Has there really been progress in photography? Reflections upon viewing the works of Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. There are many links to these great photographers--and I could have named others instead. I will only offer the Wikipedia links in order to get the discussion started. Please scroll down the pages a ways to find the galleries:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrude_Käsebier
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Stieglitz
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Steichen
    I am deliberately not going to try to refine the question, preferring to let individuals make of it what they will.
    (This question is not about gear or technology. Starting chronologically with Käsebier was an entirely arbitrary decision.)
    --Lannie
     
  2. The "umlaut a" in Käsebier's name can be typed by locking the numeric keypad and then depressing the ALT key while entering 132.
    --Lannie
     
  3. With regard to an artist's vision in portraying a straightforward representation (as opposed to a non-straightforward mode of vision like "Impressionism" or "Cubism"), you could as well ask the question "has there been progress in art since the discovery of perspective?"
    You could argue that artists today are "seeing" their world no better than artists saw their world 500 years ago.
     
  4. There has certainly been change - this can be seen by the career of one of the people you mention, Edward Steichen, who in the course of a very long life moved from the painting-like images of the pre-WWi era (made in an attempt to convince the public that photographs could be art) through to the studio portraiture of the 1920s and 1930s, with Steichen finally curating the very influential "Family of Man" exhibition at MOMA in the 1950s (and nominating John Szarkowksi to be his successor as Director of the Department of Photography - JS then ushered in the era of William Eggleston et alia). Inevitably, technology influenced the look of images and the range of subjects photography could handle - arguably the level of artistic expression of the best photography has been equally high throughout the existence of the medium.
     
  5. The "umlaut a" in Käsebier's name can be typed by locking the numeric keypad and then depressing the ALT key while entering 132.
    --Lannie
    Why not just call her Cheesebeer :) ?
     
  6. There has certainly been change. . . .​
    David, not only has there been change, but I get the sense that artists/photographers sometimes think that their artistic vision has improved with such changes. Change there always is, but the question always remains as to which vision is superior.
    I guess that my fundamental problem lies in defining "progress" in this context.
    Here is one made in 1902 by Stieglitz:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Stieglitz-SpringShowers.jpg
    I wonder if he thought that he "progressed" in any meaningful sense from this stage of his work.
    Here is an even earlier one (1893), but still from pretty much the same epoch, I suppose:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stieglitz-Winter.jpg
    How did he look back upon these works later, and how have art critics and historians tended to view the overall "trajectory" of his work? Did he (or have they) tended to speak in terms that suggested "progress" or merely "change"? I wonder how he placed these works in his own mind compared to the works he produced after he met and photographed Georgia O'Keeffe.
    Further complicating all of this was Stieglitz's avoidance of the word "art," but, whether "art" or "aesthetic expression," it would seem that the essential question of defining "progress" in photography remains.
    --Lannie
     
  7. Lannie - "Change there always is, but the question always remains as to which vision is superior."
    Superior? Do you mean like pricing baseball cards? Hall of Fame hierarchy? The podium at a Grand Prix? Gold and silver medals?I intensely dislike the notion, particularly the (somewhat Fascist sounding to me) "superior" word.
    For me, artists and their work (ideas, machines, literature, etc) have timespace coordinates. They exist in a series of overlays that form a web that involves many aspects. But to judge them hierarchically (which I find at best an impractical exercise) with people from other eras and cultures? To what end?
    Yes, photography (and the societies it lives in) has not been in a state of stasis. I would say more like flux. It's not so much that the equipment changed (though that, too is part of it), but that the culture did, and photographers were along for the ride.
     
  8. It struck me the other day that photographers like John Sexton, and the Westons, carry on the realistic photography most famed by Adams and f/64, for a reason. Photographic art not only changes, but is so indelibly linked to the science of chemistry and physics, that it cannot be mastered in a single generation, by a single photographer.
    I quit going to my local photo club because there was nothing new. The same people bragging about their landscape photographs, going on and on about whether it was National G material. They were more interested in Photoshopping out a tree here, and talking about the right shade of border used for the image, than the content or artistic character of their "work".
    Consider contemporary photographers, like Holly Andres, who does amazing "melodramas", (hollyandres.com). Or Nan Goldin, Hiroshi Sugimoto, or Adam Fuss (who forgoes the camera, using just light sensitive materials). There is some very solid, innovative movements in photography right now.
     
  9. Lannie,
    While the question is intriguing, it seems to me a classic dog-chases-own-tail question. The answer is going to be what you want it to be.
    First of all, any type of art evolves. Has painting improved with a stronger tendency towards the abstract? Scupltures with more available materials? Architecture with new construction methods? Is dodecaphony an improvement over chromatic music? Has photography really progressed?
    Next, you seem to impose an arbitrary (*) limit: "This question is not about gear or technology". An analogy. Mozart wrote his pianosonatas for a rather different instrument than Beethoven did. This changed their ability to express themselves substantially. Orchestral sound changed likewise, and this changed music. I doubt whether there are musicologists who really want to leave this out of the discussion when comparing merits of one versus the other. So why would we when talking photography? You cannot leave out technology if you are looking at how photography evolved - it's silliness to dismiss it.
    Finally, your question asked whether it progressed. Above I intentionally chose the word evolved instead, but I assume you also chose your words carefully. If so, however, you largely invalidated the question. Progress means a higher valuation of the current state than the previous state. Getting better. That's asking for taste. Do you like the older great photographers better than current ones? Fine if you do, fine if we all do - does that mean photography has been on the decline since it started? I doubt so.

    I get the sense that artists/photographers sometimes think that their artistic vision has improved with such changes.​
    Of course they feel it's better, else they would not do it. But the artist's opinion does not have to be yours.
    Sorry to sound overly critical, but I find your question unanswerable. You seem to feel that in the more pioneering days of photography, better things have happened than in current days. That's well possible, I also happen to like quite a lot from those times. But that does not mean that ever since things are going downhill. As with many arts, photography has grown wider as an expressive medium (a lot of which is technology driven!), and the wider variety of photographic art we continue to find is equally exciting. It means there is more to dislike, more to like but most of all more to discover.
    __________
    (*) Maybe not so arbitrary given how this forum has rules to counteract gear talk, but if that was the reason to leave it out, well, I think the rules have a spirit more than a letter.
     
  10. There has been progress in terms of ability to tackle a wider range of subject matter, and access to a wider range of techniques. Also in making photography more accessible to more people, not neccesarily with greater artistic or technical value, but with a vastly greater range of subjects recorded. And photography is now more practical as a means of communication, whether in business, science, or private life.
    But I clearly have a difficulty separating the technology from the content, as much of this progress results from developments in the technology, assisted perhaps by innovative marketing of the George Eastman variety.
    As for photographs per se, perhaps my favourite photographer would be Julia Margaret Cameron, so it could be said, in my own mind, there has been no progress in photography since about 1860; except I don't think, in this context, progress is a very meaningful word.
    Suppose we appreciate the works of Raphael, and also those of more recent painters. Are the new works itrinsically better because of progress ? I don't see the works of past artists being downgraded, far from it. We can see progress in the life and work of an individual, and perhaps from generation to generation we can see new ideas and techniques developed and added to the vocabulary. But much of the new technique is technology based, as in new pigments, chemicals, etc. So we might trace an evolution in painting, or in photography, in cultural terms, and in subject choice for example, but it would be difficult to divorce that from devolopments in technology.
    Thanks for introducing me to Gertrude Käsebier.
    Mrs Cameron can be found at
    http://www.victoriaspast.com/JuiliaMCameron/juliacameron.htm
     
  11. [Y]ou seem to impose an arbitrary (*) limit: "This question is not about gear or technology".​
    Wouter, I feared a wave of posts related to technical progress pure and simple--"gearhead" stuff. I wanted to keep the emphasis on the aesthetic or artistic side, in spite of the fact that some would consider it prima facie obvious that the great works are timeless, others that new ground is being broken today that makes older styles passé. I did not want to rule out all allusions to new media or equipment as they affect aesthetic or artistic outcomes. For example, would Stieglitz's works have looked the same with modern equipment? In what particular way might they look different, if they would, if taken with newer technology? (The subtext is indeed to what extent our improvements in technology have also changed styles. I was afraid to lead off with that.)
    I personally like great photographs regardless of epoch or genre, but some who consider themselves to be "avant garde" (or who identify strongly with new currents) might have a preference for the merely new.
    I see nothing wrong with romanticism as opposed to realism, for example. I like both. I am not sure to what extent others see things that way. I have heard some speak, for example, as if realism were an "improvement" over romanticism.
    The question might well be flawed, but you are right that I deliberately chose the word "progress" in spite of its possible equation with taste--although I have to say that I was more concerned with those who might reduce everything's value to what is merely fashionable.
    Just because something is not the rage or wave of the moment is no reason to disparage it in my book, for what that is worth. Although that seems obvious, I am not sure how others think--especially those who have a better sense of the history of photography than I do.
    You seem to feel that in the more pioneering days of photography, better things have happened than in current days.​
    Wouter, it is not so much that I think that the works were better then than now as that I think that they are in no general sense worse or "out of date."
    What lies behind my question is a general aversion to the view that the new or the fashionable is necessarily better. That is about as far as I could go in explaining my own "bias." I get rather tired of hearing insinuations in my own field of study (political philosophy, not photography) that new thinking is necessarily better. I like to think of the progress of ideas in political philosophy, for example, but I have grave doubts as to how much that is viewed as progress really is progress. There really are new insights, but there are many more old views which are (to my mind) simply being rehashed in new intellectual jargon, in my opinion.
    --Lannie
     
  12. First I want to see what will last and then I will decide on the new stuff in 40 years. The old stuff is great.
     
  13. Has there been any progress in beef? I'll bet that a char-grilled free range steak tasted pretty good back in 1887.
    Better than a Whopper or a Big Mac. I don't know if we've made any progress, but I still enjoy steaks today in the
    21st Century.
     
  14. Lannie, many thanks, that adds a lot of perspective. If my post felt too much like putting words in your mouth, I'm sorry; in the spur of the moment I might have been a bit hard-edged, and its how I perceived your post. I'm glad you came back as you did, I think what you raise is a worthwhile noting.
    First off, though, sure I can understand not wanting a gearheaded discussion; there is plenty of that and it won't add a thing. But it is a fair question you raise, what if Steichen had a pin-sharp flare-resistant, contrasty lens - would the Pond have been sold for the same amount, look as dreamy - or would it be an ordinary picture of a pond for most? It's an unanswerable pondering, though it does help me remind that technicalities really are just a part of the story.
    I agree with what you say on the fashionable things, and how it causes some items to be overrated at the cost of others. I find it a strange disconnected view on things, regarding events as unique isolated moments. It seems to disregard how one develops from the other. Even if it's a counter-reaction, it still needed the "old" to counter against. The old adagium of standing on the shoulders of giants, looking further. Real revolutions are rare, trace their origins and they're all evolutions. Well, in short, I think we agree.
    It seems many people just use 'progress' when they mean 'change'. Newer doesn't mean better, it just means newer. Western society is very hung up on progressive-ness, though, strong influence from Christianity when it comes to seeing the times as slowly working towards the finest moment of all times. So to accept new just means new, might rub a bit against our cultural reflexes.
    In my limited experience though, photography is not that extremely sensitive to fashionable expressions. Sure, there are some and if I look around flickr, the oversaturated look with a wide angle for near every situation still scores a lot, but somehow in photography I find a lot of individual expression. It might be because my vision on photography is still developing strong, but less than with painting, music I fail to see big strong "streams" or "groups" with a similar style and expression. I might well be wrong, but I also hope people show a lot of examples in the process of proving me wrong then :)
     
  15. The history of photography and all art seems to evolve.
    The individuals involved at any given time seem to progress.
    I see progress in my work since I first started shooting and I'm glad I do.
    I don't see that same kind of progress historically because it's not like the beginnings of photography are similar to my inexperienced beginnings personally. What we mostly see from the early days are the fine-tuned, studied, well-crafted photos and paintings and musical works that have lasted through time. What I see when I look back at some of my own work are naive, unstudied, not-so-well-crafted, but nevertheless genuine photos.
    I think there are some analogies between art or photo history and the individual. And some things about them are not at all analogous. I expect an individual who works hard to progress (if by progress we mean to some extent, "get better") over time. I don't expect art to progress (get better), though I do expect it to change and evolve.
     
  16. Wouter, you've made many good points in both your posts. The one thing I'd question is this:
    Of course they feel it's better, else they would not do it.​
    I don't know that artists do things because they think it's better. I think they often do things because they are compelled to. Artists often respond to their historical predecessors' work in order to have a dialogue with them, to pay homage to them, to further an exploration along similar lines, etc. I don't necessarily think they are motivated out of trying to do it better. I may not be quite getting what you meant by this, however.
    _________________________
    As for technology, I know a lot of long-time, experienced photographers who don't (yet) like working with digital as much as they did film (or don't like the photos produced as much). Yet many of them are exploring digital. They do this not because they think it's better (in many cases they think it's worse). I think many see it as a challenge, which is a respectable motivation. I also think some of them feel it's not better yet because no one has really mined its potential. So it's more about possibilities in the new medium than whether it's better or not. In fact, some want to make new technologies better than they currently are (realizing more potential), not better than a previous technology.
     
  17. Photography is an interesting medium. Unlike most other forms of graphic artistic expression literally anyone can do it. Now every phone even has a camera built into it. A blind person can take a photograph. Photographs are used for a myriad of purposes, art being one of them. Because of this ubiquity and the fact that most people taking pictures are not even aware of the history of artistic photography, it is interesting for me to see the wide variety of expression in Facebook and in Flickr for instance. I wouldn’t say this is artistic progress, but I do think it may be expanding our inner templates of what interesting or artistic photographic images can be.
     
  18. Lannie: "Change there always is, but the question always remains as to which vision is superior."
    Luis: Superior? Do you mean like pricing baseball cards? Hall of Fame hierarchy? The podium at a Grand Prix? Gold and silver medals?I intensely dislike the notion, particularly the (somewhat Fascist sounding to me) "superior" word.​
    I understand, Luis--if not fascist, at the very least elitist, or bespeaking some kind of cultural elitism or imperialism. My entire quote was as follows:
    I get the sense that artists/photographers sometimes think that their artistic vision has improved with such changes. Change there always is, but the question always remains as to which vision is superior.​
    At first I meant superior in their own minds, not according to some objective standard--and typically by way of being critical of their own early work, perhaps even to the point of repudiating their early work, or seeing it as some phase that they had to work through. I don't know much about what actual artists/photographers have had to say, but I think that even Weston's embracing of realism was viewed by him as an improvement over his earlier work, although by what standard I do not know. Picasso comes to mind as well, since he was a very gifted painter even in the conventional tradition before he began his radical experiments. I wondered how he looked back at his more realistic portrayals after his experiments with cubism.
    "Superior according to some exterior or external criterion" might perhaps, however, be the bait that I am indeed dangling out there to see if anyone takes it--not as a trap but in hopes that someone can actually give me REASONS for their comparative evaluations, reasons that might even make sense to me. If someone thinks that Stieglitz's work is not merely in the past but somehow inferior to what has been done since, then I want to hear about it--and hear the rationale for adjudging one as inferior to the other.
    I was actually looking at Steichen, not Stieglitz, when I started thinking of a possible thread. We all have our preferences, I suppose, and I knew that Stieglitz's work had always touched me emotionally--but I could not get past works like this by Steichen:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steichen_flatiron.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Steichen-Experiment.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steichen_-_wind_fire_-_Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_Duncan_on_the_Acropolis,_1921.jpg
    So, even by a subjective standard, I could not decide whose work was "superior" even subjectively to me, which is to say more "powerful" to me, more "emotionally evocative" for me, etc.
    That kind of problem in my own mind impelled me to throw the question out there in a form that might encourage others to reveal their own preferences, but also to to give reasons for their preferences, if they had them.
    Indeed, I began to wonder if there were any objective criteria by which such powerful works were to be judged and compared to one another. In other words, was "progress' (like "quality") only a subjective thing, or might there be some kind of presumably external or objective criteria by which persons' works might be evaluated? Beginners often think that their works are "just as good" as great works, after all. What do they learn along the way to having the capacity to be humbled in the face of genius?
    The entire set of questions left my head spinning, and so I decided that I would get the opinions of others. I have my preferences, sure, but perhaps there are those who can give reasons for their preferences. Then again, maybe not. . . .
    I know that this is treacherous terrain, but surely someone will face it head-on. Fred is usually out on the point, willing to take the first bullets, but Fred has taken a lot of bullets of late, and so I hate to ask him to risk too much again right away. Is anyone out there so willing to risk their tender psyches as to offer reasons for their preferences or judgments of relative worth implicit in the term "progress"? I am not laying a trap here. I don't know enough to do that.
    --Lannie
     
  19. The individuals involved at any given time seem to progress.
    I see progress in my work since I first started shooting and I'm glad I do.​
    Thank you, Fred. Maybe I should have started with "How would you evaluate progress in your own photography?" Perhaps persons are more willing to risk an answer to that than to try to offer evaluations of the works of others.
    Luis, is it safe to say that Stieglitz's work was/is superior to mine? (C'mon, don't be shy.)
    --Lannie
     
  20. Lannie baited me thusly - "Luis, is it safe to say that Stieglitz's work was/is superior to mine? (C'mon, don't be shy.)"
    Nice try, Lannie, but I'm not doing a parallel-world version of the PN rating system. :)
     
  21. The point, Luis, is that we make claims of superiority or inferiority all the time--although making them across epochs is admittedly a bit problematic. I don't see how to avoid making all value judgments, although one certainly wants to avoid ethnocentrism, cultural imperialism, fascism, etc. when so doing.
    I will be the first to admit, however, that "progress" can be a very loaded word, and it makes me gun-shy, too.
    Note: The "parallel-world" phrase you use is interesting. There is the land of great photographers, and there is the parallel world of Photo.net, with all of its amateurs and wannabees. Some comparisons are admittedly a bit vacuous, and it is true that I do not live in the world that Stieglitz, et al. inhabited--which is precisely my point. They were superior to me.
    This is not to say that there are no great photographers on Photo.net. I do not see the comparison as a matter of "parallel worlds" so much, however, as matters of degree.
    --Lannie
     
  22. There is the land of great photographers, and there is the parallel world of Photo.net, with all of its amateurs and wannabees.
    Careful with that ax, Eugene! Photo.net is home to a vast spectrum of people who in one way or another are interested in photography. In photo.net as in real life, the largest group is composed of amateurs - not necessarily wannabees, which suggest people with unrealistic pretensions who are too deluded to see that they cannot become what they would like to be. There are some on photo.net, but not nearly as many as you might think. I personally am a trained professional photographer and former technical author for Ilford Ltd., now semi-retired. and there are plenty of people here who know more in specific areas than I do (and plenty of other pros). Distance lends enchantment to the view - the "great" photographers are mostly from the past and worked at a time when still photography was a major public visual communication medium. Today the significance of photography is, I believe, more as a medium for personal self-expression, an area in which amateurs have equal or better chances than professionals, since they can choose when and if they want to work and what kind of work they do.
     
  23. I agree with others that are fairly reluctant to speak of progress when it comes to photography, outside the technical field. Aesthetics change over time and with that market demands (what is demanded by those that are ready to pay for photos). None of that can with much sense, as far as can see, be described as "progress" however.
    However, maybe in one area, many, but not all I'm convinced, would accept using the term of progress, an area that touches what we see as acceptable in the field of photography.
    If you look at one of the most renown shots of Käsebier, you see a theme and a symbolism that could be shot in the beginning of last century, but which probably would not be accepted in todays world. Take the shot of Evelyn Nesbit, who was sixteen when Kasebier shot it and who here is presented as an erotic toy with all the symbolism needed to make the point - a role she actually played to the full already at that age, in 1901. (to make it more acceptable for todays viewers the date of the shot is often changed and has become 1903, making the lady adult by a stroke!)
    Such photos could be shut, and paintings painted, in those days. I don't think I need to provide other examples (Klimt, Courbet just to name two and preventing to be accused of name-dropping) . It is problably not possible or acceptable to shoot such photos or at least to show them in todays world of increase puritanism, especially in America. If this is progress in art, can be discussed, but for many, I'm sure it comes near to it.
    There is another way of discussing "progress" which I would think is more widely accepted. It is linked to what art is (sorry to come back!).
    If, in our understand of "art" we can agree that it includes some kind of "creativity", then repetition and copying of what already has been made, can only be characterized as anachronistic and maybe even "regression" - the inverse of progress. Progress in photography is then the continuation of ever new creative forms of expression and surely not something that can be measured like "progress of economics".
     
  24. Fred,
    You are right to question that statement on artists (your post sept. 7, 7:28PM). It was a bit simple as I put it, mainly to stir the argument. 'Feeling compelled to do so' is indeed a better way to describe it. I think we both have the same underlying thought: the artist changes on purpose, because (s)he feels driven to it. It's not about creating something superior by definition, but rather explore new grounds and grow, seek new options or ways to epxress.
    ___
    My point to say that, though, was more because of "our" judgements; for example I much like Picasso's early pen drawings. Even if I find them superiour to his later works, that does not mean I have to (or can!) judge the artist Picasso for making changes - I may judge the works based on my personal preferences, but as an artist, he did what he felt he should do. One should not mistake his own taste for what an artist should do or have done. Likewise, I do not need to agree with or like an artist, to like his/her work(s).
    __________________
    Is anyone out there so willing to risk their tender psyches as to offer reasons for their preferences or judgments of relative worth implicit in the term "progress"?​
    The psyche is not that tender, Lannie, no worries.
    The moment a work grabs me (emotionally), it grabs me. At that moment, there is no immediate realisation where it fits in the development of art, of the medium, which timeframe it fits. It either touches me deeply, or it doesn't. This is not a highly cognitive process, but rather subconscious.
    From there on, I want to learn, and will look up information, learn where to place the work in terms of historical value and so on. So, its 'superiority' is attribute to the work, not to its place in history. From there on, one work may lead me to others, but the fascination stays with the work itself.
    Surely, I see enough work that does not grab me, and there a much more conscious process kicks in, but even then I am usually studying the work for what it is. I regard the place, time when a work was made, the epoch, the state of technology and all that can influence how the result looks, sounds or feels like as background information. And background information comes second. Background information can make me sympathise, accept a limitation or flaw - but it hardly ever will replace admiration.

    Unintentionally, this circumvents the whole discussion on superiority based on anything else but the work itself.
    Progress, as Luis hinted, is something I do use to consider my own photography. Since I know my own targets, intentions and hopes, I can measure myself against that yardstick. I cannot do that for others, since I can only guess. Yes, this is avoiding to judge, in a hope to stay open minded enough for different approaches and ideas from mine. Surely, I frequently fail at doing so.
    Following that same line of thoughts, I do strongly disagree with the use of the word 'wannabe' in this context. And the same goes for proclaiming somebody a great photographer. Many people will not see the value of the work like that of William Eggleston, and think Anne Geddes is a much bigger photographer. I don't think many here will agree, but can we honestly say the other people are wrong and we are right?
    A Dutch saying says you cannot argue over taste. I think that's rubbish. You sure can. You just have to be ready to agree to disagree.
     
  25. Lannie: There is the land of great photographers, and there is the parallel world of Photo.net, with all of its amateurs and wannabees.

    David: Careful with that ax, Eugene! Photo.net is home to a vast spectrum of people who in one way or another are interested in photography. In photo.net as in real life, the largest group is composed of amateurs - not necessarily wannabees, which suggest people with unrealistic pretensions who are too deluded to see that they cannot become what they would like to be. . . . I personally am a trained professional photographer and former technical author for Ilford Ltd., now semi-retired. and there are plenty of people here who know more in specific areas than I do (and plenty of other pros).​
    David, that is precisely why I followed up in the same post with this:
    This is not to say that there are no great photographers on Photo.net. I do not see the comparison as a matter of "parallel worlds" so much, however, as matters of degree.
    That is, when it comes to actual accomplishment as photographers, it is a matter not of being either "great" or "amateurish," rather a matter of degree of greatness. There is indeed a spectrum, as you say, even a continuum, in terms of photographic quality.
    Unfortunately, some very knowledgeable persons on technical matters cannot and have not made truly memorable photographs. The skill that I am concerned with is very much a matter of actually having had an idea and having brought it to completion often enough to have produced a body of photographic work that is truly memorable. How can we measure photographers across various epochs in terms of "progress" unless we have some criteria as to what makes for a great photo?
    Distance lends enchantment to the view - the "great" photographers are mostly from the past and worked at a time when still photography was a major public visual communication medium.​
    That is precisely the view that I want to challenge, David. I do think that there are still great photographers, and some are no doubt here on Photo.net. Some might be those who frequent the forums and write more than they post photos, but, when I have seen their work upon occasion (such as on the "No Words" forum), I have been very impressed with the quality of their work.
    It is true that photography has become a very democratic medium and primarily (for most persons) a means of self-expression. This does not mean that some truly great works are not being produced. Some persons are perhaps "one-shot wonders," and I am not sure that I would call them great in the same way that Stieglitz (or whoever) was "great"--on the other hand, I can still call the photograph a "great" photograph. People who can produce such photos on a regular enough basis I would call "great photographers."
    I do not see the medium of still photography going away anytime soon simply because it is now accessible to more and more persons, or simply because rank amateurs are from time to time going to produce some truly remarkably good shots.
    --Lannie
     
  26. I do not believe that a photo can be called "great" unless it is at the very least "memorable."
    --Lannie
     
  27. Greatness is a distraction from doing what's in front of you.
    I'd suggest that many (most?) of the greats were not concerned with what was great.
    The greats are compelled by a personal vision to do what they do.
     
  28. I do think that there are still great photographers, and some are no doubt here on Photo.net. Some might be those who frequent the forums and write more than they post photos, but, when I have seen their work upon occasion (such as on the "No Words" forum), I have been very impressed with the quality of their work. It is true that photography has become a very democratic medium and primarily (for most persons) a means of self-expression. This does not mean that some truly great works are not being produced.
    I must confess - for the reasons stated in my earlier post, I don't really believe in "greatness" and I certainly couldn't tell you what the nature of greatness is! There are certainly photographers today who are as technically skilful and artistically sensitive as any that you might like to call "great", but today's guys have nothing like the position in society and the media world that the greats had - no matter how good you are, artistically or technically, as a stills photographer, it is exceedingly unlikely to bring you fame, fortune or a place on a pedestal. And there is in fact no reason why it should, or any reason why fame, fortune or a place on a pedestal should matter to you at all. One thing that brings a wry smile to my face is that my most famous pictures are those I made of David Bowie when I was 19 (and he was nothing like as famous as he became later). If you Google me, you will see that it is primarily these pictures that come up. In PR handouts for exhibitions for exhibitions including these pictures, I have been called "great", "legendary", etc. Am I? No! Are these pictures great? I think they're good, but "great" is meaningless. The only thing I can say for sure is that Bowie is the most famous person I have photographed (there have been others) and that this is why these pictures have appeared as widely as they have. I have to live with the fact that no other images of mine (some of which I consider to be artistically much more interesting) will ever attract the same level of attention or be hailed as "great" in the same way.
    Fortunately I have realized over the years that I don't need this kind of attention and am indeed probably better off without it. Exposure to the music world has taught me that there is a complete disconnect between fame, fortune, artistic quality and happiness - you can be really good but never get anywhere, you can be musically completely incompetent and sell records by the ton, you can have hit records and never see any money, and indeed you can have hits, get the fame and fortune, be hailed as great and still be so miserable that you OD on drugs. Greatness is certainly a nebulous concept!
     
  29. The greats are compelled by a personal vision to do what they do.​
    Would you also say, Fred, that a "great photo" reflects a personal vision manifested in the photo? Or can it be a random capture that just happens to be very compelling to the viewer, regardless of what it meant to the photographer?
    --Lannie
     
  30. I must confess - for the reasons stated in my earlier post, I don't really believe in "greatness" and I certainly couldn't tell you what the nature of greatness is! There are certainly photographers today who are as technically skilful and artistically sensitive as any that you might like to call "great", but today's guys have nothing like the position in society and the media world that the greats had - no matter how good you are, artistically or technically, as a stills photographer, it is exceedingly unlikely to bring you fame, fortune or a place on a pedestal. And there is in fact no reason why it should, or any reason why fame, fortune or a place on a pedestal should matter to you at all.​
    I am not equating greatness with fame, David, or even with general social esteem to any degree. I did not really intend for this to become a discussion of "greatness" when I posed the original question, but I do think that some photos are more worthy than others. I also think that the work of some photographers is more worthy than that of others.
    When I mentioned "progress" at the outset I was thinking solely in terms of the value of the photo, suggesting that some photos were more valuable than others--and I am not talking price when I speak of value.
    Comparing great photographers across the ages was not meant, that is, to devolve into a discussion of who has been deemed important in the eyes of the public. Well, in whose eyes, then? Are we back to subjectivism pure and simple again? It seems to keep raising its head, all the way back to the old canard, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Yes, that is true, but surely there is more to be said, and stopping there leaves us stuck in the morass of subjectivism.
    It is not difficult to see why some topics make persons want to flee from the forums. Still, the question persists: have we come very far, if anywhere, from the photographers whom most of us would deem "great" who were shooting over a hundred years ago? Definitional clarity is indeed a virtue, but it is amazing how often it can become a cover for avoiding substantive questions.
    --Lannie
     
  31. Without being boringly repetitive, I would answer your question "Have we come very far?" by saying "Yes we have!" but would at the same time contend that the nature of society, and the nature of greatness, have changed so much that comparisons are impossible. To shift the context for a moment - do you think any 20th century US president is regarded now, or will be regarded by history, in the same way as Abraham Lincoln? There have certainly been well-liked presidents, such FDR for sure, perhaps Ronald Reagan for (as it turned out) defeating communism - and of course there was JFK, who fulfilled the first requirement of myth-making by dying young. Notwithstanding this, I believe the whole way the media works, and the attitude of today's public to the famous, mitigates completely against the myth of greatness - and a myth is what it is - somewhere between Marshall McLuhan and Andy Warhol!
     
  32. It is not difficult to see why some topics make persons want to flee from the forums. Still, the question persists:​
    It persists for you.
    .
    it is amazing how often it can become a cover for avoiding substantive questions.​
    I'm sorry, but I see no substantive question on the table.
    .
    Would you also say, Fred, that a "great photo" reflects a personal vision manifested in the photo? Or can it be a random capture that just happens to be very compelling to the viewer, regardless of what it meant to the photographer?​
    This is not very different from the question you asked about what makes the nude art. A search for such definitions is, in fact, the avoidance.
    Now, please, before you retreat to the ad hominem defense, remember that you just accused this forum in general of avoiding your idea of substantive questions. I'm throwing it back at you and telling you to start ASKING substantive, rather than classificatory, questions.
    Greatness and your statements here smack of hero-worship and self-deprecation. "I can never be . . ." is an excuse not to do better.
    Listen to these questions/statements and how you've asked them. These kinds of questions set us up for failure or provide excuses to ourselves for not doing better work. They get us way outside ourselves. They distance us from what we are each doing:
    What do they learn along the way to having the capacity to be humbled in the face of genius?
    Some comparisons are admittedly a bit vacuous, and it is true that I do not live in the world that Stieglitz, et al. inhabited--which is precisely my point. They were superior to me.​
    I submit that this kind of self-effacing is what's vacuous. It is designed to keep oneself down. It's got little to do with true humility and much more to do with fear or at least RESIGNATION, probably one of the worst enemies a photographer or artist can have.
    I'm always amazed at hearing "great" artist's influences and who they learned from and loved. Often, they are relative unknowns. That says something important, I think.
    Greatness is a moniker created by audiences, not by doers. The history of photography is about influence, dialogue, vision. It's not about who or what was superior.
     
  33. I'm going to do a 'Professor Joad' here and say, "It all depends on what you mean by progress." One could similarly ask, "Has there been any progress in Western music?" We are, after all, still using the same thirteen tones and half-tones of the even-tempered scale that Bach devised some 300 years ago. Much was made of David Hockney's 'joiner's when he first created them and I can see the merits of his argument but then I wonder if anyone has achieved the purity of vision of such as P H Emmerson. In painting, the great leap forward came with the representation of perspective after Brunelleschi in the late 15th century but then nothing revolutionary happened until the Impressionists, or perhaps even the Cubists. Beyond technical developments, there seems little change; subject matter remains much as it always was. We still capture images by focussing them on a sensitive medium and then printing the result out as a two-dimensional print; there seems little scope for the truly radical.
     
  34. Lannie - "I will be the first to admit, however, that "progress" can be a very loaded word, and it makes me gun-shy, too."
    Good. I would prefer 'development'. Progress implies an upward-onward thing that doesn't work for me. In my own work, I can see some things that that are improving and others that aren't -- simultaneously. Plus most risk-taking ends up bombing (though win or lose all are valuable lessons if I'm listening to my work), but I would not consider that a decline. It's the going price of creativity.
    Lannie - "Note: The "parallel-world" phrase you use is interesting. There is the land of great photographers, and there is the parallel world of Photo.net, with all of its amateurs and wannabees. Some comparisons are admittedly a bit vacuous, and it is true that I do not live in the world that Stieglitz, et al. inhabited--which is precisely my point. They were superior to me."
    Waaaait....I did not say anything positive or negative about PN members' work. Nor was it implied. What I meant, and it was explicitly stated, was the PN numerical ratings system, used as an analog to your superior/inferior binary ratings. The truth of numbers is often starkly simple, but without its human significance it is empty.
    What would it matter if someone was or wasn't s-p-r---r to you? What difference would it make in your work? We all are where we are, on our own trajectory and path, and if we're doing our best, that's what we're able to do today. And that extends to personal progress as well. Just work as smart and hard as you can. Learn from others, but be yourself. The rest will take care of itself.
    _______________________________________________
    Lannie - "Would you also say, Fred, that a "great photo" reflects a personal vision manifested in the photo? Or can it be a random capture that just happens to be very compelling to the viewer, regardless of what it meant to the photographer?"
    Flukes happen, but not often. A duffer might take quite a photograph through his ineptitude and inattention, but....to the observant eye, two things will be obvious: First, it will have little or nothing to do with its author. Second, it will be a one-hit wonder. Look for more in the body of work, and you'll come up empty, or if the guy is extraordinarily lucky and there are a handful of others, they will be disconnected, looking like a haphazard conglomerate, not an integrated oeuvre.
    _______________________________________________________
    Fred - "I submit that this kind of self-effacing is what's vacuous. It is designed to keep oneself down. It's got little to do with true humility and much more to do with fear or at least RESIGNATION, probably one of the worst enemies a photographer or artist can have."
    I agree. The best case scenario would be that it's a waste of time. It justifies personal ineptitude and stasis, and a poor excuse for throwing one's hands up in self-defeat and letting the daring and risk-taking evaporate.
    _______________________________________
     
  35. have we come very far, if anywhere, from the photographers whom most of us would deem "great" who were shooting over a hundred years ago? Definitional clarity is indeed a virtue, but it is amazing how often it can become a cover for avoiding substantive questions.​
    If the "we" refers to photography in general, I personally have no problem of seeing change from photography some, one hundred years ago and now and I don't think many have any problems seeing it.
    I mentioned above the change of the moral codex that certainly seems to have had an influence on what is being shot and what is being shown. Surely also photojournalism has happened between "then" (hundred years ago) and now as has also a long series of creative new ways of doing photography.
    Whether they represent anything one can designate like "progression" or "regression" is of fairly low interest in my eyes. What is important is that these changes over he years are creative in relationship to what came before and intimately linked to the current time of its production.
    I'm little worried about the existence of greatness in photography. It will survive whether it is spoken about as "great" or not. Call it something else if you wish.
    Lannie please explain how "Definitional clarity" can become : "a cover for avoiding substantive questions". Sounds somewhat complicated as a strategy for speaking about something else.
     
  36. What would be the substance in a question if it contains words of which we're unsure how to interpret them? Air.
     
  37. have we come very far, if anywhere, from the photographers whom most of us would deem "great" who were shooting over a hundred years ago

    Yes we have. We can now (and have been able to for some time) record people and events as they occur, without artificiality and posing (or obvious blurring), in any condition from sunlight through shade to candle light. That's a quite significant advance and while it has been facilitated by technological advances nevertheless the decision to take advantage of this is an artistic decision. To me those posed, stiff looking portraits are worthless and almost comical in their artificiality.
     
  38. When I talked about dialogue as being important to the history of photography, I should also have specified historical context.
    Dialogue among photographers takes place across various eras and styles. To pin the moniker of artificial and posed on early portrait photographers is simplifying things just a little too much, IMO. It can certainly be a matter of taste, but a good understanding of art or photographic history should also go beyond taste.
    One could say Bach and Mozart are way too rigid for following the strictures of fugue and sonata form, especially if they wanted to superficially compare them to jazz musicians of today. Or one could appreciate the bigger picture, which is to take into account the time and place, the stylings and personality of the times, the evolution of instruments and musicology or photography of the times. One can choose to see Mozart's relationship to what he inherited and that he worked within whatever strictures the times dictated (and every era necessarily dictates certain terms, for artists, politicians, and philosophers, as well as everyone else) and how he did that.
    I'm reminded of people who hiss and laugh at some of the so-called anachronisms in many older, classic, wonderful movies. They giggle at the old telephones, some of the character stereotypes, they hiss when Bogart says something that we now consider offensive to Gloria Grahame, they think 50s potboilers are too melodramatic. Well, duh. The point is, they ARE melodramatic. Are the movies anachronistic or are the audiences acting anachronistically?
    And what in the world is this thing with artificiality? Look carefully. You might see something significant if you can get past the prejudices and dare to go deeper than the surface. It's not the photographers' shortcomings we're often talking about here. It's the viewers'.
     
  39. What would be the substance in a question if it contains words of which we're unsure how to interpret them? Air.​
    Wouter, philosophers can always legitimately fall back on the ultimate trump card in a philosophical argument: "Define your terms." I certainly would not want to be thought to be saying that we should not define our terms. Linguistic and conceptual quandaries can, however, quickly become morasses, especially when non-technical words like "great" or "greatness" are concerned. I simply don't see the point of arguing over what is likely to remain a vague and amorphous concept--and one used casually and carelessly to begin with (by me at least).
    The same is true for "progress" to a point, althiough perhaps Luis is correct in saying that we might do better to use the word "development." I really do not know, but, as usual, the problems with word choice are not always evident when one is phrasing the original question. I do the best that I can.
    As for my stasis or resignation as a photographer, I cannot afford to worry about that too much, if such it turns out to be. If I had the same attitude toward my work in social and pollitical theory, by comparison, then I would be very worried indeed. I still like to think that my philosophical magnum opus is ahead of me, although I thought that the last two were going to be that. The world had a different opinion.
    There is no false modesty in saying that my photographic work is inferior to that of Stieglitz, Fred. It is a realistic personal assessment of what I have produced so far in my photography. Do I hope to get better? Sure I do, but do I have the time and will to invest in that project compared to other things in which I actually do have some demonstrable skill--as well as some sense of a "calling"? I would love to be able to devote myself to photography fulll-time, but reality keeps intervening and pulling me back in the direction of political philosophy. I hope that I still can get better even in my avocation of photography, but I am not so arrogant as to think that I shall ever be numbered among the "greats," on anybodys' definition. It is well to know one's limitations. I am pretty sure that I can do better than I have done so far.
    --Lannie
     
  40. I'm little worried about the existence of greatness in photography. It will survive whether it is spoken about as "great" or not. Call it something else if you wish.​
    Anders, I am open to the use of other words. I do believe that there are "great" photographers, just as I think that there are great musical composers and playwrights. What alternative word would you suggest?
    Lannie please explain how "Definitional clarity" can become : "a cover for avoiding substantive questions". Sounds somewhat complicated as a strategy for speaking about something else.​
    Anders, I think that on web-based forums, rational discussions can degenerate into sniping and petty bickering pretty quickly. Sometimes we also do lose sight of the forest when we start pruning the trees. That said, I would not want to be thought to be cavalier about word choioce. As I rush to slip a comment in here and there between classes or meetings, however, I know that I am going to commit some gaffes. I already have.
    How would I rephrase the question in this thread? I'm not sure. How would you?
    I would love to hear more discussion about the photos themselves. Stieglitz's shot of the snowstorm on Fifth Avenue would almost certainly be done differently if done with modern technology. There is a case where we cannot avoid the technical side. I wonder what he would have done differently, if anything, if he had had modern cameras. I confess that I do not know, but I suspect that he would have done something differently.
    --Lannie
     
  41. Lannie, I hope I didn't suggest it was false modesty. I said I perceived it as resignation, not false modesty. I was questioning your concern with comparing yourself to the greats and what it gets you. I understand your answer in terms of the difference between how you view philosophy and how you view photography, in terms of your own abilities and caring and emphasis, and I appreciate that.
    But do please consider how unhelpful this concern with superiority can be. I love listening to interviews with my favorite guitarists when they talk about their influences and often come up with names I've never heard of. It tells me they're concerned with who moves them in the direction they are inclined or inclined to explore, not with who the world has determined is the best or better. They seem to have a more personal relationship with history and others in their field than an assessment of superiority would allow for.
    I agree that it's important to know one's limitations, or at least be able to make the most of them (in which case they can be transcended as limitations). There's a difference between recognizing and working with one's limitations and feeling inferior, IMO.
     
  42. Maybe we would do better if we focused on specific sub-genres rather than conitnued to speak about "progress" (or "development") in such global terms. Then again, maybe not--just a thought.
    Frankly, I was leery of posting the question as I did, but I could not at the time seem to come up with anything better. I am certainly open to rephrasing the question or using different words.
    --Lannie
     
  43. [P]lease consider how unhelpful this concern with superiority can be. I love listening to interviews with my favorite guitarists when they talk about their influences and often come up with names I've never heard of. It tells me they're concerned with who moves them in the direction they are inclined or inclined to explore, not with who the world has determined is the best or better. They seem to have a more personal relationship with history and others in their field than an assessment of superiority would allow for.​
    Ah! Now I think I understand, Fred. I wasn't sure where you were coming from. I do think that even I could speak meaningfully about who has influenced me photographically, even if few people would care very much, if at all. You are right, though: the dialog would be more valuable for both me and the person with whom I was speaking if I could relate it back to personal growth and development. Perhaps that is what Luis was getting at as well. I am not sure.
    You guys always do a better job with locating or situating the discussion in the present than I do--even if we are talking about photographers who did their work far in the past.
    --Lannie
     
  44. Lannie, my last post sure sounded unfriendly; it is mainly because I am disappointed you left the opening you created yourself on how appreciation of a style of works is fashion or a can be a fashion statement, and how the fashion-thinking can cause over-appreciation of the current. I replied to that query seriously, because I feel it is a question that contains a considerable depth. It ended there, and then the discussion sways to searching for what 'greatness' in a photo would be.... again looking for value statements, for which several warned earlier that it would not really work. So, yes, I tried to give a signal and not with the nicest of tones.
    Fred, in my view, brought back the element of judging works as works of their time in his Sep 08, 2011; 02:12 p.m posting. Luis change of wording from 'progress' to 'development' points at the same. I find that a more interesting subject, and from your much earlier post I thought you wanted to develop the discussion towards that.
    So, I'd urge to leave the valuation bits behind.
    The question whether one sees changes over time inherently as an improvement (as many people do, 'progress') or whether you see it as disconnected series of events, or as a sequence with no specific goal - it represents a much larger philosophical question on whether time passes to culminate in the best moment ever, or in utter destruction, or the clock just ticks at random. Are we in an upwards or downward spiral?
    If we see events as causal (ref.: recent discussion on deterministic views), then were does the sequence of events lead to?
    How does this work for you, and how does that reflect on how you see and appreciate art? Are artists standing on the shoulders of the ones before them and looking further, or is art individualistic enough by nature to not have such a continuous development?
    Does it change how you regard your personal development?
    Well, this is more my take on the question that hides behind what you brought up.
     
  45. Lannie about "Great"
    What alternative word would you suggest?​
    I wouldn't. I'm totally at ease with using the term "great" for artist and photographers that in my eyes so clearly play another ball game than so many other mortals.
    How would I rephrase the question in this thread?​
    Again, I wouldn't. I'm find your opening text totally clear and provocative: What is progress in photography ? So let's talk about it and not so many other things. I came with my suggestion and which I'm ready to argue for if there is an interest.
    I would love to hear more discussion about the photos themselves.​
    I agree , that is exactly where these discussions sometimes become interesting and where we might prevent the continuous repetition of already made ping-pongs between a handful of good friends (which for me is the main excuse for leaving the forum to it's own destiny).
    Again, I already made a link to one of Käsebier's early shots which I tried to suggest might be a good basis for discussing at least one aspect of "progress" in photography. There are surely others and maybe even better example.
    You propose the Stieglitz Fifth Avenue shot. Why don't you think it could be shot today ? (apart from the obvious fact that fifth avenue has changed somewhat since then).
     
  46. Are artists standing on the shoulders of the ones before them and looking further, or is art individualistic enough by nature to not have such a continuous development?​
    Wouter, good question. And, yes, I now see that you had already brought up the question of context, which seemed unfortunately to get lost in the shuffle.
    My answer to your question is "both." I am conscious of my own photographic desires, longings, and need to express myself. At the same time, I can't and don't want to forget all that I know and have been exposed to, which includes a lot of photos, films, and art, as well as art history. I can't exactly separate where my own expression begins and the expressions which have influenced me and which I am often responding to end. I'm not sure I want to or need to separate those things. It feels like a holism to me.
    I also think it comes into play for me as a viewer, for other viewers, and for the art world culture and the way art is viewed historically. Artists are taken as individuals, understood within their own oevre, their individual goals and works, their own milieu, and also within a greater context in terms of their place in history. Artists consistently reference and pay homage to previous artists. This is a significant part of the evolution of art and of its definition. Though we can discuss these things somewhat separately, they are intertwined and I think we do well to again approach it holistically.
    I tend to see the "I" as also a "we." This doesn't mean losing or denying individuality by any means. If anything, it's a way of asserting it within a world (a world of other people). But no individual "I" should be afraid of either the past or the future, and every individual recognizes the significant relationships he has both to the world and to other people. And most significant artists have an effect on the future, which future artists often thank them for, in their work.
    Art can be both monologue and dialogue, both personal and universal, it can be past, present, and future, and it can be all those things simultaneously.
     
  47. So, I'd urge to leave the valuation bits behind.​
    Wouter, isn't art criticism about making value judgments? In any case, I have taken the general reaction to be a resounding "No!" to the question as asked. I don't really know quite else how to ask it. Do persons believe in photographic progress or not? There has been something quite visceral in the repudiation of the language, which I take to imply (maybe) that people are really saying that they are not willing to say that there has been "progress." Yet, yet, there has been development. . . . Okay, I get that point, but, why such a visceral repudiation of the question as asked?
    Maybe I still just don't get it, after all.
    --Lannie
     
  48. Anders, I am not saying that Stieglitz could not do the Fifth Avenue shot the same today--but would he? I guess that I am wondering whether he tried to make it so grainy, or whether that was the only way that he could get the shot back then? I really don't know enough to be able to answer such a simple question.
    I'll leave it at that and let someone else educate me on this one, as so often happens, anyway.
    --Lannie
     
  49. Lannie, quoting you:
    What lies behind my question is a general aversion to the view that the new or the fashionable is necessarily better. That is about as far as I could go in explaining my own "bias." I get rather tired of hearing insinuations in my own field of study (political philosophy, not photography) that new thinking is necessarily better. I like to think of the progress of ideas in political philosophy, for example, but I have grave doubts as to how much that is viewed as progress really is progress. There really are new insights, but there are many more old views which are (to my mind) simply being rehashed in new intellectual jargon, in my opinion.​
    I'm working from that remark. So, fairly sure you get it, since to my idea I do nothing but following up on what you are suggesting there. Yes, that is about value statements, but within a context; it's questioning them on how valid that value is (the same grave doubts as you express). I think Fred's last post contains a lot that's valuable to read, think about and discuss, which may put those doubts to rest or worsen them.
    However, if I'm all mistaken that this was part of what you wanted to discuss, and you rather discuss something else instead - no problem.
     
  50. There has been something quite visceral in the repudiation of the language, which I take to imply (maybe) that people are really saying that they are not willing to say that there has been "progress.​
    Lannie, as you might have noticed, I'm not part of that "visceral repudiation" and have come with two suggestions of understanding of progress in photography, one taken from examples of moral change, which for some would be understood as progress, and another by linking the concept of progress to a continuing adherence to the creative dimension of art and photography (no reproducing and copying of already made creative expressions).
    Lannie, you can chose not to take such suggestions seriously, but at least they have the quality of taking your question seriously and try to answer it.
    To follow up Wouter's question
    Are artists standing on the shoulders of the ones before them and looking further, or is art individualistic enough by nature to not have such a continuous development?​
    I think from what I now from art and artist that surely they work within a frame of reference that includes fellow artist and inspiring masters before them. That does not however create a "continuous development" because artistic creation goes beyond and sometimes in opposition to what has been done earlier by others.
     
  51. I will try to read back over the above later. I don't want anyone to think that I am not interested in pursuing a certain line of argumentation or discussion.
    For the moment, however, here is one by Käsebier that I cannot imagine anyone doing any better in any age, with any equipment or any type of processing:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Rose_O'Neill.jpg
    --Lannie
     
  52. Lannie mentioned "progressive" earlier and Anders talks about progress in terms of what's acceptable now that once wasn't or what was once acceptable that now is not. These are tracks worth considering, given where Lannie originally came from.
    Stieglitz was a well chosen figure for the discussion, in that he was a pivotal figure in the movement of photography away from pictorialism and into realism. Now, chances are that if Stieglitz wasn't around, someone else may have at least to some extent filled his shoes or photographers would have chartered new territory. So, I think in the sense in which Lannie and Anders are talking, Stieglitz embodies photographic progress, sans any necessary association with "better."
    Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jock Sturgess (we've all seen the examples) couldn't have done the kind of work they did before Stieglitz certainly, and even after Stieglitz up to a certain point. So, indeed, the fact that subjects are being dealt with openly does show the progress of photography as well as the culture which supports it, helps determine it, and benefits from and is affected by it.
    As Anders points out, there are negative (IMO) progressions (regressions) as well, due to an increased fear over child abuse, etc. There's been a similar regression regarding photojournalists and governmental restrictions placed on coffins returning from war. What were imortant and motivating images coming out of Vietnam each night on mainstream TV has regressed to journalists often embedded in battalions cheerleading for wars they don't understand, and making money for corporate outlets billing themselves as news media.
    I do think some of this progression is ultimately for the better, which doesn't, in my mind, reduce the effectiveness, beauty, interest, or attachment to work of the past. They simply weren't there yet. The portrait of Rose O'Neill Lannie linked to is no less sublime because, today, she might be shown nude, homeless, and shooting up heroine in bleeding colors. And the nude, bleeding, ultra-real image of today is no less moving than some of the more romantic and pleasant images of a century ago. There is a unique and timeless beauty and a deep reality even in the posed artificiality of that Käsebier photo. It is staged, almost as a still life, with the emphasis on life, not still. It has a softness and lyricism to it from the gentility of the smile, the comfort of the eyes, to the folds of the translucent curtain and texture of her apron and the white loveliness of her dress. Whatever formula I see in the setup, I immediately accept. Because we are currently exploring edgier work, do we reject this kind of photographic classicism? No. And, if we appreciate the kind of beauty found in the portrait of Rosie, must we reject or put down the different take on the world that Nan Goldin or Robert Mapplethorpe give us? Also, no.
    A progression is an unfolding. That's what's been happening and what will continue to happen, even if there is regression. It's also not a constant, as Anders may have been getting at. The standing on shoulders of past artists, as Wouter put it and Anders responded, can also be to reject them, sometimes quite harshly. There are also lean periods, and stagnant eras. There is backtracking. There are schools revisited, neo-this and anti-that. There are declared ends and then miraculous continuations beyond the ends. We survived Dada. A little bit or a lot of all that has come before manages to survive. And it informs.
     
  53. [Addition] And, believe it or not, the present informs the past. Because we have Stieglitz, Goldin, Mapplethorpe, and Serrano, we see Rosie through somewhat different eyes than those who saw her way back when. The past is not as fixed as we sometimes think, I think.
     
  54. Of course Stieglitz wouldn't shoot the Flatiron the exact same way today if he was a contemporary. Why would he use ancient techniques/vision? Why on earth would he be a retro, old-school Modernist? That kind of conservatism doesn't seem to fit his character.
    Consciousness evolves, and artists are not exempt. Is it a progression in the sense that things are "better" all the time? I doubt it. Things change (and/or we change them), and we adapt (or die).
    There's also the not-so-small Hubris factor in thinking that we are the pinnacle of everything. It's a tad self-serving. I do not think we're standing on the shoulders of giants, either. They were men, basically like us. Mythologizing them into Titans shorts them out of the significance of their achievements, and imposes distance and disconnect between us and them.
    Transplant a Stieglitz clone into being born in 1972, and he might never have become an artist. We can't shift so many variables and expect similar/identical results. He might have grown up to be a politician, software developer, or...? That's a lot of butterfly wingbeats.
    ____________________________________
    A progression in the sense Fred posits above, an unfolding (which is very close to what I was thinking in development) makes sense.
     
  55. I try my best not to get caught up in these philosophic rollercoaster rides, but since Edward Steichen is a personal favorite of mine (the man, not necessarily his work), I wanted to add something to what Fred posted.
    Steichen writes, "There wasn't anything that wasn't discussed openly and continuously in the galleries at 291. If the exhibitions at 291 had been shown in any other gallery, they would never have made an iota of the impact that they did at 291. The difference was Stieglitz".
    Max Weber was the first one to argue Stieglitz into seeing that Stieglitz's early work was much better than his later "pictorial" work. It was De Zayas who found among Stieglitz's proofs a "Steerage" picture, which Stieglitz had overlooked, which later became his most famous photograph.....
    But Stieglitz only tolerated people close to him when they completely agreed with him and were of service. Gertrude Kasebier was the first Photo-Secessionist to be forced out of the organization, because she was antagonistic to some of the things that Stieglitz did. Next was Clarence White, for the same reason. Max Weber and Stieglitz remained enemies until their dying days.
    This leads me to believe that where your work is seen, and who you're associated with, be it a publication of note, gallery, or people of influence, has more to do with how your work will be perceived, than the quality of your work itself. As Fred pointed out, and Stiechen confirms, they didn't see each in the same light as we view them today. I believe the same holds true for the art here on photo.net. If it were seen in a top gallery, and not on this social network, we would be have a different assessment of it. In every generation, there will be those who praise art, buy art, make art, and finally critique art.....
    Oh...so many critics!!!!!!!
     
  56. I am always glad to see Steichen's "Flatiron" shot discussed. Of particular interest to me are remarks about early experiments with color, shooting night-time shots in mist, etc. These guys were experimenters above all else:
    http://kunmr-suse.msg.ku.edu/pages/flatiron.html (Please read the comments below the photo.)
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Steichen_flatiron.jpg
    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/33.43.39
    Any further insights on the techniques used would, I believe, be germane in this context. Yes, we are talking philosophy, but I hope that all allusions to how certain effects were produced then (versus now) might be deemed within bounds on this particular thread.
    I love this shot with a passion. That means nothing to anyone else but me, although I have heard others say it, too.
    (I am not sure why we are seeing two different colorations above. Perhaps someone could help.)
    --Lannie
     
  57. Max Weber was the first one to argue Stieglitz into seeing that Stieglitz's early work was much better than his later "pictorial" work. It was De Zayas who found among Stieglitz's proofs a "Steerage" picture, which Stieglitz had overlooked, which later became his most famous photograph.....​
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Steerage
    Phil, are you talking about the sociologist Max Weber or someone else?
    http://www.mta.ca/faculty/socsci/sociology/fleming/weber_album/index.html
    Oops! I see the answer already:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Weber_%28artist%29
    (Any citations that any of you could give to those of us who have had no formal training in this area would be most appreciated.)
    -Lannie
     
  58. Lannie,
    I really tried to red the whole thread, just to make sure I wasn't repeating someone, but I gave up, and I'm jumping in...
    I would guess that every photographer , if they could, would be able to look back on their work and point at a time when they produced their best. It may or may not be a progression. It may be that it happened earlier in their career than later, or they did continually get better with time. So, as individual artists, they grew to a point in time.
    Even though you want to guide the topic to their vision and topics away from gear, I think the further you go back in time , the more you may find photographers internally wishing they were not held back by the limits of their film, or gear, or something physical. I got my Nikon F4, because I wanted to do something that my FG could not do. I'll bet every photographer who took shots of portraits grumbled about the blurry hands or arms of the people who couldn't sit still for those long shutter speeds they had. Or maybe how long it took to change film plates, or many things. Once those restrictions were removed, I would imagine a collective, sigh of relief, where they knew they could be MORE creative and do what they always wished they could do. Sometimes technology advancement does lead to more creativity and better work.
     
  59. Even though you want to guide the topic to their vision and topics away from gear, I think the further you go back in time , the more you may find photographers internally wishing they were not held back by the limits of their film, or gear, or something physical. I got my Nikon F4, because I wanted to do something that my FG could not do. I'll bet every photographer who took shots of portraits grumbled about the blurry hands or arms of the people who couldn't sit still for those long shutter speeds they had.​
    I understand perfectly, John, and of course the technology has often driven the artistic opportunities. I was simply afraid of being overwhelmed with mindless reminders of how far we have come technologically. Informed comments like yours are always welcome--and right to the point, precisely because we find it very nearly impossible to see the world (photographically speaking) the way it was seen a hundred plus years ago.
    Thank you so much for your post, which says everything that I would have said if I had known how to say it.
    --Lannie
     
  60. The "what if Atget had had a Nikon D4x" speculation and fanciful arguments have little to do with philosophy, and IMO belong in Casual Conversations.
    [Gee, what if the Spartans had a couple of neutron bombs? American Indians AK-47's and RPGs?]
    People live with the technology of their time. Although camera manufacturers and stores would love for you to think that what's holding you back is gear, the truth is that what's holding you back is you. At last year's AIPAD show in NYC, comprised of many of the top galleries in the US (and some around the world), the great majority of contemporary images sold were made on ancient technology: Film. (and, no, I am not in any way making a case for film!).
     
  61. Luis, you are right of course that people live with and use the technology of their time. At the same time, isn't the technique used by Atget, Steichen etc. part of the attraction? The technique is among the reasons of the look of their photographs.
    This is not to deny that the real qualities are in composition, vision, etc. but photographic technique used does tend to show up in the final result.
    _______________
    I do not think we're standing on the shoulders of giants, either. They were men, basically like us. Mythologizing them into Titans shorts them out of the significance of their achievements, and imposes distance and disconnect between us and them.​
    The 'giants' should not be taken too literal for sure. It's just a quote and more used to underline the sequence in development. I full agree, though, making myths of them creates a distance. The earlier discussion on Lannie saying he will never reach the level of the discussed photographers comes to mind. Just as example, since I think we all 'suffer' from it in various degrees.
    ___________
    There's also the not-so-small Hubris factor in thinking that we are the pinnacle of everything. It's a tad self-serving.​
    Agreed, but in which way is it self-serving? A feel-good factor that we live in interesting times?
    ____________
    This leads me to believe that where your work is seen, and who you're associated with, be it a publication of note, gallery, or people of influence, has more to do with how your work will be perceived, than the quality of your work itself. As Fred pointed out, and Stiechen confirms, they didn't see each in the same light as we view them today. I believe the same holds true for the art here on photo.net. If it were seen in a top gallery, and not on this social network, we would be have a different assessment of it.​
    I tend to agree to it; especially different appreciation is different time-frames. Not to knock Steichen in any way (since the works I know, I quite like), but to what extend does his work get the praise because he was a pioneer? Because we realise he worked with limited tools (compared to what we can use nowadays) and made the (very) best out of those?
    It happens often enough. I have a bit a problem with it, since it 1. does not value the work on its own merits, and 2. it smells dearly of the hybris attitude quoted above (he did well, given what he had = oh poor boy with his limited camera).
    But at the same time, if I see a good photo on facebook, or here, or in a gallery, do I really perceive it different? I honestly wonder; it could well be true because the 'context' in which I view it sets a mood and changes to what I am perceptive. It would be a nice test!
     
  62. Lannie
    here is one by Käsebier that I cannot imagine anyone doing any better in any age, with any equipment or any type of processing: (Here)​
    The shot shows Rose O'Neil . She was known as the "Queen of Bohemian Society", the inventor, as an illustrator, of the Kewpie dolls and a very outspoken defender of women rights. She was the re-known "Rose of Washington Square".
    So Lannie, you are right, the portrait of Ms O'Neil, would surely enough not be shot in the same way today as it was by Käsebier in 1907. It is a shot of a very known personality at that time and she was considered one of the most beautiful women in New York (the "world" for the connoisseurs, admiring the portrait).

    The shot includes a series of elements that only with ease could be interpreted and appreciated by people living at that time and very much in the style of the shot of the lady I previously gave a link to of Evelyn Nesby: the empty fruit bowl (consumed fruits!) and the photo on the wall behind of mother and child and her casual partly covered white gown, told the story of a woman (she was divorced from her first husband at the age of 27) that lived a bohemian life, a thread to the dominant morals of the "good society" - but surely secretly admired by many, for exactly that. Is she vulnerable ? Not the least. She is demonstratively facing the viewer with a charming maybe even confronting smile defending herself against any possible critical judgements of her way of life.
    If one should return to the question of progress in photography on the basis of this short outline of what I think Käsebier was up to when shooting Rose O'Neil, I would believe that we would not se many portraits with the same somewhat heavy symbolism, but still most portraits of any time includes elements, chosen deliberately or not, leading the viewer towards interpreting the personality in view.

    It is my impression, but I might be wrong, that such approaches to portraitures, and photography in general, has been even further developed in recent years with the booming of allegories in modern photography (Jeff Wall (nude!), Pierre et Gilles, John Goto, Karen Knorr, Melanie Manchot not to mention Cindy Sherman .. and many others - no name-dropping, for sure!)
     
  63. The 'giants' should not be taken too literal for sure. It's just a quote and more used to underline the sequence in development. I full agree, though, making myths of them creates a distance. The earlier discussion on Lannie saying he will never reach the level of the discussed photographers comes to mind. Just as example, since I think we all 'suffer' from it in various degrees.​
    I'm not suffering, Wouter--but I am glad that you put the word 'suffer' in square quotes. If I really expected that I would ever make the contributions to photography that Stieglitz, Steichen, Käsebier, et al. have made, especially given my other obligations (and my very real sense of mission in political philosophy), then I would be suffering indeed, and there would be no need for the scare quotes: I would be suffering from. . . DELUSIONS!
    --Lannie
     
  64. Good point Lannie, but likewise Fred made a good point that being ambitious does pave a way forward, while being too modest may hold you back.
    The truth will be somewhere in the middle ;-)
     
  65. Wouter - "At the same time, isn't the technique used by Atget, Steichen etc. part of the attraction?"
    Atget's camera, lens and process were archaic during the last half of his career. Weston's lens was so old that there's a famous conversation when Ansel Adams encourages E.W. to choose from any lens on his shelf, and E.W. keeps his. The gear they used was mass-produced, meaning it was accessible to thousands of photographers during the day, but we only remember a very few. By that I mean it wasn't the gear.
    If one wants to discuss the gear they used, there's gear oriented forums here. Now, talking about the aesthetic decisions they made is something else entirely.The answer to the question Lannie posed about the grain in one of Stieglitz's pictures is an example. How the grain was made, technically, is far less interesting than why.
    Of course, if people want to discuss gear here, and the staff allows it, I have nothing further to say on the matter.
    Wouter - "The earlier discussion on Lannie saying he will never reach the level of the discussed photographers comes to mind. Just as example, since I think we all 'suffer' from it in various degrees."
    That part about Lannie was exactly what I had in mind when I wrote about the "Titans". I realize it's a "manner of speaking", but believe it to be a destructive one. People suffer who are comparing themselves to the legends, but, 1) This is not a contest. 2) Most of the people here did not make a life commitment of the kind these guys did. 3) As the Buddha says, everything must suffer, but it is possible to escape from that misery. Enlightenment in the photographic sense is no mystery. 4) Each of us is on his own path. Do the best you can. 5) Oh, yeah, you're no Einstein or Pornstar either. Get over it.
    There's also the not-so-small Hubris factor in thinking that we are the pinnacle of everything. It's a tad self-serving.​
    Wouter - "Agreed, but in which way is it self-serving? A feel-good factor that we live in interesting times?"
    No. The delusion that we're the ne plus ultra of evolution, and photography, the living peak (demigods?) at the top of the heap. All times are interesting. Being -- and staying -- alive are interesting.
    __________________________________________________
    Anders - "... I would believe that we would not se many portraits with the same somewhat heavy symbolism, but still most portraits of any time includes elements, chosen deliberately or not, leading the viewer towards interpreting the personality in view.

    It is my impression, but I might be wrong, that such approaches to portraitures, and photography in general, has been even further developed in recent years with the booming of allegories in modern photography. "
    Anders, some good points there, but it is good to remember that at any given time there was a spectrum of portrait visions/approaches and overall trends. The idea of a girl in Nesbit's situation changed, as did the culture's view on the matter and the way artists depicted them. This was evolving long before the invention of photography.
    In the case of Nesbit, instead of looking at one portrait in a vacuum, it might be helpful to see other portraits done of her at the time.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=evelyn+nesbit+photos&hl=en&biw=761&bih=396&prmd=ivnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=NiFqTqaWDIm6tgeXhdX0BQ&ved=0CBsQsAQ
     
  66. Luis
    instead of looking at one portrait in a vacuum, it might be helpful to see other portraits done of her at the time.​
    I agree Luis, if the point was to formulate an opinion on portraits of Nesbit or on her, herself, through her portraits, if that could be done. It was however not my intention. What I tried to do was to try to say something of relevance to the specific question of Lannie concerning "progress".
    I agree with you that at any time, there is, what you describe as "a spectrum of portrait visions/approaches and overall trends". My modest proposal was simply to catch just one dimension of such visions that can be detected in some portraits of the beginning of last century in photography and that I would suggest are not possible (?) today. Not all portraits of Nesbit would illustrate such visions, I'm sure, but my suggestion was that certain portraits of Gertrude Käsebier have them.
     
  67. Wouter - "At the same time, isn't the technique used by Atget, Steichen etc. part of the attraction?"​
    I would not think that it necessarily is the gear that attracts, but the way photos looked, and especially the way the look today, that attracts. I have uploaded an example of such an anachronic pastiche photo shot some few days ago with very much up-to-date techniques. See here (click on the photo to make it smaller!) It attracts me, if you wish.
     
  68. Anders, "the way photos looked, and especially the way the look today, that attracts": exactly, that's what I meant. I wasn't trying to imply Atget photos look good because of his gear, but the 'signature' left by the gear he used, is part of Atget being Atget.
    And I see what attracts you in your example too, it works well (my 'sepia' experiments usually end up in some disastrous looking murk, so I tend to stick to black and white), and the topic lends itself well to it.
    In no way did I try to make this a discussion on gear, but maybe the way I desribed it was a bit unclear on that matter.
     
  69. Anders, my point was not about the sad figure of Nesbit herself, but on developments in portraiture. Not to attempt to downgrade Kasebier in any way, by looking at the same subject photographed by many photographers of the day, we can begin to see that many of the tropes we see were in GK were common at the time, not just endemic to one photographer. We can also see variants, some of which prefigure how portraits would be done later, and others that harken back to portraits (and cliche's) of earlier days. I think if one is using her as a baseline, it is good to flesh that out a little.
    In other words, I do not disagree with you & was simply approaching this from another angle.
     
  70. I agree Luis. Sorry I misread you. I'll try to do the exercise of looking at the interesting collection of shots of Nesbit you linked to, who surely was know for what she stood for, by all the photographers concerned. Good exercise.
     
  71. See this series of photos of Nesbit and you can see her in all possible and impossible roles: as intimate friend of a polar bear, as gypsy, as geisha, half naked or fully naked (not part of this series), as mother, girl with flowers or just dreamy. They are mostly shot by Rudolf Eickemeyer Jr., who seems to be specialized in the girl - and our Käsebier.
    I seem to be stuck with what I originally wrote based on the Käsebier portrait.
     
  72. I guess I must be in the minority, on this. I do believe that the physical tools available do indeed make a big difference in a persons progression and ability to be creative.
    Some one mentioned perspective. Prior to the "discovery" of how to draw with physical perspective, all the painting looked like people all pressed flat and some where giants and others where tiny.
    http://madamepickwickartblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/flemish3.jpg
    When Filippo Brunellesch figured out how to paint with depth, the world was amazed.
    I'm sure similar things happened with better paints, better canvas, perhaps brushes, etc.
    How many great artistic ideas never came about, simply because the medium just could NOT do that , at that time ? I think that many art fields had quantum leaps in their scope of what could be done. Between these leaps, the art progressed slower, as they tried to perfect what could be done in that window.
    I really think that the artists of the past would NOT shoot the shots the same, if given a much larger playground to work with. I'm sure they knew what they had to live with and pushed it as far as they could. With much better tools, comes more room to BE creative.
     
  73. John, I think your point is completely valid. I also think the reverse can be true, which is why people often choose to go back to earlier tools and instruments, such as musicians who still prefer to play harpsichords or original instruments, photographers who love to get their hands on old polaroids, etc.
    Something to consider is the freedom that limits can and often have created. The limits of tools (and there seem always to be some) are often what inspire us to be more clever, more creative, more industrious. People often relish rubbing up against those kinds of limits as well as many other kinds. It's why, in another thread, when someone tried to tell me that I couldn't be both artificial or contrived and at the same time genuine, I told him just his saying that gave me more energy toward my goal of doing just that.
    If art, to any extent, is about transcendence, it's not just the magical or the drug-induced type. It's in the creator transcending his own perceptions and especially his own pre-conceptions and assumed limitations.
    If we're wondering whether Steichen and Stieglitz would have shot differently with today's equipment, we can't separate that from today's sensibility. My guess is that they would have done many things the same and many things differently. My guess is also that they were very accustomed to overcoming what others probably saw as limits and boundaries.
    We all run up against limits, not necessarily of equipment, but of time, lighting situations, missed opportunities, inability to get to the position we desire, inability to control weather, etc. To a great extent, it's the decisions we make given many coordinates which are out of control that determine our voices.
     
  74. I think the underlying problem that comes up in these sorts of discussions is that to show progress, one has to assume the position that this picture is better than another. Is it technically better, or aesthetically better ? Does it do a better job of telling the story or relating the emotion that the photographer was looking for ? That would be very hard to judge. Only THEY would know how successful they were. It also is biased by the viewers personal taste. Pictures from 1910 that were considered a real " wow " type of shot are just sepia portraits to most viewers now. Spanning that much distance in time is so hard, because the shot was intended for the audience of the time and their ideas. Unless you can chat with people from 1910 and 2010 and get their perspective, a comparison is always going to be foggy at best.
     
  75. Could I just make one semi-technical point? Almost all contributors in discussing the works of Käsebier, Steiglitz and Steichen have assumed that their works look the way they do (grainy, soft) because of technical limitations. This is absolutely not the case - in the late 19th century, straight sharp prints on bromide paper were associated with cheap and nasty portraiture - photographers with ambitions to be considered artists would do anything rather than make this kind of image. Instead they used numerous processes such as carbon, bromoil and gum bichromate printing which in one way or another turned a sharp silver gelatine image into a soft pigment image. Their work is in no way primitive but represents fully realized examples of these processes.
    Anyone today using these processes would produce a very similar result (if they were skilful enough) - conversely, if you were able to see a picture by Käsebier, Steiglitz or Steichen printed on bromide paper, it would look surprisingly modern (to make a pigment print, one needed to make an enlarged positive (glass plate), possibly defocusing slightly if the photographer felt it appropriate, contact print this onto another plate to make an enlarged negative and then use this to make a contact print). I have printed hundreds of Victorian negatives (museum record shots) and taken many photographs myself with Victorian cameras and can assure you that sharpness and general image quality with modern materials are comparable to modern cameras, in many cases better with large formats of 8x10, 10x12, etc. Do not jump to conclusions based on viewing old work as screen reproductions.
     
  76. I think the underlying problem that comes up in these sorts of discussions is that to show progress, one has to assume the position that this picture is better than another.​
    John, on the contrary. I think many of us have clearly stated, especially at the beginning of the thread, that the word progress is often value-laden and that we'd prefer to discuss it as development (which Luis suggested) or as an unfolding (which I suggested) which would avoid having to assess one time period or photo as better than another. A progression can be a regression and things can often get worse. I think the tendency to compare in terms of "better" is often a tendency to miss the photo or the art for what it is. I can't imagine looking at a photo of Nan Goldin next to one of Stieglitz and caring one iota about which one was better. From a photographic and historical perspective, I'd have many other concerns before making that kind of value judgment.
    ______________________
    Almost all contributors in discussing the works of Käsebier, Steiglitz and Steichen have assumed that their works look the way they do (grainy, soft) because of technical limitations.​
    David, I don't think this is true of almost all contributors here.
     
  77. I find it is an obvious fact that equipment and techniques play a role for creative work. It has always done.
    To give a historical example, the artistic use of the "bleu outremer" the oriental deep blue (PB29- Ultra marineblue) made from lapis-lazuli stones from Afghanistan from the first years of the 15th century (quatrocentro) changed dramatically at the beginning of the 19th century when finally (1806) a process was invented to produce it synthetically. Suddenly, the deep blue became affordable even for poor painters.
    One of the things I find interesting about "progress" (i.e. "what ever happens over time") is that in all technical fields it includes, apart from new technics, technologies, materials and tools, also the obsolescence of techniques and crafts. Major efforts are made in many countries of preserving crafts that make maintenance and restoration of ancient works of art possible also in the future (Japan, China do considerable efforts in the field as do also France and Italy). One of the results from such efforts is of course that contemporary artists still can apply ancient techniques to their works (stone cutting, tapestry, woodworks, pottery). So also in photography.
    If you have gone to the portfolio Emil Schildt, one of the most popular photographers on Photonet and of good reasons, you would have seen how he reinvents the use of Bromoil and Cyanotypes to create his extremely creative images of fantasy visions of mostly undressed ladies (nudity warning!). Old techniques are reinvented continiously.
    I therefor very much agree with those (open list of names!) that have hinted at the fact that progress in photography is not a question of ever higher levels of something, but is an ever increasing stock of tools and technics available for photographers in their strive towards artistic expression. The main threat to such progress is the obsolescence of technical achievements of the past. Progress in ethics is however a non-starter.
     
  78. I therefor very much agree with those (open list of names!) that have hinted at the fact that progress in photography is not a question of ever higher levels of something, but is an ever increasing stock of tools and technics available for photographers in their strive towards artistic expression.
    Above all, good art (photography or any other medium) says something about NOW, the NOW that the artist is directly experiencing, and thus all art is potentially equally valid and unique and equally impossible to compare in terms of superiority/inferiority. Which is of course not to deny that when we view contemporary art, the filtering effect of time is absent and we have to wade through the good, the bad and the ugly.
     
  79. I agree with Anders that progress is not simply a matter of higher levels of something. I'm hesitant about his conclusion (in the paragraph re-quoted by David) because it seems to put all the emphasis on tools and technique. They do play a role. But so do other things, a couple of which Anders has alluded to himself. I hope we're not boiling this down to a matter of utensils and techniques. Morality, philosophy, politics, cultural sensibility, even the evolution of the earth plays a role in the development of photography and the development of photography contributes to all those things just mentioned.
    Development is a reciprocal matter. Photography is affected by and it also affects. We tend to think of facebook and social networking as seriously affecting photography. It's good to keep in mind how much photography has affected the development of these social networking media and those who use it.
     
  80. For me, it's not that the available technical means don't matter. They do. It's that they are locked in for particular timespace/cultural coordinates (David's "NOW", the present), a "given". You are where you are, and can only work with the available tools. There are far less concrete, though no less formidable limitations regarding feelings, thoughts and ideas.
    People place far too much emphasis on the technical (and even the conventions of "skill", but that's for another thread) and too little on the creative aspects, probably because one can simply purchase the former, but the latter has no royal road. There are a lot of things encoded into that difference.
     
  81. Almost all contributors in discussing the works of Käsebier, Stieglitz and Steichen have assumed that their works look the way they do (grainy, soft) because of technical limitations.
    David, I don't think this is true of almost all contributors here.​
    I have to agree, Fred. When I said that starting with Käsebier was arbitrary, I did not mean that it was entirely arbitrary. I did want to be sure that the photographers alluded to in the original question were all using sufficiently sophisticated methods that attention would be focused on the creative/artistic or other merits, not on their gear. I did not want to start with Daguerre or someone quite that early, even though he showed that, even with his relatively primitive methods, he was capable of producing some remarkably good work:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre.jpg
    One of the reasons that I linked to the shot of Rose O'Neill
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rose_O%27Neill.jpg
    was that it was pretty obvious that, even over a hundred years ago, very sophisticated methods were already being employed--and surprisingly great results were being produced in terms of both technology and artistic/creative merit. (I absolutely love the tonal range in that photo!)
    I don't doubt for a second that technological limitations could have been factors at times in the methods employed (and therefore also in the artistic effects produced), but I have no idea (for example) whether the grain in Stieglitz's Fifth Avenue shot was deliberate or simply inevitable, given the lighting or other limitations under which he might have had to work. Perhaps someone knows the answer to that.
    --Lannie
     
  82. I have no idea (for example) whether the grain in Stieglitz's Fifth Avenue shot was deliberate or simply inevitable, given the lighting or other limitations under which he might have had to work. Perhaps someone knows the answer to that.
    I'm starting to think we've reached saturation point here! I explained in a posting yesterday that the "grain" is the deliberate result of using apigment printing process. Stieglitz would undoubtedly have taken the winter view of 5th Avenue on a plate 3 x 4 inches or larger, even with the fastest plate available in the 1890s (ISO 20 or so) there is no way silver grain would show in a computer-screen-size image and itwould not be very apparent at the size Stieglitz originally printed (about 9 x 12 inches).
     
  83. I think it's important to separate technique from gear. A discussion about technique can both be tied to gear and also separable to an extent from gear. And I always keep in mind that technique is what is used to further an artistic, expressive, or creative vision. One can purposely create grain, as Lannie suggests, even when the tools don't demand it. It can be an aesthetic choice. Plenty of people try, mostly unsuccessfully, to create grain with digital instruments. Most often it just looks like applied noise, rather than having the depth and feel of grain. But grain has certainly been created not because of the particular gear but because of a kind of vision.
    Even if there are limitations to our tools and we run up against the fact that with certain cameras, lenses, and films, grain is going to be the result of certain lighting conditions, we can USE that knowledge expressively, thereby transforming a limit into freedom. Sometimes, we will simply say, "That's the way it has to be. I have to live with it." But much of the time, we say to ourselves, how do I USE that fact to my advantage and to express myself? Knowing I am going to get a certain level of grain, given my equipment and shooting conditions, how can I effectively work with it? Can I transform that grain into an aesthetic element? The answer, of course, is usually yes. It's one of the many places where the technical becomes and informs the aesthetic.
    The most effective, creative, and visionary photographers, painters, sculptors, integrate technique with aesthetics. They play one off the other. They utilize them symbiotically. An aesthetic doesn't often just come about. It is crafted.
     
  84. [Addition]: And aesthetic visions and considerations very often lead to the creation and discovery of new techniques. So technique can serve aesthetics and aesthetics can serve technique.
     
  85. Sorry that I missed that point earlier, David.
    By the way, after posting the shot by Daguerre linked to above (shot in 1838),
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre.jpg
    I then followed the links to his rival W. Henry F. Talbot, who produced this work back around 1845:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:London_Street,_Reading,_c._1845.jpg
    Maybe I should have gone even further back when trying to pose the question for the thread!
    --Lannie
     
  86. [Addition]: And aesthetic visions and considerations very often lead to the creation and discovery of new techniques. So technique can serve aesthetics and aesthetics can serve technique.​
    Fred, I had never thought of that reciprocal kind of symbiosis before.
    As for how limitations can enhance creativity, I was just sitting here thinking of an analogy with poetry, in which self-imposed limitations on rhyme and meter can often promote creativity as well. (The same is true for short stories and just about any literary genre, I suppose. Consider the related limitations of the stage v. screen when it comes to writing plays, for example.)
    Anyone who has walked around with one lens on the camera for several days knows as well that there are all kinds of limitations that can paradoxically wind up opening up new avenues of thought and creative work. In addition, one gets to know one's gear better that way, which in turn makes one more spontaneous in terms of being able to take advantage of creative possibilities as they arise.
    That takes us back to the thread started by Luis that triggered all this:
    http://www.photo.net/philosophy-of-photography-forum/00ZGcG
    (Sometimes I think that the entire Philosophy of Photography forum is in reality just one big thread in separate installments, one continuing conversation that never ends, with themes from former threads perennially feeding into new ones.)
    --Lannie
     
  87. "Necessity (who) is the mother of invention." --Plato, The Republic
    Lannie, I'm glad the reciprocity of technique and aesthetics appealed to you.
    The more I look at and learn about Man Ray in particular, the more developments (progress) in terms of using photography to express an aesthetic I become aware of. He seemed to want to be very much in touch (literally) with his medium in order to further an aesthetic (surrealism/dadism) which he was helping to envision and carry out. To that end, he invented, re-invented, and conceptualized techniques. Though photograms were not his invention per se, he developed the rayograph specifically because it was so useful to his surrealistic vision, the immediacy he sought, and the effect he wanted his juxtapositions to have. He is credited eponymously precisely because he needed it to create what he wanted and utilized it so endemically to his vision.
    Didn't Adams's aesthetic lead him to develop the zone system (which is more of a technical schema or description than a technique per se, though I think the zone system is also used as a matter of technique)?
    There are even writings about Caravaggio using salt mercury in his canvases, so that he was actually using darkroom techniques and light-sensitive materials, "burning" his canvases to help create the chiaroscuro effects he's so noted for. In reading about this, one is led back even to DaVinci's use of primitive camera obscura.
    The technique of pointillism served a vision. It's not like there was already pointillism and people started using it because they felt it could help them express themselves. It got developed over time because an aesthetic was developing. Jackson Pollock developed his techniques of splattering paint because of a dissatisfaction with traditional methods he thought of as too static.
    . . .
    It might be that new technologies allow for certain techniques to be developed and certain aesthetics to be realized. That doesn't mean the new technologies are always the driving forces, though they certainly can be. Desire and expression lead photographers and artists to new techniques and, in some cases, even to new technologies. It's often hard to tell the chicken from the egg.
     
  88. Fred - "The more I look at and learn about Man Ray in particular, the more developments (progress) in terms of using photography to express an aesthetic I become aware of. He seemed to want to be very much in touch (literally) with his medium in order to further an aesthetic (surrealism/dadism) which he was helping to envision and carry out. To that end, he invented, re-invented, and conceptualized techniques. Though photograms were not his invention per se, he developed the rayograph specifically because it was so useful to his surrealistic vision, the immediacy he sought, and the effect he wanted his juxtapositions to have. He is credited eponymously precisely because he needed it to create what he wanted and utilized it so endemically to his vision."
    In no way contradicting any of the above, Man Ray, the unflagging self-promoter, was also not averse to go retro -- and simultaneously take credit for a number of Atget's photographs (in publications), which were made with what at the time was quaintly ancient technology, technique and a vision so futuristic it looked like leading-edge Surrealism of the time, though it wasn't, and to Man Ray, well worth taking credit for.
     
  89. I think it is important that we seem to arrived at a kind agreement that both "technology" and ethics/creativity are in play when we look at evolution of arts, here photography. It might be reasonable to say that for certain periods technology took over and provoked artistic change and in other periods it might have been the other way round, however all a question of degrees.
    Much change in arts, and maybe even progress, can be found in the democratization of technical means of artistic expression. Ever falling prices of photographic tools and ever increasing technical capabilities of such tools, has resulted in drastically increasing part of population that have such tools available for personally creative expression. This is also progress, I would believe, of photograph, in one sense or another. The same is the case for the invention of oil-pastels (see the interesting historical context of the invention of oil pastels in the 1920s ,made of genuine pigments, that made "painting" available for children in whole new continents (Japan and later China).
     
  90. The technique of pointillism served a vision. It's not like there was already pointillism and people started using it because they felt it could help them express themselves. It got developed over time because an aesthetic was developing.​
    I think that you are dead-on here, Fred, and this ties back beautifully to your idea of "the reciprocity of technique and aesthetics." There is no point, that is, in trying to figure out the chicken-and-egg issue of which comes first. Even one who creates a technique or a new technology in order to realize certain creative goals is not going to be able to predict how he or others will subsequently use those techniques or technologies. As persons develop proficiency with the technique or the technology, they will increasingly see the potential applications. No one could possibly see them in advance, any more than anyone could have foreseen what the "microcomputer revolution" would mean for society as a whole--or even for photography, for that matter, since our DSLRs are also computers, whatever else they might be.
    It got developed over time because an aesthetic was developing.​
    Okay, so I quoted you again, but it bears repeating. The specific antecedent of "it" does not even matter here, does it? Whatever the technique or the technology, there begins a cycle of evolutionary interaction between the technology and its possible applications--and new creative visions. "Development" was the word that Luis reached for back there, and it is the word that you are using here. The word is so commonly used that we cannot easily and instantly grasp its possible implications for what I ineptly referred to as the "progress" (or lack thereof) of photography--or at least I could not and did not grasp it.
    I can see why Luis was saying that "superior" is not the word we need here. Some things may indeed be superior to others--according to some stated criterion or criteria--but the word "progress" not only implies the possible threat of value imperialism but also short-circuits insight into what is really happening in our own minds as we adjust to and apply the emerging technologies and techniques to new creative visions in a spiral that keeps continuing. "Reciprocity" and "mutuality" touch upon what is happening, but in any case the word "development" winds up having a much richer connotation than I ever imagined.
    I will be interested in seeing what else anyone besides you and Luis can bring to this idea of "development," both in the abstract and in the concrete. For me personally it suffices for the moment to say that I keep incorporating insights gained from looking at other persons' work, but I also keep discovering new applications and new potentialities independently of what others are doing once I start using the new technology. Photography does indeed "evolve," as you said much earlier. Where does it go? Where is it going? We cannot see that in advance. If we could, the whole creative process which photography avails would not be nearly so fascinating. Perhaps that is why we are not quite sure whether we are "creating" or "discovering" in this, as in all intellectual pursuits--and photography is, of course, an intellectual pursuit. It is hardly a technical application or skill and nothing else.
    If photography were a mere technical application and nothing more, then we could abandon this forum and myriad discussions of a similar nature--but, as I have long said, there is nothing more practical than good theory. Imagine Charles Townes inventing the LASER if someone else had not already come up with the idea of "coherent light." Imagine nuclear energy (for better or for worse) if Einstein had not said very early in his 1905 article on electrodynamics: "If we postulate that the speed of light is constant. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
    Who knew? Who knew? I think that it is safe to say that Einstein saw some of the creative and theoretical applications, but I am quite sure that he did not see them all--and I doubt that anyone has yet.
    What do physics and photography have in common? They have at least this, I believe: that the theoretical insights and the practical implications/applications are tied together in a much more complicated way than the "pure v. applied science" distinction of a generation or two earlier ever grasped. Photography is, of course, a technology, but it is so much more. I'll shut up now.
    --Lannie
     
  91. For what it's worth, here is one by Léonard Misonne made in London in 1899:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lpywx6OjZR1qzdzano1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1315788083&Signature=rG692RhiSegp%2BH%2FXCGDNKFe1WhU%3D
    Here are some others from the same epoch:
    http://turnofthecentury.tumblr.com/page/3
    --Lannie
     
  92. Is quantum mechanics superior to Newtonian physics? Is the path from modernism to post-modernism progress? Whoever said this is a dog chasing its tail type of question has it right IMO. How do you define much less quantify "progress". The original question only makes sense if you view an individual photographer, style or movement in a vacuum and an attempt to reduce this ocean into a test tube does strike me as controlling and as Wouten said, some what fascistic.
    But, to actually bite on the question, I would simply say that without placing judgement, "progress" has occurred in how people see and in the meaning of what they see the discussion of media = or doesn't= message I would say fits into that.
     
  93. Is quantum mechanics superior to Newtonian physics? Is the path from modernism to post-modernism progress?​
    I am not sure that I would try to make analogies of this sort from the natural sciences to other areas. Some analogies there are, but they are very limited. Quantum and relativistic effects can be significant, and, if one has to deal with such effects, Newtonian physics is not going to be all that useful.
    I cannot understand the aversion to all value judgments, as if the Ptolemaic model were "just as good" as the Copernican model. It was not, but neither was perfect, and even Copernicus's model had to be modified.
    Making any kind of leap from any of that to categories such as "modern" v. "post-modern" is not going to get anyone anywhere.
    --Lannie
     
  94. Lannie, others here have made contributions to the idea of development, maybe not in a literal sense, but pointing to and refiniing it. Wouter, David Bebbington, Anders, Barry Fisher, Phil Hardy, and others I can't remember off-hand have all made contributions as significant as anything Fred or I have said.
    _________________________________________
    It is a mistake to think that people are dodging making value statements. They're avoiding making meaningless or unsupportable judgments. Remember the Sontag essay/ thread awhile back? I think it has relevance to this one. That addressed the stultifying, paralyzing structure that the critical value judgment system of an age had created.
    __________________________________________
     
  95. Luis, my recent remark was triggered by one question: "Is quantum mechanics superior to Newtonian physics?"
    There comes a point at which discussions of meta-ethical concepts on a philosophy of photography forum become counter-productive. We reached that point, in my opinion, some time back. In any case, I have nothing more to say about it. Suggesting that discussions of "progress" or using the word "superior" sounded "fascist" did absolutely nothing to promote rational discourse when you first said it, and continued assertions of that sort are not anything that I am going to waste my time trying to address.
    In NO case will I respond to things that I did not even say. Merely to ask a question is not to suggest an answer. I am only going to respond to things that I have said, not to things that you infer (and even imply) that I have said.
    --Lannie
     
  96. What do physics and photography have in common? They have at least this, I believe: that the theoretical insights and the practical implications/applications are tied together in a much more complicated way than the "pure v. applied science" distinction of a generation or two earlier ever grasped.​
    Lannie, I think there is more in common, and with a detour it might even end up back where you started.
    Both physics and photography are to a large extend part of the human quest to record and explain what we see happening around us. In a way, both are also part of some sort of collective agreement on what is real and what's not. We all say an apple falls to the earth, and comics say the earth dropped away from the apple - and maybe the comics are right. But we're not likely to accept their vision. Likewise 'we' (generic) tend to believe what we see in a photo, but when edited too much, we say it's nonsens and not true.
    Einstein's theories and quantum physics made physics as disconnected from that 'collective reality', as does the realisation that a photo represents a point of view on a subject (rather than the subject itself) does. It all becomes a result of "who, from which position, looking for which behaviour" - rather than a singular statement "this is it". Think the Doppler Effect. Realising this Doppler Effect really ruins the idea of truely empirical science ("as observed") as much as looking at a photo does: you have to be aware from where you are looking, what your point of view is, as well as where the subject matter (probably) is and what it's doing.
    In physics, quantum physics turned a lot upside down. Where some searched for unified theories, it suddenly became a scattered probability of being one or the other, or something maybe somewhere in between. Relativity is a brilliant thing to realise (in every sense, not only physics), but it's also a much more complex animal to tame. It demands empathy, the ability to be wrong or just partially right, it demands to accept that answers tend to be incomplete or just a step in a long journey.
    Photography - if there is one development I might think of as very relevant, it's the point where photography became (accepted) as being a creative expressive medium, rather than a recording device. All the main things we tend to discuss here (intent, perception) are result of the fact that we doubt the photo as such represents its subject. The list of names you included as starting point are pioneers and firsts in that. The Einstein, Bohr and Schrödinger of photography?
    Where does it head to? Both physicists and photographers try to catch the behaviour of light. I think for quite some time to come, it will only continue to amaze and confuse us more.
     
  97. Lannie, is it wrong to question the question? I wasn't the only one to do so, and I think we all did so politely and in positive ways, trying to enhance this discourse. Perhaps, as you say, the thread has crossed over and is subverting itself. Perhaps not. I wish you wouldn't, but if you choose to take your toys and go home/leave, you will be missed.
    If you look over the thread, there's been progress (sorry, I just had to) in many ways. Some of your questions have been answered, terms discussed, misunderstandings and assumptions have been clarified, and many angles of approach explored, if briefly. We have also touched upon vast, wide-open sideboards that would make good threads on their own.
    To this simple mind, these are the signs of a productive discussion, and a near-great one for PN.
    [The reason I thought of Fascism when you talked of the "superior/inferior" dichotomy was because it instantly brought to mind Degenerate Art. Nazi/Aryan Art = superior, Jewish (and other art) = inferior. ]
     
  98. That was elegant, Wouter. I think you would find this interesting...
    http://www.amazon.com/Art-Physics-Parallel-Visions-Space/dp/0688123058
    In photography, Wynn Bullock comes to mind as the photographer most concerned with relativity. I read about, and was told this by the executor of his estate. Can you tell by looking at his imagery?
    http://www.google.com/search?q=wynn+bullock&hl=en&biw=1024&bih=496&prmd=ivnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=PAJtTteGG8ugsQKF0dD9BA&sqi=2&ved=0CC8QsAQ
    Does his work look all that different from his contemporaries? How so?
     
  99. I love for people to rephrase the question, Luis. Challenging the question is what philosophy is all about. Your last paragraph above points to my only concern, since it seemed to be directed at me (originally) for using the language of "superior" (and I don't even remember the context). All that I can say is that, when I casually used that term, I never realized that that would provoke that response--not only from you, but from others as well.
    No harm done, I hope. No one thinks I am a fascist for asking the question, I don't think. The thread/conversation survived that little hiccup. Knowing how treacherous exchanges on the web can be, I think that we do pretty well here. If I had read the previous thread that you alluded to earlier, then I might have understood the context of the remarks a bit better. Yes, making value judgments is necessary, but it is still very dangerous territory, especially where the arts are concerned--a particularly insidious kind of ethnocentrism can be behind the impulse to judge what is "better" or "superior," as we all know. We all struggle to get free of our own cultural baggage, but it is sometimes very difficult.
    I will say that, if this turned out to be a good thread, it was not because of anything that I did. A number of people carried the conversation to heights that would never have occurred to me.
    Wouter, I will respond to you after your remarks have percolated in my subconscious for a while. Right now I am coming up dry.
    --Lannie
     
  100. If you look over the thread, there's been progress (sorry, I just had to) in many ways.​
    That one left me laughing, Luis. Thank you.
    --Lannie
     
  101. In this day and age, the very nature of philosophic thought is esoteric. Only a small group will ever care. I, and I'm sure many, are mostly concerned with the progress one makes once they pick up a camera, until they put it away for good. Techniques come and go. Tools come and go......
    Steichen writes, "Photography is a medium of formidable contradictions. It is both ridiculously easy and almost impossibly difficult. It is easy because its techinical rudiments can readily be mastered by anyone with a few simple instruments. It is difficult because, while the artist working in any other medium begins with a blank surface and gradually brings his (their) conception into being, the photographer is the only imagemaker who begins with the picture complete. His emtions, his knowledge, and his native talent are brought into focus and fixed beyond recall the moment the shutter of his camera has closed".
    The larger the field, the more difficult it becomes to separate the weeds from the grass. With 6 billion+ people on this planet armed with cameras and computers, it will take time for the old school and the new to fully appreciate the meaning of dedication...because in the end, the dedicated always rise to the top, and they are the ones who belong there.....
     
  102. Some dislike quotes, but I find them sometimes timely.
    When discussing progress in art, it might be relevant to turn to how artists have answered the question on progress in arts.
    Georges Braque participated in developing three new creative modes of expression in painting: Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism so he should know someting about the subject.
    He said the following about progress:
    The progress in art is not to extend its limits, but to know them better​
     
  103. Phil Hardy - "The larger the field, the more difficult it becomes to separate the weeds from the grass."
    I disagree with the classification wording and the thought. It depends on who's doing the separating.
    Phil - "With 6 billion+ people on this planet armed with cameras and computers, it will take time for the old school and the new to fully appreciate the meaning of dedication...because in the end, the dedicated always rise to the top, and they are the ones who belong there....."
    So...this is simply a matter of dedication, and some kind of natural selection, and they just "rise", like true believers at the Rapture heavenward? If I had a penny for every dedicated artist I have seen that never made it...and some times it takes a whole lot more than that. Would it be too presumptuous of me to assume that the author sees himself among the er..."dedicated"? Worse, the whole idea reeks of entitlement. You can be dedicated, self (and family and friend)-sacrificing, maniacally laborious and still not ever glimpse the top.
     
  104. Well, Luis, perhaps we can at least say that dedication is necessary but not sufficient for producing anything of lasting worth in any field.
    --Lannie
     
  105. I would agree with that. Dedication (or more likely obsession) is almost required, but it's not enough by its lonesome self, and certainly no guarantee of anything. There aren't any.
     
  106. Luis..
    I'm not that concerned that we agree. I think you know what I mean. This is a photography chat room, and my comments are about photography. My dedication comment should have been more specific, in reference to all the different shooters discussed in this post.
    Reaching the "top" could be another point of discussion. Many of them, as well as other artist, didn't receive acclaim until well after their departure, but dedication was a part of their resume. As far as this "author" being among the dedicated. I am. Will I rise to the top? That remains to be seen. The goals are not the same for all. There are many who are dedicated without any desire to reach the top, and those who have their own definition of what the top means...
    The top I was referring to, was a body of work that future generations would still consider relevant. A goal Luis...something to shoot for. Does this not require dedication? If you know another way, I'm all ears......
     
  107. Read my reply to Lannie above.
     
  108. Thank you...now give me my hug :)
     
  109. Where is Julie Heyward when we need her? I have a hunch she gives better hugs than Luis.
    --Lannie
     
  110. Yes.
    Luis is right about the use of definitive statements. It surely wasn't my intention to suggest that dedication is the only way to the top. I really was trying to address the talent mentioned in this forum, and I should have said so. It is a common point or factor, that I have found in the work of all those that I admire.
     
  111. Sure, Phil. >>>>hug<<<<.
     
  112. Progress is a given. Take any art (or even sport for that matter.) You'll find someone is always building upon the ideas or achievements of those who came before them. Do you really think I could be famous with Weston's Pepper today if he didn't shoot it first? I would probably get 5 comments on a critique site tops. And then forgotten. :)
     
  113. Lannie, you can't bring me in as designated hugger unless you (as manager) designated me as such before the start of the game. On the other hand, I believe I am permitted to pinch hug.
    Every picture (every thing) is perfect just as it is until and unless you assign to it some instrumental purpose. If/when you do assign it some such instrumental purpose, that purpose then becomes the ruler against which you will measure its progress. This can be tricky when that "ruler" is moving (and pinch hugging).
    How do you measure "... the great interests of man: air and light, the joy of having a body, the voluptuousness of looking"? [-- Mario Rossi]
     
  114. Welcome back, Julie! Pinch hugging, hmm...
    One often measures against the shifty rubber ruler of memory and experience, and that seems tied to natural brain function. What happens next depends on how we use & look at that measurement.
     
  115. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWS2NVX6VP0
     
  116. How do you measure "... the great interests of man: air and light, the joy of having a body, the voluptuousness of looking"? [-- Mario Rossi]​
    Julie, you saucy tart! My thinking is this: pinch-hugging is allowed. Hug-pinching is a no-no, but I am open to being corrected.
    Every picture (every thing) is perfect just as it is until and unless you assign to it some instrumental purpose. If/when you do assign it some such instrumental purpose, that purpose then becomes the ruler against which you will measure its progress.​
    It seems that you are insisting that I actually do some honest thinking again. I think that the "instrumental value" of a picture (if we may speak of such) must always be assessed against what the goal was in taking it. If it was intended to be an aerial photo showing hidden missile silos, then I suppose that it is "valuable" to the extent that it does that, not the extent to which it realizes some esthetic purpose. If the picture was meant to be merely a souvenir/memento, then surely a snapshot will suffice. If high resolution was the point, and the shot is blurred, then the shot is a failed shot--and we can measure its deviation from what we wanted to achieve by counting line pairs per millimeter.
    The problem, I think, is that, once one starts talking esthetics, one is no longer speaking of instrumentality, and I suppose that that is your point. Esthetic value (in its pure form? do I dare say "pure"?) does not exist as an instrument to any other end besides itself and so is almost invulnerable to measurement and comparison. If this is true, then cancel the entire thread--or let me at least cancel the original question, although not the way that others have wanted to rephrase it.
    I am increasingly of the opinion, since I posted the question, that it is the very timelessness of the esthetic that is its great strength. It resists invidious comparisons. It resists categorization as well, though we keep trying.
    The problem from a purely human perspective with any valuation of anything that was originally designed as a means to some end is that it sooner or later will be judged for the value that inheres in it. In 1976, I adjudged myself to be thirty pounds overweight and began running three days a week in order to lose weight. I lost the thirty pounds within a year, but I kept running for years for the sheer joy of running--and for the elevated sense of well-being that I felt after running. Someone has said that we human beings tend to make ends of our means. That which is ostensibly to be evaluated purely instrumentally (sex for procreation comes to mind, at least according to the Church) comes to be valued in and of itself, or for its expressive and esthetic content.
    Can we counterpoise the "instrumental" against the purely "expressive"? Is the "expressive" that which esthetics is about in the first place? Since expression is such a personal, private thing, perhaps that is why we tend to resist not only categories but evaluations, especially those that insist upon measures of "progress" or "superiority" or some such.
    (I am beginning to get a glimmer as to why Luis, Fred, and others recoiled so strongly against my original wording. I shall have to go back and read the Sonntag thread.)
    Now, as for pinch-hugging, are we talking instrumental qua therapeutic, or purely expressive? It could affect my valuation of the entire sport, which I do not fully understand but am willing to try. I do try to keep an open mind.
    --Lannie
     
  117. "You don't understand. I'm a man."
    "Well, nobody's perfect."​
    Thank you for that one, Fred. Perhaps that will get me through what promises to be a very long and hard workweek.
    --Lannie
     
  118. I find perfection and the notion of perfection stultifying.
    An aesthetics which must lack instrumentality often feels somewhat barren to me.
    My photos are both instrumental and aesthetic. They are not perfect nor were they ever nor are they trying to be.
    Walker Evans. Dorothea Lang. Instrumental. Aesthetic.
    Even Weston's pepper. Why separate its instrumentality from its aesthetics?
    Read through many of the critiques on PN, especially where other photographers are trying to "improve" the work of others. These photographers are working toward a misguided standard of perfection, one pre-conceived. The photos were not perfect before other photographers started re-envisioning them and they won't be perfect afterwards.
    There is beauty in flaws. Aesthetics is more about beauty (beauty, not pretty) than perfection.
    Nothing is purely expressive. Nothing is purely anything. That's the beauty of it.
     
  119. I think that the "instrumental value" of a picture (if we may speak of such) must always be assessed against what the goal was in taking it.
    Most pros would agree: A good picture is one that fulfills its intended purpose. This is the ONLY valid judgement criterion.
    Read through many of the critiques on PN, especially where other photographers are trying to "improve" the work of others.
    In the pro world, people assume your pictures look the way you want them to. They will judge them only on the basis of the principle mentioned above (they might also state their personal opinion, but will be quite ready to pronounce work good even if they don't personally like it).
    The worst mistake amateur photographers make when criticizing the work of others is to draw on a (usually very limited) set of paradigms inside their own heads and, if the work they are criticizing does not match these, dismiss the work and begin to explain to the photographer concerned how they have done everything wrong and are stupid for not making pictures like the ones the critic makes.
     
  120. Yet, yet, once in a while someone learns from someone else's take on a photo, as manifested in a "redone" version posted on a forum. I rather like to have persons have their own tries at mine, although most of the time they seem to miss what I was after.
    Fred, did I miss something? When did "perfection" creep into the conversation?
    As for "expressive" v. "instrumental," I think that it is related to the distinction "intrinsic' v. "extrinsic." If I take a photo for money pure and simple, then the photo has no intrinsic value for me, although it might for the one who purchases it.
    There may indeed be no such "perfect" dichotomy, but dichotomies are only more or less useful, I think, not "true" or "false." I find some utility in the distinction between the "expressive" and the "instrumental." I have not claimed perfection in such distinctions.
    I am reminded of Gilbert Ryle's statement that "Philosophers are typically guilty of making too few distinctions rather than too many." (approximate quote) I think that the quote appeared in Plato's Progress, which I read in 1972. My memory could fail me on that one, as on so much after so many years (and sometimes as to what was said or done yesterday).
    This is a great conversation, but I am going to have to leave it for awhile. . ..
    --Lannie
     
  121. Every picture (every thing) is perfect just as it is until and unless you assign to it some instrumental purpose. --Julie​
    Lannie, this is where perfection crept in.
    And it's where the suggestion that an instrumental quality or assertion somehow undermines this perfection (aesthetic perfection?) came in as well. It's what I'm rejecting.
    _______________________
    An academic or theoretical dichotomy is fine (though increasingly compromised as philosophers have figured out other ways of articulating and approaching these questions and issues), but it's well to recognize that dichotomies and distinctions are often ONLY theoretical. In reality, distinctions are not as clear cut as they seem when they are separated for analysis. Instrumentalism and aesthetics can be separated theoretically and analytically but NOT in practice. Once that's understood, it actually becomes harder to even separate them theoretically. Vocabularies and grammar change accordingly.
    I'd replace or at least supplement Ryle's view with both Wittgenstein's and Rorty's, both of whom see the folly in many traditional Western dichotomies, and along with many other mid- to late-twentieth-century philosophers have taken great pains to relieve us from the default position toward dichotomies we've adopted, mainly since Descartes, or at least relies that those dichotomies are language games and not ontological.
     
  122. Jumping in late, I know. I did read most of the pages, though...
    There was mention of "define your terms". To discuss "progress" in any sense (qualitative or quantitative) it would seem that one of the first things that would be needed is the scale you are using. As a medium of artistic expression, I don't think so: I doubt Brady or Steichen or Weston (any of them) or Adams or Strom or me has any more (or less) feeling of personal satisfaction in their expression and creativity. What other measure of ART is there? I also doubt that appreciation, by the viewing/dialoging audience, has changed much, as that could really be the only other rational measure for art.
    Other measures: technology is ruled out, and I doubt earlier photographers spent that much more time regretting the limits of their equipment than we do regretting the lack of neutrino sensitivity in ours.
    Prices: have certainly progressed
    Volume: as well
    Technical acumen of the photographing population: probably lower than ever before, but has probably fallen with each new innovation that makes it easier to take pictures without have a clue. Fuming mercury, anyone?
     
  123. I have a problem with use of word "progress" in context of culture. I do not believe there is such a thing as "progress" in art either. I think term "change" is more appropriate.
     
  124. Fred - I also find the ideal of perfection a straitjacket. Had that read "fine as is", "valid", etc. I could have agreed with it. On aesthetics and instrumentaity, I agree. On purity also.
    ___________________________________________________________________
    Lannie, I have seen that people do learn about technique and other things from "improved" photo-critiques. But what they learn is useful for the future. The picture they've taken loses its gestalt with the changes suggested. Not because they were perfect to begin with, but because they were (imperfect, flawed and) whole and theirs.
    ____________________________________________________________________
    David Bebbington - "Most pros would agree: A good picture is one that fulfills its intended purpose. This is the ONLY valid judgement criterion."
    If there's one criterion, and it's internal to the maker, then there's little to talk about.
    _____________________________________________________________________
    Scott Norville - "I doubt Brady or Steichen or Weston (any of them) or Adams or Strom or me has any more (or less) feeling of personal satisfaction in their expression and creativity."
    I would be willing to bet that it's likely not true. From personal experience in directly speaking with hundreds of artists, it varies greatly from person to person. The personal experience of art is not identical and universal. It varies.
    Scott - "What other measure of ART is there?"
    Oh, I don't know....there may be one or two.
    Scott - "Technical acumen of the photographing population: probably lower than ever before, but has probably fallen with each new innovation that makes it easier to take pictures without have a clue. Fuming mercury, anyone?"
    I disagree. People have different skills than they used to, but overall they are far more hands-on and involved than they used to be in the days of the 1hr lab. They're more involved and technically savvy than ever.
     
  125. The personal experience of art is not identical and universal. It varies.​
    Exactly my point. Any given artist is ecstatic, despondent, indifferent, or not. Progress? No. Each is different, minute to minute.
    Scott - "What other measure of ART is there?"
    Oh, I don't know....there may be one or two.​
    There may be. But a pretty universal definition of art is what we create when we have no other material need, besides the need/desire to create/express. All else is craft. Art and style evolve. Craft progresses. Examples: across millennia and incomprehensible cultural change the paintings in Lascaux remain moving (and for many, more expressive than much "modern art"). And talk about "archival". On the other hand, compare sunbaked mud to Wedgwood to truly modern ceramics that I can't even pronounce.
    And as far as skills go, even more people now who just push the camera button on the cell phone than ever before... What minor fraction (besides those here) can do more than click the "red eye" tab? I think the ratio of capable amateurs to casual dilettantes remains rather low.
     
  126. David Bebbington - "Most pros would agree: A good picture is one that fulfills its intended purpose. This is the ONLY valid judgement criterion."
    If there's one criterion, and it's internal to the maker, then there's little to talk about.

    Sorry but you have fundamentally misunderstood this. If the intended purpose is the photographer’s own satisfaction, as may be the case with amateurs, then this is the only criterion, but it is still possible to criticize an image. However, the basis needs to be a dialog with the author: What are you trying to say here? I feel you are trying to say XYZ – is this
    true? Have you considered techniques A, B or C? I hope you can appreciate the difference between this approach, which as far as I am concerned is key to any teaching activity in the arts, and the usual level of criticism dished out in the manner I described in an earlier post.
    With professionals, no matter whether producing art or commercial images, the aim is communication. The vital criterion then becomes: How well has communication taken place? Once again, nothing else matters – an effective image for a given communication need could be anything from a razor sharp LF image to a pastel smudge done with a Lomo or anything in between. Criticism is possible in all cases, as long as it helps the author to say what he/she wants to say better and does not merely serve the egotism of the critic.
     
  127. David Bebbington - "Most pros would agree: A good picture is one that fulfills its intended purpose. This is the ONLY valid judgement criterion."

    Luis G- "If there's one criterion, and it's internal to the maker, then there's little to talk about."
    I don't believe I've misunderstood anything, David. Your statement was clear and plain. All possibility of of independent criticism would be enslaved to the artist's own assessment of whether s/he thinks the picture fulfilled its intended purpose. All critics would ultimately have to take the artists' word for whether the work measures up to the intention or not, regardless of what they think, beacause, as you state, it is the "...ONLY valid judgment criterion". You leave no other possibilities.
    Intention often tends to be invisible or at least ambiguous so, this hurdle seems insurmountable. There would be no real dialogue, because the balance of power would always be total and on one side. It also seems a bit naive to think that all artists have an "intended purpose" before they begin a work. This may be true for many, but not for all.
    Your pitch for the supremacy of the artist is admirable, but in need of more visible means of suport. I would also like to ask what would valid criticism be if the artist is dead? Let's say it is someone like Vivian Meier, discovered posthumously, left no Day Books, or associates who have an inkling of her intended purpose. By your criterion, the work is untouchable.
    I would agree with you in the notion that what the artists have to say matters, but even there lies a large spectrum from the transparent, clearly articulated to the nebulous or disingenuous.
     
  128. I am not sure that I would try to make analogies of this sort from the natural sciences to other areas. Some analogies there are, but they are very limited.​
    I think the point is, that "Art" in terms of formal art like science and other areas somewhat has a connection and stands on the shoulders of what happened before, even if the new is in reaction too, or undermining that which it is attempting to replace and even when current practitioners are in ignorance of what occurred before. Those professionals that make a living writing about Art have a sense of the connections between what was and is, even if they create the connections themselves. Like wise, culture (in which photography does function) is also somewhat cumulative or at least the explanations of it are:)
    Quantum and relativistic effects can be significant, and, if one has to deal with such effects, Newtonian physics is not going to be all that useful.​
    Except that if it weren't initially for Newton, or what Newton discovered and formulated, scientist may not be discussing Quantum at all.
     
  129. “A good picture is one that fulfils its intended purpose.” Luis, let me try to explain this another way. IF someone takes pictures for their own pleasure, and IF they are satisfied with the results, then that is all that matters. This does not exclude the possibility that this person may come to feel their pictures could be better and ask someone they regard as knowledgeable for advice. Under these circumstances, a process of constructive criticism can take place. On the other hand (evidenced by countless incidents at camera clubs), if a third party attempts to force their opinions on the photographer unasked and motivated not by a desire (and ability) to help but by pure egotism, the result is likely to be negative and the “criticism” valueless. Of course third parties can exercise their right to free speech and say what they want – but I would like to be sure that they are not smothering someone’s enthusiasm in the process.
    You say “Intention often tends to be invisible…” – my background is a little different, professionals NEVER take a picture without a clearly formulated intention.
    You ask “What would valid criticism be if the artist is dead?” In a word, [probably] pointless, because the dead photographer can’t hear you! I wouldn’t say this work is untouchable but it is literally immutable – nothing you can say can change it. You can say you like it or not – millions of people do every day when confronted with the works of dead artists – but I would say your efforts would be better directed to understanding the work in context.
    Let me give you just one brief example – a few years ago, I found a ledger book in a junkshop which turned out to be a scrapbook kept by a clergyman in Eastern England documenting his attempts to teach himself wet-plate photography around 1860. He had gone around the place he lived snapping at everything just the way that anybody does with a new camera, but in doing so he had failed to understand the medium and had gotten many interior shots in particular which were underexposed and out of focus. You can just imagine what the reaction would have been if I had taken one of these images out of context and given it to the average camera club blowhard for “criticism”.
    As examples of photographic art, the pictures were very poor, but they had considerable value in other respects, and indeed I ended up selling the album to a national museum – apart from anything else, it was full of albumen prints which needed more conservation than I could give them. I would have considered “criticism” in the normal sense valid only if through time travel or other means I could have met with this photographer and given him some tips on better technique (which, from his writings, he would clearly have welcomed).
     
  130. David, I agree with the first part:
    IF someone takes pictures for their own pleasure, and IF they are satisfied with the results, then that is all that matters.​
    To me, that is the art part.
    As someone who practices professionally in a field (medicine) that is a melding (at least in our own minds) of Western science and art, as well as practicing as an amateur (in the classic sense, doing it for love of the art, not as a dilettante) in a field of visual arts, I would advance the idea that "art" is primarily the internal dialogue within the artist, it builds on experience and can evolve with time and different exposures; you can call that progress if you like, but it remains within the individual and not the field as a whole. Discussion, exposure, and criticism can of course affect this, but are not the primary informers. The trite definition is that science is knowledge that can be taught, but art come from within, informed by experience and can only be learned. Can't teach mojo.
    professionals NEVER take a picture without a clearly formulated intention​
    I could take that a couple of ways. One could say that to be a professional you must have such a highly honed sense of your craft that you are aware of every action and expected consequence you perform with a camera. I would also counter that the intended intention might not match a later finding... repurposing, "yeah, I meant for it to look that way."
    (And do we define a professional as one who subscribes to and practices a set of ideals specific to the profession, or just as one who gets paid for what he does?)
    As a field, we take pictures, we enjoy them or hate them, we show them to others or keep them in a drawer, we make money or spend money, we use equipment that we love or hate, and we spend even more time thinking or talking about it all. In which direction is progress supposed to go?
     
  131. "What is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course, not dealing with purposes but dealing with sounds. Or the answer must take the form of a paradox: a purposeful purposeless or a purposeless play. This play, however, is an affirmation of life--not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord."
    John Cage
    Thanks for the explanations. I am beginning to see that you and I are talking about different things. You're talking about real-time helpful technical advice to others.
     
  132. I would advance the idea that "art" is primarily the internal dialogue within the artist​
    That's part of it. The other part is that "art" is often social and public.
    Art can communicate. Art can motivate. Art can organize. Art can be political and cultural. Art is often a kind of dialogue among artists, even throughout generations. Art can be an homage. New art is influenced by existing art. Art has a history which can depend upon and also transcend the individual. Art is often produced in groups rather than internally. Art sometimes comes into existence DESPITE the individual, who may not intend it to be or even consider it art. Audiences and critics can have a say. Art is usually more than an idea, therefore more than an internal dialogue. Art is most often crafted into something we call art.
     
  133. Thanks for the explanations. I am beginning to see that you and I are talking about different things. You're talking about real-time helpful technical advice to others.
    Yup! The trouble is, for many people (not any photo.netters of course!) the process of "criticism" means "Think of the worst thing you could say about an artwork and say it!" or else in the case of some professional critics "Seize on the aspects of an artwork that will allow me maximum scope to parade my superior knowledge and let rip!" I think, for all my 62 years and the fact that I am turning into a grumpy old man, I manage to avoid doing this - every now and again I get young photographers contacting me through the internet asking me for advice, and they seem to be reasonably receptive to my replies - which are always written after asking myself very self-critically if I have anything worthwhile to say. and always on the basis of "How can I help this photographer to say what THEY repeat THEY want to say better?"
     
  134. " "art" is often social and public" etc​
    Well said and further elaborated, Fred.
    Hat's off !
     
  135. David Bebbigton - "Yup! The trouble is, for many people (not any photo.netters of course!) the process of "criticism" means "Think of the worst thing you could say about an artwork and say it!" or else in the case of some professional critics "Seize on the aspects of an artwork that will allow me maximum scope to parade my superior knowledge and let rip!"
    That wasn't it at all, David. I thought nothing about "....the worst thing you can say..." nor do I think that art criticism is a simple vehicle for egomaniacs. And while I'm at it, I also do not think that fulfilling an intended purpose is the only, or ONLY valid criterion in the sense you are talking about.
    ____________________________________________________________
    Anders +1. Well said in a beautifully clear and succint manner.
     
  136. That wasn't it at all, David. I thought nothing about "....the worst thing you can say..." nor do I think that art criticism is a simple vehicle for egomaniacs. And while I'm at it, I also do not think that fulfilling an intended purpose is the only, or ONLY valid criterion in the sense you are talking about.
    I most definitely did not mean you. Luis. On the other hand, criticism of the kind I described does unfortunately happen all too often!
     
  137. Wouter:
    You asked me several days ago about possible points of congruence between photography and physics. Well, they are strange birds to compare, and yet the question does intrigue me. Alas, letting the question percolate in my subconscious for some days does not yield very much that is useful, I fear.
    I would say that if we cut right to the essence of what is beautiful in photography (and forget issues of craft and technology for a moment), we finally find ourselves up against metaphysical questions, ultimate questions that do not yield to Cartesian logic. Physics, in comparison with metaphysics, does seem to yield to Cartesian logic ("If we postulate that the speed of light is constant. . ." --AE)--but only up to a point. The ultimate nature of space-time remains elusive and probably always will. Ultimate questions are what metaphysics is about, and so physics qua this-worldy inquiry is a very different beast from metaphysics. This is not to say that I cannot apply Cartesian logic to metaphysical questions about matter-energy and space-time, but in the end I am going to find that Cartesian logic fails me in the same way that it fails me about the seemingly unanswerable ultimate (metaphysical) questions of both ethics and esthetics.
    So, what is the most fundamental point of similarity between physics, on the one hand, and esthetics and ethics, on the other? The most fundamental similarity seems to be deep mystery. We cannot fruitfully compare the artistic vision of Stieglitz to that of today's artists/photographers because we would have to answer metaphysical (ultimate) questions in order to do that, and, since we cannot answer the metaphysical questions, we throw up our hands in despair.
    All of the value-laden questions of both esthetics and ethics ultimately do not seem to yield to Cartesian (or any other kind of) logic. Purely empirical questions (if such exist as a category) do seem to yield to such logic and to the scientific method in general. Ethics and esthetics do not, or so it seems. I am back to my intuitions and the eternal mysteries which do not yield either to reason or observation.
    That's the best that I can do this Tuesday morning.
    Fred, et al., please feel free to jump in and get me out of today's fly bottle. I am truly stuck this time. I am beginning to think that the condition is terminal.
    --Lannie
     
  138. Double-post again after a gateway time-out. Sorry.
     
  139. I think that light is mystical and mysterious as to its ultimate status as either particle or wave, or whatever it really is--but where light really gets interesting is in how it reflects off the wall in the late afternoon or off the wet streets after a shower.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Steichen_flatiron.jpg
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lpywx6OjZR1qzdzano1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1315788083&Signature=rG692RhiSegp%2BH%2FXCGDNKFe1WhU%3D
    WHY is it so beautiful? Now, if I could answer that question, perhaps I could rationally approach the question of this thread--but, alas, beauty is beauty, and so who am I to say that Steichen or Stieglitz (or whoever) saw or captured anything any better or worse than someone out taking photographs today?
    --Lannie
     
  140. Has there really been progress in photography? Reflections upon viewing the works of Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen.
    "Reflections" indeed.
    "It's about light [a concept from physics]."
    Is it really? Tell me, then, why is the light sometimes so beautiful, other times not quite so beautiful?
    Is it any more or less beautiful today than it was for Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen?
    Thesis: If the photo captures the essence of the beauty that one sees, then it is a success, regardless of how others may evaluate it, regardless of the epoch or the state of the craft of photography.
    --Lannie
     
  141. the essence of the beauty​
    A kind of hollow, romanticized and superficial articulation of the process and the result. Based on what I see in the works of people like Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen, they were real, they addressed their subjects, addressed their process, their photos, and found and created magic by getting to work.
    Light is captured in many different ways. It can be beautiful, harsh, searing, ugly, it can reveal harsh truths, romantic moments, cracks in armor, armor itself. It can be used graphically, subtlely, blatantly, impressionistically, expressionistically, noirishly. It was WAY more than beautiful for Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen. It was photographic.
    Stieglitz:
    “Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”
    “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
    “The arts equally have distinct departments, and unless photography has its own possibilities of expression, separate from those of the other arts, it is merely a process, not an art.”

    What I get, especially from the last statement, is that photos are photos. That sounds obvious, but it is not always so. I've talked about some sort of internal harmony (which can include discord). Stieglitz is suggesting that photography has its own raison d'être. Great photographers are in touch with a photograph's uniqueness as a force in itself even as it has been accepted as art. They create and develop new raisons d'être. Some level of success is reached when a photograph answers the question: Why is this a photograph? Success is not limited to this.
    Stieglitz again: "It is high time that the stupidity and sham in pictorial photography be struck a solarplexus blow. Claims of art won't do. Let the photographer make a photograph."
     
  142. A kind of hollow, romanticized and superficial articulation of the process.​
    Who is talking process here, Fred? I am talking about (e)valuation.
    --Lannie
     
  143. Lannie, I'm not going to contribute to getting you out of the fly bottle. You climbed into it, so for you to climb out - and don't ask why ? It is indeed a metaphysical question.
    We cannot fruitfully compare the artistic vision of Stieglitz to that of today's artists/photographers because we would have to answer metaphysical​
    Lannie, how did you end up believing that the only approach to comparing the vision of Stieglitz (he had several) to that, or those, of today's photographers, is to answer unformulated metaphysical questions as if that was a totally out of our reach. Metaphysics concerns, among other philosophical questions, include also the "theory of knowledge". This is why I earlier quoted what Braque said about "progress":
    The progress in art is not to extend its limits, but to know them better​
    Stieglitz made street shots like his snap shots from Paris or his Fifth Avenue shots or his landscape shots from Lake George, as well as his shots of Georgia O'Keefe that all could be seen as communicating with reality as seen in painting of his time (we are at the period of (post)impressionism) extending the "limits" of how reality looked when photographed. His numerous shots of clouds, his "sky stories" or his "sky songs", as he called them, that he shot throughout his life, tried explicitly to go beyond the experienced reality and are spiritually (beyond religion) inspired photographical subjects. This is creativity. It's art.
    Try to compare these to what "today's" photographers shoots when "extending the limits". Many of today's photographers take up similar challenges, but they do it in communication with not only what photographers before them have achieved, like Stieglitz, but also and maybe even mainly in communication with today's limits of art, as Braque formulated it, which surely are different from those of the time of Stieglitz. As mentioned earlier, today's use allegories in photography tells for example a passionate story about the limits of photographical reality and the seen and directly experienced reality.
    This was written before seeing Fred's latest contribution above: the "essence of beauty" is indeed a subject that keep haunting us and worthwhile of an in-depth discussion. I'm not far from agreeing on what Fred write, but I might come back on this.
     
  144. Lannie, while you were writing, I included the word "result" as well.
    If you prefer, I'm happy to change the statement to:
    "A kind of hollow, romanticized and superficial articulation of how photos are evaluated."
     
  145. Lannie - "Is it really? Tell me, then, why is the light sometimes so beautiful, other times not quite so beautiful?"
    It depends on who's looking, of those who can see, and what they're looking for. Some find golden hour light the thing, others overcast, some noon. A very few work in an eclectic way. It, like all the other things inside the frame, have to somehow interact as a whole.
    It's not an entirely rational thing, the why. Many things are involved, so many that it deserves its own thread. Maybe two or three just to define Beauty... :)
    On the subject of Physics, there are more historical connections than you think, and mathematical connections as well. Check this out:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128285.900-quantum-minds.html
     
  146. Great conversation, guys, but I gotta go to work!
    --Lannie
     
  147. Fred ,you have what in French is call "de la verve" when discussing the issues on the table in this thread. Surely, our the three photographers that Lannie started by mentioning, Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen, were all three "getting to work", as you write and the result was mostly "magic". Those are examples of "great" photographers, the existence of which some have had difficulties of admitting.
    You are also right that much of this magic was "light" but I'm sure you would agree that many other factor come into play in their magic, such a choice of subjects, framing, composition, you name it. When "beauty" to the fore in their photos, it is the kind of beauty that open up to new limits, if I may again use the term of Braque.
    What is special in photography, its "raison d'être, as you write, is maybe to be found in the way photos are perceived by the viewers, very differently from others arts. In painting, the viewer expects and accepts that it is all invented by the painter. In theatre you can announce that you are Cesar, and you are indeed Cesar.
    In photography, the immediate reaction of viewers is that it represent "straight" reality as seen by their own eyes. The photographer will use this false consciousness of the viewer and transcend not only the known reality, but also the limits of photography as previously known.
    I'm less clear than you in your previous writing, Fred, I don't have the same "verve" available, but I think the subject is important. Not least in a discussion on "progress" in photography.
     
  148. I continue to be interested in the individual's trajectory/path/development in his own work.
    Do you think your own development is linear or cyclical? Do you believe you are improving continuously, getting better in some respects, receding in others, or getting worse? Or do you improve every time a new box from B&H arrives on your doorstep or take a trip? Do you think you are a pioneer/innovator, explorer, or more of a farmer? Please, go beyond the yes/no answers.
     
  149. Thanks, Luis, nice synopsis. I can see the idea of individual progress much more clearly; hopefully we can all see improvement in "vision" as well as technique and craft. When I look back at work I did in high school I see the kernel of composition was there from the beginning, and to a great degree has matured and developed rather than become something different: more helical than cyclical or linear...
    Technique and craft has clearly progressed--I learned how to control DOF, use different films/papers/chemicals to fit the image better, someday I might really learn how to use strobes... Moving to MF and then LF with the slower, more deliberate process helps; every trip to the desert reveals new light, every session in the darkroom expresses it.
    I feel like I have always had a "vision", the ability to see more in a scene than most, and learned to interpret some level of that to others through my pictures. My progress has been mostly in being able to more easily and smoothly interpret--the taking and printing; but this cycles back around to being able to see more, knowing that I can interpret more than I could before. (Conversely, I also now skip pictures I might have spent rolls of film on before, knowing they are not worth the work.) This would seem to have aspects of both exploring and farming...
    Back to progress in the (nontechnical) field of photography as a whole, it's all perspective:
    as a medium for the expression of individual artistic yearnings: maybe some, not a lot; tortured souls don't accept progress and happy artists don't need it.
    as an artistic field and venue: quite a lot, we're pretty well acceptable as artists these days.
     
  150. Lannie, how did you end up believing that the only approach to comparing the vision of Stieglitz (he had several) to that, or those, of today's photographers, is to answer unformulated metaphysical questions as if that was a totally out of our reach. Metaphysics concerns, among other philosophical questions, include also the "theory of knowledge" (Emphasis supplied.)​
    Well, Anders, I certainly do not believe that at all! There are many ways of comparing vision across epochs--which is what I think Fred proceeded to show. I am simply saying that, once one reaches the level of the deepest conceivable understanding of the esthetics of anything, I strongly suspect that one is up against the same kind of metaphysical and epistemological impasses that always stop us in our tracks--not to say that we cannot speculate to our hearts' content, simply that we cannot ever give final and decisive answers to metaphysical questions (and, derivatively, epistemological questions).
    The metaphysical question of the existence of God comes to mind. Logical positivists might say that discussions of such metaphysical entities or constructs are meaningless, but the question of the existence of God keeps popping up, even if it is out of intellectual fashion in a post-modern epoch (and I am not at all sure that such questions are meaningless simply because we cannot answer them with finality--much less that we are obligated to remain silent about them, as Wittgenstein said).
    In this case, however, we are back, as Luis points out, to the Ultimate Meaning of Beauty. Holy Cow!
    Anybody want to tackle that one at this late date in this thread?! I can recognize the issue of the ultimate source of beauty as having deep metaphysical implications, but I cannot begin to give an answer that satisfies even myself. Metaphysical theories are cheap and plentiful, but not, for that reason, necessarily meaningless, in my opinion. They certainly are frustrating, though, since we can never know which views are correct. They are beyond being falsifiable, and thus beyond the scientific method. One may offer rational arguments about such things, but does one want to insist that one's arguments constitute "knowledge"?
    Metaphysics is about ultimate questions, but it always directs us back to epistemology and the limits of our ways of knowing.
    --Lannie
     
  151. Luis, sorry to reply very late but thanks for the links (on page 10); I only had a brief look so far, but surely that peeked my interest. I've seen too little so far to answer your questions, but I'll quite sure will take a longer look.
     
  152. Lannie,
    Sorry to respond slow, but discussion went very fast the last day....I did not ask about the comparison between physics and photography. I responded to it, and in my response attempted to get back to your original question. But thanks for the answer.
    What gets you into the fly bottle, in my view, is jumping on any notion that seems interesting to you, and starting to look for an answer with that. Throughout this thread, I continue to get the feel you loose track of your actual question, and you are too wanting to see an answer to it. None of us can get you out of that bottle, only you can. Take a step back, look at the sub-discussions that came up as parts to the answer of your question. And accept that there will be no conclusive conclusion either. Maybe I got it all wrong, but this is my perception.
    Luckily, along the way some really good points were raised and some posts expressed good food for thought magnificently. There is a lot of good in this free discussion, but one has to accept that it's not really leading to an answer. I don't mind, I come out with things to ponder, wonder and investigate. Can't really wish for more.
     
  153. Ultimate Meaning of Beauty.​
    In the very old days the answer was simple: getting nearer to the kingdom of God. Nowadays beauty probably just fulfills our need of escaping reality.
    I continue to be interested in the individual's trajectory/path/development in his own work.​
    Yes I know Luis. I happen to believe however that this Philosophy of Photography forum as its rules says, "encompasses ethical, aesthetic and sociological aspects of the subject" and should not always turn into yet another Casual photo Conversations on "me and my photography" as we see them so frequently here. Lannies question on "Progress in photography" was an occasion to go a little away from navel looking exchanges. I might be wrong, of course.
    Anyway, I'm traveling, so I'm out of in-depth discussions on anything, for some time. Have fun !
     
  154. Luis,
    I continue to be interested in the individual's trajectory/path/development in his own work.​
    It warrants a seperate thread. Not surprisingly I think given my osting history, but it's a question that's been on my mind for a long long time. Despite that, I continue to find it hard to describe, since much of it also comes down to how I experience things myself, based on small hopes and fears - things that can be hard to convey to others.
    Do you think your own development is linear or cyclical? Do you believe you are improving continuously, getting better in some respects, receding in others, or getting worse?​
    Personal development is a tricky beast, in the sense that most people who are serious in trying to develop themselves will set goals and targets. Internally, this translates to measuring it as progress, with value-statements on worse and better results. This makes it rather difficult to have a reasonably objective view on one's own personal development, I think. Also considering I try to raise the bar for myself, so I'm in essence always negative. When somebody twists my arm, I may admit some photos are quite OK, but I'm looking for where to improve, not looking for complacency.
    So, within this limit.... I see it as a combination of lineair and cyclical. If it'd be a graph, there would be a trendline pointing up, but the zoomed-in look is much more up and down. On a grand scale, hence, I think I improve continuously, but at a given moment, this may be entirely invisible. In errors, getting stuck, periods of total lacking inspiration, and other sorts of setbacks, there is a lot to be learnt obviously. Finding the dedication to get out, and to reformulate your goals, aspirations and targets. Which may give a renewed clarity of mind that allows a next good step up.
    The goals do (and can) change, though. I do not believe they're fixed for life. One reason they also change is because you learn and either find it is your thing or not, and whether it really fits your competencies or not.
    Or do you improve every time a new box from B&H arrives on your doorstep or take a trip?​
    I never ordered at B&H, I cannot answer that one ;-)
    Seriously, wrong as it may sound: yes, I actually think it does. Not because of pure gear-lust (though I am not free of that) or materialism, but as a reward to oneself, a nice shiny new toy can do wonders. And it invites to go out, test and play. In a way all the wrong reasons to go out and make photos, but it works for me. A second part, new gear can open new options. I am contemplating getting a short macro-lens, for example, it'll open new views on things.
    Trips I find a strangely difficult 2-edged sword. Being in a new place sure stimulates me, but I do find my photos are better when I really know a place. For simple reasons as knowing the place to be to realise the best point of view in my experience, but also for an understanding of the subject, and feeling right with how I depict it. Trips give me tourist photos I like for the remembrance, while the "local" photos make me train on a vision and (hopefully) a certain depth in my photography.
    As I said on earlier occassions, I'm still much in change. When we discussed street photography in a recent thread, I basically found (with good help from this forum!) that I can go two ways there: overcome the limits I feel are inherent to my character, or accept the limit as one that will taint my photography. The jury isn't out yet. Either decision will surey impact how I develop from here on. More importantly, what it forces me to do, though, is define clearer for myself what my photography should be about. It's one of the cyclical returning questions.
     
  155. What gets you into the fly bottle, in my view, is jumping on any notion that seems interesting to you, and starting to look for an answer with that. Throughout this thread, I continue to get the feel you loose track of your actual question, and you are too wanting to see an answer to it. None of us can get you out of that bottle, only you can. Take a step back, look at the sub-discussions that came up as parts to the answer of your question. And accept that there will be no conclusive conclusion either. Maybe I got it all wrong, but this is my perception.​
    Wouter, the "fly bottle" is for Wittgenstein a linguistic conundrum. I am actually making fun of Wittgenstein here (that is, in making reference to being in the fly bottle), and his attempt to reduce almost all of philosophy to linguistic analysis. He thereby managed to avoid substance. When all is said and done, what has been the legacy of logical positivism and its repudiation of metaphysics?
    The legacy has in fact come down to this: "Metaphysics doesn't matter." That claim itself is metaphysical to the core. The great Wittgenstein refuted himself.
    I went through my Wittgensteinian phase not too long after my Nietzchean phase, both back in the seventies. I'm not sure which phase I am in right now, but it doesn't matter too much. By tomorrow I will likely have changed philosophical schools again.
    Even so, my first premise is, as it has always been, "I could be wrong."
    --Lannie
     
  156. Lannie, I missed the Wittgenstein link, does not change what I tried to say there though. Your response does not address that, and well, that was a bit exactly the point I tried to make.
     
  157. the essence of the beauty --LK
    A kind of hollow, romanticized and superficial articulation of the process and the result. Based on what I see in the works of people like Käsebier, Stieglitz, and Steichen, they were real, they addressed their subjects, addressed their process, their photos, and found and created magic by getting to work. --Fred G.​
    Fred, you are back on the arts and crafts forum. I have no objection to discussions of the craft of photography here, of course. I just think that you jumped categories on me, and I am not sure why. Are all metaphysical allusions now anathema for you, or has the one-line "rebuttal" simply come back into fashion?
    --Lannie
     
  158. Anders,
    While you have a point it may end up being about "me and my photography", isn't that ultimately up to ourselves? Personal development as a subject holds more than enough potential to give us all something to learn from one another; to dismiss the personal experiences in it would be a waste. Sure one has to be able to step away from it too at a point and recognise the ethical, aesthetic and sociological aspects we're asking ourselves and others, in the pursuit of improving ourselves and our views on photography.
    Frankly, a discussion on whether or not a certain epoch yielded better photos than the present runs the high risk of becoming "me and my taste" - same problem there.
    But we've butted heads on this before. I could be wrong too. And we could also both be wrong.
     
  159. the question of the existence of God keeps popping up​
    It does not. People either believe or they don't. Some philosophers may wonder, but few others do. It's not a question I let concern me. If asked to answer it, I simply say "No" and move on. When asked for more info. I say, I mean "No" in the same sense I mean "No" when I say the tooth fairy doesn't exist. But beyond that, I know and have to live with the fact that a great deal of the people in my world think otherwise. Being Jewish and gay, I'm used to being in the minority . . . and actually like it.
    _____________________
    I wouldn't reject Plato's Republic even though it has more than hints of totalitarianism (because it's so rich with important insights, despite its flaws) just as I wouldn't reject Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations as reducing everything to language (because it's so rich with important insights, despite its flaws). The early Wittgenstein was a logical positivist. The Wittgenstein who wrote the Investigations was not. He has to be seen as two different philosophers. Usually, the later Wittgenstein is taken to be more pivotal. He rejected logical positivism.
    When I reject some formulations about beauty, I am not necessarily rejecting metaphysical inquiry. I'm rejecting moves away from specific and coherent argumentation and thinking about photography. The statement (or so-called thesis) "If the photo captures the essence of the beauty that one sees . . ." is vague, unexplained, and meaningless. It's simply hollow philosophical hyperbole. It's throwing out meaningless and unconsidered platitudes as a substitute for actual ideas. It couldn't reasonably be challenged because you could come back and say that "essence" means just about anything, "beauty" means just about anything, and "essence of beauty" is even further removed from anything making any sort of sense.
    What I tried to do is not only bring in the arts and crafts part of progress and what drove these men and how we often evaluate photographs (and a case could be made that it's much more often on how it is crafted and what kind of statement it makes than on anything as vague as how beautiful it is), but I find myself constantly trying to bring certain discussions back to Earth, as Wouter's been trying as well.
    It's not that I'm rejecting aesthetics for craft. It's that I'm rejecting the Ideal in favor of the Real. "Essence of beauty" and "perfection" are ideals. They're in the speaker's head alone. Photographs, evaluation, the photographers you introduced this thread with deserve more than ideals, superlatives, and platitudes. They deserve honest discussion, tangible consideration, and detail, not abstraction and avoidance through philosophical vagary.
     
  160. God:
    Fred, the question of the existence of God keeps popping up over and over in my own mind and in that of every intellectuallly honest person whom I know who also claims to be a believer. (I want to phrase that so that it is obvious that I am not calling you intellectually dishonest simply because we disagree.)
    Wittgenstein (referred to by Moore as "God" at one point):
    Wittgenstein was a great thinker who still lives in my mind--he does not sit idle on my shelves. He is hard to categorize, and I would not want anyone to think that I was besmirching his reputation by saying that he did not always get it right. I do personally believe that the differences between the Tractatus and the PI are vastly overrated, although it is surely true that the PI is the more profound and mature work. Wittgenstein was an incredibly complex man and thinker, and I do not want to do violelnce to his heritage in my casual toss-off remarks above. (Sometimes I get like that in my philosophical frustrations. Please try to ignore me if I overstate during such fits.)
    Truth and Beauty:
    As for metaphysics, truth, and beauty, I have nothing new to say. . . . I was rereading part of Plato's Republic earier this week. Every worthy philosopher whom I have ever read or met was or is both flawed and useful. Anyone who makes me think is useful to me. You are therefore useful to me, Fred. I wonder how far apart we really are, since, in spite of positing the existence of God, I am probably as much the skeptic as you.
    --Lannie
     
  161. Wouter, with most artists, I see personal cyclical development, though as Wouter remarked, from a low level of resolution it would look linear. What I mean by this is a series of concatenated "S" - like steps. The lower flat part of the "S" is (except at the beginning, maybe) flowing out of the top of the prior "S". It is at first what some photographers would call a "block", others a gestation period. Then one emerges from it, onto another (not necessarily new) series, idea, subject, project, refinement, etc. at first slowly, increasing towards an asymptotic frenzy, which eventually peaks and dissipates once again towards the flat part. The intensity of these stages varies greatly among and within individuals. Sometimes a cycle can take years, others, much, much less time, or it could be said that at a higher level of resolution, we can see the process is of a fractal nature, with ever smaller and larger "S"es involved.
    __________________________________________
    Lannie, I don't think Fred's rejecting aesthetics or even metaphysics (not totally) in favor of craft. In my opinion, Fred has a holistic view on this, which is what makes it Real, although -- and this is better saved for a future thread -- craft , as we see on PN and a zillion other places, can, and often does become an Ideal. I think we keep a toehold on the Real by asking "why?", and the answers don't even have to be rational or logical. The question/answers and ensuing exchanges help to keep us connected and grounded, and by that I do not mean chained to something, but in touch, sometimes indirectly, through each other, or through dialogue with other work.
    ___________________________________________
     
  162. Lannie,
    What's the difference between "beauty" and "the essence of beauty" when considering the (e)valuation of a photo or photos?
     
  163. I think we keep a toehold on the Real by asking "why?", and the answers don't even have to be rational or logical.​
    Agreed, Luis. We are often back to emotions, intuitions, etc., on ultimate valuations. I think. As for any attempts to categorize Fred or his beliefs, I would never even think about trying--and I think that he knows that. (I hope so!)
    --Lannie
     
  164. What's the difference between "beauty" and "the essence of beauty" when considering the (e)valuation of a photo or photos?​
    I knew that you would call me on "essence," Fred. I just knew it. I thought about leaving the word out, since I do not know what it means, but I thought that it sounded nice, fuzzy, and warm--and therefore not too logical, and I did not want any statement about beauty to rely too much on logic--emotion, intuition, whatever, anything but cold, hard logic.
    I think that I am getting too flippant in my old age. I have fought too many of these battles elsewhere, more than once.
    When in trouble, I tend to dump things into the residual category of "THE METAPHYSICAL." That way I am philosophical invulnerable, even if also philosophically irrelevant. ("What is God?" "God is a spirit!" Oh, yeah, that helps me a whole lot! Thank you so very much.)
    --Lannie
     
  165. When I talk about craft, I'm talking about something other than (more than?) technical skill and knowledge. Having technical skill, being able to get a "perfect" exposure or even the exposure you desire, knowing how to maintain detail in shadows, not blow highlights, knowing how many pixels your camera has, how sharp your lens is, how different lenses act, knowing the zone system in and out is still not craft.
    "Craft," as defined in several dictionaries I took a look at, includes:
    manual dexterity
    artistic skill
    (and can include) deception (in a particular sense of the word)
    When I talk about craft, I am talking about dexterity with technical information and knowledge, the skill in using that dexterously and understanding all the permutations that can arise as opposed to viewing technical matters and techniques as formulas, rules, or ends unto themselves. So, it's one thing to know how to expose, it's another to know how to expose for the desired look or result you want. The concept of "good exposure" comes to mind. A good exposure is not inherent in the scene or the camera or the photographer. It will be the exposure that allows the photographer to realize his vision, not necessarily the one that achieves a very specific and particular-looking histogram. Exposing is not necessarily working toward a standard. In terms of craft, it is using shutter speed, aperture, and light to get the look you want. Craft is being in tune with what exposure will provide what sort of mood, what use of the zone system will make a photo look formal or more casual, spontaneous or more deliberate.
    And, regarding photographs, I do think craft can often have a sense of deception. I regularly refer to artificiality, but deception goes a step further. I once called some parts of photography, including my own, lying. I still kind of like that formulation. Craft can be the creation of illusion.
    As Luis noted, and as the dictionaries seem to suggest, one almost has to approach this holistically, since craft is often part of the definition of art and art is often part of the definition of craft.
     
  166. Luis, "a series of concatenated "S" - like steps" - agreed.
    I must admit that saying the 'trendline' of these concatenated sinus-shapes is upwards is saying I progress. That is of course nothing else but my own projection. I used earlier the example of Picasso's early drawings, which I like. He later entered another "S", with a distinct other style. Would I like that period less, it would be easy to say the trendline went down from there on. Realistically, it's "just" another cycle. Comparing one to another in terms of better/worse is something I reacted against in the very beginning of this discussion....
    So, the trendline is a matter of opinion. The cycles, I think, are more visibly (or audibly, or readibly) present in the work of an artist.
     
  167. Stieglitz speaks to the question posted eight days ago:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stieglitz-Snapshot1.jpg
    I cannot refute an "argument" such as that.
    --Lannie
     
  168. Steerage, by Stieglitz
    The Stieglitz photo Lannie linked to in the post above this is from 1910-11, a transitional period but still very much a pictorial photo. It beautifies but we already see the move toward action, what's happening in the moment, and a change in the immediacy and import of content. It is looking at the world still through a lens of gauze and a painterly kind of romanticized beauty.
    Steerage takes us further into Modernism, its content, its point of view, its photographic approach and style. It is much less romantic and more uniquely a photograph rather than trying to accomplish or look like what paintings had been accomplishing or looking like.
    If we are talking about development, it is important to consider not only the development of artists and their art and the photographic trajectory that artists created and followed, but the sensibilities and expectations of audiences and viewers as well. They, too, have moved out of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in terms of their photographic tastes and understanding and their expanded appreciation of all that the medium has to offer.
     
  169. When I say "expanded," I mean it. As viewers, and especially when we have the luxury to look back, we don't have to reject romanticism in order to appreciate modernism, surrealism, dadaism, and the rest. But it may be that the artists and viewers of the time did have to do some visceral rejection. Stieglitz obviously appreciated painting and the pictorial movement he helped establish and make accessible through his exhibitions and support of other artists. But the quote below shows his need to reject passionately (at least in some significant ways) what he and others had been doing. That's because he was caught in a moment in history and felt the need to break free of something, of the constraints that history can sometimes bring to the moment. Looking back as viewers with a distanced perspective, we may have the luxury of accepting what's come before us and what is new as well. Artists may not have that much luxury, as they may be compelled to break free and move history forward (or move forward along with the politics, culture, and other influential doers and thinkers of the times).
    Ultimately, I think art history moves with overlapping appreciation for and rejection of what came before, and in so many varying degrees. And looking back as viewer-historians is very different from looking ahead as artists.
    Stieglitz: "It is high time that the stupidity and sham in pictorial photography be struck a solarplexus blow. Claims of art won't do. Let the photographer make a photograph."
     
  170. Thanks, Fred, for situating all of this discussion in the historical context of Stieglitz's own struggles (for lack of a better word). This is all very useful and well-done, Fred, and I hope that you will forgive me if I defer trying to write a serious response right away. The end of this week has been a bear--and tomorrow promises to be even worse.
    --Lannie
     
  171. Where are the art historians when we need them? I am not in Fred's league when it comes to art history.
    Calling urgently for reinforcements here! Murph, where's that tank?
    Over.
    --Lannie
     
  172. In the meantime, here is a little "Art History for Dummies" (like me) from Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pictorialism
    Here is yet one more example of this type of work:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Alice_Boughton-Dawn.jpg
    Thanks for going a bit more into all this, Fred. I have seen the allusions to these terms and movements, but I am still a novice on all this.
    --Lannie
     
  173. " ... after he made the leap from pictorialism to modernism in the early 1910s he fully explored and exploited the almost unparalleled opportunity photogrpahy gave him to return to his negatives made ten, twenty, or even more than forty years earlier and reinterpreted them, often significantly. When he reprinted his early negatives in the 1920s and 1930s, he used gelatin silver paper with a crisp, often cool tonal range that was quite different from the softer and more colorful effects of the carbon, platinum, and gum bichromate papers he used in the 1890s. And, whereas in the 1890s and early 1900s he insisted that uncropped prints had "little value," by the 1920s he presented most, if not all, of the negative. When he reprinted Scurrying Home in the 1920s or 1930s, for example, he was no longer eager to create a study of the supposed simplicity of rural life and included, instead, a large, fashionable house or hotel to the left of the old church, testifying to his new found fascination with change and conflict as fundamental aspects of contemporary life. By reformulating his imagery and its syntax, Stieglitz reinterpreted this and other earlier photographs in light of his newer understanding of modern American art and culture, and conferred on them the motivaation of his later work.
    "In some cases, he recropped and reprinted earlier photographs that he had previously printed, but in other instances he printed work that he had hardly considered before. By studying the prints themselves and their exhibition and publication histories we can see that Stieglitz did not include Sun Rays -- Paula, Berlin, which has come to be thought of prescient, in either of his one-person shows at the Camera Club of New York in 1899 or his gallery, 291, in 1913, but most likely, first presented it in his 1921 exhibition at the Anderson Galleries. And, although he wrote in the 1920s that The Terminal, 1893, "stood the test of upwards of thirty years" -- and is now one of his most celebrated works from the 1890s -- in fact he only exhibited it twice before 1910 and did not reproduce it until 1911. These are but a few examples, yet they suggest the importance of understanding his work habits and of examining the histories of the photographs themselves. Only then can we begin to ask the more compelling questioins of when and why he resurrected older work. And, only then will we begin to recognize how Stieglitz, by including later printes of earlier negatives in publications and exhibits from the 1910s through the 1940s, folded them into his canon and thereby significantly altered and reread his artistic evolution." -- Sarah Greenough, "The Key Set" (2002)
     
  174. A prima facie look at what you have offered us, Julie, seems to suggest that his own conception of his "development" was hardly a simple linear "progression" or "development" (take your pick) away from pictorialism toward modernism.
    Someone more knowledgeable than I will have to sort all this out. Earlier posts indicate that the painter Max Weber saw more in "Steerage" than Stieglitz did at the time, and, as I recall, their differing opinions as to the direction of his work led to some tension between the two. At stake, perhaps, was his own conception as to what was truly valuable in his photography. (I want to say "what he saw as progress in his photography," but the "p" word now seems tainted to the point that one dare not use it--even as a descriptor that he might--or might not--have used to describe the trajectory of his own work.)
    I am left wondering if we have danced too lightly around this word "progress" in our desire to avoid being seen as value imperialists. I wonder if Stieglitz himself ever used the term or not. At stake here is how he conceptualized his own "development," "evolution," "progress," "movement" or whatever term(s) he might have used to evaluate and compare his own work across his own epoch, not so much between his epoch and another epoch (the latter comparison seeming to have been implied in my original attempt to set the question).
    --Lannie
     
  175. Sarah points out that an artist's (or photography's) development isn't necessarily something that is just affected by or shown in the photographs. The development itself can affect the photographs that have already been taken and even that have already been developed. Those photographs that Stieglitz or any of us look back at from a later vantage-point or re-work based on where we are now were never fixed objects. They were always free to be what we might make of them. Seen in one context (surrounded by a particular style of photo and art world) they seem one thing. Seen in another context, they seem another. Not only that, but the photographer himself may see and develop* his own photos differently at different times and stages of his pursuit. As a pianist interprets Chopin or Rachmaninoff, a photographer interprets his negatives or files.
    *Develop may be a key word here (thanks again, Luis) because it also ties in so intimately with the actual photographic process. We develop photos. And photography develops.
    Artists often show foresight. And so, we have the strains of Romanticism already in some of Beethoven's earlier, Classical, works. Stieglitz's foresight is certainly evident in that even some of his Pictorial photos (painting-like, romantically-oriented) already show the movement into Realism, as the photo Lannie posted shows. With Stieglitz, as someone pointed out to me yesterday, the medium itself led to non-Pictorialism, so a non-Pictorialist approach, since photographs ARE NOT paintings (which Pictorialism was emulating) was kind of lurking there already, even if not yet realized. Once photography as a unique medium was "discovered" by Stieglitz and others, it was kind of easy to go back and look at prior work differently, to see not where it emulated painting but where it differed. Many of these differences had to be already there, since photographs were NOT paintings, even when they were trying to look like them. This could now be emphasized both in the viewing of prior photos (in the individual and collective consciousness we now brought to those photos) or by actually re-interpreting previous photos by emphasizing in post processing the uniquely photographic elements in photos that could now be seen and accepted.
    How many of us discover or re-discover things in older photos as we go through past rolls and files that we never saw before, or at least never saw from THIS perspective? Was it actually there all the time or not? Our photos are not separable from how we look at them.
     
  176. We develop photos. And photography develops.​
    !
    I like that, Fred. Yes, we all go back to old files/negatives from time to time. For me, alas, it is not usually so much a matter of bringing a new vision to an old shot, rather simply seeing how inept my earlier processing was. And so I try again. . . .
    Invariably, though, a new vision does seem to emerge as I reprocess or redevelop.
    "redevelop"
    I confess that I like that word, too. We are constantly reinventing ourselves and "the world we see," not to mention our memories and interpretations of those memories. There are clearly a lot of complicated feedback loops in Stieglitz's work. I certainly cannot sort them all out. I cannot sort out my own.
    --Lannie
     
  177. It is consciousness that was shifting. This is what brought about the revised views of Stieglitz' earlier work. And that earlier work had the seeds of Modernism and the future in it, but Stieglitz was not aware of it when he made them, or for some time afterward. I think this is important, that in spite of all our planning, purposefulness and control, the work is also unfolding and developing on its own, with vectors we may not be consciously aware of until much later -- if ever. Stieglitz wanted photography to be accepted as art on its own terms and for its own strengths, and he sacrificed his own personal fortune to do it, along with bringing in Modernist painters into the US. He had to figuratively and literally create the space and press to make this happen. And it wasn't just A.S., of course. Many others were caught in the same wave, and a few had preceded it, like Atget.
    Painting also changed, and in a subtextual way, photography and painting changed at the same time, and in some ways, in parallel, so that painting and photography shifted in synch, though photography was redefined in its own terms and in half a century, it would reign supreme in the art world, with the situation reversed, and painting emulating many of photography's tropes and trends.
    Nothing happens in isolation, and sometimes very complicated changes stem from small, insignificant-looking events. In science, we see this when independent researchers make identical discoveries (how many people invented photography?) or come up with very similar theories. It is as if ripples make their way across the field of human consciousness, and art is no exception. We may reinvent the way we see things, but things also reinvent us.
     
  178. I am reminded of Unamuno's Niebla, from a very different genre, Luis. The author cannot even control his own character--but Unamuno knew that this was true of all of his works, I believe, not simply the one where the point is made explicit.
    --Lannie
     
  179. Does time and technology really improve the Artists vision?
    Or, is it really about the vision regardless of anything else.
     
  180. Most of us haven't been talking about "improvement." We've been talking about development and change.
    For me, it's about realizing a vision with a set of tools, a craft. The tools and the state of the craft matter. They are inextricable from the vision.
     
  181. "The tools and the state of the craft matter. They are inextricable from the vision."

    A limited thought in my opinion. An Artist does not need tools and craft to create their vision just their mind and imagination. They will use the tools and materials avialable at the time and adapt them to their needs.
     
  182. The best photographers I know (or whose work I have seen), and likewise with painters and sculptors, are so intimate with their tools and their craft that, when one looks at their work, they almost feel as if this HAS TO BE a painting or a photograph or a sculpture. It's what actually sets Stieglitz (and some others) apart. Speaking of limits, they were not willing to limit themselves to the kinds of visions painters were having. They wanted to do something uniquely photographic. But, you may see Stieglitz as limited as well, I don't know.
    When I make photos, I am not only after a vision. I am after a vision that I can craft photographically. My vision is intimate with my craft. A lot of mediocre photographers (IMO) don't have bad visions, but they don't know how to work with the medium they've chosen and they aren't integrating their vision with the elements and qualities of photographs.
     
  183. "are so intimate with their tools and their craft that, when one looks at their work, they almost feel as if this HAS TO BE a painting or a photograph or a sculpture."
    I'm sure they are intimate with their tools and craft...they enable them to express themselves.
    However, I really don't think any Artist with a vision is unable to express themselves unless they certain tools or craft.
    Jeez, I wish I could write a poem but I only have a pencil...now if I had an ink pen. Really.
     
  184. They feel that it has to be a painting or sculpture because that is the medium they have chose. But.. a big but ...if those mediums were not avialable they would find another medium for their talents.
    Real talent and vision will always find a way to express itself.
     
  185. Allen, we're not talking about NEEDING certain tools or WISHING for certain tools. We're talking about using them to express oneself and how different tools develop along with vision.
    A pencil and a poem, in this particular regard, is not comparable to a camera and a photo. We don't usually see the original manuscript of poems or hear the pencil along with the recitation of the poem. We do see what the photographer and camera together produced.
    Listen, sometime, to Bach's famous Chaconne for solo violin and then check out Busoni's piano version and see if they don't SOUND and FEEL differently. Bach wrote it for the violin for a reason, and he utilized the unique characteristics of the violin in doing so. In order for it to work on the piano, Busoni couldn't translate it exactly. He had to utilize what a piano has to offer and its character greatly changes. Notice how the violin version is able to utilize the offset string sounds to create a sense of many voices, a kind of echoing, almost musical afterthoughts of a lot of the opening notes, as the bow slides from string to string. The piano version is necessarily more architectural, not as much of a dialogue as the violin version is. Anyone who's ever written for or listened to an orchestra knows the different instruments have different colors and timbres. Composers will utilize oboes and violins creatively because they're musicians, but they will utilize them DIFFERENTLY.
    Pens and pencils are different animals from cameras and musical instruments and relate to poetry differently than an oboe relates to music and a camera relates to a photo. REALLY! No, we don't see the camera when we see the photo, but we see its VISUAL effects in the photo. We don't see or hear the effects, in that sense, of a pen or pencil.
    Someone working with a polaroid will likely work differently, and therefore his vision might vary, from when he is working with a 4x5 on a tripod. Different lenses will have different attributes and looks. A good photographer will incorporate the usage into his vision.
     
  186. "Real talent and vision will always find a way to express itself."
    That's a red herring. Got nothing to do with what we're talking about. Sure, if I don't have a 4x5, I'll create well with a polaroid. But that doesn't mean that I won't see differently when I have the polaroid in hand. It doesn't mean I won't create differently when I'm in a darkroom in the 1800s vs. post processing on a computer in the 21st century.
     
  187. Allen, I want to make sure it's clear that I'm not saying that instruments, tools, and craft are the most important aspects of art and I don't mean or want to emphasize them more than a host of other things that go into creative visions. All I'm doing is rejecting your idea that "An Artist [sic] does not need tools and craft to create their vision . . ." I'm simply advocating the significance of the roles of tools and craft in creating and realizing a vision.
     
  188. Allen, a work of art is an actualized vision, and the medium and tools used are what bridge the gap from the conceptual to the real -- and determine how it can look. It's a crucial, but not the only link in the process. Sure, you can make perfectly valid work with a disposable camera or chalk on a sidewalk, but the results will be very different. If those means synergize with your vision, that's well and good, but they may not.
     
  189. "Allen, a work of art is an actualized vision, and the medium and tools used are what bridge the gap from the conceptual to the real -- and determine how it can look. It's a crucial"
    Of course you need medium and tools to create your vision. And the sky is blue. However, talent is not dependent on certain types of tools to express itself. Tools, mediums, are just that nothing else...
    A final thought from someone who used many types of tools, mediums, to create their Art.



    Leonardo Da Vinci
     
  190. talent is not dependent on certain types of tools to express itself.​
    No one has claimed talent is dependent on tools. We're talking about artists using different tools to create different works of art. We're talking about vision (not talent) integrating with tools to do so. We're not talking about dependency. We're actually talking about freedom and choice.
     
  191. "No one has claimed talent is dependent on tools"
    I got the feeling from your post you were. I'm glad we agree.
    Talent/vision birds of a feather. We all are capable of some talent and vision nomatter how lowly we think we are.
     
  192. We don't agree. I just clarified something and now you understand me. Believe it or not, I actually have no interest in agreeing with you.
     
  193. Just expressing my thoughts, Fred. Sad they upset you so much .Oh well.
     
  194. Sad they upset you so much​
    Don't project onto me. It reeks too much of a now-gone old geezer's claims that he made others anxious.
     
  195. "We seem to be a bit short on brotherly love around here."
    --Butch Cassidy, as recounted in the Newman-Redford movie of 1969​
    Look at it this way, Allen. You got a picture of some guy walking on water, and it really doesn't matter if you took it with a disposable, a Leica, or an 8x10 view camera. You got the shot:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6854963
    I'm not about to try to referee the dispute, though. Fred's point is subtle, but I believe that he is on target.
    --Lannie
     
  196. "We seem to be a bit short on brotherly love around here." Not on my part. Actually I'm rather fond of Fred and enjoy his posts. I just offer a different opinion.
    You got a picture of some guy walking on water, and it really doesn't matter if you took it with a disposable, a Leica, or an 8x10 view camera. You got the shot:

    Could not agree more.
     
  197. Lannie, to relate some of this to the exploration of development in photography, here's what Szarkowski once wrote:
    “. . . more than any other photographer, André Kertész discovered and demonstrated the aesthetic of the small camera.”​
    The aesthetics of a kind of camera? Not only the aesthetics of the mind and imagination of the photographer, but the aesthetics and influence of a type of camera!
    Continuing:
    "After years of amateur snapshot photography in his native Hungary, Kertész moved to Paris in 1925, then the artistic capital of the world, and began a career as a freelance photographer. It was here that he purchased his first Leica, the new hand-held 35mm camera, and this inspired his interest in the idea of the chance encounter, wandering, observing, and developing an intimate approach to image-making . . ."​
    The more factual and deliberate style of the big camera gave way, as Kertész integrated his vision with this new smaller and more easily manageable tool, to a more lyrical and ephemeral approach to photographing. (This did not make photography better. It helped add a new characteristic and spirit.)
    Kertesz, Lily of the Valley, 1928, Paris
     
  198. "It was here that he purchased his first Leica, the new hand-held 35mm camera, and this inspired his interest in the idea of the chance encounter, wandering, observing, and developing an intimate approach to image-making . . ."​
    Thanks for the quote, Fred. I don't think that there is any doubt that the medium affects the development of the (for lack of a better phrase) "art form." Imagine HCB trying to get the man about to step in a puddle with a view camera.
    Even sports, by analogy, has a strong esthetic component. Can one compare handball to tennis, or arena football to the football of the NCAA and the NFL? Well, of course, one can compare them, and there are many points of congruence across both comparisons. Even so, the differences are still very obvious, not only in the sports themselves, but in the appreciation (read "esthetics") of the respective sports. I suppose that one could even do the same thing with bull fighting v. bull riding in rodeos, or carpet golf v. the golf played at the Masters, although I appear to be in danger of going from the sublime to the ridiculous through such comparisons.
    The medium we use imposes limits on our expression, in the same way that the sonnet imposes limits that free verse does not. I suspect that we could go on and on in this vein, but at some point one either gets the point or one does not. I do think that it is instructive, however, to see how poets will chose one type of form for certain types of expression. I instantly think of two of my favorites, Keats' Odes, on the one hand, and the rhyming couplets used by Andrew Marvell in his "To His Coy Mistress," on the other. (Then, of course, there is the lowly limerick for conveying humor, surely an esthetic unto itself.)
    When I choose a camera and lens(es) before walking out the door, I am limiting myself for the entire outing, but I am also deliberately making a choice which I know will affect not only "getting the shot," but in creating the kind of mood that I want to convey. Technique has its own esthetics. In a fit of pique, I once cropped (through the viewfinder) my ex-wife about four inches above the waist, while getting her best friend from the hips up--in the same frame. My ex-wife was actually the more lovely (and much more petite), but I did not even have to use a wide-angle close-up of her nose to diminish her beauty. She never even knew why she did not "win" the breast-to-breast comparison, although she knew that she hated the way she looked in the shot. (Of such stuff great marriages are made--and let us not forget the esthetics of divorce, Jerry Springer, and welterweight boxing.)
    All of this goes double for post processing, in my opinion, not to mention the selection of print media if one decides to print. Consider how Stieglitz et al. chose both the processing and the paper in order to convey or evoke a certain mood. (Wait, now, I think that you told me about that first. . . .)
    Did I forget to mention filters, including the almighty polarizer? (Dear Lord, please pass me a club so that I can beat this photo to death. . . .)
    --Lannie
     
  199. The medium we use imposes limits on our expression, in the same way that the sonnet imposes limits that free verse does not.​
    Lannie, I get your point and think we agree, though I'd express it differently. I think various mediums and tools impose a kind of limit which I'd be apt to call physical, for lack of a better word at the moment, rather than expressive. The point is we are NOT limited in our expression. We can use these "physical" limits actually to express ourselves MORE freely. Creativity is, in at least one sense, working with what you have to get anywhere you want. The beauty of a sonnet, the sonata form, haiku, a polaroid is that the imposed external limitations are a means to express, not a deterrant or containment of expression.
    And, though we're currently talking about tools and mediums, it's important to remember that these limits apply to moments and situations as well. We may have to find a compromise due to a lighting situation, a fleeting moment that doesn't give us much room to maneuver, an inability to get our desired perspective on a scene due to physical constraints, even a person's unwillingness or inability to look or act in a certain way. When we see the freedom to make something of those situations, the possibilities for expression offered by those limits are limitless for our imaginations or at least for the imaginations of artists.
     
  200. Thank you, Fred. As you were writing this here, I was writing in a similar vein over on Luis' thread on "Spontaneity." It is amazing how these threads cross-fertilize each other.
    I am not saying that I have had precisely the same insights as you have, though. I shall have to let your latest thoughts here rattle around in my brain for a bit before I offer anything worthy of being called a response.
    --Lannie
     
  201. Fred, upon thinking about what you have said, I am reminded of what building a primitive dam does to a river: it forces the river to cut a new channel. A limitation imposed here provokes a new outlet there.
    CAUTION: NUDITY, LOTS OF IT (YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.) http://www.womenstreakers.com/various/var.html#ark
    New futures are forged, cut, or built as old orders are enforced or reinforced. Sometimes the new channels, currents, and edifices are good, worthy, and enduring, sometimes not, but we cannot contain the belly laugh when the old order has been so strongly challenged or even superseded that it can only throw up its hands in horror--or grope indecently or impotently at the offender of the prevailing order. Even the most conservative prig cannot help but laugh out loud if the challenge is outrageous--or creative--enough, spontaneous or not.
    What were these women thinking? Was this "progress" or not? One thing is certain: without photography (and small, mobile cameras), this particular new "art form" would not have taken off like a wildfire--or burned itself out so quickly. The lasting impact on society is debatable.
    I OFFER THE LINK ABOVE WITH RESERVATIONS, but it fell into my lap last night due to no effort of my own, and so I will pass it on.
    --Lannie
     
  202. Here is AN EVEN BETTER ONE, one that minutes ago also dropped into my lap. This one addresses the issue of what new technologies have done by way of creating "new [a]esthetics." I think that we could call this one an example of "the esthetics of nightfall," thanks to the developments of time lapse photography:
    http://dakotalapse.com/?p=448
    Could Stieglitz have foreseen this kind of photography? Did anyone foresee the internet at the dawn of electronic communications in the nineteenth century?
    (A friend sent me the above link just minutes ago. Things happen fast around here.)
    --Lannie
     
  203. I was just informed that the link immediately above came from a thread started by Michael Chang on the "Off-Topic" forum. There is more as to how this was done at this link and at the link above.
    http://www.photo.net/off-topic-forum/00ZL1i
    My own questions stand, as stated at the end of my last post just above.
    --Lannie
     
  204. Has there really been progress in photography?​
    Yes, of course. Really, enormous progress. Perhaps even a revolution. Or several.
     
  205. This question is not about gear or technology.​
    Simon, the above words were at the end of my first post. Of course there have been revolutions in technology, but has there been revolution apart from that? The point of the discussion about how new technologies has created new genres does not mean that the discussion has shifted to those new technologies.
    In your own genre of wedding photography, for example, the applicable question is whether or not there have been significant changes. If there have, have these changes been independent of changes in technology, or derivative of such technological changes? Have there been changes, that is, in what I will call, for lack of a better phrase, "artistic vision," or even "artistic realization"?
    --Lannie
     
  206. LANDSCAPE AND NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY
    When I saw the link below sent via e-mail from new@pentaxforum.com, it was not clear how to apply this technological comparison to this thread. On the one hand I did not intend for the thread to be about gear, as noted at the outset and just above in my response to Simon Crofts.
    On the other hand, Fred G. and I were discussing only yesterday afternoon the extent to which new technologies do open new creative possibilities. Faster digital cameras have affected sports and photo-journalism, for example. The sheer size of sensors has not come up here, but I suppose that it is worthy of being addressed, if only as a footnote to the thread as a whole:
    http://www.pentaxforums.com/reviews/pentax-645d-review-nikon-d3x/introduction.html
    This comparison of the Pentax 645D and the Nikon D3X would seem to be primarily of interest to landscape and nature photographers, but again the mobility of full-frame DSLRs comes to mind. At what size sensor (with correspondingly heavier lenses) does the advantage of higher resolution affect the creative possibilities sufficiently that one gives up on the mobility of "35mm" technology? I have to leave that question to practitioners in the fields of landscape and nature photography in general. I am not qualified to address that issue, but it does seem that the technological issue is more difficult to ignore in fields such as nature or wildlife photography than in most other areas of photography.
    I will not address the substance of the comparison offered on the above link (Nikon D3X v. Pentax 645D), for fear of having this thread veer off too much into issues of resolution, depth of field, and other aspects of technology pure and simple.
    Since others might see more implications in terms of creative possibilities, however, I have included the link above--and I shall leave it at that. The relative advantages and disadvantages of medium format digital can be, and is being being, addressed better elsewhere.
    --Lannie
     
  207. Landrum, I didn't mention gear or technology, I'm not sure why you thought I had?

    I didn't manage to read the 21 pages of responses, so I imagine anything I could say has probably been covered, but
    the question struck me as a little bit like asking "Has there been any progress in physics since Newton's day?" The
    answer being so mindbogglingly "Yes", that I thought that there must be something else behind the question. Probably
    if I had the chance to read the 21 pages would find out what!

    But I thought it worth saying "Yes" anyway, just in case that was being lost of along the line, and because I can't let a question like that pass without saying "Yes".

    As to why, I think answering would be a huge task, and I can only descend into a list of a few of the various
    movements, changes, and big names who took photography in new directions. The likes of Nan Goldin/Clark, Bernd and Hilla Becher,
    Parr, Szarkowski's New Topographics - Eggleston, Shore et al., Frank's the Americans (emergrnce of new ways of
    seeing/editing/associating photographs), Decisive Moment, the emergence of the whole documentary art photography movement, the establishment of photography as an art form to to challenge (and overcome) painting
    away from pictorialism (which of course Steiglitz, Steichen etc. had an important role in), the use of multimedia - the
    mergence of video with stills and sound so there is no real division between the two and exploring the boundaries,
    (Pippilotti Rist (sp?), Tim Hetherington) etc., exploration of hard social issues and war photography, the emergence of
    more conceptual photography, the whole fashion photography industry, and the broder between that and art (Guy
    Bourdin) on the one hand, and commericalisation and propaganda on the other, the whole cinematic revolution, it's
    effect on photography and vice versa, the revolution in the role that photography plays in people's everyday lives. The
    power of advertising photogrphy, and the way that it effects our everyday lives, our own self perception, and the way
    that it affect how we look at images. Which in turn affects the photorgaphy we take. The democratisation of
    photography. And so on, and so on and so forth...

    It's no coincidence that photography actually on the whole LOOKS very different from Stieglitz' day.

    Some of the above is made possible by new technology (as Stieglitz himself was exploring the possibilities of a new technology), but it's the progress made as a result of the new possibilities that is interesting.

    Of course, some of the roots of all this were around in Stieglitz's day, and that was probably the beginning of the roots
    of modern photography, the first shoots in the revolution that was coming. War aftermath photography existed in the form of Matthew Brady and Roger Fenton etc. I'm not trying to undermine Steichen et al's importance, and it's not to say that intereting things weren't happening in his day and before it, and that everything that is done now has never been done before. Far from it. And modern quantum physics owes a lot to Newton.

    So many revolutions, so many brilliant photographers and photographs, so many changes in society, either caused by
    photography, or vice versa. So I find the answer to the question
    difficult except by simply saying "Yes, of course". But the more interesting point is I think: why do you think it might
    not?

    Just the thought of the potential scope of this discussion makes me a little dizzy, so I wasn't wanting to reignite it, I'm just trying to explain as briefly as possible my "Yes"!

    As for wedding photography - yes, that too has totally changed, both in look, in function, in the expectations of the client, and (IMHO) in creativity. And we haven't even touched on the emergence of PR(opaganda), advertising, the reltionship between photographer and the State, the relationship to history etc.
     
  208. Geez, Lannie....women streakers in this discussion? I'm not a prude, but there's a somewhat...er... monotonal aspect to your postings.
     
  209. So many revolutions, so many brilliant photographers and photographs, so many changes in society, either caused by photography, or vice versa. So I find the answer to the question difficult except by simply saying "Yes, of course". But the more interesting point is I think: why do you think it might not?​
    Simon, for some reason, when I casually linked one evening from Steichen to others from that era (including Stieglitz, my personal favorite), it suddenly hit me with great force just what wonderful esthetic currents were already alive in photography before 1900--as even more were shortly thereafter. In spite of all the developments, it occurred to me at that moment that, in spite of new technologies and new opportunities, there is still some sense in which we have not done any "better" than these early photographic pioneers.
    I put "better" in scare quotes deliberately, since value judgments have made some persons uneasy on this thread. Photography has continued to "develop" and "evolve" and has had such enormous impact on so many facets of society and daily existence that I certainly would not want to constrain it or in any way to limit it to the epoch of Stieglitz et al. I have even worked very hard over the last few of my own postings to show how photography has opened up new doors and made new things possible that were scarcely conceivable before the advent of photography. I could say the same or even more about developments that have come with electronic technology of all sorts. The combination of improvements in photographic technology with improvements in electronics and communication of all sorts has truly transformed the modern world--and much of that transformation occurred during the twentieth century, in which I am still firmly grounded. That is, even with everything that is still being developed, most of it seems still more like a footnote to the century that in some ways was like no other. Everything seemed to change on a massive scale, and photography and communications were at the center of it all.
    So, I guess that, if you are looking for a motive behind the question, it lies no further than a sudden realization that, to be quite trite, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." So, I suppose that my own motives and suppositions for starting the thread were pretty simplistic and even simple-minded. Fortunately, there were many others who had much more to say--and said it.
    --Lannie
     
  210. Everything seemed to change on a massive scale, and photography and communications were at the center of it all.​
    Simon, I guess that I really should have thrown "transportation" into that sentence. As for "photography and communications," I suppose that photography really should, at its core, be seen as a subset of communications as much as being simply a means of imaging or artistic expression.
    --Lannie
     
  211. Here is a currently ongoing thread ("Were the greats really great?") that touches upon some of the issues addressed here.
    http://www.photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00ZLsC
    --Lannie
     
  212. "Geez, Lannie....women streakers in this discussion? I'm not a prude,"
    Ha, you have been having a sneaky look, Luis. Tut,tut. I read the disclaimer and closed my eyes;)
     
  213. Allen, you miss the point. It's not about the content of the site per se, but what it has to do with the discussion.
     
  214. Two ideas came to me about the same time, Luis. Together they impelled me to pass along the link. One was that limitations can create new forms of self-expression (a theme running through my head after reading Fred's post not too long before I posted that one, although Fred's comment was really about new forms of artistic expression, not about social protest or rebellion).
    My only substantive comment right to the point of the thread was perhaps this one:
    One thing is certain: without photography (and small, mobile cameras), this particular new "art form" would not have taken off like a wildfire--or burned itself out so quickly.​
    I think in retrospect that it was the combination of photography and mass communication that together worked to help invent the fad--which is all that I see it as being.
    --Lannie
     
  215. I am still perplexed as to why artists/photographers sometimes become their own worst critics. I am not sure that the process of self-evaluation is always entirely rational, although such self-criticism does at least impel those same artists to start in new directions. Here are a few names of those who later repudiated their earlier work to at least some degree:
    Alfred Stieglitz
    Edward Weston
    Pablo Picasso
    Henri Cartier-Bresson
    I have to say that I am also sometimes troubled by critics' use of the phrase "his/her mature work," as if to slip in a negative value judgment of the earlier work that might or might not be warranted. In the same way that some are troubled by the use of the term "progress" across epochs, I am troubled by the same or similar words used to compare works across the lifetime of a given artist or photographer--not because I am troubled by the value judgment, rather by the presumption that the artist is his or her own best critic. (That they are their own worst critics--in an entirely different sense--is beyond doubt.)
    That there is growth and development is undeniable. That creative persons feel the need to explore new avenues I also understand. I would challenge any easy assumption (or conclusion, for that matter) that the later work was better.
    Even in philosophy proper, David Hume clearly thought that his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Enquiry_Concerning_the_Principles_of_Morals ) was much better than his earlier A Treatise of Human Nature ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Treatise_of_Human_Nature ). Many disagree with Hume's own self-assessment.
    The point is not to side-track the debate onto Hume, but simply to point out that in all fields of endeavor, we do not always have to agree with the artist/writer/photographer/musician that his or her later work was better. (Paul Simon's repudiation of his own earlier songs comes to mind as well.)
    I am left wondering to what extent creative people are necessarily the best judges of the lasting value of their own works, from different stages in their lives.
    Stieglitz in particular comes to mind in the context of the present thread:
    Was there really progress in Stieglitz's own photography?

    I am sure that some would disagree with the language of "progress" once again, but it is clear that Stieglitz himself was quite critical of his earlier work--regardless of the evaluative words that he used. That he wanted photography to do something besides emulate painting was clear enough. That his later work was truly "better" is debatable.
    --Lannie
     
  216. Maturation is not a value judgment. It's part of a life cycle. As children grow up, they rely less on their parents and become free enough to make determinations for themselves. What Stieglitz did was similar.
    The romantic beauty of the early Stieglitz is warm, fuzzy, and comfortable. His later photographs are less so. Many viewers want ease, they want to be entertained, they want an escape from their hard day at work, they don't want challenges. Also, value and taste are often based on expectations and limitations . . . not the limitations of artists, but the limitations of viewers.
    Speaking of discomfort, and even outrage, we've concentrated on Stieglitz and haven't even come to Arbus, the blending of her vision and style with her subject matter . . . which eventually leads to Nan Goldin. Yes, the gauzy beauty gives way.
    You keep coming back to value. That is of your own making. It's not real.
     
  217. Stieglitz found it difficult to believe that he had mindlessly joined the flock as a Pictorialist (as did many others). Modernism vehemently repudiated that which preceded it, so it is hardly surprising that the artists Lannie mentions did too. Of course, had they lived long enough, they would have eventually realized that they had simply left Pictorialism and joined another flock (which was also strongly paralelling painting). Again, shifts in consciousness.
    An historically significant photographer I knew, when nearing his passing, decided to "shape" his legacy by burning thousands of prints and producing a Master Set. I said nothing, other than to beg for a few prints instead of them being consumed by the fire, but he wouldn't budge. Controlling history (no one exists in a vacuum) is futile.
    Shaping, revising, or reconfiguring the past is silly. We are what we are. Our later work is best understood in the context of earlier work and out influences.

    When I interview artists I always chuckle internally when they very consciously avoid naming influences as if it was something weak, to be avoided. Everything matters, even early work.

    I suppose it would be worse to repudiate one's later work. No restful peace there.
     
  218. Stieglitz found it difficult to believe that he had mindlessly joined the flock as a Pictorialist (as did many others). Modernism vehemently repudiated that which preceded it, so it is hardly surprising that the artists Lannie mentions did too. Of course, had they lived long enough, they would have eventually realized that they had simply left Pictorialism and joined another flock (which was also strongly paralelling painting). Again, shifts in consciousness.
    An historically significant photographer I knew, when nearing his passing, decided to "shape" his legacy by burning thousands of prints and producing a Master Set. I said nothing, other than to beg for a few prints instead of them being consumed by the fire, but he wouldn't budge. Controlling history (no one exists in a vacuum) is futile.
    Shaping, revising, or reconfiguring the past is silly. We are what we are. Our later work is best understood in the context of earlier work and out influences.

    When I interview artists I always chuckle internally when they very consciously avoid naming influences as if it was something weak, to be avoided. Everything matters, even early work.

    I suppose it would be worse to repudiate one's later work. No restful peace there.
     
  219. Luis, from my limited readings I don't get the sense that the flock to Pictorialism in photography is so comparable to the flock to Modernism. Yes, consciousness of the time may have led many to Modernism simultaneously, and they may well have fed off each other in the process, but I don't have the sense that Modernism was an inherited vision like Pictorialism. From reading about Stieglitz, I always felt his rejection was less about having joined a flock and more about having inherited a vision, particularly one that didn't demonstrate the unique qualities of his chosen medium. Now it's true that artists of other mediums were now going to embrace Modernism, but both back then and now Modernism in photography did and does seem more uniquely photographic than Pictorialism.
     
  220. Maturation is not a value judgment. It's part of a life cycle.​
    I will grant that one to you, Fred, but you as a very good writer know the ways that words can be used as weapons against other persons or their work. I am quite sure that I have seen allusions to "mature work" that were actually being used to disparage earlier work. I cannot cite any at the moment, but I do not think that I read the deprecating tone into the comments. It was there.
    You keep coming back to value. That is of your own making. It's not real​
    That is your moral psychology and your metapyhysical and epistemological assumption. It is not mine--but we have been around and around on that one before.
    In any case, even if it is mine, it is not something that I am going to renounce or repudiate because I cannot measure it. I do not deny that it is a subjective judgment, which is not to concede that it is not real. We make value judgments all the time. In spite of the dangers of value imperialism, I would not want to retreat into some kind of nihilism which despises all assessments of value. I am not accusing you of such, but sometimes you seem very close to value relativism.
    --Lannie
     
  221. Sorry for the double posting.​
     
  222. Cartier-Bresson comes to mind as one who walked away from photography in general, if I am not mistaken. His actions bespoke his own assessment of value or lack thereof, I think.
    --Lannie
     
  223. Lannie, I'm not denying value. I make value judgments all the time.
    I'm questioning your consistent emphasis on it regarding photography. What's better? What's good? Who's better than whom? Why? Was the earlier so-and-so better than the later so-and-so?
    I don't read Plato and Wittgenstein and get bogged down in who was better. If I did, I'd miss a lot of what each has to say. It's for the most part irrelevant to me who's the "better" philosopher. And it's for the most part irrelevant to me whether the earlier Stieglitz was more valuable than the later Stieglitz. It's important for me to know what he rejected about his earlier work and why he did so. His or my placing a value on either just doesn't seem to add anything to that.
    For me, it's a matter of priorities and context. In art, I get more out of acceptance than valuation. I try to be, at least on some levels, as open to things I don't like as to things I do. Since I consider much of art personal expression, when I see a personal expression genuinely achieved, I don't try to pit that against another personal expression. In politics, I respond differently. I think Democrats are better than Republicans and I don't hesitate to make that assessment. I see no reason whatsoever to give them equal weight. Picasso and Van Gogh, or the earlier and later Stieglitz, are much less about their value and more about their expressions. When I look at them relative to each other, it's usually more about influence and dialogue than it is about better and worse.
    I don't think it's nihilistic to view art differently from other things, with less concern for "which is better." As a matter of fact, I think it may well undermine art to be continually looking for hierarchies and categorizations.
     
  224. This is why I reject the tendency to talk in hyperbole and superlatives about art. When someone declares a photo to be perfect or a photo to be a work of genius, that's simply an excuse not to be substantive, not to feel something more than "greatness." Just like it often leads us astray as photographers to long for or seek to make a great photo, rather than longing to express ourselves or to understand or empathize with our subjects, etc., it also leads us astray as viewers to see "greatness" rather than the actual expression being conveyed or subject being depicted. The language of value can be an avoidance of the reality of what's in front of us. Descriptions and understanding which emphasize value to often don't address meaning and feeling. It's often much easier to say something is great, perfect, or a work of genius than to express how it makes one feel and, even harder, why it does so.
     
  225. Fred - "Luis, from my limited readings I don't get the sense that the flock to Pictorialism in photography is so comparable to the flock to Modernism. Yes, consciousness of the time may have led many to Modernism simultaneously, and they may well have fed off each other in the process, but I don't have the sense that Modernism was an inherited vision like Pictorialism."


    I did not address it, but you're right: Modernism was a pulling away from, a reaction to Pictorialism, which was an adoption or approximation of the dominant existing aesthetic & ambient stylistics of the day (and in all fairness, there was a little diverging from painting in some aspects that did have to do with photography's unique qualities). However, a careful look at the painting and photography during Modernism will reveal many parallels. In Modernism, while photography was emerging in its own identity, and some painting was diverging in its own direction(s), there are parallel trends.
    They were different flocks, but flocks nevertheless, in the sense that it was a near-universal reaction to Pictorialism. Not as many (outside the Fine Art world) jumped on the Pomo bandwagon/flock because it was a lot harder to understand. Most lay people are aesthetically 50-100 years behind the prevailing present.
     
  226. This is why I reject the tendency to talk in hyperbole and superlatives about art. When someone declares a photo to be perfect or a photo to be a work of genius, that's simply an excuse not to be substantive, not to feel something more than "greatness." Just like it often leads us astray as photographers to long for or seek to make a great photo, rather than longing to express ourselves or to understand or empathize with our subjects, etc., it also leads us astray as viewers to see "greatness" rather than the actual expression being conveyed or subject being depicted. The language of value can be an avoidance of the reality of what's in front of us.​
    Perhaps we are talking past each other here, Fred, but, then again, perhaps not. In any case, I see no particular tendency for any of that to happen. Saying that one photograph is better than another (even if both are one's own) seems to me as common and natural as evaluations of other things. I cannot imagine a world in which persons did not do that. I get the sense that you are fighting some phantom that I do not understand. I do not mean that in a particularly negative sense, rather in the sense that for you all references to value perhaps feed into some previous or ongoing philosophical conversation to which I was not a party. Thus it is that your meaning--not to mention the rationale for speaking as you do--escapes me.
    One may certainly be more precise and point out precisely what one thinks is better. We can certainly go beyond "I like this better," I believe. You and I do it all the time, in fact, both in critiquing our own photos and those of others.
    --Lannie
     
  227. "I just want to do something that is above me so I can basically say it was an experience and also illustrate that experience to the best of my ability and gain experience out of it and possibly a good way to get my name out there."
    _____________________________________
    If this is your primary goal, as it appears to me to be, then I have to say you're doomed to fail before you ever get started. Like I once told my ex-husband - Can't you ever do anything just because it needs doing? Not because it will benefit you personally?​
    This is a bit of dialogue from this thread (http://www.photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00ZLnP) where a young man wants to go shoot dangerous war photographs. I think the response relates to this discussion of value. Is this young man expressing an interest in war itself, the hardships of it, the devastation of it, perhaps the inevitability of it, sometimes the necessity of it? Or is he, on a significant level, expressing the desire to be better or even great? Is his motivation about what he's actually doing, the subject of his photos, or is his motivation a more generic valuation of doing something . . . anything . . . that seems good.
    Ultimately, my contention would be that if one's photography is more about ANYTHING that would be "good" than about something you feel something particular about, the photographs are likely not to be that good. So, a concentration on value is counterproductive. You don't get to the good by looking for it. You get to it by the kind of involvement you achieve in something meaningful to you.
     
  228. I see no particular tendency for any of that to happen.​
    Then you need to look again at your own comments on many photos and the way you formulate many of your threads. The tendency is rather obvious to me. It often seems much less about the work and much more about whether it's categorized as this or that or whether this is better than that. That's, of course, when it's not just an excuse to post more T&A pictures, as with your recent streaker endeavors if not with most of your chosen links and examples. :)
     
  229. Lannie - "Saying that one photograph is better than another (even if both are one's own) seems to me as common and natural as evaluations of other things."
    It's a meaningless statement unless you can tell me why and how are they different, and how those differences add up to "better than". This reminds me of the ancient commercial with one kid outshouting another with "My dog's better than your dog..." at the end we find out why, his dog eats the advertised product. Crude, but to the point.
    I think I see what Fred is talking about with the evaluations, Lannie. To look at the big things, we simultaneously remain and transcend ourselves. It's hard to get out of your own skin otherwise. Worse, you can't relate them just to yourself, but to others as well.
     
  230. Then you need to look again at your own comments on many photos and the way you formulate many of your threads.​
    Well, since my field is normative political theory (often seen as a subset of ethics or moral philosophy), I am hardly ashamed of the fact that I am prone to make value judgments. I can only say that I can often offer a rational defense of my judgments, or else simply write them off in some cases as matters of personal taste.
    As for the photo forums, I gave up on them a long time ago as a means of serious critiques. They are now most often a social exercise. They bore me. My serious value judgments are hardly reducible to such banalities.
    In any case, I still do not understand the aversion to making value judgments, nor the tendency to devalue value judgments. Let's not talk about the better or the best for awhile. Let's talk about Dachau, Auschwitz, or Treblinka instead. Remember what Hannah Arendt said about Adolph Eichmann, that he did not seem like a monster, rather was simply a man whose words revealed a "total absence of thought."
    Shall we flee the field and leave it to those who would try not merely to offer value judgments, but would instead force their values to become our values? Every judgment is not a condemnation, after all. It can also be a mere expression of delight. That we have trouble giving verbal articulation to the beauty of some of the photos posted in this thread both puzzles and intrigues me. What is the ground of the esthetic impulse? From whence does it come? How does it resonate with both the highest and the lowest in human nature?
    --Lannie
     
  231. Lannie, value does not have to be comparison. Things can have worth in their own right without being in competition with each other.
    I think the historical value in Stieglitz's early work is that he was intent on seeing and having others see photography as an art form. I think the historical value of his later work is that he was helping to define it as a unique art form unto itself. I'm fine with not seeing one of those as "better" than the other. Both approaches have good reason and show insight and are visually compelling. In the earlier works, I see an aesthetic of contemplation, an epic and idealized sense of beauty. In the later work, I see more an aesthetic of tension and an intimate attachment to the real world and the fleeting moment. To me, one is not better than the other. Value doesn't always imply a scale and doesn't always suggest "better." Very often, finding the value of something is finding its import and/or significance. That value doesn't always have to better than its counterpart, which oftentimes is equally significant. Different is not always better or worse. As you well know, diversity can be embraced. Black people and white people, gay people and straight people can be different and they can still be of equal value. Why not photos and paintings and schools of photography and painting? And I can maintain that black people are as good as white people without feeling inconsistent when I maintain that Hitler was evil and Mother Theresa and most everyone else who ever walked the planet was better. As I said value is assessed differently in different contexts. Value is NOT always a matter of who or what is better.
     
  232. "Saying that one photograph is better than another (even if both are one's own) seems to me as common and natural as evaluations of other things." --Lannie
    It's a meaningless statement unless you can tell me why and how are they different. . . . --Luis​
    Very often I can explain why I think that one photo is better than another. At other times I am quite mystified as to what makes a photo hit me with such force. It is not thereby "meaningless" simply because I cannot always understand it.
    --Lannie
     
  233. Different is not always better or worse. As you well know, diversity can be embraced. Black people and white people, gay people and straight people can be different and they can even have different values but still be of equal value. Why not photos and paintings and schools of photography and painting?​
    Well said, Fred, but the fact remains that not every comparison is an invidious comparison. I can certainly deprecate militarism compared to pacifism--and there are some who have expressed out loud that they would like to kill the pacifists--knowing that I was a pacifist.
    I can even see some of the beauty in Leni Riefenstahl's work--until I remember what purpose it served. I try to find the best in everything--including the streaker link. (Hint: it was not the pictures but the stories that they told.)
    I still wonder why HCB repudiated photography so totally later in his life. That is a great mystery to me. That was a value judgment, too. I wonder what lay behind it.
    --Lannie
     
  234. A few comments...

    It is important to note that long before Modernism, Stieglitz was pushing for photographic excellence within Pictorialism. He had studied Engineering in Berlin and begun photographing there, where there were different currents and influences underfoot, and he quickly distinguished himself there, before returning to the US. When he returns, he immediately begins a push for Pictorial excellence. His own style, even in Pictorialism, was a lot straighter than most American Pictorialists. The Photo-Secession, his own invention, and in solidarity with similar movements that had preceded it in Europe, was not against Pictorialism, but against conservatism in Pictorialist circles. What I am trying to say is that the break Stieglitz is best known for was not his first. That was the Photo-Secession and within Pictorialism.

    ______________________________________________________

    When talking about photographs from the past, we run into another problem besides the photographer and technique: The viewers' consciousness was very different from our own. Reception Theory has been used widely, but rarely in the history of photography.
    _____________________________________________________
     
  235. Lannie, I didn't mean to suggest that every comparison is an invidious one. I invited you to be more aware of the photographic comparisons you seek to make and why you are making them and what you might be missing by approaching different photographs as you would approach, say, Hitler and Churchill. I'm inviting you to consider whether a comparative and value-laden approach is of equal value (I know, irony) in all situations and if, in some situations, it can't actually be a distraction from more important concerns.
    Repudiation of prior interests is not necessarily a value judgment as much as a matter of personal development. At a point, I kind of repudiated Philosophy because I found better methods and processes for myself in art, specifically music and then photography. Actually, only after exploring the arts more directly than through the philosophical study of aesthetics could I come back to Philosophy with renewed interest and a greater depth than I previously experienced. The 30-year gap between my undergraduate and graduate work served me well. By giving up Philosophy and moving toward music and photography, I wasn't saying these things were better than Philosophy by any means. I was evolving and moving toward what I needed and/or desired at the time. It was about me, not about Philosophy. And I imagine that, if Bresson was at all enlightened, he'd realize that his repudiation of photography was not about photography but about himself or at least his relationship to photography. I can recognize that my repudiation of Philosophy at a given point in time was not about Philosophy per se at the same time as I can recognize that my repudiation of Hitler is about Hitler. Some value judgments incorporate more of ourselves and our needs into the picture and some are much more objective, and universal.
     
  236. When talking about photographs from the past, we run into another problem besides the photographer and technique: The viewers' consciousness was very different from our own. Reception Theory has been used widely, but rarely in the history of photography.​
    Well, Luis, your literary background gives you the advantage on this, as on so much, but I can only say that I have been rather astonished at what I have learned to appreciate over the last decade, after being away from photography for years. Whether it is because of shared cultural background or what, I do not know. I grew up in a medium-sized city (Akron, Ohio) as well as Spartanburg, South Carolina. I have devoted my life since my early fifties to learning to appreciate other peoples and cultures--thus my Spanish- and Spanish-American literature phase, followed by my African-American phase (having taught at an African-American college since I turned sixty back in 2005). Both cultures "grow on you."
    It is certainly true that one can "acquire a taste" for this and that by understanding it in its larger cultural context. I remember Andy K saying one time to me during my "collapsing barn and farmhouse" phase: "Lannie, I just cannot see why you shoot what you shoot." Well, I didn't then understand his taste in street photography, but I began to catch on--and in that case it was simply as a result of viewing more street photos--and hearing the discussions that ensued. I had not yet seriously tried to capture any street shots of my own.
    I was once a chemistry major, and so the other day I was sitting and trying to figure out what happened in a common chemical reaction. A friend asked what on earth I was thinking about, and I tried to explain in great detail, becoming more enthusiastic as I went. I made no converts to the beauty of reaction mechanisms that day. . . .
    Hell, why we're at it, why don't we try to figure out why people fall in and out of love?
    --Lannie
     
  237. I can recognize that my repudiation of Philosophy at a given point in time was not about Philosophy per se at the same time as I can recognize that my repudiation of Hitler is about Hitler. Some value judgments incorporate more of ourselves and our needs into the picture and some are much more objective, and universal.​
    Well said, Fred. I cannot improve upon that.
    --Lannie
     
  238. ETHICS, ESTHETICS, AND OTHER THINGS
    Some value judgments incorporate more of ourselves and our needs into the picture and some are much more objective, and universal.​
    The criterion of objectivity could be problematic here, but overall the "some" used in both portions of the sentence seems to save this remark from substantial criticism.
    What is interesting about the statement to me is that it suggests a possible entry point into what makes esthetic value judgments different from ethical value judgments pure and simple. For example, unless one's actions affect the well-being of others in some way, one typically would not use ethical language to evaluate such actions. I am not saying that we would be indifferent to Hitler's biases if he had had no political power and never took action to harm others, but we would not say that he acted unethically unless others were affected--or at least I don't think that we would.
    What you have raised for me, Fred, is the possibility of a pretty firm line of demarcation between ethical judgements per se and esthetic judgments--both value judgments, to be sure, but still different. For years, I simply set aside any kind of theory of esthetics precisely because esthetic judgments did indeed seem so private, not because esthetic judgments could not be communicated and shared, but because in their simplest form they do not seem to affect anyone else's well-being besides oneself. (I know how simplistic that might sound.) Since I was concerned with political philosophy and ethical (and policy) judgments that did involve others' well-being, I was comfortable in relegating esthetic judgments to another realm besides my own field of study.
    Now, with more conscious awareness of esthetic judgments as a result of my increasing interest in photography and the arts over the years, I suppose that I have to come to grips with how esthetic judgments might or might not be related to ethical theory in general, if I am to make any progress. In grad school, I remember being a bit surprised to see that my first graduate level course on ethics was actually labeled "Seminar on the Theory of Value" or some such. That title left a lot of latitude as to the possible content, but we did not (to my recollection) address esthetic judgments per se.
    With awareness of the issues raised by the distinction between "the priority of right over good" v. "the priority of good over right," my consciousness in the mid 1970s was directed explicitly to the difference between "good" and "evil," on the one hand, and "right" and "wrong," on the other. Utilitarians, for example, typically posit the priority of good over right, in the sense of epistemological priority: one must make some judgment as to what is good or worthy (on this view) before one can decide what is right (in terms of what maximizes the good, on the Utilitarian schema). The deontological view in general is that nothing is good in itself but is made good if it first of all fulfills some criterion or criteria of right. (Some deontologists equate right and good, of course.)
    I am sure that all of this is old hat to you, especially as it informed the Kantian-Utilitarian debate over a hundred years ago (as if that were over), but I don't know that I ever seriously considered the implications for esthetic theory--if only because I simply tended to ignore esthetic theory and never had any formal training in esthetic theory.
    I am sure that Plato's claims about what constitutes the "good life." much less the "summum bonum," raises questions which would transcend any simple divide between ethics (pure and simple) and esthetics, but I have not given that much thought, either--at least not in the last few decades.
    I raise these questions here because your remarks have raised a question in my own mind as to what indeed makes esthetic judgments different from other value judgments. In your last post, you seem at least to hint of the foundations of such a distinction. It might well be that you have studied this or thought about this to a much greater degree than I have. I am not laying a trap for you in asking if you do have any general statements about the nature and significance of esthetic judgments beyond what you have already said.
    The simple fact is that I do not know much about esthetic theory, and I would be interested in trying to relate esthetic theory to ethical theory, since they both fall under that vast category of "value theory" or simply "value judgments."
    May we infer that a person who says "This is a good picture" is not trying to make an ethical judgment? Besides emoting, what is such a person doing? That is only one question that comes to mind.
    Questions about "progress" and comparative judgments of esthetic worth in this thread have led me to this quandary. So far, however, your remarks have only served to pique my interest more about the differences between esthetic judgments and ethical judgments. I have many more questions than answers at this point. I am not sure how totally the two types of judgments can be factored out, but your remarks have at least provoked me to ask that question.
    Works that I have read that might bear upon these questions include G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica and W.D. Ross' The Right and the Good. Even so, it has been years or even decades since I read those works, and so I am rusty on the contemporary analytical foundations of ethical theory. One statement that stays with me is A.J. Ayer's famous (or infamous) claim that "Values are nothing more than emotional preferences." or words to that effect. (Language, Truth, and Logic)
    Ross and Moore in particular no doubt influenced my early thinking on intuitionism, against which Ayer (and sometimes Wittgenstein's) emotivism seemed to be a reaction. This stuff gets pretty heavy in a hurry, but I do think that it might be germane to what underlies some of our basic points of difference. I really am not sure.
    Thanks for the very brief but provocative statement with which I have led off this post, Fred. I am sure that my subconscious must have wrestled with it all night long such that I have these questions this morning.
    In any case, here are some links in case anyone is interested:
    http://fair-use.org/g-e-moore/principia-ethica (G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica)
    http://www.ditext.com/ross/right.html (W.D. Ross, The Right and the Good)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language,_Truth_and_Logic (A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic)
    I imagine that there are a lot of people who browse the thread who do not understand what are the real points of contention between us, Fred. Nor do I claim to fully understand them myself, but I would speculate that a lot of our differences on this or that point go back to some very fundamental premises on which we disagree--if we could only figure out what they are.
    I am sorry for the overly long post, but this is a tortuous topic to get into, and what I have offered above only touches the surface, of course.
    Relating these issues back to photography would be quite challenging, of course, but I will bet that someone has done it. For all I know, there might be an entire corpus of works out there that address these issues.
    --Lannie
     
  239. What about literary theory and criticism, Luis or Julie (or anyone else)? Are you aware of works that link studies of ethics to esthetics? Fred, perhaps your knowledge of the classics could give some insights into claims that predate the writings of modern analytical philosophers.
    Barring that, does anyone have a theory or at least a thesis to advance? As usual, we are left with more questions than answers.
    --Lannie
     
  240. I don't want to put you off, but it's not something I want to get into here.
     
  241. I understand, Fred, but in a way we are already in it--and have been throughout this entire thread.
    I nonetheless respect your wishes--and understand. It appears to be quite a philosophical morass. Going any further into it on a public online forum would likely be a disaster, or at least grossly dissatisfying.
    I still have to say that this excerpt from your last substantive post was quite intriguing and intellectually provocative:
    I can recognize that my repudiation of Philosophy at a given point in time was not about Philosophy per se at the same time as I can recognize that my repudiation of Hitler is about Hitler. Some value judgments incorporate more of ourselves and our needs into the picture and some are much more objective, and universal.​
    --Lannie
     
  242. WHEN IT ISN'T ABOUT ESTHETICS PURE AND SIMPLE. . .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ
    If the photo is an answer of some sort, what is the question?
    More about the artist/photographer:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andres_Serrano
    --Lannie
     
  243. Lannie, I'm not denying value. I make value judgments all the time.
    I'm questioning your consistent emphasis on it regarding photography. What's better? What's good? Who's better than whom? Why? Was the earlier so-and-so better than the later so-and-so?
    I don't read Plato and Wittgenstein and get bogged down in who was better.​
    Well, I do make comparisons between rationalists (e.g., Pllato) and empiricists (e.g., Wittgenstein) all the time, Fred, even though I recognize the contributions that both have offered. After all, with regard to comparing philosophers (or, more precisely, philosophies, that is, their works), there are defenses of altruism, and then there is Max Stirner, a logically consistent defender of egoism:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Stirner
    One ardent defender of altruism, the opposite of egoism, has been Thomas Nagel, by comparison. Another defender of egoism has been Friedrich Nietzsche. I confess that I have learned a lot from reading Nietzsche. The point, though, is that it is rather hard to be indifferent to the judgment of value when comparing the arguments of altruists and egoists--assuming for the moment that both uses arguments that are [logically] valid. Assumptions are still different, and thus conclusions are different. Competing philosophical conclusions cry out for choices, and in making choices we consult our values.
    But this is a photo thread, you say! Well, then, let's go back to Serrano and his works.
    (As for Plato and Wittgenstein, it is pointless to try to compare and evaluate the men, but surely we may compare and evaluate specific arguments and passages. We may even set aside evaluations of the man Hitler, but then there is always Mein Kampf to consider as a work which is also a statement of his personal philosophy.)
    --Lannie
     
  244. I did not mean to imply that the break between Pictorialism and the onset of Modernism was a neat, discrete thing. In photography, it was a fairly slow, messy, interleaving of the two as one ebbed and the other gained ground. The thing is that the Pictorialists welcomed and respected the incoming Modernist aesthetic, and gave them most of their first wall space/shows. It is hard to imagine, but the main of that transition occurred between 1910 and 1950 (!) and most of it within the then-numerous and popular camera clubs. And in many photographers there was cross-over/hybridization. Trying to follow history is incredibly complicated. For example, one of the things that brought about the "West Coast" school (during Pictorialism) was the influence of Japanese immigrant photographers who had brought with them the idea of notan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notan
    And it so happened that two of its Pictorialist leading Japanese practitioners were members in the same photo-club as a Pictorial Portraitist from Chicago named Edward Weston, who took an interest in their work. I look at "Pepper # 30", and see some of that influence. Then you had A.Adams, who, while arguing with Mortensen over Pictorialism in a manner prefiguring some of the Usenet wars, was a good friend of Fred Archer, who was a Pictorialist and out of that. of course, came the Z.S.
    To add to the complexity, photography still imitated painting in many ways, even Modernism. Look at the early works and see the influence of Cubism. etc. Yes, photography individuated, but did not divorce itself from the other arts (and I am not saying it should or should not have).
     
  245. If the photo is an answer of some sort, what is the question?​
    Who said photos were an answer of some sort? Many of them are questions, explorations, beginnings, wonderings, suggestions, descriptions.
    Why have you posted a link to Piss Christ? What is it you're interested in discussing about it?
     
  246. If your point is that Piss Christ engenders strong feelings and gets some people's religious panties in a bunch, that's true. So, of course there are ethical considerations regarding all kinds of art, from Sturgess shooting young women to everyone and their brother shooting homeless people.
    My point about value was not that photographs don't express values and involve ethics and don't stimulate ethical concerns and considerations on the parts of viewers. It was that ranking photos as better and worse, or forcing them into a classificatory hierarchy (this period was better than that period), is often counterproductive and often distracts the viewer from what he is seeing. A critical and aesthetic comparison can be made very much aside from "this is better than that."
     
  247. Fred, you are always trying to put words into my mouth.
    I was hoping that perhaps someone can tell me what is so great about Serrano's work--the entire corpus, not that one only. Obviously, a lot of people do think that it is quite worthy. Perhaps someone could enlighten an ignoramus like me.
    As for classifying or grading the quality of work, I suppose that curators must make some such decisions. This issue raises your ire, for reasons that escape me.
    --Lannie
     
  248. I was not at all irate. I don't know what made you think that, though I may be a little bit now.
    I thought you may have posted Piss Christ because of its obvious controversial ethical foothold. When conversing in a forum like this, where we don't get immediate answers and where a poster doesn't give a reason for a link or posting, it's sometimes easier to surmise what the poster was getting at based on what else has been said in the thread. If you were in front of me, I would have asked first. Even if it wasn't what's on your mind, it's what was triggered in my own mind and it seemed worthy of addressing in that way whether or not you intended it to be taken that way.
    It is you, not me, who deprecates you, referring to yourself now as an ignoramus.
    My point was to distinguish between values expressed in photographs and ranking photographs better than one another. Does that distinction make any sense to you? Can you see where I was challenging your consistently ranking photos and time periods as good, great, and better and then you took that narrow notion of valuation instead in the direction of a much bigger picture of Value in both philosophy and art?
     
  249. someone can tell me what is so great about Serrano's work​
    Why are you concerned with what's GREAT about it instead of what it says to you? Why not tell us what it says to or invokes in you? Tell us what you are seeing. Someone may then want to tell you what they see. All without a GREAT or BETTER THAN.
     
  250. There are two ways of approaching value. One is to ask if this photo is great? Another is to ask what values are expressed, shown, or seen.
    And values can relate to but not be the only or major influencing factor in looking at and understanding a photo. They can sometimes distract. A viewer immediately put off or even blinded by the ethical considerations of Riefenstahl's work might very well miss many other significant things about it. But I'd surely say the ethical considerations here are important and can't be totally extracted from the aesthetic ones. What's less irelevant, less informative, less telling, and less insightful is a relative valuation: Riefenstahl is better or worse a photographer than so-and-so. (Which is a much different issue from talking about whether Riefenstahl's values are better or worse than someone else's.)
     
  251. Sentence above should read "What's less relevant" Not "irelevant".
     
  252. "Allen, you miss the point" Luis, it was just a bit of leg pulling on my part. It was supposed to put a smile on your face.
    "Has there really been progress in photography"
    Yes, as a species we are always progressive in whatever. Photography has become more open to everyone and their are many who are expanding the boundaries. On this forum with Fred doing his aged naked man Documentary.
     
  253. Lannie, I was just having lunch with an artist, who sked me if I knew what the meaning of the word "Beauty" was in the Greek. He said its roots meant "according to one's hour". I thought of you. I haven't checked on it, but like it. Rather ephemeral and/or prone to morphing.
     
  254. Thanks, Luis. That is wonderful. I can see a certain emphasis on "immediacy" also in Fred's linking such evaluative terms to the here and now, to the image or subject that confronts one in the moment, etc. I seem at times by contrast to be trying to link value judgments to eternal absolutist anchors. We all want to freeze the moment and to hold onto things that last, but, alas, life doesn't seem to want to cooperate.
    This has actually been a fascinating discussion, even if we all sometimes seem to be butting heads.
    While we are on the subject of the ephemeral, please let me offer yet another tangent: there seems to be nothing quite as ephemeral as "good light," unless it is that special expression on the subject's face that is there for an instant and is then gone.
    --Lannie
     
  255. Fred's linking such evaluative terms to the here and now​
    See, we all put words in others' mouths, which is good. It shows what we understand and what we don't. We'd have a hard time communicating if we didn't occasionally try to restate what we thought someone else was saying, precisely so that we can refine our understandings of each other. I said nothing about evaluative terms being something about the here and now.
    Here's my point, taken mostly from one of my above posts:
    What's less relevant, less informative, less telling, and less insightful is this kind of relative valuation: Riefenstahl is better or worse a photographer than so-and-so. Which is a much different issue from talking about whether Riefenstahl's values or the values expressed in her photographs are better or worse than someone else's.​
    What I have said is that I don't waste too much time worrying about what photographs are great and which photos are better than others. That doesn't mean I don't think Values are important or relevant or that Value is somehow always relative. It means I don't think RANKINGS are as important as Values. And I don't have a clue what the here and now has to do with it.
     
  256. And I would find it really helpful if you'd actually address Serrano, who you brought up.
     
  257. "Serrano, what was so great about your photography?!"
    Fred, I am increasingly having trouble taking you seriously. I am sure that the feeling is mutual.
    Let us define the "here and now" as the "Eternal Present." Then we will not have to make comparisons across epochs.
    --Lannie
     
  258. No, the feeling is not mutual. I respect you enough to take what you say seriously. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother talking to you.
    It's not about making comparisons across epochs or not. It's about ranking photographs (even within the same era) AND/OR different epochs as better and worse. I've been talking about comparisons within one person's body of work as well. A comparison doesn't require a "better than" or a "worse than." A comparison can be "I love the way Pictorialist photos tried to emulate painting in a quest for idealized visions of beauty" and "I love the way Modernism then moved photography into being more in tune with specifically photographic concerns and also started to show a more realist view."
    The Serrano bit was cute . . . and vacuous.
     
  259. Thank you, Fred. I enjoy our exchanges, too, or else I would not engage in them
    What's wrong with occasionally saying "I like this better than that"? It doesn't have to be a terminal condition! As for "great," sometimes I use it as we typically use it in conversation, that is, unintentionally hyperbolic.
    As for Serrano, I don't care what Jesse Helms or some other fruitcake thinks or thought about Serrano. It was an honest question. I really don't know his work. I am sure that he did some good things, but he seems (prima facie) to have chosen topics that would simply gain himself some notoriety.
    --Lannie
     
  260. I really don't know his work. I am sure that he did some good things, but he seems (prima facie) to have chosen topics that would simply gain himself some notoriety.​
    Why not get to know the work first and then make judgments about the work and his motives?
    Is there something wrong with seeking notoriety? Do you think Warhol didn't seek notoriety? Does that affect his vision as an artist? Duchamp? Man Ray? Many, many of the artists we know travelled in the right circles or promoted themselves precisely to be seen.
    A case would have to be made, by someone other than a fruitcake, for Serrano's work having little or no artistic vision and amounting mostly to the seeking of notoriety. It would be interesting to hear such a substantive case. Knowing how you feel about projections about others' motives, I'm surprised at the comments your making about them.
     
  261. Here's what I take away from Piss Christ.
    I usually look at a photograph before noticing its title. I see a glowing cross submerged in liquid, glistening bubbles that give some life and dynamism to the surroundings. There's a warmth, both in the colors and in the cross being so bathed. The lighting is awesome, almost like the shining sun. It seems religious. Actually, no. Better than that, it seems spiritual. The lighting seems to take us to just above Jesus's head. It's elevating. The blur feels appropriate, transcendent. The angle of the cross seems to add depth (as the closer side of the cross is coming more into focus, coming toward us, the right hand of Jesus much more in focus than the left, which seems to merge with the cross). The cross seems to have a halo around it.
    Then I look at the title. So now I know it's urine and that adds a whole dimension. So knowing what the actual subject is affects my relationship to the photographed subject. And this knowledge strikes me in several ways, two of which are in tension with each other, which makes it, for me, thought-provoking. Piss is part of life, natural, and does have a beautiful and warm glow. It is deeply personal, yet something we can all universally relate to. It is of the body. So to see the crucifix portrayed like this is, in many ways, a deeply personal and movingly intimate image. At the same time, we can't avoid the fact that piss is a waste product and often used to denigrate things, especially when we "piss on" something.
    There's enough ambiguity here to generate plenty of controversy. Is he being sacrilegious? Is he being spiritual while putting down religion? Is he just being controversial? Is he being suggestive, that all of this stuff applies, the beauty, the warmth, the intimacy, and the sacrilege? All, some, or none of this? Or is he being visual and simply telling us what we're looking at? Is he showing the crucifix as a symbol he believes in and cherishes or is he commenting on its use, even its commercialization? We see crucifixes everywhere. They are utilized as cheaply and readily as plastic Davids and Elvises on velvet. Maybe Serrano is going over the top as a statement about the kitschification of the cross. Maybe not.
    Our relationship to many of our own bodily functions and our relationship to the symbol of the cross and to Jesus himself are multi-faceted, curious, and often have opposing emotional pulls on us. What a visually compelling and emotionally provocative way to photograph a crucifix!
     
  262. [One further thought]: The picturing of a crucifix in piss could be harmonious in that the crucifix elevates this bodily fluid, helping to find its visual beauty and human significance while the piss envelops the cross in a hug of humanity with spirituality. And the crucifix in piss could be discordant in that piss can be seen as a rejection of the cross and what it symbolizes and could even be seen as a desecration. Perhaps it's some of each. A lot of art lies in the connections and tensions between harmony and discord, spirituality and physicality, the ideal and the real.
     
  263. "according to one's hour"​
    It's a fascinating way to look at beauty. I see much potential in it.
    My hesitation would be that the Greeks (it runs through Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) believed in final causes, that everything has a purpose, a teleology. And so this notion of beauty, as other notions of it, is wrapped up with the Ideal or Form of anything from a chair to beauty itself. Through knowledge (more importantly, Wisdom), we discover what that purpose is. A child acting as an adult would not be beautiful in this sense of "according to one's hour." In this way, it goes along with Plato's repressiveness: keeping things and people in their places.
    The flip side of this story comes from the Existentialists, who said that man gives things their various purposes and man's own purpose is not a given, but rather self-determined (free).
    The ramifications for art of beauty being "according to one's hour" makes beauty, IMO, more about discovery (a purpose that already exists) whereas the Existential approach would be more about creating purpose or just creating. There is room for both approaches, I think, as well as combinations of the two.
    __________________________
    What I found is that "according to one's hour" (by virtue of which a ripe fruit would be beautiful and not an unripe fruit) is post-Classical Greek, Koine Greek, and more used in the vernacular as opposed to literarily. The Classical Greek word for beauty is kallos. The Koine Greek word for beauty is horaios, derived from hora (hour).
     
  264. Fred, thanks for looking into the Beauty/Greek thing. My friend will be tickled to hear about this.
     
  265. Why not get to know the work first and then make judgments about the work and his motives?​
    I asked a question, Fred. I did not make a judgment. Your rationalizations do not constitute an answer to my question. The only value judgment that I have is that I find it revolting, but that was not originally a judgment, simply a visceral reaction. It has something to do with bodily fluids, waste products. One doesn't have to go into deep Freudian analysis to figure out why most people would not find that the fluid enhances the beauty. Once one knows that that was what it was shot in, then that is what one is going to see every time one looks at it--the fluid. Now, if that is what one wants to convey--something revolting or negative--then that is certainly one's right. My judgment, upon reflection, reflects my original visceral reaction: "Eeuuw! Yuk!" In other words, the fluid becomes the message. It's a close-up shot of urine--urine right in one's face, too close. He tells us so in the title. Could the image not speak for itself?
    One does not have to be Jesse Helms or some right-wing religious fanatic to find the shot less than edifying. I would defend Serrano's right to make such pictures. I am not thereby going to glorify the result. It still seems like a cheap way to get publicity to me, and, unless I see something of his that resonates with me personally, I am not going to start singing Serrano's praises--or start rationalizing why the work is truly worthy.
    Self promotion by any means necessary? That's not my cup of, uh, tea, either.
    --Lannie
     
  266. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ
    I see a glowing cross submerged in liquid, glistening bubbles that give some life and dynamism to the surroundings. There's a warmth, both in the colors and in the cross being so bathed. The lighting is awesome, almost like the shining sun. It seems religious. Actually, no. Better than that, it seems spiritual. The lighting seems to take us to just above Jesus's head. It's elevating.​
    Freddy! Come off it.
    I am sorry, Fred, but when I reread this I simply laugh out loud. It's nothing personal. That's just my reaction.
    --Lannie
     

  267. when I reread this I simply laugh​
    I'm not surprised, and I don't take it personally. It's got to do with your sensibility as a viewer and not with me, Serrano, or the photograph.
    .
    "Eeuuw! Yuk!"​
    Kindergarten.
    ___________________________________
    As with any art form that progresses or develops, viewers usually grow up as well.
     
  268. Of course the Serrano work is intended to shock and disgust. And it's also beautiful. And has many potential layers of
    meaning, on both an emotional and an intellectual level. I'm still not sure that I actually like it, but I have to admit that
    it's powerful and original.

    Lannie seems to have a schoolboy reaction of disgust and shock. Which is just a partial reaction to the image, but he
    doesn't, or doesn't want to, see beyond that. Which is fine, you don't have to appreciate, or like, or understand
    particular works of art if you don't want to. But you seem to see the provocation/shock/disgust as a basis for criticising
    the work, which seems odd. Many, mmaybe even most, great works of art are intended to shock or outrage or disgust
    in some way. Mozart used shock or surprise tactics in his music all the time. it doesn't make it bad music.
    Shakespeare described horrible and bloody murder all the time, have a look at Macbeth. Are the witches not
    disgusting?

    Which is more horrible, multiple murder of children shown in that play, or a bowl of urine in a glass bottle?
    Urine is just a bodily fluid. It may provoke disgust as a bourgeious reaction, but if you're dying of thirst in the desert,
    you'll probably be desperately grateful of the chance to drink some.

    I really don't know whether Serrano's work is religious, or anti-religious, but it could be taken either way, and that's
    part of its power. It also has something of Gilbert and George - where you see these amazingly beautiful mosaics of
    the wall, admire them then approach read the caption and discover that you have been admiring semen, or *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#*, or
    whatever. My guess is that Lannie isn't going to enjoy that art, but there are an awful lot of people that find it provoking
    in a good way, original, beautiful, and fun.

    Of course, we can all go back to taking endless sickly pictures of pretty landscapes like the pictorialists, but personally I find urine more engaging!
     
  269. Perhaps your propensity to extol the glories of Serrano's work demonstrates the culmination of your own progress and development:
    I see a glowing cross submerged in liquid, glistening bubbles that give some life and dynamism to the surroundings. There's a warmth, both in the colors and in the cross being so bathed. The lighting is awesome, almost like the shining sun. It seems religious. Actually, no. Better than that, it seems spiritual. The lighting seems to take us to just above Jesus's head. It's elevating.​
    This all began as a question as to what he has done that is so great--0kay, "worthy," or whatever adjective you want to use. I simply do not see anything of value here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ
    That is why I asked if he has done anything of value. Here is the sort of thing that I have found:
    http://www.art-forum.org/z_Serrano/gallery.htm
    --Lannie
     
  270. Mozart used shock or surprise tactics in his music all the time.​
    Simon, I respect your point of view, but I see no possible meaningful comparison between Mozart and Serrano.
    --Lannie
     
  271. I'm still not sure that I actually like it, but I have to admit that it's powerful and original.​
    So were the Third Reich and the Final Solution, Simon. I require more in order to give a positive valuation.
    --Lannie
     
  272. But if you don't want to see more, you won't.

    Lots of people find Mozart boring and see no point in it. That may be, because they don't want to listen.
     
  273. I'm trying, Simon. I'm really trying. I'm just not finding it.
    --Lannie
     
  274. Imagine a student telling a teacher he was trying and then proceeding to say that all Descartes did was to denigrate the church, that he was a heretic and was simply seeking notoriety by suggesting that man was at the core of things. Imagine he could not tell you anything about what Descartes actually said. He could only focus on Descartes's heresy but couldn't recreate one of his arguments, couldn't address the finer points of his thought, couldn't put Descartes's work into perspective and talk about its place in history. It's well and good for that child to say he's trying. But most adults, and especially his teachers, would see through that. It sounds good to him to say that he's trying. The adults in the room can hear prejudice and pre-judgment. The teacher would hear the lack of openness and the inability of the student to even recount what the student had read, without the judgments overwhelming his first-order understanding of the work. Repressed sensibility and vision is visceral and hard to hide.
     
  275. I see these two works, for example, and I see no particular problem with making a comparative value judgment favoring one over the other:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Clarence_White_Family_in_Maine_Gertrude_K%C3%A4sebier_1913.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ
    I am capable of liking a lot of different things. I am capable of tolerating a lot of different things. That does not mean that I have to give a positive evaluation of everything that comes along in the name of "art."
    That which claims to be "art" is, in my opinion, crying out for evaluation.
    --Lannie
     
  276. Repressed sensibility and vision is visceral and hard to hide.​
    No doubt that is my problem, Fred. My artistic sensibility is repressed. Otherwise I should no doubt have the artistic sensibility to appreciate this masterpiece:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13882943
    I truly do hate to keep throwing that one back up, Fred, but the fact is that, if I compare your artistic sensibility and mine, I do not feel that bad about my own.
    --Lannie
     
  277. "I'm trying, Simon. I'm really trying. I'm just not finding it."


    That's no problem, not everyone has to get it. The last forty years in photography has probably been about the most
    exciting time in any art form ever (well, maybe except the emergence of Expressionism etc.). So there is so much to
    get to know, so many amazing ideas, movements, individual works, that there is so much to find. So go and look for
    what does interest you. Maybe in a few years time you will come back to the likes of Serrano and suddenly 'get' it.

    I'm not sure whether I would have 'got' Serrano ten years ago. Maybe I would, I don't know. But I certainly developed
    enormously over that time, and understand a lot more than I understood then. And I don't think I was thick, or visually
    illiterate. I've just learned a lot, seen a lot, thought lot, developed a lot (I think) since then.

    Some people will always be the visual equivalent of tone deaf, but I really am sure that you're not - otherwise you
    wouldn't appreciate Steiglitz et al.

    I can appreciate the basic motivation behind this thread. if I understood right, it was an appreciation of Steiglitz,
    Kasebier, Steichen etc. That is a good and positive motivation. From there move onwards, there's a lot of exciting
    things to find out there. That sounds a bit patronising, for which I apologise, but the sentiment remains.
     
  278. I think the technical progress has opened up creative possibilities that previously did not exist. Digital photography is a much expanded creative tool than film and chemistry was. I'm not sure the expansion of possibilities is progress as much as just expansion. Photography has the potential to be a much more graphic art today than it did 20-30 (or 50) years ago.
     
  279. I think there has absolutely been progress in photography. Although those photographers were talented in their own right, entire genres of photography didn't exist when they were around. There was no sports, nature, or candid photography in the mid 19th to early 20th century.
    The past 10 years has seen massive leaps as film is replaced by superior digital technology, offering an unparalleled level control, low light sensitivity, and convenience. The question almost seems silly if we look at all the stuff that has changed in the past 20 years.
     
  280. Maybe in a few years time you will come back to the likes of Serrano and suddenly 'get' it.​
    I think that I "get" it, Simon. I just don't like it.
    I can appreciate the basic motivation behind this thread. if I understood right, it was an appreciation of Steiglitz, Kasebier, Steichen etc. That is a good and positive motivation. From there move onwards, there's a lot of exciting things to find out there​
    Simon, I really don't think that I am "stuck" in the era of Stieglitz, et al. This is my first ever thread dealing with photography from that era I like a lot of varied things. I just don't like what I have seen of Serrano's work.
    --Lannie
     
  281. The question almost seems silly if we look at all the stuff that has changed in the past 20 years.​
    Ryan, if we were speaking only of technological progress, then it would be silly indeed.
    --Lannie
     
  282. "I just don't like what I have seen of Serrano's work."

    Well OK, but then one would expect an informed discussion about it, the ins and outs of why you got it but didn't like
    it. Maybe a very informed discussion about why you don't like it. I mentioned that I have not yet decided whether I
    ultimately like Serrano or not, but I can talk until the cows come home about why it's done, my reaction to it, the
    background to it and so on, and I can totally relate to Fred's reaction to it.

    Just saying that Macbeth has murder in it and is therefore is disgusting and you don't like it, is not an adequate
    reaction to Shakespeare, even if you were to tell us that you definitely 'get' it. As with Fred's analogy on Descartes. That is the sort of thing that would get you an Epsilon Minus in a literary criticism essay...

    And while I find Macbeth powerful and masterful, I'm not really sure that I would say that I 'like' it either... But that's not the point. I suspect that if Shakespeare presented Macbeth to you, and you told him that you 'liked' it, or that it was 'very nice', or that it was 'disgusting', in all three cases, he might be a bit disappointed by your reaction! If hypothetically he weren't dead of course.
     
  283. Well OK, but then one would expect an informed discussion about it, the ins and outs of why you got it but didn't like it. Maybe a very informed discussion about why you don't like it. I mentioned that I have not yet decided whether I ultimately like Serrano or not, but I can talk until the cows come home about why it's done, my reaction to it, the background to it and so on, and I can totally relate to Fred's reaction to it.​
    Yes, I could spend the rest of the day on that, but I am not going to. There seem to be better candidates for such serious critical attention.
    --Lannie
     
  284. I can sympathise with that, I don't have the time either. Too much work to do. But why raise Serrano if you're not wanting to discuss it, or demonstrate an understanding of it?

    "Have you seen Hamlet? It's disgusting isn't it?" "Why do you find it disgusting, aren't you interested in the power of
    the language, the tragedy, the themes raised by it?" "Someone kills his mother in it, I find that disgusting." "Maybe you
    haven't read it closely, maybe you just don't 'get' it, perhaps read it again" "No, I totally get it, I just don't like it. I could
    discuss why I don't like it until the cows come home, but I'm not prepared to".


    "So why mention it in the first place?"
     
  285. I think that I understand it, Simon. His work has, as you say, shock value--but, as far as I can tell, only as a vehicle for getting publicity.
    I originally asked "What is so great about Serrano?" or words to that effect.
    So far no one has really answered that, in my opinion.
    --Lannie
     
  286. You raised Serrano for discussion, Fred took the trouble to do a detailed and insighful analysis of why he finds
    Serrano interesting/powerful, why do you then decide to back out of the discussion? If you don't want to discuss
    something, then don't raise it, otherwise it's a waste of everyone's time.
     
  287. "His work has, as you say, shock value--but, as far as I can tell, only as a vehicle for getting publicity."

    And as I also mentioned, most great art has some kind of shock value - or at the very least, surprise. It's a hook to
    get our attention. Or, as you might say, a vehicle for getting publicity. It's not a bad thing. A bit like Shakespeare using fratricide, incest,
    and so on and so forth. Once an artist has our attention (publicity) then the question is, what they do with it? That is
    the more interesting point.

    You seem to think that Serrano does nothing once he has our attention. Fred, and people like me, thinks he does a
    lot.
     
  288. Maybe it would be more fruitful to pick out contemporary photographers that you find powerful and important, rather
    than picking out one that doesn't appeal to you?
     
  289. Fred took the trouble to do a detailed and insightful analysis of why he finds Serrano interesting/powerful. . . .​
    Simon, are you talking about this one?
    I see a glowing cross submerged in liquid, glistening bubbles that give some life and dynamism to the surroundings. There's a warmth, both in the colors and in the cross being so bathed. The lighting is awesome, almost like the shining sun. It seems religious. Actually, no. Better than that, it seems spiritual. The lighting seems to take us to just above Jesus's head. It's elevating.​
    It's hilarious, Simon, sort of like a satire on art criticism.
    --Lannie
     
  290. Accidental post deleted
     
  291. You find murder, bloodshed, incest less objectionable than looking at urine? Well, that's a personal choice, but it's an interesting one, and perhaps on that level alone the Serrano has been effective - it's brought to the surface a bizarre prejudice.

    But you still haven't managed to go beyond your disgust at urine in the discussion that you started. You seem to be saying that Serrano can't be good because he shows wee wee in his photo?
     
  292. You find murder, bloodshed, incest less objectionable than looking at urine? Well, that's a personal choice, but it's an interesting one, and perhaps on that level alone the Serrano has been effective - it's brought to the surface a bizarre prejudice.​
    Simon, you're having a conversation with yourself at this point. I never said any of the above. You did.
    --Lannie
     
  293. "It's hilarious, Simon, sort of like a satire on art criticism."

    Actually no, I think it's interesting and insightful. It may sound pretentious, talking about urine in this way, but Fred is
    trying to articulate some of the emotions and associations that he has from the photo. And he's doing a pretty good job.

    I honestly think that finding it hilarious is a purely schoolboy, immature reaction on your part. You haven't yet managed
    to articulate why you react positively to what you like, or why you react negatively to what you don't like, which I think
    is an inadequacy. But mocking someone who actually understands something, is the jealous kneejerk reaction of the
    school bully.

    I guess this thread isn't going to go anywhere useful or positive.
     
  294. I'm going to be patronising again, sorry about that. But I honestly think Landrum, that you need to (a) open your mind
    and (b) try getting more visual education - by which I mean reading, visiting exhibitions, trying to understand rather
    than dismissing what you don't understand, finding out about all the various movers and shakers in contemporary
    photography. Or of course, don't bother, but then don't start threads about it on photography forums...

    I'm sure I should do the same with philosophy, which no doubt you know infinitely more than I do about. But then, I
    don't dare to start threads about how everything after Karl Marx is *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* on philosophy forums...
     
  295. No, Simon. It is not bullying to say that I found Fred's commentary on Serrano's most famous photo to be hilarious. I really did and do find it funny. When I first read it, I actually burst out laughing. That is simply an accurate recounting of my reaction.
    The fact is that I simply do not find the photo anywhere near as worthy as either you or Fred do, and I have explained far above why that was the case. I see no point in my addressing Serrano further. I have been as direct and forthcoming as I know how to be.
    --Lannie
     
  296. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I never said any of the above.​
    I find this quite disingenuous given your inability to distinguish between art criticism and a government:
    So were the Third Reich and the Final Solution​
     
  297. What Simon said, Jeff, was the following:
    You find murder, bloodshed, incest less objectionable than looking at urine? Well, that's a personal choice, but it's an interesting one, and perhaps on that level alone the Serrano has been effective - it's brought to the surface a bizarre prejudice.​
    I did not say that I found murder, bloodshed, and incest less objectionable. There is nothing whatsoever disingenuous about my reminding Simon that those were his words, not mine. Shakespeare's works contain murder and other forms of objectionable behavior, but the human drama and dialogue associated with such themes is in no way comparable in my mind to what Serrano has offered.
    I find a comparison between Serrano and Shakespeare to be quite ludicrous.
    --Lannie