Exaggeration and Authenticity

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. The example I keep coming back to when thinking about this subject is the "stage whisper."
    I often exaggerate in order to make a visual point. That can be a literal or non-literal point, often non-literal but still expressive or communicative. I may exaggerate lighting (either on the spot or in post processing) to render what it actually felt like to me. Same with color. The vibrancy I saw and/or experienced may have to be exaggerated in order to make sense within the confines of the photographically "framed" image. That's one way to capture all that is NOT included in the frame that I may want to include. How, for example, does one capture heat (physical and/or emotional)? The exaggeration of light can help.
    Talking about exaggeration is a little troubling because it sounds like it assumes that there's a level of reality or accuracy that a photographer is either conscious of or bound by. Exaggeration assumes a baseline, a truth from which exaggeration takes flight. We've talked about differences between, say, photojournalism and fine art photography. And we tend to say that the photographer who is not doing photojournalism, etc. is not bound by the same "rules" as the journalist, documentarian, forensic photographer. I do find myself, however, often binding myself. In my portraits, though I allow myself great freedom of expression and have no "rules of the trade" obligating me, I also want a level of authenticity, both out of respect to my subjects and out of a consciousness of the way I want to use photography. I find that balance and tension between what I find in the "real world" and what I fabricate in my photos endlessly curious and exciting.
    It's funny, because I've often said that I'm not attempting to be accurate in my photos, but instead trying to be creative. I'm questioning that at this point. Because I think there is some degree of accuracy I'm seeking. I often do want to accurately (not fully, but in varying degrees) express or convey or even represent what I felt, what I think a subject may be feeling, or what the dynamic is between us. Sometimes it's simply just accurately portraying what someone looks like, which I find can be very significant. While I may be fabricating a lot, by directing poses, gestures, balancing color and light, etc., there's a level of accuracy that I often find myself not wanting to betray. I want to nail something that I feel, think, or see was there.
    There's probably a flip side to exaggeration. Understatement? Also a useful tool.
    Do you find yourself exaggerating or, let's say, veering from actual accuracy in order to be more accurate in your photographic portrayal of something? What are some different ways you do that, if you do that? If you don't think you do it, why not? What's your alternative to that?
    Thanks.
     
  2. hyperbole - noun Rhetoric .
    1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
    2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as "to wait an eternity."
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
     
  3. I'm not all that worried about authenticity, though I respect it, and don't go out of my way to subvert it, unless needed, of course. It just has to be convincing. Believing is seeing. What is just as important as exaggeration to me is modulating everything else. Any part of a photograph can be made more salient by downplaying the others (and that can be done in a multitude of ways).
    I have no problem exaggerating.
     
  4. "Authenticity" regarding the depiction of a subject in any art form is a canard, a red herring, a dead end. something made may represent an aspect of something the artist (and all photographers are artists whether they care to admit it or not -- like every other human endeavor there are in the photographic endeavor ones who are lazy, bad, indifferent, passable, okay, good, great, and ones who qualify as geniuses ) sees or recognizes and is able to present to an audience but at best the photograph(s) produced are authentic to their vision of the thing or person in front of their camera, and not to the the subject of the photograph.
     
  5. Henry, thanks for the definition of hyperbole.
    Luis, I appreciate your introduction of modulation. I like it because it has a musical reference as well. Modulation probably covers a bigger picture than exaggeration, as exaggeration is one aspect of the way we can modulate. I just picked exaggeration out of my interest in that particular aspect. I do think, and imagine you do as well (?), that making something salient by downplaying other things is different from exaggerating the thing you may want to make salient.
    Ellis, while I understand your lack of interest in authenticity, I can't quite get behind your definitive statement about its inapplicability to art. I definitely get, and have said so myself, that there's a difference between the photograph and its subject. But I think there's an important relationship between them. And authenticity can be one aspect of that relationship, not for everyone, but for some. When friends and relatives of the subject of one of my portraits react a certain way and tell me I've captured or expressed something so true about the subject ("that portrait is sooooo him"), that's at least part of what I mean by its being authentic and/or accurate. I've made enough portraits where I've veiled the subject in order to draw a distinction between those and ones where I've been more true to the subject. I consider the veiled portraits, sometimes, authentic as well, because they express genuine feelings that may not apply to the individual subject but transcend that subject.
    I don't see authenticity as necessary to photographs or any kind of art.
     
  6. Fred, I believe its impossible to be truly authentic to the experience of being there. So we exaggerate to attempt to replay what we felt when we looked at the scene in real life. We are limited to 2D in little 8x10's or even larger prints. But in the original experience, we see in 3D, with smells, and cold and heat, and the wind in your face. That cannot be duplicated in a photo.
    But we try. We use wide angle lenses in landscapes to cover the wide spans of the vista. Color saturation to express the feelings of deep and beautiful color we felt. Of course none of this really works to copy the original view. I have yet to see a photo of Yosemite that expresses the feeling I first felt when I stepped out on Inspiration Point and viewed that grand spectacle. No one really duplicates the grand vision of the Grand Canyon.
    The funny thing is, that of all pictures, snapshots of family and friends probably comes closest to reality and authenticity. When you look at yourself or someone close to you, all the defects in the picture, the rules that were broken, the colors that have faded over time, are not even noticed. You only see the person and fall in love all over again. Alan.
     
  7. Alan, I understand what you're saying and appreciate that the photo definitely is not the same as the experience. That's definitely not what I'm after. I'm not looking for the photo to substitute for the original experience by any means. And I'm not looking for a copy. But I think there are more and less accurate and authentic portrayals of subjects (as different as they may have to be from their originals). And, as I said, I'm not always going for that. It's just something I've been thinking of a little differently lately. I used to have a bit of disdain for the notion of accuracy. And now I'm questioning that, because I do think there are a variety of uses for accuracy, uses that don't just pertain to documentation and forensics.
    I love your last line about snapshots of family and friends. "You only see the person and fall in love all over again." There's something very real about that.
     
  8. jtk

    jtk

    Method actors, in their era, strained to be "authentic"...and their straining was obvious. They sometimes achieved something unique and wonderful that way, an exaggerated sort of parallel reality.
    Personally, I like to see actors acting more than I like to see naturalism. Who needs the theatre to see normal people? Don't we all enjoy the pretense in exaggerated clouds?
    Our contemporary actors, who typically like to seem unaffected or "natural," laugh about him, but could any of them be a better Stanley Kowalski than Marlon Brando?
    "Authenticity" seems equivalent to "truthiness." Neither real nor the truth, but it can be rewarding to suspend disbelief.
    Wedding photography works that vein to create a dreamworld for the bride. She'll look back at the "authenticity" in a few years and think "where did that go?" Some wedding photographers sell what they call a "photojournalistic" style in order to create a more edgy dreamworld with a megadose of truthiness. I'm not being sarcastic when I say this can be a fine thing to do. Take it a step further, make it even more trendy:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/japanese-man-wants-to-marry-cartoon-character-14042891.html
    A little unreality ("authenticity") can be more fun than its absence. :)
     
  9. Fred - "I do think, and imagine you do as well (?), that making something salient by downplaying other things is different from exaggerating the thing you may want to make salient."
    It does work differently. I agree.
    Ellis - "Authenticity" regarding the depiction of a subject in any art form is a canard, a red herring, a dead end."
    I understand what you mean, but can't entirely dismiss the whole thing. With photography there is a referent. I do not mean it in the sense that authenticity is a requirement or intrinsically desirable, and am quite familiar with the thorny issues surrounding this in the digital age.
    Alan - Pictures of people and places we love tend to have more than a touch of the mnemonic fetish in them. Most often they are viewed by people who know the pictured, which helps to ease authenticity gaps. That's one romantic last line... I like it.
     
  10. "Do you find yourself exaggerating or, let's say, veering from actual accuracy in order to be more accurate in your photographic portrayal of something?"
    I think I understand what you are getting at in regard to the "something", which may be quite different from the actual subject matter. However, if instead of that you are referring to an accurate representation of the subject matter, I would have to simply say, no, not often. What I do intend by exaggerating in many cases has nothing to do with seeking accuracy or fidelity to what I see as an actual subject, but rather to avoid an attempt at accuracy and to replace it by the process of adding to my subject matter something that modifies or transforms it in a manner that conveys what I feel about it, or how I wish it to act in my image, being something different than an accurate representation of it. I find that approach compelling and creative.
     
  11. Arthur, some degree of accuracy doesn't negate or undermine creativity. It can be a jumping off point. Even if I am adding to my subject or modifying it, I often want to let the subject itself speak somewhat plainly and clearly as well. I usually look at a portrait and say to myself, "How is this picture a likeness and how is it not?" I can make a creative portrait of Gerald that looks like and seems like Gerald. The "looking like" and the "seeming like" has some degree of accuracy, otherwise I would presume no one that knew Gerald could guess it was Gerald.
    As for exaggeration, I am currently playing around a lot with it in poses and gestures. I like the way exaggerated poses and gestures can read in photographs. It's hard, though, reaching that level of obviousness that, though posed, feels genuine or has some significance or in some way touches me and the viewer. Artificiality can be, to use Luis's word, unconvincing, in which case it will often fail. But sometimes, going to a bit more extreme level of artificiality can start taking you full circle to where it suggests something very relatable, very human and is, in fact, very convincing.
    I wonder if exaggeration is able, sometimes, to bring intention to the surface. Showing and seeing intention can be very powerful, even more so than hearing about it. Exaggeration may be one way to integrate the subject with the photographer's intention toward it. (The photographer obviously wanted this to appear this way. That can be a useful tool in the arsenal at times.)
     
  12. Tell X that speech is not dirty silence
    Clarified. It is silence made still dirtier.
    -- Wallace Stevens; from The Creations of Sound (1944)​
     
  13. This thread reminds me of J.L. Austin's work, particularly, his statement that one of the fetishes he wanted to play Old Harry with was the true - false fetish. Photography, like language, is not two-dimensional. What goes into a photograph is more than the photographer's attempt to make a statement about the world. I'll stop here, lest I be accused of speaking rubbish. (Apologies, Tom, for my sarcasm.)
     
  14. Julie, thanks for the quote.
    Michael, I agree that there is (I'll add MUCH) more to a photo than an attempt to make a statement about the world. I'm talking about accuracy as ONE aspect (out of many, many, many) that can be considered when making photographs. It is because accuracy/truth/representation is so maligned so often that I'm wanting to take a closer look at it and have found, at least for myself, some usefulness in it, especially because of how photographs are taken and work. I think I gave it short shrift in the past because I saw it as an enemy, rather than a companion, to photographic expression.
     
  15. "Exaggeration may be one way to integrate the subject with the photographer's intention toward it."
    Fred, that is what I was refering to in another manner. It can be used subtly or not so subtly, with varying effect. I see it as not being limited to any one type of subject matter. You choose the example of portraiture, which is relevant, but exaggeration can be a component of the photographer's perception/ response/ intention in regard to virtually any subject he may wish to consider.
    We are familiar with the more straightforward exaggerations that may be compositional, such as those involving apparent distortion of perspective, such as the case of my image of a blue chair in my portfolio "Seated or not" or a face rendered with a wide angle lens, or similar warped structures, or the use of extended shadows (in themselves accurately portrayed), extremely dark skies suggesting night rather than day (or the contrary), color exaggerations, and the like. I think that the more enigmatic or subtle exaggerations that are played out in an image, sometimes only detectable on repeated viewing, are more powerful than the geometrical or chromatic ones. But I guess iot depends upon the subject. Most probably remember the tennis game without the ball, and with the sound of the stroke, in the Antonioni film "Blow Up", although that dealt with reality versus non-reality, the theme of that classic film.
    What I do realize from this OP is that too few of my own images seek to exaggerate that which I observe, but often simply seek to show something that may not be too common. There is much potential in the creative use of exaggeration, as one tool in an artistic approach. I fear though that the ability to achieve it with the photographic medium (other than the too easy use of chromatic exaggeration or distorted subject matter through lens choice) and in a more meaningful or subtle manner is quite a challenge. But I am glad you bring it up.
     
  16. Exaggeration, up to a point, is disproportionally effective with almost everything. Think revenue estimates, Victoria's Secret, US Congress, everyone's children, Military estimates, budget justifications, etc. It connects with something deep in us. I remember a Keys fishing guide telling my wife when she remarked that a certain fishing fly didn't resemble its namesake crab in the slightest: "It is to a real crab as Dolly Parton is to the average woman...".
    It can work, through suspending disbelief and connecting with the viewer, as a kind of short-circuit intimacy. Every con man on the planet knows this. Not that photographers have anything to do with that kind of thing, of course.
     
  17. deleted for clarity.
     
  18. @ Fred G.: You are mischaracterizing what I wrote. I am very much interested in the authentic and the idea of the authentic. So much so that I wanted to separate the chaff of illusion from the kernel. The finished photograph is an authentic to a photographer's vision of whatever or whoever he or she has photographed- but that is the extent of authenticity in a photograph.

    Rene Magritte recognized this principle as well: a representative work of art is it's own reality, and that holds true for photography as well as painting or sculpture.
    00YFFI-333779684.jpg
     
  19. Ellis, I'm sorry. I understand what you mean by authenticity of vision. And that's important to me as well. Magritte's visual is also very significant, especially accompanied by his words. And I surely do understand that his picture of a pipe is not a pipe just as I understand that my pictures of people are not people. I don't think, however, that's the extent of authenticity in a photograph. Though I don't think a photograph is the pipe of which it is a picture, I do think the two have a relationship. As I said, if there were no relationship between subject and photograph, no one who knows a subject of a portrait would recognize that the portrait is of that person. That's an important "of." So, while I don't think authenticity is identity, I do think there are more and less authentic relationships. I also know that in some cases and on many different levels, the particular person who is the subject of the portrait doesn't matter. Often, all we have is the picture and not the person. And, often, the portrait transcends the person. Yet, again as Luis pointed out, there is usually a referent in a photograph and that sets up a kind of relationship that I think can be special to a photograph.
    Here are a couple of definitions that come up for authentic:
    1. Worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.
    Luis mentioned "convincing" as something significant. The above definition seems related.
    2. Not false or copied.
    This is a particularly useful one. Because it makes the point that something authentic is not a mere copy. I'm not trying to fool anyone into thinking that the portrait before them is really the person they think of when they look at the portrait. But I am recognizing that most people, when seeing a portrait or seeing a landscape or seeing a chair are, to some extent, transported outside the picture. At the same time, I'm very aware that there is also a whole world inside the picture (of inside the frame) that is discontinuous with that. So there is continuity and discontinuity in the relationship of what's framed in the picture to what's not framed.
    Again, I want to make clear that I don't think all photographs or photographers are concerned with this and ones that are are likely not completely concerned with it. I think many photographers, including me sometimes, have no concern with authenticity and are using a particular subject to express a photographic vision relatively unrelated to and unconcerned for the specific subject.
     
  20. "It can work, through suspending disbelief and connecting with the viewer, as a kind of short-circuit intimacy. Every con man on the planet knows this. Not that photographers have anything to do with that kind of thing, of course."
    Love it, Luis. This speaks to a kind of tension/counterpoint I've been exploring for some time now. It was present way back in my "photographs are lies" thread. There is, indeed, a con man aspect to how I think about what I do, perhaps to what many photographers do (?). That's why I love to talk about fakery and artificiality. At the same time, I do look to achieve and realize (the first more sought and active, the second more found and passive) intimacy, hopefully in a very genuine way. That dance, to me, is exhilarating.
    I think there is a kind of exaggeration that is a short circuit. I wanted to avoid going here because it likely gets us hung up in the stupid over-saturated landscapes debate, but I can't help mentioning it here. That kind of exaggeration does seem like a short circuit. Many examples of exaggeration are. But I think there are exaggerations (like a good stage whisper, the idea I started the OP off with) that are necessary and, when done with subtlety and finesse, are very effective. It's interesting to talk about a subtlety of exaggeration but I think that's just what can happen.
     
  21. Addition: I'm not saying that I think it's necessary to always exaggerate with subtlety and finesse. As I said when talking about some poses and gestures I do, I'm also looking for ways to be very obvious about exaggeration that can work.
     
  22. Arthur, I'm so glad you ended with that example from Antonioni. While I was reading your post, I was focusing on the difference between the kinds of exaggerations in gesture and pose I'm working with and the kinds of graphical exaggerations (composition, etc.) you were talking about. (And, of course you are right, exaggeration is not limited to portraits. Portraits are simply where I can get my most familiar and fluent personal examples.) So I was going to ask you if there's something comparable in non-portrait, non-human or animal work to exaggerated gesture or pose, more expressive than compositional. (And that's not to say that composition isn't expressive.) I think the tennis match is a great example. Can you think of others? Maybe the tennis match is more a conceptual exaggeration? I don't remember the scene.
    P.S. As I re-read Arthur's post, the example of the handling of skies seems a gestural consideration and others of the examples hint at that as well.
     
  23. jtk

    jtk

    Early in this thread I introduced "suspend disbelief" : Belief suspension is up to the viewer (or audience), not to the photographer (or actor). Failure to recognize the primacy of the viewer comes at a price.
    It's well and good to consider what the photographer (or actor) claims to intend, but in the end the responsibility falls to someone else.
    If the viewer (or audience) is freely able and willing to suspend disbelief the question of "authenticity" becomes irrelevant. "Authenticity" is mostly an issue for people who are unable or unwilling (probably not the ideal audience).
    Nobody has unreal or inauthentic perceptions, even if they're dreaming or hallucinating: They perceive what they perceive. The photographer's purported intentions become teats on a bull if s/he excessively navel-gazes, paying no attention to viewer (audience) responses.
     
  24. jtk

    jtk

    ...or paying selective attention :)
     
  25. I remember one of Jackson Pollock's figurative paintings (after his abstract drip painting period) that appeared a long time ago in I think an Atlantic Monthly number. It showed in its lower 3/4s of the frame a bullseye target. In the upper 1/4 or perhaps 1/5th of the painting was a row of some 4 or 5 wooden or ceramic faces, in horizontally aligned adjoining boxes, side by side and with each face cut off at the top at the upper nose, just before where the eyes would normally show. Pollock was I think exaggerating how we perceive objects. The up front bulls eye, normally seen at a far off distance, was exaggereated in its spatial context by the equally exaggerated faces that without eyes were rendered distant and unlike a more usual perception.
    Some scenes, landscape, cityscape or still life, can take on an exaggerated meaning or enigmatic quality if we position within each some object that is out of context with the normally perceived scene. We can also modify the tones of skies or lighting of the ground or objects to exaggerate the mood or their normally perceived and more "authentic" qualities.
    In my scene of chairs submerged in water ("Free flight") I have exaggerated the relationship of the chairs to their shadows, which normally would be joined at some point to the chairs, but in the image are unnaturally liberated from each other. The normal positions of the chairs and their now independent shadows are also distorted or exaggerated in respect of their normal angles of perception. I did a number of views of these chairs which may become a series, although this one best shows the exaggerated reationships.
    Still life painting and photography has been a field in which enigma and exaggeration have been used to communicate something other than what is there. But the field is wide open for exaggeration in all sorts of types of images. The tools available, from traditional darkroom techniques to air brushing to computer enhancements, are also numerous, although, as Fred has hinted at, their power can be too strong to resist and not always well used. The recent face uplifting software does exaggerate reality, but to what avail? The lack of authenticity and dream world it yields is not always very useful for artistic expression.
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    The perception of "exaggeration" is up to the viewer, not the photographer.
    But some photographers do intentionally try to exaggerate by relying on visual symbols, such as of wisdom (geezers with beards), certain eye expressions, or the standard artifices of psychic suffering (eg knit brow).... but those symbols can wear out quickly, becoming boring. You probably know people who look upward, maybe stroking their chins, when they want you to believe they're thinking :)
    Commitment to one central subject becomes a type of exaggeration ...even if shots are not heavily tweaked by the camera (are RAW, not JPEG), even if white balance is "correct" and little is worked over in Photoshop. Exaggeration isn't good or bad of itself, and isn't necessarily seen as exaggeration by the viewer. The photographer's intentions may be irrelevant.
     
  27. Exaggeration is like an extension of the taxonomy of form/concept. That does not necessarily have to be the visual thing exaggerated, but something else. It is something most photographers do often at some level. It can, but does not have to be subtle or authentic (although it has a point of departure). It can be from almost undetectable to a surr-or-hyper real over the top thing (visions of Jackalope postcard pics come to mind). `
    [In Arthur's floating chairs, it is their decontextualization that liberates their form in my mind.]
    Fred - "...if there's something comparable in non-portrait, non-human or animal work to exaggerated gesture or pose, more expressive than compositional."
    I'd say everything photographic within our reach can be used to exaggerate (or de-emphasize) almost anything we see or think. A lot of viewers familiar with exaggeration of the hyperbolic kind, tend to see it as more humorous than deception or puffery.
    Exaggeration at the viewer's end is a kind of artful deviation, or detour from the expected. In a way, it gives the viewer new/multiple meaning(s), and the chance to encounter/play in that conceptual space. How these things wander from expectation can be expressed in a gradient. At the lower end would be excessive meeting of expectation, things like alliteration and rhyme (and no, this is not a judgment of any of it). At the other end would be things like metaphors, puns, and hyperboles.
    Exaggeration can create multiple covalent meanings, but when it becomes hyperbolic, or literally impossible, it displaces the viewer's normal connections, forcing (many of) them to consider adjustments towards a new more plausible meaning or reconciling of incongruities. I think the need for this conciliation (read as increased involvement in processing the image) is often greater than the potential for disbelief -- up to a point, and that point is pretty far out.
    I believe there may be genetic components to exaggeration. A distant example: Seagull chicks instinctively peck at a red spot on their mothers' beak to elicit feeding. They will also peck at a piece of wood with a red dot on it. The truly interesting part, and germane to the idea of exaggeration and hyperbole, is that they will by far peck the most at a stick with three red stripes,which looks nothing like the mother's beak, and nothing like they would encounter in nature. We are predisposed to exaggeration.
     
  28. jtk

    jtk

    Luis's notion that exaggeration is in some way equivalent to the programmed behavior of birds is fun. Take it a step further...think about our genetic predosposition to drug addiction (built-in sensors that prefer cocaine to our own chemistry). Fun indeed.
    Perhaps the same argument could be made for our vulnurability to petting. If we get high ratings on some photo ratings system we tend to do more of whatever it was, especially if we get those ratings occasionally rather than always (rat-running research has long known that).
    Or maybe we, as humans, are more stupid than rats: If we find something that gets us praise, maybe we just keep doing it, over and over. Does HDR work that way? Often, yes. The snobs who don't give it high ratings only make us think of ourselves as a heroic minority, like Tea Party enthusiasts.
     
  29. Luis, I think that there is a fundamental difference between emphasis and exaggeration. The first, it seems to me, will appear to remain properties or emanations from that the thing that is emphasized. The second, requires the explicit (in the mind of those who are recognizing/receiving "exaggeration") presence of an exaggerator. It brings the maker into the mind of the viewer (see our previous discussions about whether/when the performer/instrument should/could/does disappear). It moves the picture from being a picture/viewer interplay to being, explicitly, a maker/viewer interplay with the picture's content becoming subordinate.
    Further, within exaggeration, I see a profound difference between the exaggeration of the con man and the exaggeration of the artist. The con man (advertising executive, etc.) tries to minimize one's awareness of the exaggerator, to stay hidden (in an odd way, he makes the exaggeration seem to come from originate in the viewer). He intends not so much to exaggerate as to direct and distort; he hopes for a closed or narrowed conception; a directed path to a finite manipulated end.
    The artist can play with the con man's methods but I think the artist will always, in the end, be at one further remove. He uses exaggeration, not to an end, but to try to widen, open, expand what is included; to "portray" the non-visual qualities of his experience by means of the visual. He explicitly shows the puppeteer (himself); he tries to show the (full) experience *of* the puppeteer -- not to close or narrow or force some conclusion or direction, but to open, include, expand his represention of an experience. His exaggeration will be very unresolved; the con man's will be very resolved.
    I don't think we're so much predisposed to exaggeration as we are predisposed to try and try and try for fuller communication. We exaggerate the hot spots, the triggers, the fixed action patterns such as the birds' ... as means, tools, access points but that use doesn't limit or define what we use them for.
     
  30. Julie - "I see a profound difference between the exaggeration of the con man and the exaggeration of the artist. The con man (advertising executive, etc.) tries to minimize one's awareness of the exaggerator, to stay hidden (in an odd way, he makes the exaggeration seem to come from originate in the viewer)."
    I used to work for local ad agencies. I don't know where you get the above idea, but decades back, even small-time AD's and AE's used to sit in their offices openly discussing augmenting the awareness of the exaggerator, because in reality, it tends to increase sales/product affiliation when overt. When slight/covert, it's perceived as deception. I've known cons (of the criminal kind) and hundreds of artists, and in my experience, there's not a clear line of demarcation between them.
    One recent example: A Chevy truck ad with the truck impossibly atop a lighthouse, rotating, playing the role of the lamp. The text says something about how the truck's lights can illuminate any darkness. No, they're not trying to hide anything. They're well-aware that you know it's a tall tale, and that you get the hyperbole.
    Julie - "He intends not so much to exaggerate as to direct and distort; he hopes for a closed or narrowed conception; a directed path to a finite manipulated end."
    So do many, but not all, artists, conceptually and materially. And for both, sales is definitely a part of it, though in the admen case it's a conduit to a sale, for the artist, brand, pitch & product rolled into one. You're also saying that advertising is monosemic, and art is polysemic, which I agree with for the most part, though many ad agencies have produced ads that were polysemic, and about much more than the sale.
     
  31. If I up the saturation or use HDR to create "eye candy" to "sell" the viewer to buy my picture or give me the plaudits and awards my egos craves, is that not a "con"? Authenticity starts from within. I believe we all want to be whole but our ego gets in the way. It's very difficult to set it aside and be honest and trust that it's OK not to embellish.
     
  32. Exaggeration -- like blur, perspective, and gesture -- is a tool. In itself, it's both and neither a con nor a more lofty romance. That will be a matter simply of how the perpetrator and the recipient deal with it. I had a piano teacher who used to achieve an incredibly lush and smooth legato. He used to like to use cynicism to think and teach about music. So he talked about legato as faking out the piano and the listener, making this percussive instrument sing, impersonating a violin. I'm sure other musicians see the piano's legato as their hands brushing up against a Godlike truth.
    The use of tools and how we think about those tools are two different things.
    It's not that photography is either a con or a step beyond the con, it's just what we find ourselves, allow ourselves, and convince ourselves to think at any given time. More and more, I'm finding a fluidity among all these different views. So, in the same photographic move, I can experience the con and the genuineness, the resolve and the lack of resolve. For me, it's in playing with that tension that a lot of the energy of my work lies. I like swinging on that pendulum. I'm not looking to get off that ride by becoming the best liar I can be OR the most mushy truth-teller I can be.
    There are degrees of exaggeration. Some exaggeration will not be picked up by the viewer. Some will. I have exaggerated light that I really don't think will be perceived as an exaggeration and that's not what I'm looking for. It will just have impact. It will be seen.
    Using Arthur's pool photo as an example. He exaggerated certain things that I may not be aware of. So, I don't see them as exaggerated. But I see them, to at least some extent, as I do, because he exaggerated them.
    Actors playing to huge halls may exaggerate to have the same effect as what they do in a more understated way in a more intimate theater. That's not because they want people to see the strings being pulled. It's not because they want their intent to be transparent. It's because they want their gestures to read in the bigger hall.
    Then there is the exaggeration that I (or an actor, or dancer, or musician, or guy having an argument with his girlfriend) very well may want the viewer to see as exaggeration. In those cases, I do want to wear my intent on my sleeve. Instead of the viewer just experiencing a pose, I may want to try to get the viewer to actually think about the pose, even to think about the obviousness of some poses and how that obviousness can affect how they see and feel.
     
  33. Arthur, I meant to thank you for providing some specific ways in which you utilize exaggeration in your own photos. That is helpful to hear.
     
  34. Fred, I enjoy your recent comments and am glad that my few (too few) examples of exaggeration are useful to the discussion. Perhaps, as Luis says, the pool image is more of a decontextualisation of both the chair and the shadows than an exaggeration in the sense we normally think of that phenomenon. There is room between decontextualisation and exaggeration and sometimes the line is not too distinct. Often a decontextualised object leads to some surrealistic or enigmatic effect that in itself is not necessarily an exaggeration. I didn't notice the delinking of the shadows from the chair initially, but simply the enigma of the floating chairs and shadows and their unusual interrelationship, quickly resolved by the evident background or milieu of pool water. When we decontextualise something we may or may not be portraying some sort of exaggeration, as for example the presence of an executive of some factory in business suit dusting off some equipment or with a floor mop in hand. First and foremost a decontextualisation or social comment I guess, and then an exaggeration of his normal function. The two can meet together, but often one predominates. I guess that the pool chairs are more a decontexturalisation, as I think you and Luis observe. Or perhaps some form of accidental surrealism.
    I am a bit at a loss in terms of citing more profound exaggeration in scenics (urban or rural) than the dark skies, light effects, blur, exaggerated or unnatural tones, compositional disequilibrium or other techniques. I guess the content itself can be exaggerated but the question comes down to what is the purpose or intended effect of the exaggeration? Is it just to deny some authenticity or is it more than that, to communicate something in the subject matter that is not usually perceived, or some aspect that flies in the face of a normal perception of te subject by the viewer?
    Still life and portraits are perhaps good ground for exaggeration. It may be in the subject (like the discussion last year of the photographer who seeks those with faces of prominent aspects (paleness, prominent foreheads, or long necks or whatever) but then it is the subject and not the photographer that delivers the apparent exaggeration. Still lifes are fun because we can insert incongruent elements or exaggerated elements as part of the scene, whereby, for instance, a still life of fresh food contains either overfresh appearance, or alternatively (conversely), elements of decay. A friend who works as an artist in Tallinn, Estonia, has made some very large closely framed images of single fruit that first amaze one by their hyperrealism and look appealing, until the viewer discovers a small area with either a worm engage in eating the skin or a mark of obvious decay. Exaggeration or decontextualisation or something else?
    I am blown away in reading, viewing the work of a French medical doctor turned professional photographer, Philippe Bazin, and his portraits of institutionalised patients, mostly those near death (from babies to octagenarians and older). He exaggerates the normal spatial relationship by photographing very very close to his subjects, almost body to body (this comes from his former medical practice and proximity in care giving to his patients). The face almost and often spills out of the frame and he uses simple techniques (although he studied photography and fine arts when he made the switch) of a small 35mm Olympus camera, technical pan (B&W) and flash and eliminated the background completely (out of choice). These "exaggerated close up facial views expose all the aspects of the face of the person and expression and are blown up to quite large prints. In one way it is exaggeration, in another it is authenticity - a complete bonding with his subjects and nothing held back. Also it is a decontextualisation of the normal relationship between humans that is interwoven by a "polite" space (my term).
    I will try to find a site of his work. The importance of what he did (he has turned his approach in other directions, as a normal evolution, and since Tech Pan became a historical film (he found no other with that quality), and teaches photography to support his work, which is rarely by contract and mainly by personal objectives) found seed in his work as a doctor in institutions of the ill and dying and his observation that in some cases nothing visual remained of the person after death. A very inspiring individual.
     
  35. [somehow I knew this guy had a (very) "little button"]
    [that he likes to "press and magic happens"]
     
  36. (And that guy might have been George Eastman, or any of our companion obsessional shutterbugs since George and his mom hatched the word kodak - shutterclack)
     
  37. Phylo, thank you. It often is.
     
  38. Re: Phylo's point. Just last night, I was thinking about some drag queens I know.
     
  39. Phylo, to the black metal exaggerated authenticity, one might add much of the world's photojournalism, notably that communicated by TV. At least non-documentary photography normally uses exaggeration as an artistic / symbolic expression.
     
  40. Arthur yes, but, there's a difference between an exaggerated authenticity and an authenticity which is an exaggeration by itself, in which case the photographer records something authentic while still getting a photograph of some sorts of exaggeration, intentionally or not.
    Remember this one
    http://www.slate.com/id/2149675/
    The exaggeration in it may be precisily that it is an 'under-exaggeration' ( the seeming calmness ), but still one that's photographically authentic.
     
  41. Yes, Phylo, that's why I mentioned drag queens. It's on my mind because a drag queen friend has asked me to photograph her. She is very authentic, and exaggerated.
     
  42. Just thinking out loud here. It strikes me that when exaggerated things are photographed, this may be when there can develop a tendency to "exploit" that. So, with my friend the drag queen (really more of an acquaintance), we've talked a bit about what we're going for and both don't want to duplicate the myriad images of drag queens we see. For me, this means finding personhood even though the facade may seem somewhat exaggerated. It also means not seeing my subject as an anomaly or caricature, which is the case with so much work I see in the community. I may be curious, and I'm glad I am, but my friend is not a curiosity. Sure, there are ways to even exaggerate the exaggerations, which are often done, and I might be able to work with some of that, but part of the challenge for both of us is to remain authentic and not fall into the expected traps. Maybe it's just a matter of avoiding cilchés, I don't know. Honestly, this is not much different from some of the challenges I feel going into a lot of shoots I do, except for this twist of exaggeration. And this wasn't on my mind when I started the thread. The thread has brought some of these thoughts to the surface. I have a much closer, very overweight friend who I've been wanting to photograph as well. I think some of the same issues will arise. I understand that "extreme" is different from "exaggerated" but they are related.
     
  43. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, what do you mean by "authentic?"
    I think the word's most common usage has to do with "unforced-looking" or "natural-seeming"
    Is that your understanding?
    If so, the "looking" "seeming" could well be the result of skilled artifice...a certain kind of skill in posing a subject . Do you recognize that possibility, or must "authentic" mean "candid?"
    Does any Karsh portrait seem "authentic?" What about paintings by Norman Rockwell or by Picasso." If they're not "authentic" does "authenticity" have value beyond art-chatter?
    fyi I think "authenticity" does have great value, and I think it's hard to achieve in photography...instead, the norm seems "believability." That suggests the norm allows political propaganda to be "authentic."
     
  44. John, you raises a very good issue in regard to beievability and authenticity, and the occurence of the former in propaganda. I may have screwed up the title, but there was an excellent series on Canadian TV recently, initially on French language public television (SRC) and then on its English language counterpart (CBC). called "Love, Hate and Propaganda". Much of the WW2 period propaganda became believable in the eyes of the various receivers, whether in Germany, Italy, Russia, North America or England. In many cases the believability had little to do with authenticity (Geman pronouncements about how Jews in Poland were victimising the local people including German ex pats, or the continued announcements of "successful" advances of troops on Russia, or English pronouncements of the "success" of the disastrous early landings in northern France, and so on). Exaggerations were an intimate part of propaganda.
    Believability claims in photography may often send up warning signals, especially if the photograph is documentary and purports to represent the authenticity of a situation. Less menacing and often pleasingly successful are exaggerations in art photography.
     
  45. Phylo, what do you mean by "authentic?"
    I think the word's most common usage has to do with "unforced-looking" or "natural-seeming"
    Is that your understanding?
    If so, the "looking" "seeming" could well be the result of skilled artifice...a certain kind of skill in posing a subject . Do you recognize that possibility, or must "authentic" mean "candid?"​
    It doesn't have to mean candid to me. It can just as well be posed, or forced, whether or not there's authenticity depends on the context. Like in Fred's drag queen example, or the black metal portraits in my link, all authentic, even in their deliberate exaggeration and posing ( by the photographers choice of presenting the subject and by the subject's way/choice of presenting ).
    fyi I think "authenticity" does have great value, and I think it's hard to achieve in photography...instead, the norm seems "believability." That suggests the norm allows political propaganda to be "authentic."
    Which is basically saying that believability allows political propaganda to be believable, which yes, seems... believable.
    Either way, I think authenticity<>exaggeration, or lack thereof, is context dependent and not only being fiction or non fiction dependent.
    -------
    There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization. -Werner Herzog
     
  46. Why there is no such thing as an "authentic" exaggeration:
    "Every justified exaggeration is no longer an exaggeration"​
    And yet, exaggeration is essential to philosophy because:
    " ... thinking is essentially bound up with attempts to go beyond the limits of the thinkable."​
    The first quote is from Alexander Garcia Duttmann; the second is talking about him. Source (that nobody will look at) can be found here; a kind of lame review of Duttman's book about exaggeration in philosophy.
     
  47. I understand Phylo's point from a boots-on-ground perspective, specially in a De Bordian society (like ours).
    I understand Julie's basic point, because authenticity can be emphasized, but once exaggerated, becomes inauthentic (or less so).
    But...if "Every justified exaggeration is no longer an exaggeration"
    Exaggeration can't be essential to philosophy because if it can't be justified, how will it get past PHI 101? :)
     
  48. "Every justified exaggeration is no longer an exaggeration"
    "authenticity can be emphasized, but once exaggerated, becomes inauthentic"​
    How did "justified" get into the act? I'm not sure anyone -- well, me -- is trying to justify exaggeration any more than I would be interested in justifying blur or the use of an unusual perspective. They do their jobs.
    IMO, both Julie's quote and Luis's statement rely on the speaker of these words allowing themselves to get caught up in a circle. It's like telling someone who says "you shouldn't judge people" that they're judging. All of this stuff operates on meta-levels and I avoid the circle of exaggeration becoming not-exaggeration by keeping the levels straight. Just like I can talk about not talking without getting confused.
    Exaggerated authenticity is not inauthentic, it's exaggerated authenticity. The two are not opposites. And one doesn't cancel the other out.
    Exaggerate--to magnify beyond the limits of truth (one definition from dictionary.com)
    Since photos aren't limited by truth, authenticity in an exaggerated photograph is possible. And it doesn't disappear the minute it's justified or recognized, if at all.
     
  49. By the way, I enjoy the more theoretical aspects of these discussions and am happy to continue in that way and hear what others have to say. I am also interested, as I asked in the OP, in hearing whether and how you use exaggeration in your photos . . . if anyone wants to go there. [Again, thanks to Arthur for putting out there what he has done as a matter of practice.]
     
  50. In fairness, Luis, I thought about your statement a little more. And I don't think you were saying that authenticity in an exaggerated photo isn't possible. Your statement is something different. It's about, if I understand correctly, exaggerated authenticity becoming inauthentic. I still don't think this has to be the case.
    First of all, exaggeration can take place without intent being there. A beginner can unwittingly use a lens that may exaggerate something, and the exaggeration could be purely accidental and there might be something quite authentic in the results.
    Secondly, exaggeration is often used as a tool to help someone to understand. So, for example, when many of the Existentialists talk about authenticity (as opposed to bad faith) they will utilize examples that exaggerate situations (worst-case scenarios, etc.) in order to make their points. I don't think they are being inauthentic when they do that.
     
  51. That's what I was thinking, but the example of the unintentional exaggeration does put things into perspective, and exaggeration in myth (or medical illustration) is a good example of the latter.
     
  52. Unintentional exaggeration is somewhat like saying something humorous without recognsing it and then doubly exaggerating by accepting the applause. I quite like the intentional exaggeration of war and other propaganda, to which writers and photographers applied their slippery pens and viewfinders.
    http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/lovehatepropaganda/
    Is there food for creative photography there, to make believers of the doubters? Our eyes see in ways already pre-determined by our mind, so I imagine that the tool of visual exaggeration can overlay those visual references and can possibly excite or erase the expected.
     
  53. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo's link to Jeff Wall is a counterpoint to circular talk about "authenticity" and "exaggeration."
    Wall doesn't address mere words, he addresses full ideas and illustrates them with one photo.
    Do take a moment with Phylo's link to Jeff Wall.
    Wall noticed something interesting, chose not to make the exposure. Later, with that memory, he "faithfully" replicated what he noticed (approximately reconstructed the scene) and made that exposure. "Faithfully" not precisely, not authentically, not exaggerated or un-exaggerated... an actual idea.
     
  54. "Exaggerate--to magnify beyond the limits of truth (one definition from dictionary.com)"
    As one with a fascination for abstract photography, for me the definition is a wonderful metaphor for this type of work. And, in my opinion, as long as an abstract photograph helps a viewer at least temporarily suspend the usual categories by which he/she experiences the world ("experiences" in the broadest possible sense), then there need not be any questioning of the photographer's authenticity, especially if authenticity somehow correlates with risk.
     
  55. That's a really nice point, Michael, about exaggeration allowing us to suspend the usual categories by which we experience the world. Not even necessarily suspend, but alter and realign them as well. The way in which exaggeration is a going beyond is its own transcendence, which has always been important to me when making photographs.
     
  56. jtk

    jtk

    Michael, my impression is that purportedly "abstract" photography is typically the result of attempted total control, and/or is especially interesting to people who don't want the mystery, frights, and surprises that are so common in human subjects.
    Although Photoshop allows infinite iterations and manipulations and visual games, it tends to reduce a photograph to a graphic object (unlike an oil painting or serigraph, which have weight and scent) and it doesn't require the commitment that's inherent in most abstract painting. By "commitment" I mean time (a painting might take a year) and materials, not to mention workspace...all of which add up to risk. Risk is very slight in purportedly abstract photography.
     
  57. "Risk is very slight in purportedly abstract photography."
    John, we see things very differently. Abstract photography is as difficult as abstract painting in many ways.
    The risk of abstract photography at present is very evident by the fact that few succeed with that approach. There are many less successful abstract photographs as successful landscapes or portraits. I guess the same can be said of abstract painting and sculpture, although artists have made much more headway in those visual media. I see nothing easy with any medium in creating abstract works which are able to hold the attention of the viewer, intellectually or emotionally.
    The tool of visual exaggeration (whether in descriptive or abstract photographs) can overlay those visual references and can possibly excite or erase the expected. The authenticity is that of the artist and his approach, as it is not based simply upon a relation to what most consider (believe) the subject to be.
     
  58. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, risk isn't measured by success, it's measured by success combined with loss. If there is no potential for loss there is no risk...and arguably no potential for reward.
    I think very little photography that's labeled "abstract" is at all akin to abstract painting. Holding "the attention of the viewer" has to do with the value of a work, has nothing to do with ease of creation. A digisnap can hold plenty of attention as in my experience can genuine abstraction (as opposed to graphic reduction of "reality" and Photoshop exercises). But I personally find photographic "abstractions" to rarely be more than exercises or decor.
     
  59. A tough question for all the abstract artists in our audience: Which would you prefer? That John Kelly admire and fully comprehend your work? Or that John Kelly not like what you do, that he say that he finds it to "rarely be more than exercises or decor"?
    [thirty seconds later]
    As the crowd of abstract artists escorts Mr. Kelly to the Exit door to abstract-land, we hear, "Bon Voyage!" "Au Revoir!" "Things just won't be the same without you!" -- crocodile tears streaming from all eyes.
     
  60. If Julie's last post was intended as support for those of us who do abstract photographs, I am grateful. If it was intended as support for abstract photography as a legitimate photographic genre, I am even more grateful.
    Although John's argument is skillfully advanced, it rests on a false premise. Not all abstract photographs are purely graphic in nature. Every abstract photograph I produce begins with a subject other than colors, lines, shapes, and "special effects". How far I go in "abstracting" from the original is not a linear process; nor is the outcome predictable at the start of the process.
    Although I'm not sure on this point, my understanding of his concept of risk is that it excludes all of us who create photographs of subjects other than people. I can't - I won't - buy this for two reasons. First, with a single keystroke, it arbitrarily obviates an entire body of photographic work. Secondly, the concept incorrectly focuses on photographs rather than photographers. Risk is inherently a human process, tied inextricably to choice. Creating an abstract photograph involves no more, and no less, risk than creating portraits or street shots or landscapes. What it involves is a "resolute decision" on the photographer's part to put himself/herself out there.
     
  61. Julie, while it would be nice if John would be a bit less black and white in his thoughts about abstracts in relation to other photography, it really is not too important to those interested in abstract photography. If we had just one viewer for all of our work (John or anyone eklse), on whatever theme or approach that we might apply, we would not be very successful in communicating our work.
    Not all abstracts achieve the same effect or command our attention in the same way. Amongst those attracted to abstracts there is much different opinion, as it is in painted or sculpted abstracts.
    How much "exaggeration" can one use? Or, as in abstract photography, "what" is exaggeration? This is a personal matter (but one also dependent upon the well known principals of art composition, symbolism, etc.), but my own feeling about abstracts in terms of the basic qualities of the image goes something like this: When the subject matter is too identifiable, when the image is too "busy'", with too much going on, or when the chromatic balance is all over the place (veering toward the kaleidoscopic), I admit I come before a bit of a "wall" to understanding the image and to being impressed. Very simple abstracts are for me the most poweerful, such as this one:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/8396543
    It seems to me to be exaggerated (in terms of descriptive content) just enough, but not overly so, and therefore for me it is believable as an abstract (not as a description as a moon, but as a composition, or symbolism). Other viewers may need some sort of realistic reference such as recognitioin of the subject matter itself, but for me an abstract should really suppress the impression of being something like the subject matter, but rather be something that stimulates our feelings (which of course covers a lot of territory, including compositional, symbolic and other).
     
  62. Heinz Hajek-Halke also did some great photographic abstracts/ 'lightgraphics' ( without the use of a camera but yet authentic to photography ), showing that photography as a medium indeed isn't anymore limited - or with less "risk" - to subject than painting is in that regard ( abstractionism ), as long as one is able to see the scope of possibilities.
     
  63. Halke's work is very fine, quite something given the more limited tools at his disposal.
    I think that the "risk" of abstract photography is not in the potential possibilities of the approach, but in the creative approach itself, which is particularly demanding and can't mainly rely on simple craft abilities with a lens and sensor (or film), as it sometimes is with, say, effective landscape photography, where the creative input is often less demanding.
     
  64. Arthur: Your point about degrees of exaggeration is well taken. I fully agree. And, finally, thanks.
     
  65. jtk

    jtk

    As I read Julie's post, she doesn't authorize certain thoughts or perspectives.
    Her way or the highway :)
     
  66. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I can't imagine where you came up with the idea that there's opposition between craft and "creative approach." It's a common viewpoint for people who are averse to the craft aspect of photography, true. I regularly hear people saying that software designers are not "creative," using logic like yours. Am I missing something?
    My impression is that you believe your own highly developed craft, particularly your printing, has a lot to do with your success as a photographer.
    Also...your notion of "risk" as equivalent to "creative" is a spur-of-moment invention...is entirely unrelated to conventional use of the respective terms. Nice try :)
     
  67. John,
    When I say risk I mean that successful creative abstract photography, which is not based so much on the craft of photography but rather on the quality of a thought process that leads to an artistic creatioin, which is fraught with risk simply because it is not at all easy. For me craft (such as much but not all of the work from the disciples of Adams and the zone process) is subordinate to thought inspired visual creation, always has been, even if I attain the latter not very often and even if I work hard in a parallel sense to produce satisfactory prints.
    It's not thecraft of making a good print that qualifies for me a creation and thew craft part involves little major risk. A lot of landscapes I view are simply crafted and not created, or at least not subject to a lot of inspiration from the photographer, which is why I mentioned that comparison.
    If that is not a point of common understanding, so be it. You are entitled to your opinion, as are each of us. Take care.
     
  68. Phylo, thanks for bringing up possibilities. It makes me realize that a lot of my own use of exaggeration is wringing all kinds of possibilities from the ordinary or from what I'm starting with.
     
  69. jtk

    jtk

    "...simply crafted and not created, or at least not subject to a lot of inspiration from the photographer, which is why I mentioned that comparison." ...Arthur P
    Arthur, I've been involved with that discussion since at least 1966, when I spent time with a few former Bauhaus students, exhibiting photographers, and avant garde industrial/architectural designers (eg Whole Earth Catalog contributors). I'd generally accept your popularized perspective if this wasn't supposed to be a more demanding Forum.
    http://www.wholeearth.com/index.php
    http://www.arcosanti.org/
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/black_mountain_college.html
     
  70. John, your references don't tell me anything about the subject of this discussion, rather like the easy one liners we have to assimilate somehow into the flow of a more detailed philosophy of photography topic.
    I don't give much time to what colleges or schools of thought influence a poster in the philosophy forum, or whether they even attendeed a college. The power of reason is simply there, or it isn't. My own university of graduate work typically places in the top ten in most comparative studies (Western or Asian sponsored) that determine the 200 best educational institututions in the world, however I don't consider such statistics very important. There are students who are taught by Nobel prize laureats but who might just as well not had that privilege, others who never had it but who are capable of reasoning of high order.
    "I'd generally accept your popularized perspective if this wasn't supposed to be a more demanding Forum".
    Another one liner, of trivial message and without educated explanation, in this case of why you consider creative thought and approach subordinate to craft, and thus some sort of popularized perspective. You should explain your viewpoint, rather than using the crutch of others careers and unexpressed (by you) thoughts on the subject. You must have visited art fairs where the mass of the work you view shows much good to excellent craft but no creative input other than that. It is very common in many venues and not just art fairs.
    But my point is not about craft (for example, perfect brush strokes or impressive photographic print tonality) without visual message, but rather the superiority of photography or art that does have some visual message, that is a creative work in providing that communication.
     
  71. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I mentioned Bauhaus, linked to Black Mountain College and Arcosanti assuming they would ring bells for you. The do for people with certain interests and educations. Sorry about that.
    The formal education and statistics about which you have exhaustively bragged are obviously important to you...they do sound impressive. Is there evidence in your photography? I've mentioned aspects of my own formal education when they've seemed relevant, but they don't just now. I doubt they relate much to my own photography.
    My own "arts" education has almost entirely developed from accidental or actively sought personal connections (Bauhaus people, Black Mountain College people, Arcosanti people, Whole Earth Catalog people, Minor White people etc). My academic education and "power of reason" have both been adequate. I prefer clarity to circularity: we differ.
    Literature is another domain in which I'm self-educated: Joyce, Golgol, Naipaul, Melville (now it's me that's bragging). That sort of thing. The books pile up. Do you regularly read any "creative" writing?
    I took a community college introductory journalism course in celebration of my 65th...and for the craft/discipline of it. Just a thought.
     
  72. John:
    "I'd generally accept your popularized perspective if this wasn't supposed to be a more demanding Forum".
    or
    "Is there evidence in your photography?"
    I guess that you can consider these and all your former bating of other contributors, with self important bold texting, as most succesful to your own aim in this forum, John.
    Hopefully, I will step back and stop myself in future from replying to that sort of abrasive bating in future. This forum is a great place for purposeful discussion, but it minimally requires respect of others.
     
  73. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, it appears that you are not familiar with the role Bauhaus played (architecture, photography, design, dance, music, poetry).
    All of the links and references I've made point conceptually back to Bauhaus. Black Mountain College, for example, was a survival vehicle for it in the US. It doesn't exist any more, but it remains an influence. Most modern architecture and graphic design are rooted in Bauhaus.
    I mentioned Bauhaus assuming you would know its influence...to remind you about the integration/overlap of art and craft in photography (and architecture, and painting, and dance, and music and...believe it or not...photography).
    I've not studied in any of those places but I've studied them, and the work of their teachers/students on my own, meeting a few of them. That's how I've driven my intellectual life. I'd rather meet the players and deal first hand with their actual work than rely on teachers and popular literature.
    You seem handicapped by a few generic beliefs (eg your narrow distinction between art and craft) but we all know you're a fine photographer.
    I know you're capable of clarity when you try (your critique of one of my photos was startlingly clear...thank you), but you typically invest more in typing than in communicating.
     
  74. So, John, how many commas are there in Ulysses?
     
  75. jtk

    jtk

    Julie, I think there's a difference between Ulysses and posts on these threads. Don't you? Have you had trouble with Ulysses? I certainly have...it takes a lot of commitment.
    One great thing about books is that you can read them anywhere and take plenty of time. Bad writing online often neglects that kind of difference.
    Are you and Phylo suggesting that big books are too much to deal with?
     
  76. jtk

    jtk

    Perhaps individual photographs are inherently exaggerations, moments pretending to summarize larger truths?
    I'll bet someone could assemble a photo essay that would correspond to this writing (shared as well in NY Times 2/24). But unless it involved quite a few photos I suspect it would wildly distort the heart of the written story...would inherently exaggerate. Avedon made a good stab at this in "Nothing Personal"...which included his photo essay on a mental hospital. Avedon was, like most other great photographers, a concise writer.
    http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm/book_number/2526/page_number/1/index.cfm?fuseaction=printable&book_number=2526
     
  77. Darn, I finally had my thoughts a bit sorted again on the subject, and sufficient time to enter the debate, turns out the thread has degraded into this semi-usual.... well, whatever this is.
    Doesn't the combination of authentic and exeggeration have a lot to do with the artist using them? I find some people can be authentic and exeggerated, and they loose authenticity when trying to act normal. So, to go back to this thread start: actual accuracy in order to be more accurate in your photographic portrayal of something, isn't this where the accurateness is the artist's vision - which may be exeggerated, understated or anything else based on the ideas the artist holds?
    I actually was more thinking in movies, but over-the-top violent movies like Sin City, Starship Troopers and Robocop actually have their message in the exeggeration. Remove the overdone violence and imagery, and they'd become less authentic.
    Photographically, more a question... would one count the exeggerated perspective and sense of size often the result of using wide (or ultra wide) angle lenses too, within the scope of this discussion?
    It may be me, but it seems for many the style of photography at the moment: wide angles, high saturation. In many situations, I find it not authentic. Not because it 'warps' the normal view we'd have on the subject would we see it ourselves, but more because the exeggerated perspective does not add anything (nor the added colours, the proverbial "pop"). It does not alter the story with that extra bit.
    I think, more than many other 'concepts', exeggeration must communicate its own reason to exist (and understatements too), else they fail as a tool. I relate them mostly to irony, sarcasm... And, maybe a stretch, but I think if you can only use these tools proper if you are authentic in your vision.
     
  78. Wouter, yes, I can relate to your examples of the movies. Is it similar to what I was saying about photographing drag queens, who can be by nature exaggerated?
    I do think the use of lens to exaggerate falls within this discussion. I agree with you, there's good and bad exaggeration. It's a tool that can be used well or poorly, be used in a cliché manner or a trendy manner or be used in a more individual way.
    I understand what you're saying about exaggeration communicating its own reason to exist, but I'd add to that. Exaggeration (like blur, high contrast, grain, etc.) works when it integrates into the photo. In other words, it somehow relates with the subject matter, the perspective, the tone of voice of the photo, etc. Though it sometimes does "communicat[e] its own reason," sometimes it doesn't need to make itself that clear. It may simply work in the photo without hinting at why. And sometimes, exaggeration will not be evident to the viewer (only the photographer will know he exaggerated). So, in some cases it is meant to communicate something other than itself and not attract attention to itself or even be noticed.
    Which brings me back to your point about accurateness being the artist's vision. Yes, on one level, sure. But, I find there are times when I aim to achieve a more universal accurateness when it's not so much about my own personal vision. So, for instance, today I went to a rally in support of the Union workers in Wisconsin. Were I planning to try to get a couple published (and I really wasn't but I still carried that thought with me almost as practice for an actual assignment), I might have wanted to maintain a kind of accuracy that would not only be true to my vision and perspective but that I felt others there would really relate to as well. My goal might not have been to put a new or personal twist on anything but rather to have others who were there nod their heads in agreement. Kind of like, oh yes, I saw that, too.
    Do you find yourself (whether conscious of it at the time or not) bouncing back and forth between a more personal perspective and a more objective or universal perspective?
     
  79. Fred, good points. Certainly agree on the integration, indeed.
    I can understand your point on trying to achieve a more universal accurateness. But, would you use exeggaration in those shots? Thinking out loud...Would I try to find original or unexpected viewpoints or angles? Search a exeggarated viewpoint with a extreme choice of lens? I'd be hesitant, if it had to appeal wider. For example, a wide-angle shot of a rallying person or group, taken from a low angle. It would give the protesters a more heroic stature, make themlarger than life, probably - but in that, wouldn't it loose some of its universal appeal? It would transmit my view loud and clear. Isolate a face in the crowd with a specific expression... or would that loose the context of the size of the rally? Would the facial expression reveal my view (since it won't be a random chosen one)?
    I guess the standard journalistic-ethical question to ask - are we reporting, or interpreting? How biassed do you let yourself be? In my view, understatement and exeggaration only fit in if you accept you are in a way biassed. I've never done any work like this, so I sure have no answers, just some thoughts. And possibly I stick too much to an example here.
    Me myself, I do not really run into the choice between personal or more universal. My normal choice of subjects does not really call for it, nor do I have the intent to be published to a wider audience. My photos are really just what I saw, so in that sense very personal. If there is a more universal appeal in them, it's a pure accident ;-)
     
  80. "would you use exeggaration in those shots?"
    I might. I did take one shot from quite a ways back wanting the crowd to seem a bit small compared to the great City Hall in front of us. Indeed, it was a small crowd for a San Francisco protest, and I imagine many were a little disappointed by that. So I think this kind of exaggeration might provide that kind of "accuracy."
    When I shoot at such events, I usually do isolate faces in the crowd. Mostly because I am so inclined toward faces. But also, I find the occasional face-in-the-crowd portrait a nice punctuation mark to the bigger picture. As a matter of fact, I think a few isolated faces helps the larger-context shots achieve an appropriate sense of scale. Many who go to these kinds of rallies do take them personally and are personally moved by them, so I think these close-ups can provide a nice sense of empathy.
    I'm one who believes that every photograph has a bias, and this is all a matter of degree.
    I guess in at least some of my portraits, I do switch back and forth between the personal and the more universal, when I want to try take into account the subject's view of himself and perhaps others' view of him. Sometimes I don't care at all, but there are certainly occasions when I want the subject to be recognizable and, even more strongly sometimes, readily familiar, to those who know him.
     
  81. Do exaggeration and authenticity have to reside on the same continuous line between a possible end point of exaggeration = folly-wildness-overstatement and that of authenticity = sincerity-reality-purity of approach and statement? I know the use of these sub-terms are arguable, but in considering whether there exists or not a line that connects exaggeration and authenticity I am not sure that we need to think of them as being interconnected.
    I am inclined to think of exaggeration as being a circle, a part only of which interacts with a part of the circle containing the property or qualities or actions of authenticity, but which can overlap some other circles of "personal photographic aim" or "surrealistic portrayal" or "the photographer's view of the meaning of his surroundings", or other.
    In addition to its interactions with other things than authenticity, exaggeration can perhaps exist simply for its own sake, independent of these other circles of interaction or influence. It can perhaps also be instructive and revealing (more authentic than authentic!), such as the Cubist's use and addition of various tri-dimensionally sourced planes of view, to add to the simple plane confronting the initial axis between painter and subject, or the surrealist's re-composing of his subject matter.
    Simple exaggerations, like apparent distortions produced by very wide or very long lenses (foreshortening) are tools of course, but very rudimentary ones I believe, and the exagerrations that consume my own interest and albeit limted abilities (I am not putting myself down here, but simply recognising the considerable challenge that the art presents) are those that only the mind can conceive and apply in the treatment of subject matter and which skirts around such apparent impediments as authenticity (except of the artist to himself, of course), déjà vu, and overstatements, and settles on some form of unique, subtle and arresting two dimensional communication to the viewer.
     
  82. Yes, Arthur, thanks. I think we've been discussing all along a variety of types of exaggeration and uses of it, including the use of lenses and perspective to exaggerate but also including more conceptual aspects such as in Wouter's example of violence or the previous examples of drag queenery.
    I'm a little unsure of what you mean by "those that only the mind can conceive and apply in treatment of subject matter."
    I understand that you might be considering the more conceptual (?) forms of exaggeration here (as opposed to more technically-oriented exaggerations such as lens distortions), violence being only one example of course. But you've still got to make a photograph, so something's got to be shown. Something more has to be done than the mind conceiving it. It will get applied visually.
    So, for example, Tarantino's street violence in Reservoir Dogs or Spielberg's horrors of war in the opening of Saving Private Ryan are conceived but then made visceral and tangible in their visual realizations. We see the violence up close and personal and that happens because they each effectively use cinematic technique.
    I'm also not sure about your use of the word "impediment." Is there an impediment if I get the sense that this is how horrible the invasion must have been, even as I'm lost in the arresting (but clearly not subtle) two-dimensional film before me?
     
  83. jtk

    jtk

    Wouter, for what it's worth I know that "wide angles, high saturation" have been the vogue among camera enthusiasts (not necessarily distinct from "photographers") ever since SLRs first came along. That's one reason folks loved Kodachrome...if they didn't want exaggeration they'd have shot Ektachrome instead.
     
  84. Fred, thank you for your comments. I think you answered the question about my comment of the mind conceiving exaggerations contrary to the simple effect of using, say, a long focus or telephoto lens to cause exaggerated foreshortening of space, in front of and beyond the subject. Exaggeration in the simple optical exaggeration sense is often done and quite often done without any aim but the physical exaggeration in itself. That is what I was referring to as a simple exaggeration, as it often carries no meaning other than the physical one, a graphical one.
    When the optical exaggeration is combined with a thought, with an intention of the photographer to use that exaggeration to say something else, as for example in the communication of some exaggerated aspect of a portrait subject, such as exaggerated frontal features induced by a wide angle lens, and it is not just a study of the optical effect vis-à-vis the face, but rather a comment on the person, or the context of the portrait event, it is something more related to the thought process of the artist and/or possibly some exaggerated or revealing aspect (either/or or both) of the subject himself.
    Violence is sometimes exaggeration, but often simply an event consistent with the subject, whence it is not an exaggeration. A field study in a southern by a forensic anthropologist has some 100 or so bodies of former live humans exposed to the atmosphere. The objective is to study the process of decay that ensues after death, with its 4 phases of transformation, including one in which the bodies become inflated with the gases of bacterial decay occurring mainly in the intestines of the body through the cellular breakdown to gases by the intestinal bacteria. Photographs document the various phases of this research study. Are they exaggerations? No, definitely not. The camera is recording simply what is there, albeit perhaps with the optical exaggeratioins of the lens in use.
    What I am trying to say by this is that exaggeration is an artistic tool that allows the photographer or artist to "mount on stilts", so to overreach normal descriptive visual communication, to emphasize some aspect of his mentally produce perceived/created/conceptually-produced message. As in all true art, it is an approach without limits.
    I am thinking about your response regarding impediments and also whether I missed a bit of clarity in using it in the particular context. Will get back on that tonight, or tomorrow, depending upon the charge state of my human battery. It starts to run down around 9PM.
     
  85. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, I'm sorry I lumped your response with Julie's. I hadn't clicked your link, which went to an amusing observation about Joyce's Ulysses...which suffered from printers' inventions and (perhaps) far too many revisions.
    I've spent a lot of time with a Joycean guru, someone who studies Gabler (per your link) more than the novels themselves. She actually has little interest in the literature, more in the trail of information. She enjoys her scholarly approach, but I think she misses the fundamentals, fails to appreciate the work itself. I think that is comparable to the ridiculously circular writing and self-constricting writing that often goes on here, and is, like Ulysses, infested by commas.
    The biggest difference between Ulysses and posts here is obvious. Joyce had something in mind when he wrote...he didn't write thinkin that if he was sufficiently convoluted the results would pass as substantial.
     
  86. Fred, thanks for getting back on the questions I had on the journalism-like work. As said, I don't know how I would approach it. But I think, and I think I also read it in your answer, you cannot leave yourself at home. As you said, every photo is biassed.
    Arthur, indeed I brought up the perspective distortions in the context of being used consciously - using the effect of extreme focal lengths to underline your point. While I am not a birder, I do take a fair share of photos of birds when given the chance (those photos are pure relaxing for me, and I'd agree most of the results are awfully standard). For practical reasons, I need a long lens for that. The flattening effect that occurs is more colleteral damage. With wide angles, the same happens at times, though it is more frequent a deliberate choice for me. So, just to be sure, I was meaning the deliberate choices, not the practical.
    I tried to bring it in to get a simple practical photographic angle on the subject. Sure there are many other ways one can bring exeggeration or understatements into photography (colour, for sure). Well, others could do that, it's a tall challenge to do so and fairly sure I'm not up to it.
     
  87. Wouter - "would you use (sic) exeggaration in those shots?"
    Yes, though not routinely. Mostly spatial or gestural exaggeration, sometimes temporal. At demonstrations, besides the documentary aspects, I am very interested in the interpersonal dynamics of the situation, the ways people exchange and express personal energies, and the strange ballet that results.
     
  88. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur's interesting meditation on death and decay reminded me of Louis Malle's "Phantom India." One sequence in this 6hr poetic documentary studies the death of a cow, the decay, insect invasion, and metamorposis of the original beast into other life and organic forms: A message conveyed poetically rather than judgementally (this Vs that, is "exaggeration" OK, is this image "exaggerated") presumably because the point is a perception or idea, therefore application of labels is, as usual, irrelevant.
    http://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-Documentaries-République-Happiness-Collection/dp/B000MTEFPK
    When I first viewed that film, cc1970 in a marginal San Francisco theater, many in the mostly-hippie throng were abandoning it because of their difficulty with what seemed disgusting imagery...which became beautiful macrophotography and I know was transformational for some of those that were patient.
    "exaggeration" is a label that's of concern to certain kinds of photographers and viewers, and not by others. There may be opportunity in exploration of ideas when one avoides primative labels of that sort. Words aren't ideas, after all, nor are sentences.
     
  89. Arthur, I saw a documentary on the forensic human decay project. I can see where one could photograph them in an exaggerated (for example, in the direction of the mawkish) way, but the subjects themselves aren't exaggerated per se, though certainly unusual. As someone who spends a lot of time hiking, hunting and in wilderness, I am used to seeing the process of decay (and consummation by other animals) in dead critters of assorted sizes, but a human is a different thing.
     
  90. jtk

    jtk

    "...a human is a different thing."
    Yes, from one particular perspective.
    But a decaying human body isn't necessarily a "different thing" to a scientist or Hindu/Buddhist/et al...it is however very much a different thing to a Roman Catholic (for example).
    Being "used to seeing"something may be exactly the base from which we sometimes are neither scientific nor philosophic, are instead absolutist.
     
  91. Arthur, I was thinking about your suggestion that exaggeration doesn't have to be on the same continuous line with authenticity. It doesn't. That is something, however, that was on my mind when composing the OP for this thread so the relationship was important to me. I do think, though, that exaggeration does have to play against something. We can call that something normal, accuracy, authenticity, truth, what have you. But the concept seems to necessitate a baseline from which to exceed. Could we have the concept of exaggeration if we didn't have a more steady or staid concept of whatever's being exaggerated?
    I don't agree that the best uses of exaggeration are to say something else or to communicate something about a mentally-produced message. For example, I've taken some pictures in very low light situations at a high ISO and the results have been rather a lot of digital noise. I often find that if I exaggerate that noise rather than, say, trying to clean it up with a filter or plug-in of some sort, I like the visual result I achieve. That has nothing to do with a message I think the noise is sending or anything I am trying to say. It just has to do with it looking right to me, or at least looking the way I want it to look.
    Such exaggeration can (doesn't have to) demand a lot of nuance and subtlety. I've seen exaggerated noise that simply looks like a lot of the over-the-top saturation we see in landscapes. I think the nuance can simply be a technical achievement that goes into the overall look of the photo, without bearing its own message.
     
  92. [Instead of nuance, my last line should read: I think the exaggeration can simply be a technical achievement that goes into the overall look of the photo, without bearing its own message.]
     
  93. To expand on the quotes I gave a while back, "Every justified exaggeration is no longer an exaggeration" and " ... thinking is essentially bound up with attempts to go beyond the limits of the thinkable." ...
    ... since nobody seems to have understood them the way I do ... I would suggest that the latter ("attempts to go beyond the limits...") is essential to all creative fields, from art to science. A picture is a claim (I'm not going to defend that, even though some of you will attack it), particularly a picture that uses exaggeration. A scientist also makes claims. In both cases, the artist or the scientist (and everybody in between) opens up a gap. Between the time of the claim and the time at which it is either justified or not, there is a gap in which it is neither and/or both. That gap is a "What if ...?" question posed with a greater or lesser degree of certainty. The artist or scientist may be sure he/she is onto something, or he/she may just be intuiting a possibility. But please note that whatever the case, the gap is perishable. It will *always* come to an end. It lasts only as long as its claim is in question in the mind of its audience (justified, unjustified or just too boring to bother with).
    Exaggeration serves two purposes: first, to make *this* claim grab and hold the attention of somebody (anybody!) -- out of the 99.999999999999999% of claims that are too stupid, too insignificant, too distant, etc. to for anybody to bother paying attention to. Second, it is precisely the exaggeration that makes the gap, the "What if ...?" out of the what's already settled. Exaggeration should grab our attention and make us scream (even if only a very, very, tiny scream).
    Examples: you're riding on a roller-coaster for the first time. At many points in that ride, you will seriously question the claim of the roller-coaster manufacturer that you are not going to die. If you ride that same roller-coaster enough times, you will come to acccept their claim -- it will prove justified -- and the gap will close.
    Further example: a movie made in the 1990s showing the Twin Towers being flown into by two jets and completely destroyed. Movieland is making a descriptive claim about terrorism and destruction, etc. In the theater, you may have found it "well-done" or not, but once outside the theater, it seems too unlikely. Claim does not seem justified; gap closes. Post 911, news coverage showing what happened; obviously, the gap is also closed but in this case, the claim is fully justified.
    Further example: Ansel Adams's landscapes claim (among many other things) a majestic perfection for the Western landscape. Robert Adams's landscapes claim (among many other things) a homely, perfect imperfection for the Western landscape. For me, the exaggerated parts of both photogaphers' work is that which first attracted my attention, but which, now that I've grown used to their work (settled on one side or the other of their claim) that exaggeration seems to me to have retreated into a style that I more or less overlook (sort of like the fuel tanks that the space shuttle jettisons after launch; I wish exaggeration could be left behind or would gracefully ... go away once it has been "used up").
    In general, I find that over-the-top exaggeration (exaggerated exaggeration) is the most perishable. Think Hollywood disaster movies. Awesome the first time you see/saw them; silly from a perspective of a few decades escalation in special effects. The gap closes. (However, there are some, that endure, that seem to justify their claim : "Jaws"? You think?). Also, scientific revolutions that seemed incredible during their prove-out and acceptance, but which seem not even surprising today.
    Please note that I do not think that all pictures are about (as yet) unjustified claims. I do think, however, that exaggeration in pictures is about making and describing a gap between what is accepted and what might be accepted. I think that is what exaggeration is used for and does. Other kinds of pictures may be about downplaying or bridging gaps.
     
  94. I think Julie once observed how hard it is to assimilate and interact with preceding posts and for those of us that are winging in here and moving out again, like a hummingbird seeking nourishment, we are probably in the same situation. The advantage of course is that once briefly consumed we have the opportunity to go back and read the comments when we can.
    Julie brings in some strong examples of what is accepted and what might be accepted and the relationship of that to how many times we might re-encounter the same exaggeration (exaggeration as a perishable commodity - that's true). If I understand some of the comments of Fred and Wouter, the technically induced exaggeration can in many cases stand on its own without message.
    Fred, I think that one of the spaces that exaggeration might react to, in addition to authenticity, is that defined by natural versus unnatural. Whether something can be deemed authentic or not, or whether the approach of the photographer is authentic or not, it may be that what he is portraying is perceived by the viewer as being natural or not. Even if we don't know the subject we can come away thinking that the image subject is either natural or unnatural. We seem to see an emphasis or an element in the subject that is not contiguous with what we consider to be natural for that subject.
    Another element of an image that can effectively suggest exaggeration, and one of my own favourites, is the inclusion of an unessential detail. I have to make one up here.... let's say, the photograph of the weight lifter is shown with dramatic lighting that emphasises his muscles and form and just below the image we find on the floor an old well-used briefcase propped up against which is a copy of a book with the title "The collected poems of Lord Byron" displayed in the image, or the like (For the readers of philosopher John Ralston Saul, it might be his (for me) difficult read entitled "On Equilibrium", somewhat humorously displayed near the aforementioned briefcase).
    Perhaps close to what Fred was proposing in his OP, and I am just speculating here, is the possible role of exaggeration as something that contradicts our own artistic values or a specific photographic approach. Those who use perfectly sharp corner-to-corner photography of their subject matter might introduce blur or indistinctness in a part of their image. The contradiction might be more profound than that and counteract whatever values they might have expressed up to that point in their artistic career.
    I think that the "unnaturalness" of photography, that often split second bite, is ripe to suggest exaggeration. Think of a photo through clear moving water of a brook. The split second image may show the waves in an arrested and (to the human viewer) in an unnatural representation, with unusual forms of water shapes and light reflection that bear little resemblance to how we see the moving water. Below the surface, a fish has a curious distorted form produced by the surface form of the water. An exaggeration, at least until we are use to it and the exaggeration becomes a perishable as Julie has mentioned.
    Luis, John: While the scientifically explored aspect of the decaying bodies in the field is not an exaggeration, I would be amiss to suggest for any of us that images of that would not be an exaggeration of what we normally consider as being natural. The unnatural might become natural, with familiarisation.
    Deforming so-called compositional rules, or accepted manners of portraying subject matter in the two dimensional canvas or photograph, is a type of exaggeration that I believe can be quite effective, especially when used sparingly. The Italian painter, Ch...o, was master of the inconguous perspective. Assymetrical imagery and unstable equilibrium of forms can do something similar in photography. It can be purely physical-aesthetic or it might contain a message (like "this is what you apparently see, but this is really what I think, as the creator of this image").
     
  95. Thanks, Julie. Your post is helpful in showing that there are different types and usages of exaggeration. Your examples speak to exaggeration that is a goal of the entire photograph or movie or work. The idea or premise of the movie Jaws, for example, is an exaggeration. What you seem to be talking about would mostly apply to some exaggerations of that type.
    On the other hand, there are exaggerations that are simply made within the overall context of a work. So, for example, one might have to exaggerate the smoothness of their piano playing when using an old upright piano that has lousy action and less over-toning than a baby grand. An actor might have to exaggerate some gestures and vocalizations in a large house to convey the same emotion as smaller gestures would convey in a more intimate theater. None of those are meant to, or have the effect of, getting the audience to scream. As a matter of fact, the audience won't notice them as anything more than gestures or smooth piano playing, which is just what the performers want. In these kinds of cases, exaggeration brings things to a baseline for the audience or viewer and doesn't call attention to itself.
    "Think Hollywood disaster movies. Awesome the first time you see/saw them; silly from a perspective of a few decades escalation in special effects."
    A lot of this stuff endures, which doesn't mean it's all any good. I can form a cocoon of context around myself when looking at art or watching movies. I don't have to compare the science of the past to the science of today. The science of yesterday can be accepted in context and I can suspend what I know about todays science or mores or morals or behavior. This is similar to my accepting the way 30s and 40s movies treat women where I might not accept such a sensibility from a movie made today.
    Take Bette Davis. Good actress. Taken mostly at face value in her day. Baby Jane was always considered an exaggeration and was meant to be. But many of her other performances, because of imitators and comedians for the last decades, are seen as exaggerations by the young-uns who go to the same movies I do. They see Bette Davis the caricature of herself. I don't. I get into the movies. You can always view her movies as camp or not. Or consider 50s melodramatic potboilers. You can view Imitation of Life as an exaggeration or simply put it in context and be moved by what's there. I notice many of the younger people that go to see that movie laugh while many of us older folks are brought to tears. We suspend disbelief. We stay inside the frame instead of looking from the outside in.
    "In the theater, you may have found it 'well-done' or not, but once outside the theater, it seems too unlikely."
    Back to the old saw about fiction not being fact and about the movie not necessarily fitting into real-world categories such as "likely" or "unlikely" and the photograph not necessarily being about its so-called subject.
     
  96. Arthur, I don't think exaggeration is any more prone to diminution upon repetitive viewing than any other aspect of a photograph or film. Film noir, for example, might wear thin if I sit their watching telling myself that this could never really happen or that this is exaggerated. It's the exaggeration that is its breath of life so I sort of accept that as a given. In some ways everything will lose some of its initial impact upon repeated viewings, from exaggeration to many of the subtleties of Impressionism. And in some ways, these things will deepen over time. Knowing something is exaggerated because of repeated viewings doesn't have to effect me any differently from knowing the ending of a movie I may watch and love over and over again.
    I appreciate hearing the alternatives you suggest in your post to authenticity as a foil to exaggeration.
     
  97. Fred, I can agree with you there, authenticity is certainly not the only foil. My postulates and examples show that exaggeration is not just related to it, but has a more varied and complex role and use, not on the same axis as authenticity or the lack of authenticity.
    In considering the water surface form and fish form rendered by the split second photographic slice we are confirming that the photograph opens up a world not visible to ordinary sight, consequently a potentially exaggerated world confronting the viewer. It's probably the medium's greatest asset, apart from it's rapidity of use.
    Creative art and design depends upon exaggeration, something we can call emphasis or focal point design. We make shadow portraits and then cast a thin ray of light on the subject’s eyes? Are we not accentuating something about the subject which is at the same time natural, and unnatural?
    The placement of an unessential element in a scene, as a foil for the main subject, as a transitional or transformational statement or perhaps with no specific intent except that it feels right,.... or elsewhere, by arranging compositionally incongruous placements of objects, ....each can lead to an exaggeration of the overall perception and serve a primarily artistic purpose.
    Much of our work is an effort at personification, as we find ourselves very interesting and complex or enigmatic. Our ego incites us to communicate that to others (whether we fully recognise that or not). On the other hand, our imperfect ability to communicate it often engenders a perceived exaggeration of our work in the eyes of the viewer. We are lucky if it leaves some impression, though, and very lucky if the impression leads to questions.
     
  98. Arthur, your last point about personification and ego is striking. I don't find it to describe a lot of situations. It doesn't have to be ego that incites us to communicate. It can be curiosity, longing, desire, empathy, love. I am often in touch with the artifice, and not personification, of my work. It as often takes me out of myself as it does put me in touch with myself (perhaps two sides of the same or a similar coin). I think, for many photographers, it is about their subjects and/or their photographs and not about themselves, at least in a self conscious or even self aware manner. I think ego comes in, at least for me, when I'm thinking about it or writing about it, but when I'm doing it my ego is as likely to be marginal as it is sometimes strong. To be honest, I actually don't find myself all that interesting, which is part of the reason I love to photograph and love to photograph others.
     
  99. Fred and Arthur, I think I understand your points of view. Below is me trying to further sort out my own view -- with your's in mind, sort of, kind of ...
    When Impressionism first appeared, it was seen as a ridiculous exaggeration by many people. When Cubism first appeared, it was seen as a ridiculous exaggeration by many. And so on through new styles. Michelangelo's figures are grotesquely muscled and twisted; Goya's Saturn (am I remembering the right name?) eating his children is grotesquely distorted. Turner's light, Monet's water, Van Gogh's ... everything ... are all exaggerations ... until they're not.
    I feel that for as long as the exaggerated-ness is seen as exaggerated-ness, one does not, cannot!, see the art itself. When the thing becomes what it is and not (seen as) a distortion of something else, then it is seen. I can't see a Van Gogh as a nice landscape that's been twirled and glopped with exaggerated effects; I can't see a Turner as a nice landscape that's hiding under some sort of glowy stuff.
    For me, exaggeration means there is something "normal" hiding inside of it -- that will/can return as soon as this exaggeration stops or goes away. That the exaggeration is an add-on, an on-the-top-of, an extra, not normal or usual, that it's somehow detachabale, not intrinsic. That there is, must be, an un-exaggerated being or thing inside of what I'm seeing as exaggerated. That's the initial hook of exaggeration. But it is, in my opinion, exactly that "gap" that goes away, if/when the effect is justified or works, or convinces me (or doesn't/refuses to go away if the work fails). The thing becomes itself, not an exaggeration of some un-exaggerated other.
    Maybe it will help if I admit to cases where I fail (and I'm embarrassed that I fail) to justify exaggeration. Modern dance, at first, can look like "normal" people have spazz attacks. I am sorry to say that it is only with concerted effort that I can get past that to see the dance. And (even more embarrassing), I *do* find Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel figures (his paintings, only; I adore his sculpture) to be too relentlessly bloated and the poses to be that same twirly finger-pointy thing that he does over and over and over again. I seem to be distracted by the exaggeration; somewhat unwilling to lose the exaggeration and get to the figures as expressions, as things unto themselves.
    Odd cases are stand-up comics. They seem to operate in the twilight; always dancing in the gap. Being both the character(s) and not the character(s) that they inhabit.
     
  100. "I feel that for as long as the exaggerated-ness is seen as exaggerated-ness, one does not, cannot!, see the art itself. When the thing becomes what it is and not (seen as) a distortion of something else, then it is seen."
    Julie, there are different ways of appreciating art. Your way of viewing (or at least your way of describing it or my way of understanding what you're saying) seems like it would be a limitation to me, but it is probably not that to you.
    Take Film Noir. I don't need or want to strip away the exaggeratedness when I view it. The exaggeratedness, which I recognize as such (and relish), to me, is part of what it is. Same with Jaws. The first time I saw it and every subsequent time I knew it was an exaggeration (the opening music heralds that) and don't want my sense of that to go away.
    I'm more aware of exaggeration with Expressionism than with Impressionism, and I embrace that as part of my experience of it.
    The "art itself" is one of those essence-like notions that I can't relate to. The art itself is all things that are there. When I start stripping things away to get to the core (to the "itself"), I usually find I've stripped too much away and am left with a hollow inside.
    "I can't see a Van Gogh as a nice landscape that's been twirled and glopped with exaggerated effects"
    Funny you should say this. The last time I saw several Van Gogh paintings in person, I saw them just that way. It's much of what I miss when looking at paintings in books. I'd go back and forth between seeing them as big globs and swirls of paint and seeing them as landscapes. Neither option was "the art itself." This is, to me, what Magritte's This is not a pipe is suggestive of. The Van Gogh is a landscape and it is not a landscape. Those most certainly are big globs and swirls of paint on a canvas before me. My appreciation of it is bound up in these exaggerated gestures which pull together and express his own unique vision.
     
  101. On the question of ego, I was not making a personal comment but one about what I felt drove many artists, including some sculptors and painters I have known as well as a few photographers. The point about personification and exaggeration is admittedly a bit wild. I wish I had not speculated on the ego subject above, because it distracts from the points I had been more seriously thinking about:
    • Exaggeration that reacts to what we consider as natural and unnatural;
    • Exaggeration as a necessary element of photography involving moving objects, seeing things in an image not seen by ordinary sight (one I enjoy playing with);
    • Exaggeration by the use of incongruous perspective, asymmetry and unstable equilibrium of forms (another favourite);
    • Exaggeration as something that contradicts our own artistic values or usual photographic approach;
    • Exaggeration produced by the insertion of an unessential element in a scene (I love this one).
    Some of these have a connection to authenticity or the lack of it, but I think many do not depend entirely upon it.
     
  102. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I applaud the way you organized that last post.
    Let me ask this: why are you concerned with that kind of analysis? Is it important to you to dismantle or critique or deconstruct the work of the various sculptors, painters, and photographers you cited? Do you think that is hoped for by the "artists" you cited?
    Does that kind of linear analysis put you in tune with the artist or does it establish you more independently from her work ? (I cast that as "either/or" because most of the "philosophy" here is structured that didactic way, rather than in the "art" terms that seem to be used by "artists" when the talk about their work).
     
  103. Thanks, John, I am glad that you see value in my list of examples of exaggeration in photography, and to some degree (insofar as possible within the constraints of bulleted items) its reaction to other factors, its nature and the intended visual effect.
    It wouldn't be an exaggeration to surmise that the five points are not unique and that there are indeed other ways in which exaggeration is important. I spoke to a few of those other possibilities in preceding posts, as have fellow (sorry, Julie, you just became a Fellow of Philosophy) contributors.
    Thanks to Fred's OP that stimulated the discussion to date. I for one have found it very interesting to reflect on what the use of exaggeration means to me as a photographer, which is resumed in part in my list and the former posted examples. Although listed (not circularised, or serpentinised) as 5 points, there is really nothing linear about their nature or quality, or to their ordering. They are simply 5 of the many possible ways in which we can use exaggeration in images, and react or conflict it to other values.
    The list hopefully also stimulates some further discussion on the topic. As they say in the men's side of pubs in blimey, "you need a wall to p against." (Moderator: kindly interpret "p" as philosophy)
     
  104. Arthur, your listed description assumes that Arthur (or "the" viewer; we'll call him Arthur ... what a coincidence!) is a stable, fixed, neutral, blank-slate that we all will understand and proceed from. We are assumed, without question to be looking and talking about >>> from Arthur, looking out (with our magnificent cameras, of course) -- at a crazy, given/shaped/formed world. How about we turn our trusty philoso-scope, here on the famous Mt. Photo.net philoso-observatory around [*squeek, squeek, sweek* as I winch this monster 180 degrees] and turn this inquiry upside-down.
    Now it is the world that is a blank-slate. Meaningless, nameless bunch of nothing. Tones and colors. But inside Arthur's head GOOD LORD! IT'S WILD!! It jumps, it rushes, it slows, lines race, surge, bulge, strain, barely hold (or don't hold), forms fill and grow and rush, rush, rush toward, circle, circle ... hold, hold, then gently percolate into texture and detail ...
    In this manic plunge, this rush of investiture, of filling and feeling, swirling, zooming, tasting, ... leaving ... in here (and if you don't believe in in/out separation, in here is also out there) there is no such thing as exaggeration, there is no possible basis for such a label. When Arthur talks about exaggeration, what he's really talking about somehow getting that blank-slate meaningless nothing that turns up in photographs to "look like" what it "looked like" to him. (What DID it look like?)
    [Arthur, I would be a Fellow-ette (she said daintily). Sort of like a Rockette only with sensible shoes and glasses.]
     
  105. jtk

    jtk

    Julie, I don't think Arthur's "p" relates to a "blank slate," rather to marble or zinc (assuming a picturesque pub).
    Arthur, your list is indeed a good starting point for analysis. But again, do you think your artist friends want their work to be seen that way...analytically?
    I've just read an attempt to describe the puzzling work of a painter. The writer used analogy, similie, metaphor because (I think) linear analysis is arguably better-related to engineering than to perception (though some photographers do operate from that engineer-side-of-brain, in terms of deconstruction rather than the way the other half might).
     
  106. jtk

    jtk

    Paintings of Neo Rausch: "They have been described as "premodern," "transrealistic," and even "Pop-Surrealist-Social Realist." His work portrays stiff, puppet-like men and women laboring at oftentimes bizarre tasks. The tone is simultaneously dreamlike and tense. "
    (apparently comments by an editor at Santa Fe's "THE magazine.")
    That seems the kind of discussion I hear and read about paintings. Photographers may be more engineer-minded (analytic, linear, "composition"-oriented) than are painters and sculptors.
    Neo Rausch : http://www.google.com/images?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:eek:fficial&client=firefox-a&q=neo+rauch&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&sa=X&ei=BlpuTdSxK5LAsAPAvtnGCw&ved=0CDAQsAQ&biw=1264&bih=735
     
  107. This may not be philosophical or complex enough for Julie and John, but my question to you now becomes:
    When you consider making a photograph, let's say one involving the present case of exaggeration, is it for you similar to pointing a big xerox machine at the world, or, is it one of seeing, thinking about what you are seeing, and composing?
    If it's the latter, then the approach or methodology, such as I have given as examples in the list come into play. My list is not in anyway an analysis of an image, but simply some hopefully creative tools or examples of approaches to composing it, as I see it.
    Analysis, as has been mentioned by others above, is more an activity of decomposing or deconstructing a work, not making it. Although important, it is often the somewhat frustrated activity of those who are less interested in creating and more in critiquing. My friends the artists work with their ideas, and have their own approaches that are likely not similar to mine.
    Ideas are to me the essence of any approach to creative activity. It is not a question of linear or circular paths to their implementation. In engineering, as was mentioned by John, itis similar: trial and error experiments and chance are everyday components of creation. To deny that ideas like those in my list exist, is to suggest that any art is like the big xerox machine pointed at the world. What is there is what you get. The mind has little role, except perhaps to arbitrarily point the xerox at something.
    At one point there was discussion on P of P that ideas and approaches should go together, that the forum should be a good place to discuss one's personal thoughts and evolution in practicing photography, that is, one's approach to making images that communicate to either oneself or others. That has often a philosophical component as well.
    Rather than disdain ("analyse", even somewhat cynically "psychoanalyse") those attempts and persons who make sincere attempts to reflect on ideas that can benefit their work, are we not better to simoply think about those approaches, to ignore them, to add to them, or subtract from them, in a more meaningful discussion? My list is not an obligation. It is, in vernacular terms, simply a wall to "p" on (pee or philosophise, as one wishes), but someone has to create the "wall" in a discussion of personal approaches, and Fred certainly has headed in that direction as well in his OP.
    When any topic becomes one of supposing what is in the mind of the other, rather than what is being expressed, or extrapolating what the other might think about non-stated things, we deviate I think from the topic and a sincere and puposeful discussion of it.
    Anyway, we make what we wish of opportunity.
     
  108. jtk

    jtk

    "When any topic becomes one of supposing what is in the mind of the other, rather than what is being expressed, or extrapolating what the other might think about non-stated things, we deviate I think from the topic and a sincere and puposeful discussion of it." Arthur P
    Good points. But in what moral universe is refraining from "deviation" comparable to "sincerity" and "purposefulness? "
    I don't think attempting to appreciate a work (photo, painting, dance) in a way that would be congenial to or sought by its creator is comparable to reducing the work to analysis or to reading the creator's mind. Those latter ideas are linear, interperative. Responding with metaphor and similie is less of an imposition, less egotistical, because it has the potential to locate the work in an approximate world...it's only a hypothesis, doesn't attempt to pin it down.
    I think the appreciation I'd like for my own work is empathetic: something like "fellow feeling" and distinctly not warm and fuzzy. I think I empathize with the creator and the work that I most admire. I see no utility in analyzing photos (I'm a longtime photographer, not a teacher or student). Analyzing is all about utility.
     
  109. I assumed we were talking about the approaches to creating a work involving exaggeration, not analysing it? That is what my participation has been. I assume that not many others wish that, or maybe have simply nothing or nothing more more to say on the subject? It does sort of leave one with an unfilled appetite in regard to an interesting topic.
     
  110. jtk

    jtk

    Attempted analysis of un-established significance of a couple of nearly randomly chosen words seems to me to have driven most of the posts on this thread. Someone surely would have used Latin or German or French if they could have gotten away with it.
    The thread began with the assumption that "exaggeration" and "authenticity" meant something, but the writing was so gaseous that any concepts were private and did what gasses do (too bad a match wasn't lit). The anointed words were presented as if they had meaning without context, and words are rarely that way (slang words are therefore more resonant than Mr. Webster's definitions).
     
  111. John, you are most welcome to your opinion.
    Criticising posts on a philosophy of photography forum without discussing their pros and cons may be meaningful to you, ostensibly done to shut out the opinions and communcations that are not precious to you. Is that just a geezer's approach that you seem to be lamenting elsewhere on this site, or does it carry some undiscovered useful energy?
    It is the easiest thing to do, of course, but do you think that it makes for meaningful exchanges? I seem to be the only one that objects to your attempts at traffic control of fruitful discussions. Sad, I believe. What future for P of P?
     
  112. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I'm not attempting "traffic control." There shoud be a lot more traffic of all sorts, rather than the current few lumbering truck-loads.
    The notion that there's coherent "flow" here that deserves to avoid interruption is contrary to the its designated purpose of this Forum.
    Three recent threads in which photographers were nominally the OT instead became faux-psych diminutions of those photographers as people, entirely avoiding their photography.
     
  113. Fred said (Mar. 1, 8:38 a.m.): "Take Film Noir. I don't need or want to strip away the exaggeratedness when I view it. The exaggeratedness, which I recognize as such (and relish), to me, is part of what it is."
    "... entertainment films are merely monstrous documentaries of actors at work." -- Carl Koch
    ... and photographs are documentaries of photograhers at work, and paintings are documentaries of painters at work, prepared food is a documentary of the cook at work, and children are documentaries of parents at work, and the world is a documentary of the world at work, and the universe is ...
    Does "exaggeration" demand a viewer who is always at one remove from the framing under discussion? (Calling Mr. Godel ...)
     
  114. "always"
    Julie, this is the main reason, IMO, we seem often to talk past each other. What I have done consistently in responding to you in this and other recent threads is to offer counterexamples to your "always" claims, your "must be" claims, claims you feel need to be emphasized by absolute terminology surrounded by asterisks. Believe me, I can respect your being adamant when it comes to what you want out of photographs and other art and what you put into it. I'm offering alternatives because I see it as a more open-ended proposition.
    I asked, in the OP, how you (generic you) use exaggeration. I did that because I think exaggeration has many uses and manifestations and I was curious to hear various ways in which people utilize it as a tool in making photographs or respond to it as viewers. I didn't think there would be one common answer or one way in which it *always* works.
    The question of "remove" is a great one. It doesn't just apply to exaggeration, IMO. It applies to any tool. There are certainly times when I get lost in photographs, in concerts, in movies, etc. In those cases, exaggeration, blur, grain, perspective, even subject matter, might fade away into the "at-one" experience I am having. I don't think that's any better or more authentic an experience than the one in which I am at the same time aware of what's going on. It is simply a different experience. I adopt many different stances to photographs, etc.
    I look at photographs to appreciate and experience but also to learn. I learn more from looking, generally speaking, than I do from reading about them, even reading the first-hand thoughts of photographers. In order to learn from looking, I analyze what I'm looking at to try to understand how it was done. That's not to say I interpret the work. I don't necessarily look for meaning, for what the work is telling me or communicating. I look for the how. Talking about those things is the reason for my starting many of the threads I do.
    As I said with my experience of the Van Goghs recently, I don't overly concern myself with having pure or essential experiences of paintings or anything else. It's mostly a play back and forth. And often, for me, part of the aesthetic experience is when I am in touch with how something is working. I understand that that may seem to you like a "remove," but to me it's its own kind of intimacy.
    I can appreciate the exaggeratedness of film noir while simultaneously suspending my concern with it as exaggeration and getting into the story lines, plot developments, and strong, often graphic, visuals. I've said before that, for me, it's kind of like rubbing my head and patting my tummy.
     
  115. The effect upon and the experience of the viewer of any photograph are arguably more important than the nature of the approach of the photographer. That effect and experience are beyond the photographer's reach. He can only supply in his work what he thought important. Popular folk art has few secrets, however charming its design. We can relate in a very uncomplicated way in interpreting it. More exploratory or adventurous art requires/allows the discovery by the viewer of elements that are not so common. Enter exaggeration as a tool in that process.
    I am glad that Film Noir (or Neo Noir or the antecedent in German Expressionism) is mentioned in regard to exaggeration. Still film practice owes a lot to those periods, where period, low-angle, wide-angle, and skewed views combined with stark light/dark tones, mirror enigmas, patterned shadows and disorientation complement either dreamy or strange or ambivalent or disturbing themes. Whether that is exaggeration or not likely depends upon its use, the viewer's take on it and the subject. In Bergman's films I recognize the devices used but the story line (albeit often lacking definite orientation) is too important to let the exaggerations as such predominate. They are I think perceived as "actors" in their own right.
    Film noir and photography. A potentially interesting future OP subject perhaps, and one which I think applies strongly in practice to many of the portrait, B&W nature and urban photographs of member portfolios. We are considerably influenced by the 1920s - early 30s German and 1940-70s Hollywood films, as well as other international film movements using film noir themes/elements.
     
  116. "The efferct upon and the experience of the viewer of any photograph is arguably more important than the nature of the approach of the photographer."
    I don't know what this means. "More important" to whom and in what situation or context? Are we now setting up a competition between the viewer and the photographer? What if exaggeration can be important, at times, to both, and I don't worry about to whom it's more important?
     
  117. In considering both the pleasure of and challenges to the photographer in creating an image and the communication and reception of it by others than himself, I opt for the importance of the viewer's reaction to that of the photographer's pleasure or approach. "I photograph because I am", but also because I am wont to communicate things to others. I wasn't uniquely considering there the importance of exaggeration.
    For me it is not either/or, but rather something like a 40:60 split, or an even smaller ratio. The professional photographeer is doing it for others, whereas the amateur has the luxury of doing it for himself, provided that becomes his sole (soul?) objective of course. That's what the values of diffusion and interpretation of art means to me, but others will of course have different ideas about the relative importance.
    However, I don't want to dwell on that singular issue, as beyond that, the effect of film noir and its impact on photography is for me the current interesting subject at hand, and not my statement with the proviso "arguably more" (one takes one's pick).
    For instance, some of the portraits we see are very much like the film noir model. Nothing wrong with that, as much influences us from what we have seen before. I think further exploration of the potential of that art in photography is useful, not excluding exaggeration.
     
  118. Arthur, I still don't understand. You've said two things that seem contradictory. "I opt for the importance of the viewer's reaction" and "the amateur has the luxury of doing it for himself." The first seems to be saying that the viewer's reaction is more important and the second seems to be saying that the photographer's doing it is more important.
    I want to either communicate something to viewers or show them something or evoke something in them as well. That doesn't make how they see or view or feel any more important than how I do. And please don't mistake that for my saying the photographer is more important. As I said, I think what the photographer does is important and what the viewer gets out of it is important, and I couldn't possibly assign it a ratio or assign one more importance than the other because I don't think it fits into that kind of articulation. As I said, I don't see it as a competition or a matter of weighting.
     
  119. I would also, of course, question your assumption that the professional photographer does it more for others than the amateur. Many professional photographers have created great art and/or photographs that are capable of communicating something quite unique and personal.
     
  120. Fred, two quick points. First, my "never," "always," and "must-be"-ing are a peculiarity of the way I think -- and of me forgetting that I'm in public. I like to "handle" ideas -- make them solid, model them so that I can turn them over, around, look at them from different angles, coming and going, backwards and upside-down ... Saying "never" or "always" or "must-be" is just me making a test model solid enough to take hold of. I expect none of what I've just written makes a bit of sense to anybody but me, but at least I hope it will let you know that those "ultimate" kinds of statements aren't aimed at you or anybody else.
    Second; the thing I've been turning over with my "always" in the previous is that if Film Noir by definition entails such and such characteristics, then Film Noir can only *be* Film Noir if it has those characteristics (if it didn't it wouldn't be Film Noir). Therefore, those characteristics are normal, not exaggerated for Film Noir; and in order for Film Noir to be described as exaggerated, it would seem to require an at-one-remove viewer in order to be thought of as exaggerated.
    That's not meant as judgemental of exaggeration. I'm just "finding" it -- where, how, to what effect it happens.
     
  121. Julie--
    Why can't film noir be a genre of film that exaggerates graphics and, particularly, shadows? I think most would realize that that's an exaggeration for film in general and "normal" for film noir. But just because it becomes the norm in a particular genre doesn't mean it's not an exaggeration.
    To me, you're looking for precision where there is none. There is no ideal, pure, at-one viewer or at-one-remove viewer. We come with our biases, prejudices, contexts. When we view a film noir film we don't somehow wipe the slate clean and only experience that one film in that one time as it's happening. We bring to it a lot of stuff which affects our so-called at-one viewing, which I would maintain is not absolute.
    Same for film noir "only be[ing] film noir if it has those characteristics." I don't think the lines are that clear. For every film noir you can point to, it would have elements of other genres, and most films that we'd categorize as being of a non-film noir genre could have characteristics of film noir. There's too much that's noir-ish for me to concern myself with a film noir film *being* film noir.
    It's not unlike some of the discussions we have about "art." Some use "art" as a category, and ask the question, "is this art or is that art." Any genre can be used that way as well, where more concern is expressed for what belongs and what doesn't belong. I try to use "art" and "film noir" more descriptively than categorically. I try to avoid debates about whether this film *is* film noir or not because most of these concepts get very blurry around the edges and stuff slips and slides in and out rather fluidly.
    For me, seeing the exaggeration in a film noir for what it is and seeing the brush strokes in a Van Gogh for what they are is on one level an "at-one-remove" kind of experience. But I honestly think there's a deeper level of at-oneness to be reached when various perspectives are adopted or achieved "at once."
     
  122. Therefore, those characteristics are normal, not exaggerated for Film Noir​
    I'd say those characteristics are film noir, not something in it, or for it. Film noir can be an exaggeration of itself, but then it becomes a parody.
     
  123. Fred, as often seen here, the conversation goes in tangents before acknowledging or responding to the principal thrust of a particular post. In real time group discussions, that usually gets sorted out quickly and to the satisfaction of speaker/listener, but more cumbersomely so in a forum discussion not in real time. Nonetheless, I am quite happy to discuss in a sidebar or email what you haven't understood in my preamble to another point, although that will have to wait, as I am off to town for a meeting.
    Perhaps you might reflect on your own visual approaches in portraiture and their use of chiaroscuro, mirrors, and perhaps other "film noir" effects (it was the French who observed first the Hollywood movement), which to me are quite evident. I also use those sort of effects, and consider them quite useful to communication. Therefore, that is the desire in my recent posts to concentrate on film noir and exaggeration and to maintain that discussion rather than to easily slip into side discussions. One assumes that each reader will read the whole of a postulate or comment, rather than dissect its suppositions or parts before coming to the point. After all, I think it was also you who first mentioned the intriguing film noir topic in relation to the importance of exaggeration in visual images.
    Julie, because a certain movement uses a specific exaggeration (film noir, Dadaism, surrealism, cubism, etc.) does not mean that once seen the exaggeration is cancelled out. I made an analogy to exaggeration being simply another actor in the image. We still recognise and appreciate it and perhaps the other actor has something different to say that would not be there without him/it.
     
  124. jtk

    jtk

    Some here have decided that films noir are "exaggerated."
    More exaggerated than, say, Michelangelo's "David," John Ford's "Searchers" or Yousuf Karsch's "Winston Churchill" ?
    I may be asking a question for which Fred G previously provided the answer (several posts above). Answer first, then question.
     
  125. As evidenced in this thread, I'm afraid, Some very good posts and new ideas in the philosophy of photography forum get ignored and diverted and the discussion bogged down by the seeming necessity of contributors to continually question secondary aspects of posts rather than the principal ideas contained in them.
    In so doing, and I am not entirely innocent in this respect, we put the stamp of our own agenda on the discussion and conveniently skim over the other's ideas. My feeling is that we should come into these discussions with curiosity and the ability to discuss the ideas of others with a more open mind. It should be less a swordfight I think and more a collective brainstorming about things that underly why we photograph and what art means to us.
    I am probably not alone in observing lesser participation in this forum and the very few new participants. That may be due to the nature of the forum, but possibly also to the evolution of quality of the OPs and our discussion of them.
    While I will continue at times to follow the discussions and perhaps occasionally participate, I believe that the collegiality and openness of the discussions should evolve and thus be able to compete with other avenues we all have for intellectual and artistic stimulation.
     
  126. Arthur, a brief reply because I'd rather discuss photography and philosophy than process.
    I read everything everyone posts, usually at least twice. I respond to what stimulates or interests me. When I don't respond or pick up on what someone says, it's usually because I have nothing to add or just other things interest me more.
    I do often address secondary aspects of posts when they stimulate me or provoke my interest. I find that these so-called secondary issues sometimes have more meat and even more honesty than the primary things we address. It's like accidents or sub-themes in photos, or things in photos that we are not primarily intent on but that nevertheless strike the viewer as consequential. Often, when a viewer brings something like that to my attention, it will have quite an impact on me.
     
  127. jtk

    jtk

    Films noir remain compelling because they are less exaggerated than the stylized mush from which they periodically emerge and return. Bogart & Belmondo...we all know people like them. They may be extreme types, but they are far from exaggerated...just ask around.
    Similarly the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare were less exaggerated than the morality play claptrap they terminated. They were closer to what the groundlings recognized...their new lack of exaggeration made them compelling. Do you really think there's no Lady Macbeth in your neighborhood?
    As photography closer addresses the way we actually or want to see (e.g. HPR or heavy-on-the-"bokeh") there will always be those who get things backwards, calling the perhaps-uncomfortable thing "exaggerated."
     
  128. To a degree, it seems like in this discussion, stylization = exaggeration. Most, but not all exaggeration stylizes, yet much less stylization exaggerates IMO.
     
  129. Luis, I don't know what specifically you're thinking about in this discussion, but generally speaking I see a relationship between stylization and some exaggeration but nothing that comes so close to an equivalence. The examples I started out with (and I know we've come a ways since then) were the ones most on my mind, the stage whisper kind of example, or the exaggeration of legato on a piano that's not well adjusted. I can certainly see where a discussion of film noir would head us in the direction of stylization. But the more specific examples of exaggeration (exaggeration for over-emphasis of a particular element in a photo, for instance, as opposed to the whole photo being an exaggeration) don't necessarily seem much like stylization to me.
    Doesn't stylization require some kind of repetitiveness over several works? Or, if not, does it require at least a reference to another style already developed over a body or part of a body of work? Certainly, I could see repeated uses of similar types of exaggeration developing into a style. But I'm not sure about stylization referring to more individual or one-off uses of exaggeration. Is style more related to convention than to exaggeration?
     
  130. Fred - "Doesn't stylization require some kind of repetitiveness over several works? Or, if not, does it require at least a reference to another style already developed over a body or part of a body of work?"
    Exactly. I was referring to the comments re: Film Noir.
     
  131. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you've found your own answer.
    "Exaggeration" has absolutely no meaning in isolation.
    I think it was me that first introduced "stylized" (above). "Stylized" indicates work has undeniably been done by a human (nothing in nature is "stylized"), "exaggerated" is usually the value judgement of the individual that uses the term.
     
  132. Luis, thanks. Arthur, above, mentioned German Expressionism as the antecedent to noir. I've read that as well and certainly see the connection. At the same time, I've always considered Expressionism a little more about substance and noir a little more about style. And honestly, I don't quite know what I mean by that. Though noir certainly has cynical and sexual emotional underpinnings, I often find it to reside a little more on the surface (as much as I love it). I think I tend to see "style" as something closer to the surface as well. Expressionism always seemed to me more inward, somewhat deeper, a little more gutsy. I'm leaning towards (but far from certain) saying that noir stylized Expressionism in some way.
     
  133. jtk

    jtk

    Look into anything you consider noir-related and you'll find left politics. Noir, both the original American and the French derivatives sprang from Hollywood's left. And it sprang from literature, not film. B. Traven, for example.
    It sells noir short to reduce it to visuals, and it's downright odd to pretend that the intensely verbal nature of noir is/was "impressionistic." I think it is and was dead accurate in its intensity, its sparse use of language, and it's affection for tough slang...which accounts for the love some of us have for it.
     
  134. This question of exaggeration and style, regarding Film Noir, which has its own subset of Noir genres, is valuable to consider because it raises questions regarding photographic genres as well. For me, a genre is similar to a syndrome, in the sense that it is which is something we recognize from a potential cloud of symptoms.
    [For the literalists, no, I am not saying it is a disease]
    Noir has its cinematic and literary philogenies. The former clearly comes originally from German Expressionism, the latter from American Detective Fiction. When film budgets returned to higher levels in the 30's is when the German Expressionism, in part, morphed towards Noir. The visual tropes that Fred mentions are widely acknowledged by film historians and critics. After all, film is a visual medium. There's nothing unusual about having visual aspects, and they are well-known.
    For example: "Film noir films were marked visually by expressionistic lighting, deep-focus or depth of field camera work, disorienting visual schemes, jarring editing or juxtaposition of elements, ominous shadows, skewed camera angles (usually vertical or diagonal rather than horizontal), circling cigarette smoke, existential sensibilities, and unbalanced or moody compositions. Settings were often interiors with low-key (or single-source) lighting, venetian-blinded windows and rooms, and dark, claustrophobic, gloomy appearances. Exteriors were often urban night scenes with deep shadows, wet asphalt, dark alleyways, rain-slicked or mean streets, flashing neon lights, and low key lighting. Story locations were often in murky and dark streets, dimly-lit and low-rent apartments and hotel rooms of big cities, or abandoned warehouses. [Often-times, war-time scarcities were the reason for the reduced budgets and shadowy, stark sets of B-pictures and film noirs.]"
    http://www.filmsite.org/filmnoir.html
    Having said all that, are the exaggerations from the er..."normal" simply part of the style? Some Noir films, however, do have outstanding exaggerations even within noir, like Touch of Evil. I guess what I am saying is that perhaps some exaggerations are merely signifiers of style, and in that context, they are renormalized?
     
  135. I have a new idea/thought on exaggeration that I have not finished digesting, so it's even more incoherent than usual, but here it is (in a rush):
    It seems to me that exaggeration might be a sign-post -- that whatever it is that is exaggerated is being used as, is intended as a "carrier" for something else. It is the artist or writer or speaker investing some thing with meaning that is not inherent in that thing. For example, if, in conversation, I exaggerate the size or number of something I did, it's because I want/need a "carrier" for the nonverbal feelings (excitement, fear, joy, etc.) that are associated with those things. Or, if someone exaggerates the colors in their photos, it might be because they feel those colors may act as "carrier" for the emotion (excitement, joy, or whatever) that they felt "in" that experience. Consistent exaggeration (or style, as I've argued earlier -- leaving that behind for the moment) as in Film Noir might be (is?) there as a "carrier" for the enveloping mood that is desired by the film's makers.
    Obviously, things in pictures are constantly carriers of meanings other than what they literally are. What I'm suggesting is that exaggeration is the artist or wirter or speaker wanting to especially, particularly, make as sure as he/she can that THIS thing right here is meant to "carry" something. It's more insistent, more urgent, more necessary; special delivery.
     
  136. I've found Luis's and Julie's last posts very helpful. They seem both to clarify some things I was unclear about and push things a little further along.
    I actually understand Julie's earlier thoughts much better in light not only of the quote supplied by Luis, which is great, but also his closing paragraph. Some of the exaggerations as "signifiers of style," making them in some sense renormalized. That turned a light bulb on for me and I think addressed what Julie had been saying earlier to at least an extent. Touch of Evil helps differentiate and, since I think there are many uses and manifestations of exaggeration, this is certainly a good distinction.
    On the flip side, however, I'm hesitant to say too strongly that exaggerations are mere signifiers of style. Somehow, that could take away some authenticity. I think folks working in noir probably genuinely feel those exaggerations (perhaps as the carriers of meaning Julie mentions) and aren't simply trying to create something stylistic. Once you work in a particular style, there is a certain point at which your communication and feeling within that style transcends the style per se, even the formulas, and acts as more than just a signifier. Dare I go back to Mozart again, who often worked within a very defined and specified stylistic "constraint," for instance the Sonata form. Yes, there would have been signifiers of that form . . . exposition, development, recapitulation, repetitions, cadenzas, what have you. But I think those things have dual roles, being both personally expressive and signifiers of form. In a sense, the style was a given, almost likened to a blank canvas that is also constrained by its four edges (except for those who went beyond the edges).
    One of the exaggerations I talked about working with is pose and gesture. There might be occasions where I would use that as a carrier of something specific, something nonverbal but felt. But not all gestures or all exaggerated gestures are signposts or symbols, IMO. They may be seen that way by a viewer. But in my own exaggeration of gesture, sometimes, it's just a matter of strength of visual, not carrier of meaning or feeling. As we've said, there are abstract qualities even to the most narrative of photos. And I think those abstract qualities can be exaggerated not necessarily as signposts but just for visual attention. I can exaggerate some color or tone or light somewhere in a photo, at least from my own perspective as photographer, merely because I think it will help the eye travel in a certain direction. I can sometimes do it to actually introduce the dreaded "distraction" into a photo. In that case, it's not so much a sign-post as an active element. It doesn't substitute for something else or even suggest something else, it merely has a dynamic effect.
     
  137. I don't know, I don't know (pondering Fred's last parargraph). I feel like there's a separation in kind between emphasis and exaggeration, and "visual attention" seems to me to fall into the emphasis camp. For me, exaggeration seems to require some ingredient of more -- it's *doing/adding* something, not just bumping the volume or direction of the look. Examples to chew one:
    In this picture, the curviness is emphasized, not exaggerated IMO:
    [​IMG]
    In this picture (below) I think the motion blur might serve as exaggeration:
    [​IMG]
    In this picture (below), the foreshortening might serve as exaggeration:
    [​IMG]
    But in this one (below) the bird is not exaggerated because it "came that way". I suppose the frontal pose could make it an exaggeration. I'm not sure:
    [​IMG]
    The next one (below) is emphasis via repetition, but it's not exaggeration. If I had toned or colored it in a Film Noir-ish way, it *could* have been made into an exaggeration:
    [​IMG]
    And, one last one. This (below) is not, by itself an exaggeration. However, if it might be if given a title with a testicular reference such as "A Pair in Winter" or some such.
    [​IMG]
    [This is by no means meant to be a "list" of any kind; all of the above are throw-away snaps that happen to be already on my blog. If anybody wants to play with them (turn them into exaggerations), feel free to do so.]
     
  138. However, if it might be if given a title with a testicular reference such as "A Pair in Winter" or some such.​
    Aaaah, brrrrr, that hurts. Why implant that one in my head now, while I was just seeing pears. No more testicular reference's through pears please...unless they look fresh and healthy and they look eatable ( the pears ).
     
  139. Phylo, you had me up until . . . (the pears). LOL.
     
  140. Fine animal and still life photos, Julie. The weathered pears shot is particularly well done.
    None appear to me to apply exaggeration, unless the viewer attributes to them some optically unusual perspective (simple physical "exaggeration", but not really exaggeration in the cerebral sense, which I feel to be the only game of importance. You may well be creating that in some of your other more complex images of subject matter).
    Elsewhere, the discussions of "stylism" versus exaggeration, and citing the more common attributes of "film noir", seem self evident, distant views of the subject and to some degree superficial, missing in one great swoop the real potential of nuanced exaggeration in photographic or other art work. When effective exaggeration occurs (is created), it is much more subtle and powerful than that which attaches to any of the simple labels that are being used. I don't want to add any more that that (but which hopefully might incite some reflection), and happily return to my warm and cosy s.c.cell.
     
  141. The "cerebral sense" ... Hmmmm... where does that happen? As opposed to ...?
    How about this: the "face" is all/only cerebral:
    [​IMG]
     
  142. Julie, I think we're close but there's a distinction I'd like to draw between emphasis and exaggeration. If I have a particular pose or gesture I'm working with in a photo and I'm in the post processing phase, I might very well emphasize it with lighting, for example. In that way, yes, I am (merely) calling attention to it. But, when I am working with a subject, I would ask them to exaggerate their gesture (if I wanted that). I wouldn't ask them to emphasize it. It may show up as emphasis, but it got there because of an exaggeration.
    Same with the exaggerated gestures on a large compared to a small stage. The desire is that the gesture be read the same by the audience in both the smaller and grander situations. The exaggeration of the gesture on the larger stage sees to it that nothing is either added or taken away from the "meaning" of the gesture that took place on the smaller stage. The exaggeration on the larger stage is necessary to accomplish the same "reading" of the gesture the audience made in the smaller theater.
    As Arthur pointed out way above, I may be coming at exaggeration from the perspective of the photographer more than the viewer, and that's the question I originally posed: how do you use exaggeration. I think the question you may be answering (and just as significant a question) is how do you see exaggeration.
     
  143. I want to make clear that, as I said earlier in the thread, one of my uses of exaggeration (relative to pose and gesture) is to call attention to the obviousness and exaggeratedness itself. In that case, it often will be a carrier as you suggest, Julie. I am just trying to point out that it's not always about additional carriers of meaning.
     
  144. It's like stage make-up. For a bigger stage, close-up it looks very exaggerated, if not clownish, but at the viewing distance, it looks normal. Loved the dead mice pics, Julie.
     
  145. jtk

    jtk

    To the performer, proper stage makeup doesn't look "exaggerated" no matter how "clownish" someone else might think.
    Any sense of exaggeration, unless the performer decides s/he has gone too far, belongs to individual audience members.
    "Exaggeration" doesn't exist as a phenomenon or as a descriptor. Calling something "exaggerated" is like calling it "high." It is a relative factor...x is higher than or exaggerated vs y.
    By contrast, "style" can exist as a phenomenon because it can be described. Exaggeration can't be described because it doesn't exist.
     
  146. John Kelly said: "It is a relative factor...x is higher than or exaggerated vs y."
    Well yeah. That's kind of the point, said the peacock. And the guy getting his penis extended.
     
  147. Julie, you slay me...:)
     
  148. [Thank you Luis. Mozart and penis extenders in one thread. Does it get any better?]
    Getting back to more subtle variations on what I think (long-suffering) Fred is after, I offer the right arm of Christ in the Pietà de Villeneuve-lès_Avignon (1460). (Please look at it! You gotta see it to get the point and participate in the discussion ... )
    The gesture of that arm, strongly exaggerated both by its posture and its placement, is so elequent, so full of ... what it is full of ... that its effect arrives immediately, it is full; immediately felt, before words surface in the mind.
    [Link to image for email notification users: http://www.friendsofart.net/en/art/enguerrand-charonton/pieta-de-villeneuve-les-avignon ]
     
  149. Fabulous composition, on many planes. For someone who may not be religious, the literal content would be an exaggeration, but that's well beside the point, artistically speaking.
     
  150. I can't compete with Jesus, but HERE'S ONE that uses exaggeration, though it ultimately doesn't quite work for me. (I like it a lot but that's also because I see potential in it worth putting toward future photos.) Ian in the background works fine, but John (tying his shoes) should have a more deliberate pose, which I could have had if I'd asked him to exaggerate more. Even better than deliberate would have been for him to come across as exaggerated. That, I think would be a nice play off the exaggerated colors and staging of the scene itself. As is, John seems a little lost on this photographic stage. A dose of unabashed theatricality here from John would have played well, I think.
     
  151. Fred, I looked at the picture and was going to say what I find you've said in your post. Did you dodge John's face? Why is it so soft? He's seems to me to be too soft everywhere; tonally and in form (rounded, almost "cuddly"), even his colors are too mild, where the picture begs for, as you say, a deliberate, almost harsh pose, color, tone in that figure (or, coiled, tense). Can you force the contrast in his face; let it fall to dead black in the shadows?
    I really like how the whole picture tilts dramatially to the left; it's like it's being poured or even rammed into the liquidity of that other-striped window. Ian (the fellow on the left?) is just right, leaning into the lines and with the right kind of contrast.
    I like the idea of the strong coloring. Odd detail that I like is the satellite dish as the third character in this play -- and the most active one of the three. Pulling the lines taut.
     
  152. Julie, thanks for looking so carefully and offering a creative opinion on the treatment of John (tying his shoes). To be honest, I hadn't considered going stronger with the color and light on him but I think it's an interesting idea.
    Yes, he is soft and he struck me that way the day we were shooting. That's why I handled him as I did. Whereas Ian has a more angular and edgy (to me) feel, John had a more rounded and "cuddly" (to use your word) feel about him.
    The idea of darker shadows on John and a more intense treatment seems like it would work graphically/visually speaking. I don't know that that kind of treatment would integrate with what I'm experiencing in the photo, though. His whole bearing, facial expression, putting on his shoes, etc., seems so casual and so I think a more intense treatment of him, though it might look somewhat more interesting, wouldn't work with the feel of the story, to me. Had he been in a more intense mood and position and motion, I could see what you're suggesting working. But, as is, I think it might feel more like an afterthought and perhaps even a compensation for a not-so-great pose.
    Believe me, if I thought I could make it work that way, I would try it. (Actually, I may try it when I work on printing this to see what happens.) Though he seemed soft to me at the time, if I could create a more intense photographic fiction that worked, I would. That's what I was musing on with wishing I had been able to get more exaggeration and deliberateness out of him. I don't think, in this case, I could post-process that intensity of color and light and make it work with him as he currently is.
     
  153. Fred, I think you might be able to get everything you want just by messing with John's T-shirt. It has some fantastic lines of tension going on in it that directly contradict John's face in an interesting way. Just messing with the contrast of that shirt and its color might get you exactly what you want -- and be even more interesting for containing opposing attitudes. See quickie examples of color shifting that I did HERE. (I can't show much with contrast shifting at those tiny sizes.)
    [If you don't like me playing with your file, just let me know and I'll delete it.]
     
  154. Julie, I actually don't like to see the results of others playing with my photos, so I'm not going to click on the link. I appreciate whatever work you did, but it's not something I do with others' photos or want done with mine. My feeling is that the limit of critique (this is very personal and I know others have different methods) is suggestion. The solution has to be the voice of the photographer. If I'm so moved, I'll try my own hand at it. Like I said, I have a feeling it can be changed graphically but that it wouldn't integrate well with the emotional posturing and expression of John, but I won't set that in stone until I try a few things.
     
  155. Aww, hell, I decided to look anyway. ;-) It is as I suspected. Your option does bring a little more focus to John. But it doesn't change how I feel both about his expression and his gesturing, which will of course be somewhat affected by color choices but I don't thing can be changed enough by it. I think the way the actual movement, posture, and story works along with the color and light is the significant aspect here and just working with the graphic elements alone is ironically limiting the vision to me. It's the story being told that is problematic for me and I don't see these kinds of changes helping that. As I said, though, I appreciate the thought and the care you've given to this.
     
  156. Well, dern. Between your first and your second post, I was busy deleting the file -- and am here to say that I understand perfectly (to your first post) and that I apologise.
    So, the file is gone, but I'm glad you took a peek anyway. Seeing and not liking the variations may have reinforced your own judgment, which is a good thing? Anyway, again, I apologize.
     
  157. Julie, no need to do either, apologise or apologize. [I can't help myself.] You had no way of knowing my little idiosyncrasy.
    Anyway, getting back to Jesus, the exaggerated gestures (I see his body pose as an exaggeration as well, that strong curve via the heavily arched back) relate very much to the subject matter, which is unflinchingly depicted and with which the exaggerations of pose and gesture are integrated.
     
  158. In a book I am reading at the moment the author is talking about orientation and unorientation (*unorientation is not the same as disorientation; see below). It made me think about how unorientation is central to how I do photography; how being able to deliberately unorient myself anywhere/anytime, at will, is key to being able to see stuff with a fresh eye (why this is so is very interesting ... but I digress ...).
    Given that, and thinking about it reference exaggeration, it seems to me that to exaggerate is to try to force (encourage?) the viewer to be unoriented either to the whole picture or to something in it. One would do this in order to (try to) re-orient the viewer ideologically, or conceptually, or sensually. One might do this (promote unorientation) with a purpose as I've suggested with my "carrier" posts. In that case, successful re-orientation would/does lead to the re-normalization (see Luis above) or perishability of the exaggeration as I've also posted about above.
    On the other hand, one could very well use unorientation for its own sake. To try to leave/hold the viewer in an unorientated state, in mid-air ... indefinitely. Floating (or spinning, or rocket-propelled). By removing all possiblity of re-orientation, in theory at least, one could do this. I expect the viewer eventually gets hungry and goes home, has his supper and goes to sleep, but it was tons of fun while it lasted ... (and he/she will be back ...).
    *disorientation is about space; unorientation is about place
     
  159. Julie, in order to understand, I'd need more of an explanation of the difference between space and place. I'm not understanding the distinction between un and dis orientation.
    Not quite understanding you, I would respond by saying that exaggeration meant to have a strong effect or exaggeration meant to be noticed as such would (also) do the opposite. It would hyper-orient the viewer.
     
  160. jtk

    jtk

    Julie, the photographs you've shared slay me. Your writing is another matter :)
    The peacock's "kind of point" appeals instinctively (unlearned, non-conceptual way) to females and other males of his and related species (such as wild turkeys..I've observed them together). Using the peacock as a metaphor works interestingly and intelligently for images but becomes a gross error when the actual beast gets treated as an exaggeration. Photographs, ideas, and peacocks are the actual beasts, "exaggeration" is a mere word, a mere dictionary entry, not even an idea.
     
  161. jtk

    jtk

    Fred's original reference to "stage whisper" is not a mere word or phrase. We know what it means in practice. "Exaggeration" is not the opposite because a free-standing word cannot be the opposite of a concept. I think Fred's contrast would better be between "stage whisper" and "declaim." Comparing stage whisper to exaggeration is like comparing "uncomfortably cold" to "thermostat."
     
  162. An exaggeration will always be imperfect in its ' exaggeration of ', making the thing exaggerated authentic.
    Wabi-sabi ?!
     
  163. Phylo, thanks for bringing this back to the original OP a bit. That's a nice way of putting one of the things I was struggling with and curious about at the beginning of this thread.
     
  164. Agree, Phylo, but an exaggeration shouldn't be measured by its authenticity, or it wouldn't be a good exaggeration I believe.
    In that and other already discussed senses, a conscious exaggeration can accomplish its task with perfection.
     
  165. Arthur, I did say making the thing exaggerated authentic, rather than making the exaggeration authentic.
     
  166. I make the ( superficial ) distinction because a photograher starts from a "blank canvas", but - and unlike the painter's one - not without content or subject already placed in the frame, to which an exaggeration may ( must ) be applied.
    Exaggeration can go in both directions here when applied, either as a subtraction ( - ) or as an addition ( + ). I don't think it has a positive or negative value in and of itself.
    Of course, all of this has more or less already been brought to light in all the previous posts here.
     
  167. Phylo, yes , I undersood your expression in your second to last post, but the corollary of it is not that the exaggeration is made authentic. I make no claim in that sense.
    On the contrary, for me an exaggeration is not very much related to the concept of authentic, and that's why I love them and consider some even perfect in what they do in making the subject of an image much more interesting than merely what authenticity might confer to it. Exaggeration has value, and much value if used in an artistic and communicative sense. I wonder why so few seem to recognise that. ....Interesting.
     
  168. Arthur said: "Exaggeration has value, and much value if used in an artistic and communicative sense. I wonder why so few seem to recognise that."
    It's not that it's not recognized. It's that most people know that exaggeration needs to be handled with care. If not, it's just so much hooting and chest-pounding. Ever seen Rambo, or any Chuck Norris movies? Or entire sentences in bold type in this forum? Or even whole paragraphs? Or your average two-year-old in his/her high-chair, screaming his/her head off?
     
  169. "Exaggeration has value, and much value if used in an artistic and communicative sense. I wonder why so few seem to recognise that."
    Arthur, on what basis do you make that statement? Do you think many (or even a few) here don't value exaggeration?
    Also I'd be curious to hear your reasoning for qualifying authenticity as "mere" and saying that it's less interesting than exaggeration.
     
  170. I for one wasn't saying it hasn't value. I'm simply recognizing that in photography there is 1.the exaggeration and 2. the subject on which the exaggeration is being applied on.
     
  171. It's not that it's not recognized. It's that most people know that exaggeration needs to be handled with care. If not, it's just so much hooting and chest-pounding. Ever seen Rambo, or any Chuck Norris movies?​
    Ever seen a Tarkovsky movie, with 'real time' slow paced shots and scenes ? That's as much applied exaggeration as Rambo, but only towards the other end of the scale.
     
  172. I don't mind the exaggeration of Rambo. I would evaluate it more on the sensibility behind the exaggeration. As I would Tarkovsky.
     
  173. I don't mind it either Fred.
    ---
    I heard on the radio today a Dogme 95 director talking. I think its aim for authenticity perhaps, fits in in the OT, but while having produced through this "dogm(e)a" good films, isn't it perhaps an exaggeration on the demands the filmmakers put on their process ?
    From Wiki :
    The goal of the Dogme collective is to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, post-production modifications and other technical gimmicks. The filmmakers concentrate on the story and the actors' performances. They believe this approach may better engage the audience, as they are not alienated or distracted by overproduction. To this end, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg produced ten rules to which any Dogme film must conform. These rules, referred to as the "Vow of Chastity," are as follows:[1]
    1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
    2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
    3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
    4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
    5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
    6. The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
    7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
    8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
    9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
    10. The director must not be credited.
     
  174. Yes, Phylo, I got that! I was more addressing Julie's concern with it.
     
  175. Phylo, interesting list there. As an exercise, I see nothing wrong with it and give the filmmakers participating in it a lot of credit. It does seem like an exaggeration to me and I can see why they think it might lead to a more authentic kind of film-making, though I think they're wrong if that's what they think. I think, for some, it could lead to authenticity, but I don't think it necessarily will and I don't think it's the only path to authenticity. I think it has some of the same (mistaken) notions of the path to authenticity that emanates from those who insist on "no manipulation" of photos, no "post-processing," candid rather than staged photos, or spontaneous rather than considered shooting. Natural is not necessarily more authentic, IMO. Simple is not more authentic. Less manipulated is not more authentic. Candid is not more authentic. Spontaneous is not more authentic. No special lighting is not more authentic. To me, authenticity has to do with personal honesty, commitment, and not relying on the values of others without at least scrutinizing them for oneself, developing one's own relationship to the world and to others.
    [I understand you're just giving this as an example and not necessarily advocating their goals or means.]
     
  176. My reason for qualifying authenticity as "mere" and saying that it's less interesting than exaggeration:
    Firstly, because we all exaggerate, for one thing. What you photograph is not likely an authentic representation of the visualised scene. If anything, it might be an authentic representation of how you saw it or wanted to see it. Yet nobody else can witness your thoughts, only your visual product of them. Individualism exaggerates the collectivity.
    So what is effective exaggeration that trumps mere authenticity?
    Not the mindless Rambo or (often) Disney, or "the unfortunately too typical and greatly paradigmic/euphoric/exaggerated ending" which spoils an otherwise reasonably amusing film ("Forest Gump" example). Rocky or Rambo hardly have much pull on my sensibilities. Without any feelings of elitism, I can say that they (mine) are probably not the sensibilities of the collectivity.
    Those who were able to see the 2002 film "11'09"01 September 11" with short "frames" (each of 11 minutes, 9 seconds) by each of the nine international film directors (Penn, Loach, Lelouch, others), the project of a French cineast, may remember the artistic use of exaggeration in recalling the significance of the September 11th tragedy. Mere authenticity would have recorded the tragedy, but the use of art and the elements of exaggeration made the memory of the attack and its aftermath on people more powerful.
    Other examples of more than mere authenticity of subject matter representation were mentioned earlier in regard to Film Noir, Fauvism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism and other art movements. Preferable to Rambo, from my humble viewpoint.
     
  177. Arthur, we seem to be using authenticity differently. While I have mentioned accurate representation here as a sometimes important goal to me (having a portrait feel like it accurately portrays its subject in some cases), that's not what I think of when I think of authenticity. As I said just above (and you may have missed it while you were writing): "To me, authenticity has to do with personal honesty, commitment, and not relying on the values of others without at least scrutinizing them for oneself, developing one's own relationship to the world and to others." That would just be a beginning. I'm sure others could add some significant factors. For me, there's nothing "mere" about any of that.
     
  178. jtk

    jtk

    To me "authenticity" means the work was directed to and for the viewer, rather than to and about oneself. Proust wrote about himself and to himself, he didn't write with authenticity.
    Authenticity might be an attribute of a biography but it couldn't be of an autobiography. A photograph can readily suggest authenticity but no interpretation of a photograph can do that because interpretation is theft.
     
  179. To me "authenticity" means the work was directed to and for the viewer, rather than to and about oneself.​
    So, a mainstream Hollywood film would be more authentic ( which it very well may/can be too ) because it's aimed at as many possible viewers ? And an author film would be not authentic because the fimmaker follows his / her own vision rather than that of the public ? Nonsense !
     
  180. Fred, thanks for defining above what you mean about authenticity. I agree with it, of course (it certainly fits the way I have been discussing it), and feel it is related to the individual versus the collective approach (that is, by being authentic to oneself). But exaggeration for me is not just some sort of opposite to authenticity but a creative way to communicate something beyond the self-evident or the normal perception (whatever one may take that to mean) of things.
    Phylo, I agree that the Dogme 95 manifesto does attempt to do away with superfluous and mindless exaggeration, but does it really avoid theartistic use of exaggeration? I think not. Dogme 95 followed upon Truffaut's earlier (1950s) questioning of cinema, in the former "Cahiers du Cinéma" magazine. Danish filmmakers Lars von Trier ("Europa", "Dancing in the Dark", etc.) and Thomas Vinterberg ("The Celebration") sought by their manifesto the conditions to create filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. A return perhaps to some purer and less-exaggerated-model of cinema.
    Their reaction, largely justified in my mind, was against overblown budgets and cinematic excess. If you see the film "The celebratiion" you will see this approach. I am convinced that it, like the other great Danish films, "Europa" (Germany in 1945-46) and "Babette's Feast", will blow you away by its force.
     
  181. Arthur, yes, I saw The Celebration first time it was in theaters, with hype and everything. While powerful, the danger of such an approach ( shaky handcam, etc... ) is that it can become a gimmick in itself. ( like after Blair Witch Project...)
    Haven't seen the other films yet.
     
  182. Arthur, I also don't think exaggeration is the opposite of authenticity and I don't get the sense that anyone here does. (I'm sure if someone does they'll correct me.) What I hear myself and others saying is that exaggeration can play that role but is certainly not limited to that. As a matter of fact, I have said that exaggeration can be a means to authenticity as well as playing off of it. I sometimes exaggerate to express what I honestly feel, as a way of showing commitment to something. For instance, I often feel an obvious and exaggerated pose or gesture can be much more authentic than something "candid" or "spontaneous."
     
  183. BTW, Julie, did you give up on un-orientation and the difference between space and place? I thought there might be some juice there but just didn't understand you.
     
  184. "I sometimes exaggerate to express what I honestly feel, as a way of showing commitment to something."
    Fred, voilà. That is both an emotional and artistic exaggeration. I'll take it. Obvious and exaggerated poses are often created and art is an activity of creation, so if those exaggerations work, why not prefer them to the spontaneous natural reaction? Actors are often more interesting when acting than as albeit spontaneous everyday human beings.
    Phylo, the hand camera on the shoulders is often the s--ts and it takes a bit of getting use to (usually the first ten minutes of a film and you don't want to be too close to the screen). I think it is not really an economic filming question but done to get close to the actors movements and (especially) as a fashion statement of "nouveau cinema". I didn't hear much hype about" The Celebration (the Birthday Party)" before seeing it at one of the two local authors cinemas, have now seen it three times, and feel its importance is in the plot and the acting rather than the filmaking techniques.
    Although DVDS are a bit unbimpressive on small screen TVs (mine sat least), "Europa" (I think it was rebranded "Zentropa" in the Americas to avoid confusion with the film "Europa Europa") is worth the viewing ("Schindler's List" is the closest I can compare its style to, but not quite), as is "11 minutes, 9 seconds and 1 frame", which would be a good film for High Schools, to get students thinking about societies and ways of understanding the event in less apparent or less publicised manner.
    The Danish have a very good cinema industry. Amazing for a country of that size. So many of the author films use exaggeration in a very positive and yet subtle way. Like a good photograph, one is left with a feeling that doesn't disappear quickly. Like all art, you have to make an effort to see it, and outside of the more popular well-beaten paths (like visiting art galleries or museums and seeing things that you would not otherwise have seen).
     
  185. jtk

    jtk

    "So, a mainstream Hollywood film would be more authentic ( which it very well may/can be too ) because it's aimed at as many possible viewers ? And an author film would be not authentic because the fimmaker follows his / her own vision rather than that of the public ? Nonsense !" ... Phylo D
    Your reference to "mainstream" had nothing to do with my point, but yes, while we're at it "Rambo" comes closer to the feelings and experience of many than does cute stuff from former cultural centers (my apologies to the inconsequential husband of the highly authentic Carla Bruni). Coming close to human feelings and experience, distasteful though they may be, does directly relate to "authenticity" whereas solopsism, narcissism, and appeal to exceptionally narrow aesthetic demographics (per Proust or Lady Gaga) may actually indicate active aversion to authenticity.
    If one has not read much Proust (I've only read a little), and if one nonetheless thinks Euro pop aesthetics (French film) are more "authentic" than Rambo, one has shown that one's thinking in the matter is iffy. (a gentleman and scholar, I didn't say "nonsense!")
     
  186. Why are you talking about French film, I never said anything about French film. And I loved the last Rambo by the way, loved the over the top way in how the bad guys were shot to pieces and how justice was served.

    ( If one keeps on making assumptions as usual and thinks one knows it all, one doesn't really get any further...)
     
  187. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, perhaps you could expand on your earlier post, the one that I evidently misread.
    Perhaps you have an example of a film you consider "authentic."
    I'd offer"Blame it on Fidel" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0792966/ even though it is a bit French (equally wonderful and a lot like "Sunshine Cleaning" but less realistic (I've met a team like the one in Sunshine Cleaning http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0862846/ )
    I carelessly applied someone else's high-tone aesthetic theory to you. We all know more Rambo-like characters than Proust-like because, after all, who wants to socialize even for a moment with the latter, and we're stuck with the former (which means they're more authentic).
     
  188. Been in the jungle, away from this thread for a couple of days, see I missed out on a lot of stuff.
    Julie, a spiritual bouquet is on its way to you. I think even my cat laughed.
    Phylo - Some good refinements on the authenticity angle.
    Fred - "I honestly feel, as a way of showing commitment to something. For instance, I often feel an obvious and exaggerated pose or gesture can be much more authentic than something "candid" or "spontaneous."
    To which I would add that it seems quite possible, by selecting POV & timing, to exaggerate and/or convey the appearance of a pose candidly. I think many have done it, including me. I would agree that the directorial exaggeration can go further.
    Sometimes exaggeration seems very natural to the photographer doing it. I think of Winogrand's "What tilt?".
     
  189. John,
    I don't dismiss either one type, if they are made well for their type or genre. I can perfectly watch The A Team or Rambo and then the next day watch a Tarkovsky or Lynch movie, or a French film or whatever, and I can all recognize them for what they are, and assign an authenticity to them respective to their genre. I wouldn't expect from Rambo the same authenticity as I would expect from a documentary.
    Sometimes, the artistic authorship and personal vision of a filmmaker is not at all exclusive to being very successful with the large public : more recently, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight for example. Indeed a story with big characters and yet recognizable to relate to.
    I think that Christopher Nolan is very authentic to his vision when not succumbing to the popular ( easy money ) 3D with his next Batman film ( he had to convince the studio not too ), and instead keeps with the way he shot his previous two Batman movies ( with some scenes shot for I-max ).
    I used to watch quite a few French movies when I watched tv on a more regular basis. And I must say I found most of them to be very good, they were focussed on real people in real situations. The last French movie I've seen was Un Prophete. Hauntingly good.
     
  190. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, from your many posts I actually do know that you don't "dismiss" ideas and don't embrace them just because they're mainstream artsy-fartsy. Admirable.
    French movies are sometimes great. I'm a big fan of Bob Le Flambeur. French TV is another matter...big steps down from Mexican soap operas.
    I think "authentic" may have meant something to somebody once, but it never meant much because that somebody was probably a critic. Rehashing it here isn't as interesting as learning where various heads here are at.
     
  191. French films, Rambo...If you wanna see a French film with an American ( well, we from Belgium all now he's Belgian ) action hero than JCVD is also a good watch. Jean-Claude Van Damme playfully playing himself ( speaking about authentic / exaggeration ). And stunned critics a bit with his mologue scene in the film when he's talking about his life, directly to the public / viewer.. He wasn't "acting" anymore.
     
  192. Luis, nice addition. One thing I've had fun with is shooting on the street non-directorially and either finding situations or making them happen (through timing, POV, etc., as opposed to exerting any control over the poses and gestures of people) that will seem posed or at least suggest theatricality. Cigarette smokers were easy marks when I was starting out but became increasingly uninteresting, in part, because of their ubiquity. So I now seem to find and/or create other types of theater and pose on the street.
     
  193. Fred, you asked, "... did you give up on un-orientation and the difference between space and place?"
    I'm in a tearing hurry this morning, but very, very, very briefly, think of the first two? five? thirty? seconds of any movie -- starting from first darkness of the movie theater as the movie begins. In that interval, you go from unoriented to re-oriented, with notable exceptions that keep you disoriented (if I had time I would think of examples).
    In unorientation, the Earth remains there, beneath your feet. You know that you are "at home" in the least specific sense. Going from unoriented to oriented is about finding out in what way you are on/in the world (on that Earth; using Earth in a non-literal sense of one's being "grounded").
    When disoriented the Earth is either gone, or displaced so that you either don't know where it is or can't find a way to orient yourself to it. Gotta go ...
     
  194. Photography, by nature, is authentic.
    It's a documentation of a moment in time. Sure you can use what seems like 'camera trickery' (e.g. long exposures to see things in a way the human eye can't), but really a camera can only record real photons moving in their real manner - ie the reality of light!
    For this reason I believe the best photography embraces reality (or at least is conscious of reality), and is hence authentic.
     
  195. Sometimes, the artistic authorship and personal vision of a filmmaker is not at all exclusive to being very successful with the large public : more recently, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight for example.
    I think that Christopher Nolan is very authentic to his vision when not succumbing to the popular ( easy money ) 3D with his next Batman film ( he had to convince the studio not too ), and instead keeps with the way he shot his previous two Batman movies ( with some scenes shot for I-max ).​
    I forgot of course James Cameron with Avatar, as an example in film, and in which the use of 3D is an integration, a part that makes up the whole. Which isn't always the case when the use of this technology is slapped on afterwards as an almost mindless use of unneeded exaggeration.
     
  196. In unorientation, the Earth remains there, beneath your feet. You know that you are "at home" in the least specific sense. Going from unoriented to oriented is about finding out in what way you are on/in the world (on that Earth; using Earth in a non-literal sense of one's being "grounded").​
    Sounds a bit like depersonalization.
     
  197. Julie, helpful clarification even in a hurry. Thanks.
    There's almost nothing I like better than those first few minutes of darkness in a warm movie theater on a rainy afternoon, as I slowly get into the rhythm of the movie, have a new sense of where I am (place, aha!), and people stop unwrapping their candy and start paying more attention. Your unorientation seems a little similar to my in-between. In any case, that's often how I feel when I'm on a photo shoot that's starting to work. My best photos have probably come from a place born of at least some amount of unorientation.
    Now, I'll have to think more about how that might relate to exaggeration. Because I tend to think of exaggeration, as I said, as more of a hyper-orientation. How about a baseball analogy? I'm watching a game at AT&T Park right on San Francisco Bay. Unorientation would be a surprise bunt, a squeeze play, an unexpected double steal. The opposing team would have to reorient themselves to what's going on and very quickly find their new groove, adapt. Exaggeration, for me, would be Barry Bonds not just hitting a home run, but hitting one into McCovey Cove (splash!) and then running the bases really slowly and taking a big jump and landing on home plate with a bit of a thud. I find that exaggeration doesn't usually take me from home, rather it drives the point home.
     
  198. Fred, I'm thinking that unorientation has to come before -- in the interval, however brief, between orientation and either re-orientation or hyperorientation, etc. The bump or skip (think of an old record player that hits a scratch and jumps a few tracks or a hand on the record, slowing or speeding it; there's a cognitive gap, then the the taking up of whatever tune the needle resumed on) that shakes you "into" a different place.
    If you can remember it off the top of your head, how would you describe the experience of the introduction to Mozart's String Quartet in C Major, K. 465 (the so-called "Dissonant" Quartet)? Unorienting, then ... ? Or can you explain it to me in terms of hyper-orientation (genuine question, not an I-dare-you challenge; I want to understand your perspective)?
     
  199. Julie, I didn't mean to talk about hyper-orientation as something instead of unorientation. I agree with you about unorientation followed by reorientation. I perfectly understood your movie scenario and agree with the unorientation followed by reorientation scenario. Same for photographing per se.
    I introduced hyper-orientation only in regard to exaggeration. With exaggeration, I don't necessarily go through a process of unorientation and reorientation. I go from orientation to hyper-orientation. In other words, I simply go from being there to being more there.
    For me, the Mozart you reference could work much like the movie you're talking about. There's an adagio introduction (unorientation) followed by a more traditional and rhythmic allegro reorientation.
    Had Mozart started out with an allegro, a more traditional classical sonata form, and followed that with a movement in adagio which, at some point, kept slowing and slowing and . . . slowing . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . . . slow-w-w-w-w-ing, to me that would be exaggeration of the adagio and would not really unorient me so much as just stretch me out. It would draw me into adagio-ness just a little bit deeper (or a lot).
    I think (?) you're saying that in order for my scenario of the adagio exaggeration to actually be exaggeration, it would have to unorient me. It's an interesting point and one I will think more about. But at this stage, I'm just not seeing that it necessarily would unorient me (as the original movie or Mozart setup would). Like I said, in many ways, it would make me feel MORE like I-am-where-I-should-be than like I'm-not-sure-where-I-am.
     
  200. [Addition]
    The Mozart is somewhat different than most movies. I think of the Mozart introduction in much the same way I think of a traditional classical coda. Remember the ending of Carrie. When you're all calm and think you're done and then the hand comes up out of the ground? That's a more extreme example at the end of something of what Mozart did at the beginning of his quartet. So, to me there's a suddenness to the move from unorientation to reorientation of the Mozart and the move from orientation to unorientation in Carrie.
    Most movies, on the other hand, and most music I go to hear, has less of a noticeable move from unorientation to reorientation. It's not like you can always pick the spot when you moved from the one to the other. Whereas the spots in this Mozart and Carrie are very noticeable. What I like about my experience with regard to most movies and to photographing is that the process of going from unorientation to orienation is usually pretty seamless. You just kind of pass through it. There may even be some overlapping and backing and forthing.
    So, in a sense the Mozart and Carrie each exaggerates that process of unorienation/reorientation or vice versa.
     
  201. Thanks, Fred. Both of your posts are very helpful. Very, very helpful (I can't help repeating it; I get such a rush out of understanding, communicating ... )
    One last question: I've been thinking that you meant hyper-oriented as sort of from the viewer at or to the picture or event. Viewer >>> picture or event. I didn't notice this because ...
    ... my thinking has been the reverse: that the force, the push to re-orient is coming from the picture or event at or to the viewer. Picture or event >>> viewer. Therefore a lot of my not understanding you. My feeling is that exaggeration forces or at least narrows the range of re-orientation that the picture or event encourages or allows. It's more aggressively assertive in displacing what the viewer brings to the picture or event.
    Think about the hand on the record on the turntable. You're listening, you've got the rhythm, the melody, the form of the music and then its bumped to (greater or lesser degree of) slower or (greater or lesser degree of) faster. There's an few moments of unorientation as you spot that somethings happened and work to find the (new) rhythm and resume the melody in its somewhat different form. Like your movie variations, maybe?
    [Technical note that I've left unspoken. Unorientation >> re-orientation assumes that the viewer starts from a state of comfortable orientation. You entering the theater, you who know baseball entering the stadium, you who know and are comfortably oriented. As opposed to someone, say, who has been knocked unconscious and returns to consciousness with a movie going on, or someone who has no knowledge of baseball or stadiums, etc.]
     
  202. "you meant hyper-oriented as sort of from the viewer at or to the picture or event."
    No. I think we understand it the same way, as the piece of music, photograph, or movie acting on the viewer.
    "There's an few moments of unorientation as you spot that somethings happened and work to find the (new) rhythm and resume the melody in its somewhat different form."
    What you're describing is sort of present throughout a piece of music, exaggeration or no exaggeration, and throughout a movie. I am constantly going back and forth between stages of orientation and unorientation. The anticipation inherent in any classical piece of music keeps me on that unoriented footing throughout. To me, the experience of art (much wrapped up in transcendence) is often about ungroundedness.
    For me, exaggeration is something else. Yes, it can be a mechanism through which the photograph, movie, or musical piece further unorients me, but it doesn't have to be. It can also be a stronger grounding.
    Of course, there is a sense in which ANY change (and exaggeration is a change from an un-exaggerated state) is unorienting. So, on that level, sure, any exaggeration is unorienting. But I don't experience anything more inherently unorienting about exaggeration than any other change that happens. I mean every musical resolution from discord to harmony, every move from major to minor, every change of tempo can be unorienting, but none of those have to be exaggerations. The very act of looking at a photo is unorienting without exaggeration. A slightly out of focus background can be unorienting without there being an exaggeration within the photo. An unexpected element included in a symmetrical scene can be unorienting without being an exaggeration. (I've been skeptical of Arthur's example of that being an example of exaggeration.)
    I think orientation/unorientation has more to do with context and anticipation than with exaggeration.
     
  203. Good and more good (so much to chew on ... !). I'm thinking that the "Of course... " paragraph describes the crossroads at which much of this thread has buzzed about. I think its where my feeling that emphasis and exaggeration are qualititatively different comes from.
    A probably-too-disconnected analogy would be that if what we are looking at (movie, photo, game) is a fabric, it can billow and flutter and crumple and float. An exaggeration would be ... ? A resistance? A fulcrum? A magnet? For some reason, I keep thinking of exaggerations as ways to jimmy the lock; to break in, to get through ...
     
  204. ... or, (thinking about the billowing cloth) ... if orientation means we have accounted for the forces acting on that cloth (causing the behavior of the cloth, whether it be people shaking it or handling it; or winds blowing on it), an exaggeration would be a manifestation of some hitherto unsuspected force (as evidenced by unexpected shape or behavior). Exaggeration feels to me like something slightly (but not totally) alien. There is a swerve.
     
  205. A fold comes to mind.
     
  206. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, thanks. I'll look for JCVD...preview looks like innocent fun :)
    Yes, "Un Profete" was, as you say, "hauntingly good." I wasn't aware it was Belgian, but some of my favorite guitar players are, so why not actors? And of course there's "In Bruges" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780536/ , which if not Belgian was at least shot there.
    As well, there's Poirot...
     
  207. Julie: emphasis . . . exaggeration.
    I think (haven't made a study of it, but just thinking out loud) I usually emphasize by the use of other elements. Emphasize a particular element by shining light on it. Emphasize a light color by darkening the colors around it. Emphasize a hand gesture by isolating it from the rest of the body or the background. Emphasize the subject by drawing down the background.
    And I usually exaggerate by working with the element itself. Exaggerate a color by mixing in other colors, saturating or de-saturating it. Exaggerate a particular element by raising its levels, dodging it strongly. Exaggerate a hand gesture by asking the person to really stretch it or contort it. Exaggerate the subject him or herself by asking the subject to be more obvious, more overt, over-the-top, or somehow doing that in post processing.
    I'm not saying this is inherent to emphasis or exaggeration, but I do notice this trend in the way I often approach the two.
     
  208. So, thinking just a little more. That might mean I take emphasis to be about relationship to surroundings, context, other things, the world, etc., and exaggeration to be more about the thing itself: exaggeration as an extreme, a contortion, etc. and emphasis as a focusing, an isolating, etc.
     
  209. If you make a statistical bell curve of the features, descriptors, degrees, extents, range of what a phenomenon (object, event, whatever) comprises, then emphasis trends (pushes) to the peak, the central rise of that bell curve. Exaggeration trends (pushes, pulls, blows away ...) the toe or the tail (to the extremity! ... and beyond!).
    For me, exaggeration has to have some degree of the ab-normal. For me, emphasis wants to proclaim its normalcy (or appropriateness/properness).
     
  210. Julie, so are you reasoning that normalcy (or properness) is the main aspect of importance in art? I admit I haven't read all your previous comments and am taking what you said recently as it is written. Why should something we are not normally accustomed to seeing (exaggeration) be excluded from art, as ab-normal?
    Fred, you are describing known techniques in photography that can be used to symbolize or effect exaggeration, without stating why you want to exaggerate (other than in some physically noteable visual sense). The why for me is the important consideration. Great art is I think where exaggeration is emphasised in a non literal sense, to make the viewer think about what he is seeing, or not seeing.
     
  211. Yes, Arthur, I was purposely talking about the way I deal visually with exaggeration and emphasis at this point.
     
  212. Agreed, Fred, I do see some elements of the why in your comments, as well as the technique. Although the postulates on exaggeration and authenticity have been presented in previous posts of each of us in the forum, I think the subject of exaggeration as a communicative element (the why) is more fascinating than the techniques of doing it.
     
  213. Arthur, that's good to know.
     
  214. Fred, I hope so.
     
  215. jtk

    jtk

  216. Do you find yourself exaggerating or, let's say, veering from actual accuracy in order to be more accurate in your photographic portrayal of something? What are some different ways you do that, if you do that? If you don't think you do it, why not? What's your alternative to that?​
    You bring up a provocative point, Fred. Everything I shoot is rife with stagecraft, and I seem to avoid "accurate" at all costs. My goal was never to be more faithful in my portrayals, just "prettier." As far as the women I choose in my life, yes, I'm often just as "shallow." I'll have to catch up on the other contributions in this thread to see how easily I've just glossed over this interesting topic.
     
  217. Ralph, thanks for stopping by. This forum has been dormant for over a week, but if you have more to say once you've read various posts, I'm all ears!
    As far as your shallowness, it's not always easy to admit that to ourselves and I can be (and can be proud to be) as shallow as the next guy. I even find my own shallowness sometimes motivating my own work, which I don't usually see as shallow.
     

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