Gesture (symbols)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. I think you're onto something quite important!
  6. 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.
  7. You'd probably be surprised how quickly some direction can be done! ;-)
  8. 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.

  9. 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.
  10. 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
  11. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    beautifully and originally put {barf, barf, barf}
  12. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    don't you think when one person is relaxed and the other isn't will create tension especially when they are that close.

    in this instance i think both girls are uncomfortable because of their gestures and poses
  13. They both look stiff to me, which I don't necessarily see as uncomfortable.

    The tension I'm most conscious of is how one is looking so directly and pointedly at the camera and the other is looking so directly and pointedly somewhere else. That seems to distance them from each other as well as from me.
  14. Fred, I agree, the lack of codirectional gaze implies some tension between them, but to me, it also makes the overall picture more interesting to look at (which is not to say, it doesn't for you). I feel, Steve's picture has tension as well as dynamism in it due to their different gazes and body orientations. I like the pose of the woman on the right ... her legs pointing opposite to her face, one shoulder up, one down, fiddling with the fingers, her unbuttoned shirt. I feel (just my subjective opinion), if she was also looking at me like the left woman, then I would notice the details of her pose less, and it would be more face-centric. That would make a more happy picture for sure, but I can't resist wondering, would that happiness appear as a facade.

    I think, if both of them were looking at the camera, there may be more tension between the subjects and the camera (not between them). As if, the camera is pulling their attention, and that pull leading to tension. This is not to say, that attention always means tension, but here in the context of her (right woman) overall body orientation, I felt a straight gaze at the camera would imply some tension in looking at the camera. As of now, I feel a relaxed invitation to look at the right woman, which may be lost had she been looking directly at me.

  15. "Why do you ask that, Julie?"

    Because that's what Steve doesn't want to do.

  16. “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” —Yogi Berra
  17. Norman said:
    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."

    Norman, the out of date hair, specs, clothing and "rural setting" look that way because this was 1973, backyard of our house. Nothing was "out of date." This was not candid either. I had a camera and he chose to sit there like that. That's him. The shot of the women was in their apartment and we did a series of shots. Being photographed is always a little uncomfortable for a lot of people, me included. The were very comfortable with each other, however. I chose this particular shot because of their different expressions: one being more invested in the camera and looking at it for a picture; the other sort of relaxing in the situation. BTW, This was about 1978.

    The way I shoot is not like a street photographer, who often tries to capture people unaware of being photographed. That might be more "natural," but I am a portrait photographer. I want the person to be aware of the camera and I want to capture how they react in that situation. I'll quote Milton Erickson again: "a person cannot not communicate." Everything they do, conscious or unconscious is an expression of who they are.
  18. And yet, most of what people do doesn't make for interesting photos or portraits. So it's up to some combination of photographer, subject, timing, directing a subject AND allowing a subject to be themselves for it all to come together. It may be that "a person cannot not communicate," (though if I had more time, I'd probably want to dispute this) but lots of communication goes by unnoticed or is pretty insignificant for a reason.

    [This takes nothing away from the pictures you've posted here, which are memorable and, I think, good examples of the kind of work you do.]

    The only thing I'll add is that, in doing non-candid portraits, I have found a combination of letting the people I'm shooting do a bit of finding ways they'd like to pose and gesture and also directing some things, from mere subtle hints to more overt "commands" at times, works for me. I find that the people I shoot may be very good at being the people I shoot but may not be as good at knowing what things will read well in a photo. I figure that's kind of what I'm there for, to various degrees at different times. So I don't always go with their choices of positioning, expression, or gesturing. In one shoot, I will often take both a passive and active role and find some rhythm that starts to bear the kind of fruit that speaks to me photographically.
  19. Do you take a passive or active role in culling through and making decisions on what to keep or throw away in all those shots of portraits taken in various poses whether controlled/directed by you or by the subject? If you're not sure how something will read in a photo while capturing the subject, then it's all you as defined by what strikes you in post on the computer. What happened in front of the lens at this point is gone and can't be traced back to causing you to choose which ones appeal to you. That's the magic of it all.

    There's somewhat some control in front of the camera but not total control and that's enough to create uncertainty when pinning down what made the photo fail or succeed.

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