Has your photography a role in defining or redefining a public ethic?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. Fred, I had seen portions of this earlier, but I had not seen all of these. These are wonderful. I love your quote: "If I had to boil down the ethic involved here it's caring, which covers a lot of territory." As if the content were not sufficient to justify the project, you have also captured some of the best light and given us some of the most transparent post-processing work that I have ever seen--the scenes look about as natural as possible, and yet I know that you have carefully processed them to make them look precisely that way. As for language, I think that your emphasis on caring also puts into relief society's many ways of verbally marginalizing and even denigrating those who have not had the best of luck (those who are "less accepted") in various facets of life, for whatever reason. I think of the epithets that I heard growing up in both Akron, Ohio and Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I realize now as I did not realize then just how brutal they were--a kind of verbal bullying, in fact. I felt the tiniest bit of it myself when my father moved us north when I was only eight, but I was able to change my mode of speech. Many are denigrated and even despised for what they cannot or would not want to change. We see this denigration and manifestation of "man's inhumanity to man" continuing at the highest levels of power on a daily basis now, but what is frightening is that there is still such capacity for brutality in the "common people" (Dare I say 'hoi polloi'?) who made possible this social (and ethical) nightmare playing itself out on our current political stage. We did not get to this current situation all at once, nor will we change it all at once. It will be changed, to the extent that it is changed, by the decisions of each of us to let our own work (photographic and otherwise) reveal a more compassionate way of looking at reality--and at our fellow human beings. Surely the same is true of the words we use. We must be more "word conscious," I think. Perhaps we must also be more "image conscious" and think for a moment about the possible messages that our photography sends to the society and to the world. We are as a race too unkind. How do we change that? What role can photography play? I do appreciate what you are trying to do with your own work to answer that. You have resigned yourself to nothing. You show great empathy and great moral courage and invite the rest of us to do likewise. You also thereby show us great optimism and hope. Fred, I thank you! This is truly magnificent work. --Lannie
  2. First, Lannie, thanks so much for looking and . . . caring. And thanks for writing your impressions, which mean a lot to me.

    Photography often helps me relate, both as photographer and viewer. I see it as a connecting mechanism. Insofar as visibility and connection can change things, then I think photography can help with that. For me, it's about little ripples as opposed to tidal waves.

    Funny thing, photography can also be an escape from a hard, cold world. I've used it that way. We've discussed at length how photography creates both illusions and truths. If it in part captures reality, it also in part creates its own. It has a strange and unique relationship to the real world. I think an earnest and authentic escape from the real world (which photos often are) can actually have pretty profound effects both on our way of being in that real world and, therefore, on that real world itself. Photography is not instead of the world. It becomes part of it.

    I sometimes think it's through the artifice of something like photography that reality is truly known.
  3. For me, it's about little ripples as opposed to tidal waves.
    That's a good way of looking at it, Fred, since it is all that I am capable of. The big waves keep smacking me, usually not in a kind way.

    Funny thing, photography can also be an escape from a hard, cold world. I've used it that way.
    When I got my first digital camera in late January, 2002, little did I know that it was going to redeem my life, at least in the sense of helping me survive day by day. I can't imagine the last fifteen years without photography--and cameras and I go back a long, long way before that. We just were not that. . . intimate. Processing my own photos did it for me. Looking through a viewfinder would never be the same again, and everything came to be seen as if it were being seen through a viewfinder. I couldn't--and didn't try--to escape the photographic impulse, or whatever it was and is, after that.

    I sometimes think it's through the artifice of something like photography that reality is truly known.
    Great statement of an essential paradox, Fred. We think we know Nature. . . until we stumble into Art, or at least (in my case) my own feeble efforts at it. Now I can't even (and won't even) seriously try to untangle the two.


    Last edited: May 11, 2017
  4. It would take a long book. ;-)

    Maybe Plato would be a good starting point. He thought art depictions too removed from the source, cheap imitations to put it in today's terms, the visual equivalents of Opinions, which he distrusted compared to Knowledge. Instead of buying into what Plato says, I think there's a way to look at art as a foil for reality, rather than an imitation of it. And that's how I think about photography and its capturing of reality or truth or our feelings. Maybe photography doesn't so much capture (or imitate) as much as it contrasts (in being artificial) with and, therefore, highlights and reveals new things about reality.

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