Gesture (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jun 24, 2017.

  1. I wasn't really examining the image as thoroughly as you've outlined. I was making a blanket statement about what I've come to know of Steve's portraits in past discussions and views of his portrait gallery. But you're right about the tension in how the two women have set their pose according to how they're positioned or posed together on what looks like a hardwood floor. The one on the right seems to have adjusted them self for a more comfortable position.

    Every time I revisit Steve's portraits after years away I come up with more refined descriptions of the magic I see in them. Before I posted I made a list of what it is about his portraits that are so oddly striking. Here's a few...

    Steve's portraits...

    ...have the subject looking at YOU, not the other way around.

    ...deceptively look like the picture that came with the frame where the subject's eyes appear to follow you around the room only because they care about you.

    ...makes you want to sell all your belongings and join whatever commune that makes his subjects look at you that way.

    ...have a gaze you'ld imagined from those greeting you at the Pearly Gates.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    it's a great photo, no doubt, and open to many interpretations and in a different symbols thread i might have read it differently. of course the sitting positions are highly suggestive but here, i also see one hand clutching the other and one hand fidgeting with the other and that spells, to me, tension.

    (see, Julie, we are learning summink)
  3. On a second look the person on the left is clinching her finger to keep her legs from collapsing as her roommate on the right puts her weight on the other's knee for support.

    I've sat that way watching TV and it can get quite uncomfortable. I've even slightly hurt my finger joint clutching my legs too long sitting that way. It also didn't feel good on the lower back after a while.

    Tension? (assuming you mean personally between the two)? Or are they both hurting a bit sitting in an uncomfortably posed position?

    The contrasting facial expressions between the two does suggest a possible personal tension going on.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    i think the tension is a physical thing but who knows…
  5. It is a bit fun reading into and projecting a backstory in an image.

    My brother and I when we were kids passing the time during boring summers to amuse our self we'ld flip through the pages of JC Penny catalog modeled clothes section and make up stories and lines of dialog with funny sounding voices to create made up tension between the models staring blankly into space as if they're thinking out loud and conspiring against the other models who may not look as hot and sophisticated.

    Boy! Could we make our self laugh doing that.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
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  6. Old Dorothea definitely shows she has a "thang" about how she views authoritative looking men vs women with children living in poverty. With the "Back" image she gets low and looks up to make the figure bigger than life but standoff-ish.

    With the Migrant Mother it's one on one eye level. There's your backstory except it's about the photographer instead of the subject photographed.

    I don't know what to make of "The Burial of Leo Tolstoy" since I don't know much about him (and I don't want to know), but I guess he must've been famous or infamous.
  7. Those two seem to work as a pair in regard to feet.

    It would be more comforting if there were a lot of footprints around the child's grave.
  8. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    hands, backs, feet, what next TEETH?
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    or, my favourite, lips and hands

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  10. yeah, teeth
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
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  11. Gee, thanks for your generous comments, Tim! I mean that. On my first post I did state: "The spontaneous, natural "pose" seems to be an unconscious act of the subject which conveys something about them, which is for us, the viewers to guess." We are are now guessing as to what these poses represent in my photo of the two women.
    Back story: I worked with the one on the right. I was attracted to her and was hinting at going out together. Instead, I was invited to their apartment and I guess I promised to do a portrait, so I brought my Yashicamat. I never really knew, but I have a feeling they were more than just friends. I get that feeling in this photo too. This was the 70's, so sexual identity issues were a bit more private. They were very comfortable with each other and some of the tension of their positions was because they were sitting on top of a coffee table, if i remember correctly. I never did end up going out with her.
  12. First a question, did they just naturally and spontaneously sit on the coffee table?

    Then a note. I don't necessarily believe so-called spontaneous, natural poses are always or even often acts of the subject which convey something about them. Many of our supposedly natural poses have been ingrained in us by Hollywood. Watch smokers on a street corner and lovers in the park. Often right out of the movies. I'd say, If many natural and spontaneous poses are conveying something about the subjects, it's how influenced by culture and ingrained symbolism they often are.

    On the other hand, sometimes getting someone to adopt a forced pose encourages them to reveal something about themselves or their character or persona. Sometimes, of course, not.
  13. I think gesture can't be limited to limbs and can't, in isolation, be said to reveal much of anything. It's the context in which the gesture is given, the gestalt of the picture, the gesture combined with expression and environment, with color, with contrast, with light and shadow, that reveals something if anything. Lighting itself can be taken on gesturally. Gestures in photos are often revealing things about human nature even while they're often not revealing things about the individuals viewers assume they're about. Taking a photo to be about its individual subject can sometimes risk missing the significance of the photo.
    Norman 202 likes this.
  14. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    i agree. look again at migrant mum and you will see much more than a gesture.
  15. Fred asks: "First a question, did they just naturally and spontaneously sit on the coffee table? I believe this was their idea. To me, "natural and spontaneous" includes unconscious influences from culture. Milton Erickson the famous psychiatrist, maintained that "a person cannot 'not' communicate." He was referring to body language, gestures, talking or refusing to talk, etc. Yeah, even when a person assumes a conscious pose, it conveys something about them because they are unique, and what they even consciously choose to do is a reflection on their personality, along with the unconscious stuff, IMO.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  16. I'm not just nitpicking. I think this is important to understanding photos and spontaneity. That it was their idea does not make it either spontaneous or natural, likely just the opposite. It was a quite deliberate artifice they chose. Which, in my mind, doesn't make it any less revealing than had you come across them quite spontaneously sitting on the coffee table, which could have happened for any number of reasons.

    I think what's generally revealing is how the photo looks, as much if not more than what the reality was when it was taken or how posed or spontaneous things were. A photographer can work with spontaneity and get it to reveal stuff (again, not always particular to the individual subject of the photo as much as particular to human nature) and a photographer can work with artifice (as you did with the two women) and get it to reveal stuff.

    For me, it's rarely about specific ingredients and more often about how the ingredients wind up being or get combined.
  17. Fred, I think we are pretty much in agreement. Everything a person does, consciously or not, reflects something about them. Here's a photo I did of my brother in the 70's. I just asked him if I could take his picture, and he chose to sit on the grass in front of the vines and sit in that manner. 16x20 peter.jpg
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  18. And I think it's a good picture but I don't find it revealing ANYTHING about your brother to me. That's not how I look at this picture. It reveals something very human and very relatable and it's got a lot of photographic texture for me to sink my teeth into. But I'd find it a distraction to wonder about your brother. I'm more interested in the guy in the picture who, to me, is not your brother, but a guy in a picture.

    [I would expect people who know your brother to probably feel differently.]

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