rather hear him speak in the terms he does. It's gutsier and so much less qualified. I'd just go with it.
    A little food for thought on the individual and the universal from Jean-Paul Sartre (Existentialsm Is A Humanism). I don't completely agree with Sartre here in the grander picture, but that doesn't reduce the value of considering it, especially in light of Monet's phrasing and what we're discussing here.
    "Thus, the first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders. And, when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. The word “subjectivism” is to be understood in two senses, and our adversaries play upon only one of them. Subjectivism means, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual subject and, on the other, that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity. It is the latter which is the deeper meaning of existentialism. When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for the entire epoch in which we find ourselves. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole. If I am a worker, for instance, I may choose to join a Christian rather than a Communist trade union. And if, by that membership, I choose to signify that resignation is, after all, the attitude that best becomes a man, that man’s kingdom is not upon this earth, I do not commit myself alone to that view. Resignation is my will for everyone, and my action is, in consequence, a commitment on behalf of all mankind. Or if, to take a more personal case, I decide to marry and to have children, even though this decision proceeds simply from my situation, from my passion or my desire, I am thereby committing not only myself, but humanity as a whole, to the practice of monogamy. I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him to be. In fashioning myself I fashion man."
     
  62. Monet's statement comes off to me as well intentioned advice to an aspirant, for the artist formed as Monet would have her to be, to be in the sense of the grander picture that Sartre suggests.
     
  63. I don't want to turn this discussion into a philosophy lesson, but I have trouble grasping what Sartre is saying. Or rather I should say that I do not understand how he reconciles I am thereby committing not only myself, but humanity as a whole, to the practice of monogamy, with the individual who chooses polygamy or total abstinence and thereby commits all mankind to polygamy or total abstinence. I know that your quote is taken out of context and that I would need to read what comes before and what comes after to obtain my answer. I know that it cannot be taken in an absolute literal sense, but I am missing the nuance here. Does it have to do with his statement that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity and therefore it is only the individual's subjective perceptions and actions that exist? Just curious...
    Clives' comment on "democratic composition", though likely a bit tongue in cheek, is interesting. It requires a different way of viewing, based upon a different set of criteria. A negative reaction to it is exactly the sort of thing that has occurred in the past when an artist, or group of similar artists, presents a new vision or sound that is radically different from, or contrary to, a prevailing manner of viewing or listening.
     
  64. Steve, like I say, I think Sartre's thoughts are worth pondering and do say something important about ethics and the individual's sense of community and sharing but he takes it a bit further than I would (in keeping with dogmatism and in kind with Monet's statement). And he came to reinterpret some of the things he said in the essay quoted (Existentialism Is A Humanism).
    What he's saying in the quote is that we choose what we think is a good choice. And he does believe in each person's freedom to choose. So, in choosing to be monogamous I'm sure he would allow for another's freedom to choose not to be monogamous. But he'd also say that one's choice to be monogamous means one thinks that's good, and if one thinks that's good, that goodness goes beyond just the individual. Sartre really believed in strong political and social commitments. And he leaned more toward Marx than Kant, though what he's saying in the above quote sounds a little bit like Kant's version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others . . ." In Kant's hands, it was that we should act as if what we are doing would become a universal law. Sartre really wouldn't assert such a strong moral imperative but he does want to assert a strong sense of responsibility for one's actions. And I think he's trying to lay on us a very big responsibility. To see all our choices as if we were choosing for everyone, as a community, as a whole and to, therefore, take each action very seriously and to consider the societal ramifications of them. He was eventually dissatisfied with this essay/lecture (Existentialism Is A Humanism) because it was too emphatic about ties between individual actions and universal ethics. He was more of a Socialistand consistently rejected Kant. What he was really trying to do was to contextualize individual action within wider social structures, but I don't think he really wanted to insist that whatever action I perform is necessarily the same action everyone else should perform.

    In any case, what I take away from Sartre and Monet is to wonder just how much of my more strongly-held views and opinions impact on and reflect what I also think is good for others or for the overall community.
     
  65. "The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude." —Friedrich Nietzsche​
    What a wonderful quote from Nietzsche, Fred. Nietzsche used to be "my man" when it came to philosophy, and I still read him for inspiration from time to time. Yet, yet, somehow this passage had escaped me.
    As a theist, I am inclined to thank more than the artist, but finally it really is for me about gratitude--for the beauty itself. Today I visited a friend in the hospital who has had her back broken in five places. She is now in her mid-nineties. She came through today's surgery alright and will likely make a full recovery. Then I walked outside and found that I was on the opposite side of the hospital from where I had entered. I walked almost a mile to get around that huge medical complex. Somehow, magically, everything was beautiful. There was beauty everywhere. I have actually been in this mode for the last day or two, and so it was not all about her and her survival of a dicey surgical procedure. It is almost as if I am seeing everything through a viewfinder and loving what I see.
    When one has that special sense of "seeing the beauty," one has to wonder what is going on in one's psyche--regardless of where it comes from. More to the point: why is it there some days but not others?
    I wish I knew.
    --Lannie
     
  66. Sartre on monogamy? Well, there is obviously something else I have missed. When I read about Sartre, I typically think of Simone de Beauvoir and their open relationship. Obviously there was a lot more to the man than I saw before.
    I have got to go back and read these skeptics again for some insight into the source of their insight.
    --Lannie
     
  67. Does it have to do with his statement that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity and therefore it is only the individual's subjective perceptions and actions that exist?​
    Steve, in true philosophical fashion, it's a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Subjectivity is important to Sartre in that we are each to make our OWN choices. But, for Sartre, inter-subjectivity was an important part of subjectivity. He talks a lot about the eye of the other upon us and how that affects and even creates our own self-perception. We are inextricably tied to others and so our subjectivity is also an inter-subjectivity. I had a professor once who thought, somewhat loosely, of Sartre as kind of rewriting Descartes's famous cogito. She liked to think Sartre was in some ways transforming "I think, therefore I am" into "We think, therefore we are."
    Here's a little more of what Sartre had to say on the subject:
    "Our aim is precisely to establish the human kingdom as a pattern of values in distinction from the material world. But the subjectivity which we thus postulate as the standard of truth is no narrowly individual subjectivism, for as we have demonstrated, it is not only one’s own self that one discovers in the cogito, but those of others too. Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, contrary to that of Kant, when we say “I think” we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves. Thus the man who discovers himself directly in the cogito also discovers all the others, and discovers them as the condition of his own existence. He recognises that he cannot be anything (in the sense in which one says one is spiritual, or that one is wicked or jealous) unless others recognise him as such. I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself. Under these conditions, the intimate discovery of myself is at the same time the revelation of the other as a freedom which confronts mine, and which cannot think or will without doing so either for or against me. Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of “inter-subjectivity”. It is in this world that man has to decide what he is and what others are."
     
  68. A beautiful story Landrum - though I can't help observing that a different person could have a completely different reaction and have been made quite sad by the experience.
    My general feeling is that philosophers are usually pretty poor at anything to do with art - the Nietzsche quote sounds warm, cuddly and likable but so airy-fairy that its hardly useful. What is "beautiful" "great" or "gratitude"? and given that any discussion about beauty in art is seen, these days, as being very old fashioned, and at least 50 years out of step, we are going to have to find something else to hang our views on.

    My favourite view about what makes great art comes from Bernard Berenson in his 1949 essay - Seeing and Knowing, generally lampooned as the ranting of a die-hard anti-modernist - but I've never been able to get this idea out of my head. Great art is, according to Berenson, made up of substantial amounts of what is seen (visual) and what is known (intellectual) and that you cannot have great art that either one or the other. How that for a neat lump of dogma?
     
  69. I always liked the Koine Greek idea of beauty, which was derived from the word for "hour." Beauty is being of one's hour. So a ripe fruit or someone who acts their age is beautiful, which allows for older folks to be as beautiful as younger folks. Though I surely wouldn't limit art to beauty, I also wouldn't necessarily toss it out in favor of finding something else. It might just be a matter of re-understanding beauty in a way that goes well beyond those 50 years! But again, I wouldn't buy any notion of art that restricts it to any definition of beauty.
    I like what you speak of as Berenson's idea, which combines knowledge and perception. That's likely the short form of Berenson, but so succinctly stated it's not just art that combines knowledge and perception. Classically speaking, it pretty much sums up most ways of life we can think of.
    _________________________________________________
    ADDITION: I didn't know of Berenson, but just read THIS ARTICLE, which seems to bias Berenson's theory of art more toward feeling than toward intellect. Clive, do you have other sources of Berenson that discuss his knowledge/perception combination? In the article I cited, I particularly like his idea of the painter's tactile approach to sensory impressions. As a sculptor, in particular, I imagine that would appeal to you. The textural quality of visual art has long intrigued and inspired me.
     
  70. My general feeling is that philosophers are usually pretty poor at anything to do with art​
    I think that this is true, Clive. Aesthetics is a field of philosophy, but, when we want to get serious about esthetics (I like the simplified spelling), we typically go to anyone besides mainstream philosophers--with a few exceptions.
    --Lannie
     
  71. I always liked the Koine Greek idea of beauty, which was derived from the word for "hour." Beauty is being of one's hour.​
    Fred, I wonder if one would do much violence to that interpretation to say "in the moment." When we are most sensually aware and thus attuned to beauty, we are very much "in the moment."
    --Lannie
     
  72. Clive, Fred, thanks for Berenson, interesting guy.
    Sartre "I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. "
    Compare to the ideas expressed in this quote from the Berenson article "Art teaches us not only what to see but what to be." He writes: "So invincible is the task of learning to see for oneself, that all except a few men of genius—with a gift for seeing—have to be taught how to see.""
    So in one sense Sartre democratizes 'seeing' when compared to Berenson who suggests seeing as attainable by but a few 'men' of genius by whom the rest of us are tutored (if we're lucky enough to have a tutor!). I rather think that we all see and best see at times when seeing is mediated by art, art also Sartre's 'other', indispensable "...to any knowledge I can have of myself."

    But I do wonder at that emphatic statement by Sartre, that self-knowledge, truth about one's self, is unattainable without the mediation of another. The Johari window's fourth pane is that which about myself is unknown to me and to everyone else (unlike the open area we all know about me, unlike the area where others know things about me I don't, and unlike the area I know that no one else knows about me.) We don't know our potential, for example, nor does anyone else, or we rise to an occasion we and no one else expected that we even could. If there is truth about me in the unknown then another can't mediate it for me because it is also an unknown to her. The unknown: Lannie's seeing experience seems unmediated by anything in Sartre's lexicon.
    But beyond the Johari window mapping of known and unknown: I would argue that in the life process itself there are mediations of 'another' we know virtually nothing about, the 'other' being a natural process of growth. Less unfamiliar: those mediations by instinct alone, which is 'another' too: I've by instinct known at times to go no farther, where for my own well being instinct was an authoritative source of information about myself and the consequences of a contemplated action or course, instinct authoritative knowledge about me that no other person could mediate for me. I don't think it is the case that experience precedes essence, the relationship between essence and experience not so easily stated.
     
  73. Interesting to consider Monet's statement (or Adams's pre-visualization; visualization if you prefer) with regard to "existence precedes essence." I'd say the essence (if there is such a thing, of which I'm skeptical) of a photo or painting is in the made photo or painting, not the idea or the mind's picture of it. As Clive pointed out, the reality of the making adds in the magic. I think that's what Sartre was saying. Biology, heredity, culture, instinct, are all like the pre-visualization. Living, choices, action, deeds are the making.
    __________________________________________________
    My general feeling is that philosophers are usually pretty poor at anything to do with art -​
    I don't know. To be honest, I go back and forth about it. But I've also felt that artists are not the best at describing it either. Very often they're much better at doing it than at distilling it into something understandable. Just look at the deficiencies in the Monet quote. Really no better or worse than what Nietzsche had to say. And, actually, I think Aristotle is well worth reading on the subject of art, especially his thoughts on tragedy and catharsis relayed in The Poetics.

    I think we get some some significant insights into art not by searching for a definition or explanation by one philosopher or critic or artist but by putting together a multitude of approaches that have been attempted through the ages by various doers and thinkers. And, of course, by experiencing it ourselves.
     
  74. I don't know Fred I may be reading Sartre incorrectly when I ascribe to him the view that we are born without essence, the tabula rasa idea of human nature where essence, whatever that is, is an accretion from experience alone, derived entirely from social experiences and choices. At the point that science provides compelling evidence contrary to that view, we aren't entitled to it any longer. If empirical methods demonstrate morality as an instinct then cogito and society become less important where morality isn't entirely a choice for good, good has more of a life of its own as do our stomachs mediate our food choices. If on the other hand I've misread Sartre on that point, I wouldn't be surprised.
    Here is a teaser video I like about the reality of making in the magic where for not knowing any rules about applying a finish to woodwork, the man became a self taught master: http://shopclass.popularwoodworking...lloyd-thomas.aspx?et_mid=692713&rid=242201283 .
     
  75. Sartre wouldn't deny biology and science, heredity and culture. What he would say is that we're still responsible for the choices we make, given our circumstance. I'm not an advocate of his view, just an appreciator of it. As to the free will vs. determinism debate, it's a fascinating one that is worthy of study. My studies don't indicate a winner or an answer, but rather an awe of the problem and a willingness not to try to solve it. I tend to think I adopt different stances toward my own freedom and my own prior-determined states depending on the situation and what's needed or relevant at the time. An ultimate answer is less important to me than continuing to make the choices I want and need and recognizing choices I'm not always given or don't always have.
     
  76. I ascribe to him the view that we are born without essence, the tabula rasa idea of human nature . . .​
    Sartre wasn't a proponent of human nature beginning as a tabula rasa. His "existence precedes essence" is in opposition to how he thinks about all other objects. Humans are the only entity for which existence precedes essence, because we get to choose. Just like a ball is round and so it rolls on the floor, we are born with genetic predispositions, etc. But unlike the ball, we get to determine for ourselves what we will do with those genetic predispositions or the cultural underpinnings of our existence. Existence already entails a lot of stuff, but it's our choice above and beyond that which creates our essence. If I am tall, I might make a good basketball player, but I don't have to, because I can choose to do something else (or something in addition). The tabula rasa was, as I understand it, more a matter of being a blank slate in terms of our gaining knowledge. I think Sartre would say that our essence is not a matter of what we know but of what we do. Our essence is comprised of the purposes we give our actions and our life. Sartre was a pretty political animal and recognized the power that regimes, particularly totalitarian ones, could have. He understood oppression. So he knew that we could be put in dire circumstances not of our choosing. But he believed we still had a choice, to struggle, to fight, ultimately if only to say "NO!"
    It's interesting to come back to art with this. Purpose! Does your photography have a purpose? Or are you posing as a photographer or artist? Do your photos follow a formula of what you think photos should be or are you creating, acting, choosing what to do?
    "Let us consider this waiter in the café. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with a recklessness of a tight-rope walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually re-establishes by a light movement of the arm and hand.
    . . .
    "All his behavior seems to us a game. He applies himself to chaining his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other; his gestures and even his voice seem to be mechanisms; he gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a café. There is nothing there to surprise us." —Sartre​
    Do you have a sense when a photographer is playing at being a photographer?
     
  77. Hey, there's an art to the infinitely self referential irony in doing a thing while playing the role of a performer doing that thing ironically. Few do it well. Frank Zappa was the musician's equivalent to Sartre's waiter, a brilliant man and talented musician, but more comfortable playing the role of a musical performer mocking the tropes of serious music rather than risking an investment in actually being a serious musician. Performing with sincerity and integrity leaves one vulnerable to cutting personal criticism. It's safer to brilliantly mock the tropes, with the deftness possessed only by a truly skilled artist, because then any criticism can be deflected by dismissing the critic as simply too dense to understand what we're doing.
    Or perhaps Sartre believed the waiter really wasn't a good waiter or actor playing the role of a bad waiter being an actor playing the role of a good waiter. I dunno, something gets lost in the Fibonacci spiral.
     
  78. Fred, yeah, I've had a sense of myself playing at being a photographer. I haven't been photographing much lately, but I'm sure that when I return to it I will go through a period where it feels like I'm awkwardly going through the motions before I get comfortable again and find a subject matter I can connect with and learn from.
     
  79. Lex/Charles, Something Warhol said seems apropos:
    "If you're not trying to be real, you don't have to get it right. That's art."​
     
  80. Fred - here's an online version of the Berenson: Seeing and Knowing essay
    https://archive.org/stream/seeingknowing00bere#page/22/mode/2up
    I don't know if he went into his theories at length in any other writings, in a way this essay was a little out of his area of expertise in that he uses his renaissance knowledge to try to beat up on modernism, beautifully argued though! especially delightful observations like you can't have abstract painting because abstract means "idea" not a thing. Of course he wouldn't tolerate the misuse of words, abstracted art is what is actually meant when people say abstract.
    What Berenson's way of arguing does for me is give the me the right to think a little outside the main stream art propaganda - people love to call Tony Smith's 6'x6' steel cube the ultimate reduction in form - perfect minimalism/abstract sculpture - but there's a wicked way of interpreting it - it could easily be a traditional realistic sculpture of a box and therefore not a reduction of anything.
    I do respond as a sculptor to textural and surface qualities a great deal (they can impart a whole extra dimension to expression, sadly often denied to people these days), even in photography the surface quality of prints seem to have a major bearing on how we perceive the total image and digital hasn't caught up on that quite yet.
     
  81. Charles - your video is most informative and right on the money, though its a little bit of an exaggeration to say that he was self-taught as he'd really done a long and traditional apprenticeship with his original employer and he's continuing the tradition with his son.
    The Warhol quote falls into the "All Artists Lie" category.
    Better go and get my Domke photo vest, pop the 45 TC-E on the D800, throw the Manfrotto in the Jeep, ooops nearly forgot 10 stop ND filter before I go off my favourite landscape spot where I know people will see me at work :)
     
  82. Clive, thanks for the link to the Berenson. I'll check it out.
    In terms of photography, in addition to the surface texture of a print, I also think about the textures within the photo (textures of fabric, of hair, of skin, of walls), and I also think about visual texture as I would the texture of orchestral music.
    The Warhol quote: Not having to be real is not necessarily lying. Fantasy can be not real but not be a lie. In terms of photography, I might loosely translate Warhol to mean that if you're not trying to "represent" something or "accurately" portray something, then you may not be able to be judged right or wrong.
    As to lying, I'm OK with all artists lying especially when it leads to deeper truths, which I think it often does. By not necessarily accurately portraying a scene (isolating a subject from context and therefore putting a spin on it, exposing and composing so shadows appear mysterious or even grave), one is in at least some sense lying but may be portraying an emotional truth that's more significant than a representational one.
    Anyway, Warhol is neither right nor wrong, IMO. It's just another idea to consider.
     
  83. "Art is what you can get away with." -Andy Warhol
    I saw this quote by A.W. the day before yesterday at MOCA. Regardless if it's a stack of Brillo boxes, or a urinal singed "R.Mutt" (but of course really by none other then Marcel Duchamp) being called an artist in ones lifetime by the art establishment comes with some amazing privileges which we mere mortals can only dream about.
     
  84. Or . . . maybe . . . doing stuff like painting Campbell Soup cans and stacking boxes of Brillo and placing urinals in a museum gets the art world to notice you. Probably a little bit of both, chicken and egg.
     
  85. I'd characterize it (along with other aspects) as taking risks.
     
  86. Marc, also important is not to reduce these artists to their most well-known work.
    7 years before the urinal, Duchamp painted THIS PORTRAIT of his father and 5 years before it, he painted NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE, which was a seminal work helping the transition from Cubism to Modernism. In his self-described "retinal" period, he was really into exploring transitions and movement. He would then, of course, depart from that, but he'd already been noticed.
    And in fairness to Warhol, his work goes much beyond the soup cans and soap pad boxes. An exhibit of his work here in San Francisco a few years back included his album covers, many of his early DRAWINGS, and some important SILKSCREENS. As he was a pop artist, and exploring the relationship among art, pop culture, celebrities, and advertisement, sure, becoming a pop icon was almost eponymously necessary. His life, lifestyle, and art are pretty inextricably linked.
     
  87. You are absolutely correct Fred and that is the point I was after. Both Warhol and Duchamp had by this time become well known in the art establishment. They could "get way" as Warhol describes with just about anything, even picking up a urinal at a nearby hardware store and declaring it art simply because Duchamp, being an artists says it is. Could I do a similar thing today? I doubt it. If Warhol didn't become Warhol and instead stayed Andrew Warhola, a talented graphic designer, then what would anyone make of his Brillo boxes? Would they call it art? Would they call him a genius or a crackpot?
    There is a belief among some that an artists best work is at the beginning of their careers, when they are doing the kind of work that is important to them without the pressures of having to repeat past successes. Their work is still of a higher caliber then similar work being done by other artists and that's what gets them noticed. Then, as success arrives, some simply rest on their laurels and produce safe, crowd pleasing work according to the formula that has worked in the past.
    I have great admiration for Duchamp and Warhol. Warhol in particular is growing on me as they years fly by, although as you mention I'm just as interested in his history (a sickly kid from a poor working class immigrant family becomes a huge success. Classic American success story.) as well as his art. The issue I have with Warhol however is that so much of his work was produced by others in his "Factory." Sure, he may have originated the concept for a particular piece, but just like I feel photographs printed by the actual photographer carry more weight then those printed by others, when I look at a Warhol, I know I'm most likely looking at a work by Warhol and any number of unknown other individuals.
    For this reason, whenever I now send a photographic print of mine out into the world, I sign and date it (one year for the exposure and the other year for the making of the print.) I never used to do this because I used to feel that by doing so, I would be making the final statement for that particular negative. Who's to say that years from now I might want to print that same negative a different way? Could happen, people change, their tastes and their views change. Now I sign it because of how I feel about ownership of a creative work. Besides, every negative I print I do so to the best of my abilities so for that particular print at that particular time in my life, it is as good as it's going to get. Who knows about the future? I feel that art is a very personal and private undertaking despite that art may not be able to exist in a vacuum, it has to be seen and experienced by others. So I sign my prints as a sort of seal that I am the sole creator of that photograph both in the mental/emotional sense that made me take the photograph and in the physical sense in that I printed the picture myself by hand. When I sent a photograph of mine last spring to a friend in NY I mentioned to her that the print would be signed and dated on the reverse. She was delighted that I would be signing the print and I told her that was because "it's the only way I know how to authenticate my work. Accept no substitutes."
     
  88. There are a couple of things that keep cropping up about artists which everybody seems to believe to be true, I know this is a bit OT but related to this discussion.
    The idea that artists get discovered after their death, is one of them, it may have been vaguely true 100 years ago when communication was very much slower but not so these days. What actually happens is that the artworld of the time knows who's hot and who's not, artworld mainly being comprised of the artists of the day. So if we look at Van Gogh, often used as an example of being discovered after his death. He was well known to the hot artists of his time and his brother worked for a top dealer, the public knew nothing about him. He died young so in a sense his career developed just as if he was still alive - or put another way had he lived to a ripe old age he would have reaped the benefits.
    The number of artists that get discovered after death is so few that it would hardly rate a percentage.
    In fact the opposite more likely to occur, artists usually make their names for something they do fairly young, if they don't become superstars they are progressively forgotten, and what is worse as time goes on more and more artists get forgotten
    By far the most usual way for an artist to be "discovered" late in life or after death, is that they had at least one memorable period of activity and works from that time wound up in reasonably significant collections, reviews of their work exist in archives and there are a substantial number of people who believe that history hasn't given them a fair go.
    Sadly the media loves to perpetuate this myth by getting very exited by the very rare cases of "discovery", along with many others, especially the "tortured soul - outcast crazy person" stereotype
     
  89. Marc, I appreciate the observations about Warhol and Duchamp and their history and how it leads to them being able to be seen and heard in a certain way. I think there's more to the story. And, yes, I think if you came up with something as significant as the Campbell Soup cans or the urinal, you might very well be paid attention to. But it might not be easy. Duchamp's urinal, after all, was rejected by his fellow Dadaists as well as the committee of the museum to whom he submitted it. It wasn't accepted just because of who he was. It was Stieglitz, himself a risk-taker, who originally showcased the urinal in his studio after its initial rejection. Furthermore, Duchamp did quite a bit of writing explaining his more conceptual art. It was more than just coming up with "art objects" that was important. It was giving these objects a context and a place in art history that Duchamp was accomplishing. So, if you or I want to accomplish something similar, we might get started putting our thoughts together about it and communicating about it.
    I think of a lot of this kind of art like I do a performance. So there's more to the soup cans than what they represent and what they are. IMO, it's not just the soup cans that are the art. It's how Warhol got us there and how we allowed him to get there. I believe culture, in part, conspires to allow or to create art.
    I also appreciate hearing about the importance of ownership to you. I'm quite different in that respect, and love the fact that Warhol and his Factory people collaborated. I think that communal sense was an important aspect of that art.
    Me, I'm not terribly possessive about my photos. I consider most, if not all, of my portraits to be collaborations and love giving credit to the subjects. Sometimes they are passive participants but important contributors nonetheless. Sometimes they are more active, coming up with gestures, poses, expressions, suggesting locations, ideas, offering themselves in sometimes very creative ways. Sometimes, a subject doesn't do much other than be very photogenic, but I'm not going to take the credit for that, so I'm happy to let go of any idea that my photos are all mine.
    For me, a photo printed by the photographer doesn't necessarily carry any more weight, though I will of course give the photographer his due for being able to print well. What carries weight for me is the photo and my response to it. Some photos that are seen through by one person are marvelous and some photos that have a set designer, lighting director, make-up artist, photographer, and printer are just as marvelous. I don't give any more weight to a piano sonata written and performed by a single composer/musician than I do to a symphony written by a composer and played by an orchestra under the auspices of a conductor and in a music hall designed by an attuned architect. Sure, there are differences among all these possibilities and I recognize and embrace the differences, but I don't really prioritize them into a hierarchy.
     
  90. Clive, of the master finisher "...though its a little bit of an exaggeration to say that he was self-taught [because of his apprenticeship]". A little bit of an exaggeration, but then too, Michelangelo also was an apprentice better than (and marveling) his teachers from the beginning. Michelangelo also had assistants later on and I wonder the extent to which Michelangelo did all of his own 'printing'? Briefly I did read where Michelangelo would fire his assistants at times?
     
  91. Berenson . . .
    Just finished reading Seeing and Knowing. Informative, well researched, heartfelt, and much of interest to me. Fleshing out his seeing and knowing divisions and combinations is well worth the effort. Interesting to consider Kant, here, who thought we know first and only then see. In a sense, for Kant, we KNOW how to SEE and that affects our seeing. Berenson seems to emphasize, and appropriately so, how our knowing can often mislead or fill in the gaps of our seeing, or even prevent us from actually seeing or observing. Something to watch out for . . . or play with. His foray into convention seems very significant to me. I've always been intrigued by the dialogs, both implied and overt, artists have had with each other throughout the centuries, through influence, response, homage, etc. Using convention as part of the thread that binds artists and their expressions and communications is an enlightening way to see it.
    All that being said, ultimately, I'll dogmatically state that he's an old fuddy duddy, a hardened reactionary who longs for, as he calls it, "sobriety" and "sanity" in art.
     
  92. Some quotes from Berenson.
    page 61 "The most remarkable draughtsman still alive has taken every advantage of his skill to hide his true gifts (35, 36)....[Picasso] composes and paints and illustrates in a way to survive the tossings and nauseas of seasonal fashions, feels obliged to obscure his purpose with puerile malpractices. Anything to get away from the sane-asylum which for thousands of years art has been trying to erect in the mad-house welter of chaos."
    And he traces this trend back. page 52-3 "The idolized poets, painters, sculptors and critics after the first world war gave vent to the feeling of despair regarding the future by expressing their contempt for everything in the social order, in politics, and in all the arts that had brought them to pass....It is in our own day that for the first time in history a long-accepted classical tradition with all its invaluable conventions has been wantonly, jeeringly, thrown away."
    Well describing Western civilization as a 'sane-asylum' after WWII is at best a stretch. I think what Berenson missed was that it is also reality being represented by those idolized whomevers, the reality of "the mad-house welter of chaos" that culminated over those thousand years of art with the barbarity of humanity as unmasked in 20th century world wars. Picasso was representational in the final analysis, and in the final analysis not a great enough artist to birth for the world that reality's recompense. Picasso instead birthed cruelty toward women in his personal life, rather than offering failed men a proper image of feminine hope, clarity, and charity, all that is lacking in our overly masculinized world. I believe it was Anton Chekov who said that we can't be better until we are shown how bad we are.
     
  93. I'm with you on the old "fuddy duddy" Charles, but he does get our brains working and the general concept of "Seeing and Knowing" seems to have enough in it for me to ignore his reactionary rantings and sort of apply the ideas to contemporary art and photography. In a sense I see it as a wasted opportunity because the good ideas get lost in his blind anger, when, if he was a little more open minded, he could have noticed that great contemporary art, even abstract art, can be neatly placed in his theories.
    Most notably Picasso and Matisse - I think the overplaying of misogyny in Pablo has reached epidemic proportions, I seem to remember that the "get Picasso at any cost campaign" started in the 50s with rise of the New York School and by the time the feminists came along it was well entrenched as a critical system to denigrate European modernism and exalt the US version.
    The trick these days is to find ways to look at images free from their accrued propagandas.
     
  94. Ah, you mean feminists as grudge bearers Clive, grounded in vendetta against the man Picasso at any cost, following in the footsteps of '50's grudge bearers who before them had made it all personal, same as New York School self-aggrandizement at the expense of European flavors of modernism? A dastardly plot all that, I take you to mean? I guess we know art is good when feminists don't like it!???
     
  95. A dastardly plot all that, I take you to mean? I guess we know art is good when feminists don't like it!???

    No Charles I don't mean that at all, but it is nice to get back into dogma - one of the greatest films ever made documenting an art of a time is Emile de Antonio's Painters Painting (1972) - series of interviews with the leading American artists, many of which are now household names - the session with Frank Stella is most instructive as he talks quite freely about knocking Picasso off his pedestal and the idea that art is brutally competitive dog eat dog etc.

    I'm always suspicious of anything in art that relies on denigrating the obvious achievements of an artist or school with an argument that conveniently promotes the values of a "new bunch" on the block. To me its a cheap trick. Of course its rife these days. Anything that relies on "its good because style arguments" (dogmas) has me looking very carefully at it.
     
  96. Clive, the way I see it is that Weeping Woman is unpleasant and that Picasso was also unpleasant to women.
    The infighting in art I suppose is to be expected.
     
  97. Clive - "I'm always suspicious of anything in art that relies on denigrating the obvious achievements of an artist or school with an argument that conveniently promotes the values of a "new bunch" on the block."
    Yes, that was Berenson's suspicion with post wwi schools, wasn't it? Who needs composition and all those negating sorts of new values.
     
  98. I think most of the Picasso was unpleasant to women stuff is an over-exaggeration and a pretty lopsided beat-up, because in truth we could apply the same blow torch to just about any male artist of the times. If we are going to do shock horror at affairs, playing up and general selfishness we should do it evenly, we could pop Ansel Adams under the spotlight and make more of his relationship with Patsy English than we do. Cartier-Bresson wasn't an angel either.
     
  99. Clive - "...because in truth we could apply the same blow torch to just about any male artist of the times."
    Right, could and should, because I am trying to assess our culture by the art it produces and also to consider how well art responds to crisis, e.g. the crisis of world war.
     
  100. I think you make a fair point, Charles, in assessing the art produced by a culture and a time period. I also think that has to be balanced—or if not balanced at least considered along with—the art as produced by the individual as well and even the art divorced from the politics or social significance of that individual. I find it becomes a deeper picture. So, I can listen to late Beethoven and consider how his growing deafness has a role in what he composed. But I can also listen to the music more abstractly and just exist with it in the moment. Each is its own experience and then each experience becomes an even bigger experience when they occur simultaneously and with some overlap. Likewise, with Leni Riefenstahl's work, which has very significant social and political consequences and influences. But taken "in itself" (to whatever degree possible), there's a valuable experience I may not be able to have if I'm too involved with the politics of it all, even though the politics will also cast a cloud over the work on a more intellectual level.
    In terms of era, that's important. I can certainly regret the morality and prevailing cultural missteps of a certain time period, and I can genuinely bemoan the art of the time reflecting that. At the same time, there's something to consider in looking at the art of a given time trying at least to some extent to adopt the viewpoint of that time, understand where the art may be coming from, and forgive it (or at least contextualize) certain transgressions that today might well be unacceptable. While it's a bit campy to do, I tend to get a little peeved when I go to a movie from the 40s and people hiss at so-called politically incorrect presentations of women, as the dutiful housewife, etc. It was a different time, and I think some degree of acceptance of what it was like then and how a director might have been working within his milieu has to offset by whatever I may find objectionable in that behavior taken out of its temporal context.
     
  101. "Dogmatism"
    A sad reflection of humanity.
     
  102. "Dogmatism" - I'm right, and you're not.
     

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