Have You Found Your Voice?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by davidrosen, Apr 30, 2019.

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  1. The dictionary is only a start, and not always a good one, for concepts like “voice.” Dictionary definitions are often inadequate enough for words like “love” and “art” and when it comes to metaphors like “voice” a dictionary is often helpful only as a very basic start of a wider discussion.

    Leibovitz and Karsh were both more style than voice and that’s the part that can be imitated. If one has his or her own voice as a portrait photographer and chooses to imitate Leibovitz or Karsh on occasion, it will make sense relative to their own body of work and the meaning and feeling of the adopted style will likely be somewhat transformed, even while still being a reference, by the new voice taking it up.

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal” because great artists, when they lift styles or elements of others’ work, make it their own.

    Two portrait photographers who strike me as having important and unique voices are Arbus and Stieglitz. Their voices were much more important and impactful than their styles.
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  2. My very vague understanding of the issue at hand is (and I am far from being done with it), style is a set of cues or characteristics that can be clustered based on the artist or the age or school of thought. Now whether a voice emanates from that style would depend on whether anybody (including the artist) can hear it. If the style continues to remain in the realm of visual cues or class of chosen subjects, then it is only that, a style. On the other hand, if the combination of style, subjects and context all converge into a higher abstract level of resonance and feeling and/or perceived intent, that is almost like someone whispering while viewing the collection of works from an artist. It is perhaps analogous to the latent image that is above and beyond the individual grains and emulsion characteristics of the film, although it is formed out of those exact things. However, I do agree that a voice can be discernible even without a clear style.
    samstevens likes this.
  3. I agree. My take on her voice is her being willing to be open and expose herself through her fascination with the people she photographs. I see her voice as admitting flaw, as having and letting us in on secrets, as acting more than contemplating with photography. She is specific and detailed enough to be general, she seems to straddle a line between understanding and misunderstanding, she risks perversity, and she seems to find out something for herself and then share that with others.

    Any photographer's voice has to do with what they put of themselves* into whatever it is they photograph in whatever way they photograph.

    *This assumes that even a photographer who tries to stay out of their pictures does that by choice.

    Nicely put. Relating again to Arbus, I do think her subject matter was more a part of her voice than her style. I think she could have photographed in a very different style and maintained her voice. Her subject matter seems less separable from her voice, even though it's different from it.
  4. I will think it over. So do you think the voice is social implicatioin of the photographer?
    So not only Arbus, but I think Sutkus (link). I think Sutkus has a voice.
  5. I think social implication and lots of other things go into voice. Certainly, social implication is important to Arbus’s voice. Aesthetic and art history implication important to Stieglitz. Sexual and political implication to Hujar. But no voice can be reduced to a single element and the personal plays a role in social, aesthetic, and sexual implications and the personal is often the driving force behind whatever outward shape the voice takes.
  6. Sam,
    What about Irving Penn? More style than a voice?
    What about Jan Saudek?
  7. Having examinig his archive I'd say more shocking, scandalous behavior, LGBT portraits in huge amount. But still interesting to see to get to know that era and life in America in 1970s'. Harsh lighting, b&w, special technique, special kinds of people portrayed...
  8. He also photographed with a heavy New York accent ...
  9. Hits all the right notes.
    Una fantasia.
  10. Maybe, it's difficult to judge. I am european, and european aesthetics is more understandable to me. Names that I mentioned above among american photographers like Leibovitz.
    Are european photographers any known in the USA? Saudek, Koudelka, Sutkus, Syomin?
  11. He is among my favourite ones.
  12. I find his overall aestherics heavy. But if we take Doisneau, his aesthetics is more pleasant to me. Both have voices (closer to our topic).
  13. I recently saw a Hujar exhibit in New York's MORGAN LIBRARY, one of the great exhibition spaces in the city. It featured a lot more than just his portraits and included a lot of New York street shots, often more like still lifes than more typical street work. Mixed in with his portraits, viewers were able to hear that very New York voice.

    HERE'S the Morgan's brief intro ... maybe the writing is a little overblown in spots but it's a good overview.
    I agree. Hujar, in general, was clearly not trying to be pleasant.
  14. Penn is no doubt among the 'giants' who have pioneered a lot of techniques that we perhaps take now for granted. However his portraits seem a bit studio-ish to me. They come with impeccable lighting, added drama wherever needed, creative poses and rich traditional aesthetics. Somehow I cannot get past the frame of the image and resonate with the subjects. I feel conscious that I am looking at a sophisticated photographic work, and art made with human beings. Perhaps, if I spend a long (I mean looong) time with his work, I may connect with them more.

    In one word, his portraits are without surprises to me. I think, I connected with some of Hujar's works more in that respect.
  15. He is just heavy, gloomy. He found his type of subjectsts to portray them. I would't think that Doisneau would want to be pleasant but his works (esp. Parisien teens, street people, Picasso...) resonate more with my type of easthetics. I think this is just regarding subjicts. Penn = elegance and forms and old school class for me. His portraits "burnt out the paper".
  16. I saw a photo series published on CNN today. It is from someone who was raped and then she took up photography as a way to express herself.

    I was raped and broken. So I picked up my camera

    In a way, photography was a way to regain her voice after what happened.
  17. My favorites are the:

    first picture,

    the broken glass reflections,

    the crossing of legs,

    the reflections in the airplane seat (nicely combining two cliches, entertainment console and holding hands, to create something evocative)

    the next one after that, the low key with strings and eyes

    the one next to wildflowers, with knots
  18. Two weeks ago I found my voice after a long time without it. I was having breakfast with a group of men and someone started a verbal attack on the LGBTQ community. Everyone either chimed in, or agreed with nods and smiles. I picked up my check, said, "I'm in the wrong company", and left. Now I have my voice. Somebody from that group wants to go to coffee, next Monday. I'll still have it. He will hear it. As for "finding my voice" photographically, I've been at it since 1969 and yes, I think I've found it. Today I was mountain biking in a forest in northern Wisconsin. I stopped by a pond rippling with waterbugs. I put my camera in video mode and recorded the rippling. The reflections of foliage near the water were really nice. It felt like I was speaking with a photographic voice

    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
    Allen Herbert likes this.
  19. Good For You.....
    I am your average looking, older White-Guy, with all gray hair. I frequently do not fit in (Visually) with many people in the Art/Photography world.
    But it is just like all fields, once you get past the outer appearance, we all have interests in the same field of work.
    I may not understand or live in the same world as others, but that does not stop me from Associating or Learning from them.
    I have learned some awesome lighting tricks from a "Frumpy" looking lesbian, and learned how to make some very clever Dodging and Burning tools from a couple of outwardly gay men.
    I would be hurt, if other photographers did not want to associate with me, simply because they found out i am a Heroin Addict. :)
  20. Vrankin/ Deny.

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