Gesture (symbols)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    i agree. look again at migrant mum and you will see much more than a gesture.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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
    Norma Desmond likes this.
  8. 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.]
  9. I want to try to articulate this better. When I view a photo of a person I don't know, If it's a good one that reaches me emotionally, the prime relationship is between me and the photographic entity, not between me and the living, breathing entity who was photographed. One of the reasons this has developed for me is because of all the wonderful, imaginative things people have said about the folks in many of my own photos, many of which I think are profoundly true of the photo and the entity to which we attribute personhood in the photo but are not true of the person who stood before me when I took the picture. So I try to achieve some sort of reasonable counterpoint between not projecting stuff onto the living, breathing subjects of photos while still recognizing the power and immediacy of the camera to capture some very real stuff about those same subjects. In short, I don't think it's clear cut or simple what exactly we're capturing and that makes it all the more intriguing.
  10. Thanks for your input, Fred. Very analytical! Interesting how people differ in how we respond to art. Its impossible for me to see the picture of my brother as a stranger, obviously. However, the image to me does show a rather self-possessed, confident young person. In fact, he is a prodigy intellectually and musically which was recognized at a very early age. Graphically, I love the triangle theme that is all over the place: in his arms and legs, and coincidentally in the leaves behind him. A nice serendipitous touch to something I would not have known to do had I been directing everything!
  11. That's the exact impression I got of your brother, but mostly confidence and intelligence. Not surprised he's a prodigy. Though I have to say his looks do fit the Hollywood stereotype often pictured in '70's "Paper Chase" styled movies of that era.
  12. Yes, different. I see it as kind of a shame you wouldn't have known those things had you been directing. Why do you think you wouldn't have?

    I love serendipity both in life and in art and am happy whenever it occurs. I also love accidents and the things my unconscious has me do without my deciding them overtly. But that's not enough for me. I like learning from all that so I can direct both my life and my art to the extent I want or at least somewhere in the vicinity of the extent I aspire to. I have little desire to simply float through life or art as a passive or unconscious observer, waiting for serendipity and accidents to happen. If I found something compelling about a serendipitous triangle theme that appeared in a photo of mine, you bet I'd not only notice it, but I'd think about it and consciously try to do something with it again sometime. I find it really beneficial, fun, and expressive to know things to do when photographing, especially when that knowledge easily flows because I've internalized something by thinking about it when I'm not photographing.

    Again, yes, different.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  13. I think you're onto something quite important!
  14. To answer you Fred, had I been directing the shot, I probably would not have had him sit on the grass cross legged with his chin on his hands. That was entirely his idea. Hence, the triangles appeared! It was all done very quickly, as many of my shots are.
  15. You'd probably be surprised how quickly some direction can be done! ;-)
  16. Fred, I do some direction of course, but even in my bio here I have made it clear that my particular mode of working is to be observant and catch people in their element, so to speak. It works for me quite well! Other people do if differently. A studio photographer can spend hours arranging lighting and backgrounds, and then take hundreds of shots, and this can work quite well. Worked for Avedon! As I said, my particular "art" is the snapshot. I'm good at keeping my eyes open and mind in "open" mode too. BTW I will be out of town the rest of the week at a family reunion, so I will be "off line" for a while until next week.

  17. This goes back to something I touched on in an earlier post:

    Siegfried Kracauer had a horror of photographs:

    [In a family photograph] he saw something more absolute than death: total erasure. To his horror, his grandmother, just a young showgirl in the image, was buried alive in a litany of banal detail. She became an "archeological mannequin" into which memories of the grandmother had "dissolved." But it wasn't actually her absence he confronted, but Kracauer's own memory, his own history. For Kracauer the impenetrable surface of things was the wasteland of the photographic image. ... The lens pillaged this sense of the personal, the real, reducing it to a catalog of things, textures, and shapes. Memories and histories were successfully obliterated under the weight of its descriptive power. — Walead Beshty

    Steve's "catch[ing] people in their element" for the kind of portraiture that he does seems to me to be an effort to avoid what Kracauer describes. It seems to me to be an attempt to catch the fish in its water, to keep it alive rather than preserve or use it.
  18. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    do you really think Steve is capturing people "in their element" or are you just sh1t-stirring? c'mon Jools, don't b shy.

    how does photographing his super intelligent brother, sitting cross-legged in a field support that? is the out of date hair, specs, clothing and rural setting supposed to make us think of Newton.

    are the two girls really "in their element"? they look pretty uncomfortable to me and a few others
  19. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    beautifully and originally put {barf, barf, barf}
  20. They don't look uncomfortable in the sense of there being any 'tension' between the two or in the room. It's just that the girl sitting on the left (from our point of view) doesn't like posing for photographs and seems very self-aware and frozen about the moment, with the somewhat crammed attempt of a smile. The other girl seems much more relaxed about her picture being taken. An illustration of two kinds of people, those who don't mind their picture being taken and those who don't like it at all. Count me into the latter group.

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