Guest or host?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by unrealnature, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. In your relationship to the stuff -- people or places -- that's in your photos, do you feel more like a guest or more like a host?
     
  2. More like a tour guide, actually.
     
  3. In some photos, I feel clearly a guest (for example, here and here). That is to say: there, but not really connected to the scene. Candid "stolen" images. While I can like these images, they never completely feel mine. They're just coincidences.
    Being the host - I'm not quite sure how to see that. In a way: unavoidably yes. My photo represents what and how I saw, so I am inviting you in, in what's absolutely mine. At the same time, no. Being a host also sounds to me as being the one that controls the content of the image, who has set the scene, made it exactly according to vision etc. Which is not at all my way of working. It's a small difference, but it's the relationship to the stuff consisting of different layers of "ownership": it isn't my property nor under my control, but I frame it (and put it into context) the way I see it fit. So inside the frame it's mine, as an actor in a play which I am directing. But once I take my eye from the viewfinder, it's just stuff. The street. Places. Going about its own business in its own ways.
    Tour guide. Now that sounds quite right indeed.
     
  4. Matt, tour guide seems sort of jaded, but I know what you mean.
    Wouter, it's not so much a hard and fast sorting as much as a what-it-feels-like if you try out one versus the other -- as you've done, and as your examples support.
    What got me thinking about this was looking at some pictures that I've been throwing out from way back when I got my first SLR (before digital, when I was a teenager [the stone ages ...]). Looking at them reminded me of how at that time, EVERY picture, heck, every time I looked through the viewfinder whether or not I took a picture, I felt like a guest in a new and amazing world. The constant in all the looking and picture taking of that time seems to me to have been surprise and wonder, both of which seem to me to belong to new arrival -- to a guest, not a been-there-done-that-and-proud-of-it kind of person.
    I'm thinking about what part (when, where?) surprise happens in my current stuff. Right now I'd describe my own relationship to the content of my pictures as very much host with the exceptions being where I'm just having fun and turn into something like Lucy in the chocolate factory (from the TV show I Love Lucy, where she can't keep up with the assembly line, so she starts stuffing her face, her pockets, her bodice with chocolate ...).
    With this guest/host thing in mind, I was looking at some Atget pictures and thinking how they seem very much guest-like; is this because photographers were kind of weird to the general public back then, making him feel always a little "outside" and also surprised/delighted by photography in a way I am not understanding? Because Paris was his home and pretty much his only subject (he shouldn't have felt like a guest but maybe he felt like a guest when looking through the camera?).
    Also Bruce Davidson's Subway series comes to mind; his fear, but his "addiction" to going and seeing/watching year after year in his home-town --guest shooter? But Avedon in his West series, where he was not at home, his pictures don't feel like he was the guest.
    I'm associating "host" with "MY world", being/feeling responsible for ..., home/dwelling, native to, some sense of ownership. I'm associating "guest" with "somebody else's world", being a little bit off kilter, maybe a little careful/wary/watchful/nervous, being in some sense subordinate to what I'm in or with or at, an outsider looking in/at, being surprised.
     
  5. How about both subject and photographer feeling at home?
     
  6. Co-conspirator.
     
  7. Therapist.
     
  8. Discoverer.
     
  9. I like to see me as a reminder . . . this might be my image from my past, but don't you remember it too?
     
  10. Host.
     
  11. An observer which i suppose means I'm a guest.
     
  12. a ghost?
     
  13. Covivant
     
  14. Story-teller, which often makes me a host, although I often feel that I've been invited into an opportunity by fate, which would make me a guest in those occasions.
     
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

  16. Interesting question, but neither, I think. I suspect I'm more like a stranger or tourist. I have always tried to see the old stuff in new ways. But I"m not interested in 'pretty' as much as I am in . . .connections, I guess I'd say. Relationships
     
  17. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    At times a nuisance, most times as a guest.
     
  18. So what difference does this make? I'm not sure ... just thinking about it (uh oh ...).
    It seems to me that what I'm calling "host" is those whose pictorial interactions are to do with "this is what I'm like/ this is what we are like." Whereas what I'm calling "guest" is about "this is what they are like / this is NOT what I'm like." The latter focuses on, is about, difference; the point of "guest" pictures is to zero in on, explore, discover, delight in or be horrified by, whatever ... at what is in some way, strange. That "not me" strangeness is not accessory; it's necessary to that kind of picture -- it's the draw, the interest.
    It seems to me that the host arrives, starts and ends, in a looking to relate, to find where, how, why "this is how I/we am/are." Looking for the relation. Whereas the guest arrives, or more descriptively, goes out (out, away; departs from home) just looking. Wide open for the new, the different, the strange.
    Some examples: I think Arbus was always a host. Her pictures seem to me to be about finding the extremities of what she/we are, what we share. Compare that to Robert Frank's America; who was surely a guest, arriving to see, to watch, to discover difference, strangeness. To me, Friedlander is also a guest, perfectly comfortable delighting in looking, discovering, etc. as opposed to "looking to relate."
    Penn's Small Trades seem to me to be looking at difference/strangeness whereas Avedon's West seems to me to be looking to relate.
    Nachtwey's anti-war photography feels to me like looking to relate (how they are like me/us) as opposed to looking at difference/strangeness.
    Back to my original question: what difference does this make to anything? It seems to me that if you are, for example, in a "looking to relate" mindset and you try to do "looking at strangeness" kind of project, you can get pretty messed up. The following is James Agee (whom I think was always straining to relate) watching Walker Evans make documentary photographs of the sharecroppers featured in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men:
    " ... all this while it was you I was particularly watching, Mrs. Ricketts; you can have no idea with what care for you, what need to let you know, oh, not to fear us, not to fear; not to hate us, that we are your friends, that however it must seem it is all right, it is truly and all the way all right: so, continually, I was watching for your eyes, and whenever they turned upon me, trying through my own and through a friendly and tender smiling (which sickens me to disgust to think of) to store into your eyes some knowledge of this, some warmth, some reassurance, that might at least a little relax you, that might conceivably bring you to warmth, to any ease or hope of smiling; but your eyes upon me, time after time, held nothing but the same terror … "​
    I don't know if one can switch from one attitude to the other at will. I do know that magnificent photography has been made from both/either attitude, so neither is good or bad or better or worse. I do think that it may be a problem if you're ... confused, undecided, or somehow stuck in the middle of the two attitudes. Maybe. I'm still thinking about it ...
     
  19. Imagining you are a guest or host doesn't exclude the possibility of being both. If outsider/insider or social location is the point here I'd say that for me it operates on sliding scales of ambiguity and abstraction. The less we know the more we abstract and ambiguate. That's fine with me - being the guest. The roll of hosting comes later when the picture is presented as a new object of interest rather than a document of a moment.
    00ZZPU-413213584.jpg
     
  20. But Avedon in his West series, where he was not at home, his pictures don't feel like he was the guest.
    Julie:
    My first thoughts when I saw this show were outrage and wonder. Being raised in the Southwest I knew what people there were like. Then I realized it was the show's title, not Avedon that perturbed me. These people were not chosen by him for their regional uniqueness but for their oddness (or A's making them appear odd). The oddness is what intrigues and is Avedon's signature style. We are therefore his guest. It was an altogether fascinating show comprised of large silver prints flush-mounted on thick aluminum plates. They each had their own space and lighting that isolated them and invited an intimate look.
     
  21. You feel more or less comfortable with respect to the subject matter of your work or is it your performance of the tasks necessary to bring the work to fruition? A guest or host from what perspective exactly? Guests can be as comfortable and competent as the host, but in a somewhat different role. A guest can own his share of the setting, and, in fact, his success in doing this may be the reason for his next invitation to the party.
    The question I have for you Julie is whether you see yourself as being guest or host how do you put your initial mental state into a finished picture? The implication I see in your remarks is that somehow the photographers you describe can actually give you clues that spell out dependable information pulled out of their minds. Are you sure? I have no answer for this myself to argue about. I simply find that most of the works I've seen tell me very little about the mind of the person who made them, or even the technical information I would need to make my own reproduction of the same thing. Inanimate objects of this sort are not usually made to be self-aware. I see the subject but not often the hand of the maker.
    If the main point of making pictures is to feel something yourself when you're behind a camera then why bother to complete the project? I approach things too much like an engineer perhaps, but even I'm flexible enough to adjust from "looking to relate" to "looking at strangeness" without experiencing a mind warp. Whatever is in front of my camera, I'm still doing all the work!
    I'm afraid an arbitrary - sort of glib - answer to the initial question is the best I can do. I'm the guest except when I'm the host. But sometimes I'm neither one, and other times I'm both!
     
  22. Alan, I'm not sure in what way the title American West was meant to be taken with reference to its pictures. It could be taken literally or mythically or generically or personally, etc. It was a commissioned project, so I expect there were commercial considerations.
    Albert, I get a very strong impression of "attitude" or "position with respect to" that the photographer has to his/her subject. For example, Atget seems to stand back, like a watcher rather than a participant, where Avedon is up in peoples' face often with eye contact, etc. But I respect your different reception of pictures -- I'm interested in getting you to explore what guest/host "feels" like rather than trying to make anybody agree with my own perspective.
    However ... to your statement, "I'm flexible enough to adjust from "looking to relate" to "looking at strangeness" without experiencing a mind warp," I would say, that people do swap/switch all the time, but I don't think it's unproblematic. For example, take an abusive husband. One minute his wife is his friend and lover, the next, she's a strange creature who doesn't dispense meatloaf the way he likes it. And back to friend/lover as suits his ... whatever it suits.
    Or take the way humans lived for thousands and thousands of years -- with their livestock, often in their homes (this is still the case in some places, with chickens, goats, even cattle inside the home structure). For a year or two, you live with the animal, then one day you eat it. When I was a kid, one year we raised a steer (I lived in the country). We named him Marvin and we got to know and like Marvin. Later, when we were eating him, my father forbade us to refer to him as Marvin any more.
    Flags. Do you mind if I burn your flag?
    On the other hand, if one is really paying attention (as we perfectly creative people all are the minute we pick up our cameras), we're always seeing strangeness, everywhere all the time. There's a strangeness horizon that we plow all day, all the time and to be alive should include partaking of the joy of what's always already there, (etc., etc., cue the New Age music). In which case Albert's missing "mind warp" should be encouraged; its absence means we're missing the fun.
    John Coplans, who made nude photographs of his own 70+ year old body, was a guest to himself. Looking, in astonishment, amusement, dismay, delight at what was always already there.
    [Queston for Albert that he can take or leave, just an exploration of attitude for an engineer (what kind of engineer?): what do you see when you look at the Firth of Forth Bridge?]
     
  23. Observer.
     
  24. Conquerer... ;>)
     
  25. I think Julie is right, that most of us are probably playing all roles at different times and different occasions.
    Maybe, striving towards excellence in photography (whatever that means) demands a capability of accepting the invitation and playing the guest-role in some circumstances, and of taking the role as host in others , or withdraw as "observers" in yet other occasions.
    To a certain extent what we use as term for describing our "relationship to the stuff -- people or places --" ,as Julie describes it, also depends on which parts of the relations we concentrate on.
    If we talk about our direct relations to the "stuff", surely, most of us are neither invited as guest, nor the inviter, taking up the role as host. We are mostly, and I among them, "co-vivant", "pests" or "a nuisance" as Luis, Jeff and Ray have called it.
    However, maybe, if we talk about the role we play for the viewer of our photos, I would believe that most of us are playing the role as "hosts", inviting the viewers to get a glance, how imperfect it might be, of our personal, subjective, privileged relations and view of the "stuff" around us.
     
  26. For the last three years, maybe 'neighbor'? I can say 'we', rather than 'them'.
     
  27. For me, the variety of the responses was very interesting, going beyond the bipolar role thing.
     
  28. Ghost or Host! Half awake I flashed on that. I mentioned the idea, in another topic thread, of seeking to represent to the viewer an omniscient observation. By that I meant that we might pretend to be "all seeing" in order to uphold or dispute the photograph as truth-teller myth. Once you have accepted the absolute falsity of photos you are free to understand what you are doing as a photographer AND a viewer. Our status as guest, host, or pretend ghost IS part of the image. To confirm your question: I am a ghost. Booo!
    00ZZll-413641584.jpg
     
  29. Alan: "Once you have accepted the absolute falsity of photos..."

    'Falsity' implies there is a 'true'. What is that?
     
  30. shawn phillips. 'watching out but looking inward'
     
  31. Don,
    "I took a picture of a ghost!" "Prove it." "Here's the picture."
    I am aware that in scientific reckoning, whatever is claimed needs to be falsifiable. With no evidence to support a claim, it can't be argued. Picture truth, as I was using the word, IS different than science truth. The only truth used to be optical veracity - the presumed as-taken image on film. But now...?
     
  32. For example, take an abusive husband. One minute his wife is his friend and lover, the next, she's a strange creature who doesn't dispense meatloaf the way he likes it. And back to friend/lover as suits his ... whatever it suits.​
    This seems like a dash out the side door for the purpose of making a point. A red herring. To be sure things go wrong in unexpected ways. There are conflicts to be managed and ambiguity to be tolerated in everyday life. Abusive people are real enough, but most of us don't have to deal with them on a daily basis. For some people though life is a continuous hell full of snares and traps that can make even the most commonplace remark go awry. This person is neither a guest nor a host in his/her own skin. This can't be the kind of experience you mean when you describe a change in perspective from host to guest.
    Could you look at a photo and tell for sure that the photographer is abusive (or not)? I'll venture to say that there are photos that would show this sort of thing pretty clearly, but wouldn't you have to know something of the photographer's biography to reinforce your conclusion? The guy photographing derelict homes in Detroit isn't trying to say that he lives in one.
    I was a computer software engineer back in the day. I have to admit that the Firth of Forth Bridge looks a little like a column of dinosaur skeletons holding each other by the tail. I'm sure it represents an awe inspiring solution to a huge engineering challenge.
    So Julie, do you put yourself in your photos or do you find yourself there?
     
  33. Alan: "The only truth used to be optical veracity - the presumed as-taken image on film. But now...?"

    In the 19th century artists were contemptuous of the claim of optical veracity for a photograph. They could point to all the errors in perspective, especially foreshortening, for example. What I find significant is the idea of the optical veracity of the photographic image propagated with the growth of the photographic equipment mass market. As some put it, photography was "democratized". The technical (or, as you may prefer, 'scientific') approach to comprehending optical veracity has nothing to say about the optical veracity of photographs as it has been the experience of the mass of users and viewers for a long time. In a sentence: optical veracity is the way people think things look like. Something that can be normalized by the human visual brain. Or another way: it is consensual. I think this norm of optical veracity changes with the times. It's not an isolate; it subsists in a cultural matrix.

    In another discussion some photos were referred to as fakes. What 'true' was 'faked'? It didn't seem to me that any kind of optical veracity was in question. It seems to want to appear here, so there it is.

    NB: ghost photos are their own genre, afaik, not recognized by the MOMA, yet.
     
  34. Albert, that was no red herring; it's about the deliberate suspension or retreat from understanding, but I'll try a less inflammatory analogy. Take a gymnast. She will know, understand, have learned, practiced, grown into the genre of gymnastics. She has, in her mind, what it is that she wants, intends, might be able to do. Her success or satisfaction will be in the performance, but she's working from understanding. Obviously her understanding is of the concept, not the performance which is always contingent on many things, but primarily her body/embodiment. Nevertheless, all feedback guides, corrects, nudges the performance to the existing understanding.
    Compare that to the hiker (or the flâneur?; Anders, what do you think?). He/she goes out. That's the concept -- going out. It seems to me that this hiker/flâneur puts himself into the condition of not knowing. There is a deliberate if not reversal than at least suspension of understanding. Choosing to keep the view wide, to not understand, to un-understand, if necessary so that there is arrival, reception. That arrival or first reception seems to me to be what the hiker/flaneur is ... doing. He's interested being perpetually arriving, feeling stuff spreading out across the mind. Experiencing, tasting, the blind man feeling the elephant -- even though he may already know it's an elephant. Deliberately erasing and dilating the mind so it can get a clean reception.
    The hiker isn't going to start doing triple axel dismounts (gymnastic twirlies) in mid-stroll; nor is the gymnast going to stop in mid-flip to take a look at the ant colony on the floormat (or she shouldn't; I would). However, obviously these two extremes feed off of each other. Understanding motivates exploration; exploration leads to understanding. I'm curious about how a photographer chooses, and uses (consciously or unconsciously) his approach.
    Albert, you ask where am I in this description? My composites are pure gymnastics but they originate very strongly in my constant hiking in the mountains where I live. I don't usually even have a camera during my hikes, but the mountains work on me.
    Your description of what you see in that bridge is very much like my own (I was thinking more of prehistoric monster caterpillar or insect). Which is a nuisance becasue I was counting on you to have the engineer's perspective (which you have, however, sniffed out). Which is that that great ugly thing (though I see lots of interesting dynamics; its ugliness is magnificent) is beautiful to those who know its history, the way it works, what it can do and the reason it is so massively overbuilt (the recent, nearby collapse of the first Tay Bridge). Your and my lack of understanding allows us to "arrive," to just see. The engineer will, on the other hand, be looking from understanding. Or something like that.
     
  35. This last elaboration is interesting because I hike, mountain bike, and could be accused of flanerie. The view expressed works in a Baudelarian context well, when Hausman's revised Paris was fresh, Modernism on the rise, and first reception a near-norm. It works far less well in the context of the de Bordian postmodern psychogeographer flaneur.
    But Baudelaire, as Benjamin pointed out, had an intimate knowledge of his haunts, sensual, familiar, almost conjugal, if you will. This could be construed to be a form of connection.
    Or the hiker who hikes over familiar trails year after year. The idea that he disconnects from everything he has experienced and knows is a little extreme. Obviously, he can find his way back home, but from personal experience, I can say that I am not leaving behind everything and looking merely for new experiences/things. I also look forward to and see familiar and transient things. Trees, flowers, grasses, etc., intimately familiar individuals whose taxonomy and layman's names I also know. When beholding a tree, I "see" the process of photosynthesis flows of nutrients and water, phototropism, morphology, ecology, mythology and elegance, etc., and that one tree, as I have known it through the years. Some animals I recognize. I carry, in a manner similar to that of an Australian Aborigine, a kind of Songline about these places I frequent, and they in turn carry me when I am not there.
    It is the lack of understanding that separates the cosmopolitan sonambulist from the experienced flaneur. The "arriviste" part when seeing the bridge is simply that sleep momentarily interrupted. Note that Albert arrived with his knowledge and experience well-packed in his mental luggage. He used an analog to a familiar form. In other words, Albert is not just seeing, he is drawing from his visual database and seeing what he knows.
    [It looks to me like a Muybridgian sequence of an alarmed armadillo scurrying away while huffing. Then I think it looks a little steam-punky in a Stealth/death star way, and kinda fashionable, but it is, after all, a bridge. More like a designer appliance one would find at KMart or Bed Bath and Beyond than a work of art.]
     
  36. Don,
    The only optical "truth" - empirical or otherwise, I meant was the record of the moment on the negative no matter the optics of the camera. The photograph's broader notion of truthiness is, of course, cultural - subject to infinite revision -and has been my point all along.
     
  37. Alan, I think we are in basic agreement. I'm interested in why people consider the moment you refer to be optically true, or, the fact that they do -- I mean as 'a matter of course', rather than due to analysis or philosophy. Why it is the 'default' view on the matter, interests me. I don't set aside the technical or scientific considerations, and mull over Baudrillard's "The photographic image, by its technical essence, came from somewhere beyond, or before, aesthetics, and by that token constitutes a substantial revolution in our mode of representation."
     
  38. When photographing people (in portraits) I am probably neither guest not host, but more like a voyeur or thief. I am trying to "capture" a moment of expression "between" the posed and self conscious moments of my intended victim in hopes that I am getting on "film" something more direct, that we all can resonate with at at some level, maybe because it reflect us at some level. I feel it as "energy." I steal this moment, capture it. My victims usually like the result anyway, heh heh.
     
  39. This last elaboration is interesting because I hike, mountain bike, and could be accused of flanerie. The view expressed works in a Baudelarian context well, when Hausman's revised Paris was fresh, Modernism on the rise, and first reception a near-norm.​
    Luis, there is no reason in my view to use the negative loaded formulation like: "could be accused of flanerie".
    As especially Baudelaire developed it, "flaner" is not some kind of lazy kind of strolling around. Baudelaire clearly explained that the 'flaneur" searches the poetry in the modernism and eternal aspects of transition, from the ordinary one observes in cities. I have in this forum called it the "essence" of a place, of lack of better.
    Baudelaire was surely a great flaneur himself, in his Paris of the 1870s, but many others have followed him, as so many others preceded him. One cannot think of Hemingway or Man Ray in Paris without noticing the "flaning" in their Paris of the 1920s. Susan Sontag described herself as a flaneur and made it into one of her main concepts for understanding the relation between the photographic eye and the city (She is buried in Montparnasse cemetery in the centre of the city))
    “The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.” Susan Sontag, "On Photography"​
    Seeing it from Sonntag's approach, maybe 'visiter" or "observer" is better terms than "host" of "guest" in order to describe the relationship between the photographer and the "stuff" of Julie. But I would, as mentioned earlier, go beyond such a more passive role and be nearer to the searching for essence that Baudelaire did and that later was taken up by series of sociologists and anthropologists - but that is a longer story that I'm not sure will interest many around.
     
  40. Anders - I used the "loaded" wording in humor. Some things to not translate well between languages. Think of it as something akin to "I resemble that remark". However, you are partially mistaken in this: "..."flaneur" is not some kind of lazy kind of strolling around."
    Yes and no. Baudelaire himself described the flaneur as both "the perfect idler" and as a "passionate observer". As he is in Walter Banjamin's description also. Besides the observer role, he is typified as an elite and leisurely drifter. This is a more complicated subject than many imagine.
    Sontag was clearly not describing the flaneurs of Baudelaire's era, who were walking through a great potential future. I am disappointed to see that Anders did not go anywhere else in my response to Julie. That the flaneur lasted into and through Post Modernism is a testament to the lasting power of the (evolving) role. I wasn't questioning anything but the idea that the flaneur is primarily about going out and not knowing.
     
  41. I am disappointed to see that Anders did not go anywhere else in my response to Julie.​
    Ah ! Luis, I did, I can assure you and I appreciated immensely your description of your touring around in known territory. I should have mentioned it. Going with you would be a great privilege.
    However, I do not agree that the flaneur goes out and not knowing. In flaning (if we can use the term as a verb and without citation-marks) there are two dimensions : a "not knowing", that you mention, that implies total openness to discovering, but a second dimension is the accumulation of discoveries made. Photography, like Baudelaire's writings, is a result of both.
     
  42. Julie I really don't see the connection between the "deliberate suspension or retreat from understanding" and an abusive setting. Sometimes understanding does one no good. I understand that the abuser's behavior is dangerous and makes no sense, especially as it relates to me, but I am powerless to do anything to stop it. What is more off-putting is that I meet people who sincerely try to help me fix my thinking!
    Ritualized sports such as gymnastics and ice skating require the athlete spend an enormous amount of time to prepare for the eventual performance. There are rigid formulas and rules to be learned and follow for success. Athletes are expected to fulfill the requirements of their discipline in creative ways. Hours go into developing the muscle memory required to perform complicated physical maneuvers without having to be self-conscious at all during the few minutes given to the actual performance. Understanding what she is to do is only a part of the regimen devoted to the conditioning, discipline and repetition required to actually make a go of it. The problem here is that, in the end, the physical aspect of the sport eclipses the mental at least in so far as what people can actually see. Consider baseball for a moment. It is a mental game for the concentration needed to be constantly alert for the unexpected, but without working it out physically on a field someplace there is truly nothing in baseball at all!
    Familiarity breeds expertise! If the flaneur does develop intimate knowledge of his surroundings then he cannot at the same time have the same perspective of someone who is more innocent who might be experiencing the scene for the first time. Fortunately, understanding is fluid. It seems to me that both the innocent wannabe flaneur and the sophisticated one have the opportunity to find freshness in the things they might encounter.
     
  43. Anders - "However, I do not agree that the flaneur goes out and not knowing."
    I was referring to Julie's post in the not-knowing, and I agree with you.
     
  44. We see things after they happen. There is a delay; our visual brain is not in sync, not simultaneous, with the "moment". When we add to it the delay in recognition, in awareness (language, consciousness), in our reflexes, and the 'reflexes' of our kit, if we're lucky and skillful we capture an image, never the "subject", which is simply a lure in a trap set by the idea for capturing the photographer . I guess most photographers hope it is their idea of the image, which means, if they have captured anything, it is themselves. We can hang our trophies on the wall, and tell anecdotes about how we brought down the beast.
     
  45. Albert, you said, "What is more off-putting is that I meet people who sincerely try to help me fix my thinking!" LOL! I so completely sympathize! But you have been very brave to try to follow my convoluted meditations. I am very grateful (and not a little astonished!).
    As an example of a focused (gymnist type) approach to photography, here is Wright Morris's description of the making of this portrait. His process feels very familiar to me; I would think it will to most of you who have been shooting for a while -- as a "type" of picture-making. I've also added a bit about a second portrait that he made at about the same time:
    "At the start my Uncle Harry ignored me. I saw him pass with a hoe, with a pail of water, with another inner tube that needed repairing, indifferent to my presence. I drew him in with questions. Would it rain again? He replied that it usually did. Soon he trailed me around, offered dry suggestions, tested me with his dead pan humour. He still smoked Union Leader, if and when he could find his pipe. When I suggested a picture of himself — the greatest ruin of all — he was compliant. Actually, he had been waiting. In the museum of relics the farm had become he was one of the few that still almost worked. He pointed that out himself.
    "I had him walk before me, through the door of the barn he had entered and exited for half a century (Plate 1). He had become, like the denims he wore, an implement of labor, one of the discarded farm tools. A personal pride, however, dormant since the Depression, reasserted itself in the way he accepted my appreciative comments. Why not? Had he not endured and survived it all, like the farm itself? Over several days I had remarked that he changed his hats according to the time of day and the occasion. A sporty nautical number in the early morning, at high noon and afternoon one of his wide brimmed straws. In the dusk of evening he preferred an old felt, with a narrow brim, the color and texture of tar paper. All hats suited him fine. The only piece of apparel we both found out of fashion was new overalls, blue stripes on white, that in no way adapted to his figure or movements and gave off the rasp of a file. He was quick to sense my disapproval and stopped wearing them."
    "It was Clara’s suggestion that I might look in on Ed’s place. Ed was a bachelor, related by marriage, who had died several weeks before my arrival. His small farmhouse was directly across the road. The bed had been made, but otherwise I found the house as a bachelor would have left it. The bric brack of a lifetime, pill boxes, pin cushions, shotgun shells, flashlights, a watch and chain, a few snapshots. Although the bed had been made, the imprint of his body remained, his feet were almost visible in the shoes beneath it. What I saw on the ground glass evoked in me a commingling of tenderness, pity and sorrow, to the exclusion of more searing emotions."​
    Compare that to Kafka's recommendation, " … you do not need to leave your room . . . Do not even listen, simply wait . . . " or this description of the street:
    ‘I am traversed by people, their existence, like a tart.’
    "In anonymous individuals who do not realize they hold a part of my history, in faces and bodies I never see again. No doubt I myself, in the crowded street or shops, am a carrier for other people’s lives."
    Or this " … my expectations spring from my availability, my errant desire to encounter everything . . . Regardless of what happens or does not happen, it is the waiting that is magnificent," from André Breton.
    Or some questions posed by Michael Sheringham (apologies for the jargon) : "… What, asks Lefebvre, if we adopt another perspective (this is his repeated tactic) and strip human activity of that which pertains to specialized activities,removing all technical knowledge and expertise and simply leaving such everyday factors as effort, time, and rhythm? What is left? For some (scientists, structuralists, culturalists), next to nothing; for others (metaphysicians, Heideggerians), everything (because the ground of human existence — the ontological) is beneath all this."
    [Aside to Don Essedi, while searching out the above, I ran across this quote which is James Agee's recipe for how to read Gertrude Stein. It reminds me of you -- I expect you'll hate it (heh!):
    Read it with care, but require no sense of it that it does not yield.
    Read it aloud.
    Read it as poetry must be read or music listened to: several times.
    Read it for pleasure only. If it displeases you, quit.​
     
  46. Julie: "[Aside to Don Essedi, while searching out the above, I ran across this quote which is James Agee's recipe for how to read Gertrude Stein. It reminds me of you -- I expect you'll hate it (heh!)"

    I've enjoyed reading Alan's comments about optical integrity, and Steve's take on the old 'hunt' analogy.
    I'm enjoying reading the discussion of "flaneur" -- must be nice to get a response, rather than a reaction, to not be commented on or referred to as if absent. I'm a bit curious about that. Perhaps I should take a hint from you and quote someone:

    "The magic of photography is that it is the object which does all the work. Photographers will never admit this and will argue that all the originality lies in their inspiration and their photographic interpretation of the world. As a result they take photographs which are either bad or too good, confusing their subjective vision with the reflex miracle of the photographic act." -- Baudrillard

    But there's a lot of 'play' in the joints of the "reflex miracle"...perhaps I should quote The Wasteland, instead.
     
  47. A few comments...
    Unless you're photographing static scenes/subjects, you either settle for being late or you learn to anticipate, and it is this ability to project into the future and make a prediction that is viable in some way, though not necessarily what was anticipated, thankfully there are too many variables for our wee brains to make it boring. Look at how many photographs are posed/crystallized because their makers are unable (or unwilling) to learn predictive abilities or work in a fluid manner. Still photography is much too still for my tastes.
    [Disclaimer: No, Don, I am not disagreeing with you.]
    ___________________________________________________
    On the Flaneur thing, my experience, my own personal experience, as related in "This last elaboration is interesting because I hike, mountain bike, and could be accused of flanerie." differs from Julie's descriptions of what a flaneur thinks from the standpoint of the early days of flaning. What I have read about its evolution leads me to think that it went well beyond guest or host (why does that remind me of a Craigslist sex-worker's ad?). It is hard for us to envision it nowadays, but the flaneur was a subversive, observer, provocateur, journalist, and pro slacker as well, and this is just during the Baudelaire - Benjamin - Modernist period. I can cite quotes about how they felt "at home" in the arcades, as trespassers in other places, and as performance artists while walking their tortoises. What I'm not saying is that anyone is right or wrong on this, but that to break it down to guest/host is not so easy. Or to say that they disconnected from everything they knew and went out like reconstituted virgins, although I would agree that the latter is possible in a different way, and from another angle.
    ___________________
    I'm not big on the hunt analogy, and I am a hunter (with gun & bow and arrow, not camera). And yes, I know about HCB's thoughts on the subject.
    ________________________________________
    Lots of the replies to Julie's original questions did not fall under either side of the host/guest dichotomy...I just counted, and five respondents chose either guest or host, while thirteen chose something else entirely. It's not someone trying to change anyone's mind. Almost by 3:1 the respondents did not see themselves in those roles. The other roles are, to me, not just diversions from the guest/host thing, but very interesting ways that fellow photographers see themselves.
    ____________________________________________
     
  48. Luis, the delays or gaps are physical; they occur in time. Prediction or anticipation hope to jump the gaps, but it is still a leap into their dark silence. A skilled model can move, fluid, gracile, seemingly not holding a pose, like a Geisha dancing. It is held, though, but only long enough for the photographer to journey through time and capture his or her idea of the image.

    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not


    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither


    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,


    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.



    -- The Wasteland
     
  49. Don E.- "Luis, the delays or gaps are physical; they occur in time. Prediction or anticipation hope to jump the gaps, but it is still a leap into their dark silence."
    True, and we do it all the time, when our lives and those of our families are at stake. Driving is a good example, as is crossing the street, trusting a stranger, etc. and we in fact jump the gaps correctly most of the time. In other facets of life we do the same. I have worked with models who were expert at doing what Don describes above. But in real life, nothing waits unless we halt it, and then it's halting. That seemingly insignificant ability to predict and/or anticipate in the midst of innumerable variables is extremely rare in photography (although the subconscious does it for us autonomously).
    “It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
    Resign yourself to be the fool you are...
    ...We must always take risks. That is our destiny...”
    T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
     
  50. From Iggy Pop song:
    "I am the passenger
    And I ride and I ride...
    I am the passenger
    I stay under glass
    I look through my window so bright..."
    It's a great song and somehow photography ralated.
     
  51. Dear Mr. Baudrillard,
    I bring the eye.
    Sincerely yours,
    Julie
     
  52. Luis: "But in real life, nothing waits unless we halt it, and then it's halting."

    Of course, the photograph halts things by its nature -- movement for example (and, just about everything else). The familiar object, a person taking a step, contains moments that are optically implausible, but the photograph offers them to us as real, true, objective, always there, and so they are, except we do not see them -- "the magical eccentricity of the detail" (Baudrillard).

    The photographer having seen the scene through their idea of the image, in post finally sees the actual image and deletes it.
     
  53. The way I see it, normal photography halts nothing. It is a very short, vertically stacked movie over the duration of its exposure, whether it is months-long, or a flashed 1/30,000th of a second. An onlooker may not be aware of this, or the photograph may appear really static, but it isn't. Only when exposure lengthens with motion involved and we get blurs that it becomes readily apparent, and then, it is often considered an imperfection.
    Now, photographers who are unable (for whatever reason) or unwilling to work in dynamic situations are by far in the majority, as is the aesthetic that conforms to it. They physically arrest the subject, trapping it in order to force it to conform to their convention. Or they simply bypass all of the subjects that will not be enslaved to their abilities/ideas.
    [Necessary PoP disclaimer: I am not advocating any kind of photography over others, nor implying or suggesting that one is superior. Only that the still variety is by far the most dominant.]
    Look at the difference between Robert Frank's photography and Garry Winogrand's or Joel Meyerowitz's color work. Not aesthetically, but technically. Real B&W film speeds and push-developers had progressed by Winogrand's day to where he (and Friedlander) could get f/16 @ 1/1000th sec. in strong direct daylight, very much turning their Leicas and 28-50mm lenses into lightning-fast point-and-shoots with sub-30 ms. lag time. This freed GW to work in a far more fuid mode and with less blur than Frank had to cope with, though the passage of time was far more readily apparent in Frank's work. It gave GW, coupled with his excellent predictive abilities and photographic athleticism, abilities to work in temporally accurate, to use a Don E. term, ways that had eluded others, and continues to, even in the age of easy 7+ fps cameras. Ever notice how many photographers drool over the Red Ball cameras? They hope it means they won't have to acquire predictive abilities.
    When Meyerowitz switched to ASA K25 & K64 color film, his style shifted considerably. Note how many are made in the strongest light, and usually on the sunny side of the street. Much more static than the B&W.
    Yes, I agree with Don E. that the photograph of course offers what we cannot see. We do not see in still imagery to begin with, save perhaps in memory, most of us have binocular stereotaxic vision, etc. We can't see what a galloping horse's hooves are doing. I am keenly aware of Edgerton and others who have gone to shorter exposures to "freeze" moving things. Those are more like extrasensory measurements than first-generation sensory observations, but many have no problem conceptually adapting to them.
    Which brings us to the difference between Adams' previsualization, and Winogrand's photographing to see what things look like photographed. Very different angles on the subject.
    In closing, there is nothing wrong with still, static imagery. It was mandated by the early form of the process, became part and parcel of the medium's prevailing aesthetic and dominates it to this day. I believe that as ISO's climb higher and higher even in inexpensive cameras, it will be from young, newbie outsiders that we will see photographs that are more temporally dynamic.
     
  54. I hadn't considered "stacking"; I'll mull over that and thanks. I wasn't thinking of motion blur, but the moment in the kinetics of walking at the top of the arc when a 'high stepper' looks as if they've just booted a soccer ball off their knee. As a 'still', it looks as if they are standing on one foot, the other bent and raised. People do not stand that way (cats do, however). Is it the street photography version of the tree growing out of Aunt Mary's head? But it can be anticipated, even in complex scenes. I don't see such images besides my own, except among those posted by enthusiasts. You would think Winogrand never encountered such moments, based on his commonly published work. Point being, we tend to pass over or delete such images; we remove them from our consideration. Hand and arm gestures are less predictable. 'Delay', and possibly "stacking", make contributions to the issue.

    To avoid capturing those moments rather than another requires study and practice. The technical advances you mention may provide useful tools, although they do not help me. A physical condition in my right hand makes shooting with modern cameras (whether film or digital) difficult.
     
  55. "In your relationship to the stuff -- people or places -- that's in your photos, do you feel more like a guest or more like a host?"
    Neither (normally).
    Julie, I have been elsewhere of late, but saw your OP a few minutes ago. I rarely feel like a guest and feel like a host only rarely when the photo is conceived almost entirely by me (host being "directorial conception", if that theatrical pairing makes any sense to anyone) rather than being the result of my simply interacting with people or places.
    I would characterize my normal interaction more as being that of a very curious observer, where the observation leads often to some sort of image perception. In such interaction, being a guest would be too passive in that sense, and being a host would mean something too pre-conceived.
     
  56. Luis, regarding "stacking". The moment captured may imply an immediate past-moment and a future one. Regarding "physically arresting the subject", there is the 'tableau vivant' effect. The discreet moment, without "stacking" is too real to be experienced except as a capture at a level more granular than our scanning, normalizing visual brain perceives. Technically -- as you wrote -- the tableau can be captured in the dynamic, raw, presenting scene, or the static in the studio, on location, "staged". The distinction between the two pretty much collapses. There is no need for the predictive ability because there is nothing to predict. Everything is known.
     
  57. [Luis and Don, carry on; I'm enjoying your exchange]
    In the current issue of National Geographic Magazine [November 2011], the 'Visions/Photo Journal' section features Timothy Archibald's photos of his son who has autism spectrum disorder. I'm going to quote from Archibald's text -- and I hope you look at his photos which are wonderful -- because I think he so clearly illustrates how a photographer moves in and out of and back and forth from watching/understanding. This is a parent working with his own child:
    "We began this project when Eli was five. He was doing well at school but fixating on odd things, lashing out, speaking repetitively. My wife and I couldn't figure him out. Then I started taking pictures of him around the house. It was an instinctive act for a photographer: Point your camera at something in order to make sense of it. But a curious thing happened. As I documented what Eli was doing and creating, he became interested in the images I was making. I was learning how he thinks: he was learning what I like and value.
    "We soon had a system. Eli would do something unusual, one of us would notice, and we'd make a photo of it together. The pictures we took over three years were more raw and feral than anything I'd done as an editorial or advertising photographer. And more personal. This is, after all, the story of a father and his son."​
    Below I'm quoting from captions to the three photos (other than the lead picture) featured in the magazine. You can find them at Archibald's web site in the section called Echolilia:
    "One Christmas we collected logs at a park and brought them home to use in our fireplace. Eli became obsesses with the shape of one and asked us not to burn it. I wanted to make some pictures with the log outside, but he took it into his room instead. As a photographer -- and as a parent -- I often like to let him lead."
    "Why Eli put these needle-nose pliers in his mouth I can't tell you. Maybe they reminded him of a bird's beak. To me, their sharp edges and his bare skin imply danger. Working with him, I find myself questioning boundaries. Am I his parent now or his collaborator? Am I empowering my kid, or am I overpowering him?"
    "At a point in this series I started to focus on the settings we were using. Our living room is great because it gets so much light. We cleared the floor and took all the toys out of this plastic bin. Eli was delighted to learn he could get his whole body into it -- so he curled up and pretended he was sleeping inside an egg."​
    [Archibald's web site is here: http://www.timothyarchibald.com/ .The project with his son is Echolilia.]
     
  58. Don - "People do not stand that way (cats do, however). Is it the street photography version of the tree growing out of Aunt Mary's head? But it can be anticipated, even in complex scenes. I don't see such images besides my own, except among those posted by enthusiasts. You would think Winogrand never encountered such moments, based on his commonly published work. Point being, we tend to pass over or delete such images; we remove them from our consideration. Hand and arm gestures are less predictable. 'Delay', and possibly "stacking", make contributions to the issue."
    I'm not concerned in this exchange with the particular moments that can be chosen from a dynamic sequence. For those with predictive abilities to do so the choice is theirs. For those with little or none, it's random, and almost all of the choosing is done subsequently, via editing. Or they do what most photographers do, and settle for the 'suspended moment', one that is amenable to their abilities or tradition.
    There's always been a lot of that, even in the film era, but now it is far more common. Since the number of variables is considerable in most scenes, if one understands chaos theory, it is obvious this is an inexact, pinball wizardry-type of thing (like predicting the weather) although the brain does some things related to this very well autonomously, and part of learning to extend one's predictive abilities involves letting go not just more control.
    The guys who did work with handheld press cameras before roll film, going out with usually less than 6 shots, had to get good at this.
    The puddle jumper in HCB's St. Lazare picture, set-up or not, can't sustain his position hovering in mid-air. We have a pretty good idea of what happens next. I do not see that image as the equivalent of the phone pole coming out of someone's head. It should be said that Eggleston (and others) have used precisely that stratagem to great advantage in some pictures. True, these are made as art, not documentary, photographs.
    Winogrand was really good at this, yet he still had to work at it incredibly hard and took an enormous amount of pictures to get what he wanted. I have no doubt that there are many 'failures' among his rejects as well as many superbly interesting images that were rejected for other reasons. We see what the photographer wants to show us.
    People tend to repeat gestures, and every one of them has physical antecedents. They also have a limited inventory of gestures, and tend to use a few of them quite often. The astute photographer can learn this. In a way, it's like ballet. The script is the range of appropriate behaviors in a given context in a given culture. Being aware of these things gives one additional predictive ability, and perhaps documentary ability as well.
    I am quite interested in the passed-over moments. Amateurs tended to get prints of everything, and kept all of them. Many still do on places like Flickr. One can view those rejects (even GW's) as bloopers, but they are a mixed bag, with some extraordinary images to be found, images that their maker didn't accept for whatever reason, and can't see. I also do not think we all see the same way, or reject certain kinds of pictures in unison. I do think a lot of people do that being slavish to the visual conventions of the day. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the mutations fascinate me.
     
  59. The Archibald photos are indeed impressive. The photographer is hosting as well as simply observing and the dyptics are I presume the photographer's (and not his son's) synthesis of what he has seen. They may also be somewhat dangerous, as well as being open-ended (not a bad thing), insofar as his main audience is concerned. He is courageous in undertaking that project.
     
  60. Luis: "The puddle jumper in HCB's St. Lazare picture, set-up or not, can't sustain his position hovering in mid-air. We have a pretty good idea of what happens next. I do not see that image as the equivalent of the phone pole coming out of someone's head."

    We can see a leap. It occurs over time of which we are consicously aware. The arc described in mid-air implies a jumping off and a landing. My example was to indicate what we do not normally see but can photograph. In a photo, it attracts the viewer's eye, as they see something they do not normally see, someone standing still with one leg raised. Our vision is good at spotting an anomaly. If it were a sports photo, the context would likely normalize it. I haven't been writing about staging vs not staged, or documentary vs art. Perhaps about the point where documentary and art photography give way to a fascination with the anomaly -- in detail. No one, not even the players on the field, can see the collision in the goalie's cage in the explicit money-shot detail of a Canon or Nikon deathstar's image. Technological r&d in photography is a progress towards freeing us to become enslaved to the absolute objectivity of objects. No context required.
     
  61. Guest or host? Good question. The role of host is to be generous, welcoming and polite. The prototypical role of guest is gracious and adaptive to the host. I might take on one of those roles in some photographing circumstances, but not often. It would figure into "photography for others", as a kind of special case.
    More commonly, I think I am in the role of snoop, or detective, or on the high side maybe an archaeologist? That is to say, digging and looking for the photograph that must be here, somewhere. I feel as though the scenes are hiding, and must be uncovered. I hope to be mostly ignored by anyone happening by just through chance either in front of, or behind the lens. To be ignored wouldn't suppose then a role of guest or host.
    I could also think of it as science. The scientist is not a casual observer, but combines the observation with recording. To observe that it is hot today is ordinary. To read the thermometer and mark down 93 degrees on paper is science. Recording discovered scenes with a camera then is a bit like that. The scientist attempts to remain neutral relative to the subjects, I think. Let the data speak for itself, and mean what it wants to mean.
     
  62. Don - "We can see a leap. It occurs over time of which we are consicously aware. The arc described in mid-air implies a jumping off and a landing. My example was to indicate what we do not normally see but can photograph. In a photo, it attracts the viewer's eye, as they see something they do not normally see, someone standing still with one leg raised. Our vision is good at spotting an anomaly."
    I understand your point, but disagree on some things. As with the jump at St. Lazare, most (but surely not all) realize that the impossible-looking moment you wrote about is part of a sequence. It is natural, even if it can't be held without moving, just like the leap. You're probably aware that the range of human perception is large. For making color discriminations, it is about 1:28X, and I suspect that for movement it varies greatly as well. I do not see what you call an anomaly as such. To me, it's a perceptual gap. However, I agree that for some it has the power of attraction (which takes us back to Julie's strangeness, as in strange to us, personally).
     
  63. Arthur, I don't think the father is hosting; I think he's being the guest to his son's world; or probably more accurately, they are fellow guests, both learning about each other. The father is choosing, is willing, to deliberately "arrive" without an asssertive understanding. He's williing to be lead, willing to be taught, willing not to already know.
    m stephens, there are a bunch of reasons why I think the scientific observer is very different from what I'm trying to get at. First, I'll repeat the Michael Sheringham quote I gave in a previous post: ""… What, asks Lefebvre, if we adopt another perspective (this is his repeated tactic) and strip human activity of that which pertains to specialized activities, removing all technical knowledge and expertise and simply leaving such everyday factors as effort, time, and rhythm? What is left? For some (scientists, structuralists, culturalists), next to nothing; for others (metaphysicians, Heideggerians), everything (because the ground of human existence — the ontological) is beneath all this."
    For a scientist, the picture is a necessary evil, not an end in itself. He's interested in documenting structure -- "this did that," and the science is NOT IN the picture. He, the scientist, posits the science to/with/from the picture.
    The kind of guest observer that I'm thinking of, for example, the father in the linked pictures above or Robert Frank in his The Americans, etc. uses structure to "document" an experience. And that experience is (hopefully) IN the picture. Structure is used, structure is means not end; the pictures is about the/an experience; and that experience is in the picture.
    In the following fragment from a poem (about a rocky outcropping; imagine a Weston photograph), consider how totally unscientific it is; it's the experience of the rock, not the (scientific) rock:
    Earthquake-proved,and signatured
    By ages of storms: on its peak
    A falcon has perched.
    I think, here is your emblem
    To hang in the future sky;
    Not the cross, not the hive,
    But this; bright power, dark peace;
    Fierce consciousness joined with final
    Disinterestedness;
    [Robinson Jeffers, Rock and Hawk]
    I also think that one can be an observer of one's own world. Though an observer might seem to be an "outsider" or a guest to what he's observing, I think a host can and is often an observer (admittedly, purposely biased; loving, hating but viewing from a position of understanding -- Matt Laur's "tour guide" of one's own world). So "observer" doesn't get to what I'm interested in which is the difference in stance between when one is already in relationship, in my-world; versus when one is looking at (experiencing) a not-me, not-mine.
     
  64. Voyeuristic, uninvited guest--sort of like the photographer must have felt when he took this one:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/14512995
    Then again, sometimes I feel like more the little boys at the left, just ogling, but with a lens.
    --Lannie
     
  65. Luis: "I understand your point, but disagree on some things. As with the jump at St. Lazare, most (but surely not all) realize that the impossible-looking moment you wrote about is part of a sequence. It is natural, even if it can't be held without moving, just like the leap. You're probably aware that the range of human perception is large. For making color discriminations, it is about 1:28X, and I suspect that for movement it varies greatly as well. I do not see what you call an anomaly as such. To me, it's a perceptual gap. However, I agree that for some it has the power of attraction (which takes us back to Julie's strangeness, as in strange to us, personally)."

    St Lazare is arranged to imply past and future in the present 'still'. From the orientation of the frame, to the bit of ground seen on our left, then the ladder, and then the figure nearly out of the frame on the right, that plus 'stacking', guides our interpretation of what we are seeing.

    HCB might have easily ruined the effect by following any number of words of photography wisdom, often read in coments...if you are unsatisfied with the shot, you weren't close enough, comes to mind. So, I'd expect the commenter to advise, zooming tighter to isolate the main subject, and perhaps to crop creatively to emphasize the abstract compositional elements of the figure (you know, the diagonals they've read about). Since the photo lacks the explicitness of the money shot, our fascination with object-detail, sharpness, smoothness, and clarity, the commenter might helpfully advise using a tripod and getting L glass. To do such things would likely result in a frozen, lifeless moment. St Lazare probably appears amateurish to amateurs.
     
  66. I agree with that last post of Don's. The last paragraph in particular.
     
  67. Julie Heyward,
    "The kind of guest observer that I'm thinking of, for example, the father in the linked pictures above or Robert Frank in his The Americans, etc. uses structure to "document" an experience. And that experience is (hopefully) IN the picture. Structure is used, structure is means not end; the pictures is about the/an experience; and that experience is in the picture."
    Assuming you are referring to the Timothy Archibald photos of his son----
    I fully agree with your position that he uses structure as a means and not an end of itself. He also appears to be conducting an interactive experiment with his son. An experiment in which the photograph is a stimulus applied to the subject, who then reacts to the stimulus to produce a new output, which is then photographed again. And, around and around they go in a number of iterations. I was intrigued by that use of photography as both an input AND an output process in a unified loop. It could be science, it could be documentation, it could be experiential process.
    The father is creating experience with the son, and simultaneously documenting it. This is true simply on the basis that the son (e.g. with paper bag over his head) is fully aware of the father in the room with the camera, which is capturing the two of them entwined in that experience. One behind the lens, one in front. The photographs speak as much about the one behind as the one in front. It wouldn't become science until he drew some set of formal conclusions at the end. I can't tell if he did or not. Maybe the photographs alone become the conclusion, I don't know.
    The Sheringham quote is too difficult for me to apply here. At the ground of existence, no-thing is of any consequence. A person (a consciousness) can be there or not be there, but not in between as some kind of witness to use that state with any utility, as utility itself has disappeared. Well, I thought!
     
  68. "("La gare à ) St Lazare" probably appears amateurish to amateurs."
    Yes, no doubt, yet also to many pros. One (must) reads an HCB image in a different way that one does with sports photography, wedding photography, glamour photography, industrial photography. most art photography and indeed most street or journalistic photography. HCB provides us one element that is missing from most of the other photographic expressions and types - and which lights the fire of some of us photographers - the element of mystery (I think someone alluded to that as a strangeness - so be it).
    How? One only has to consider the relationship (or not) of the various picture elements - the flat ladder, the ..railowsky (actually a forward truncated name of a dancer) sign, the dancing figures to its right, the position of the puddle jumper (he actually does not jump over all of it, which is interesting), the implied static and the dynamic of the jumper, the water rings where the jumper took flight, the railway track symbolism of the ladder, the unusual position of a ladder, the mirroring of the jumper in the water, and so on. HCB puts so much into his images that they naturally effuse mystery as much as a definition of what is happening. He is showing us something, albeit apparently simple (puddle jumping cliché), that makes us think about wider issues, about life and things not even related to the elements of the image.
    It can also be noted that we often reject otherwise important images because (of our virtually mechanical visual responses, and) because we feel that some element is non-contextual, or apparently does not blend with the meaning we summarily perceive. Sad, as the beauty of some imagesd and of HCBs communication is not based upon contextual perfection (directorial type "hosting") but on provision of everyday elements in a fortuitously thought provoking manner.
    The dinner is served, but you are obliged to guess its composition, with whatever senses, emotions and culinary intelligence you can bring to it.
     
  69. I disagree with Arthur on HCB's jumper being out on territory of its own. HCB was nothing if not an (initially surrealist) artist, and that photograph is rife with Modernist tropes of the day. Look at the jumping/diving pictures from that time made by other Surrealists. Deceptively simple, it is the product of an artistically well-informed, very bright mind.
    It should also be said that no one here rejected that photograph. Most of HCB's strengths are totally lost on a majority of street photographers (SP'ers).
    [The SP/Doc Forum here seems to be like a competitive W/NW forum. They don't say much, I notice.]
    I am following the host/guest thing still not quite convinced, refusing to see that as anything other than a continuum, and then not mutually exclusive. Then I also wonder how useful is it, if true. Worse, I am thinking that there are implications beyond those words that are embedded in them. Host/Guest imply property, invitation, acceptance, not to mention a Julie-an dichotomy. If we accept that structure, what about trespassers? Breaking and entering artists? Squatters? Passers-by? Realtors? Renters? Voyeurs? etc.
     
  70. I don't think that you are disagreeing, Luis. On the contrtry ("it is the product of an artistically well-informed, very bright mind"), that was indeed what I was referring to, in different terms than yours.
     
  71. >>> Most of HCB's strengths are totally lost on a majority of street photographers (SP'ers).

    What a bold claim, surely you have data to support that. Smells elitist to me...

    >>> [The SP/Doc Forum here seems to be like a competitive W/NW forum. They don't say much, I
    notice.]

    Not true. There's a lot of discussion. It is more oriented about matters concerning photographers that actually
    shoot SP.
     
  72. Brad, gotta agree with you....
    Those who can...do.
    Those who can't...just talk about it.
     
  73. Brad and Dennis - Thank you for your considered opinion.
     
  74. You're welcome, Luis...
    I have been followed this erudite discussion somewhat and while your analysis of the works of Cartier-Bresson are both interesting and enlightening, I am not sure if you fully grasp the notion that Cartier-Bresson may be appreciated differently and on a more practical level by street photographers. For over thirty years I have admired Cartier-Bresson's elegant compositions which have influenced my own approach to capturing street images...not in immitation, of course, but in the compositional sense that every element is important and has a place. When I look at at Cartier-Bresson shot I am usually struck by how every bystander in the frame is in his proper place, as though Cartier-Bresson was a film director who placed every extra in his spot for the take. To compose on the fly as Cartier-Bresson did is remarkable...and as a street photographer I appreciate that as Cartier-Bresson's greatest talent as an artist.
    Of course, Cartier-Bresson's photographs are more than just elegant compositions and perhaps it is your area of expertise to tell us the greater meaning of his photographs. But Cartier-Bresson's photographs mean something different to each of us...and I still experience a sense of wonderment every time I view one.
    I don't know your photography background or if you do street photography. (I have for over thirty years.) But your suggestion that street photographers don't appreciate Cartier-Bresson's greatest strengths is unfair, particularly if you don't appreciate, from a practical standpoint, how difficult it is to do what Cartier-Bresson did.
     
  75. Sorry for the typos...my keen compositional eye must only work on the street. ;>)
     
  76. Dennis, the conciliatory parts of your response are appreciated.
    Ps. Dennis Couvillion - Hey, Brad...I'm back for five minutes and already I'm fighting with somebody!
    Seems like old times...LOL."
     
  77. "HCB provides us one element that is missing from most of the other photographic expressions and types - and which lights the fire of some of us photographers - the element of mystery..."

    It's not "mystery", for me, rather, it is not obvious. The photograph doesn't insist I see it a certain way. I like that in a photo.
     
  78. Don - "It's not "mystery", for me, rather, it is not obvious. The photograph doesn't insist I see it a certain way. I like that in a photo."
    I agree.
     
  79. Dennis Couvillion has said something that is really core to what I'm getting at, even though I'm going to disagree with it. He said, " ... every element is important and has a place.." No, not every element but which elements. Everybody watching HCB's jumping man would have seen the jumping man, but who would have seen all those repeated spikes and arcs and the leaping figure in the poster in the background? But also, who would have known that those matter and the rest doesn't IN THIS CASE?
    Monty Python does a skit about an Olympic soccer final between soccer teams of the Greek philosophers and the German philosophers. When the whistle blows to start the game, all the "players" run around more or less randomly, pontificating to the air and paying no attention to each other or to the ball which remains untouched in the center of the field. Ha ha! What a bunch of dummies! Actually, I would suggest that the idiot (oh, that's not nice; let's call him a knucklehead instead) is the observer who sits there staring at the ball. He assumes he knows. He assumes the game is what he already knows, when, in fact, and entirely new and different kind of game is going on here (not to go all serious about anything Monty Python. They eventually get to playing and the Greeks whup the Germans -- but the Germans then convince everybody that it was not real, etc. etc.).
    In my host/guest thing, a host knows the game. In knowing the game, he sees the game; he doesn't just watch the ball. (I am not a street shooter; there are no streets -- or even any people --- where I live, but I used to shoot sports and I would suggest that the kinesthetic, internalizing of the game -- so that one shoots when one feels it, not when one sees it because if you see it, it's too late -- might be similar to street?). A street shooter seems to me to be someone who can find a game (there will be infinite games available) and therefore "see" the play and kinesthetically "feel" what matters -- who can see the "field" and who/what the players are -- far beyond the ball and who's handling it at the moment, to return to Dennis's claim.
    Another Sheringham quote about the street: "... he ventriloquizes the street’s propositions, becoming the medium of its utterances and the stage for its particular spatial performances. ... a city street, vista, or itinerary is an enigma that prompts interrogation: ‘what are you getting at?’, ‘what are you saying?’"
    If I am in a strange country and they're playing some game that I don't know, I would watch for the structure, but/and that structure would, as I am discovering it, allow me to see the game; the parameters, what mattered and what didn't -- there is a process of discovery, of uncovering, of locating the lines of tension, call and response. That's the "guest" thing. It's about finding the game -- whereas the "host" thing is about the (beautiful!) play within the game -- a game that is known and even assumed.
    Compare Sally Mann's photographs of children to Archibald's, linked above. [m stephens, if you're still there, I am thinking of her after/during reading your last comment, above.]
    To return to our philosophers who aren't kicking the ball, I'll end this too-long post with a segment of a Todd PapaGeorge interview done by John Pilson in Aperture magazine:
    PapaGeorge: ... Garry Winogrand ... took it upon himself to try to figure out what photography was, at least as he understood it. That's when I met him, in late 1965, when he was trying to figure this thing out, which was just about the time that he decided to have a little workshop at his house on Sunday nights, where he would look at our pictures (Joel Meyerowitz was part of this group) and mull over what it all meant. His manner, his style of understanding these things, was purely, utterly Soctratic. I'm sure he'd heard of Socrates, but he's certainly never read a word of Plato. He would just ask question after question after question, as if he didn't understand anything. And the fact is, he really felt he didn't understand anything, but -- almost urgently, at least as it seemed to me -- appeared to believe that something might help him understand (and of course I'm speaking about photography) was to clarify for himself what the rest of us meant when we said something about it.
    Pilson: During those evenings, were you there to define a project? Were you only focusing on the structure and quality of individual pictures, or were people talking about their general ambitions?
    PapaGeorge: No. In fact, it was all very abstract, very much like my similar discussions with John Szarkowski. It was never really specific, beyond saying: "That's a good photograph." Garry was embarked on an interrogative process: What is a photograph? What does a photograph have to be? ..."​
    You could think of a forum thread, especially a PoP forum thread as a street shoot. You can't assume you know the game and even if/when you think you do, it changes, it's fluid. Don't just stare at the ball and assume.
    [Luis, thank you for being a gracious gentleman in your last posts -- and for Dennis for contributing to the thread.]
     
  80. Julie, I am in agreement with your observation "...not every element but which elements" are important. Allow me to try to explain how I view Cartier-Bresson's photographs and why I believe they remain enduringly interesting. But, first. let me state that I have no formal education in fine arts, wouldn't know half the terms used here, and rely mostly on an intuitive compositional sense.
    You touched on the repeating spikes and arcs in HCB's photo. Repeating shapes and patterns re-occur throughout HCB's works, sometimes as important guides and other times as just interesting backdrop that highlight more important elements. The question is how much of that was intentional. Did HCB purposely play clever visual tricks; was his artistic sense so developed that he saw these things at a subconscious level; or was he just lucky? I doubt that the latter is the best explanation.
    I am no HCB but look at a photo I took several months ago and which I've attached as an example. What I saw before I pressed the shutter button was a man in a sea of rectangles...even the chair backs are roughly rectangular. What particularly caught my eye was how the dark, upper right portion of the frame on the wall is broken into three sections. Now look to the dark section in the extreme upper right hand of the entire image and see how it looks similar to the three segments in the frame, except inverted. The man's head is framed inside of a rectangle. What does it all mean? Not a whole lot, except that it provides a visually interesting backdrop to a curiosly vague image. Is the man naked? Are there other people around? Someone else said that he likes photographs that don't force an interpretation on you. Bingo...a photograph should allow the viewer to let his imagination run wild. At least in my opinion it should. But what keeps the viewer coming back to look are the visual "tricks" that make the photo interesting to look at.
    I have a friend who is a succesful songwriter...very creative, but couldn't draw if his life depended on it and wouldn't know which end of a camera to look into. But he has a good eye. One day, after I had introduced him to some of my stuff, he said "I get it...it's all about the angles." Then he proceed to explain how he saw in some of my photos repeating angles, shapes, patterns...how if you played connect the dots with main elements it created a shape that was repeated elsewhere in the photo, etc. I wanted to hug the guy because much of what he saw I also did...but other people hadn't.
    It surprises me to get together with another photographer and point out an interesting occurence in his/her image that he/she seemed to have missed. Once, before a show by a very accomplished photographer, I pointed out to her how in one of her photos the reflection in a glass window looked like a continuation of the adjacent horizon, even though on close examination the structures were completely different. Her response was "Huh...!" as though she was unaware of it. Did she not see that when she took the shot? My guess is that she did see it, but it was on a more subconscious level.
    And that is where I see Cartier-Bresson's genius. His pictures are a virtual circus of interesting visual "tricks" (for lack of a better descriptive term) that keep your eyes glued. In my opinion, it's what makes you keep going back to look at his photos. And the more you look at a photograph the more meaning you should derive from it. And, again, a photo should allow the viewer to use his imagination and create his own narrative. In common parlance "Cartier Bresson was a freakin' genius!" I love him...
    00ZbiO-415759584.jpg
     
  81. Julie, one more thing, briefly...
    You said: "...where I live, but I used to shoot sports and I would suggest that the kinesthetic, internalizing of the game -- so that one shoots when one feels it, not when one sees it because if you see it, it's too late -- might be similar to street?"

    Interesting that you mention that because I have done a considerable amount of sports photgraphy over the years and I often compare the required skill set there to street photography...and the most imporatant skill is being able to anticipate the action. That comes only by knowing (internalizing?) "the game" whether in sports or on the street. The technical skills are also similar...shooting quickly, for example. (The first time I used an auto focus camera in sports photography I thought it was cheating.) But the key is having an understanding, or even an intuitive sense, of where the action will be.
     
  82. I find it quite amusing how "mystery" and "not obvious" (or add the words "enigmatic" or "as yet unseen") are considered to be either opposites or not the same. Given that we all see images in our own personal ways (not inate but inate plus cultural experience) it is obvious to me that mystery is in fact a not obvious characteristic of something and varies with each person.
    We might want to recall that words and sentences (thoughts) accomplish things on very different levels and concerning oneself unduly with words (a familiar PofP situation) often misses the point of thoughts. I won't even start to discuss how poorly written sentences obfuscate possible meanings. That's another but important subject. But "word" games rather than "thought" games are one very evident reason why discussions on PofP do not reach as high a level as their contributors may be capable of. Of course, when the members are more or less unknown to each other, as here, some feel that there is nothing to lose by playing the part of philosophical cowboys and digital divas.
    Poorly written "rant", maybe, but an attempt at thoughts rather than words.
     
  83. Julie Heyward,
    Oh yes, I am still here. I had to look for the Sally Mann photographs. Quite different in meaning from the Archibald photographs, even if there was an occasional glancing stylistic similarity. The Mann photos would have me thinking host right off. She is clearly directing and posing and staging and forming the photos in her own vision. Of course I don't know that. That's the feel they relay back to me.
     
  84. In 1928, HCB goes into one of the best painting teachers' studio in Paris at the time, that of the painter Lhote, and learns about composition there. His 'tricks', are nothing more than the painter's tropes of the day expanded and in photography. HCB also knew and dialogued with a great number of top-notch artists at least well into the '50s. Not coincidentally, Helen Levitt once admitted that she was unaware of the importance of composition until a meeting with HCB in 1935. She followed his advice and began making trips to the Met and to the galleries then on 57th St. (From Maria Hambourg). Later friendship with Walker Evans provided more insights, one of her best friends put on a Surrealist show which she must have seen and heard about in process. Levitt was also a member of The Photo League. She worked as a film editor, and for some very famous directors. She was hardly a naif.
    Like all knowledge, it only becomes truly useful in the poetic sense, when integrated, which is when it becomes "intuitive". In other words, I do not think HCB (or Levitt) carried on an internal dialogue with themselves while photographing. OTOH, some very famous photographers have done just that at least some of the time (including Friedlander, who was overheard by Raghubir Singh talking to himself). Their conciousness, like ours, was affected by what they had learned (and no, I do not mean learned rote, like the multiplication tables).
    Thanks for the snippet of Papageorge on Winogrand. Think of Todd Papageorge, Meyerowitz, Winogrand with Eggleston present for long periods at a time. John Szarkowski mentoring and playing the role of art-sonist. Most people are unaware of the amount of theorizing that went on, and not just with those five. A lot of well-meaning people see what superficially appears to be purely reflexive photography due to the speed involved, and assume there was little else behind it simply because it isn't obvious to them.
    In the case of GW and JS they were addressing something in parallel to what lead to Sontag's essay that was discussed at length here a while back, but from the front lines. Their antidote turned out to be very similar to hers.
    One giant difference between shooting sports and SP (and I briefly shot sports) is that with the former, it is a game, with rules, direction, goal posts, lines delineating the field, etc. Once you know the game, even though the timing is very difficult to learn, it's not so hard to anticipate what the probable events are or where they are likely to take place, though there are plenty of surprises. For those SPers engaged in re-enacting or a continuation of classic ca. 1950's work, it is a lot closer to a game.
    SP, at some levels, is a whole different thing in those regards (and others). An unbelievably larger number of unspecified variables are involved.
    __________________________________________
    Arthur, interesting gender assignments to the Philosophical and the Digital. To me, "mystery" implies there's an awareness there's something there that's an unknown (and please, no re-barfing of Rumsfeld's known unknowns!). If something is not obvious, and you're unaware of it, it's only ignorance, not mystery. And we are all ignorant at some level, I know.
    To function well here I think one has to turn the sensitivity settings close to "numb", and learn to hopscotch among the ruins and mines. Um, there was no Rubicon to cross on the way here. :)
     
  85. Luis, let me give a simple example of what I meant by "anticipation" in street shooting. If, hypothetically, I see an attractive woman walking on the sidewalk and thirty feet ahead I notice a creepy, repulsive man standing in a doorway then I am anticipating some interesting visual exchange between them and I am moving into position to get a shot.
    I think there is some degree of predictability in human behavior which, in the photographic sense, creates some reliable "rules". If I see a mother and child I know the kid is likely going to do something that will irritate the mother. So, the predictability is similar to shooting sports in that regard. However, the danger is when predictable human behavior is reduced photographically to cliche'.
     
  86. Dennis, I understand. If you read back in this very thread, Don Essedi and I had a few exchanges about anticipation/predictability in human behavior. I think you'll find the three of us are in fairly close agreement. I understand the analog with sports well, was touching on what I see as its limits.
     
  87. "I find it quite amusing how "mystery" and "not obvious" (or add the words "enigmatic" or "as yet unseen") are considered to be either opposites or not the same."

    Arthur, I did not mean to imply 'difference' or 'opposite'. "Not obvious" is my way of saying what I understood you to mean by "mystery".
     
  88. Don, thanks for the clarification. Good photos indeed have more than one layer, and often one or more enigmatic ones or ones that are left to us to discover and interpret as we wish.
     
  89. Before I start on this Very Long Post, I'd like to repost the OP which is, "In your relationship to the stuff -- people or places -- that's in your photos, do you feel more like a guest or more like a host?" I want to emphasize that I am ONLY interested in YOUR relationship to ... Not the viewer's not the reciprocal relationship of your subject matter, just where you feel yourself to be with regard to what is being photographed. Now, a story as told by documentary film-maker Dai Vaughan:
    "A film on which I worked included a female circumcision; and we had covered this, as I recall, with a succession of long-held shots of people waiting outside the hut where the operation was taking place. During the discussion after a rough-cut viewing, three divergent views of this sequence were expressed. One person suggested that, if we were not to see the surgery, we might at least be allowed to hear a scream or two to signal to the viewer the unpleasantness of what was occurring. Someone else remarked that there had in fact been a scream recorded during this event, and that it would be perfectly legitimate for us to lay it over. But someone else again made the point that the scream had been such an exceptional feature of this ceremony that it would be a misrepresentation of the culture to include it. What is significant about these three views is that they reflect three distinct assumptions about the claim documentary stakes upon the world: in the first case, symbolic (a scream stands for pain); in the second, referential (this is what the equipment actually recorded); in the third, generalisatory (to include the atypical is misleading). This question, about the claim of documentaries stake upon the world, is one that confronts us afresh, and in different ways, with every project."
    A scream. Consider a visual scream -- or just stay with the heard scream. All of the options described by Vaughan, above, are of "host-ish" relations. The people all felt they knew the "game" that was going on. I don't care that they were different; I only care that EACH felt him- or herself to have understanding of the nature of the scream.
    But consider a fourth option; just the experience of a heard or seen scream. What is it like to hear a scream -- without knowing, understanding, just feeling its arrival. What's it like? As opposed to the documentarist interpretive options described above that go "through" the scream almost without stopping. That's what I'm trying to get at with my (contrived) notion of "guest." To be a "guest" is to get a non-understood, wide-open, fully-dilated sense of being flooded by an original experience. Just looking, just seeing, just, for starters, Sheringham's "ground" of "effort, time, and rhythm."
    When I photographed sports, my favorite was lacrosse -- because it was so fast that I could get totally immersed in the game and stay in that immersion. But I had never played lacrosse; I didn't know the rules of lacrosse; I didn't really know the tactical moves of the coach and players or any of the "official" stuff associated with lacrosse. By watching, by being there, I built up a game in my mind and that game was what I watched. That was what I knew I'd see before I ever got to the stadium; that was what I anticipated as I was chase-focusing on the action; I had understanding of the "field" -- and IT DOESN'T MATTER that or whether my "game" was like anybody else's -- if/when its structure exists in my mind, I'm in a hosting attitude. I'm not "just" hearing the scream, I'm seeing the wider game.
    If you are familiar with baseball, you know that the players grabbing their crotches is not part of the official game, nor is pounding home plate before you take your batting stance; but the catcher twiddling his fingers in his crotch is part of the game, etc., etc. Yet as a viewer, to me, those are part of the game. They're part of the weave; they aren't a scream.
    So, isn't a photographer always, instinctively going to be formulating a game, situating himself? Isn't that natural, even necessary to existence? Yes, but that's kind of the point in this whole blooming thread. You can choose to stop it. You can choose to "just" see; to "just" look; to "just" encounter experience.
    Taking a deliberate turn back from, out of "gaming," is, in my tentative opinion, a route to one type of very creative photography. See John Coplans querying his own body. See Ralph Meatyard masking his friends -- putting a scream right on their face. Take HCB ... "just" looking, "just" seeing.
     
  90. "Before I start on this Very Long Post, I'd like to repost the OP which is, "In your relationship to the stuff -- people or places -- that's in your photos, do you feel more like a guest or more like a host?""

    I'm like a Lacrosse player taking snaps of his teammates. Am I guest or host? I don't feel like either.
     
  91. "Explorer" - in oh so many ways.
     
  92. God.
    I often feel like god in relation to the stuff of my images. At other times I feel like a little atom.
    Naturally, I think the guest/host metaphor is pure BS. No. It's worse than that. It's a balloon full of a foul gas, covered in so much bullshit you can't even make out the underlying balloon structure.
    I can't believe the number of you that responded hook line and sinker. Way to go, Julie.
     

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