Gesture

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by don_e, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. Fred Goldsmith wrote in another thread in this forum: A Philosophy of Photography thread on "gesture" and its personal and universal effects would be a great idea, both from a nuts and bolts, practical aspect and from a more theoretical or esthetic point of view.
    I am not familiar with "gesture" in this context. What is being referred to?
     
  2. I noticed that too and found Fred's comment intriguing. I was reminded of guitarist Eric Johnson's unusual use of the term embouchure to summarize a guitarist's entire approach - technique, flourishes, timing, attack, etc. - since there was no directly equivalent one word term applicable to the guitar.
    It was a particularly interesting comment in the context of that thread (debating the rhetoric of critical analysis), because it was a pithy example of how the language must be malleable to accommodate a discussion of the visual arts.
     
  3. I believe that the "Autonomists" (The 1948 "global refusal", sometimes even linked to "The Quiet Revolution" and Separatism in Canada) started their Montreal contemporary art movement, which rejected past art and employed, amongst other approaches, gestural movements in painting. Riopelle's paintings, Pollack's as well, are no doubt other examples of "gestural" approaches applied to the canvas.
    In photography? Perhaps some of Hass' s work? Or perhaps randomly directed photgraphic imaging?
     
  4. Well, thanks, guys, for noticing.
    I was struck in the other thread with the conflation of composition and gesture. The way I relate to it is that, when I first started doing portraits, I approached them with mainly two aspects in mind: expression and composition. The person's facial expression and the composition of where things stood in relation to each other and in relation to the whole. Did a finger look good in its placement relative to the eyes or mouth, was the hand too dominant, etc.?
    After some time, I realized that people gesture, they don't "compose" themselves. Yet most photographers seem to compose or concern themselves with composition at the expense of the actual gesturing. Noticing how people move and hold themselves, how they interact and how expressive their bodily movements can be is a very personal thing, of course, but also often translates universally. Gestures get through to us, often more than where in the frame the person is situated. The tendency is often to see, for example, a pose in relation to the shadow it casts, from what perspective it was shot and at what angle it relates to the background. (Read through the critiquing section on PN sometime. Notice the amount of comments about whether or not the person is centered in the frame and then notice the amount of comments about how the person is holding themselves or what a hand is telling us.) There's a lot of geometry. But what does a stance say? Is the hand on the hip indicating something about personality as much as it is creating a triangular shape because of the bend of the arm? What is the subject of the portrait projecting? Perhaps composition is the more abstract (the more mathematical/universal?) side of the equation and gesture is the more human (more personal) side.
    Photographers can capture gestures and use them expressively and I think photographers can also gesture. Lately, I've become more "active" with my camera. I tend to swing it up to my eye with more abandon. I tend to move it around a scene trying to make something happen instead of waiting to "capture" something. I think that can be sensed in a photograph.
    I like Lex's take on it, which I interpret as a more "gestalt" usage and it makes sense. Gestures are things we often don't think about but really express visually and palpably what's going on. Sometimes, of course, we think quite specifically about certain gestures we make. So a photograph can be (somewhat metaphorically) a gesture from the photographer. A photograph can tell you something very personal but in a way that the photographer, without words, will assume you know not only what he means but something about what he's feeling. Gestures can be their own language or the enhancement of a language, including a photographic one. (NOT using language in its stricter application here.)
    Internet dialogue can be difficult because, even if meanings are relatively clear, there are no gestures to give life to the meanings. A gesture is a sign of life. Many photographs could use more life and gesture is a way to accomplish that.
     
  5. Thanks, Fred. Ok. "Gesture" of the subject, the gesture(s) in the frame.
     
  6. Is gesture really not just "body language"?
     
  7. Don-- I don't understand your response.
    Larry-- Yes, but not limited to bodies and not limited to the bodies in the frame.
    Gesture is non-verbal communication. The significant aspect, to me, is the photographer who gestures. If we say the "body language" of the photographer, it will be misconstrued to mean how the photographer stands and holds the camera. That's not it, although it's relevant. It's that we, as photographers, are gesturing, we are not talking and we are not limited to "meaning" things. We are expressing and communicating with our tools not like one using sign language but rather like a mime.
     
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I subscribe very much to the concept of "gesture," I think many great photographs employ it and composition in these photographs can be somewhat secondary. I think one of the most obvious examples of gesture is this photograph by Charles Harbutt , terrible reproduction from a gallery selling it, but I can't find a better one online. One could say that the composition is awkward, but both the line and the boy's body position can easily be seen as "gesture," one inanimate and one animate. That the animate can't perceive the inanimate makes his even more compelling.
     
  9. For me gesture is absolutely critical in street work or portraiture, to echo what Fred wrote, even more important than facial expression or composition. And I think gesture differs from body language in that body language is generally perceived by people in real time, whereas gesture seems to be considered in stopped time, or in a short moment in time, and we gather meaning from the static pose. I suppose a moving gesture in real time can be considered part of body language, but for me it isn’t the equivalent.
    Of course many acclaimed photographers have been masters of stopping time to freeze the gesture that conveys what the photographer wished about a subject, but the one that immediately jumps to my mind is Dorthea Lange. When thumbing through her famous F.S.A. work, one could at first glance be somewhat unimpressed, but if you spend some real time with the images, you get a sense for the authenticity of the work, based on the natural gestures of the country folk, farmers and average people who are the subjects of the work.
    If we go WAY back in our history as a species, we remember that before we possessed spoken language, we identified friend and foe by analyzing body language -- posture, attitude, 2 legs or 4 etc. It is hard wired into our brains to size things up based on how we perceived them at first glance, and I would imagine that instinct must come into play in even today when we engage in the creation and subsequent interpretation of a photograph.
     
  10. "Don-- I don't understand your response."
    I didn't know what "gesture" meant in this context. I didn't know if it referred to some technique by , or something done by, the photographer, for example. I understand that "gesture" refers to the subject, but it can refer to the movements of the photographer.
    I make a distinction between the animate and the inanimate. "Gesture" would map pretty well to what I mean by "animate". Not only people, or other living things, gesture (or are animate), a ripple in a pond is animate, for example, or a rock tumbling down a slope, or a taxi pulling away from a stop light. It is not simply movement, but meaningful movement, even if the meaning is only gravity at work. Human movement or gesture is meaningful in more complex or nuanced ways.
     
  11. Isn't "gesture", than not also that what's being described in Kertész's / Cartier-Bresson's the decisive moment ? Maybe not the " gesture " in
    itself but the capturing of it, where in both the photographers mind <> eye gesture comes in ' harmony ', for lack of a better word ( because I
    feel this could as well mean ' conflict ' ), with the subjects own gesture, be that animate or inanimate.
     
  12. Don-- For me, it's more than the movement of the photographer. It's a way of expressing and communicating. I can gesture photographically sitting quite still with my camera on a tripod beside me. And I can gesture sitting relatively still in front of my computer with a photo in photoshop on the screen.
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    A highly successful commercial illustrator, trained at Art Center School in LA, then working for years with Hallmark Cards...knocking out new greeting card cartoons every day, on order...said Hallmark evaluated an illustrator's skills by his hand-rendering.
    Why, how? Humans see, therefore know, hands better than any other body part.
    He used a mirror, mounted over his work table, making faces the he could feel in order to better render the expressions his cartoons called for ...hilarious to watch.
    Perhaps someone who makes his living depicting human expressiveness as simply as possible is dealing with "gesture."
    Maybe a gesture is a visual experience with which we physically empathize...like dance or acting.
    Fred...does that fit your use of the word?
     
  14. "Maybe a gesture is a visual experience with which we physically empathize...like dance or acting."
    Fits like a glove.
    My only hesitation is that it sounds like it's from the perspective of viewer. How would that translate to the photographer's role? The photographer is making the gesture, not solely empathizing.
     
  15. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, I think a well-done cartoon or illustration carries a gesture from the artist (there...I'm using the word) to the image, and the image carries it to the viewer...who is actively participating in viewing, perhaps or likely with subtle kinaesthetics...physically, not just conceptually empathizing
    No human is anything like a brain in bucket, absorbing images by osmosis without muscle action. By contrast to humans, some photo philosophers do seem to be.
    I like your "gesture" metaphor. I also like it in Lex's guitar context ...played with feeling, there's drama...whether or not one "likes," say, a pre-teen shredder.
    The photographer you mentioned isn't "making the gesture," he's participating in something that involves "subject" and the responses of the subsequent "viewer" of the resulting photograph. If the photographer isn't participating at some physical level in a gesture he sees (external to him) he probably isn't even seeing, and isn't going to convey much to anybody else. I'm as certain that Weston felt his peppers as that he felt his nudes :)
     
  16. Matthew--
    I agree with you about the gestures internal to the frame and that's a great point about how their "stopped" action makes us feel, even differently from how we might feel seeing those gestures in actual motion. I think people were missing or avoiding "gesture" in the other thread where this whole idea got started and it's been really helpful to consider it here.
    I also think the way the photographer gestures through his photographs is key here.
    John--
    I agree with you about Weston feeling his peppers as well as his nudes and am smiling along with you. Gestures include inanimate as well as animate objects.
    I do think the photographer is "making the gesture," in many cases, which doesn't preclude him from participating in the triangle you're suggesting . . . photographer/subject/viewer. I think it's interesting and it rings true for me that you've carried the gesture through the process and not made it static (which, after all, a gesture shouldn't be). The physicality in the process seems significant. But I often think it's the photographer as much as and sometimes more than the subject that is gesturing. I'm not sure why you've stressed the involvement of the subject and responses of the viewer and talked about the photographer not making the gesture.
    "ome photo philosophers do seem to be." Gratuitous claptrap, to coin a phrase from another thread.
     
  17. Don`t want to sound like a post Hegelian nihilist or something but let me ask your a question. How about unintentional gesture? Or unintentional perseption if it happend just?
     
  18. Gestures can be something as simple as a subject's hand expressing a feeling, or Aaron Siskind's pictures that adopted the gestures of Abstract Expressionists. It can be spatial, as with Shore's transition from early formal gesture to later works dealing with flatter territory. Or very complex, as with David Byrne's 2001 exhibit, Gesture, Posture and Bad Attitude in Contemporary News Photography, where the gestures in each photgraph in the exhibit were designed to interact by the sequence into a meta-gesture.
    Light can be a gesture too. I remember when Jay Maisel was quoted in a magazine as saying that he didn't understand why Stephen Shore photographed in such "dumb" light for Uncommon Places. The consistency of the light throughout the work was a gesture.
     
  19. I interpret gesture as a "form of art or photographic expression", and not some body movement or posture.
    But I guess I am gesturing alone on that!
     
  20. This is one of the better threads I've read in a while. There is something to be gathered here. Fred, you have expressed yourself wonderfully well.
    There have been times where I am shooting and am so involved in what is happening that I almost dont distinguish myself from what is going on but I feel emersed (spelled wrong?) in what I am a part of. I think gesture can translate itself in that way, since I am ultimately the vehicle through which the image is made. The way you are involved in photographing something, from your mind as you study and compose, to your body as you move, react, the energy with which you are shooting, or the tranquility, in effect, birth what is a gesture that is reacted to by the viewer.
    at least, thats how I see it.
     
  21. It seems to me that to gesture is to inadvertently express something (an emotion, a feeling, one's intent) between the lines of non verbal communication. That is, the personable aspect of composition as it applies to portrait photography. Often I see human movement collectively and call it body language; but gesture seems to me to be more the syllables that, when placed together in an orderly manner, make the sound of non verbal communication, like the singular movement of the hand, a positioning of the foot or the rise of a shoulder. I see these as examples of singular signs of human persona that often become evident after a photo has been taken and processed. Perhaps it can be seen as the subliminal self of the subject being photographed. Fred made an interesting point early on about the "pose in relation to the shadow it casts". I think this is another revealing aspect of gesture, where the subject isn't always aware of the shadow they cast nor what it reveals about them. However the shadow cast is an aspect of human expression that can be manipulated by the photographer to express their own view of their subject
     
  22. Additional thought--
    There's "gesture" as in the wave of a hand and the nod of a head.
    Then there's "gesture" as in "lending me that money when I was down on my luck was a nice gesture."
    A gesture is an action (not necessarily limited to the movement of a limb or even movement at all) taken for effect. This discussion is not about a metaphorical use of "gesture." It's real and literal and is significant to photography and other arts and media.
    With repeated gestures, we develop a voice.
    Photos tell stories. We can tell those stories blandly or with effect. We can gesture along with our stories.
    The gestures of singing are intonation, breath control, phrasing, leading lines, vibrato.
    The gestures of photography are working with light . . . for effect, setting exposure . . . for effect, moving the camera just enough . . . for the desired effect. It is how we personalize those non-verbal communicative devices at our fingertips when we hold the camera and when we enter the darkroom or the digital lab.
    Ilia--
    Unintentional gestures take place and are significant. I'm at a stage where I'm consciously considering/discovering that I am making gestures, that I have certain means with which to make gestures, and that it is a part of my expression. yes, the unintentional ones come . . . accident . . . serendipity. The intentional ones can be acknowledged and developed.
    Luis--
    Gesturing with light. THANKS. Great example. Hits the nail on the head.
    Arthur--
    You're not gesturing alone.
    Nicole--
    Glad you find it productive. I think involvement and seeing yourself as a vehicle can be really important. Yes, a gesture that can be reacted to by the viewer, that affects the viewer.
     
  23. Art--
    Sorry, I was writing as you were. I agree with much of what you've said but am not sure why you included "inadvertently." Gestures may be inadvertent, as Ilia points out. But they can be made with great intention and quite deliberately. I love your "syllables" analogy. Shadows, yes.
     
  24. Hi Fred
    I guess I use the word "inadvertently" loosely here and only when I refer to the unintentional or subliminal message being conveyed in those moments when our 'guard' is down, however I too recognise that they can be intentional and deliberate forms of communication. As a studier (and with much work experience) of body language, I see a lot of unintentional gestures everyday (and collective behaviour) that often tells me more about what a person is not overtly communicating rather than what they are. I draw on these experiences when I talk about inadvertent gestures, however I do accept that in this forum we are looking at it from a photographical perspective
     
  25. Fred wrote: "Photos tell stories."
    Garry Winogrand said: “photographs do not tell stories ; they tell you what something looks like to a camera”.
    The plurality of interpretations of any picture, regardless of the story-telling intentions of the photographer, tells us GW has a point.
    Many theorists agree with GW, saying Photographs suggest, describe appearances, maybe make you ask questions, and perhaps move you. Without the exoskeleton of captions and/or context, most photographs, regardless of gesture, have a difficult time with storytelling. Take most journalistic pictures away from their captions, and what remains? Maybe something analogous to a strange attractant.
    Good photographs are like the grain of sand that gets inside an oyster, and the oyster, unable to expel it, encysts it in the nacreous material we call a pearl.
    If a photograph is good, the viewer won't expel it, and create a story around it that conforms to his preconceptions and internal logic. Gestures are a critical part of how all this happens.
     
  26. I think I'll take a pass on gesture for now because what is being discussed is already addressed, at least for me, in other ways. I understand, though, the value of the concept, especially for photographers working in genres where the tendency is towards posing -- not just the subject, but the photographer's urge to direct is also posing. But I realize I may be 'tone deaf' to the idea.
    At common shutter-speed we will capture what we cannot consciously see unless the subject is motionless. I'm reminded of a 'what's wrong with my image' thread where the op took photos of his daughter twirling. Nicely composed, nice expression, pretty props, good lighting, but he managed to capture the one instant when she would appear motionless while her hair and dress were in full-flight. I encounter subjects in the controlled falling we call walking; in the cycle of stepping there are similar 'stops', the moment when the subject looks as if they've just kicked a soccer ball, for example, or at the awkward instant of controlling the fall.
    These may not be what the concept of gesture is about, but if not, then, in my photography, I don't think it would apply because I do not have to deal with the pose or the self-consciousness of being photographed, and I am pretty good at not directing, and instead can wait for it if it is coming, or if not, move on as the case may be.
     
  27. It is not only applicable to posing. Some of the best and fastest street photographers used gesture to great advantage, as well as guys like S. Shore with his portraits as well as 'scapes.
     
  28. A lot of street photography is portraiture. Activity, movement, location -- the street itself -- are not visible; there's a head shot, the street portrait. The subject's only activity is being photographed. Landscape, as well as macro bugs and flowers, are portraits, too, just not of people.
     
  29. " In order to ' give meaning ' to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself... To take photographs means to recognize - simultaneously and within a fraction of a second - both the fact itself and the rigourous organization of visually percieved forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis. "
    Henri Cartier - Bresson
    The above makes a good description of how I understand the concept of " gesture " to be within the context of photography.
     
  30. I've been thinking about this discussion and here is what seems to resonate the most with me.
    In my mind, Gesture signifies action, intent, emotion. A gesture of kindness is an action done with intent. A physical guesture, an action in the bodily sense, is a physical maninfestation of emotion with or without intent. So then gesture can be related to photography in the physical action of the photographer (to capture light, form, lines, expression, etc...) as he relates his intent and emotion concerning the subject being photographed (or idea's about the subject, ect... whether his movements are done as conciously and deliberately as Fred's or with unconcious abandon resulting from pure emotion) and then the resulting image is in itself a gesture from the photographer to the viewer.
     
  31. I've been following this thread for a while and I still fail to see how 'gesture' as it applies to the actions of the photographer, whether intentional or in unconscious response, is substantively different from 'composition'. For example , to take Fred's point:
    The gestures of photography are working with light . . . for effect, setting exposure . . . for effect, moving the camera just enough . . . for the desired effect. It is how we personalize those non-verbal communicative devices at our fingertips when we hold the camera and when we enter the darkroom or the digital lab.​
    I think we can agree there are conscious elements to composition, and that a photographer familiar with his or her equipment will also make a certain number of subconscious, almost intuitive aesthetic (or even technical) choices based on response to the subject - or to the 'gestures' of the subject. But I don't agree that composition and 'gesture', certainly as it applies behind the camera, have been conflated to any great detriment of meaning. What you've described above as "the gestures of photography" are further nuances of composition, not all of them, as we've discussed, conscious, but nevertheless a part of the same process. If you find the concept of 'gesture' useful to separate out certain elements, fair enough; but I still have to admit I don't find it particularly, well, compelling.
     
  32. Or rather, as Don E put it, I feel that it's already "addressed in other ways".
     
  33. Bravo. Leon. Compelling is the last word I would also employ in describing this concept. No offense intended to Don, but I believe we can often get caught up in a lot of extemporaneous or misleading waffle, designed it sometimes seems to embellish, or at worst to distract, from the photography itself.
     
  34. Luis--
    GW has a point, though limited. It's a down-to-earth observation and points us back to the medium, which is good.
    Storytelling is not undercut by a plurality of interpretations. I distinguish between a photo telling a story and telling THE story. I respond to some photos as story-telling without assuming that the story is the one others are getting or one the photographer intended. The photographer may present a narrative-like tale without specifics. Some photos are expressionistic, some more impressionistic, and some downright narrative (even if nonspecific).
    I don't agree that captions and context are necessary. Often a story's origin and framework is in the photograph. Accompanying words and information will often provide guidance, specifics, and even a change of interpretation, which might or might not be welcome.
    Don--
    I don't think all photographers are gestural, so I understand your position.
    Nicole--
    For me, they're both at play. ("Pure emotion" could be tricky). Even at my most deliberate, there can be abandon informing that. To get a good photo, one often has to "translate" the abandon and emotion into the medium. Abandon and emotion don't automatically come out as a decent photo. That's where practice, knowledge, learning, craft, and technique come in.
    I recently did a project where there were one or two moments where I was so moved that I just couldn't/didn't grab my camera. Afterward I wondered if I had missed the best pictures. A friend reminded me that sometimes the emotional experience shouldn't be disrupted by the camera and that those moments may not have made the best pictures. We talked about one of the pictures that I was, in fact, most pleased and moved by. That photo was not one of the emotional high-points of the entire shoot for me. I took a more mundane moment and gave it what it needed to be the kind of photograph that would reach beyond the "actual" experience of when it was taken. That's what's significant about photography (and other arts). The relationship between emotion/abandon and the photograph is not one-to-one. It's not like the emotion necessarily originates in the "real" world and passes through the photograph to the viewer. I think it's a much more nuanced and complicated process than that. And those emotional moments I did not "capture" because I didn't shoot the moment got captured anyway, in some other photographic moment.
    Leon--
    I hope I didn't come across as discounting composition. I was responding to the other thread where I thought composition and gesture were being conflated. One can gesture with composition as well as any other aspect of photography. As Luis mentioned, one can gesture with light. But composition and gesture, to me, are not the same. Gesturing with light, to me, is not a compositional consideration. Light interacts with composition and may or may not become a compositional element, but I don't see light as compositional, strictly speaking. Nor do I see focus as a compositional element. Any photo, whether taken by a child in whose hands a camera is put or the most intentional adult has, by definition, a composition. To gesture with composition is something far fewer people do.
     
  35. Fred, after reading the expanded version of your take on story-telling, I realize we are on the same page, vis-a-vis "a" story vs "the" story. The plurality of meanings in viewers' minds is a strength (almost like viable mutations). I don't think it undercuts anything. I also don't think captions are de rigueur, but with news pictures, which are often telling _the_ story, they narrow down the range of potential outcomes in the readings of the image. Otherwise a recent Gaza war shot might become a generic Middle East hostility pic.
     
  36. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you responded: "I'm not sure why you've stressed the involvement of the subject and responses of the viewer and talked about the photographer not making the gesture."
    I don't deny that the photographer "makes" HIS gesture, but I do deny that he makes the entire photographic gesture. I don't think "making" the gesture is quite right in any case...I prefer "participates." Actually, I think the gesture doesn't even exist until that "triangle" you mentioned is complete.
    ...however, the photographer may not be good enough to get a rise out of viewers other than himself (the photo-wanker "makes" gestures for himself)...or the subject itself may fall short: it makes no gesture.
     
  37. "No offense intended to Don, but I believe we can often get caught up in a lot of extemporaneous or misleading waffle, designed it sometimes seems to embellish, or at worst to distract, from the photography itself."
    No offense taken...actually, I don't know what you thought might have offended me.
     
  38. Gesture is less than composition and more than composition. Gesture is more in that it will move, influence the emotional reaction to your image and body of work. It is less in that it is one element of your composition. It is an effective compositional tool for communicating emotions in a 2 dimensional otherwise stagnant moment. Photography is obviously a non verbal medium. The significance of gesture in non verbal communication is paramount to how well you can communicate and read others. It makes sense to me that active thinking to understand and develop my interpretive skill of gestures is very important. As actors learn the importance and usage of non verbal communication to refine their craft, i believe that the best photographers through intent or intuitively also understand how to refine their own gesturing skills. Understanding how you gesture is to give you greater command of your unspoken language. Recognizing how ones’ gestures appear to others brings its own rewards as well. In It is important to me to understand how my body language gives me more options to be myself or communicate with clarity, it becomes very essential to me to understand and try to master my gestures in a non verbal language. I think it particularly important to any photographer who wishes to work with emotions as a subject.
    As to what a practical applied gesture is in an image, I can only suggest what it is for me. “instead of using the whole body we move our hand or eye or sigh ....” An actor may raise an eyebrow or slightly slump their shoulder to nuance the story. A photographer may deepen a selected shadow or skew a framed photo in the background to tell the story. How they do this is a significant part of their style and personality. This obviously becomes part of the composition. There are grand gestures that become the most obvious part of the composition (almost or actually becoming the subject), but there are gestures that far less blatant. A blatant gesture might be venetian blind lighting or vignetting. But generally when i see a venetian blind photo it is less a gesture and more the subject of the photo. I have seen images that use blinds as a gesture to support a bigger/other than blinds subject and composition. For me an effective gesture in photography is much like a raised eyebrow for the actor. The emotional character of the photo is elevated and even guided. If my intent were to project an emotion into an image I would choose the gesture that is appropriate to my intent. (This is not to say that you WILL have the same response, no I am first choosing to communicate with me. If you should happen to come along on the ride, all the better. ) If my intent was to reflect a moment in my history that I experienced anxiety and frustration from an unrequited love, in my way, I might tap into that experience by making some obvious compositional choices that I consider gesturing. Ie; maybe severe angles that are disquieting, not all severe angles are disquieting. (Not all raised eyebrows suggest funny or bewildered or suggestive …) It needs further refinement. It is through intuition and/or active learning that I might choose a particular lens that lends itself to a degree of distortion which on a particular angle makes it more urgent, energized.
    The more i refine my choices the more important my gesturing becomes to defining, presenting my own personality. Is this composition, yes. Is it only composition, no. In developing a critical thinking skill toward photography for practical usage, gesture illuminates much. Is it in the refinement, the awareness and intent that I find gesture? Like love, like art, I cannot put gesture into a neat little box but when I need it or see it, I use it and recognize it.
     
  39. jtk

    jtk

  40. Don, from what has been discussed in this thread, my impression of this vaguely defined term, "gesture", is simpy - extemporaneous or misleading waffle! I'm glad, though, that my critique does't offend you.
    Adding one's personality or state of mind to the composition or conception of an image is obvious - we need no special word for it.
    Was Picasso "gesturing" when he spilled his heart out in conceiving "Guernico"? Was Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Jouney into the Night" a product of his gesturing?
    C'mon, let's be serious.
     
  41. "I'm glad, though, that my critique does't offend you."
    No. Gesture is not my terminology and I do not quite understand what it means, but it is obviously important to some photographers here and if their pnet photos are an indication, they are good photographers. So, I take it seriously. I think, though, that the way it is conceptualized is geared towards the concerns of what I am calling 'portrait' photography. I mean photographs that have a main subject that dominates the frame, a person, tree, rock, for which the composition and lighting is chosen; I calling those 'portraits'. Photographs are stills, and a 'portrait' that does not communicate the aliveness of the subject (even a rock) can be technically good as to composition, lighting, exposure, yet appear dead -- "inanimate" is my word for it. Frozen. The concept of "gesture" seems a way to avoid deadness and express the animation or lifeforce or libido or presence of the subject (fill in whatever term works for you).
    Since I almost always shoot casually people doing things, not just standing or sitting, I consider the successful photo to be one that implies the moment before the shutter is released and the next moment after the exposure. What I mean by animation in the still is implied by something akin (I think) to what is meant by gesture. I tend to watch peoples' hands and feet more than their faces once I've seen them as a subject. That may seem strange, but when I count up the shots that didn't work out as I'd hoped, it is the hands and feet that betrayed my intention.
     
  42. No, Arthur, _you_ disagree with the term, the need for a word for it, or any further understanding/discussion. You've belabored the point and, obviously, many disagree, finding the thread, unlike you, serious, interesting and productive.
    The fact is no one is disrespecting/ridiculing your viewpoint. You, on the other hand, keep insisting that to not think like you is "misleading waffle" or not "serious". In other words, the thread is linguistic deceit and a fraud. If that's not discouraging thoughtful commentary, I don't know what is.
    Don E. And Leon both hold a somewhat similar viewpoint to yours, but unlike you, they have expressed their disagreement in perfectly civil terms.
    From the Terms of Use: "...treat others with respect. Postings that attack another person's motivation, intelligence, or character degrade the quality of the discussion and discourage thoughtful comments by others."
    [ This proves Fred Goldsmith's insightful comment about how these threads degrade.]
     
  43. "Adding one's personality or state of mind to the composition or conception of an image is obvious - we need no special word for it."
    I don't think it is so obvious in most images i see. It is uncommon. The 'word' gesture is no more special than expression, f-stop, framing, tonality, vignetting and so on. Certainly it is a more difficult word and concept to tap into and to define than many others. But that alone does not invalidate it to some. me. It is a word to describe an action taken to communicate without words and outside the most commonly used language and ordinary actions in photography.
    There is more to a gesture than adding personality or state of mind. That is grossly simplified. There is direction, misdirection, clarity, reflection, humor, mood, and it does go on and on. It is a form of non verbal communication, of language. Language can accomplish much more than what is obvious. Generally, but not necessarily it requires a strong pre visualization due to the intent and awareness of the impact/message of the gesture. A language that is restricted by your lack of knowledge of it and as open as your ability to master it dictates.
    No piece of art is created solely by gesture. But i would say that a piece of art may be a gesture. Guernica.
     
  44. Hi John. "I'm the orchestrator of the experience of the viewer." I often feel this way but I would add - now it is in their hands. I like to think of the viewer as one, not as a unknown group. I generally prefer the one on one approach with any form of communication. If i am shooting purposefully it makes it easier for me to focus and convey my intent in my way. I don't have to concern myself with the opinions, tastes, interpretations, the many voices of the group, just mine and one.
     
  45. I find both the photographer and the viewer to be the least interesting things about photography. I ignore them -- including me as much as I can. If gesture is about them, not the subject, then it explains why I am finding it difficult to relate to the idea.
     
  46. Don, Luis, Josh. Thanks. I understand your points. Perhaps I should be a bit more of open mind in regard to the word or the concept.
    Nonetheless, I think it would be very useful to have an unambiguous definition of it, to better accept or reject the concept, or discuss it.
     
  47. Don, I can not ignore or exclude any part of the process. A gesture undetected, mis-timed or bypassed by the photographer ignores the subject. If the viewer doesn't see it at some level, then it's as if it never happened or was never pictured. For me, it's a system, and all of it matters.
    Gesture isn't everything, but it is an integral part of the whole thing. Gesture can come from the subject and/or the photographer. When there's synergy between the two, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
    Yes, the subject is important, but without a photographer present, with all their shortcomings and limitations, their gesture, actions, appearance and being are dwindling echoes left to the memory of witnesses.
    "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tan Hauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die"
    --- Roy Batty/Blade Runner
     
  48. Luis: "Don, I can not ignore or exclude any part of the process"
    Real actual viewers might not exist. The photographer can imagine a viewer. I think this "viewer", who is a significant actor in this forum, is most often just the photographer (one can see this on the hoof when posters seamlessly switch pov between creator and viewer), and the photographer who communicates to this viewer through the manipulation of the subject, is communicating with himself. Thus ignoring the viewer is ignoring the photographer. Otherwise, there are 7 or so billion potential real viewers.
    By taking on the pov of the imaginary viewer, by turning the subject into an object of use, the photographer can become less "real" and more a construct of his imagination.
    "Yes, the subject is important..."
    I mean something other than the obvious, no photographer, no photo. The subject is real already. It is not the (imaginary) "subject". It is the real subject which gestures and communicates to the photographer. If the photographer is so caught up in his intention to communicate to the viewer through the photograph, the subject is merely an object of use for the purpose, a container to be filled with meaning, message, or significance, and the photo becomes a proxy for the photographer himself. I'd rather the subject speak for itself.
    So, I ignore the photographer and the viewer as much as I can, at least until they are real, not imaginary.
    After three years on this forum I'm used to being slagged for this approach, so no one should think I might be offended if they feel the need to unload about it.
     
  49. Don--
    The way I see it, we are discussing gesture because we are discussing photographers. We are photographers. We create the photographs that bring you the subjects. I don't believe that the subject you are interested in is separable from its presentation by the photographer. So, when you are drawn to the subject of the photograph, in one way or another, you are drawn this way or that because of the photographer's gesture, if he has gestured. There will, of course, be other factors. You may have your personal stake in the subject of the photo, it may ring certain bells for you. But that subject has been brought to you by a photographer. You may or may not think about the photographer. You may or may not consider what he's done. And some photographers will be more overt about interjecting themselves into the photo. I can gesture by wildly waving my hands at you from across the street or I can slyly slip you the finger so it's barely noticeable.
    John--
    I understand and agree that there is a process going on here, among photographer, subject (subject, or photo, or
    both?), and viewer. But I keep sensing that you're trying to strip the photographer of some power by actually making the viewer part of the gesture. I like to think of the photographer as a responsible agent. Just because the ultimate interpretation of and reaction to a photo will be out of his or her hands (to varying degrees) once the public views it, doesn't take away from the purposeful manner in which the photographer was utilizing the various elements to present the subject in a particular light. When she nods or waves at you from across the street, you may interpret that and will be part of a process, you may also simply be wrong in your interpretation. But when that occurs, you say "She waved at me," not we participated in a gesture together. Yes, it took you, the viewer, to give meaning to it and be the recipient of it, but you didn't make it, she did.
    As for wanking, there is a sense in which the viewer completes the picture. But there's no reason why the photographer can't be the viewer. Many a great photographer and artist will not be seen or appreciated while he continues to produce. His drive, even obsession, keeps him going, his love for the medium, his Muse, even an imagined audience for his expression. The responses and accolades may or may not come later but the gesture can be made even in the quiet at 3AM sitting alone in front of Photoshop.
     
  50. Don--
    I think we agree, at least to an extent, about the photographer as viewer.
    We were writing at the same time so I didn't see what you had written just above me. And I don't think you should be slagged for your approach. I would start by asking if you recognize a difference in viewing a photo of the vase vs. viewing the vase itself. I mean, there are those who really don't care about photographs but are interested only in going out into the world and experiencing it first hand (sometimes that's just not possible). And I don't see why photographs can't simply substitute for first-hand viewing sometimes. I get to see photographs of China. For me, though, there's always been something about the "artificiality" of a photograph that has a unique draw. I expect that I am seeing a mediated view of the subject, which has already, to the extent you're speaking of, been made into an object. For me that can sometimes be the twist that's the hook . . . the subject becomes the object . . . but then becomes subject again. The subject for the photographer becomes, by becoming his object, the subject of the photograph. Yes, there can be a transformation.
     
  51. Fred, I guess my word choice may have been a little strong.
     
  52. " I would start by asking if you recognize a difference in viewing a photo of the vase vs. viewing the vase itself."
    I recognize the differences of one vase and another. This vase, not that vase. Is it a vase bought today at WalMart? The work of a master craftsman? The vase you are surprised to hear from your Mom that you gave it to her for her birthday when you were seven? A vase of unknown provenance bought at a garage sale on impuse (or the apprehension of "Wu")? Is it chipped and used suggesting history, or pristine? This vase, not that vase or any other vase. This is what I mean when I write the subject gestures to the photographer, makes itself known to the photographer, and if I am sensitive to it, feel it beckoning me to photograph it -- think of those Looney Tunes in which a bottle of scent is uncorked and ectoplasmic hands reach out to caress Daffy's cheek, drawing him, floating through the air, to it. Whether it makes itself known to me depends on how receptive I am to such influence. I might instead see it as a study in light and shadow, placing the highlights and giving careful thought to the backdrop in order to accentuate its dimensionality, or I might fill it with flowers and in Photoshop clone in Barbie faces and title it Audrey Jr. But I prefer to let the vase speak for itself.
     
  53. Don. "If the photographer is so caught up in his intention to communicate to the viewer through the photograph, the subject is merely an object of use for the purpose, a container to be filled with meaning, message, or significance, and the photo becomes a proxy for the photographer himself."
    sometimes (when time allows) this is the process and of course other times "I'd rather the subject speak for itself." This is the approach many great photographers have taken exclusively. Yet if their work is easily distinguishable from the pack then chances are they made significant gestures within that framework. I think it is also important to keep in mind that gesturing is like sign language, it can become natural and spontaneous and have a distinctive quality to it. When you are communicating to your viewer, even viewer as self, you don't need to consider every nuanced meaning. It is only when we slow down to ponder to consider the subject at hand that we refine our 'message'. In doing so we may benefit the next time we go into the field on switch on the auto pilot.
    Don i can see no justifiable reason for anyone being taken aback by your approach. As many do, I often take the same approach in my own images. I often go into gut response mode, with minimal premeditation beyond what is needed to try to be in the right place at the right time. There is no viewer other than my own eyes. But that does not necessarily exclude the gestures i might make. I might wait until the background compliments the subject walking by. Or choose a perspective, framing, camera orientation, etc, that dwarfs the little lost girl. This may happen in less than a moment, it has to or the image will be lost. This is very a spontaneous exclamation done with the gut. If i wanted to intentionally create a photo with a message about abandonment or feeling alone, lost and i have time to consider I will choose my gestures with intent and develop them into a paragraph.
    Arthur, I for one cannot help you out with an unambiguous definition. I have trouble putting a great many words into a neat, tight definition. The best i can do is tell you how i am using it in my work. For me it is a system of expressive non verbal language. It is learned and intuitive.
    Sometimes, when i think about it i feel it is like those who are able to speak in different languages and have the benefit of a understanding something with a perspective from other vantage points.
     
  54. I agree that real actual viewers might not exist. They certainly don't exist until the image is displayed. The photographer can imagine a viewer, or become one, I agree, but that happens mostly ex post facto, rarely in real time. At the time the exposures are made, there is only the photographer and the subject (unless you're doing ad or other kinds of commercial work, and that's another thread).
    What the picture depicts is not the subject itself, or what they had to say, of course, but the echoes of light from it, a subset of the photographer's perception of it through a given process.
    I did not mean to slag you for it. Everyone is entitled to their ideas, and we're here to exchange them. I was just trying to understand your position.
    The subject is often unaware of, or not performing for, the photographer, just going about their business. The photographer can only see that part of the entire 'real' subject that he is prepared to see, and then only that part that can be discerned at that timespace location. The rest he is blind to.
    [Don E]"I'd rather the subject speak for itself."
    Okay, finally I see where you are coming from. You're a classic "straight" photographer, with DNA related to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivism) spawned by, among other things, the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, and exemplified perhaps best by August Sander.
    http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/blossfeldt.htm
    http://www.masters-of-fine-art-photography.com/02/artphotogallery/photographers/august_sander_01.html
    The apparent Bayesian logic of perception is filling the subject up with what we already know, even if we're not aware of it. Speaking sequentially, yes, I can see your point, and understand it as an approach, though I reject the more absolutist version of that philosophy.
    In closing, here's two quotes, all from Stephen Shore, that trace back to the origins of this thread and are hopefully germane to the thread:
    " My book does not deal with the content of the pictures, it deals with what might be called the visual grammar of photography. That is not separate from what you’re asking, the projection of personality. I think personality expresses itself in these choices that a photographer makes, because of the choices the tools present. But a photographer’s vision is expressed though these tools, as well as through the choice of subject matter."
    " As I’m looking at you, facial expressions are passing by in the time that we’re sitting here, I know that I can take a picture now, or a second later, a half second earlier, and have a different meaning. People could make different judgments, even though those judgments are really not about you, they’re about this image of you."
     
  55. I understood everything up through "classic "straight" photographer" :cool:
    One photographer might take a cracked and chipped vase and turn that part away from the camera because he wants to photograph tonality and depth, and the cracks would break up the smooth transistions. Another photographer might turn the cracks and chips towards the camera because he sees the lines of the cracks and the shape and textures of the chips as a satisfying composition. Both in my estimation are not really photographing the vase. They are utilizing the vase to make a photo of something else.
     
  56. jtk

    jtk

    "I keep sensing that you're trying to strip the photographer of some power by actually making the viewer part of the gesture. I like to think of the photographer as a responsible agent. ...Fred
    The photographer certainly IS "a responsible agent." I like your metaphor, and I think you're supporting my point...
    I don't agree that a photograph ever involves one "gesture" ("the gesture")..it is, I maintain, that triangle of involvement about which you previously agreed...and if it's not 360deg there actually is no photographic gesture..the photographer, about whose "power" you're concerned, has failed...he isn't a "responsible agent" if he can't carry his gestural load on to another viewer.
    Yes, he photographer can, in a pinch, be "the viewer" but perhaps you agree that the photograph we never complete is simply the fish that got away: Uncought, a failed gesture.
    If we've captured enough to have Photoshop fun at 3AM (the witching hour you mentioned), surely it'll convey something to somebody else if it's still fun in daylight. If it can't, maybe it's not even a gesture....
     
  57. "Okay, finally I see where you are coming from. You're a classic "straight" photographer, with DNA related to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivism) spawned by, among other things, the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, and exemplified perhaps best by August Sander."
    Let me correct the misperception. I don't consider myself a straight photographer and am not familiar with Neue Sachlichkeit, Blossfeldt and Sander. In a forum on photography where philosophy is equated to art, the non-artist photographer, the documentarian, is a fifth wheel, I know. If this forum had been labeled more accurately as the Art of Photography Forum, I might never have read it. If there is an appropriate school or movement I can be associated with it is, oddly I know, the avant garde of the 1920s, especially Soviet documentary film makers. Beyond their gush of revolutionary hyperbole, their work and writing gives me something to chew on. Something I cannot say for Group f/64. My influences are documentary filmmakers, not art photographers.
     
  58. jtk

    jtk

    Don's right about the confusion of art with philosophy.
    Philosophy typically functions in isolation, parsing and making circular arguments. Art, as most evidently understand it, only exists socially.
    August Sander was a documentarian. Irving Penn's earliest (British laborers) was similar. Both were doing photography with minimal conventional "art" intent...Sander was exploring ethnic worktype theories and Penn was reportedly influenced more by graphic design than by "art"...and graphic design is rarely confused with philosophy.
    Many of us find f/64 less interesting than Soviet (or Dustbowl) documentary work... f/64 was attractive especially to Northern Californians (and Seattle region), who do still live in scenic splendor. Most were raised in comfort, even wealth. The California Crafts Revival (and its "cottage architecture", a'la Green & Green and Monterey/Carmel) was part of the same subcultural zeitgeist. It wasn't as natural for them to be documentarians as decorators... though most were Leftists and did eventually do a little documentary work as well.
     
  59. ^Gesture is less than composition and more than composition. Gesture is more in that it will move; influence the emotional reaction to your image and body of work. It is less in that it is one element of your composition. It is an effective compositional tool for communicating emotions in a 2 dimensional otherwise stagnant moment. Photography is obviously a non verbal medium. The significance of gesture in non verbal communication is paramount to how well you can communicate and read others. ^
    Succinctly put.
    I suppose it’s about what you are trying to achieve consciously or unconsciously .If a subject is aware of a cam, they react to both the cam, and the Photographers body language.
    A natural Photograph is when the subject is not aware of either.
     
  60. >' My influences are documentary filmmakers, not art photographers'.< Speaking of documentary's well worth watching, just yesterday I saw the 2005 Werner Herzog documentary ' Grizzly Man ' about Timothy Treadwell who spent
    some 13 years of summers with bears before one day one bear bear didn't appreciated his gestures anymore, at least not as a form of
    communication. The film is full with gestures. Wild, fixed and untamed gestures of nature vs those of man's socially conditioned gestures
    that where urging to break free in this Timothy Treadwell figure. Borderline crazy maybe, troubled, suicidal,too anti-social, and a too naive interaction
    with those bears I believe, wich he had too pay for sooner or later, and sadly also the woman that was with him the day that his gestures
    where misunderstood, simply taken for food. But also love, boldness, an ideal, a vision, strong ideas carried out into strong action, and a fixed presence in the
    landscape almost as present as that of the bears that lived in it. The gesture that I sensed in him so powerful, in a genuine way more about
    art than any art itself or what any artist can hope to gesture for in art. Making a sculpture, a painting, a photograph,...so lame.
     
  61. "A natural Photograph is when the subject is not aware of either."
    I disagree. The moment between the recognition of the camera and the photographer, and the moment of reaction to them. A person cannot complete a thought, and therefore react, in 1/500 of a second, but the camera and photographer can. Without it, eye-contact is not possible in an exposure and be "natural".
     
  62. Don--

    "Both in my estimation are not really photographing the vase."

    Can you give an example of really photographing the vase.

    I, too, think I understand what you mean by allowing the subject to speak to you. I often find that my photos of subjects don't speak to me and wouldn't speak to others in the same way that the subject did unless I make some sort of gesture (or at least do something) to capture photographically that voice.

    When the vase speaks to you, why do you take a picture of it? How do you -- or do you -- preserve or convey what it's saying?
    As I read through the photo pages of PN, I am aware of the vast number of people who are genuinely touched by the subjects of their photos, and I suspect most are, indeed, genuinely touched. Nevertheless, a significantly smaller number of PN photos are touching. It's great to be spoken to by a subject, but then what? Choices, conscious or otherwise, moment, stance, . . .
    John--
    "that triangle of involvement about which you previously agreed"
    We all reserve the right to allow our perspective to change in these forums as we read others' words and think more fully about what was said previously. I'm not dismissing your idea of the "triangular" gesture -- which I do find poignant -- by any means, just having a second look and wondering about emphasis. I am with you on the point but still fleshing it all out for myself.
    As for "incomplete" photos that other viewers never get to see, I'm not so sure. I have a couple of really compelling male nudes that were done with the understanding that I wouldn't show them to anyone. They are significant photographs for me. I learned from them and am moved by them. I guess that could all be just a wank, since you'll never see them, but it doesn't feel like it and they don't feel as though they've failed. They feel like valid and finished, important photographs, gesturing including, that no one is likely to see. The only failure is my not being able to convince the guys to let them see the light of day.
    "Philosophy typically functions in isolation, parsing and making circular arguments."
    Wrong. Socrates? Isolation? Popper, Russell, and Wittgenstein? Isolation? Sartre, Beauvoir, and the Cafe Flor? Duh!
    Take one of the greats -- Descartes, Hume, Kant -- or a lesser-known philosopher -- Peirce, Dennett, Parfit -- and specify the circular argument you're referring to.
     
  63. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, "poignant" is a human experience, unavoidable if that human has a heart. Poetry does poignance. Theatre and song do it.
    Logical is something computers do perfectly. Over and done. Garbage in (undefinable words), garbage out (circular talk...valuable only for its poignance.
    Circular is something we do a lot here (and did as sophomores, when we didn't have dates). I think you and I know where we're "at," and that's poignant, not logical. Poignance trumps logical.
    Poignance has value. Logic is typically dispensed with in favor of poignance. As we all know, unless we're insurance actuaries.
     
  64. John . . . moving words. Thanks.
    Still, though, I'm trying to get you to stop doing this: "Philosophy typically functions in isolation, parsing and making circular arguments."
    That's why I challenged you to do this: "Take one of the greats -- Descartes, Hume, Kant -- or a lesser-known philosopher -- Peirce, Dennett, Parfit -- and specify the circular argument you're referring to."
    You couldn't, or at least didn't or wouldn't. I suspect it's evidence that sometimes we blow smoke up each others' a**es.
    It's also why I pointed to several historical instances (and we can point to this very forum) where Philosophy was and is not done in isolation. I've spent enough times in many Philosophy seminars to know how much gets accomplished in group back-and-forth dialogue and how significant a part of Philosophy dialogue is.
    It's not a problem that you don't like Philosophy or don't find it useful or poignant (I happen to, and I actually think logic can be quite poignant, as Mathematics can be). It is a problem when you make claims about isolation and circular arguments that you can't back up.
     
  65. [Don E]"In a forum on photography where philosophy is equated to art, the non-artist photographer, the documentarian, is a fifth wheel, I know."
    No, not equated, not mutually exclusive, either.
    [Don E] "If there is an appropriate school or movement I can be associated with it is, oddly I know, the avant garde of the 1920s, especially Soviet documentary film makers.
    No, not oddly at all. New Objectivism was certainly of the same time, present in the very films you mention, and German film makers borrowed techniques from the _very_ Russian films you are talking about. G. W. Pabst's silent film Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (1927) would be the prime example. There was direct crossover. New Objectivism was Anti-expressionist, disregarding or less expressive of internal states, supposedly more objective and so standing outside the object to observe and record, which sounds a lot like what you have stated here.
    Let's return to the vase. It arrives at your studio in a carefully packed box for documentation. It is already one of a kind. There are either no chips on it, or randomly spaced chips. Take your choice. The Museum wanting the photodocument has a low budget due to the ongoing recession, so you get one 8x10 frame. What do you do? Which 180 degree view represents the 'real' vase? Are you suggesting that a random view (disregarding yourself the most) is the most 'real'? Another photographer photographed it the year before. Is his picture of the vase. You know nothing about his method or philosophy. Is his version more or less real than yours? How can you tell?
    The idea that FSA documentary photographers were "disregarding" the photographer is untrue. Evans clearly made that distinction with the famous comment: "The term should be documentary style . You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless. Therefore art is never a document, although it can adopt that style".
    [ The open near-Talibanic contempt for art hereabouts is staggering, btw.]
    Documentarians often disregard their origins. Grierson coined the term "Documentary" in 1922. He sounds a lot like Don E here: "‘We believe that the materials and the stories thus taken from the raw can be finer (more real in the philosophic sense) than the acted article. Spontaneous gesture has a special value on the screen."
    Grierson coined the term after Flaherty's film "Moana". The thing is that Flaherty gleefully staged scenes, interrupted hunts, altered the rhythms of the community to make his films, notably "Nanook". As Flaherty remarked:
    “Sometimes you have to lie. One often has to distort a thing to catch its true spirit.”
    A lot of people today misunderstand how the f/64 work was viewed at the time. This is covered well in Robert Hirsch's _Seizing the Light_, for those that are interested. It has little to do with decoration, everything to do with the Depression. The West and the great dam projects were seen as the economic salvation of the USA and symbols of hope. Hirsch describes them being seen as "pictorial testimony of inspiration and redemptive power".
    As to the "comfort and wealth" of Group 64 members:
    By the time Ansel Adams was 9, his parents were nearly wiped out economically after the 1907 Panic.
    Weston was born to a working-class family, initially worked as a surveyor and door-to-door family photographer. Where are those pictures?
    Imogen Cunningham's father struggled financially to pay for her Art schooling.
    Sonya Noskowiak's father was a gardener, hardly wealthy, and unmfortable enough to repeatedly move in search of work. She went to SF to enroll in secretarial school, not the pursuit of a rich dilettante by any means.
    Henry Swift never quit his day job as a stockbroker.
    Willard Van Dyke's family had money.
    Marxists, yes. Trust fund dilettantes, hardly.
     
  66. ""Both in my estimation are not really photographing the vase."
    Can you give an example of really photographing the vase."
    Another photographer might have other ways, but context is something I need, so I'd want the vase in situ as I had come across it. I think if I saw a cheap common cracked and chipped vase in the cellar of an old house and being used to hold crusty paintbrushes, or given good shelf space on a mantel in the best room, I'd be moved to shoot. In context, the vase would suggest history or narrative and that it has significance to someone, and I would feel it as presence or "liveness". It would seem more than the sum of its parts, having not only tonality and depth or linear composition and textures, but a life. That's how I would really photograph the vase.
     
  67. "No, not oddly at all. New Objectivism...disregarding or less expressive of internal states, supposedly more objective and so standing outside the object to observe and record, which sounds a lot like what you have stated here."
    I see this as a strawman, because you have a need to pin a label on me. I looked it up in Wikipedia (under New Objectivity) and skimmed the article. That's all I know about it. You may not find it odd that I'm influenced by the avant garde, but I do, and it is odd. Who would know better, you or me? So they were influenced by the Soviet avante garde filmmakers. So are the Maysles Brothers and Fred Wiseman, and the French New Wave, and lots of people. Someone else might have chosen one of those other to labels me. Why not just accept I've my own voice? It'd be lots easier.
    I mean, what am I supposed to do? Slap my forehead and say "You know? You're right. I'm a New Objectivist. What was I thinking"?
    "What do you do? Which 180 degree view represents the 'real' vase? "
    I have no idea.
    "The idea that FSA documentary photographers were "disregarding" the photographer is untrue."
    Probably. Whose idea is it?
    "Grierson"
    John Grierson? Wow.
    "[ The open near-Talibanic contempt for art hereabouts is staggering, btw.]"
    Yes, it is.
    I'm getting lost in your stream of consciousness, though. You've thrown out a lot of names and referenced various relationships. I'm not finding much of a match to anything I've written here, no matter your claims to the contrary...Grierson? And now Flaherty. Oh, for Christ's sake, Luis. And now, Hirsch and Cunningham and Noskowiak. There's probably more, too.
    Well, I hope you've got that out of your system. Do you know Kelly Flanigan? I'd like to be a fly on the wall if you two got together and had a 'conversation'.
     
  68. Don, I don't need to pin any label on you, nor expect you to slap your head, or react in any particular way, if at all, and I think I know myself better than you know me on that. I was merely trying to understand you, to put it simply, in an historical context.
    The references to documentarians were to show that "documentary" is not a homogeneous thing by any means, nor were its seminal practitioners above manipulation.
    The F/64 refs had nothing to do with you, they were wrt something John Kelly wrote. I should have prefaced that by addressing it to him. I can see where that generated confusion. Sorry.
    I tend to think in relationships and stories. Chains, not isolated loops. I can't get it out of my system because it IS my system, and I feel no need to apologize for it. I don't think that makes me unique nor suspect.
    When I look at philosophy, I see a web of knowing, not discrete, sterile, disconnected, isolated bubbles.
    Likewise, when I read this: " Why not just accept I've my own voice?"
    I do, but like all human voices, my own included, that voice, while individual, is not without precedents, nor entirely unique, and it is those connections that allow us to understand it better and see where and how you fit philosophically and historically.
     
  69. Don--
    You described the context. Would you sit or stand with your camera? Would your shadow fall on the vase? Would the background be soft or more in focus? Would the edge of the wall behind the vase be vertical or askew? How far would you stand from the vase?
     
  70. It seems to me that what Don wants is to see what things look like when he's not looking at them -- when they are not contaminated by desire.
    (Yes, I am aware that philosophers would have a field day with that; heck, I could have a field day with that. Nevertheless, it's an interesting concept ... if that's what Don is after.)
    -Julie
     
  71. GESTURE:
    "Significant movement of limb or body; use of such movements as expression of feeling or rhetorical device; (and in the transferred sense:) step or move calculated to evoke response from another or to convey (esp. friendly) intention. "
    • (from Concise Oxford Dictionary, 5th Edition)
    This is the clearest definition of gesture that I have read to date. Perhaps Jay Maisel or a photo workshop leader could be clearer as to a definition appropriate to the act of photographing. Maisel has said that his photographs are based on light and gesture. Interesting. It is a little puzzling however, how the body movements of the photographer will influence his mind's view of an image (to be recorded) of an inanimate object, like (in his photo of) the St. Louis Arch?

    The use of gesture, that is the "use of such movements (by the photographer) as expression of feeling or rhetorical device" can indeed be useful in photographing a human or animal subject, in order to provoke a response from or interact otherwise with the latter. The gestures of the subject photographed can obviously also be important.

    Is there any other definition or application of the word, or approach, known apparently as gesture? It would be useful to un-muddy the philosophical discussion, especially to other photographers, like myself, who have only recently come upon this concept.
     
  72. "It is a little puzzling however, how the body movements of the photographer will influence his mind's view of an image."
    It can be, but is not limited to, the body movements of the photographer or the subject. Think of it like you would think of the wave of a hand, but not as the wave of a hand. I think of it in terms of intended effects. It is something like body language, but it is not equal to body language.
    GESTURE:
    any action, courtesy, communication, etc., intended for effect or as a formality; considered expression; demonstration: a gesture of friendship.
    (Random House 2009 Dictionary)
    Feb 25, 2009; 01:56 a.m.:
    "gesture" as in "lending me that money when I was down on my luck was a nice gesture."
     
  73. Luis: "I do, but like all human voices, my own included, that voice, while individual, is not without precedents, nor entirely unique, and it is those connections that allow us to understand it better and see where and how you fit philosophically and historically."
    A problem for the self-taught in forums like this is that they don't know what word, phrase, or reference will bring out the ta-from-hell that sometimes lurks in the soul of those with a formal education.
    ***
    Fred: "You described the context. Would you sit or stand with your camera? Would your shadow fall on the vase? Would the background be soft or more in focus? Would the edge of the wall behind the vase be vertical or askew? How far would you stand from the vase? "?
    Why do you ask? It would depend on how it is situated. Since these are what-if-examples, there's no vase in situ for me to check and see. Unlike making a studio portrait of a vase, I may not have the freedom to choose from so many options. But I'd likely not consider oof (this is about context) or any softness; wouldn't want my shadow in the frame; how far away would depend on the fl of the lens and how the vase is situated (this is about context).
    ***
    "Yes, I am aware that philosophers would have a field day with that; heck, I could have a field day with that. Nevertheless, it's an interesting concept ... if that's what Don is after."
    Julie, Luis; Luis, Julie
    ***
    Don E: "After three years on this forum I'm used to being slagged for this approach, so no one should think I might be offended if they feel the need to unload about it.:
     
  74. "Why do you ask? (this is about context)."
    Don--
    I knew these were hypotheticals and they were asked rhetorically at this point. The reason I asked was because I believe it's about more than context. It is most certainly about context. And it is also about you photographing the vase, since that's what you're doing, photographing the vase. In order to photograph the vase, you will be making choices.
    "how far away would depend on the fl of the lens and how the vase is situated"
    It would depend on one more thing: What you wanted the photo to look like (or what your gut, based on years of experience and some instantaneous inclinations, tells you you want the photo to look like). There would be no mathematical formula like: the fl of the lens is this and the vase is situated thus so I must stand here period or I can only stand here period. There is, to me, the fl of the lens is this and the vase is situated thus so, if I stand here the photo will look like x. I'm not saying you or I will consciously and deliberately go through that latter part of the process, but that process is in play because, indeed, if you stood somewhere else you'd get a different perfectly good real photograph. But you got the one you got not just because the vase was in a certain context but also because you stood in a certain place and position.
     
  75. Fred, you are in San Francisco, right? There are plenty of old houses with old cellars there. Take a tour of such a cellar and imagine coming across the vase. There it is on a shelf or on a pile of boards in the corner. You are to photograph it in situ. Need lighting? Where to plug them in? Need backdrop, where to hang it from? Just how far back can you get to frame it with a 50mm lens, maybe you need a 28?
    Consider my approach 'archeological", I'm not going to disturb the bones and shards, just because it would be an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. That's not what I want. That's because I am not an artist. Imagine photographs taken for reasons other than art. This forum should be renamed the Art of Photography Forum.
     
  76. Perhaps what is simply photographic "technique' should be distinguished from "gesture". If the latter is simply meant to be the application of photographic techniques,
    then technique it is.
     
  77. I think a distinction can be clearly made between photographing the vase from an objective point of view vs photographing the vase from a
    subjective point of view. However, when this objective point of view is presented in a continuous manner ( a whole series of vases
    photographed in this objective point of view ) than such a series would contain in itself a rather subjective statement. The work of Bernd and
    Hilla Becher for example.
     
  78. Phylo, what is objective from a photographic viewpoint? An automated camera on a tripod, whereupon a random time generator determines the moment of exposure?
    Everything is subjective. Perhaps gesture should simply be described as a "photographer's subjective response". If you ask many artists to explain why they painted something or sculpted something in a certain way, likely as not they will say "I don't know really, it is just how I conceived it." The artist is often driven by things he cannot explain in words. I don't know if he wants to evoke concepts like gesture to explain his creative approach.
    A measure of success is achieved as the work is judged (subjectively) by others, on its perceived merits (without the need for a lot of waffle or half-convincing explanations to accompany the work).
    By their nature, many great artists are a dissatisfied lot. Michelangelo recognized his own dissatisfaction with his (amazing) works in saying something like - I have disgraced myself before God, as I have not done work that is as worthy as I could have. A noble "gesture" from a great artist.
     
  79. Don--
    I didn't say anything about adding lighting or a backdrop. (By the way, I've done little if any shooting in a studio and have rarely used setup artificial lighting . . . flash every now and then. My first tendency, also, would be not to disturb the vase or its context. My tendency likely would be, though, to be more proactive in other ways than you. And those are differences that are stimulating and why I like to discuss others' methods.)
    I don't think you have to be an artist at all and nothing I said suggested you should be. I have already understood your archaeological approach.
    I said you'd have to stand somewhere.
    A photographer, no matter what purpose he had in mind, fine art, documentary, simple recording, would have to stand (or sit) somewhere.
    Standing one place rather than another would have to do with the photograph you'd wind up with. I mean, you don't seem to be a photographer who is simply walking around with a point and shoot, completely randomly picking it up at completely random moments to shoot random things. I imagine there is a sort of Jackson Pollock approach to photography. That doesn't seem to be what you're describing about yourself.
    You're not concerned with "art" considerations and you're not concerned with influencing the photo and you're not concerned with projecting the photographer into or through the photo. You're also not concerned with the viewer. I actually find that refreshing and intriguing and think you add a lot to this forum, named as it is.
    But you are shooting a photo. I agree with Phylo the there's a distinction between photographing from an objective point of view and photographing from a subjective point of view. But there is no completely objective point of view. And I think it's worthwhile recognizing the various ways in which there is no completely objective point of view. One reason there is no completely objective point of view is because you can only stand in one place when shooting, or you can move from this place to that while panning with a long enough exposure. The only guy who doesn't get to stand here rather than there is God, and none of us get to see or to have vases speak to us like God does. We all have perspectives, especially a perspective from which we shoot, and I'm not sure perspective can be absent from a non-abstract photograph of a vase.
    As I see it, it's not just the artist who makes decisions about what his photo will look like, even when they are the most objective types of decisions.
     
  80. Fred, let me point out that I have not said (and do not say) anything about "objective" or "subjective". That this seems to be an issue for others here, does not make it mine.
    I described how I would photograph the vase. Is there nothing sugggestive about those contexts? Do you ask yourself, why is this guy using this old broken vase to hold paintbrushes when any empty coffee can from the kitchen or a buck twenty nine container from the hardware store would be much better for that? Or why would an old cracked vase have a place of honor, so to speak, on the mantel in the best room in the house?
    "I'd be moved to shoot. In context, the vase would suggest history or narrative and that it has significance to someone, and I would feel it as presence or "liveness". It would seem more than the sum of its parts, having not only tonality and depth or linear composition and textures, but a life. That's how I would really photograph the vase."
    What am I failing to communicate to this forum?
     
  81. You're failing to communicate how you would shoot the vase. (I know you can't be specific because this is a hypothetical, but the how of the shooting can still be described without the actual choices being specified.)
    There's plenty suggestive about those contexts. Yes. For sure. I would ask many of those same questions. And that would affect how and what I shoot.
    The forum is about gesture.
    "I described how I would photograph the vase."
    I don't find that description anywhere. I find only a description of how you found the vase and how you were affected or moved by the vase. Nothing about how you would photograph the vase. Several things you wouldn't do, like disturb it or place a backdrop behind it. But none of what you would do.
    "Unlike making a studio portrait of a vase, I may not have the freedom to choose from so many options."
    Even out of a studio, there is freedom and there are options. The options would be what lens you would use, where you would stand or sit, whether you'd shoot from below or above, whether you'd move an inch or two because some light reflection was distracting you, what exposure you would set the camera for, what else you thought desirable to include in the frame (do you want to literally show the context you're talking about or just show the vase and assume that the context is having its effect, both ways can work). These may not be labored or even conscious decisions but they are being made and they are being made by you. These are going into the photograph as much as the vase.
     
  82. Phylo, what is objective from a photographic viewpoint? An automated camera on a tripod, whereupon a random time generator determines the moment of exposure?​
    If you mean that there's always a choice to be made by the photographer, than I agree, and in the example of the Bechers they indeed clearly had a choice to photograph those industrial buildings the way they did but I don't think that that very choice automatically renders the individual images as being any less objective in the way they where photographed vs a possible more subjective approach ( dark burned skies, low vantage point, different angles for every other building ). But like I said, when the work is presented as a whole, it can be argued that a subjective statement is being made by the Bechers even though the buildings where photographed from an objective point of view.
    Everything is subjective.​
    In a way I agree, sure can't disagree, but while everything can be percieved as being subjective doesn't necessarily follow that everyhting can be experienced as such.The law of gravity seems a rather objective state of affairs for all of us.
     
  83. "You're failing to communicate how you would shoot the vase."
    "(do you want to literally show the context you're talking about or just show the vase and assume that the context is having its effect, both ways can work"
    In the example of the vase on the mantel, I would shoot in such a way that the vase would be seen in context; there would be evidence it was a best room; there might be gold or crystal candlesticks, a fine old timepiece or the like on the mantel. I'd want those in the shot whether in whole or in part and from whatever angle needed to do it. Whether I would sit or stand, or anything else you've asked, would depend on the physical circumstances. Maybe the vase's cracked side is turned away from view, but can be seen in the mirror behind the mantel. I don't know. It depends.
     
  84. Ok, then, so now I'd ask what you meant when you said "really photographing the vase."
    Because it seems to me, just like you've suggested that others aren't "really" photographing the vase because of their approaches, someone could easily come along who would NOT include the other elements you might include and say that he is the one "really" photographing the vase. Then it seems that "really" photographing the vase is degrading into meaning "my way of photographing the vase." What does this "really" thing mean to you?
    It seems to me we're all really closer here than it seems. You've said above:
    "Both in my estimation are not really photographing the vase. They are utilizing the vase to make a photo of something else."
    I'd put it this way: We're all utilizing the vase to make a photo.
     
  85. Fred, in the real world, if I've come across the vase on the mantel it is likely in the house of a friend or family member and it is likely I'll have more than one opportunity to photograph the vase. For things that are not temporary, like people or cars in motion are temporary and cannot be replicated, but persist over longer time I am likely to have taken more than a few snaps of the scene and studying those will have an effect on how I finally photograph it. If I decide to make a definitive exposure, the decisions you ask about become operational. Since it is the conscious juxtaposition of the ordinary and broken vase in the context of richness or percieved value that gives life to the vase for me (I would not ask about it before I was done with photographing it), I'd have to decide whether bokeh might more effectively show that considering the goldy, crystally, mirrored qualities available or whether sharp focus is better for delineating the context.
     
  86. "Ok, then, so now I'd ask what you meant when you said "really photographing the vase."
    In my examples, one photographer is photographing tonality and depth and the vase provides that. Another vase would do as well. One photographer is photographing linear compostion and texture and the vase provides that. Another vase would do as well. In fact for both, it need not even be another vase. It could be any object that serves the purpose. One photographer is doing something else altogether and only needs a vase as a prop. Some putty in a can would serve as well as the vase.
    None of them are really photographing the vase.
     
  87. Y'all do see the difference between "really photographing the vase" and "photographing the real vase"? I'm not assuming too much, am I?
     
  88. That seems a strange way of putting it, that none of them are really photographing the vase. And I would say that both also clearly are
    photographing the real vase ( by the very act of ) but, in the resulting photographs, not necessarily referring to it's percieved factuality in it's surroundings.
     
  89. [Don E] " I'm not assuming too much, am I?"
    Perhaps you are, just not in the way you mean.
    Don E, you may have noticed that there is a perceptible, though varied, consensus here with those that disagree with you. You are communicating well, that is not the problem. The concept is hardly new, and is easy to grasp. I think most here understand what you are saying and accept your method and views in a personal sense. There is disagreement with some of your conclusions, in the general sense when it comes to "photographing the real vase". We differ on the latter, and inasmuch as I admire Fred's near-infinite tenacity and Julie's tact and light-heartedness, I lack the energy to keep going 'round and 'round any further with you on this. I will keep reading and perhaps posting, but on the "real vase", I recuse myself.
    Arthur - First, welcome back. Thanks for the definition. You wrote: "Phylo, what is objective from a photographic viewpoint? An automated camera on a tripod, whereupon a random time generator determines the moment of exposure?"
    W. Eggleston explored this very idea (and not so obliquely issues regarding auteurship) years ago by randomly plotting coordinates that he later went to with a GPS. He used a random number generator to select the time -- and heading in degrees -- for the exposure. That entire series has never been exhibited, but the weird part is that with all those restrictions, the pictures looked exactly like other Egglestons. We are kidding ourselves (as you remarked) if we deny that we project a lot onto photographs.
    Phylo- That's a good point about the Bechers, and it can extend to any type of photography, not just art. Even the pinnacle of objectivity, forensic pictures can, and often do end up that way. Scientific pictures do too. Diane Keaton did just such a book, btw, from crime scene pictures by police photographers.
    ____________
    Krishnamurti - "When there is a division between the observer and the observed there is conflict but when the observer is the observed there is no control, no suppression. The self comes to an end. Duality comes to an end. Conflict comes to an end."
    [from: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/Numbers/Math/Mathematical_Thinking/observer.htm]
    "Let us ask a simple question: When you look up at night and "see" a star, what is "really" going on? A Newtonian philosopher might answer that you are "really seeing" the star, since, in Newtonian physics, the speed of light is reckoned as being infinite. An Einsteinian philosopher, on the other hand, would answer that you are seeing the star as it was in a past epoch, since light travels with finite velocity and therefore takes time to cross the gulf of space between the star and your eye. To see the star "as it is right now" has no meaning since there exists no means for making such an observation.
    A quantum philosopher would answer that you are not seeing the star at all. The star sets up a condition that extends throughout space and time-an electromagnetic field. What you "see" as a star, is actually the result of a quantum interaction between the local field and the retina of your eye. Energy is being absorbed from the field by your eye, and the local field is being modified as a result. You can interpret your observation as pertaining to a distant object if you wish, or concentrate strictly on local field effects."
     
  90. "That seems a strange way of putting it, that none of them are really photographing the vase."
    Why? It is at this point in the thread I expect somone to chime in with: This is why I never post to this forum anymore. It's all about semantics.
    You can either accept the explanation of my word choice and move on, or nitpick it.
    "And I would say that both also clearly are photographing the real vase"
    I wouldn't, and didn't. I mean, as opposed to an unreal vase?
     
  91. One can embellish the vase but still see it as a vase, as opposed, say, to a can of putty. The putty won't do. The vase will. The vase is the subject that guides the treatment and decisions for those wanting to add something of themselves or even for those who want to recognize that something else is there with the vase. But, for most, in most cases, no, a can of putty will not do. I may want to adjust the blinds to get more light on the vase or even to add a streak of light but that's not because I'm photographing the light. It's because I want to photograph the vase a certain way. And, at the time, I'm not interested in putty.
    As a matter of fact, sometimes I know I have to embellish a little (adjust the blinds for more light) because I know my photograph won't adequately convey how the vase is speaking to me unless I add a little light to make the photo, because the room's a bit too dark.
    If a person's moving and I want to capture that (really), then if I don't set my shutter to a slow speed, I won't capture the movement that's speaking to me. NOT doing something like that, like changing my shutter speed consciously, would be in fact embellishing the photo, because if I stopped the action, it wouldn't capture what was really speaking to me. Sometimes, a photographer has to really use his tools consciously and deliberatively, and perform all kinds of manipulations, in order to really photograph.
     
  92. Arthur, as others have pointed out, "gesture" in this context essentially means "non-verbal communication".
    Of course, the use of photos as a form of non-verbal communication is hardly a novel concept for anyone that has shown some crappy holiday snaps to a friend... :)
     
  93. "There is disagreement with some of your conclusions, in the general sense when it comes to "photographing the real vase". We differ on the latter, and inasmuch as I admire Fred's near-infinite tenacity and Julie's tact and light-heartedness"
    I give up. I've not written anything concerning "photographing the real vase", so you, Fred, Phylo, and Julie can discuss "photographing the real vase". Maybe someone clever will query you about photographing unreal vases.
    "[Don E] " I'm not assuming too much, am I?"
    Perhaps you are, just not in the way you mean."
    Considering your "There is disagreement with some of your conclusions, in the general sense when it comes to "photographing the real vase".", I'm certain I'm dead on right.
    "but on the "real vase", I recuse myself."
    Hey, I don't even have that option, because y'all have decided I wrote "real vase".
    Don E wrote: After three years on this forum I'm used to being slagged for this approach, so no one should think I might be offended if they feel the need to unload about it.
     
  94. "The putty won't do.
    It will do for the example referred to: "Audrey Jr" (because the vase is merely a prop for the flowers and may hardly be visible in the photo). Not for the other two examples. You are conflating distinctly different examples.
     
  95. I never once misquoted you as talking about photographing the real vase.
    Don't conflate me with the other interrogators.
    You used an extreme example, where putty could substitute for the vase. But it's not an example that would apply to anyone, as far as I know, on this forum, or at least would not apply to the main points of what we're talking about. So I'm not sure why you brought it up. A gesture, even grand gestures, does not mean that the subject is dispensable. What relevance does your example have to this thread? It's very rare that people photograph light (for its own sake) or texture (for its own sake), though it has been tried and is a respectable endeavor. Gestures usually are intimately related to the subjects. You picked a most unusual example. Why?
     
  96. "A quantum philosopher would answer that you are not seeing the star at all. The star sets up a condition that extends throughout space and time-an electromagnetic field. What you "see" as a star, is actually the result of a quantum interaction between the local field and the retina of your eye. Energy is being absorbed from the field by your eye, and the local field is being modified as a result. You can interpret your observation as pertaining to a distant object if you wish, or concentrate strictly on local field effects."
    Luis,
    I love this thought, and particularly the first three sentences of it.
    The image on my screen is a lot of text on the philosophical and other aspects of "gesture".
    But is it really that? My only proof for that is convention (learned and experienced traditions, within my own existance), some proven hypotheses of physics, and the iterative consequences of many instances of observing cause and effect which have shown me that it isn't only emr (electromagnetic radiation) in the spectrum that I can read (visible light) from my screen, but also somewhat intelligible communication (I include my own).
    The image we make and preserve, either by a developed emulsion, or some combination of saveguarded electrons, is also a consequence of that electromagnetic radiation that is the carrier between what is photographed (subject) and the photographer. It is as real as we want it to be. Perhaps, though, it has no real basis. If the world had no radiation visible to us, could we nonetheless describe it in terms of sculptures that we would then record by feeling objects?

    "...the pictures looked exactly like other Egglestons."
    It is quite possible that Professor Eggleston did exhibit a bias in his final selection of the exhibited arbitrary images. I don't know, but I feel the "monster" of subjectivity might be everywhere, even in academia.

    "Arthur, as others have pointed out, "gesture" in this context essentially means "non-verbal communication".
    Paul,
    I guess that as we do not emit smells over a great distance, cannot actually touch a subject at a distance of more than about a metre, and that few of us can hypnotise a subject or transfer mind thoughts by some form of electromagnetic radiation, gesture must by default be a proces of using our body in some manner to communicate non-verbally with the subject, or the subject with us.
    That our gestures are important when photographing subjects that can understand their significance (i.e, ANIMATE OBJECTS), is fine. That our gestures in manipulating our recording device can also be important, is also fine.
    But, that we can gesture, and obtain a tangible response to that, in photographing the St. Louis arch or another inanimate object...well, I must continue to think a bit more about that. Any gesture of the photographer is probably only a mental process within him, unless standing on one foot when photographibg has merit to him, or her.
    Perhaps the discussion is considering the physical (...by the nature of the definition of..) gestures within our minds, when we are undertaking the capture of light on film or sensor? I guess that it is possible that there is a bit of pushing and shoving, or "attitudes", of the information neurons, or whatever else is involved (physically, chemically or physico-chemically), in the functioning of the brain....?
    Perhaps the only gesture that is of significance, and which involves inanimate things as well, may be that created by Entropy (hopefully that type of physical degradation of order, or gesture, applies only to one's body and not to one's mind). That is something thermodynamically hypothesised a hundred years ago, and probably true.
     
  97. Arthur, it is really not that far to go to understand the spirit of how this is being used by some. It just took a couple of minutes to find these. If it doesn't work for ya, no great loss.
    2. action communicating something: an action intended to communicate feelings or intentions
    2.Something that takes the place of words in communicating a thought or feeling: expression,indication, sign, token
     
  98. "Don't conflate me with the other interrogators."
    Apologies, I will not lump you in with the others.
    "What relevance does your example have to this thread?"
    Fred, you wrote: "I would start by asking if you recognize a difference in viewing a photo of the vase vs. viewing the vase itself."
    This is the origin and first appearance of the vase. You asked me not about gesture but about the viewing. I did not answer your question because, it seems self evident that viewing a photo and viewing the object itself is different. Instead I wrote about how the subject gestures to me (also I opted out of discussing gesture because I don't understand what is meant, maybe because it has not been clearly explained, or maybe because it bumps into my understanding of gesture in other disciplines). I replied by wanting to discuss a specific vase, not any vase. and I gave some examples, including "I might fill it with flowers and in Photoshop clone in Barbie faces and title it Audrey Jr."
    (If that reference is obscure, it refers to Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors in which the people eating plant is named Audrey Jr, which when it blooms, the face of a victim is at the center of each flower.)
    So, you see, it was your question about "viewing" that was off the topic. My response went back to gesture, and I described how and under what circumstances the subject gestures to me. It is not on a light stage in a studio.
    and then later I wrote: One photographer might take a cracked and chipped vase and turn that part away from the camera because he wants to photograph tonality and depth, and the cracks would break up the smooth transistions. Another photographer might turn the cracks and chips towards the camera because he sees the lines of the cracks and the shape and textures of the chips as a satisfying composition. Both in my estimation are not really photographing the vase. They are utilizing the vase to make a photo of something else.
    Then I described some scenarios in which the vase really is photographed, ie, where the vase is the reason for the photo, not for tonality or composition or as a supporting piece in a composite.
     
  99. Thanks, Josh, but that was understood.
    How that can iteract with inanimate or other non-human and non-animal objects (which include a great many things photographed) is indeed a problem though. Unless it is felt that one's feelings, intentions, actions, expressions, signs or tokens can be deciphered by those objects? Have a look at Jay Maisel's comment on "light and gesture".
     
  100. Arthur, you're confusing yourself... "Gesture " in this discussion simply means "to communicate without words".
    For example, if someone wants to communicate what something looks like to someone else, he can take a snap of it, and present it to someone for viewing. No words are required, of course. This is "gesture".
    It's all much easier to understand if you replace the word "gesture" with "communicate without words".
     
  101. and no body movements are required.
     
  102. Paul, you may well be right, but I think that your definition is only one of more than a few concepts floating around.
    In the specific case of "communicating without words" (and in your case, and from your example, as it applies to the product and not the photographer), the poster, if that was his intention, should probably have used your clearer definition.
     
  103. Don, "....but, in the resulting photographs, not necessarily referring to it's percieved factuality in it's surroundings." <<< What I said and
    important for not being totally misunderstood, regarding what I meant as seeing no difference between ' really photographing the vase ' ( not
    only using it for it's texture or tonalities ) and ' photographing the real vase '.I think not seeing any difference, doesn't mean me assuming that you
    where talking about photographing the real vase, vs an unreal one. I may have just expressed myself too unclear, and even more so now or
    just misunderstood you, wich I guess does happen if someone doesn't naturally and mostly thinks, speaks, and writes in english.
     
  104. We have discussed different forms a gesture can take. To be found throughout the thread. Don originally posted an open query to how gesture was used by Fred and then it blossomed from there. Gesture like expression has different meanings and is not used as some scientific or medical terms would be, as pointed as an arrow head. Gesture would probably not be used in a technical forum.
    We are feeling it out.
     
  105. Josh, yes, "gesture" in this context is not necessarily concerned with physical body movements.
    For example, a photo of a sunset "gestures" the information that the photographer is attempting to communicate to the viewer. That information may be "I saw this and took a picture of it", or "This is what a sunset looks like", or "I think this is really, really pretty".
     
  106. Phylo, the difference between "really" and "real": all the photographers in my example are photographing the real vase. "Really" modifies "photographing", not "vase". The vase is really real however it is photographed or whether it is photographed or not.
    My interest in subjects is in specific things, not classes of things. My examples of not really photographing the vase can be understood if you accept that an identical vase would serve their purpose. My example photographers, let's say, found their vases at a junk store. They each buy two vases in the same condition. It doesn't matter which of the two vases they put on the light stage. If they drop one and shatter it, they've got a backup. They aren't really photographing the (one, individual, with its own history) vase. They are really photographing something else which both vases provide. My examples of really photographing the vase require the one, individual, with its own history vase, and not any other vase. Setting a cracked cheap vase from the junk store on the mantel or on a bench in the cellar would be really photographing *another* *different* (but also real) vase.
     
  107. When we begin to make those choices we begin to have a voice. A voice in photography will lead to using gestures, (action communicating something) one of the myriad of elements that become our technique. With exceptions? I haven’t gone there yet but will give it some thought.
    Voices vary. Documentary styles vary greatly. But possibly in the spirit off what you are saying, I think of the word embellishment.(thanks Fred) and that you do not wish to embellish.? Would your hope be to have a unembellished record of the vase? You are creating documents? Are you a record keeper (my words)?
    A genuine personal question i would pose to you Don, to know you. What motivates you to photograph?
    Phylo has introduced some significant photo documentarians. Karl Blossfeldt was a record keeper for referencing shapes found in nature for his ironwork, sculptures. His photos are as ‘true’ as i have seen in b&w and many consider them art.. they are incredible esthetically, (not technically) and as unembellished as is possible I think. Blossfeldt usually stripped it all away, to get at the form without distraction. And I can pick out a Blossfeldt from across the room. I will go out on a limb here and say that his stamp goes beyond his subject matter. Like many sparsely embellished film and photo documentarians some of the choices that are inevitable to record light and subject begin to distinguish the author. Sparse is the most obvious, but choosing to shoot as found is a gesture that becomes distinctive. Choosing to add any artificial lighting to meet minimal requirements of a recording device, film or digital or color or bw or grain or sensitivity, or waiting for different light. Composing with or without thought, pausing for a moment to change anything. Post and presentation are impossible to achieve without significant choices to make. Bresson tried to minimize this by having others do ‘as is’ straight printing. Well there is a long list of choices that choice determined. All these decisions are integral, inseparable from a voice, Although in an attempt to minimize changes.
    I hope that the dirty emails don't come flying but I have always thought of Bresson as a record keeper extraordinaire. His work/records have made me feel that i have been privy to other cultures and times that i have not personally experienced. Like a insightful, entertaining and extraordinary slideshow. But i do get the sense that i am seeing it through his eyes, filters. He embellished his records and they became distinctive to a point. In this he was not the same as Blossfeldt even with subject aside. .. He allowed himself many more choices than Blossfeldt whose images scream his name. In part it is the nature of the beast called street shooting. Like your street shots Don, Bresson chose framing, inclusions, exclusions and of course moment and much more. For me this is inseparable from creating a an image as document.
    Well, in my world i have seen many record keepers that i hold in high regard. Some of my best friends … are talented record keepers but would not like to see themselves or what they are doing as a talent. It just is. Fair enough, it is not art but it is communication, a record a documented account.
    I think having a voice is unavoidable when creating images. Having a non verbal voice like in photography will lead to gesturing. Perhaps just not distinctive. Attempting to not interject your voice is difficult and admirable for documentarians and record keepers.
     
  108. Gesture has become a popular descriptor possibly because humans are desirous of change (not to be always conflated or confused with evolution or progression), art magazines must sell, photographers must convince the public of the "significance" of their approach, and new catch words must be hatched - The more elusive the concept, or more tangentially directed the postulate, the better!
    As far as I can discover, the works of people like Bresson or Salgado or Kenna, and numerous great artists before them, had or have had absolutely no need to invoke new concepts and terms to describe their personal processes and artistic approaches, which I imagine for them were part of an entirely self evident and simple process.
    Can you imagine Van Gogh or Da Vinci or Picasso talking of gesture? If they applied non-verbal communication, I would imagine it was simply thought of as part of the normal human everyday inteaction between individuals.
    The post modern and post-post modern photographers would seem to abhor the simplicity of the artistic process, many projecting the need of conceptual crutches to explain their approach or their work.
    Empowerment, gesture, ... Bah, humbug!
     
  109. Arthur, yes, this would seem to be the case.
     
  110. "But possibly in the spirit off what you are saying, I think of the word embellishment.(thanks Fred) and that you do not wish to embellish.? Would your hope be to have a unembellished record of the vase? You are creating documents? Are you a record keeper (my words)? "
    The sharp distinction between subjective and objective does not capture the nuances of the interpenetration of our self and the world around us. It is my relationship with the subject I'm interested in. If there is no relationship, then there is no urge to photograph it (the subject does not gesture to me). I can photograph it, of course, but it wouldn't have beckoned me to it.
    "A genuine personal question i would pose to you Don, to know you. What motivates you to photograph?"
    It is an important way I related to things. It's my gesture in response to the gesture of what becomes the subject.
     
  111. Josh, a correction: It was I who introduced Blossfeldt and the others, not Phylo.
     
  112. sorry about that Luis.
     
  113. Arthur wrote: "Can you imagine Van Gogh or Da Vinci or Picasso talking of gesture?"
    I don't have to. Van Gogh did just that. Here, from his letter to Theo dated May 11, 1885 (Vincent was 32), and the comment touches upon the discussion here :
    "At present I am busy putting into practice, on the drawing of a hand and an arm, what Delacroix said about drawing: “Ne pas prendre par la ligne mais par le milieu.” That gives opportunity enough to start from ellipses. And what I try to acquire is not to draw a hand but the gesture , not a mathematically correct head, but the general expression . For instance, when a digger looks up and sniffs the wind or speaks. In short, life ."
     
  114. Luis, yes, it certainly seems that many artists have been prolific waffle-mongers over the years, so it was surely unfair of Arthur to lay the blame solely with the latest batch...
    :)
     
  115. Luis, touché! Well,... perhaps only a demi-touché.
    Gesture of a hand, or expression of a face, is the realm of the painter or sculptor, who has all the degrees of artistic freedom denied in very large part to the photographer. Yes a photograph can be a rendition too - great photographic portraits can express more than their subject alone. We all have experiences of having photographed something, the final image of which (including our darkrom or lightroom modifications to comply with or enhance what we are trying to communicate) transcends the "record" picture.
    What has mostly been talked about above, if I am not wrong (and I might be, a 100 or so posts is difficult to keep up with), is the gesture of the photographer vis-a-vis his or her human or other subject, and not the rendition photographed (or of the artist himself and not of his conception which he paints). This non-verbal expression between the two individuals, and in some cases with unresponsive subjects (inanimate), seems to be the type of gesture that some artists are invoking.
    But bravo nonetheless for researching Monsieur Van Gogh. I agree on the singular aspect of gesture that you raise. even if it is a specific one.
     
  116. "As far as I can discover, the works of people like Bresson or Salgado or Kenna, and numerous great artists before them, had or have had absolutely no need to invoke new concepts and terms to describe their personal processes and artistic approaches, which I imagine for them were part of an entirely self evident and simple process."
    I absolutely agree. But numerous does not speak for all 'great' artists. As people differ so will approach to photography and in learning. And of those you mention Bresson is one who I am fully aware avoided these discussions. In his earned and admired simple instinctual, humble way would never trash another approach, of course i am projecting. Like Bresson i often go into instinct mode when i am carrying my camera. His apparent reverence for 'Zen in the Art of Archery' (an english translation)(JK :0) suggest a preference for letting go of technique, which i find essential when i am after the fleeting moment. This does not account for how one arrives at that ability. Many paths are taken. I paint, draw, sculpt and observe and listen to others approach, that may differ greatly from my own. Someone else may choose to avoid all contact with the methods and ideas of others.
    Arthur, I have learned some insights from the others on this thread. So far all i have learned from your contributions is was does not make sense or work for you. Perhaps you could expand on where you were heading early in this thread when you made this comment.
    Arthur Plumpton Feb 24, 2009; 11:57 p.m.
    "I interpret gesture as a "form of art or photographic expression", and not some body movement or posture.
    But I guess I am gesturing alone on that!"
    Arthur Plumpton , Feb 24, 2009; 12:45 p.m.
    "I believe that the "Autonomists" (The 1948 "global refusal", sometimes even linked to "The Quiet Revolution" and Separatism in Canada) started their Montreal contemporary art movement, which rejected past art and employed, amongst other approaches, gestural movements in painting. Riopelle's paintings, Pollack's as well, are no doubt other examples of "gestural" approaches applied to the canvas.
    In photography? Perhaps some of Hass' s work? Or perhaps randomly directed photgraphic imaging?"

    was something of interest for me.May i take it as simple clarification? a tongue in cheek gesture? i really don't know.
     
  117. Josh,
    The answer to your question is simple.
    Lacking the benefit of an upfront definition of "gesture" at the start of this post (I since understand from another post that this is a continuatiuon of another post related to gesture started by Fred G., and which I have not seen), I immediately thought of "gesturing", a recognised form of painting which Riopelle and Pollack and even some of my summer gallery contemporary artists have engaged in. I may not have the exact word for this approach in English. In French, here, they refer to this as "gesticulation", which derives from the verb gesticuler ("to gesture").
    It is a method of expression, usually on canvas, that appears as a more or less free gesturing with the paint brush (creating curved movements, paint spots and the like). I am sure that if you are familiar with Riopelle, Borduas and Pollack, and several others, I probably don't need to describe the approach any further (I hope I am not mixing up Pollack with another, that might be and I do admit to occasionally confusing artists and styles).
    Ernst Hass's colour photographs using blurs (by moving objects or by moving his Leicaflex during exposure) constitute I think a similar way of expressing colour, light and form via the photographed image, not unlike Riopelle and others who made use of this type of gesturing in painting.
     
  118. "Lacking the benefit of an upfront definition of "gesture" at the start of this post"
    Paul, I have belatedly read your Univ. of Chicago text reference and general definitions, and some of Fred's and other's earlier remarks. Interesting stuff, and I am getting a broader picture than that which had supported my somewhat narrow "rant".
     
  119. Arthur, thank you. Now we're talking. I am familiar with gesture painting and with gesture drawing which are not the same and yet have some similarities as expression. These paintings were not only hand movements but were trying to capture feelings or express something beyond the borders of the canvas. Through physical movements and relationships of the colors and shapes. The energy of the hand movement, the feeling of the artist at that moment or drawn from an past or perceived experience.
    The example that Luis gave from Van Gogh is a classic example of what many are trying to achieve with there 'gesture drawings'.
    I have always considered drawing the best tool i have for learning photography. I find it so on many levels. Gesture drawing is one of the best ways i have found to exercise the muscles required for photography.
    I think the Haas images are very good examples of one form of gesturing photographically.
     
  120. Don, thanks for your further explanation. I understand what you're saying now and, in this new light of understanding, me stating that it seems
    strange to say that ' none of them are really photographing the vase ' is indeed nothing but unnecessary semantic nitpicking, but this was never my intent
    to do so if I hadn't misunderstood you in this way in the first place, which was clearly my mistake to begin with.
     
  121. Josh, you have provided a more in-depth description of gesturing in painting and drawing than I have. It is inspiring to think how the interaction of art and photography and the human psyche (or feelings and emotions) can have a considerable effect on us and our work. I think it is really to our great advantage to mix these things, to learn as much as possible about art and other art-based activities (architecure, music, ...) of expression, as they can influence us and our photography. Thinking out of the box, as an expression goes. I think we too often simply respond passively to a scene or object to be photographed, rather than impose upon it our own feelings or perceptions and compositions.
    Not too relateed, but I remember an adult drawing class at our national museum of fine arts a few years ago in which the prof (from the local university) gave each of us a cloth bag filled with all sorts of things, inuding glass beads, small bits of wood, metal objects, and so on. We were asked to draw what we felt without looking into the bag. Another was to take a drawing we had made, or any photograph, and to enlarge it many times via a Xerox machine, and re-interpret it. I guess that part of these lessons was to interpret things differently from what they are, to form a gesture.
     
  122. Fred wrote: "You used an extreme example, where putty could substitute for the vase. But it's not an example that would apply to anyone, as far as I know, on this forum, or at least would not apply to the main points of what we're talking about. So I'm not sure why you brought it up."
    You were not aware my examples were illustrations, 'hypotheticals? You thought I was taking examples from photographic practice in the actual world? It did not occur to you that the examples were made up for the purpose of illustration.
    ***
    There is the interesting facility of some to read: photographing the real vase, when what is clearly written is: really photographing the vase. Imo, this facility is due to operating with one's ideological filter's gain turned up way too high, and possibly thinking it is a bs filter, but it is just feedback.
    ***
    So, in order to leave this thread with at least a minimum of grace, I have to say it was all a misunderstanding.
     
  123. "Can you imagine Van Gogh or Da Vinci or Picasso talking of gesture?"​
    I can imagine a Maradonna talking about gesture. I also can imagine Maradonna being the greater Artist compared to Van Gogh and Picasso. In the very beginning of this thread I quoted HCB's concept of " the decisive moment ".
    So to the question what is gesture ? >> The answer may very well be in " the decisive moment " : " It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis. "
    A soccer legend and one of history's great photographers seem to have a lot in common.
     
  124. Looking for reading material related to the thread, I came across this:
    Migrations of Gesture by Carrie Noland (Editor), Sally Ann Ness (Editor)

    Synopsis

    Derived from the Latin verb “gerere”-to carry, act, or do-“gesture” has accrued critical currency but has remained undertheorized. Migrations of Gesture addresses this absence and provides a complex theory on the value of gesture for understanding human sign production.

    Gestures migrate from body to body, from one medium to another, and between cultural contexts. Juxtaposing distinct approaches to gesture in order to explore the ways in which they at once shape and are influenced by culture, the contributors examine the works of writers Henri Michaux and Stéphane Mallarmé, photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, and filmmakers Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Martin Arnold, along with cultural practices such as gang walking, ballet, and classical Indian dance. The authors move deftly between an organic, phenomenal appreciation of human expression and a historicist, semiotic understanding of how the “human” is itself created through gestural routines.

    Contributors: Mark Franko, U of California, Santa Cruz; Ketu H. Katrak, U of California, Irvine; Akira Mizuta Lippit, U of Southern California; Susan A. Phillips, Pitzer College; Deidre Sklar; Lesley Stern, U of California, San Diego; Blake Stimson, U of California, Davis.
    Carrie Noland is associate professor of French literature and critical theory at the University of California, Irvine.

    Sally Ann Ness is professor of anthropology at University of California, Riverside.
     
  125. For the record, this is where this interrogator got "the real vase":
    Don wrote: "The subject is real already. It is not the (imaginary) "subject". It is the real subject which gestures and communicates to the photographer."
    The vase was trotted out as the ubiquitous hypothetical, and automatically "the real subject" = "the real vase". I made a mistake including 'photographing' within the quote marks.
     
  126. jtk

    jtk

    Don E...would you tentatively agree that "memes" and "gestures" function in similar ways?
    I hope someone will "photograph" or photograph Luis's ubiquitous hypothetical trotting vase.
     
  127. jtk

    jtk

    ...and... to the degree that a gesture (as in a photograph) conveys a meme, does that make it more like a virus than interpersonal communication ?
     
  128. Meme. Very significant. Thanks, John.

    When he wasn't spinning around in circles, Plato was one of the first to work with the idea of mimesis, from which meme derives.

    It works on several levels in Greek philosophy, all pertinent to this discussion and others about creativity those in this forum have had recently.

    Plato was pretty down on artists, but he did recognize in art at least one significant thing: seduction.

    By imitation (mimesis) of nature, and with inspiration (divine madness) the artist seduces but is not after Truth. I'm kind of glad Plato's artist doesn't attain the kind of truth Plato held in such esteem, because that Truth could only be achieved through Knowledge and Wisdom.

    Imitation is related to representation is related to mimicry is related to mime is related to gesture . . . mimesis.

    On the wall of Plato's (allegory of the) cave, the men see only shadows, caused by the light of the fire behind them. They see only a representation of reality . . . not reality itself. So Plato was upset with the artist for being removed from reality. Art was a mere representation of reality.

    Aristotle, on the other hand, had a better grasp on the significance of art. He knew that the viewer (audience in his case, because he twas talking about tragedy here) identified with the work of art because of its mimetic function, the empathy, the response to what the actors/characters feel. Art "represented" for Aristotle but not in the shadowy way it did for Plato. Art, for Aristotle, was enlightening.

    Two definitions of represent that should sound vaguely familiar to the definitions of gesture we've been working with:

    to set forth or describe as having a particular character ("The article represented the dictator as a benevolent despot.")

    to set forth clearly or earnestly with a view to influencing . . . ("He represented to potential clients that his company was solvent.")

    Not like a virus . . . like an offering.
     
  129. I'm the wrong person to ask, John, because I do not understand "gesture". I tried to approximate it in this thread with my own practice, but it is awkward, and I would not use it otherwise. But it seems a useful term for critics and theorists, and those photographers who are interested in theory and critique. I don't know whether an image can be said to be a meme (or for that matter, the written word). Memes by definition seem to appear spontaneously and universally in a culture, depending on the vectors of transmission available. So, a meme might not have a single source or origin. As I understand it, something becomes a meme when the time and circumstances are ripe for it.
    Do you remember when people would commonly say "I like it", rather than "I'm liking it"? When did people begin using the gerund verb form? Was it memetically transmitted? What does it imply, if anything?
     
  130. 'because I do not understand "gesture"
    Nothing to understand.
    Cloak it in a rainbow of colours,cloak it in language of language.
    But really it is a simple gesture of commincation...
    00SbjK-112349884.jpg
     
  131. Arthur, good to hear your last thoughts. I second the nod to Pauls link. I find your drawing class memories very related to this topic. Drawing for me has been a touchstone and essential tool. Gesture drawing from a moving model in particular.
    Your word passively in particular i find stimulating. - but i hear passive vs action. I think i grasp the spirit of your usage in your context. I neither agree or disagree and i agree and disagree with the way i read it. I think it is good to have the ability to be proactive in our image captures. Even if i choose not to use the ability it resides in my lack of action. I also have found many striking images that were likely captured with a bare minimum of action. I use a bare minimum when i am street shooting. I personally lean into the active approach when possible, as I think you were suggesting. As I mentioned before with Blossfeldt (thanks Luis) I find his collection inspirational. I would understand someone wishing to jump in here and argue the degree of passivity but i am only using Blossfeldt as someone I believe took a more clinical approach than i tend to use.
    John, interesting new word for me. I'll try not to abuse it.
    As I was reading the last comments of everyone i realized how unspoken gestures are common and often ripe in these forums.(i am not making a gesture to anyone in particular to say that). I was simply thinking of how some people know others much better than i might and i sense that there are many private gestures being passed as well as many blatant,public easily perceived gestures. Gestures of anger, frustration, respect, reconciliation...
     
  132. Allen, i find it to be most often (and in the context of photography) a language within a language.
     
  133. Very true, Josh.
     
  134. "But really it [gesture] is a simple gesture of commincation..."
    That's an explanation that doesn't explain anything.
     
  135. To add to that thought non verbal comminication is often the most powerful form of communication...hence the power of a still photograph which reaches deeper than mere words can achieve. It freezes that body language, giving time to comprehend and contemplate to be able to feel and see deeper.
    You have some strong creative images in your portfolio,Josh.
     
  136. "But really it [gesture] is a simple gesture of commincation..."That's an explanation that doesn't explain anything.
    A gesture is a form of communication, Don. What else do you think it could be?
    A burger in a bun)
     
  137. I apologise for that last remark, Don.
     
  138. I don't need a definition -- I've got a dictionary -- but an explanation of "gesture" in terms of photography. I understand what Arthur means by it in terms of brushwork: "a method of expression" -- expressive brushwork, loading a bristle brush of chosen size and shape with thick opaque paint and medium of choice and making the stroke, for example. And each stroke is a sail on a ship, say, in a seascape. And it just looks and feels "right". But I don't understand "gesture" as it is used here regarding photography.
     
  139. " but an explanation of "gesture" in terms of photography"
    The key is in the dictionary definition.
    It's about the communication between the photographer and subject. Gestures, non verbal communication, are a body language....both the photographer and subject are communicating. Like verbal communication the reaction to that conversation very much depends on what is being communicated by both parties.
     
  140. "The key is in the dictionary definition."
    All gesturing is related to the definition. But words don't come with a definition inscribed on them from on high. Their meaning is in their usage. So a 'mouse gesture' and an 'obscene gesture' are related to the definition, but pointing to one usage doesn't explain the other. All we know is they are both gestures as defined.
    When you first encountered the phrase "mouse gesture", what did you imagine it meant? If you design sw interfaces, you might have instantly understood what it means, but otherwise?
     
  141. John Kelly wrote: I hope someone will "photograph" or photograph Luis's ubiquitous hypothetical trotting vase.
    I hope so too, and can we make that "really" photograph/"photograph" the ff-ing vase? And, hey, I don't own that vase.
    Thanks.
    Don wrote: "I don't understand "gesture" as it is used here regarding photography."
    Gesture in photographic terms? Let's look at a specific picture, one that is well-known.
    http://pausetobegin.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/newman.jpg
    As everyone here must know, Mr. Newman knew going in about his subject, the industrialist Mr. Krupp using slave labor during WWII. Here, he carefully, expertly, knowingly and deliberately the available tools of a photographer to portray him as the embodiment of Evil. The lighting is ghoul lighting. The color temp gives the skin the color of a corpse. The lightbulb elongation of the skull/ head, the Simon LeGree hand gesture, the oppressive lintels (he had moved into place) in the background. The place he chose to set up the camera, the lens used, focus, DOF, exposure, film, background, framing, etc every decision Mr. Newman made is gestural and towards a specific message about what Krupp did, what a monster Newman thought he was, and how we must never forget. And it communicated, too. When Krupp got hold of some of Newman's Polaroids, he had him thrown out of Germany.
    Don, does this help to clarify gesture in photography?
     
  142. Yes, and thanks, Luis. I didn't know all that had a term of art. It may be analogous to a phrase I use: photographs that are systems of signs.
     
  143. "... a term of art" ?
    Can't reply to that. I very deliberately left the a-word out of that post.
     
  144. Term of Art
    "Technical terminology is the specialized vocabulary of a field, the nomenclature. These terms have specific definitions within the field, which is not necessarily the same as their meaning in common use. Jargon is similar, but more informal in definition and use..."
     
  145. Ah...never heard that before. Thanks, Don.
     
  146. ' Mr. Newman knew going in about his subject, the industrialist Mr. Krupp using slave labor during WWII. Here, he carefully, expertly, knowingly and deliberately the available tools of a photographer to portray him as the embodiment of Evil."
    Non verbal communication.
    The one finger salute comes to mind.
     
  147. I started this thread about gesture because of Fred's use, so I would ask Fred whether there is anything he'd like to add to or modify Luis' explanation.
     
  148. Fred, the reason I'm asking is in your first post the gestures of the subject is foremost, and then an "also" that the photographer can gesture, and also that the photograph itself can be said ("somewhat metaphorically") to be a gesture. But when I replied ""Gesture" of the subject, the gesture(s) in the frame", you replied that you did not understand my response.
     
  149. I just came from a performance of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) and La Valse (1920). The conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, began the afternoon talking briefly about the waltz as such a gestural musical form. He used terms for the waltz such as sentimental, flirtatious, and whimsical. (By the way, it's coincidence. I doubt he reads PN.) He talked about how the earlier piece incorporates those typical gestures of the waltz.

    He then talked about how the second piece was Ravel's gesture to Austria, where the waltz had originally become so popular. By 1920, waltzing Vienna was no longer seen as flirtatious and whimsical. La Valse takes the waltz to the extreme of obsession, control, and over-the-top power . . . incessant repetition and rhythmic compulsivity. It starts out with a drum solo, almost a precursor to the famous "Jaws" music, but in a haunting 1-2-3 waltz rhythm. As Tilson Thomas put it, "La Valse became a bitter and ferocious fantasy, a terrifying tone poem that helped define a new language of musical nightmare." La Valse is a gesture to what Austria had become. This secondary gesture by Ravel utilizes the ingrained familiarity with the more benign and sweet gestures of Austrian waltzes to make its demonic statement so moving and effective.

    Of course, in order to conduct the orchestra, Tilson Thomas used . . . gestures.

    There's not a single meaning here and, as has been discussed, no dictionary is really going to get it.

    The distinction between sign language and mime helps. They are both dependent on gestures. But a sign has more of a one-to-one, fixed representational meaning. Like a word or a number. A gesture can be just that, a substitute for a word or phrase, with a fairly fixed meaning. A mime, on the other hand, uses gestures more loosely and holistically, more contextually, expressively, and in conjunction with other tools, often including lighting, makeup, etc. It's less clear that a mime's gesture means exactly THIS or THAT, as compared to the gestures of a sign language interpreter. Yet a mime communicates a lot with his gestures, and generally part of that communication has more to do with feelings and effect than with language per se.

    Later in the thread, John's use of the word meme (related to mime) got me to thinking about "representation" (since that's contained in the original Greek, mimesis). We've often talked in these forums about whether or not photography "represents" reality or even "represents" the individual things in the world that are its subjects. Well, yes. And more.

    Sometimes photography really does represent to us the world, as in good photojournalism, documentary, and as a recording medium.

    Beyond that, photography can represent in a less exacting way, with the desire to create an effect. I might represent to you that my piano is in mint condition. When I use "represent" that way, it's more like the gesture of the mime than that of the sign language interpreter. I'm not showing you a picture of the piano as a representation of it. I am using words and attitude to "represent" not the piano but something significant about the piano. What's important is the effect that will have on you. I want you to believe me and I probably want you to buy it. So I make that kind of representation. That kind of representation is more than a copy. It can be a revelation. In the same way, so can a gesture, photographically or otherwise. Part of the gesture is so that you will understand. But more of it is so that you may empathize, be moved, perhaps enlightened, and feel effects.
     
  150. Fred:
    "For me that can sometimes be the twist that's the hook . . . the subject becomes the object . . . but then becomes subject again. The subject for the photographer becomes, by becoming his object, the subject of the photograph. Yes, there can be a transformation."
    I once heard an elucidation of "objective" and "subjective" which really stuck: in the place of the object; in the place of the subject. It has to do with the active "imposition" of consciousness. The communicative act is holistic and interpretive. Maybe that's the best way to view the triadic relationship between photographer, subject, and viewer.
     
  151. Thanks, Fred. It is your last paragraph where I diverge with what seems to me the general consensus on this forum -- not about gesture, but philosophy of photography. It is the reason I decided to not refer to myself as an artist or as having an interest in photography as an art.
    I think I can answer Josh now: "But possibly in the spirit off what you are saying, I think of the word embellishment.(thanks Fred) and that you do not wish to embellish.? Would your hope be to have a unembellished record of the vase? You are creating documents? Are you a record keeper (my words)?"
    What I don't do is make photos that are systems of signs, the way Newman's Krupp is. It is not really a photograph of Krupp; it is a really a photograph of Newman's idea of Krupp, at best. I think any stock photo is more revealing of Krupp
    There are two arguments presented against this philosophy:
    1) The fact that you've chosen a subject, a place to stand, an aperture, a shutter speed means you are "representing" just like Newman. This argument ignores that Newman meticulously constructed his signs. A sign encodes a meaning (actually, the meaning is in the viewer and the photographer-as-viewer. It is not an inherent property of the sign. The meanings of signs change with the times)...A sign encodes a meaning; it is consciously constructed. There is intention to represent meaning. Where one chooses to stand may be governed by the location of the light source, the fall of shadows. It is possible to sign from where one chooses to photograph: one can create sympathy for a subject by shooting from a bit above, or make the subject ominous by shooting a bit from below. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, especially in the absence of conscious intent. Anyway, choosing f/8 to photograph Krupp is of a different order of magnitude than intending to represent him as the embodiment of evil.
    2) It is subjective, and thus unavoidable. But it is conscious and intended, and once the photographer pushes the button it is objective, existing on its own without an umbilical cord to the photographer's mind. The photographer's intent no longer matters. The photograph exists. Objectively exists.
    It is around these two 'insistences' that I get into trouble here.
     
  152. Why not represent with signs? Because meaning is not an inherent property of the sign. Times change. Even the meanings of signs that are universal in a culture change because cultures change. Times change. For example, unless one studies art history, the signs in old paintings are not only incomprehensible, they are unrecognizable as having meaning. Why a myrtle bush in The Venus of Urbino? Why a dog in Olympia? What do they mean?
    Here are my immediate reactions (and not my considered responses) to viewing Newman's Krupp:
    The Great Criswell
    Goth poster
    White Zombie (Halperin Brothers, 1932)
    City of text (Hackers, Softley, 1995)
    One hit there, at least. White Zombie has slave labor in it.
     
  153. Don--
    If what I've said suggests to you that "the fact that you've chosen a subject, a place to stand, an aperture, a shutter speed means you are 'representing' just like Newman," please forgive me. Because that's not what I think. That would be the extreme of the argument, which I always try to avoid. The slippery slope argument (whereby doing the littlest bit means you're really doing a lot) is not acceptable in standard philosophical discourse and I avoid it or at least try to.
    I think there is a vast difference between what you do and what Newman did, or what anyone who intentionally represents meaning does.
    But I would still draw the line at what you claimed to be "really" photographing the vase. Because I would still insist that there is no "really" and that there can be no purity in the escape from representing meaning. I believe those choices of stance, aperture setting, etc. do represent meaning. But I understand the difference between that kind of representation of meaning and throwing a strong spotlight on the vase to get a dramatic shadow of it into the picture.
    I think I've said several times, whether in this thread or others, that it is a matter of degree.
    I also think that an artist's vision is real. That he sees the vase immediately with certain kinds of flourishes or embellishments is "really" the way he sees it. He's not doing it for effect and he's not doing it with the intention of representing something . . . in the moment. That IS what appears to him. (Newman may have done it with a great deal more intention rather than with this kind of vision.)
    I think Monet saw what he painted and painted what he saw. Really.
     
  154. Fred, I refer to no one in particular but to a general consensus, not only here, but nearly everywhere I searched for information related to this thread. What seems to be at the core of it is it seems my philosophy is considered naive. No one wants to be associated with naivete. I don't mind, though. One reason I don't is I think times have changed which affects signs and the meanings encoded in them. What might be thought naivete in one era, is likely to gain a different response in another, just as appreciation and understanding of a work can be significantly different in the same era, but in different cultures.
     
  155. It makes these threads challenging. I can't and wouldn't want to defend a general consensus, so I can only hope that people read me as an individual and respond to me as one. At the same time, there are often several conversations going on at once and it can start to seem like there are "sides" forming or at least general trends. I choose my words pretty carefully and hope that what others say, even those who seem to agree with some main tenets of mine, doesn't taint some of the more subtle aspects I'm conveying in a dialogue. Likewise, I hope I'm not stepping on or mischaracterizing things even with regard to those I basically agree with. Still, I am not always successful at communicating and sometimes I downright misspeak or say something I soon learn was perhaps not a good insight.
    I don't see your philosophy as naive. That would be a rather paternalistic or condescending, even patronizing, attitude. That I disagree with someone, no matter how strongly, doesn't mean I think they don't have a great deal of experience and haven't thought these things through for themselves as deeply as I have.
    The reason there is a study of art history is precisely the reason you've given. Because signs take on meanings or are given meanings relative to times and cultures. Meaning is not, as Plato wrongly thought, unyielding and unchanging, universal and eternal. That's why I always get a big laugh when people around these forums claim that art is totally subjective and personal. Appreciation of art does not take place in a vacuum and knowing signs and significance is a key to the experience of art.
    Now it seems true that a future culture, unfamiliar with our own, may not get much out of some forms of art where they cannot "read" the signs. I'd still maintain that they would "get" what Monet was doing without any formal art history classes and even not knowing much about Monet's era. That's because I think Monet saw and painted what we all see at various times. I think there are many artistic styles that do have a "universal" (that word used with caution) appeal and meaning. They might very well not "get" as much of what Warhol was doing.
    If a future culture came across your photos, they would not have to concern themselves with "what you meant." They might simply see something portrayed relatively cleanly. Nevertheless, there might be someone in another city doing very much what you do, not projecting meanings, not embellishing, etc. If they only saw his photos, clean as they are, they might still be effected very differently because of some choices he made differently from yours. That doesn't mean either of you are manipulating or "representing" in the latter sense we talked about above. But it does mean something.
     
  156. Don, I do not think your philosophy naive.
     
  157. "Because I would still insist that there is no "really" and that there can be no purity in the escape from representing meaning" I second that Fred.
    The Krupp portrait link that Don provides is a version of Krupp that provides signs and embellishments more than a mugshot and less than Newmans. But the presentation while generic does have gestures. The slightly turned (posed) head, the neatly packaged cleaned sitter, the cast of the eyes, the unobtrusive but 'right' lighting. I get the feeling someone wants me to see confidence and professionalism and that this is someone i can trust. It might even be Krupp deciding how he wishes to be seen. The strong sign being used here seems to be what we have been taught, trained to accept as a good photo for a stock holders report or many other such presentations.


    "What I don't do is make photos that are systems of signs, the way Newman's Krupp is. It is not really a photograph of Krupp; it is a really a photograph of Newman's idea of Krupp, at best." i see it that way also Don. That photo has pointed gestures, signs to a degree that the photographer is inseparable to my eye. It is far beyond a photo booth capture.. I feel led by the photographer and their projections. Pulled along by the photographers view of a reality.
    Now a photo booth has no say input, or other choices to make than what it was told to do. I love photobooth work. I get to be the sitter and composer at the same time. It feels kinda real and surreal at the same moment.
     
  158. One further thought:
    There are many sides to the "reality" coin.
    A photo without pointed signs and interjections from the photographer may cut across cultures and centuries. There is likely a timelessness to it.
    I assume that future cultures will be aware, as we are, that some representations are unembellished and some comment on the times, the milieu, and use very culturally and era-sensitive signs. If they have no history books or oral histories with which to understand the signs of the past, they will be missing something that no "recording" can convey to them. Just like if they only have meaningful, sign-oriented representations they will be missing what a straight recording can provide.
    Warhol's representations of the sixties (hell, he created some of what we label "the sixties"), is no less real for its lack of universality or lack of timelessness.
    Who's to say that a recording of a supermarket shelf of Campbell's soup cans, done in the "straightest" of ways is any more real than one of Warhol's silkscreens. What the recording misses the silkscreen captures. The reality of the sixties' way of seeing soup cans is no less real than the reality of recording the can itself on the shelf.
    Two sides of a coin.
    Josh--
    I love the photo booth idea in this context. It does seem rather an objective operation, no choices made, no real say in the matter. Nevertheless, photo booth photographs have a pretty distinctive feel and I think, in themselves, as the medium, are suggestive. I think the same is true of any type of photograph, say, as compared to painting or architecture. The very fact that the medium of recording is a still photograph (as opposed to a moving film or a narratively read very straight description) will be suggestive.
     
  159. Very suggestive, sometimes extreme. The photo booth look stands nearly alone, like a mug shot can (yet they can resemble eachother). They usually have a unique physical size, they also are generally presented in series and have a notable lighting look. This are not set rules of course but it helps make them distinctive. That repetitive slightly adjusted look is also suggestive. As are mug shots. Certain bells and whistles are used and triggered no matter what we do. Because we do, photograph it is enough to start a process of leading and interpreting. A language communicates. Mediums are chosen and the suggestion begins. Some may wish to minimize their input as much as possible. But
    I think one of the reasons that photo booth 'art'/ portraits are so distinctive is that when we see an image that is obviously created in a booth, we as viewer carry the knowledge that it was a machine behind the camera. That is suggestive on a level that is very distinctive. Not only that it was a machine but that the sitter is also the composer (most often via mirror image). This makes a further distinction from most self portraits, beyond the ability to choose your camera and lighting and background.... When you have such direct and close input from a reflected image it influences the choices you make as a sitter. Those choices become important i think.
    I have a poor memory for book titles and who authored what. As i am writing this i am recalling a book from my past - Asimov, Heinlein?? The story is about our occupation of what was first believed to be an asteroid and later found to be a space ship passing near earth. Please indulge my mistakes. But i seem to remember machine life forms(?) that were possibly scouts, observers, data gatherers(?) that were scouring the interior of this planet like ship. I imagine such machines would record the truth of what they saw in as unattached way as possible, but of course we know that could not tell the complexity of reality. But if they were capturing images, i suspect i would find them fascinating.
    The mere process of photography limits and leads. Introduce a brain to the equation and all bets are off. But certainly can we attempt to minimize our input. I enjoy shooting found objects or people or events that way, sometimes.
     
  160. "I'd still maintain that they would "get" what Monet was doing without any formal art history classes and even not knowing much about Monet's era. That's because I think Monet saw and painted what we all see at various times."
    Would they "get" why the reaction to its exhibition was what is often described as a mob riot? Did Manet intend such a reaction?
    Monet/Manet -- who doesn't mistype one for the other, every so often :cool:
     
  161. "The Krupp portrait link that Don provides is a version of Krupp that provides signs and embellishments more than a mugshot and less than Newmans. But the presentation while generic does have gestures. The slightly turned (posed) head, the neatly packaged cleaned sitter, the cast of the eyes, the unobtrusive but 'right' lighting. I get the feeling someone wants me to see confidence and professionalism and that this is someone i can trust. It might even be Krupp deciding how he wishes to be seen. The strong sign being used here seems to be what we have been taught, trained to accept as a good photo for a stock holders report or many other such presentations."
    It is not so much a different Krupp than can be seen in other photos, including news photos, not only portrait shots. I see a man in them who is, at least on the surface, placidly indifferent, to some degree impervious to external things. I wonder how hard he would have to be smacked in the face before he'd register...something.
    I want to avoid the meaning of a photograph being overdetermined by either the photographer or the subject, creating breathing room for the viewer to render their own meaning. Involving them, as may happen.
     
  162. Don-- Not sure what you mean. I typed Monet because I meant Monet, not Manet.
    Riots don't happen in vacuums. Often, they happen because people's expectations, within their own eras and times, are such and such and when those expectations are not met, all hell can break loose. Future generations, those not steeped in the drama and expectations of the times, will react very differently. But they may still "see" in the way the artist saw, just without the baggage that might cause the riot. Often, great artists are not recognized during their lifetimes because of others' cultural baggage and expectations. The lack of recognition has nothing to do with their vision.
     
  163. "I see a man in them who is, at least on the surface, placidly indifferent, to some degree impervious to external things. I wonder how hard he would have to be smacked in the face before he'd register...something."
    a very interesting read Don. and it well may be an aspect of his character.(?) What projects or suggest that? Perhaps the photographer failed (in his/her eyes) or succeeded by letting that through. As you might be suggesting (?) the photographer captured a real quality of Krupp? in the moment, but left it open for us as viewers to fill in the interpretation/significance.? If so, I find it an admirable approach to documentation. But not without a flavor.
    I am sure you would have found volunteers to test your smacking question. Newman for one.
     
  164. "Don-- Not sure what you mean. I typed Monet because I meant Monet, not Manet."
    Sorry. I had mentioned, in the post of mine you were following up on, a Titian (Venus of Urbino) and a Manet (Olympia). I thought you were referring the Manet.
     
  165. Josh: "As you might be suggesting (?) the photographer captured a real quality of Krupp?"
    It seems just about every photographer who took his picture did. His expression is the same whether it is a 1945 news photo of him in a jeep surrounded by US soldiers who are taking him in for questioning, or the portrait I posted above taken 10-12 years later. The only image of him that is different, besides Newman's, is the Time cover by Boris Artzybasheff, which contains more expression than all the photos combined. It is not a photograph, though.
     
  166. Don. That opens up a new can. I am one of those people that seems to carry the same monotone expression in nearly all the photos that people have spontaneously captured or even posed. It most often gets labeled as stern or some similar adjective. Yet when i recently posed for Fred for some photos i found that he managed to get beyond that to something that sometimes reflected my inner characteristics more effectively. And they do not flatter me, that would be another challenge.
    I am someone who you would not learn very much about by my relaxed expression. From experience i would say that most have an inaccurate take on the person when viewing the cover. With the exception of my red hair, we all know what redheads are like.
     
  167. "I am someone who you would not learn very much about by my relaxed expression."
    a bit casual, and potentially dismissive remark. so i add
    ... other than what my relaxed natural expression is. This leaves nearly all the interpretation to be filled in by the viewer. Which i understand may be a goal in itself.
     
  168. For what it's worth, I have problems with using the term "embellishments" to define photographer input into the equation. Since "embellishment" means "to render beautiful," from O.Fr. embelliss-, pp. stem of embellir "make beautiful, ornament," from bel "beautiful," from L. bellus. Meaning "dress up (a narration) with fictitious matter", it is not the synonymous with photographer or image-maker input/individuation. Not at all. And hasn't been for a very long time. That wasn't even true for some Pictorialists, let alone what came after.
    Fred, thanks for the Waltz story. On Monet, we see what we are prepared to see. Who we are, what we know, think, feel and more.
    [Don]"What I don't do is make photos that are systems of signs, the way Newman's Krupp is. It is not really a photograph of Krupp; it is a really a photograph of Newman's idea of Krupp, at best. I think any stock photo is more revealing of Krupp"
    By that criteria, a surveillance camera picture of Krupp would be the most 'real' representation of the man. One reason I included Blossfeldt (and there are scores of others) was to show that the illusion of objectivity, regardless of intention, carries subtle meaning-laden gestures of its own. For that matter, abstracts do too. Read Kandisnky on this.
    [Josh]" The strong sign being used here seems to be what we have been taught, trained to accept as a good photo for a stock holders report or many other such presentations."
    The corporate headshot of Krupp reveals that he's important and/or wealthy enough to have a pro-caliber commercial portrait taken. Without a caption, we know very little about him beyond this. It's a superficial description understating his power (though some leaks out) and emphasizing his thoughtfulness, nobility, competence, and *GAG*, humility. But another viewer, like Don, can see something entirely different. Most viewers are subjective, too, and whether you "give the room" or not, they will come up with a plurality of meanings from the same picture. There's a lot of Roschach inkblot in every picture.
    I just sent that Newman picture to three people who are not connected to making and/or studying photographs. Only one has replied and said: "That's a TERRIBLE portrait!" and joking, "Was it Halloween?". She read the gestures as incompetence on the photographer's part probably because they deviate from the ideal notions of what a portrait should be. Krupp ends up as a victim of the photographer's "incompetence", hardly what Newman intended. Newman's intentions are imperceptible to the uniniated. Just as the signs in Leonardo's paintings were -- in their own time. Art is rarely for the common public, general, and/or to be shared by all.
    The photobooth is analogous to a surveillance camera, but people are often caught unaware or unready, in spite of the warnings sometimes given, because the timing is left to the machine. Leave it to the subject to control the timing, as David Attie did with his _Russian Self-Portraits_ from the Soviet era, and the results are quite different. The loop tightens considerably.
    There's a basic logical rule implicit in Don's argument that turns up again and again: Less begets like -- and confers the purity of the real. This automatically devaluates all other methods different to Don's.
    [Don] It seems just about every photographer who took his picture did. His expression is the same whether it is a 1945 news photo of him in a jeep surrounded by US soldiers who are taking him in for questioning, or the portrait I posted above taken 10-12 years later.
    So you're saying a multitude of photographers 'really' portrayed Krupp in the same way over a lifetime? Not very likely. Maybe what they captured is the projection of what Krupp, a very media-savvy guy, wanted his to public persona to be.
     
  169. "wanted his public persona to be"
    There's a lot of reality in what people want their public persona to be.
    None of the styles or approaches discussed are any more or less "real" than the others.
    There's a whole lot of reality to go around and it would be very difficult to catch in one person's or one style's snap of the shutter.
     
  170. I agree, Fred.
     
  171. "The photobooth is analogous to a surveillance camera, but people are often caught unaware or unready, in spite of the warnings sometimes given, because the timing is left to the machine."
    I have a very different take on these two means of capturing an image. The photo booth shows you your reflection, generally a mirror outside for prep and a reflection on glass as your pose. Then it often counts down to the moment of exposure. A surveillance camera is capturing you in a more unaware and natural way. As natural as having a birdseye view and low res camera can.
    "Leave it to the subject to control the timing, as David Attie did with his _Russian Self-Portraits_ from the Soviet era, and the results are quite different. The loop tightens considerably." Self portraits are often controlled by a remote release. What loop is being tightened? Is this suggesting not just a different perspective on some reality but one that has been honed in on.? I feel i missed something here.
    embellishment.also as in; a detail, esp. one that is not true, added to a statement or story to make it more interesting or entertaining.
     
  172. Throughout this discussion my mind has drifted to Richard Avedon's In The American West collection. I personally find it loaded with gestures, grand and nuanced. Although i have many examples of how i find it so, i would be interested in how others read that work.
    I find the collection utterly captivating and admirable. Many have told me (in summary)that they feel he effectively chronicled some 'ordinary' people found in the west in an unadorned style. I also do not take offense to people feeling that he captured the/an essence in his subjects. I don't feel that profound about it but i see a basis for that observation. It is a well known collection that i think touches on much of what we are bouncing around here.
     
  173. I cannot break down the insistence that really=real.
    Really: Used to emphasize the truth of a statement; hence = positively, indeed. To affirm or declare positively or earnestly.
    Real: Having an objective existence. Actually existing as a thing.
    "So you're saying a multitude of photographers 'really' portrayed Krupp in the same way over a lifetime? Not very likely. Maybe what they captured is the projection of what Krupp, a very media-savvy guy, wanted his to public persona to be."
    Then that would be an intersting data point regarding Krupp's character. Whether under guard, at trial, in factories, in his office, or in portraits, for decades, whenever a camera was trained on him, he assumed the same pose and expression. If so, he had more presence of mind than any celebrity confronting the paparazzi.
    Consider this: suppose instead of the real Alfred Krupp in his viewfinder, Newman had Krupp's body-double (assuming he had one, which, if I were him, I would've), or suppose he had a model who looked like Krupp ("Have the agency send me a "Krupp""). Would a different photograph have been made than the one we have? I think not. Why? Because there is not one frickin' gesture of Krupp's in the photo. It is all Newman. That's why I asked Fred whether he wanted to say anything regarding your presentation of Newman's photo: the absence of the gestures of the subject.
     
  174. Josh-
    In a self-portrait, distinctions between photographer, subject, all vanish or at least go into multiple personalities. The loop is the cycle of the photographic act, from beginning to end, and the players involved. It's a short cycle, that is all. If the photographer/subject in a self-portrait chooses the moment of exposure, there's less left to chance. With programmed timing, the results are bound to be more generic.
    As Fred said, there's a lot of reality to go around. Embellishment implies leaving that field. A lot of photographer's inputs have nothing to do with fiction -- or beauty. OTOH, I agree that fictions can and do often wormhole to truths better than a linear approach. I understand what Fred is saying well enough, but the word falls short IMO, in the sense that if Monet was seeing what he was painting, how could it also be an 'embellishment'?
     
  175. I think many would come away from seeing the collection feeling as if they had experienced the essences of the people in his photographs.
    I think what would cause that impression is that Avedon was so good, stripped much extraneous matter away, and focused audiences in on something many hadn't experienced before, certainly not in the way he presented it.
    With portraiture, I think that (and other things) often feels like "essence" to the viewer.
    And I think it's not.
    It may be an unadorned style, but it is a distinctive one. I'm not sure a distinctive style projects the photographer any less than an unadorned one.
    I think what we are seeing in this exhibition is about as deeply superficial as you can get. Revealingly external. Significance but not essence. (I love the work. This is not a put down.)
     
  176. Luis--
    "Embellishment" doesn't imply to me leaving the field of reality.
    An embellishment can just be to acknowledge your take on reality, which is as real as some supposed objective view of reality (which is impossible in any kind of pure state of objectivity).
    "I walked down the road." = unembellished
    "I slowly walked down the winding road taking in the woodsy scent, thinking of what tomorrow might bring." = embellished and every bit as real.
    This may just be a matter of semantics and how we define "embellishment" (because we otherwise seem to be on the same page for the most part), but for me a photographer's embellishments are like the above, and don't leave the field of reality.
     
  177. Don, I used the Newman/ Krupp portrait to answer your own question of an example of photographer's gesture in photography. I could have used a multitude of pictures. It was a great example precisely because Krupp's own gestures are quite limited in that picture.
    I just looked at a few of your pictures, and one thing that came to mind immediately is what a honed and heightened awareness of space you have, and how expressively gestural it is. Whether with individuals or groups, it is obvious you are using the space not only aesthetically, but to indicate a sense of relationships between people and each other as well as people and the space they occupy. The picture of the man by the chain link fence, for example. In all of the pictures with multiple people in them, I know the arrangement of their bodies fluctuated or was evanescent. You chose one configuration over all others. None was more valid than the others, but each changes the meaning of the image, or relationships within the frame.
     
  178. Luis. I have come to agree with your questioning of the word embellish. I was using it too loosely myself as to mean adding details.
    Perhaps Monet embellished/beautified by choosing a sweeter color for his view of the scene. He may visualize it or not, he may simply feel it. Is it fictitious to choose the sweeter color? or an accurate representation of what he saw in his minds eye or felt or smelled.... His choice is a reality i believe even in the face of his embellishment. As i believe we have twist and turns in our everyday realities that are not a straight representation of what is before our eyes.
    "I agree that fictions can and do often wormhole to truths better than a linear approach."
     
  179. "It was a great example precisely because Krupp's own gestures are quite limited in that picture."
    Luis, Newman eliminates them. The combination of lighting, lights, choice of lens, color, shadow and highlight placement, contrast are all designed to obscure the ostensible subject. It is murder by photography, in a way.
    "The picture of the man by the chain link fence"
    I was considering replying to Josh about being "stern" and including a link to it because the subject is normally an animated (the opposite of stone faced), even brilliant, storyteller, with a 'happy go lucky' persona, captured in an uncharacteristic moment.
    "I know the arrangement of their bodies fluctuated or was evanescent. You chose one configuration over all others."
    I like to show people in their context and activity rather than statically in street portraits. I was in the alley photographing some archetectural details of the old building when the chef school students came out for a smoke break and had plenty of time, chatted with a few. It was a great moment for me because I am always alert for them on the street. Maybe it is the cases with the long knives they carry, but they seem always to be self-assured and full of attitude. I was remined somewhat of the rhythm of the figures in Botticelli's Primavera . Looking down the alley I saw the two young men, and snapped when their feet and hands created a moment of graceful good humor, a bit like a dance.
    Thanks for the comments, Luis. Your perceptions are accurate.
     
  180. [Don]"Luis, Newman eliminates them. The combination of lighting, lights, choice of lens, color, shadow and highlight placement, contrast are all designed to obscure the ostensible subject. It is murder by photography, in a way."
    _____________________________
    Don, of the two, Krupp is undeniably the murderer. Consider that, as you emphatically pointed out, Krupp was photographed with a remarkable consistency over decades by a wide variety of photographers. Not _one_ of those pictures show him as a man who used concentration camp victims for slave work during the war, often abused until they died (at the jobs that required little training). Whatever else Krupp may have been, the man was also a corporate monster in a suit, a murderer by any measure.
    Krupp, like most psychopaths, managed to maintain a seamless persona/mask over time. This is not unusual. Here's another example, the portraits of the BTK killer, Dennis Rader:
    http://www.freewebs.com/thebtksite/btkphoto.htm
    The Krupp picture is quite similar conceptually to Steichen's masterful picture of JP Morgan:
    http://www.artnet.com/artwork/424356061/80628/edward-steichen-jpmorgan.html
    All other photographers missed/neglected/disregarded that aspect of Krupp, which, admittedly, is very, very hard to capture, almost as hard as gauging a mountain range by the echoes bouncing off them. Newman's picture is a singular photographic revelation of the one aspect of Krupp everyone else missed. In defense of the other photogs, I once had an acquaintance, a co-worker of my wife's, who turned out to be a serial killer. Until his capture, I failed to see his dark side, with one irrational, mystifying exception that I can only label as a Jungian warning from the subconscious.
    As I see it, Newman walked into the Monster's domain, played him for a fool, and slew his chances of lying his way into History. Don sees Newman as a murderer, I see him as the photographic equivalent of the kind of hero poets wrote paeans about. Newman's photograph is the one that will be remembered. The others no one remembers, even now. I have no doubt it was exactly the way Newman saw him, too.
    "I have a come as a novelist, that is - a spinner of lies.
    Novelists aren’t the only ones who tell lies - politicians do (sorry, Mr. President) - and diplomats, too. But something distinguishes the novelists from the others. We aren’t prosecuted for our lies: we are praised. And the bigger the lie, the more praise we get.
    The difference between our lies and their lies is that our lies help bring out the truth. It’s hard to grasp the truth in its entirety - so we transfer it to the fictional realm. But first, we have to clarify where the truth lies within ourselves."
    From a speech given last week by novelist Haruki Murakami, claiming the Jerusalem Prize for Literature.
     
  181. "Newman's picture is a singular photographic revelation of the one aspect of Krupp everyone else missed. In defense of the other photogs, I once had an acquaintance, a co-worker of my wife's, who turned out to be a serial killer. Until his capture, I failed to see his dark side, with one irrational, mystifying exception that I can only label as a Jungian warning from the subconscious."
    Luis, I find it interesting that you, Josh, and I have responses to the other photos of Krupp, that despite their differences, seem to reach a similar conclusion. We don't seem to need an image of Krupp made up as the bogeyman. Maybe it is due to being photographers and so we see more deeply, but there is sufficient 'folk wisdom' that such perceptions are not so rarified. It's always the quiet ones. He seemed such a nice young man, so helpful and polite, said the neighbor upon hearing of the bodies found in the freezer.
    Newman's photo will not help you identify "Monsters" or serial killers when you next meet one.
    "As I see it, Newman walked into the Monster's domain, played him for a fool, and slew his chances of lying his way into History."
    As I see it, Krupp conformed to what I gleaned from the other photos. His imperviousness to, or indifference towards, the external world landed him in that photo session. I think it might have been easy to play Krupp for a fool.
    "Don sees Newman as a murderer, I see him as the photographic equivalent of the kind of hero poets wrote paeans about."
    I think Newman, and you, romanticized Krupp -- a dark, negative romance, but romance nonetheless -- and you now you romaticize Newman. Against that, I have no argument that can compare.
    To say I see him as a murderer doesn't quite capture "murder by photography, in a way". Not romantic enough so you have to say "murderer"?
     
  182. A murderer kills an undeserving victim. Krupp wasn't, and Newman did not do that. He created an image that via carefully orchestrated gestures connotes what Krupp did in WWII, which by the time that picture had been made, had already faded. Was that picture "needed"? Editors around the world thought so and published it many times, and over several years. I knew who Krupp was and what he had done well before that picture was made, so I personally did not "need it", but am nevertheless glad Newman made it because it resulted in a public reassessment of Krupp, specially since products bearing his name were flooding the US marketplace, and he was easing his way into History. Not any more.
    I never said or implied that Newman's photo is a generic Identi-Kit for Corporate Psychopaths to instruct others to detect them, but (and you, of all people, should recognize this), a specific picture of a specific man, and his specific actions at specific timespace coordinates.
    I think to say Newman committed "murder by photography" is more than slight romanticizing on Don's part, specially when the "victim" murdered thousands, never mind the slave labor. Krupp deserved to have been prosecuted for his part in the deaths of thousands in his factories, and for slave labor, not being endlessly lauded (photographically) as a successful CEO, and sliding untouched by justice (as so many Nazis did) because of his wealth.
    I'm sure if I dressed Mugabe up in Armani and photographed him in the right light, in his beautiful ersatz French Empire home, that I could create a ridiculous fiction of him as a cultured philosopher-king instead of what he is. That's what happened with Krupp's stock portraits.
    If you read Joseph Campbell's _The Hero With a Thousand Faces_, you will see that Newman's actions in making this picture fit, almost exactly, those of classic heroes in many cultures and my description of what he did is far more factual than romantic, literally. I could easily find the quotes to support my statements but I haven't the time, nor would it be on-topic in this already wayfaring thread. To say that Newman (and I) romanticized what Krupp did I consider as a (perhaps unintentional) hit below the belt.
    [Don]"His [Krupp] imperviousness to, or indifference towards, the external world landed him in that photo session. I think it might have been easy to play Krupp for a fool."
    All that may be so, but no one else did it before Newman, except for Steichen, and I can't think of too many CEO portraits that have revealed their dark side since. So I can reasonably conclude, given the zillions of exec portraits made every year, that it cannot be that easy. Not only literally, in the sense of getting past agents, publicity, security, lawyers, etc., but in terms of risking one's own life and career. Frankly, how many are there in the entire history of the medium? Where are the Enron CEO/BOD pictures showing them for the robber barons they were? Pol Pot? Somoza? Aaron Burr? Where's the Bernie Madoff portrait? Nowadays men of power carefully control their image. The last thing of this type I can recall was Jill Greenberg's pictures of John McCain, which aspire but fall far short and crude of Steichen's and Newman's.
    http://gawker.com/5049776/mag-photographers-grotesque-mccain-trick
    [Don] "To say I see him as a murderer doesn't quite capture "murder by photography, in a way". Not romantic enough so you have to say "murderer"?
    You're right: It would have been far more accurate to have said: "photographic murderer".
     
  183. I've read that Krupp, upon seeing the photo, crumpled it and tossed it on the floor. Where was Newman for those shots? Just wondering how hard a smack it would take for his face to register something, if it did, and if it didn't, that would be interesting, too.
     
  184. Luis wrote: "Newman's intentions are imperceptible to the uniniated."
    If I'm an initiate, I'm unaware of it, so I decided to do some research. I don't think initiates are Illuminati hunters -- though there's a lot of that on the web about Krupp. I wanted to learn something about Newman; Krupp I know about, but what about Newman? Considering Luis' hagiography, I wanted to know more, so I looked for Newman interviews.
    Newman has a good story about the Krupp shoot, and possibly an initiate is someone who sat at his feet and heard it from his own mouth. I do not give much weight to inconsistencies; it is easy to misspeak in casual conversation, but I do note them when they appear more than once. Fwiw, Newman sometimes conflates Gustav and Alfred. No biggie, but he doesn't seem to question his notion that Alfred, the son of a Krupp (Gustav) "married a Krupp and took the Krupp name". That's Gustav, not Alfred. The Krupp photo shoot, and to offer it to Newman, was the bright idea of an editor at Newsweek. Does anyone know who that was?
    There are shifts on the "knifing": "There's so many of them because things keep coming in for request for purchases, there's Krupp, who I put a knife in his back--he deserved it..." he says in the Robert Farber interview. But in the Peter Adams interview he says: "Lately, people have been labeling my Krupp picture as the greatest photographic "knife job" ever done on anybody, but I'm not so sure."
    So, I'll keep "murder by photography, in a way".
    The Peter Adams interview is about the Krupp photo. I found Newman's style as raconteur to be familiar; his language is interesting. I recommend it:
    http://www.wac.ucla.edu/bishop/People/Arnold%20Newman/Adams.pdf
    The last bullet in the Wikipedia article on Newman under "See Also" links to an interview that is not sourced to any publication, by someone named Alexis Anne Clements, who I gather is a photographer (her website is in a rebuild it seems, so that's all I've got about this interview). It contains this
    AC: Who is the one person living today that you would most like to photograph?
    AN: Well, are you a Republican?
    AC: Yes.
    AN: I’ve been trying to work out arrangements with the current President, who I don’t
    agree with, but I will not do a bad picture of him. I’ve done the last 10 [presidents] and I
    want to keep my franchise going.
    There is no mention of the Krupp photo, but perhaps it was on his mind there.
     
  185. Don--
    The stock photo you included of Krupp. Obviously quite different from the Newman. You said the stock photo was more revealing.
    If I'm reading you correctly, you talk about the stock photo in terms of viewer involvement. You think it will involve the viewer more because the Newman photo is more gestural and directed and involves the photographer more. If I knew nothing about Krupp and came across the stock photo randomly, I wouldn't give it a second thought. If I came across the Newman photo, I'd be much more likely to look into who the character was. So, at least for me, my involvement as viewer would be much more personal with the Newman photo.
    Were I to read up on Krupp, I would feel that the Newman photo revealed something about Krupp, also revealing strongly Newman's own take on Krupp. Likely, Newman would be standing in for the way many felt about Krupp. The stock photo would reveal to me, more plainly and directly, what Newman looked like.
    Each stock photo I found gives me a slightly different feel about him. I probably would only make a determination about what was "revealed" about him from many different portraits.
    http://cache.gettyimages.com/xc/3310127.jpg?v=1&c=ViewImages&k=2&d=11B127B063386F61CEF94D45F4E1AFA9A55A1E4F32AD3138
    http://pro.corbis.com/images/U1286293INP.jpg?size=67&uid=%7B427B4FB1-D59F-43B8-ACCE-5FB574BEEC34%7D
    I'd probably guess, from these two, that he was more likely to be a businessman than a dancer. I get a much more benign feel from the second and sense much more harshness to his nature in the first. But I've learned enough about portraits not to assume that any one of them gives me revelation about the subject himself. I think single portraits are often more about expression per se and empathy. Series of portraits may come closer to revealing something about the subject. If one knows the subject, sometimes a portrait can amazingly capture something personal and revealing about the subject. And, if you don't know the subject, sometimes you really get the feeling that the portrait is doing just that. On this latter point, one has to be careful. Sometimes you're right and sometimes not.
    You reminded me that the thread started with a description of the importance of noticing gesture within the photo, by the subjects. Here's a photo where the gestures of the subjects are significant, though the photographer is part of it and doing her own gesturing. Leibovitz wanted them both nude. Yoko insisted on leaving her clothes on. So, John seems to be the one most gesturing with his nude body, but it's really Yoko's gesture that makes the photo.
    http://www.studiolighting.net/wp-content/images/leibovitz2.jpg
     
  186. Fred, thanks for the link to the first Krupp photo. I hadn't come across that one. Is it a mug shot?
    You, I -- everyone reading this thread is probably an 'initiate' and our response to Newman's Krupp is obviously of a different order than the responses Luis mentions of his naive subjects (to use a term of art). But nearly all my "immediate reactions" referred to B movies. It takes a "considered response" to get serious about it. I tend to give weight to the evidence of immediate reactions, mine and the ones Luis mentions, and that is what got my interest. The immediate reaction of the naive viewer to the Corbis photo might be "eh".

    It is easy to initiate the naive viewer into an appreciation of the Newman photo: "Krupp made slaves of other men. Here, the photographer portrays him as the devil." Can that be done for the one I posted? I don't think so: "Krupp made slaves of other men." is all you can say. It is up to the naive viewer to wonder about that, looking at the placid face of Krupp. It gives the viewer room to breathe and reason to linger.
    Maybe they'll conclude what I do: ""Then it came burning hot in my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave."
    (Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyon)
     
  187. I found it in a search of google images: Alfred Krupp photos
    The only caption is "August 1947: German iron and steel magnate Alfred Krupp (1907 - 1967) who was sentenced by the Allies as a war criminal. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)"
     
  188. jtk

    jtk

    It seems to me that the second "handsome" portrait was shallow. The photographer was a shallow person.
     

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